Alex, the General Contractor

Back in August, I signed up for a Groupon deal to have a handyman come to the house to do various house projects for an hour.  The day before he was supposed to come, “Alex” called to discuss the details of the projects.When he arrived, Alex mentioned that I needed to get some materials from Home Depot. We jumped in his car, and on the drive there, I got to learn about his story.

©Erich Ferdinand

Alex’s real name is Ali, and he is a Muslim from the Middle East.  He came to the United States in 2000 to study architecture at a university in Oklahoma.  While there, he met his future wife, also a devout Muslim. They got married a few years later, and now have two little kids.  His wife stays at home to take care of the children, while he works for a family friend to provide food on the table.

Ali had a brother in Florida, who had been brutally murdered.  Ali’s eyes were full of pain as he explained what had happened. Despite all this, Ali can’t imagine living anywhere other than the United States.  He loves American football, boating, fishing, and being with his family.

Ali spoke of his devotion to his faith. He faithfully prayed at the times that he was supposed to pray. During Ramadan, Ali would faithfully fast during daylight hours although it was difficult to do so as a handyman. Sometimes this meant that he would be in the heat outside all day without any food or water.

After a while, he began asking about what I did.  When I mentioned that I pastor a church, he wanted to know my thoughts about relationships between Muslims and Christians.  I began telling him of my friendship with the Imam of the Plano mosque.  I told him about how I have been to both the Plano and Irving mosques and have met both Imams.  Ali attends the Irving mosque, and was amazed when I mentioned Imam Zia by name.

We ended our long conversation with him wanting me to meet his family and pray for his business.

Why am I blogging about this?

Too often, we Christians tend to talk about other faiths, but we don’t dialogue with people of other faiths. If all we do is attack people of other nations, other religions or other races, we aren’t being representatives of Jesus to the world we live in. The only thing this does is close the door for relationships to be built.  Yet when I study the life of Jesus, I don’t see him doing that at all.

Jesus was interested in conversations with the “enemy.”  He spoke with the Samaritan woman, when no one else would have talked to her. He healed the daughter of a Gentile woman – another enemy of the people of God.  Although Jesus knew he would be crucified by Romans, he never attacked or talked about them. Instead, he healed the servant of a Roman Centurion.  These were enemies.  These were people opposed to the Gospel.  They were the terrorists.  Yet, Jesus didn’t see them that way.  He loved them enough to talk to them – not about them.  Loved them enough to heal them – not let them die.  Loved them enough to build relationships with them – not close the door on them.

I had previously posted about how the world is coming to Dallas.  It’s an incredible time to be living in.  God is giving us opportunities to interact with various people, learn from them, love them, and point them to Jesus. However, it won’t matter at all if the world is coming to our city if we aren’t willing to love and reach out to them.  If we stay closed and boxed in our little comfort zones, nations will come and go, and we will miss the incredible opportunities that God opens for us.

I love my Muslim friends.  I recently had a great lunch with an Imam, whom I genuinely care about.  I would love to see him become a follower of Jesus, and I pray for that often.  I’m sure he would love to see me become a Muslim and prays for that, as well.  We have incredible conversations about life, faith, and theology.  We disagree on many things.  However, our religious differences have not stopped us from being friends and from living in peace and harmony with each other.

My friend, Ali, left my house that day saying that he wishes he had met more Christians like me.  That was humbling to hear.  He even mentioned that he wanted to visit our church one day.  He figured if an Imam was welcome, he would be welcome as well.  Has he come?  No.  Will he come?  I don’t know.  I do know that because God led me to see him as a person and genuinely care about him, he had a better impression of Christians and the Church.

Photo courtesy of ©Erich Ferdinand under the Creative Commons License 3.0

Why another church in Richardson?

Dallas Richardson Map
A question that I am often asked is why are we starting another church in the Richardson area. Richardson is a city that is saturated with churches, we have more ministries & churches in our metroplex than most countries have in their entire country. It’s a great question.

Churches in Richardson TX

To answer that question, I want to quote a book from a pastor that has invested heavily into my life over the last three years. Pastor Bob Roberts is the pastor of Northwood Church in Keller, a church that helped plant LOFT. I will write another blog soon about the influence that Pastor Bob has had on LOFT and how we are the church we are because of his influence.

Bob has written a new book called, “Bold as Love.” It will be released in a few months, but I received an advance reader’s copy this week. In the first chapter, Bob talks about how our society has changed and he specifically addresses the changes in the Dallas area.
[pl_blockquote]There was a day when faith was tribal and defined by geography. Not anymore. Every religion is everywhere. Even in Dallas. Today, 44 percent of the population was not born in an English-speaking nation; 238 languages are spoken in the DFW area; 28% of the population doesn’t speak English in their homes! We have Little Pakistan, Koreatown, Little Iran, Little India, Little Arabia, Chinatown, three Little Vietnams, four Little Mexicos, Little Nepal, Ethiopia/Eritrea.

