Antisemitism, Ungodly!!!

BenGarissonOnFacebookTrollBullyingAndHateSpeechWhen was the last time you heard of 167 US congress members agreeing on one thing. Republicans, democrats and Jewish community leaders have combined to call for the White House to appoint an envoy on anti-Semitism. Attacks and threats on Jews have escalated in America and around the world and the congress members called for specific action. “We view US leadership on combating anti-Semitism and promoting human rights as pivotal components of American diplomacy and foreign policy,’ the bipartisan letter read. “The Office of Special Envoy enables the US to show the world its commitment to these ideals, particularly at a time when anti-Semitism is dangerously on the rise,” they wrote.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) have a clear definition of anti-Semitism: “The belief or behavior hostile toward Jews just because they are Jewish. It may take the form of religious teachings that proclaim the inferiority of Jews, for instance, or political efforts to isolate, oppress, or otherwise injure them. It may also include prejudiced or stereotyped views about Jews.”

Last March, the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, held an emergency debate to discuss anti-Semitism in the U.S. “For many years there was a sense that the United States was the safest place for people of all religions and ethnic groups, a place with tolerance for any religion or race. Unfortunately, this has changed 180 degrees,” Knesset committee chairman MK Avraham Neguise (Likud) said.

Europe

And in Europe? According to a report presented to the Israeli government earlier in January (2016), anti-Semitism in Europe has reached its highest levels in decades. More than half of French Jews are considering emigrating, while the number of incidents targeting Jews in London rose by 61% in 2015 (483 in the 12-month period to November 2015, up from 299 in the same period in 2014), according to the International Business Times (ibtimes.co.uk)

In the UK far right activist Jeremy Bedford-Turner has ignited debate for more than a year. In a July 2015 speech he said, “…all politicians are nothing but a bunch of puppets dancing to a Jewish tune, and the ruling regimes in the West for the last one hundred years have danced to the same tune.”

“ Evoking medieval libels which claimed that Jews drank the blood of non-Jewish children, Bedford-Turner told his followers, of whom one third were from the violent extreme-right National Rebirth of Poland group, that the French Revolution and both World Wars were massacres perpetrated by Jews. He concluded that England was “merry” during the period of the expulsion of Jews from England and demanded: “Let’s free England from Jewish control.” (March 8, 2017, jwire.com.au)

thADL traces anti-Semitism directly to Christian influence. On the ADL home page they say: “The rise of Christianity greatly increased hatred of Jews. They became seen not merely as outsiders but as a people who rejected Jesus and crucified him — despite the fact that the Roman authorities ordered and carried out the crucifixion. By the high middle ages (11th-14th centuries), Jews were widely persecuted as barely human “Christ-killers” and “Devils.” Forced to live in all-Jewish ghettos, they were accused of poisoning rivers and wells during times of disease. Some were tortured and executed for supposedly abducting and killing Christian children to drink their blood or to use it in baking matzoh — a charge known as the ‘blood libel.’” (adl.org) And there is much more.

To trace the death of Jesus to any human is a long stretch. Jesus chose to lay down His own life. Without His death and resurrection we would all be lost. His sacrifice for sin was His amazing plan. Thankfully millions of Christians hold Israel as a special place in their hearts. Jesus chose to be a Jewish man, so we respect and honour them as His physical family.

We should know the Bible says: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 John chapter 3, verse 16)

Church

Bulgarian-Israeli lawyer Moshe Aloni is building a campaign to submit the Bulgarian Independent Orthodox Church for the Nobel Peace Prize. He proclaimed ‘brave acts of heroism’ by church clergy and community during the holocaust. Openly the church protested anti-Semitic laws in World War II. At every turn they resisted the deportation of 48,000 Bulgarian Jews to Nazi death camps. His petition makes specific mention of two clergymen – Metropolitan (Bishop) Stephan, the highest ranking Bulgarian church official during the holocaust, and Metropolitan Kiril, head of the Church in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv.

These two men were named ‘Righteous among the Living’ at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, Jerusalem in 2001. According to Yad Vashem records Kiril sent a personal telegram to the King pleading mercy for the Jews. He threatened to end his loyalty to Bulgaria and to act independently if necessary. He said he was prepared to lay across the railway tracks in order to stop the deportation.

“Due to the heroic acts of these two prominent leaders and their willingness to speak up and take action, the deportation of the Jews of Bulgaria was postponed again and again until it was finally cancelled with the end of the war,” wrote Aloni in his letter to the Nobel Committee.

When I read about Rev Kiril, I went back to 1 John chapter 3, verse 16 and was challenged.

 

 

Halal, Massive Cash!

unknown2.3 trillion USD! Not a bad sum? The Malaysian Ministry of Trade and Industry estimated that was the value of the international Halal market in March 2015.

As I set out to find recent professional and sound comments on this topic, I found the cupboard is bare. Thankfully the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) published an informative brochure. “Islam is not a religion, it is a way of life with protocols, rules and manners governing every facet of life,’ ICV said, and they estimate there are more than 400,000 Muslims in Australia. “Halal is a term designating any object to use or engage in according to Islamic law,” the brochure further explains. What is halal, they ask? “Halal is an Arabic word meaning lawful or permitted in reference to food. It is the dietary standard as prescribed in the Qur’an, the Muslim scripture” is the ICV answer.

There are two primary forms of religious based certification in Australia. ‘Kosher’ meaning ‘fit for use’ is for the Jewish population. Halal is for Muslims. An Australian Government report December, 2015 declared: “AUSTRAC has no information that indicates halal certification is linked to terrorism” and “AUSTRAC will continue to monitor reported financial transactions and analyse data related to halal certification to identify information that may be relevant to investigating agencies.” (AUSTRAC – Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre)

Marketing

Economically Halal certification means opening export doors to Indonesia, Malaysia, Iran, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Brunei, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, a not insignificant list. The Australian red meat export sector was worth $1.4 billion in 2012-14. Next year, 2018, the anticipated Australian global halal food market is forecast to top 1.6 trillion dollars.

