Faith Triumphs

Believers were first called Christians in Antioch, Turkey (Acts Chapter 11, verse 26). It was the appropriate place. Antioch was the homebase for missionary journeys by Paul. Theologians believe Antioch was where the Gospel of Matthew was written. It was home for the martyred Bishop Ignatius, the eloquent preacher John Chrysostom and among the teachers and prophets in the Antioch church were Simeon and Barnabas. That’s a rich pedigree.

images-5Turkey is a key geographic location for ancient Christianity but the faith is under growing pressure. Turkey shows signs of imposing more and more restrictions on the church. The seven churches addressed by John in the Book of Revelation were all located in Turkey. They provide an insight for us as we discern the trends today. Turkey is a member of NATO, once keen to be accepted into the EU. (I’m not sure that looks very inviting now). There is no love lost between Turkey and Egypt. Their differences went to press recently. The Egyptian newspaper Alyoum Alsabee likened Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Adolf Hitler. They forecast Turkey will be plunged into civil war as Erdogan seeks to consolidate his position and his power. Certainly, in January, Turkish media reported Erdogan offered as an ideal presidential system, Germany under Hitler.

Although government press releases tried to distance Erdogan from the Third Reich, his ambitions seem obvious. Simon Tisdall writing for the Guardian said: “Erdoğan, the founding leader of the neo-Islamist Justice and Development party (AKP), has ruled Turkey in increasingly authoritarian fashion since becoming prime minister in 2003. Barred under party rules from seeking a fourth term, he switched to the presidency last August and has been manoeuvring to increase his executive powers ever since.” (Erdogan Plan for Super-Presidency puts Turkey’s democracy at Stake, Simon Tisdall, the Guardian, March 25, 2016)

After the military coup the Erdogan regime rounded up an estimated 60,000 said to be part of the failed attempt. Among the 60,000 are judges, soldiers, police, civil servants and teachers. Turkey today exists under a militant state of emergency.

Persecution

images-6In this tense situation attacks against Christians have escalated to alarming levels “Shouting “Allahu akbar” (Allah is the greatest), a group of Islamists in Malatya stoned a Protestant church, breaking the buildings windows. Another group in Trabzon similarly attacked the Santa Maria church, breaking windows and using hammers to try to break down the door” William Reed reported for the Clarion Project. (www.clarionproject.org)

Attacks on Christians have been brutal. In 2006 a priest was murdered while kneeling in prayer in his church. The following year Christians working for a publishing house had their feet and hands tied and their throats cut by five Muslim assailants.

Last April, six churches in Diyarbakir, were seized by the government. Officials said this was for their own protection.

“But to the dismay of the city’s handful of Christian congregations,” notes a World Watch Monitor report, “this includes all its Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches. Unlike the state-funded mosques, Turkey’s ancient church buildings – some of which pre-date Islam – have been managed, historically, by church foundations. The new decision has effectively made the Diyarbakir churches – one 1,700 years old, another built only in 2003 – state property of Turkey, an Islamic country of 75 million.”

Uzay Bulut, is a Turkish journalist based in Ankara. Her work focuses on anti-Semitism and ethnic and religious minorities in Turkey. Last April she reported on a large mosque financed by Turkey in Maryland, USA, while ‘Christians in Turkey are waiting for the day Turkish state authorities allow them to freely build or use their churches and safely pray inside them.’

“In Turkey, some churches have been converted to stables or used as storehouses. Others have been completely destroyed. Sales of churches on the internet are a common practice,” she wrote (Turkey Builds Mega-Mosque in U.S., Blocks Churches in Turkey – Uzay Bulut, Gladstone Institute. April 18, 2016)

“Sadly, Turkey, a NATO member since 1952 and reportedly a candidate for membership in the European Union, has largely succeeded in destroying the entire Christian cultural heritage of Asia Minor.” Bulut wrote.

Smyrna

 “Some citizens put their cows and horses inside the church, while the inhabitants of the neighborhood complain that the church has been turned into a site of drug addicts and alcoholics,” reported the newspaper Milliyet. The church mentioned here was located in the Izmir province, home of ancient Smyrna. The Apostle John wrote to Smyrna prophetically, “This message is from Him who is the First and the Last, who died and came back to life….I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) ….Do not fear what you are about to suffer….Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation chapter 2, verses 8-10)

Those words from so long ago ring with relevance today. The name Smyrna means myrrh or bitterness.

