Aching World. Needing the Love of the Father.

images-1At times analysts feared full-on civil war in America. Warring parties became physical after Donald Trump won the vicious US presidential election. Street scenes were reminiscent of more lawless regions and it will take wise, even gentle wisdom to begin healing a very distraught nation.

When the masses voted for England to withdraw from the European Union, they called it Brexit. The ruling Establishment was rocked and the nation is in the process of working through the changes.

Independent political leaders in Europe have been encouraged by the fall-out. They feel energized to lead a mounting charge against the more recognized major political parties. Australian politicians have also stirred their supporters with lethal language and the fruit is beginning to appear with disturbing possibilities.

Christians have a vital role to be salt and light, and play our part to reverse the trend.

Spurgeon

June 28, 1903, the great preacher C.H. Spurgeon spoke on the ministry of reconciliation. “And (he) has given to us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians chapter 5, verses 18). He described how this ministry became necessary after ‘our first parents hearkened to the serpent’s voice and believed the Devil rather than their Maker.’

In the current international climate it is very obvious the voice of the serpent continues to influence many. The role of the Christian is to stand in the gap and represent our God who is love, who is peace. Spurgeon emphasized God gave this ministry to humans. He did not address angels or heavenly beings but the Church.

How can we begin such a vital influence and help the world around us adjust? It starts with an essential fellowship across the Kingdom. Sadly we have been too often, part of the problem. When I served in the Middle East, the churches united so that we maximized our strength. We often united for prayer and outreach. The goal was not to win souls for ‘our church’ but for the Kingdom of God.

To be effective our ministry of reconciliation must be applied with the full force of the Almighty. The moment we replace Him with selfishness, or replace humility with pride, His Spirit is quenched, and our influence is merely humanistic. Church can quickly become a club rather than a spiritual force of righteousness.

Study the headlines of this year and consider what they suggest might be the terrifying possibilities in 2017. God has set us apart to make a difference, but that Kingdom difference only comes in His name.

Jerusalem

imagesWhen my wife and I lived in Jerusalem, we learned Hebrew words used by the messianic communities to identify the characteristics of God. Jehovah Rophe means ‘Jehovah heals’ or ‘Jehovah my Health’ and it is by this name, He was known when the Israelites were lost in the wilderness. The people survived by following the pillar of cloud by day and by night. The children of Israel did not stumble around aimlessly, they focused on the Lord and followed when He led the way and only then. (Exodus chapter 15, verse 22) That sense of His divine Presence is a huge blessing in itself.

Another popular Hebrew name is Jehovah Shalom. The world desperately needs His shalom. There is an old saying that best describes the unrest in the world. It says, ‘No God, no peace! Know God, know peace!” So true.

The Israelites have known some very disturbing times. One tells us ‘every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” (Judges chapter 21, verse 25) They had backslidden and rather than follow Him they were moving selfishly caught up in their flesh. There are so many voices of anger and discontent today, the verse seems very applicable.

Author Marilyn Hickey explains, “Consider the word shalom. People in Israel say, ‘Shalom! Shalom!’ I once asked why they say it twice. It is because they want you to have peace in the inner man as well as peace in the outer man.” She added, “A final meaning of shalom is so beautiful that I wont expound upon it. It simply communicates ‘peace’ in the most perfect way imaginable.” Hickey explains it is used 170 times throughout the Bible, and then reminds us: “The prophet Isaiah announced that Jesus would come as ‘the Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah chapter 9, verse 6).

The most powerful outreach is not achieved by church professionals but more often by ordinary every day believers. I often found myself in animated conversations about my faith at my local golf club. The discussion often turned to be about a real estate agent and a store owner both members of our church. Their names came up when so many of my conversationalists referred to those men and shared how impressed they were with them in business. Their witness was profound and effective.

Years ago I was in a Youth With a Mission team working among Vietnamese refugees in a camp in Hong Kong. Our first request to serve there was denied by the supervisor. He eventually relented but warned us not to evangelize. Instead he assigned us, to restore a blocked and overflowing toilet system. When that unpalatable task was completed we turned up and asked for our next assignment. The Supervisor said he was stunned and did not believe we would be back but he then gave us permission to conduct evangelistic services and support programmes.