The Q society, an openly anti-Islam group is locked in a court-case which has been in progress for more than a year. Their legal battle is with Halal Certification Authority chief Mohammed El-Mouelhy. He claims, he was defamed by three members of Q Society, in two videos. One in this dispute is Kirralie Smith, founder of the Halal Choices website. During a 2015 Four Corners stroll through a supermarket Smith identified Weetbix, Vegemite, Cadbury chocolate, Bega Cheese and Kellogg’s cereals as Halal certified. Four Corners observed ‘most bread, milk, cereals and at least 80 percent of the chicken process here, are also halal certified.

imagesThere are mega-dollars connected to the Halal question. Last September, the Australasian Muslim Times headlined their report: “Halal Markets are worth $2 Trillions.” The story started: “Muslims have a whopping $11.5 trillion of wealth to their names.’ They quoted statistics from a Bloomberg report calling the cash ‘this massive pool of capital.’

“Australia in the forefront of Halal meat industry’ was another report by the Australasian Muslim Times. From the article by Dr Abdus Sami Sufi ‘the total Halal market is valued around $2.1 trillion Australian dollars.’

Last February contributor Gulhan Eryegit Yoldas wrote “Boycotting Halal – Bad for Australian Business.”

Expand

Economically certainly the Halal argument adds up. Look at this paragraph: “Now consider that we have a population here of just over 23 million. Your maximum potential for that product is to sell it to those 23 million people. Geographically some of our closest neighbours, who we have the easiest trading terms with, happen to have an enormous population of Muslims. Indonesia has 203 million Muslims, Malaysia has 30 million for instance. Just those two countries combined offer 10 times the opportunity for sales than in all of Australia.”

The Muslim market is carefully targeted and all-systems go for the participants. I noticed the Malaysian report carries economic analysis for food and beverages, palm oil derivatives, cosmetic and personal care, industrial chemical and pharmaceutical. That report also offered assistance for Halal Business Transformation. Here they offered training for the workforce, access to financing and business networking. Their online and physical contacts came from 120 countries, probably some through the Halal Iphone app on offer.

Where this ‘massive pool of capital’ ends up provokes me. In August last year, the Financial Times reported: “French Muslims outline halal levy plan to fund mosques.”

There is serious tension in France. In the FT article Adam Thomson wrote: “There is growing concern in France that some mosques are being financed by extremists — often based overseas — with the intention of radicalising worshippers.”

Thomson also observed: “Bernard Cazeneuve, interior minister, said that the government had closed 20 Muslim places of worship in recent months because of their radical teachings.”

A Four Corners programme two years ago looked at the impact of Halal certification in Australia. A Smart Company summary said: “While the investigation found nothing to suggest links between halal certification fees and Islamic fundamentalists, it did reveal some money from certified products was being used to fund Australian Islamic schools and mosques. A mosque complex in Indonesia is also being partly funded by donations from the Islamic Coordinating Council of Victoria raised from halal certification.” (Madura Tea owner reveals why he dumped halal certification – September 8, 2015 – smartcompany.com.au)

I confess I am a swift laser-like in and out shopper. I used to pause just to check for sugar content. Nowadays I am much more observant.

Freedom, What Happened?

imagesA recent Freedom House report declares Israel is the only free country in the Middle East. Israel scored 80 out of 100 points on the Freedom House chart. Partly free countries are Turkey (38), Jordan (37) and Kuwait (36.) Countries deemed not free were Iraq (27), Iran (17), Saudi Arabia (10) and Syria (-1). By world standards Israel scored lower than most. North American and European nations were listed between 89 and 100.

Freedom House used a complex scoring system assessing political rights and civil liberties. Principles applied by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were observed.

According to the 2016 report 72 countries showed declining standards of freedom over a 10 year slide. Just 43 countries made gains. “The democracies of Europe and the United States struggled to cope with the Syrian civil war and other unresolved regional conflicts. In addition to compounding the misery and driving up the death toll of civilians in the affected territories, the fighting generated unprecedented numbers of refugees and incubated terrorist groups that inspired or organized attacks on targets abroad. In democratic countries, these stresses led to populist, often bigoted reactions as well as new security measures, both of which threaten the core values of an open society.” – the report observed.

Driving Force

The report concluded: “The number of countries designated as Free stands at 86, representing 44 percent of the world’s 195 polities and nearly 2.9 billion people – or 40 percent of the global population. The number of Free countries has decreased by three from the previous year.” (The three were Dominican Republic, Lesotho and Montenegro)

There are 2.6 billion people living in nations listed as Not Free. There are 1.8 billion people in Partly Free locations. Look at that…. 4. 4 billion people live in less than free societies! This is the driving force behind the refugee crisis causing pain and distress worldwide. The issue is critical and causing serious dilemma for world leaders and concerned Christians.

The Christian position is very clear. The Bible repeatedly lays out the appropriate divine direction – How would you like to be treated? That is how we should treat foreigners (Leviticus chapter 19, verses 33-34).