The seven churches are Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. Each letter was addressed to a specific church for the benefit of real people who faced daily, persistent challenges. The advice these letters convey speaks powerfully to all believers.

John is told to reveal his revelation. “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near.” (Revelation chapter 22, verse 10)

The evidence from Turkey speaks volumes. Church buildings lay in ruins. Most are ancient sites for future research. But the message preached by Paul, Barnabas, Simeon and their peers is alive and winning hearts and souls beyond borders and boundaries.

The theme throughout the letters is clear. Judgment is real. The cares of this life and the world we live in may try with menace and manipulation to drown out the truths of faith. It is imperative we see beyond the deception and focus on the reality of the real living freedom and power.

The world system may swamp our symbols and centres of faith but it cannot conquer a heart which is with the Lord, no matter what!

 

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)

Ron Ross previous articles may be viewed at

http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/ron-ross.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cop Killers: Power of the Tongue

Years ago I interviewed a young man who faced a murder charge. “I don’t know what the fuss is about, I only killed a wog,” he told me. (‘Wog’ was a derogatory term used to describe a foreigner).

A day later I interviewed his father. “I don’t know what the fuss is about he only killed a wog,” he told me. Like father, like son came to mind. I was struck by the importance of role models in our lives. We so easily adopt the mannerisms or attitudes of a parent, a hero, a musician or even a rapper.

imagesThe Bible says ‘death and life is in the power of the tongue’ and that truth is on display with the mounting tragedy of murdered police. The average age of US police killed by gunfire this year is 40. In just seven months 32 died. The assassination of police is a serious problem and it calls for urgent and immediate action. We also need to understand how it so abruptly escalated.

Incitement

A persistent barrage of incitement to kill police is reaping a sad dividend. Incitement is often categorized as freedom of speech, but is it? Incitement to genocide first became a crime under international law in 1946. The International Military Tribunal at Nuremburg made that finding when Julius Streicher and Hans Fritsche faced charges of crimes against humanity.

Streicher used his anti-Semitic weekly magazine ‘Der Sturmer’ to stir his German readership against Jewish influence. Jews were depicted in various demeaning ways. “Parasite, enemy, disseminator of diseases’ or ‘like swarms of locusts which must be exterminated immediately.’

“The Tribunal found that by means of such hate propaganda, Streicher, ‘incited the German people to active persecution,’ as well as to ‘murder and extermination,” reports Wibke Kristin Timmermann, Legal Officer, Department of War Crimes. (Incitement in International Law, Wibke Kristin Timmerman, International Committee of the Red Cross).

Today a major unrestrained force for incitement is rap music. It is often hate-filled and yet, seems to get a pass.

With the police fatalities in mind the rap giant 50 cents (2007) released ‘Officer Down’, singing “I’ll murder them, I’ll murder them” in the chorus. The song title was changed to ‘Man Down’ for the album version. In his album ‘Curtis’ tracks included ‘My Gun Go Off’, “I’ll Still Kill’ and ‘Fully Loaded Clip’ –sold 691,000 in the first week.

Dead Prez is described as a hip hop duo known for their confrontational style. The lyrics of ‘Cop Shot’ say ‘Another dead pig, knocked straight off my block, Cop Shot, Cop Shot, Black cop, white cop, all cop!” later, ‘the only good cop is a dead cop!’

I do not pretend to understand the racial tensions in America. I know they are very real and the problems urgently need attention. That has to do with wages, education and equality, which is why I so strongly believe Jesus is the answer. Our worldly problems cannot be solved when selfish interests go first. His Kingdom is colour blind. We worship as one, regardless of race, ethnicity or privilege. Incitement is no answer. God loves the peacemaker.