I will never forget the first refugee who came over to me and asked, “Why do you do this?” Our world is in desperate need of God, the Father. Jesus died for the lost and commissioned us to reach out to them. Have a joyous and blessed New Year and remember to share the joy.

 

 

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Abortion: A Costly Debate

images-1Each year as I focus on Jesus, the Babe in a manger I have the same thoughts about abortion and the wicked loss of life and potential, that just can’t be measured.

Last August, the high court of Ireland ruled on the right to life of an unborn child. The judgment was made in a judicial review of a deportation order. Mr Justice Richard Humphreys spoke about the ‘significant’ rights and legal position at common law, which he explained goes ‘well beyond the right to life alone.’ We know the Father protected Jesus but who will protect the babies we choose to abort?

The Justice highlighted Article 42a of the Constitution which obliged the State to protect ‘all’ children. In his comment Humphreys said the ‘unborn’ is ‘clearly a child’ and therefore Article 42a applied to all children ‘both before and after birth.’

Niamh Ui Bhrain of the Life Institute called the ruling significant. “This is an important ruling which provides useful clarity at a time when the media and abortion campaigners are arguing that preborn children should be denied even the most fundamental right – the right to life,” she said.

Evangelicals

It is not too far a stretch to suggest Donald Trump became President of the United States because Hillary Clinton championed late-term abortions. The Trump triumph was energized by a massive evangelical vote. He aggressively opposed late-term or partial birth abortions and Hillary did not.

During the presidential debates, moderator Chris Wallace asked Hillary Clinton specifically. “You have been quoted as saying the fetus has no constitutional rights,” he asked. “You also voted against a ban on late-term, partial-birth abortions. Why?” Clinton defended partial-birth abortion by highlighting the health and well-being of the mother. She in fact toed the party line.

Grazie Pozo Christie, a doctor who sits on the advisory board for The Catholic Association, said Mrs. Clinton’s stance on abortion is out of line with the majority of Americans. “Hillary Clinton continues to play exclusively to the minority of the American electorate that shares her radical stance on abortion,” Ms. Christie said. “Pressed on what limits on abortion she believes in, Mrs. Clinton could not come up with a single one.”

unknownAs the countdown to Trump, gathered momentum some sent urgent messages to pregnant women to get onto their abortion ‘ASAP’ as ‘Trump is gonna take away your rights soon” one warned. Another contributor messaged “Thinking about making my last affordable and legal appointment right NOW!”

Reagan

There is no doubt this is a sensitive and touchy topic with passions high on either side of the debate. Former US President Ronald Reagan famously said, “I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion, has been born!”

The abortion debate most often withdraws to two camps (a) the right of the mother to choose and (b) the right of the baby to live.

The renowned author and teacher Rev John Piper spoke on this issue. “I want to publicly confess a great blindness and indifference and apathy in my own life and ministry. I am in no position to point my finger at any of you. I bear a great responsibility as a leader. My silence has been more shameful than yours. I am praying now that I would be forgiven and granted another chance to do my part in ending ‘the silent holocaust’ of abortion.” (January 9, 1989).

Many preachers find it difficult to address abortion. The Bible is not so shy. Clearly we read: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139 verse 13).

Throughout my years counselling wounded or hurting people I have turned to that verse. Orphans, some born out of rape, burdened teens and adults must realize that they are not here by accident. The Father knew them. He had his eye on them. They are never alone. He numbers the hair on your head. We can shake off doubts and fears and walk joyfully in the gift of life He so gracefully grants.

John Piper said: “We kill marriages and we kill unborn babies because they cut across our desires; they stand in the way of our unencumbered self-enhancement. And we live in a culture where self-enhancement and self-advancement is good. And if self-enhancement is god, then the One who is at work in the womb shaping a person in his own image is not God and the assault on his work is not sacrilegious, but obedience to the god of self.”

Why do we accept the word abortion rather than ‘murder’? How easily we fall into worldly deception and away from the bible?

There is a group in America who belligerently complained that pro-lifers used the word ‘holocaust’ to describe the growing number of abortions. “The victims of the Holocaust and slavery were actual human beings with thoughts and feelings,” they say.