  • Give them practical aid -food and clothing (Leviticus 19 verses 9-19)
  • Love them. (Deuteronomy 10, verses 18-19)
  • Seek justice for them (Malachi 3 verse 5)
  • Invite them in (Matthew chapter 25, verses 25-36)
  • Show mercy (Luke 10 chapter 10, verses 29-37)

Relevant

unknownCBN last February ran an article ‘9 Thing the Bible says You should Do for Refugees.’ 7 Feb. 2017) A reader to Relevant magazine said: “Hate to see anyone have to go through this. I’d love to see the church rally together to do everything possible to help the refugees. That said, I absolutely do not think our government should. The guidelines in the Bible are for the church and individuals – not guidelines on how to run a country. The government is in place to defend and protect Americans, and I don’t think helping refugees accomplishes that in any way.”

Writer Sarah Quezada authored “The Church must stand up for Immigrants and Refugees” – published by Relevant February 6, 2017. She referred to the Good Samaritan.

There is no doubt what the mission of the church is called to be, but what is the role of government? Every government has an obligation to protect the national residents, the voters. Regarding immigration and open doors for refugees the attitude is intensifying. A recent survey by Chatham House highlights the public opinion. They note the mounting public anxiety over migrants from mainly Muslim regions.

“In our survey, carried out before President Trump’s executive order was announced, respondents were given the following statement: ‘All further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped’. They were then asked to what extent did they agree or disagree with this statement. Overall, across all 10 of the European countries an average of 55% agreed that all further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped, 25% neither agreed nor disagreed and 20% disagreed.” (www,chathamhouse.org – What Do Europeans Think About Muslim Immigration – Feb 7, 2017)

In November last year Helena Legido-Quigley, from the Centre on Global Health Security wrote: “Doctors working in Greek refugee camps report asylum seekers experiencing mental anguish and anxiety symptoms related to border closures and not knowing whether they will be relocated or granted asylum. And in camps at Calais, Munich, and across Greece, doctors report widespread anxiety symptoms and distress among all groups. A physical representation of this anxiety reported frequently is sudden collapse due to mental exhaustion.

“Many refugees also report not wanting to use emergency medical services, even when they need the care, for fear of missing an opportunity to cross a border. But refugees’ need for health services extends beyond mental and emergency health care to cover the whole gamut of routine health care.” (Chatham House – Europe Must Find Humane and Dignified Response – 30 November, 2016)

The vast number of refugees have legitimate need for love and care. It is the minority who take the crisis and use it for violent opportunities. We must have wisdom in processing the desire to help.

I recall being frustrated often as I travelled in and out of Israel. The officials asked many questions and refused to concede until every one was answered appropriately. Israel is famous for effective vetting procedures.

I also remember the joy we knew after we entered and met with our Jewish friends in Jerusalem. They blessed us with abundant hospitality and we shared in their celebrations. Friendships were established that remain to this day. There is a balance, and we must find it quickly.

Millennials, More Friendship, Less Church!

imagesMillenials! Believe me they are different. Try these classic quotes, rewritten for millennials – “A picture is worth a thousand words” becomes ‘an emoji is worth a thousand words’; “Better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all” to “Better to have GIFed and lost than never to have GIFed at all” and “You are what you eat” now “You are what you download.” (’21 Classic quotes Reimagined for the Millennial Generation’- buzzfeed.com) By the way, GIF stands for Graphic Information Format, but you knew that, right? Millennials were born between 1980 and 2000. They are also called Generation Y, Generation Next and Net Generation.

Years ago my first music album (remember those?) was by The Four Lads. I loved it but my dad called it ‘noise’! “Turn that noise down,” he would demand. Generations come and go and they all seem to have different tastes but with a little effort we learn to communicate to some extent. It may take concerted effort and understanding but I have always found encouraging the youth in their likes and ambitions helps. In other words, be involved in their lives.

Recently I observed the response when a teenager shocked her world. She committed suicide. Where I could, I reached out with encouragement but I noticed the value to the grieving, of text messaging. The tight group of friends reached out to each other with sorrow and sensitivity by text. Some went to Facebook to pay tribute to the ‘fallen angel.’ This is the way of millennials, they text one another. Their network is very tight. They find encouragement, security and identity from each other and the other is just a quick click away.

 Multi-tasking

images-1I have learned millennials are very ‘with it.’ They are experts at multi-tasking. My millennials can be in conversation with me, texting on their ipads or ipods, and watching TV all at the same time. Theyre not ignoring me, they just have the ability to connect by multi-tasking. (Took a while to learn that!)

Forty years ago my wife Yvonne and I set up the Hamburger Hut as a Saturday night outreach centre for youth. The fellowship was all about music, movies and burgers but the attraction was the social getting together. We offered a bible study in our home to those interested and that was a great time for all of us. We were criticized for our live rock and roll music but it was the music of the day and we enjoyed it too.

Right now Christian communities must find ways to communicate effectively with millennials who need encouragement and support. Last February (2017) unemployment for youth in Australia was 13.3 per cent. I have spoken with many who feel their future is bleak. Less than 1 in 10 young Aussies think they will be more financially secure than their parents, look at house and apartment prices in Sydney! Millennials also have a strong fear of terrorism and crime. They are understandably concerned. The McCrindle Research reports by 2020 average work tenure will be 3 years. More than 1 in 3 workers will be casual. (mccrindle.com.au) They know more about robots and technology than we do and they are worried.

In America 65% of millennials rarely attend church; 70% say church is irrelevant according to The Millennials: Connecting to America’s Largest Generation.

Millennials make up 20 percent of the Australian population but I read an Australian marketing expert Rosie Baker said, “Millennials are on the brink of becoming the most important market for Australian brands.” She was writing about luxury items and advising marketers to get with it to keep their market share. Their outreach to the millennials required targeted advertising and they must ‘go mobile’, she said. (Luxury brands ‘must skew advertising younger and go mobile’, Rosie Baker, Ad News)

Millennials in America recently told church leaders we don’t like preaching, we need mentoring. What an invitation?