Hispanics make up a large portion of the metroplex with roughly a million people. But there are also 40,000 Arabs, 90,000 Chinese, 25,000 Columbians, 5,000 Egyptians, 80,000 El Salvadorians, 7,500 Cambodians, 8,000 Bangladeshis, 15,000 Ethiopians, 90,000 Indians, 40,000 Iranians, 20,000 Ismailis, 50,000 Koreans, 25,000 Nepalese, 10,000 North Africans, 50,000 Pakistani’s, 30,000 Filipinos, 40,000 Polish, 22,000 Puerto Ricans, 80,000 Vietnamese, and dozens of other ethnicities.

In 1975 there was one mosque in the entire DFW area. Today, there are forty three. The closest mosque to me is about two miles away, the closest Buddhist temple is four miles, and the closest synagogue is five miles. The whole world is around me – and it’s around you.[/pl_blockquote]

What an opportunity for us to share to love for Jesus. What an incredible time for us to be alive. What a great reason to start a church that will reach the nations of the earth. What a great time for us as believers to move out of the comforts of what is safe, normal and constant and take risks for the sake of the Gospel.

God has allowed us to be born and be alive at a time when we will run into all sorts of people who need to know the love of Jesus. Whether you’re hungry or hurt, lonely or lost, full of questions or looking for a home, there’s a place for you at our church. We want to help you find a place where you can connect with others in your stage of life. Our desire is to disciple you to think & live missionally. As we continue to invest resources into reaching people in Richardson, the Dallas area & beyond, we pray that we can make a Kingdom impact at a global & local level.

Heather Mercer

This weekend we are blessed to have Heather Mercer minister to us at LOFT.  Heather is the founder and president of Global Hope.  A native of Virgina, Heather is a graduate from Baylor University with a degree in German.  In 2001, after her graduation, Heather traveled to Kabul, Afghanistan to work and spread the Gospel.

Missions Emphasis Week Missions Week

On August 3, 2001, Mercer, along with five other women and two men, was arrested by the Taliban for spreading the Gospel, a capital crime in Afghanistan. After September 11, 2001, she and the others were put on trial. Some were sentenced to death.  She was held captive by the Taliban for 105 days until the Northern Alliance Force came to her rescue on November 15, 2011.

Heather is passionate about the Muslim community.  Through projects that tangibly express the love and hope of Jesus Christ, Global Hope hopes to build bridges for meaningful relationships with the Muslim community.  Currently Global Hope is involved in two such projects in the nation of Iraq.

Hagar House is the only aftercare program in Iraq for abused women.  They are focused on a multi-phase restoration process that includes:  counseling, spiritual development, life skills, education and job training, employment and independence.

Freedom Center is a community center that includes coffee house and internet cafes, English language school, Leadership Institute and Library, Business and Copy Center, Women’s Training Class, Park and Playground, and Recreational and Sports Facility.   The Freedom Center will serve about 500 people a day who will experience the love of Jesus Christ.

We are excited to have Heather come and share her testimony and vision with us at LOFT.  We invite you to join us and invite your friends and family to hear this incredible testimony who has given her life to reach the Muslim community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
[pl_blockquote]“The Great Commission is not just a commission to be for self. It is a command to be obeyed. God has called us to go; there is no other option.  What would your life look like if you had nothing to lose? What would your life look like if you had nothing to prove? That’s the call of God on your life.”[/pl_blockquote]

What children should say about their parents

John Paton was a Scottish missionary to the island of New Hebrides in 1851.  This was an island full of cannibals.  In fact the only other missionaries that had ever attempted to evangelize this island were murdered and their corpses were eaten by these cannibals.  John and his wife, Mary, went to be missionaries to this island in 1858.  Three months after arriving there, his wife gave birth to their son Peter.  However, nineteen days later, Mary passed away from a tropical fever, followed by the death of his son Peter.  Despite these challenges, John served faithfully among this people group and as a result of his faithful service and God’s divine intervention, the entire island professed faith in Jesus before John died.


