Here we are in the middle or unprecedented hurricanes, earthquakes, nuclear threats, epidemics, & if that isn’t enough Elon Musk is predicting WWIII but not because of North Korea but because of artificial intelligence. I can promise you, in the next 5 years, some really good stuff is going to happen and some really bad stuff is going to happen. We all want the good stuff right? Right. But here’s the deal . . . and some of what I learned from 9-11.
You don’t get the good stuff without the bad stuff
9-11 was bad. It was horrible, shook us to our core, made us recognize our own vulnerability. I know right where I was when it happened. Ti had just come to live with our family as an exchange student. Because of our work in Vietnam and our ability to work with governments and domains I immediately got invitations to go to the world – but I kept refusing. Without 9-11, I never would have come to know Muslims as I do. Without 9-11 I doubt I’d be working with world leaders like I do. Without 9-11, I never would have understood or experienced the world at a deep level. Without 9-11, I never would have worked with other religions. Without 9-11 my theology would be shallow because I was used to answering “church” questions from Christians not “hard” questions for people of other religions.
God uses the least likely people to do his will
I’m often referred to an expert from many people on Islam and Muslims. I am not. The experts know I am not. I laugh about it. For me working with the Communist of Vietnam was hard enough. At least they were atheist – no competing version of God. I think God uses us because we are open to anything, don’t live by old boundaries and rules, and we believe anything is possible. We also keep learning because we know that we know so little. Curiosity drives the unpretentious to ask questions, explore things, and put things together – in unexpected ways. God also gets the glory because the novice knows they really are not gifted!
You will become friends with people who you thought were enemies
I was afraid of Muslims. I believed anything bad anyone said about Islam or Muslims. It was because I didn’t know any other Muslims and the media I listened to only focused on the crazy ones. Then something happened – I went to Afghanistan and began to work with the people and with rare exceptions they were all Muslims. I didn’t just work with any Muslims but the imams – some who had been trained by Mullah Omar. I came to know them. We laughed, prayed, shared sad and happy stories, and became friends. No, we didn’t agree on everything but we respected each other. I’m friends with many of them to this day.
Your best successes can be things you didn’t even know existed or planned on
I was going to grow up and be a global evangelist. I pictured myself being Billy Graham when I was a young teen-ager. I knew church work, but not peace-building. I knew preaching to Christians with a few lost and backslidden Baptists, but I never dreamed I’d share at Muslim events with tens of thousands where I’d be the only Christian. I wanted to live “on fire” for God, that was our language. I came to be obsessed with loving God and other people with love, not fire, driving me. Fire is about religious zeal – any person of any religion can do that. Love is about relationship – with God and others. To be a follower of Jesus, loving in the extreme is the radical, reckless way – demanded the Holy Spirit. You had to first overcome your fear or you would never have a conversation. I’m all over the U.S. and the world, often the only Christian being friends with people not of my faith.
I was with a world leader of a particular nation not long ago who’s very close to the head of his country. This man is very successful – a Christian but not of my tribe and he loves Jesus. He’s very successful in so many ways. I asked him, “Tell me, of all that you’ve done, what are you most proud of?” “Bob, that’s easy. I’m proudest of the fact that I have been born and live in a Muslim majority nation and as a Christian I am one of very few that God has placed to represent Jesus to my friends and family here.” Spoken like a true follower of Jesus! “Keep learning my friends” from the most exciting man in the world!
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