It is very interesting to me Jesus when he was 12 years old was found in the synagogue with the teachers. Luke said he was ‘listening to them and asking them questions.’ (Luke chapter 2, verse 46b). That was a very millennial type thing to do! Most millennials I know, ask question after question. They are not satisfied with an answer from an authority figure. Instead they are certain to discuss the details with their own age-group.

One US millennial wrote: “Contrary to popular belief, we can’t be won back with hipper worship bands, fancy coffee shops or pastors who wear skinny jeans.” Sounds like a cry for reality to me!

Today if I were in church leadership, I would be encouraging my youth to text their friends and neighbours, start communicating, sharing, listening and learning. Mentoring may be the tool of the future and you only need faith and an ipod to do it. My wife and I kept goodies in the fridge and that guaranteed more personal contact,

Person of Faith. Margaret Court

images-1In the tennis world Margaret Court was described as ‘dominating.’ She had great athleticism combined with a fierce fitness regime. She won 64 Grand Slam titles (24 singles, 19 doubles, 21 mixed doubles), a record for any male or female player.

US tennis champion and great rival Billie Jean King labeled Margaret ‘the arm’ because of her formidable reach. Her record included the ‘boxed set’ – singles, doubles and mixed doubles victories at all four major tennis championships. In 1960 at the age of 17 she won her first Australian Open. This was the first of seven consecutive Australian titles. Court won the Australian Open 11 times from 12 finals. Across her breath-taking amateur and professional career Margaret registered a 1,180 – 107 win-loss ratio.

She was born Margaret Smith, 16th July, 1942 in Albury, NSW. Her birth was a battle. Her mother almost died and Margaret arrived in a less than healthy condition. The family lived in a modest, two bedroom, asbestos home. Nevertheless the circumstances were not all bad. Divine Providence provided twenty-four grass tennis courts across the road from her home. It was on those courts Margaret spent her childhood energy. Albury tennis coach Wally Rutter encouraged her. He mentioned her talent to Australian legend Frank Sedgman. When Margaret was a 13, Sedgman predicted she could be the first Australian woman to win the championship at Wimbledon. Eight years later her prodigious record began when she won the coveted Wimbledon crown and confirmed his forecast.

Margaret remembers being a childhood ‘tomboy’ and in a neighborhood of young boys she learned to compete. Court does not call her motivation ‘competitiveness’, so much as a commitment to give her best.

When she retired she had no idea of her career statistics. It was left to a British commentator, John Barret, to tally the details. She was the first Australian woman to win Wimbledon. That was 1963. In 1970 she won the Calendar Year Grand Slam (Wimbledon, the Australian, United States and French Opens). In 1975 she was the first mum to be number one in the world. Margaret retired from tennis in 1976. She was inducted into the International Hall of Fame in 1979

Honors

Margaret was the fittest player on the international tour. Under coach Stan Nicholls she took to cardio and circuit training and running sand hills. She was called ‘the Aussie Amazon.’ An International Hall of Fame reports says: “Honors abounded for Court. She was made Member of the Order of the British Empire (1967), inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame (1985), the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame (1993), earned the ITF’s Phillippe Chatrier Award (2006), and was made Officer of the Order of Australia for her services to tennis and community (2007). In January 2014 Show Court One at Melbourne Park, (home to the Australian Open since 1988), was renamed Margaret Court Arena.”

Margaret moved to Perth, West Australia, and was quickly surrounded by a group of friends. Her relationship with husband-to-be Barry Court blossomed and they married. His companionship and support sparked Margaret, she turned professional and the two travelled the world. 1970 turned out to be the greatest year for her. She picked up her ninth Australian Open, her fourth French and Wimbledon was next, so was Billie Jean King. Margaret won a blistering first set 14-12. Barbara Oldfield likened this match to ‘Gunfight at the OK Corral.’ (A Winning Faith – Barbara Oldfield, Sovereign World). Margaret won the second set 11-9 and the Wimbledon championship was again hers. She completed the Grand Slam winning the US Open.

Son Daniel arrived in March 1972. In 1973 Margaret won her 11th Australian Open, and then the French title. Newcomer Chris Evert beat her in a Wimbledon semi final but Margaret immediately bounced back with a win at the US.

During the French Open in 1973 Margaret attended a church service. She began to think about God and what knowing Him really meant. A friend gave her a small book ‘How to Be Born Again.’ Margaret read it over and over. She arrived back in Perth to find another friend Anne had become a ‘born again’ Christian. Margaret marveled at the radiance in her friend. Soon she went to a church meeting with Anne. Margaret responded to the altar call. Barbara Oldfield described that moment. “A struggle of infinite proportions went on inside Margaret that night, for she knew that everyone in that meeting would know who she was if she went forward. She was still the number one tennis player in the world at that time and her pride at that and being a Catholic all her life, almost stopped her from going forward. But she was compelled to go out and give her life to Christ; something she knew she had never done before. It felt as though someone had switched the light on inside. An incredible peace and joy flooded her whole being.” (A Winning Faith, Barbara Oldfield, Sovereign World International) Margaret described this as ‘the greatest day in her whole life.’ Her first daughter Marika was born in 1974. Her third child Teresa came along November, 1977.

 Ministry

imagesAs she sought deeper connections to her faith Margaret was disturbed by a time of ‘inner healing’ which had her more focused on her past than the Lord. At the height of her pain and uncertainty she grasped a bible verse: “If any man is in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians chapter 5, verse 17)

A prominent US preacher Fred Price had a profound impact on Barry and Margaret Court and in 1979 she attended a church where the teaching emphasized the bible. She graduated from Bible College in 1983. Barry gave his life to Christ and the time was right for the launch of Margaret Court Ministries Inc. The arrival of daughter Lisa expanded the family to four and they were all part of the Margaret Court outreach. Then came Victory Life Centre. On their website they say: “Her vision was to see the lost, lonely, sick and defeated triumph in life by receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, and to teach them how to implement the faith principles by which they too could live a successful life.