A wonderful thing happened in New York last February. Rapper DMX whose real name is Earl Simmons, was found unconscious in a parking lot of the Ramada Inn. He had no pulse. He was not breathing. Police were called.

images-1In his song ‘Crime Story’ DMX sang, ‘Knock on the door ‘Police! We’re looking for a man. Killed a coupla cops last night and the reward is ten grand.” At the end of that lyric he rushes to the 116th police precinct with a bomb. After the explosion the lyric concludes, ‘Can you dig it, can you dig it, can you feel it.” Apparently celebrating the dead police the explosion caused. At the Ramada Inn, police saved his life. “This was an excellent job by the officers, they definitely saved his life,” Lt. Patrick McCormack told the New York Daily News.

There is genuine pain and deep-seated anguish in the coloured community. We have that same trauma here but shooting police or anyone else is not the answer.

“The whole world lies in the power of the Evil One” the Bible warns (1 John chapter 5, verse 19) If we do not treat a different ethnic group with love and respect, we have denied the Lord. The Apostle John describes the Evil One as ‘the father of lies.’ (John chapter 8, verse 44) The Apostle James tells us not to join his ‘restless evil.’ (James chapter 3 verse 8) The Evil One was ‘a murderer from the beginning’ according to John. The Bible describes Jesus as ‘the word’. He is an edifying, accepting, uplifting word.

In recent weeks I have been watching NRL Rookie on TV. It is about young men trying to win a NRL contract. In the Shed section of the program the players themselves analyze their performances. They have to be honest and address each other always expecting their team mates to have the right of reply. The process is not judgmental but it is meant to be educational and valuable. They have never mentioned their ethnicity or their nationalities or even their state allegiance. It is all about being a reliable team player, who does or does not behave consistently in the team. Words matter. What we say and how we say them has tremendous even eternal impact.

See the world through the eyes of the Lord. He came and died for all. Years ago Chuck Swindall wrote about ‘true teamwork.’ I have adapted his words. Look around. The people need you and you need them. Some are weak, in some areas so are you. Together you can be a much stronger unit.

Take time to pray today and give thanks that you are not alone and by the way, pray for the police and our brave servicemen and women.

 

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)

Ron Ross previous articles may be viewed at

http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/ron-ross.html

 

 

 

Confronting with Love.

Unknown-2God is love. We have heard it, said it, read it, sang it over and over, a thousand times but what does it mean? It’s easy to say whether we love coffee, or Vegemite, football or the beach. Churches, indeed Christians like you and me, are struggling to let ‘our little light shine.’ We manage OK until the topic is Moslems, homosexuals, refugees or any kind of ‘other.’

I was blessed. My dad was Roman Catholic and mum was a born again Anglican. When I sat in a Bible study and someone said I should hate Catholics, I reacted. Hate my dad?Ridiculous! What about my aunties, uncles and cousins? Hate them too? No way!

Jesus loved me and I knew He overlooked a lot of rubbish in my life. Despite my shortcomings, He came and He kept coming, so was I supposed to find reasons to unlove others? Not likely.

I confess I can be very frustrated when I hear Christians bypass the tragedy of terror with ‘God will take care of it’ comments. The day after six policemen were shot, someone suggested we should pray for God’s protection on the blue brigade. But why weren’t we praying for them before? Have we become so happy clappy, we’ve locked the world out and retreated into our own little cave?

Ambassadors

I prefer to observe world events. Our hearts should break over the human tragedy channeled into our homes night after night. Jesus commissioned His church to go into all the world. He anointed His people to be His ambassadors. We are called to be a city set on the hill, with the light of His love shining.

imagesStreet protests are very revealing. Look at the faces of the people as they confront one another. They show anger, even hatred. I wonder if the way we communicate shows that kind of attitude to the very people we are elected to reach. They may not see it on our faces but is it the spirit that speaks?

We are wrestling with major issues today. The early church had significant hurdles to overcome but they knew to find their wisdom and strength through fellowship and prayer. They were equipped to face life-threatening moments because they believed God was with them.

We can be overcome by the wickedness in the world, or we can rise up knowing we have the Lord on our side and He is the difference.

