Monday, January 21, 2019

Embracing all of Jesus -- Why Paul's Letter to the Romans Matters

In this audio excerpt, I offer a three-minute overview of Paul's letter to the Romans and an 11-minute soapbox pitch on why Romans even matters.

It boils down this: If we really want to follow Jesus, then we must embrace ALL of Him! This includes both his EXCLUSIVE TRUTH CLAIMS and his INCLUSIVE LOVE AIMS, as Rick Love (my mentor and friend) would say. Put another way, if we want to follow the historical, Biblical Jesus, we don't get to pick and choose only the aspects of Him that make us feel warm and fuzzy. 

Although I'm not always good at it, I want to follow Jesus by surrendering all of me to all of God. 

Are you in?


Monday, December 24, 2018

If I Really Followed Jesus, How Would My Life Impact Those Around Me?

In recent years, I have been accumulating a list of key principles I am learning from Jesus about how I should interact with those around me.
It is my absolute conviction that as these Jesus values fill up and flow out of our hearts, then we increasingly will become conduits of God’s blessing and love to those around us. And all sorts of wonderful and amazing things happen when people in need (that's all of us) encounter the love of God!
My challenge to you: I invite you to prayerfully pour over this list, asking God to grow these values in you. For a more intense spiritual workout, try to find and read corresponding, supporting verses in the Gospels and other New Testament letters. (I promise they're in The Book! Feel free to ask me if you have questions.)

Ways to Love Others Like Jesus
  1. Love God with all my heart and love my neighbor as myself. Enemies are neighbors, too, and are to be treated as friends.
  2. Love my enemies; it’s not enough just to tolerate them.
  3. Consider others as better than I am.
  4. Put the others’ interests above my own.
  5. Treat everyone with kindness and respect, whether they are rich or poor, important or unimportant.
  6. Be ready to lay my life down to help others.
  7. Take up my cross daily and follow Jesus.
  8. Overcome evil by doing good.
  9. Be humble, teachable, and unassuming.
  10. Honor everyone as a creation of the Master Creator.
  11. Listen to people and learn from them.
  12. Don't be arrogant--don't act like I have all the answers. I don't. Twenty years ago, I had few theological uncertainties—now I have many! Now, however, I am more confident in Jesus.
  13. Be slow to condemn and fast to accept.
  14. Be slow to speak and quick to listen.
  15. Do not cast stones at someone else because I, too, am a sinner.
  16. Touch (hug, embrace, shake hands with) those others don’t want to touch.
  17. Love those it is risky to be seen with.
  18. Love and be kind toward those who oppress others (like tax collectors in New Testament times).
  19. Remember that the log is always in my own eye.
  20. Love sinners and hate MY OWN sin. (This is quite different than the common admonition to “love sinners and hate THEIR sin.”)
  21. God doesn’t need a defense attorney. He wants authentic vessels of love, however imperfect. God uses broken vessels who are transparent and authentic.
  22. Jesus is Good News. All of Him. Let me embrace all His ways, all His words, all His works, and all His worth. He wants me to be a follower rather than merely a fan.

Trying to follow Jesus and wage peace,

Thomas


Friday, December 22, 2017

Abraham: Set Free from the Law by Faith in Jesus? (Romans 4:1-12)

The Bible teaches that Abraham was justified (declared righteous in God's eyes) not by his diligence in keeping God's laws (which none of us can fully keep) but rather by his faith. And it was not just generic faith that made Abraham righteous. Rather, as Paul says here in Romans 4, Abraham was declared righteous by God because of his faith in God's promise. In other words, God made a promise to Abraham, and Abraham trusted God enough to bet EVERYTHING on what God told him.

But what is the promise? And more importantly, WHO would bring it to fruition? For answers to these questions, listen on . . .

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Images from Indonesia: My December 2016 Peacemaking Project

Dear Ones,

Thanks MUCH to all of you for your prayers and words of encouragement as I traveled to Indonesia for two weeks this month. I am wiped out due to jet lag and limited sleep, but it is absolutely soul-thrilling to be back in the company of my beautiful Carrie and our three delightful kids. : )

As for the journey around Indonesia, what a ride!!! I had amazing visits with dear friends and made many new friends as well--including meeting with a group of village elders and a surprise visit with the governor of a major province. All along the way, there were stunning opportunities to interact with beautiful people.