“Facing the challenge of God once again in her life, in June 1995 Victory Life Centre Inc was established. Ps Margaret’s desire for Victory Life Centre is to train an army of strong believers, knowing who they are in Christ and the Christ within, to go and take the nation and the nations for Christ.” Victory Life Centre is described as ‘a church with a purpose’ founded on The Bible as ‘the inspired, authoritative, infallible Word of God.”

Her personal story is available in the new book “Margaret Court – The Autobiography.” Margaret’s other books available, “Winning Life” and her new book “Train Your Brain”.

Astroturf – The Battle for Your Mind

imagesI confess. I thought astroturf was fake grass. Apparently not! “The whole point of astroturf is to try and get the impression there is a whole lot of wide-spread support for or against an agenda when there is not.” Investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson made that comment last January. Writing about astroturf in February 2015 she said: ‘Fake news is the latest catchword describing manipulative and false stories that are presented so real that many people believe them.” (TED, February 6, 2015) I believe passionately Christians should be aware of influences and activities in our world. I believe we must pray, intercede and declare as part of loving our neighbor and in our role as watchmen.

Astroturf is a mounting force of influence and its profound effect brings us to scriptural wisdom: “Don’t let anyone lead you astray with empty philosophy and high-sounding nonsense that comes from human thinking and from the evil powers of this world, and not from Christ.” (Colossians chapter 2, verse 8) Commenting on that verse author and analyst George Barna wrote: “Paul’s warning to the Colossian believers cautions us that the world will actively seek to turn our minds in a different direction than that which God intends.” (Think Like Jesus, George Barna, Thomas Nelson Publishers).

 Lobbying

So what is Astroturf? Journalist William Greider called it ‘democracy for hire.’ Campaigns and Election magazine described astroturf as a ‘grassroots programme that involves the instant manufacturing of public support for a point of view in which either uninformed activists are recruited or means of deception are used to recruit them.’

Professor Sharon Beder, an honorary professor at the University of Wollongong wrote an informative piece she called: “Public Relations’ Role in Manufacturing Artificial Grass Roots Coalitions.’ She quotes an executive of a public relations firm advising clients: “Put your words in someone else’s mouth.’ The idea simply is this, you might not believe a fact if told by a company but if they can get their pitch to you from another source, that is likely to work. Prof Beder used this illustration: “if Burger King were to report that a Whopper is nutritious, informed consumers would probably shrug in disbelief…. And if the Nutrasweet Company were to insist that the artificial sweetener aspartame has no side effects, consumers might not be inclined to believe them, either…. But if the ‘American Council on Science and Health’ and its panel of 200 ‘expert’ scientists reported that Whoppers were not so bad, consumers might actually listen…. And if the ‘Calorie Control Council’ reported that aspartame is not really dangerous, weight-conscious consumers might continue dumping the artificial sweetener in their coffee every morning without concerns.”

While astroturf activity has come out of the closet in recent times I found reference to it from 2001. “An astroturf lobby group was Americans for Technology Leadership (ATL) Funded by Microsoft, the group orchestrated a letter-writing campaign to attorneys general in at least 18 US states that had joined the Justice Department in antitrust litigation against Microsoft. ATL reportedly surveyed members of the public to find those who supported the company; these people were then sent letters on personalized stationary to sign and forward to public officials,” according to Astroturf Lobbing by Melissa Burro.

Battles

unknownAstroturf activities throw barrels of cash into selected battles. Big oil, drugs and pharmaceuticals, tobacco, mining and energy are just some. Food is high on the astroturf list. Obesity, sugar, breakfast cereals, diets and fast foods attract mountains of cash as lobbyists seek to win support for their efforts.

We could dig much deeper into this battle for the mind. George Barna discussed ‘Invisible Battles.’ He said: “…the true purpose of my day is not related to making money, loving my family, caring for my body, achieving happiness, or growing intellectually. My life, and yours, is all about engagement in the eternal struggle between good and evil, the no-holds barred confrontation between holiness and sin. Every event in my day is merely the context within which the next battle in that war occurs.” (Think Like Jesus, Barna)

He continued: “This is the ultimate stealth war. The combatants are invisible, the weapons are powerful, and there is an inexhaustible supply of ammunition. It pits the two most powerful forces in existence in a fight to the finish: the army of God versus the legions of Satan” Thankfully he looked ahead and declared in the end, God wins!

Paul wrote encouraging words to the Church in Rome. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, acceptable and perfect.” (Romans chapter 12, verse 2)

Ron Ross is a Middle East consultant for United Christian Broadcasters (Vision FM). Previously he was radio news editor for Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem, Israel.

His career started at WINTV (Email: ronandyvonne@mac.com)

Feeling Down? Look Up!

images“We know that we are of God, and that the whole world is under the power of the evil one.” (1 John chapter 5, verse 19). World events proclaim the evil one constantly. It is easy to feel overwhelmed. That Bible verse clearly declares the world is made up of two specific groups …a) those who ‘know’ they are of God, and b) the rest. Is that too blunt? It’s true. If like me, you are aware of international events and the daily news, you are aware of the violence and hate that surrounds us. We live on this planet, so that ferocity impacts our lives, our families and our friends.