In a comment on homosexuality, Christian author Philip Yancey said; “After I wrote about my friendship with Mel White (homosexual and gay activist), I received a number of letters condemning me for continuing the friendship.  “How can you possibly remain friends with such a sinner!” the letter-writers demanded.  I’ve thought long and hard about that question, and come up with several answers which I believe to be biblical.  The most succinct answer, though, is another question: “How can Mel White possibly remain friends with a sinner like me?”  The only hope for any of us, regardless of our particular sins, lies in a ruthless trust in a God who inexplicably loves sinners, including those who sin differently than we do.” (Extract: Homosexuality by Philip Yancey)

Throughout my walk of faith I have drawn great wisdom from the writing and preaching of Dr. J. I Packer. In an article ‘What is Evangelism” he wrote: “In the Bible evangelism is not only the work of God it is also a work of man or rather a work through man. As God sent his Son to become man and so to explain him (John 1:18) so now, adhering to the incarnational principle, he sends men to be heralds, ambassadors and teachers in his name and on his behalf.” (Serving the People of God, J.I Packer, page 245)

Common Ground

He describes three main words to describe the evangelism activity and they mean (1) tell the good news, (2) utter an announcement, (3) bear witness.

In my own outreach experience I applied ‘common ground’ as a first priority. As a youth outreach we visited teenagers in prison. We played table tennis with them, we gave them comic books, we shared in some of their sports activities and genuinely touched base on their turf.

Overseas the same thing, we enjoyed locals showing us around, introducing new recipes to us and enjoying their family events. In America there is much said about community policing, meaning the importance of police being people on the beat rather than just ominous blue uniforms. The same principle applies for Christians. The world needs to know we are Christians by our love and as I study the news, there is no shortage of ready opportunities.

“Since the fall of man the earth has been a disaster area and everyone lives with a critical emergency. Nothing is normal. Everything is wrong, and everyone is wrong until made right by the redeeming work of Christ and the effective work of the Holy Spirit,” wrote A. W. Tozer. (That Incredible Christian, A.W. Tozer, OM Publishing)

We know about the Cross and the Resurrection, the gracious work of Jesus Christ. The effective work of the Holy Spirit continues speaking to you and me, offering the get up and go empowering and equipping.

Tozer said, “The needs of the people, not our own convenience, decide how far we shall go and how much we shall do. Had there been no disaster there would have been no need for the Eternal Son to empty Himself and descend to Bethlehem’s manger.”

He paid the price. Tozer said ‘the divine goodness confronted the human emergency.’

 

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)

Ron Ross previous articles may be viewed at

http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/ron-ross.html

 

 

 

 

 

I Wish We’d All Been Ready

UnknownHarold Camping (pictured) first predicted the world would end October 21, 2011. That was not his first forecast. In 1992 he published a book called 1994 and in it declared Christ would return mid-September, that same year. “I’m like the boy who cried wolf again and again,” he said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. “This doesn’t bother me in the slightest,” he said.

William Miller preceded Camping by more than a century. He preached about the pending return of Christ through the 1840’s. He warned the earth would be engulfed with fire sometime between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844. The Millerites sold their belongings between 1840 and 1844 and fled to the mountain to wait for the end. When time passed with no result Miller changed the date to October 22. His supporters went on to form the Seventh Day Adventist movement.

The Bible warns no one knows the day or the hour, nevertheless, the end times is a popular topic and world events often lead to speculation. “Is it now?” “Are we living in the Day?”

Daesh

Unknown-1Christians are not alone with such thoughts. Even for terrorists, end-times is irresistible. Sebastien Gorka is a renowned counter-terrorism expert. He says Islamic State is trying to usher in the end of the world with one ‘final jihad’ (jihad – holy war).

Gorka spoke at the first annual The Bridge conference for the persecuted church hosted by International Christian Concern. He explained that Islamic State is referred in various places by the names IS, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh.

Gorka explained the self-description comes from ‘the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham’, from that they take the Arabic acronym DAESH. In that name al-Sham takes on a ‘deeper’ theological meaning. “Like every religion, Islam has an eschatology. It has a story of the End Times. Just as in Christian eschatology, the talks of a final period of tribulation or judgment day and a series of battles between the believers and non-believers, Islam has the same,” Gorka declared. “Everybody will be resurrected and judged by Allah at the End Times. But prior to that judgment, there will be a series of battles in al-Sham. The pivotal jihad, the last jihad will occur in this territory.”