My Muslim hosts loved me lavishly at every turn, and I count it a great privilege to call them my dear friends and my partners in the cause of peace. 

Here's a short clip that should give you just a taste of my work and experiences along the way.

Trying to follow Jesus and wage peace,
Thomas



PS: Would you consider a donation to sustain and grow our work? December is when we do most of our fundraising for the year, and we would be grateful if you would partner with us via a donation. For details regarding how to give online or with a check, CLICK HERE. For all of you who already give so generously, we have nothing but gratitude in our hearts for you. Thank you! 


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Muslims and Christians Gather to Hear the Story of Mark and Nancy Siljander

On Saturday, July 23, Apex Mosque (Apex, NC) graciously hosted Mark and Nancy Siljander and built an event around them. Although my friends at the mosque expressed disappointment that there were not more Muslims present, I thought a nice crowd (maybe 80?) of Muslims and Christians turned out to here Mark's message. Mark spoke for about 90 minutes formally, and then after the Muslims' evening prayer (Maghrib) he answered questions informally for another 75 minutes (until 10pm).

Unfortunately, there is no recording of Mark's talk at the mosque. The good news, however, is that Mark and Nancy delivered the sermon at our church (Fellowship of Christ) the following morning, and we did manage to capture that message. 

Mark covers most of the sermon, but Nancy comes in quite powerfully for the last seven or so minutes. I believe you'll be significantly challenged and encouraged by their story, which includes a stint as a US Congressman, traveling the world to share peacemaking ways of Jesus in the most troubled of locales, and a year as an inmate in a maximum-security US federal prison (in which Mark brought Jesus' love and peace to violent gangs). 

At our church, the response to the Siljanders' message was overwhelmingly positive. For example, one older man came to me in tears after the service and said that he was being set free by Mark and Nancy's words. A younger man confided that God used their message to convict him of a harsh attitude toward those with whom he has differences, and he already had a list of people he would approach to seek forgiveness. Very good stuff! 


Carrie and I have love and gratitude in our hearts for each of you! And thanks to all of you who prayed for this event at the mosque. It was a success, and we ask you to join us in praying that this gathering will lead directly to more and deeper friendships between Muslims and Christians.

Trying to follow Jesus and wage peace,
Thomas

PS: Here are a few images from the Apex Mosque gathering with the Siljanders.





Thursday, June 16, 2016

Muslim-Christian Dinner Club: You Can Do It, Too!!!

In our metro area, we wanted to create a partnership between a mosque and a church around one simple idea—finding a way to get people together who have reason to remain isolated from one another.

Thus, we formed the Apex Mosque-Fellowship of Christ Dinner Club.

In May, we Davises hosted the Muslim-Christian Dinner Club! With children,
our gathering numbered about 30. We always start with a potluck meal.














Muslim and Christian friends find spots around our home to eat and chat.














The kids--Muslim and Christian--hurry through the meal so they can get to the
important stuff--playing together!







Often, we finish with a big group discussion. In this scene, our friend Jihad
 has us captive with his hilarious humor (usually jokes about his name) and
his passionate, moving appeals to love one another.




























Here I'm getting in my two cents as little Omar wonders where my hair went!



















What Is the 
Apex Mosque-Fellowship of Christ Dinner Club?

The Dinner Club started 18 months ago with eight families--four each from the mosque and the church--meeting monthly for a potluck meal. While our monthly gatherings have since grown in size, we have kept the same basic format.

Our Dinner Club meets in a home one Saturday per month from 5pm-8pm. Typically, we alternate between Muslim homes and Christian homes. We always have two main components--lots of delicious, diverse food (potluck style) and an evening full of wonderful conversation and fellowship. Our ONLY agenda is building friendship, because we have discovered that real friendship between real people with real differences leads to all sorts of beautiful places!


Spreading the Love to Other Muslims and Christians

Since we have stayed at this for awhile now with most of the original families still involved, our friendships have grown quite deep. All of us acknowledge how much our lives have been enriched (and at times our perspectives challenged) by these multi-faith gatherings, and we want to spread the love to others.

To that end, we are attempting to host a larger gathering several times per year. For these bigger events, we extend an open invitation to Muslims and Christians in our community. Because these open events are too big for a home, we host them in the mosque and church facilities, alternating between the two. 