There is a depravity on earth but God is aware of it. “And Yahweh saw that the evil of humankind was great upon the earth, and every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was always only evil. And Yahweh regretted that he had made humankind on the earth, and he was grieved in his heart. And Yahweh said, “I will destroy humankind whom I created from upon the face of the earth, from humankind, to animals, to creeping things, and to the birds of heaven, for I regret that I have made them.”  But Noah found favor in the eyes of Yahweh.” Genesis chapter 5, verses 5-8)

Mankind was so offensive to his holiness and righteousness, the flood came and to use a popular phrase, the swamp was drained. He promised not to do that again but instead to provide a way out. He sent Jesus Christ to be our ark. Like Noah we find our safety and security in Him. (I love the dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit, came to tell Noah he was safe!)

The prophet Isaiah encouraged us: “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of God will raise a standard against him!” (Isaiah chapter 59 verse 19)

Think about the phrase ‘the whole world is in under the power of the evil one.’ That is huge, the whole world?

Evil age

The Bible calls the whole world ‘this present evil age!’ The Apostle Paul wrote to the church saying: ‘Christ gave himself for our sins to deliver us from this present evil age.” (Galatians chapter 1, verse 4)

Jesus taught His disciples to pray ‘deliver us from evil!” I have been stunned throughout the years to watch the venom of anti-Semitism. Year after year Israel and the Jewish people have been targets. Throughout their persistent ordeal they have looked to the promises. They turn to their prophets. Much encouragement from Isaiah: “Do not be afraid! For I have bought you and made you free. I have called you by name. You are mine!” These words have encouraged, comforted and uplifted the Jews through their persistent and horrific ordeals. “When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned!” That verse does not say there will be no more fires, but the Father will nullify the consequences. (Read Isaiah chapter 43)

Goodness

images-1I loved a comment made recently by evangelist Reinhard Bonnke on his Facebook page: “ If the enemy can come like a flood, so can the Lord – a flood driven by the gales of the Almighty! God is at work as a driving force – a force for goodness. The Bible concept is of goodness flooding from heaven. “I will pour out my Spirit” (Joel 2:29) – not just a fine sprinkling but great gushes of water. Water is a sign of life in its fullness – “Whoever believes in me,” Jesus said, “streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:38). Be flooded today by the goodness of God.”

Goodness is described as not a mere passive quality. Goodness is to be embraced. Scripture says ‘Yahweh is good – a refuge in the day of distress, he knows those who take refuge in him.” (Nahum chapter 1, verse 7) Maybe today you need more awareness of that refuge. The world can be overwhelming!

The prophet Zechariah call goodness ‘great’. – Zechariah chapter 9, verse 17. David said goodness is satisfying – Psalm 65, verse 4.

The words of David are appropriately translated by the Lexham English Bible – “Surely goodness and loyal love will pursue me all the days of my life and I will stay in the house of Yahweh for a very long time’ – Psalm chapter 23, verse 6.

I was challenged recently by a quote attributed to George Bernard Shaw: “A native American elder once described his inner struggles in this manner – Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil’ The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good time all the time. When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, The one I feed the most.”

It is about focus. Consider these wise words from Paul: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians chapter 3, verses 2)

Left Wing, Right Wing or Jesus?

images-1Did you know the political terms ‘left wing’ and ‘right wing’ originated in France? After the French Revolution, the 1789 French National Assembly met to prepare drafts for the new constitution. During debate a deep division surfaced. How much authority should be granted to King Louis XV1? The anti-royalists sat to the left of the presiding officer.

In the 1790s, newspapers began making reference to the progressive ‘left’ and the traditionalist ‘right.’ The terminology spread to English-speaking countries early in the 20th century. Parliamentary seating follows that tradition. In America Democrats and Republicans sit on the opposite side of the House and Senate chambers. the same in Canberra.

Left-wing beliefs are liberal. They believe society is best served with an expanded role for the government. People on the right on the other hand, believe the best outcome for society is achieved when individual rights and civil liberties are paramount and the role — and especially the power — of the government is minimized.

Famous left wingers are Barack Obama, Karl Marx, Warren Buffet, Einstein, Bob Hawke. The right wing list includes Rupert Murdock, Ronald Reagan, George Washington, Winston Churchill, Malcolm Turnbull.

The two groups have diverse attitudes to social issues, abortion, the death penalty, gay rights and even religion. Most on the right believe standards like the ten commandments should be reflected by government. According to the right the Bible is the guideline for abortion and gay marriage. The left wing believe in secular government applied by the separation of church and state.

Rick Warren

It is very hard to make this analysis hard and fast, as there will be those on either side who defy definitions. Nevertheless the election of US President Trump unleashed unprecedented displays of right wing support and violently expressed protest. The two sides are passionately opposed to one another. In the heat of the moment these Rick Warren words are enlightening. “The coarsening of our culture and the loss of civility in our civilization is one of the things that concerns me most about our nation. We don’t know how to disagree without being disagreeable. The fact is – you can walk hand in hand without seeing eye-to-eye. And what we need in our country is unity, not uniformity. There are major differences, poltically, religiously, economically in our nation. ….What is solvable is how we treat each other with our differences…in fact, the Bible tells me in 1 Peter, show respect to everyone, even people I totally disagree with. So I’m coming from that viewpoint in that we must return civility to our civilization in order to get on. But the reason I do that is because of the deeper reason, there’s a spiritual root to my reason for civility.” – Rick Warren.

The Christian Left emphasize James chapter 1, verse 27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after widows and orphans in their distress, and keep oneself, unstained from the world.” And James Chapter 2, verses 15,16 “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? “

 The website christianleft.org says this: “Based on the Word, The Christian Left believes it’s obvious that the primary message of Jesus was love — Love for God, and love for our fellow men and women.”

unknownMany analysts have a negative view of the Religious Right, which they closely link with President George W. Bush, Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz.

