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Friday, November 19, 2010

Multi-Faith: Lessons from Global Faith Forum

Many people have been asking what I learned/taught at the Global Faith Forum, but most people have been asking me, "what was it like?" (For those who haven't heard about the GFF, check out There were many amazing speakers from all faiths represented and I was humbled to learn from them.

Here's a few of my thoughts and what I took away.

First off, in being with Muslims, Jews, & Christians on the same platform, you learn to appreciate and love them for who they are. It puts a face on the issue of Park 51 (NYC Mosque) and the Israeli history. That's one of the things we really stressed in our breakout session we led, because relationships change everything. The reason there is so much misunderstanding between all of our faiths is because we do not have relationships with each other. Therefore, we talk about the other with our own instead of talking about each other with each other. However, if we have real friendships, not just conversations, then everything changes. We begin to care and love people, serving them with the love of Jesus because they matter to God, but also now because they matter to us. Bob Roberts, jr spoke on how we have to start with the hand (serving & working together for the good of the city) instead of the head (all of our theological differences) because if we start there, relationships will be extremely hard to form.

Second, we do not have to demonize other religions to make ours look good. If we really believe what we believe is Truth, then why do we feel the need to tear someone else down? For Christians, let jesus speak for himself and stand on that. We do not need to demonize the fact the Jews reject Christ as Messiah or demonize Mohammed in order to make Jesus look better. If we really believe Jesus is God, does he not look better himself? Relationships help us not to do this as well.

Third, we do not need to get our information on what we think of other religions from the media or from our own tribes, we need to go to the source. A lot of the speakers at GFF really stressed this. We have to be careful not to form our opinions of one another based on the media and chain emails. We have to have real conversations with people of other faiths who really know what they believe in order to really understand. We do so much damage with our tweets, emails, and Facebook statuses by spreading information about other religions that we do not even know to be true because we did not get it from the source. We should be using the media platform to spread the news of what we do know: what we believe and loving others.

Fourth, we live in a global world and we must learn to love each other, stand for religious freedom for all people, respect each other, and help fight injustice together. I am an evangelical which means this: I believe God created all things, we sinned and needed redemption but couldn't do it ourselves, so God became fully man while staying fully God as Jesus and died for our sins, redeeming us back to a relationship with God and is coming again.

However, just because I believe Jesus is the only way to get to God, does not mean that I do not love others. In fact, because I believe this about Jesus I love others even more. Why do we see the need to demonize, hurt and build barriers between us and other people because of different beliefs? That's not what Christ would do. That's not what the Quran teaches. That's not in the Talmud.

We need a new platform called Multi-faith. A platform where we do not compromise what we believe, admit we have irreconcilable differences, but began building relationships and loving one another as well as serving together.

Serve and love others not to convert, but because we are converted.

I love people and will continue to love people whether they accept Jesus or not. Relationships and serving others for me cannot just end because they believe different than me or reject Christ. If this was so, Christ never would have gone to the cross (ultimate serve and ultimate love) because we all rejected Him. But because i have a relationship with people I am able to share what I believe. So, I love and serve because I am converted, not to convert. I believe Jesus does that part, I'm just called to love Him and love others.

Will you join this multi-faith platform?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Encounters of a Thai Waitress & A Palestinian...

Since moving to Chicago, every Friday at 2pm I go to lunch at Thai Classic restaurant in the Lakeview neighborhood. I meet with the staff & leadership of Chicagoland Community Church, who is the local church helping us plant and encouraging Ashly and I. In so doing, I have met the waitress there that serves us every week. She is from Thailand and is one of the nicest people I have met in Chicago. She knows we are Christians and that there are two pastors there every week and she loves serving us and talking with us. Some weeks we ask her what we can be praying for her about and she'll tell us. Jon, the pastor of C3, has even given her a book to read based upon one of the requests that she made. God has been using us and the conversations so far, but nothing like what happened recently.

About a month ago, she came up to us and the first words out of her mouth were, "I met one of your kind here yesterday!" She was very excited to tell us the story of a Christian man named Sami Awad ( and how this man from Palestine talked to her about Jesus and what He had done for him and how now he was promoting peace in Israel & Palestine. This blew her away, not only because she couldn't believe someone would give up so much just to follow Jesus, but also because the number one request she always had us pray for was for "peace." Sami was in town to show a documentary and speak at DePaul University. He invited her to come to it after their conversation at the restaurant and she went. This opened a door for more spiritual conversation with her and gave me an opportunity to pray for her in a different way. I also found Sami's blog and began reading his story to know more about the man she had encountered.