It's always good for our group to spend time together in our respective houses of worship, as doing so helps us grow in our understanding of one another. 

In addition, we have three goals in mind for the Muslims and Christians who are participating in our gatherings for the first time.

1. We simply want to give folks an opportunity to connect relationally over a meal with someone from the other faith perspective.

2. We encourage new Muslim and Christian participants to exchange contact info with one another and to meet for coffee or a meal.

3. We challenge them to consider starting their own Muslim-Christian Dinner Club gatherings. It only takes two families/individuals to get started!


Let Us Help You Start a Muslim-Christian Dinner Club 

If you'd like to begin a Muslim-Christian Dinner Club in your area but are not sure where to begin, feel free to message me below. Our group would be happy to share our ideas, experiences, and coaching!


Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Fruit of Peacemaking: Real Friendship with Real People with Whom We Have Real Differences


A recent gathering in the Davis home of the Apex Mosque-Fellowship of Christ
Dinner Club. We gather monthly for a halal (permissible for Muslims) potluck
meal, lots of laughter and friendship-building, and occasional serious talk as
well. At present, we are exploring ways we can work together as Muslims and
Christians to serve refugees moving into our area.  
It is my privilege to serve as a Global Peacemaking Coach with Peace Catalyst International, a vibrant, growing movement of ragtag Jesus followers committed to promoting peace in the way of Jesus and reaching out in love to those whose backgrounds and perspectives are different than our own.
Our work is not rocket science. Rather, it’s simply a matter of opening our hearts (and often our homes) to meet people where they are, to build genuine friendship, and to share with these friends the little things in life—like pancake suppers, play dates with our children, golf outings, coffee shop pow wows, and three-hour potluck meals. This is loving others in the way of Jesus. And it’s how I want to live my life—because it is the way of Jesus, because it’s a liberating way to live, and because real friendship always leads to deep discussions and often new understandings about life and love and the most important matters of the heart.

Jesus—Friend of Sinners and Respecter of Those from the Other Side of the Religious Tracks
This is the kids' table at the Mosque-Church Dinner Club! In the past, I have
said that we will know we are succeeding in our peacemaking work when
Muslim and Christian children are playing together. In reality, however, our
kids will lead the way for us if we let them!!!
Notoriously, Jesus was friendly with all the “wrong” people—oppressors, partiers, prostitutes, women in general, and even those from the other monotheistic religion. He gave dignity and respect to all manner of outcasts and outsiders, and He invites us to do the same—to build real friendship with real people with whom we have real differences.
Jesus’ call is not to a politely-tolerate-one-another sort of “friendship,” because in Jesus’ economy tolerance is a bar set too low and He instructs us to actively love others, even those whom we might think of as enemies. In Luke 6:27-28, Jesus compels us to love, do good to, bless, and pray for our enemies and those who mistreat us. Essentially, he says, “If you want to follow me, then treat enemies the way you would treat a beloved friend.”
Of course, Jesus modeled this in an ultimate way by dying for us while we were still sinners and enemies of God so that we might become friends of God (Romans 5:8), and He invites us to follow His example by living sacrificially for others (1 Peter 2:21).

Real Friendship, Real Differences
Occasionally, we move our Dinner Club from homes and into the mosque or the
church building, allowing more Muslims and Christians to join the fun. There
is something significant about getting into one another's places of worship, as
doing so answers questions and dispels fears and myths from both sides.
Real friends enjoy one another’s company. Real friends play together and help one another. Real friends make scheduling and financial sacrifices so they can spend time together. Real friends talk openly and respectfully about deep matters of the heart. They share their convictions about faith and family and politics, eager to learn and persuade all at once. And real friends do all this with an abiding confidence that their friendship is bigger than their differences and that love (a commitment to pursue good for someone) covers a multitude of sins and disagreements.

You Can Do It!
Christians, will you join us in following Jesus into real friendships with Muslims? Muslims, will you follow the example of Jesus by building real friendships with Christians?
If you would like some tips to help you get started, feel free to post a comment below so that we can dialogue. I will be happy to share ideas, but keep in mind that it’s not rocket science and it might be as simple as smiling and saying hello to someone next time you’re out shopping!