John began a journal which later became published.  The first 100 pages of the auto-biography is where he talks about the influence of his parents on his life.  I wanted to give you a few quotes of what John would say about his parents:
[pl_blockquote]The very discipline through which our father passed us was a kind of religion in itself. If anything really serious required to be punished, he retired first to his closet for prayer, and we boys got to understand that he was laying the whole matter before God; and that was the severest part of the punishment for me to bear! I could have defied any amount of mere penalty, but this spoke to my conscience as a message from God. We loved him all the more, when we saw how much it cost him to punish us; and, in truth, he had never very much of that kind of work to do upon any one of all the eleven—we were ruled by love far more than by fear.[/pl_blockquote]
Another excerpt that stood out to me was the day that John describes leaving his home to attend missionary school.  He had to walk 40 miles just to get to the train station.  His godly father walked with him the first portion of the journey, knowing that accepting the missionary calling was accepting the call to leave family and probably never see them again.  Here is what happened:
[pl_blockquote]My dear father walked with me the first six miles of the way. His counsel and tears and heavenly conversation on that parting journey are fresh in my heart as if it had been but yesterday; and tears are on my cheeks as freely now as then, whenever memory steals me away to the scene. His tears fell fast when our eyes met each other in looks for which all speech was vain! He grasped my hand firmly for a minute in silence, and then solemnly said: “God bless you, my son! Your father’s God prosper you, and keep you from all evil!” Unable to say more, his lips kept moving in silent prayer; in tears we embraced, and parted. I ran off as fast as I could; and, when about to turn a corner in the road where he would lose sight of me, I looked back and saw him still standing with head uncovered where I had left him gazing after me. Waving my hat in adieu, I was round the corner and out of sight in an instant. But my heart was too full and sore to carry me further, so I darted into the side of the road and wept for a time. Rising up cautiously, I climbed the dyke to see if he yet stood where I had left him; and just at that moment I caught a glimpse of him climbing the dyke and looking out for me! He did not see me, and after he had gazed eagerly in my direction for a while he got down, set his face towards home, and began to return, his head still uncovered, and his heart, I felt sure, still rising in prayers for me.

I watched through blinding tears, till his form faded from my gaze; and then, hastening on my way, vowed deeply and oft, by the help of God, to live and act so as never to grieve or dishonour such a father and mother as He had given me. The appearance of my father when we parted has often through life risen vividly before my mind, and does so now as if it had been but an hour ago. In my earlier years particularly, when exposed to many temptations, his parting form rose before me as that of a guardian Angel. It is no pharisaism, but deep gratitude, which makes me here testify that the memory of that scene not only helped to keep me pure from the prevailing sins, but also stimulated me in all my studies, that I might not fall short of his hopes, and in all my Christian duties, that I might faithfully follow his shining example.

Honesty and Contentment

Honesty and Contentment
Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?”or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. Proverbs 30:7-9

Honesty and Contentment

What an incredible prayer. It’s a prayer asking God to make you honest and content in life. Do you realize that you can destroy your life by being dishonest?  You can destroy your family by your dishonesty?  We have seen individuals who are not able to be honest about their struggles, and eventually sin destroys them. The biggest hindrance to people coming to church and faith is not theological issues, but the fact that they have been burned by hypocrites in the church. People that claim to believe one thing, but then lives their lives completely antithetical to what they profess. Let’s be honest. We are all hypocrites, myself included.

How does one become honest? There is only one solution. It’s the Gospel. Only when you apply the Gospel to your life can you actually begin to change in this. If you truly believe that Jesus took all of your punishment and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, then only can you live an honest life. When you grasp that Jesus took it all, forgave you, and the only thing that matters now is what He thinks of you. It doesn’t matter what other people think, because Jesus has approved you. You can then be honest.  You can then be transparent.  You can then be open to sharing your struggles and get help. Jesus loves you. He died for you. He received you.  You don’t have to hide your sin. You don’t have to impress people. You don’t have to put on a show. You can be yourself and trust that Jesus will use others to change you.

The same is true for contentment. Most of us never live our lives satisfied. We are never content with what God has given us. We want the latest gadgets and technology before it is released to the public. We want more than what we have now. We will wait in line for days, pre-order at ridiculous prices, and drown ourselves in debt doing so  – all because we are not content with what God has given us.

Again, the only solution for being discontent is the Gospel. Only when you fully grasp that Jesus died for you and brought you into His family, that you are now a son or daughter of God, will you ever be content. You get all the benefits of being a child of God now. Your heavenly Father is looking out for you and providing for you. Only then can you be content in whatever circumstance you are in, knowing that God is for you and not against you.

Most of us live our lives thinking that we have to earn something from God. We might not profess that, but that is how we live our lives. God has to bless me because I go to church, pay my tithes, read the Bible, pray, __________ (fill in the blanks). We think that if we fail Him in life or sin, God will punish or withhold his blessings from us.  We live our lives thinking that God is sitting in heaven waiting for us to fail, so that he can stop blessing us. Everything we do is not done out of genuine love for Jesus, but it’s because we fear failing Him.

However, have you ever wrestled with the verse that God is for you and not against you? The creator of the universe is for you. He is in love with you, supports you, provides for you, protects you, goes out of his way to make you a part of his family. What more do you need in life? You can be content in your circumstances. If you need it, God will provide for it.  If you don’t need it, you can be content knowing that God knows what is best for your life. Whatever He gives you is for your good. Whatever He doesn’t give you is also for your good.

Only when you begin to apply the Gospel to your life can you be honest and content no matter what you are going through in life.