Fast forward to this past weekend, where I was attending and leading a breakout session at Global Faith Forum ( in Keller Tx. One of my mentors, Pastor Bob Roberts, Jr ( and the church he pastors where I received my training for church planting, was putting this conference on. I was to lead breakout session on friday, so on thursday night I was just attending and hanging out/meeting all the other speakers in the green room.

Bob comes in right before the night is to begin and begins introducing people. He says a name that I couldn't get out of my head as he introduces, "Sami Awad." For about five minutes I was trying to figure out how I knew that name when it finally clicked: Thai Classic!

So I went over to Sami and asked him if he had been in Chicago in the past month. He had said he had been and I proceeded to ask if he remembers eating at a Thai restaurant, to which he answers yes he had, and "We had a wonderful, crazy waitress who was very interested in our story. So I invited her to come to the movie presentation that night at DePaul and she came. She was extremely nice."

It blew my mind that this was him. I proceeded to tell him that Thai restaurant was my Thai Classic and I eat there every Friday and i know that waitress and she couldn't stop talking about your story!

So, yesterday, I went back to Thai Classic because I had to tell our waitress this story and who i had met. I took a picture with Sami that night I had met him, and after talking with her for awhile yesterday I got my iphone out and asked her if she recognized this man? She said, "Oh my gosh," and she began to flip out. She couldn't believe that I had met him and spent the weekend with him talking to him, and that I was going to Palestine in January. We proceeded to talk more about this "coincidence" for awhile and that I didn't believe it was a coincidence and that I believe God was moving and that I would love to talk with her more about that!

I learned in 7th grade going through a book entitled, "Experiencing God" that God is always moving, and we must just join in where He is. That's exactly what I am doing here. God was moving in Chicago way before I was here and now I am just looking to join in. There are no coincidences here, He is advancing His kingdom. When we finally grasp this and began seeing all things as opportunities to join God in His work, we will see His kingdom advance, churches planted, and cities transformed. Where do you see God moving?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Knowing Your City #1: Politics

When trying to engage your city and make disciples it is important to actually KNOW your city and what makes it tick. In my short time in Chicago so far, I have learned that one of the areas of society that almost every single citizen engages in here is politics! And yes, since Al Capone has been here politics have been dirty and still are here. (Let me preface the rest of this blog by saying I am not affiliated with any party and vote different each year, think Obama is doing the best job he can and fully support him as my president, and I am an evangelical.)

Being from Texas we think we are political but this is a different kind of political. Every one from the dog walker to the trash dumpers to the lawyers and doctors all are very involved in the political process and very OPINIONATED!

I am, and always have been a cynic when it comes to politics, so therefore, I have always been somewhat politically apathetic. I have just gotten by knowing enough about politics to have a casual conversation and move on. However, as I have multiple conversations each day with all of my new friends politics come up in almost every conversation. I am learning now as much as I can to be relevant in those conversations. However, after learning more and more, the more of a cynic I have become so I don't know if that's good or bad! To me if you have to compromise your beliefs in order to get elected (which all party politics do) then you can't change anything. You have people in your back pocket that helped you get elected so therefore you have to please them now. It's really corrupt when you think about it. Thats why Obama cannot be Pro-life even if he wanted to. That's why Republicans can't take certain stances against death penalties, gun laws and some social programs. Why? Because they ran on a certain party line and people helped to get them elected on that line and now their hands are tied as to what they can do. THEREFORE REAL CHANGE cannot take place.

Which brings me full circle. I am learning about politics to engage in conversation, but I know what real change our society (and my new friend) really need. That's the love of Jesus Christ. Think about it for a second. He was the exact opposite leader of our politics we have today. In fact, some people tried to get him to "run" on their political lines. Some wanted, and thought, that Jesus could re-establish the political kingdom of Israel to the ultimate place. Jesus could have ran on that ballot, but He didn't. He didn't compromise His beliefs or calling and instead accomplished the greater purpose of why he came: to make a way into His Kingdom. He stood firm and never compromised, and that brings about real change.

If we get certain issues passed into law in our country is that really going to change people's lives? The kind of change they need? If we get elected the candidate that promises "pro-life" is that really going to help the 500,000 orphans in our country? Will it even end abortion?

Far too long in our country Christians have put too much hope in elected officials and have counted on people to bring change that simply cannot.

My hope is not in elected officials to bring about change but in the Father, his kingdom, and His church to BE the change and help transform lives. As followers of the Way that should all be our hope, because that's CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN.