Friday, November 28, 2008

Great Blog on UAE Economics

Here's a great blog on economics in the UAE... Check it out if you're interested in following the effect of the worldwide economic downturn on the UAE... which is significant.

Emirates Economist

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Herod the Great - The Man of Four Cultures ... And His Amazing Projects (National Geographic)

I was just reading about Herod the Great and came upon this wonderful slideshow at National Geographic. He was the king in Palestine during the time of Jesus' birth. He ordered the slaughter of all the male babies under the age of 2 in Bethlehem.

I was reading the book "Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes" and learned some amazing things about Herod.  He was really a "quadruple-cultural" man.

1.  He was Arab ethnicity.  He had a brother named Yousef and brother named Faisal.

2.  He was Jewish in religious background.  His family, several generations before him, had been forced to convert to Judaism.

3.  He was Greek.  His primary language of communication was Greek and he sought to make Jerusalem a Greek-like city.

4.  He was politically Roman.  He served Ceasar in Rome.  He had sided with Mark Antony in his fight against Octavius (who later became Ceasar).   But when Marc Antony lost the battle Herod sought an audience with Ceasar.  He told him, "I want you to consider, not whose friend I was, but how good a friend I was".  Ceasar made him king of Palestine.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ancient UAE Church and Monastery Discovered Dating from Pre-Islamic Times

There is a fascinating article in The National, a newspaper published out of Abu Dhabi. The article describes ancient ruins of a Nestorian church and monastery discovered on an island off the coast of Abu Dhabi. The ruins could date to the 4th century which is pre-Islamic (7th century).

The article is fascinating enough just when considering the finds but it's doubly interesting that the authorities are allowing the discoveries to be published and preserved. These kinds of finds are particularly sensitive in the Kingdom "next door" where freedom of worship is not allowed and the idea of a pre-Islamic "other" religion is not discussed much. The UAE is to be commended for their openness and honesty about the Christian church findings.

Here are some interesting findings related to ancient churches discovered in the countries around here...

What do you think about the idea that Christian churches and communities existed on the Arabian Peninsula before Mohammad was born?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Beams of Light on the Burj

Oh man, I have so much to blog about but have not been able to get it up here. So, to whet you're appetite for some interesting posts I thought I'd throw up an interesting picture to hold you over. I went to the Dubai Mall the other day for the first time. It's the largest mall in the world and has an amazing aquarium which I"ll be posting about soon. On the way home I stopped at signal and looked out of my window up at the Burj. Great shot with the sun beaming out from behind the cloud (clouds are rare here). Look for more good posts coming soon.

From 2008-11-16 Phone Pics

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Synchronized Spotlights Show Up on the Burj Dubai

The Burj Dubai, currently under construction near my home, has added quite a few lights and moving synchronized spotlights on several different floors. My 'point and shoot' digital camera couldn't get the video adequately but I did manage a few lowlight shots from my rooftop. Enjoy.

From 2008-11-7 Volleyball & Musical & Etc

From 2008-11-7 Volleyball & Musical & Etc

One Commenter's Ideas on Islamic Dawah (Sharing the Islamic Faith)

A frequent commenter, LDU, recently posted his thoughts on Dawah - the Arabic/Islamic word for Muslims calling those outside Islam to become Muslims.  I thought you might like to read what he had to say...

The concept of Dawah is very different to the Christian understanding of preaching or sending missionaries and Christian funded aid in war zones and what have you.

Although Dawah does cover verbal discussions that only comprises a very tiny part of it. Being a good Muslim citizen and fulfilling your civic duties is Dawah; a lady wearing a hijab is Dawah and likewise a man with a prayer cap and a beard is performing Dawah; being good to co-workers and being hospitable is also Dawah.

