I am learning all sorts of things about Middle Eastern culture. As one author put it,

“The Bible is not a Western book. Yes it is Pan-Cultural and the truths apply to all peoples, but the origins, stories and forms are eastern.” 

“A Muslim’s Heart” by Edward Hoskins

It is fascinating! The more I learn the more I realize the biases through which I have been internalizing scripture. In the Bible, when people’s reactions don’t add up I tend to skip over certain passages. I often do not understand the way some people react and it puzzles me. Reactions that seem cryptic to me are now making more sense as I learn about about the Eastern mentality. 

Punctuality 
For example, in Eastern society punctuality is not important. If I had dinner plans with a friend across town and an unexpected guest dropped by my house, it would be rude to leave the unexpected guest! So even if I was 3 hours late, the friend I was meeting across town would not be offended and would even assume that I had had an unexpected guest drop by!

Being late is (to me) the ultimate insult. It’s like saying, “You weren’t important enough to be on time for.” However, in Eastern cultures they believe “only servants arrive on time. Being 15 to 30 minutes late is actually preferred.” 

Honor
For a Muslim, honor or “saving face” is everything. “It is more important than logic, truth and life itself.”
Sin is not taken as seriously as in the West. While Westerners view sin as an internal, moral failure, those in the East view sin as wrong but not as bad as getting caught in the sin!

One Biblical example is when Moses is giving his farewell address to the Israelites in Deu 3: 23-26. He says,

“At that time I pleaded with the LORD : “O Sovereign LORD, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do? Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon.” But because of you the LORD was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough,” the LORD said. “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.”

Two other times in Deuteronomy Moses puts the blame on the Israelites and not in himself. In Eastern cultures, blame-shifting is an art. 

Hospitality
If you visit a friend’s home and admire something they own they feel obligated to give it to you!
If I take home leftovers in a container I must replace it with some other food when I return it. 

Sencerity
Repitition is very important in the East. (Just like when Jesus and the Lord repeat things three times throughout scripture.) If I say something once it means I don’t really mean it and I am just being polite. I have to repeat something at least two or three times to be taken seriously! 

In the East, if someone invites me over to their house and they only ask once then they really don’t want me to come. It would be very rude for me to stop by.

I am not in any way insinuating that Western culture is better. I write about this only to share what I am learning and hopefully to better understand my new friends. To people in the Middle East we seem cold and unfriendly. It is strange to them that we do not smile at strangers or invite them to our homes for a meal. They are extremely loyal to extended family and to be alone is completely foreign to them. Of course you would want to live close to as many members of your family for as long as you can! In the West we tend to only be very close to our nuclear families and only see extended family on holidays.

I have much to learn…
(Most of what I have shared can be found in the aforementioned book by Hoskins.) 

 

 

President Bush offers to help Lebanon’s army prior to his trip to the Middle East later this week:
Click here for video interview >>

Civil War in Lebanon over 53 100 dead
Cyclone in Myanmar 34,000 100,000 dead
Earthquake in China 9000  50,000 dead

And God is a merciful God? A loving God? Yes.

“Every deadly calamity is a merciful call from God for the living to repent. That was Jesus’ stunning statement to those who brought him news of calamity. The tower of Siloam had fallen, and 18 people were crushed. What about this, Jesus? they asked. He answered, “Do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4-5).

The point of every deadly calamity is this: Repent. Let our hearts be broken that God means so little to us. Grieve that he is a whipping boy to be blamed for pain, but not praised for pleasure. Lament that he makes headlines only when man mocks his power, but no headlines for ten thousand days of wrath withheld. Let us rend our hearts that we love life more than we love Jesus Christ. Let us cast ourselves on the mercy of our Maker. He offers it through the death and resurrection of his Son.

This is the point of all pleasure and all pain. Pleasure says: “God is like this, only better; don’t make an idol out of me. I only point to him.” Pain says: “What sin deserves is like this, only worse; don’t take offense at me. I am a merciful warning.”

-John Piper

3As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

4Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,[a]’ and will deceive many. 6You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8All these are the beginning of birth pains.

9″Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Jesus
Mathew 24:8-14

Lebanon Update >>


Myanmar: Pray God would open doors for the gospel to spread in spite of the devastation. As we know from the Tsunami in Indonesia natural disasters open wide doors for the gospel through suffering and death. God is merciful and gracious. Visit Open Doors Blog for more information and Gospel for Asia who has people on the ground there now.



Lebanon: Pray that through the civil war in Beirut He will open the hearts and minds of non-believers to see their need for Christ, their only safety. Please pray for our brothers and sisters at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) and the Beirut Baptist School (BBS). 

Week in Pictures: Beirut Conflict
  

 

 


Please pray for our brothers and sisters who as I write this are persecuted for their faith. Please join with me in lifting them up to the Father and may we become closer to Him as we intercede.

So I am going on a trip. To a place I specifically prayed to go on on Jan 20th and 28th of ’08 and the LORD God has opened the door wide!
I can’t say exactly where, when or with who on the blog but just know that God answers prayers that glorify Him the most. There are a lot of prayers I have prayed that have not come to fruition but today there is deep contentment in my soul. He is creating in me a desire to treasure what He treasures and not what I thought would satisfy. It is so good to feast at the table of the One who provides the richest of fare!
Praises to the MOST HIGH EVERLASTING GRACIOUS AND PERFECT KING OF ALL CREATION!