The rebirth of the right in America, they report, was sparked by the Roe v Wade abortion legislation, and the banning of school prayer in Engele v Vitale. Notable Americans on the right include Billy and Franklin Graham, James Dobson, John Hagee, Chuck Norris and Sarah Palin.

Australia?

This internet comment is interesting: “In Australia, the Christian Right dominate in much of northern Queensland, and the infection has also spread into parts of suburban Brisbane as well. It is also rather prevalent in suburban Sydney, New South Wales, particularly in the western parts of Sydney. The Religious Right is also prevalent in South Australia, particularly in suburban Adelaide, as well as parts of Western Australia.” (nationalwiki.org). Note the word ‘infection’?

David wrote: “Look, how good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.” (Psalm 133, verse 1) Sadly it reads more like the fanciful words of a poet, rather than a fact.

John said: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been fathered by God, and everyone who loves the father also loves the child fathered by him. By this we know that we love the children of God: whenever we love God and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God: that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, because everyone who is fathered by God conquers the world.” (1 John chapter 5, verses 1-4)

I am amazed how easy it is for Christians to disagree. Years ago I sat with a group of leaders to discuss discipline for two teenagers. We talked and even argued for almost two hours. After some heated and passionate exchanges the penny dropped. We realized we were expressing our approach through our ministry gifts – Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher. One wanted repentance, another preferred counseling and the other went for Bible study. We were all correct. We just had to agree with all the Bible, not just our preferred bits.

Prayer Makes The Difference

unknownSmith Wigglesworth was one of the most fruitful and effective preachers ever. But, he was not always a godly, righteous man. He was a ruffian. His Christian wife attended church regularly. Often Wigglesworth locked her out of the house and left her to sleep on the back porch. She committed her husband to prayer and the result, they say, is history. I often confess my salvation came through the persistent prayer and intercession of my wife, Yvonne.

Years ago we were overseas on the mission field when my wife had a dream. She had seen our son John in the surf but caught in a rip. His life was in danger. She woke and prayed for him. Later when we came home to be with the family she learned he had indeed been swept away. He called out to his brother-in-law to say goodbye to the family. As he prepared for the worst a wave picked him up and threw him to safety. When Yvonne and John compared notes his rescue came at the same time she had been praying. Maybe you also have a story of answered prayer.

Prayer

In ancient times prayer was not exclusive to the Israelites. Prayers to Yahweh, the God of Israel, were very different from those offered to the surrounding foreign deities. In Egypt Amon was acknowledged as the creator and giver of life. An ancient hymn Amon-Re described Amon as the god “who made mankind and created the beasts, lord of what is, who created the fruit tree, made herbage, and gave life to cattle.” (Hymn Amon-Re 1: 5) Amon was declared to be healer and magician.

Egyptians also praised Aton as ‘the beginning of life’ who ‘didst create the world….All men, cattle, and wild beasts, whatever is on earth.” (The Hymn of Aton). There was also a ‘Hymn to Ishtar’ which declared ‘life is in her mouth.’

“Akkadian Prayer to the Gods of the Night depicts the great gods of Old Babylon – Shamash, Sin, Adad and Ishtar – asleep in their chambers, indifferent to the concerns of their devotees.” (Prayer- The Lexham Bible Dictionary).

Through Old Testament study we learn Yahweh was the God who listens and responds to prayer. He gave attention to His people. An intimacy between Yahweh and His people was special. Foreign gods were distant and aloof needing to be cajoled. Prayer to them was often pleading, even grovelling.

Abba

As prayer in the Israelite family developed some structured formula also came. As usual Jesus broke through the religious approach and in His prayers displayed a close intimate relationship with the One He called Father. He spoke to His Father with humility and submission and He was always sensitive and relaxed with His language. The Apostle Paul emphasized the ‘Abba’ Father in prayer. He reminded believers they were now children of the Father. (Romans chapter 8 verse 15 and Galatians chapter 4 verse 6).

Is that your relationship with Him? Is He your Father or more like a distant Sovereign?

As our Father we know He is constantly watching and observing us and caring for our eternal well-being. He delights to give His children ‘good things.’

Prayers in the New Testament flowed from their ancient Jewish roots. We learned from what has been called The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew chapter 6, verses 9 to 13. It is more correctly the Disciples Prayer. Jesus taught the disciples how to pray with this basic formula. (Also Luke chapter 11, verses 2 to 4).

images-1Christianity brought a major innovation into the power of prayer. We learned to pray in Jesus name. Throughout history the names of individuals were linked with their names. The name Abram means ‘great father.’ He became Abraham meaning ‘father of multitudes.’ Jesus was named Yehoshua which means ‘Yahweh is salvation’ or ‘Yahweh saves.’ He was Yahweh in the Book of Exodus and described as ‘God who is loving and compassionate but does not leave sin unpunished.” (Exodus chapter 34, verses 6 to 7) The name Jesus (Yehoshua) came from His Old Testament identity.

Before Jesus departed to be with His Father He made a significant promise. “And whatever you ask in my name I will do this, in order that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” (John chapter 14, verses 13 to 14) Jesus was about to leave His disciples but His message was clear. Even though He will be physically absent He will be with them, always.

Life as a believing community is to continue with Jesus still effective and powerful as the Lord and Saviour. Bad things happened and Jesus knew about it. He knew what Judas was about to do even as He shared Passover with His disciples. He did not avoid the situation but with the love and support of the Father He moved forward and accomplished the salvation plan.