Exactly my point!

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sabina Citron, My Jerusalem Encounter.

imagesSome years ago, I was invited to meet Holocaust survivor Sabina Citron. She had just authored her book ‘The Indictment’ and her publisher arranged for us to meet at the Menachem Begin Heritage Centre. The location itself was worth the visit but Citron was a national Jewish hero and I looked forward to our interview.

The breath-taking view from the Centre overlooked the Jerusalem skyline. Ms Citron arrived and arranged for us to enjoy lunch on the balcony with that breathtaking panorama.

I had previously ‘googled’ Sabina Citron to gather background for our chat and was shocked to find that more entries referred to her being a ‘nazi-hunter’ than an author or holocaust survivor. During our lunch, there were more shocks to come.

Auschwitz

She was an Auschwitz survivor, and I had visited that concentration camp many times. It’s a gut-wrenching experience just to walk around. I could only imagine the horrors but often survivors were our guides and they portrayed the evil from personal experience. More than once I had to hang back from our tour group to shed a tear, gather myself and of course to pray.

On one visit I met an elderly man who was so grateful Christians had made it possible for him to live in Israel. He had been a small boy in Auschwitz where the evil Dr Josef Mengele had performed painful experiments on him.

Although I have lived and worked overseas, I have not known the terrible hunger, violence, pain and persecution others experienced in the Holocaust and in various locations around the world today. Christians are being persecuted for their faith in more than forty nations. The Christian Post reports more than 8 million children under the age of 5 die every year from causes stemming from extreme poverty. I baulk at the extravagance of Christmas and even the expense of the fireworks at New Year when I think of the massive need of innocent victims.

Sabina described it so well. “The survivors of the Holocaust know all there is to know about indifference! We were persecuted, humiliated beyond description and eventually put to death while the world remained indifferent. Most of us still find it impossible to understand how a civilized world could close its eyes and ears, and pretend not to see or hear the voices of the doomed.” She said this to me in 2009.

I wonder what the persecuted of this generation will say about our ‘civilised’ response to their crisis in years to come. How will our apathy and do-nothingness be described by the Sabina Citron’s of tomorrow?

2401683“We were taken to Auschwitz. We were given striped clothing like criminals and some wooden shoes, and then taken to the showers. We were told to strip naked and leave all our belongings behind.” Her words prompt deep sorrow and concern. But even as I reflect on them now, she may well be speaking to so many persecuted innocents suffering today.

 Anti-Semitism

She was extremely critical of Christian anti-semitism prevalent before World War II. Sabina described replacement theology or supersessionism as a contributing factor to the Holocaust evil.

“The Church’s continued accusation of Jewish guilt in Jesus’ death at the cross fuelled the flames of hatred, which only seemed to grow with time. That Jesus was crucified by the Romans, as were other ‘rebellious’ Jews, was apparently never acknowledged,” she wrote in The Indictment.

Earlier she wrote about the Lord. “Jesus was a kind man who preached love and understanding, a man who was seen as a Messiah by some,” she observed. “Jesus as a Jew, was flogged by the Romans as he proceeded to his crucifixion, a punishment regularly used by the Romans,” Sabine wrote.

Sabina left Europe and lived in Canada. She founded the Canadian Holocaust Remembrance Association. In latter years she returned to live in Israel.

My visit with her was a joy. She shared her heart with me. The memory of that encounter brings the persecuted vividly to mind. I pray we will not to continue to ignore their plight in the midst of celebrating the joys of Christmas. After all a famous carol begins, ‘Joy to the world…” I believe we have a Kingdom responsibility to play our very active part.

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

Tolerance, Like Riding a Bike!

unknownIn 1996, the UN General Assembly designated November 16 ‘The International Day of Tolerance.’ In 1995 UNESCO created the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence. It was launched on the 125th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi. It sparked my interest. What is “tolerance’ when applied through Christian thought?

I found an article ‘The Sin of Tolerance” by Dr Billy Graham, published February 2, 1959, by Christianity Today (USA). In a review of that article Ed Clark said, ‘tolerance’ was described as a pet word of the age. “It is a good word, but we have tried to stretch it over too great an area of life,” Clark observed. “The word ‘tolerant’ means ‘liberal,’ ‘broad-minded,’ ‘willing to put up with beliefs opposed to one’s convictions,’ and ‘the allowance of something not wholly approved.’