“It is crucial to understand how powerful that message is because when ISIS gets up on the internet or Twitter, Facebook and Telegram and say ‘We are the Islamic State of al-Sham,’ what message are they sending to that Pakistani immigrant in San Bernardino, to that man with Afghan descent in Orlando or those people in Istanbul and Brussels?” Gorka asked.

“They are sending a simple message: ‘Have you ever wanted to be a jihadi? Have you toyed with the idea of salvation? Guess what? Look where we are — on the site of the final jihad. If you don’t come now, you are going to miss guaranteed salvation.'”

He then claimed over 86,000 terrorists have been recruited to jihad from Iraq and Syria, and an estimated 36,000 are from outside Iraq and Syria including westerners.

Thahir Saheb Jamel, 27, was an Islamic State ‘soldier’. In a jailhouse interview conducted by Foxnews he told how he eventually became disillusioned by the dark vision of his associates. “At the beginning, ISIS told us we would all go to heaven,” Jamel said. “But now that I am in prison it means I am going to the fire. I am going to hell.”

Haunted

He was opposed to the Shia-led authorities in Baghdad and joined with Sunni young men. “We have to have a world based on sharia,” he was taught. “And to build the Caliphate we must control the economy, take over every oil field.” He lost count of the slaughter, the prisoners and the public beheadings.

“It haunts me that I am responsible for killing many people, we killed them for nothing,” he said.

Biblically speaking it may be true. we may be living in the end times. The return of Jesus may be soon. It seems a healthy way to assess the situation.

For many generations predictions have been made using bible texts and world indicators to point to this or that date. William Branham was a Pentecostal preacher. February 23, 1963 he climbed Sunset Mountain. He claimed he met with seven angels who revealed to him the meaning of the seven veils described in the Book of Revelation. This experience led him to predict Jesus would return in 1977. Sadly he did not live to see that year. A drunken driver smashed into his car and Branham was killed Christmas Eve, 1965. For him the end came suddenly and despite his message, it was without warning.

“About the time of the end, a body of men will be raised up who will turn their attention to the prophecies, and insist upon their literal interpretation, in the midst of much clamor and opposition,” a statement attributed to Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727. Newton predicted that the end of the world will occur in 2060.

“However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows,” – Jesus Christ (Mark chapter 13, verse 32)

Some like ISIS, seek to hasten the day. Others will display their ‘anointing’ by naming the day, despite what Jesus said.

In 1969, my friend Larry Norman sang, “I wish we’d all been ready.” As I type these words, I stopped and posted Larry and the song to my Facebook page. There is not a better end-times challenge for any of us.

 

 

The Whole World in His Hands

imagesDonald Trump wants to ‘make America great again’ but what America does he mean? Is he thinking of the 50’s, 60’s when? Britain recently withdrew from the EU. The Brits chose to duck back into their island home and return to their roots. But what Britain are they looking for? What era? Can they go back to the way it was or must they face a new reality?

In our own Australian federal elections we voted with great uncertainty. Our nation is deeply split. Neither major party impressed and we showed our displeasure.

We may be living in the most tumultuous period in recent history. “The stakes are too high to tolerate business as usual,” said Jerome Glenn, CEO of the Millennium Project whose recent study refers to issues like future impacts of artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, organized crime, asymmetric warfare, and how to produce enough food, water, and energy for another 2.3 billion people in just 35 years. The Millennium Project undertakes ongoing research into population forecasts and lifestyle challenges. (www.millennium-project.org)

They are not thinking about going back but coping with the emerging future. Some of the questions they posed surprised me. Between the years 2025 to 2050 they asked: (a) “Do we have the right to genetically change ourselves and future generations into a new or several new species?”

(b) “Is it ethical for society to manage the creation of future elites who have augmented themselves with artificial intelligence and genetic engineering?”

(c) “Should elimination of aging be available to everyone or just to those who can afford it?”

images-1(d) “Should artificial life (life-mimicking software, sentient robots, etc.) or animals whose intelligence has been increased to near human levels, have rights?”

They also had two very interesting headings. (1) Principles related to Science, (2) Principles related to Religion and Spirituality. The science group proclaims their path to truth is more reliable than religious faith. The religionists say life is a divine unalterable gift, compassion is required for justice and the family in all its forms is the foundation of social values.