Pray

There are events in our world that signal all manner of events may unfold. The importance for all of us is to avoid fellowship with fear and take hold of the trust and assurance that has stood against adversity over and over again. This week analysts have warned of a possible world war, some have said Australia may be drawn into a war with China. Every day we hear of ‘wars and rumours of wars.’ If world events or your personal circumstances lead to stress or anxiety, your answer is found in prayer.

Try these words from knowingjesus.com -“Protect my mind I pray from the clamour and intrigue of this world system, that so often fills our hearts with fears and deflects our thoughts away from You – so that I may rest in Your arms of love and be filled with Your perfect peace that passes understanding. Help me to take every thought captive and when the difficulties of this complex world seek to manipulate my attention away from You, may I fix my mind on Jesus knowing that He is the Author and Finisher of my faith – and my Prince of Peace, in Whose name I pray.”

 Ron Ross is a Middle East consultant for United Christian Broadcasters (Vision FM). Previously he was radio news editor for Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem, Israel.

His career started at WINTV (Email: ronandyvonne@mac.com)

 

Beware False Doctrine

imagesThroughout history there have been devastating consequences to false doctrine. In the 1930’s there was a ‘Nazi form of Christianity.’ Church schools were closed and an ‘anti-Semitic attitude’ imposed. Heroes like Dietrich Bonhoeffer emerged. His courage is honored to this day.

Numerous cult leaders conned their followers. Jim Jones, November 18, 1978 led more than 900 men, women and children to their deaths in what became known as the Jonestown Massacre. The clear warning came when Jones proclaimed himself to be the messiah of the Peoples Temple.

Years ago, Dr. J. I Packer wrote a short article “The Gospel – Its Content and Communication.” He said: “Sooner or later, the biblical Gospel, in which God the Creator appears in judgment and mercy reconciling the world to Himself, will itself be relativized and thereby distorted through being assimilated to man’s prior interests. The world will write the agenda rather than God’s.’ (Serving the People of God, J. I Packer, Paternoster Press).

Years ago Youth With a Mission leader Floyd McClung wrote: “There is no perfect church. People can look at our church and find as many faults as we can find in theirs.” And that is so true. But every church needs a squad of diligent members who know the Bible and endorse right and wrong doctrine. It is a tragedy when ignorance of biblical truth allows false theology to pass without question.

Islam

During the recent holiday season Giulo Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglia offered a provocative question: Why are so many Christian leaders silent as obvious distortions to the faith are taking place? (See “Christian Clergy Welcomes Islam in Churc, Then Bows to It,’ Giulo Meotti, gatestoneinstitute.org – Jan 4, 2017)

Admittedly most of the illustrations he offered came from Roman Catholic sources but they were to say the least, disturbing and demand loud resounding protest.

Consider these illustrations.

  • In July last year a verse from the Koran was read from the altar. (That in itself should set alarm bells ringing!)
  • “A priest in the south of Italy enraged parishioners by dressing the Virgin Mary in a Muslim burqa for his church’s Christmas Nativity scene.”

images-1Meotti pointed out Pope Francis initiated the embrace of Islamic theology when he was ‘the first to allow the reading of Islamic prayers and Koran readings from the Vatican.’

The ‘luke-warming’ of genuine Christian theology goes further and the Italian writer shocks when he reports: “Church of England Bishop Harries suggested that Prince Charles’s coronation service should be opened with a Koran reading. In the US, more than 50 churches, including the Washington National Cathedral, hold Koran readings.”

These facts are stunning. I am astounded we have not heard of congregations calling for biblical honesty. Church members should be up in arms!

Doctrine

I can understand recent developments in China. The Communist Party is pushing the Church to promote socialism. That attack is to be expected. However when the error comes from within, hackles rise. No preacher or church leader should be threatened when asked to explain the word they preach. We are all accountable before the Lord and when teaching, we are accountable to each other.

I like what the Dictionary of Bible Themes says about ‘Doctrine’ describing it as: “The body of teachings of the Christian faith concerning its central beliefs. Doctrine is grounded in Scripture and aims to maintain the integrity of Christianity by distinguishing it from non-Christian beliefs.” And there is the vital, inevitable key. Bible teaching is not compatible with the ways of the world. It confronts.

There is a stern warning for those who seek to influence biblical truth. “Not many should become teachers, my brothers, because you know that we will receive a greater judgment.” (James chapter 3, verse 1) I am not sure we have all embraced that promise with ‘fear and trembling.’

The Apostle Paul wrote to his friend Timothy: “For there will be a time when they will not put up with sound teaching, but in accordance with their own desires, they will accumulate for themselves teachers, because they have an insatiable curiosity and they will turn away from the hearing of the truth, but will turn to myths.” (2 Timothy chapter 4, verses 3 and 4) Paul warned the time would come when people preferred to have their ears tickled rather than embrace biblical truth.

There are numerous challenges facing Christians today. Same-sex marriage and abortion are high on the list. We are instructed to love everyone without question. We also have a call to lead them into a vibrant faith in Jesus. To witness for Christ we must show them His difference. Social responsibility is a huge issue. How do we reach out to refugees and yet apply the appropriate wisdom to curtail terrorism?

Certainly Jesus is the answer but airy fairy solutions could put many innocents in danger. As Christians we are called to walk in wisdom but showing His love to ‘widows and orphans’ is a priority.

There is an excellent quote attributed to Christian singer-songwriter Rich Mullins: “We were given the Scriptures to humble us into realizing that God is right, and the rest of us are just guessing.”

St. Paul warns, “See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ” (Colossians chapter 2, verse 8).

I have always needed close Christian friends who I trust and consult on doctrine and biblical interpretation. Of course the Holy Spirit is our ever-present guide and the source of truth and wisdom.

False preaching and false doctrine will always replace Jesus with something as the essential focus and that right there, is the clear stop sign.