Yes I get all that, but as a Christian, just what am I supposed to tolerate and what should cause protest or at least resistance? Call me old fashioned but many today appear to believe in nothing. Constant brain-washing by TV, movies, magazines and social media have sucked us into a world that reduces genuine moral standards to look like narrow minded old fuddy-duddy restrictions. There appears to be an accumulative roll-over and say nothing approach to moral changes sweeping society.

 Definitions.

Parents and teenagers have always fought over definitions. I remember years ago, the negativity I received for using rock and roll in our ministry. We packed our hall with teenagers but many thought rock and roll was ‘of the devil.” (I was very grateful when Larry Norman recorded ‘Why Should the Devil Have All the good Music’).

Today there is hardly any debate on issues like divorce, adultery, abortion and sexuality. Those who speak out to defend biblical standards are shutdown with a variety of bitter name-calling. We are categorized as narrow-minded, even wowsers. Sadly so many have been silent and that silence is taken to mean approval.

In her online article ‘A Biblical Perspective on Tolerance’ Rebecca S. May wrote: “God said there are certain rules and standards which are true for everyone. If there are no rules or standards which apply without exception to everyone, then everyone gets to decide for himself the rules which apply and truth is lost. For the majority of Christians, this is already happening.” (www.relationalconcepts.org)
 “Everyone does that which is right in unknown-1their own eyes’ (judges chapter 17 verse 6) described it beautifully. I’m reminded of the old saying, “If it feels good, do it!” and that is a very dangerous GPS to follow.

Biblical Worldview

When we proclaim ourselves to be Christians, what does that mean? How many Christians actually embrace a genuine ‘biblical worldview’? This may surprise. Barna Research found in a nationwide survey only 9 percent of American adults have a biblical worldview on morality. They found less than half of one percent of adults in the Mosaic generation (ie those aged 18 to 23), have a biblical worldview.

Barna summed up that finding this way: “… even though a central element of being a Christian is to embrace basic biblical principles and incorporate them into one’s worldview, there has been no change in the percentage of adults or even born again adults in the past 13 years regarding the possession of a biblical worldview.” (Barna: How Many Have a Biblical Worldview – Christianity Today, March, 2009)

Truth is an essential part of Christian faith. Jesus called Himself ‘the way, the truth and the life.” We are told to worship the Lord ‘in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) So Truth has an important specific place in our faith.

Incidentally the Way, the Truth and the Life are all key. When you chose the Christian Way, you found the Bible and its Truth to be your most indispensable guide, and that connection leads to the Life whose peace ‘passes all understanding.’

Last June, Australia was rated to be one of the most tolerant nations on earth. US research, developed with the Harvard Business School rated Australia second in the world for personal rights. We were also acknowledged for ‘tolerance and inclusion.’ We only need to observe the nations where intolerance is a way of life to see deadly behavior causing grief, death and devastation.

I read an article written by Alfie Mumby-Cook a 15 year old student from Thames Christian College. He wrote: “As Christians in this changing society we should lead the way, setting an example of tolerance. We can welcome every individual, even if we cannot condone their lifestyle or accept their points of view. For tolerance does not demand that we regard all views as equally valid or acceptable and indeed the law supports this position. We should tolerate all people so long as they do no harm to others, in thoughts, in words or in deeds.”

Changing morality standards in our society must be resisted because they will eventually lead to decline for many. But we resist because we love. We love the Lord with all our heart and mind. We love our neighbor as ourselves.

Love teaches and lives truth. Our example is our best weapon. Francis Schaeffer wrote a wonderful series he called, ‘How Should We then Live?” The answer is simple. We must live the way we want the world to live. The Apostle Paul wrote: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with all men.” (Romans chapter 12, verse 18)

Tolerance applied in ‘spirit and in truth’ is a sometimes balancing act. I like the way Helen Keller said it: “Toleration is the greatest gift of the mind; it requires the same effort of the brain that it takes to balance oneself on a bicycle.”

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