There is much detail in the 299 page report but it raises questions which will be have to be addressed very soon.

Albert Einstein said: “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

We Christians are called to disciple nations so get ready for this. “In 1950, whites were 28 percent of world population and Africans 9 percent, a ratio of three-to-one. In 2060, the ratio will remain the same. But the colors will be reversed. People of African ancestry will be 25 percent of the world`s population. People of European descent will have fallen to 9.8 percent.

“More arresting is that the white population is shrinking not only in relative but in absolute terms. Two hundred million white people, one in every six on earth—a number equal to the entire population of France, Britain, Holland and Germany—will vanish by 2060.” (Whites down to 10% of World Population by 2060 – Does It Matter? Patrick J. Buchanan, May 2008)

Buchanan is a veteran journalist-commentator. His report is based on factual statistics. No indicators in his assessment of anything but change ahead. He added this sentence, “The Caucasian race is going the way of the Mohicans.” (The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, published in 1826, is a fictional story. It describes the fate of the Mohicans who disappeared as the early colonists moved in).

Paul Ehrlich was an American biologist who constantly warned of future population growth and limited resources. In 1966 after a taxi ride he wrote: “I have understood the population explosion intellectually for a long time. I came to understand it emotionally one stinking hot night in Delhi a couple of years ago… The temperature was well over 100, and the air was a haze of dust and smoke. The streets seemed alive with people. People eating, people washing, people sleeping. People visiting, arguing, and screaming. People thrusting their hands through the taxi window, begging. People clinging to buses. People herding animals. People, people, people, people.”

The future certainly appears to be overwhelming unless we truly believe ‘He has the Whole World in His Hands.’ In a recent newsletter Dick Leggatt, President of the Derek Prince Ministries offered a prayer. In part he prayed…”Lord, I admit that I have been shaken by what I have seen taking place in the world around me. I repent for wondering whether You are in control of what is taking place in my nation. I ask You to forgive me now for those times when I have doubted You. With this prayer, I affirm the truth of Psalm 2. You, O God, are in control. You have installed Jesus, Your Son, as King forever on Your throne. He is in charge. You are in control. Rather than acting indifferent to that truth, I choose now to offer myself to You in intercession. I ask You now: please give me Your heart for my nation. Help me to see it as You see it. Allow me to be part of Your solution as You bring restoration and redemption to my land. You are in control, O Lord. You have all power and authority to bring the change and breakthroughs that are so desperately needed. Amen.

 

 

Tattoos! Think Before You Ink.

images-1What do David Beckham, Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp have in common? Tattoos! (At the last count David Beckham has 34!) Megan Fox, Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao, Mike Tyson and Drew Barrymore are also in the tattoo team.

“So why do ‘normal’ people get tattoos?” the BBC asked. “Would-be prime ministers’ wives have them. Lawyers have them. Doctors have them.” Tattoos are well and truly out of the closet!

Tattoo talk on Twitter is high on the tweeter-meter. “Juicy: Arguing with my mom about me getting blasted with tattoos in the future!” Lando: “My granpa and Uncle arguing about tattoos is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard!” Mary Ann: “They have so many face tattoos I can’t see them!” Aims: “Arguing with my Grandpa over tattoos, lol, I’m still getting one.”Riz: “Awkward silence in the car after arguing with my mom about tattoos.” We could go on but the point is clear, tattoos are very topical, reactionary and growing in demand. A 2010 Pew Research study said nearly 40 percent of people between 18 and 29 have tattoos ‘and of those, half have two to five tattoos.’

They are not new. “The Greeks used tattoos primarily as a punishment for slaves and criminals, a custom they apparently learned from the Persians and hence it was a mark of disgrace.” – (World Bible Commentary) The Old Testament specifically refers to tattoos. “And you shall not make a slash in your body for a dead person, nor shall you make on yourselves a tattoo’s mark; I am Yahweh.”(Leviticus 19:28) This instruction was specifically directed to the Israelites who were warned not to emulate practices considered pagan.

