Middle East Travels (1)

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I recently spent two weeks in Jordan, Israel and Egypt—two wonderful weeks. The trip has given me quite a bit to think about.

Let’s start with the plane ride. It was one flight from Chicago to Amman, Jordan. That’s a twelve hour flight. That’s a long time. The service was wonderful and it was actually kind of cool that every seat had our own video screen and we had a choice of about 50 movies to watch. That helped to pass the time.

The most interesting thing for me on the flight over was sitting next to a Palestinian Muslim who currently lives in Dallas, Texas. He owned a Mexican restaurant in Dallas (he never explained why it was a Mexican restaurant), and he was going to Jordan to visit some family.

The first thing that struck me about our conversation was that when I said that I would be traveling to Israel, he said that he hoped I had a good time in Palestine.

He wasn’t angry that I had used the word Israel (he later said Israel himself), but he did want subtly to remind me that Israel was where his ancestors—Palestinians—used to live. We in the States sometimes forget that. We forget that when the nation of Israel was established in 1948, there were people who had been living in that land. And those people lost their land, they lost their homes. I don’t know the solution to the situation in the Middle East and I certainly don’t approve of terrorist attacks, but it’s important that we recognize that Palestinians lost something significant in 1948 and deserve some care and concern. We should also remember that a number of Palestinians are brothers and sisters in Christ.

The second thing that struck me about this middle east travel conversation was that he was really interested to know what Christians believed about tithing.

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It was his first question when he found out I was a pastor. He wanted to know whether we were supposed to tithe on gross or net, whether it applied to all of our possessions or just of “new money,” and what percentage of Christians actually tithe. He explained to me that Muslims are supposed to give 2.5% of all their possessions annually (for those in need), but he said that many Muslims are not observant and don’t actually follow through on that. He said that he did. I found it interesting that he recognized, like Jesus does, that our money tells us a lot about our level of commitment. If, as Jesus said, our heart is where our treasure (money) is (Matt. 6:21), this guy got right to the heart of the matter.

The third thing I found interesting was sharing our struggles in trying to raise children to be followers of God in a culture (US culture) that doesn’t help us much at all.

He talked about how difficult it was to raise kids in an age of internet and smart phones, where they get all this junk thrown at them. He said that that was one of the things he missed about Jordan, where his family currently lived. There just wasn’t as much of a secular influence in the culture around them. You didn’t have to worry as much about being in but not of the world. As we talked I thought that even though we have a very different set of religious beliefs, there are still some things we share. And I was challenged to keep watching out for those places where I’m more influenced by the world than I am by my Christian faith.

I hope you’ll keep an eye on that too.



Middle East Travels (I) – you’re here, my friend

Middle East Travels (II)

Middle East Travels (III)

Middle East Travels (IV)

Middle East Travels (V)[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

  1. Sounds like a great conversation — I’m so glad he felt free enough to ask you questions about your faith and that you could come to a place of kinship, at least in the struggle of raising godly children.

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