Allah instruct's Muslims to propogate Islam - that is no secret. The Quran mentions explicitly to let the entire globe know of Islam. I can do that by wearing a prayer cap in Iceland. Allah hasn't set a fixed definition for what Dawah is nor has he set out an exhaustive list - therefore it ends up being a merits based approach and not a "one size fits all". No Muslim caliph sent an army to Indonesia. Indonesia became Muslim because of the honest trade techniques (Dawah in itself) of the Muslim traders who travelled there.

In my opinion its not a matter of inviting people to the truth. Its more of an issue of not intimidating people by preaching. If people are genuinely interested in my faith, I'd be happy to discuss it with them and answer their queries. But would i stand near a train station and hand out DVD's or would I buy airtime on national television? No.

Anyone's else's thoughts on LDU's ideas about Dawah?  Do his ideas line up with yours?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

An Amazing Expectation: Peaceful Transfer of Power

This post at (my favorite blog for US political info) speaks about the amazingly peaceful and gracious transfer of power that happens every time the US elects a new president. You should read the whole short post but this quote King George stood out to me.

When (George) Washington stepped aside after two terms, his old adversary King George III is supposed to have said, "If he does that, sir, he will be the greatest                               man in the world."
This really is astounding and highlights the long list of 'great men' that have served as President of the United States... 'great' not because they didn't make mistakes (they did) but because they handed power over willingly.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Quote: The Most Troublesome Person

I've had the same experience...

I have had more trouble with myself than with any other
man I have ever met.
... Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Another Neighborhood Encounter

I wrote in the last post about meeting the three guys from the mosque. Well, I was walking the dog with my wife one night last week. On the other side of the street, three men in dishdashas approached. I handed the dog leash to my wife and crossed over to greet them with a traditional Arabic greeting.

They seemed genuinely stunned and pleased. They introduced themselves and said they live in the neighborhood. Then one of the men said "That was noble of you to come and introduce yourself... many people are scared of us 'guys in white' (a reference to being a Gulf Arab person in a white dishdasha)."

It seems that many expats are reluctant to make friends with 'locals' here for one reason or another. Sometimes I think they just don't see them as people they COULD get to know. Other times I do think they're genuinely afraid because of rumors they've heard about locals not being friendly.

On the contrary, I've found locals to be extremely friendly and open to friendship. If you're an expat here in Dubai or the UAE, what's been your experience? Or, if you're a local, what's been your experience with expats?

Monday, November 03, 2008

"Door to Door" Call to Prayer

I had a interesting experience earlier this week. The doorbell rang about 7pm and I went to the gate to answer it. Three men in dishdashas were standing there. Two were older with long beards. One was younger; no beard. They asked me if I was Muslim. I replied that I was a "...Christian, a follower of Jesus". They apologized for some reason and then asked me if my neighbor was a Muslim. I replied that both on either side of me were Muslims.

When I inquired in a friendly way what they were doing they told me they were going from house to house trying to get the Muslims to pray with them. I told them I'd like to come see them at the mosque sometime and talk about faith. They welcomed me.

I think these gentlemen weren't thinking of trying to convince me of the truth of Islam but were working to get self-proclaimed Muslims to come and pray regularly at the mosque as it's required in Islam. And I've met many observant Muslims who see their role as trying to "energize" or motivate "lapsed" Muslims.

I'm glad for the introductions to these men and hope to get down to the mosque sometime in the next month.

Podcast: Round Table Discussion on Christianity and Politics

The White Horse Inn is a radio program/podcast that I enjoy listening to often. It comes out every week and deals with some issue of theology or culture related to Christianity. The guys who do the show, including Michael Horton, are not theological slouches and you have to listen carefully to follow along. But the reward is rich.

In honor of the election tomorrow I'm including links to two shows they recently did outlining a Biblical view of politics and faith for the Christian. These are not shows about 'who you should vote for if you're a Christian'. They had both Republicans and Democrats on the show and the conversations were really stimulating. Give them a listen.

Christianity and Politics; Part 1

Christianity and Politics; Part 2