Sunday, December 21, 2014

DIFFERENCES… A BLESSING NOT A SIN (for the most part)…

I was thinking about writing a series on some topics that I think are important, mentally and theologically challenging, needed and maybe boring. These topics are ones which have affected my life and have been used of God to stretch me into a greater understanding of truths so often avoided. God’s calling Pam and I to Dubai have opened these topics again, at least in my heart and mind.
 noun \ˈdi-fərn(t)s, ˈdi-f(ə-)rən(t)s\
: the quality that makes one persons or things unlike another
: something that people do not agree about : a disagreement in opinion
: the degree or amount by which things differ

The idea of things or people being different is real and in many places a hot topic. Here in Dubai, I am fully enjoying the differences I face each day. Let me list a few examples:

Looking for the invitation
      FOODS – People here eat differently. Not only in the things they eat but in some cases how they eat their food (or specific foods). I admit I am trying to fathom the idea of eating some foods with your hands (we do this in the states with some foods). This is not something wrong but is different. I will admit up front, this may be the most difficult difference I face... maybe. Yet, I am looking forward to the day I experience this first hand…Did I just say that?

ACCENTS – In most cases, I can understand the accents of my Nigerian brothers and sisters. There are some here who speak very good American English with little accent (South Africa, Figi, USA, Canada, UK, Philippines…). Then there are some here who I am enjoying the learning curve to understand their accent. I admit I have sought to see if I could get all of these wonderful people to speak as I do… without an accent. These efforts do not seem to work, as I keep getting told, I am the one with the accent. This is a difference I am finding a learning lesson worth growing in.

Keeping the streets safe
– I am enjoying the driving experience here. Being a big fan of NASCAR, I sometimes pretend I am in the middle of the pack with the cars around me trying to out maneuver me for position. There is always a few cars out there who are not keeping up the pace and you have to figure how to get around them without causing the “Big One”. I do not feel unsafe, nor do I believe those who drive here are incompetent. It is simply a different place with different styles.

– This may be the most exciting for me. When I speak of the culture, I am not speaking to the Emirates specifically but to the vast convergence of cultures found here in Dubai. Those different cultures I have the privilege of pastoring on a daily basis. The great people of EBCI who come from destinations far and wide, who love Jesus and who make up the family of God but are spiritually connected to other Christians around the globe.

It is this difference for which I am most excited but for my homeland, this may be the one difference which hinders the flames of revival in America. I believe the Southern Baptist churches in the states would benefit with a true open door and open arm policy to those who are different. Is it possible, that what may be the greatest danger to the US church is the church itself? The church determining who would make good church members… who fits the mold… who is like us… I continue to pray that God's people will gladly be blinded to color and culture and begin seeing people as God does. A people worth reaching... A people worth embracing.

Please do not get me wrong. I love the church in America. I was privileged to serve churches in several states and consider it an honor. There is a great need for Baptist churches to be strong and to win their world but I pray, if differences are what is holding back the sweeping power of God to usher in revival in the US, that the church would be willing to lay aside their fears… prejudices… differences for the greater cause of Christ.

The people at EBCI are teaching me how to do this better. I am willing and excited to learn. I am excited about the future and walking among and beside those people and experiences those things which are different. Okay, I am trembling about my first finger food dinner consisting of rice / yogurt and other goodies.

My love and appreciation continues to grow towards those who are welcoming Pam and I with open arms and lives. If you could ask them, They (most…some… few) would tell you… “Our new pastor… He is different, real different. and we are glad he is here… We are asking the Lord to help us learn and understand his accent”

Heaven will be filled with all who believe and are different than us. Lord, thank you for this truth and for making us different when you adopted us into your family.


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