“One of the physical characteristics of the pagan communities around Israel was that they marked themselves with tattoos and engaged in physical, religiously-motivated superstitious practices that included the disfigurement of their bodies. In forbidding tattoos, God was telling Israel He did not want them to possess any physical marks or characteristics that externally resembled pagan nations.” (The Confident Christian, Robin Schumacher)

Makes me wonder how easily we pick up marks of the world and its influences? I have family members who proudly display tattoos. I notice I do not assess their ink, but rather the heart and their character is my measuring stick. I remember when rock and roll was said to be ‘of the Devil.’ Christian rocker Larry Norman defied that argument with “Why Should the devil have all the good music?” Of course others followed.

When Marlon Brando starred in ‘The Wild One” many Christians declared motorbikes were the devil’s transport. John Smith and the God Squad fixed that!

Bacon Banned!

imagesRead through Deuteronomy chapter 14, verses 8 to 10. The pig is also unclean; although it has a divided hoof, it does not chew the cud. You are not to eat their meat or touch their carcasses. Of all the creatures living in the water, you may eat any that has fins and scales. But anything that does not have fins and scales you may not eat; for you it is unclean.” (Deuteronomy chapter 14, verses 8-10) These verses ban bacon, pork, shrimp, crab, lobster, clams and mussels. Jesus came to set us free from such restrictions and I am thankful.

Dr Reef Karim is the UCLA Assistant Clinical Professor, a Psychiatrist. He wrote: “People get tattoos for many reasons: for attention, self-expression, artistic freedom, rebellion, a visual display of a personal narrative, reminder of spiritual/cultural traditions, sexual motivation, addiction, identification with a group, or even drunken impulsiveness.”

Motivation for a tattoo might be a call for help or it may have personal significance. ‘My body is my journal and my tattoos are my story,” Johnny Depp said.

Tattoo regret is a trend. A clinic near Sydney, NSW, says women aged 20-25 are paying to have tattoos removed. What was a buzz as a teenager may become an issue for a young woman. Any number of reasons could make a past tattoo an embarrassment. A love-heart for an old flame might be a problem for a prospective husband! This is a great advice: “Permanent tattoos are forever. So ‘think before you ink.’ Real tattoos do not come off with soap and water or rubbing alcohol like temporary tattoos. There are a couple of methods that remove permanent tattoos but they are costly and painful.” – The Centre for Young Woman’s Health.)

The Cross

images-2The Coptic Christian minority in Egypt have embraced a tattoo of the cross as their mark of faith. At the Cave Church formerly known as St. Simon the Tanner, high in the Mokattam hills, you will worship with the garbage people, the Zabbalean. Around 50-70,000 of them spend their week collecting trash. On the wrist they display a small cross. Some say the tradition dates to the 8th century, when monks wore the cross on their arms.

“Tattoos aren’t just a fashion statement for Egypt’s Copts’ is an article written by Ines San Martin published by cruxnow.com. She wrote: Andraous Oweida, a 44 year old Copt construction worker and father of two, survived a notorious 2011 assault by military police on a Coptic demonstration known as the ‘Maspero Massacre.’

“Yet he told Crux that he never considered hiding his tattoo with a shirtsleeve if he fears he’s about to run into trouble.’

“When you’re in the streets, you can’t always say who’s a fundamentalist or not,’ Oweida said, “Anyway, I can’t deny Jesus!”

The Copts today are the largest Christian group in the Middle East. “Coptic scholar Theodore Patrick asserts that while Arabic prevailed and Islam expanded, it was predominantly Coptic laypeople practicing their traditional faith who kept Egyptian Christianity alive: It was largely their sense of being different that saved the Copts as a group from the various pressures of the majority.” (Tattoos of the Cross, Jennifer A. Johnson, Christianity Today)

Their difference was proudly proclaimed with the tattoo of the cross and that testimony continues. Their display is a show of humility and dedication shown to the One who, on His body, bore the scars of mercy, grace and truth.

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)

Ron Ross previous articles may be viewed at

http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/ron-ross.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons of a Broken Heart.

“It’s odd, isn’t it? People die every day and the world goes on like nothing happened. But when it’s a person you love, you think every one should stop and take notice. That they ought to cry and light candles and tell you that you’re not alone.” (Kristina McMorris, Letters from Home)

Thirteen year old American-Israeli Hallel Ariel was brutally murdered by a 17 year old terrorist in Israel. Heartbreaking! That murder reminded me of another American-Israeli, 13 year old Koby Mandell murdered May 8, 2001. His friend 14 years old Yosef Ishran died at the hands of the same terrorists.

In Jerusalem I met with Sherri Mandell (pictured) Koby’s mother. She shared about the great depths of grief she experienced. In her book “The Blessings of a Broken Heart,” she wrote about life after Koby. “We have to walk about five blocks to get to Burger King. We’re hungry, tired and cranky so when we pass a vegetarian restaurant – we decide to stop there to eat. I think we are all relieved not to have to feel the sadness of eating hamburgers without Koby.

Unknown“My kids go to pick up the drinks at the counter of the restaurant, and I close my eyes and hold a napkin against my eyes as I cry and I wonder: how am I going to go on? How am I going to stand up? How am I going to get the strength to leave this restaurant and take my children home on the bus?”

Grief overwhelmed her until her surviving childrn lovingly said, “Mother, we know how deeply you feel the loss of Koby, but please understand we feel that loss too. But we have suffered two severe tragedies. We lost Koby but since he died, we lost our mother too.” Sherri knew they were right. She told me they had a meaningful time as a family and considered how they could remember Koby appropriately. The Koby Mandell Foundation was launched. They knew the deep impact of grief terror inflicted on their own family and they knew others shared that sorrow with their own traumatic experiences.

Camp Koby

They launched Camp Koby for teens and youth, where counseling and encouragement were prioritized. Jewish and Arab victims of terror are brought together.

Sherrie explained they are wary of each other on the first day. By day two they hear heart-wrenching testimonies. The barriers recede. By midweek the teens laugh and cry with each other. She said they draw to each other through their common need and one teen with a tragic infirmity relates to another with the same predicament. Their nationalistic differences are forgotten, at least for the moment. By the end of the week, Sherrie told me, they share email addresses so they can maintain contact. (Online visit The Koby Mandell Foundation – kobymandell.org -to see the scope of their vision).

imagesOn the website the Mandells have posted comments written by Koby. One is called: ‘What makes a Good Parent.’ He wrote: “If I were my parents I would always stick up for my kid because if you don’t, your kid begins to feel bad and thinks that you don’t care about him. Anyway, your kid always needs somebody to stick up for him.

“I would also let my kid wear whatever he wants and make his own decisions, because kids need freedom as much as parents do, if not more. I’m not saying you can let your kid do whatever he wants, but don’t confine him, and let him make his own decisions.” (Read the rest at the website)

Koby liked to quote – “Taking the Bully by the Horns” by Kathy Noll. “I was once bullied by a jerk who wanted to show off in front of his friends . He took a chair from me during school when I was sitting down and I fell on the floor. I said to my friends that guy’s an idiot and he heard me. He started to hit and kick me and then walked away. I didn’t hit him back because he was bigger and older than me. A week later my father found out and we ran into him at the pizza place. My father went up to him and threatened to break his nose off if he touched me again. Since then he has not bothered me. I felt good because he was punished and embarrassed. (More at the website.’

Koby had quite a sense of humour and some of his favorite jokes are published on the website: “As the light changed from red to green to yellow and back to red again, I sat there thinking about life. Was it nothing more than a bunch of honking and yelling? Sometimes it just seems that way.”

“Millionaire is dying, he calls his 3 closest friends to his bedside. “I know they say you can’t take it with you when you go, but I want to try.” He said, “I’m going to give you $1 Million apiece, if you will place it in my coffin at my funeral.” They agreed, and at his funeral, they all placed envelopes in the casket. 2 Months pass, and they meet for lunch. One friend says “I have a confession, I only put $200,000 in the envelope”. Another friend says “Yeah, I only put in $300,000.” The third says “I’m SO disappointed! He was our friend! How could you do this? … My envelope contained a check for $1,000,000”.”

These murdered terror victims are more than statistics. They were vibrant living, loved and valued. Not to be forgotten. I am reminded author Latoya Alston wrote “Loss is only temporary when you believe in God!”

 

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)

Ron Ross previous articles may be viewed at

http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/ron-ross.html