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)

Releasing the Spiritual Burden

unknown“I can only see the decline and fall of the US and the West as part of God’s just judgment. Our time in the limelight may well be over. We may well be entering into a new dark ages. Should the Lord tarry, we may be witnessing the collapse of the West, and the rise of heaven knows what – but it is looking very grim right now.” Bill Muelenberg wrote that last month. (billmuelenberg.com, October 20,2016)

His comment is stark, maybe  confrontational, but I believe he is right but there’s more. This from Macolm Muggeridge: “If, then, all the signs point to the decline and impending fall of what we continue to call Western Civilization, to be followed by another Dark Age, this no more represents any finality in human history than other such developments have in the past.

“I think of St. Augustine when in A. D. 410 the news was brought to him in Carthage that Rome had been sacked. It was a sore blow, but as he explained to his flock: “All earthly cities are vulnerable. Men build them and men destroy them. At the same time there is the City of God which men did not build and cannot destroy and which is everlasting.” – (The End of Christendom, Malcolm Muggeridge0

We are living in Days of Arrogance. Politicians proudly proclaim what they can do to change our circumstances. Sadly they come and go and the newcomers make even more boastful claims. Preachers too, make bold so-called prophetic proclamations that prove to be false. How many times have we preached on the Second Coming or the Last Days? In the midst of it all, the world has grown weary.

Power

The power to overcome is found in faith, in what Muggeridge called ‘The City of God.’ Despite the ugliness around us, God is in control. He will work all things together for good. He has prepared a mansion for us but it is in His Kingdom not ours.

There is an enlightening lesson in the Book of Daniel. It has to do with King Nebuchadnezzar who ruled the mighty Babylonian Empire. He rejected the authority of God and instead relied on his own arrogance and ego. Nebuchadnezzar was driven from his throne to live with animals in the field for seven years. Daniel chapter 4, verse 17 says in part ‘the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will, and sets over it, the lowliest of men.’ (The King James version says ‘the basest of men.”)

imagesMy thoughts go out to the people who had to suffer under such a selfish King. Even now when I hear preachers tell me how God is going to provide comfort and luxury for all believers, I argue, tell that to our brothers and sisters in Aleppo, Mosul or Sudan. The Bible is rife with stories of Christians who suffer. The circumstances highlight how awesome the promise of our heavenly kingdom really is.

Lessons

In 2002 Richard F. Ames wrote “There is a God in heaven who is working out a great plan here on earth. He is giving human beings and human civilization six millennia to experiment with religion, science, government, business, education and social institutions. God is allowing human beings to go their own predictable, carnal way of selfishness, war, and violence, but He often intervenes in order to teach lasting lessons of life and death.” (Rise and Fall of Nations, Richard F. Ames, tomorrowsworld.org)

Contrast that comment to another Malcolm Muggeridge classic quote: “So the final conclusion would surely be that whereas other civilizations have been brought down by attacks of barbarians from without, ours had the unique distinction of training its own destroyers at its own educational institutions, and then providing them with facilities for propagating their destructive ideology far and wide, all at the public expense. Thus did Western Man decide to abolish himself, creating his own boredom out of his own affluence, his own vulnerability out of his own strength, his own impotence out of his own erotomania, himself blowing the trumpet that brought the walls of his own city tumbling down, and having convinced himself that he was too numerous, labored with pill and scalpel and syringe to make himself fewer. Until at last, having educated himself into imbecility, and polluted and drugged himself into stupefaction, he keeled over–a weary, battered old brontosaurus–and became extinct.”

The Chinese theologian Watchman Nee lived with brutal persecution. In his book ‘The Spiritual Man’ he said: “Man’s head damages people more than man’s heart! Were believers to learn how to distinguish the renewal of the heart from the renewal of the head, they would not commit the mistake of believing in man.” Nee draws an important line between the Burdens of the Spirit and the Weight of the Spirit. I want to address the difference because I sense there are many faithful believers who feel the weight in these difficult times.

First of all differentiate between the Burden and the Weight. Jesus will give us the Burden but the Weight is from the enemy. “Any weight on the spirit has no other objective than to oppress it; it therefore usually serves no purpose and produces no fruit,” Nee says. That same Weight can cast you down, quench your vitality and lead to a sense of hopelessness, certainly Satanic domain.

On the other hand a Burden of the Spirit will lead you to pray, to intercede, to gather with friends and to seek the Lord. A Burden may lead you to preach or teach. You may have guidance to share, to worship, to proclaim the almighty power of God into a specific situation. (I am constantly burdened to pray for the innocent who suffer under the brutality of terrorism.) Then having given that Burden to the Author of our faith we can enter again into His glorious Joy!

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

Tom and Jerry Inspire Terrorists

9091posterTom and Jerry cartoons and video games are behind a rising tide of violence in the Middle East according to a top Egyptian intelligence agency. At a conference entitled “The Media and the Culture of Violence” at Cairo University, Salan Abdel Sadeq said, “Tom and Jerry portrays violence in a funny manner, and gives the impression that, yes, I can hit him, and I can blow him up with explosives.”

Social media in the Middle East lit up with comments. One person asked, “So it’s not the Moslem Brotherhood after all.” Another complained her daughter loved Tom and Jerry.

But Sadeq did not attribute the outbreak of violence and extremist just to the cat and the mouse. He went further.

“Video games are spreading…it has become normal for a young man to sit for long hours playing video games, killing and spilling blood. He is happy and content with that,” he said.

He added, according to the website Egyptianstreets.com, that youths are “faced with social pressures that push them to resort to violence, which they consider normal and understandable.”

While my first reaction was to defend the 1940’s cat and mouse cartoon characters, the more I considered he had some validity. While I hesitate to call Tom or Jerry terrorists, I have to admit they have always introduced a goodly amount of biff, bang, boom in their encounters!

Violence

The NSW Education Department has an excellent website to help parents understand this very dilemma (www.schoolatoz.nsw.edu.au) They ask: “Does cartoon violence make kids more aggressive?” “At a glance research indicates that exposure to violence makes it seem more acceptable to kids. Today’s animation and games are so realistic it can be hard for kids to tell the difference between ‘pretend’ violence and live action, making some animation just as disturbing as the real thing,” they say. Along with Tom and Jerry they also mention ‘The Road Runner and other animated favorites.”

sleeping_beauty039s_castle_185965Appropriately (I thought) they mentioned Sleeping Beauty and the jealous witch. (I am amazed at the prominence of witches and demons in children’s books. Once we preached messages about this content today we seem to have shrugged our shoulders in surrender).

After a lengthy study the Australian Psychology Society said: “it is generally agreed that prolonged exposure to media violence is one of the many interacting factors which lead to children being more likely to display aggressive behaviour in the long term. It is also agreed that the social context is important in determining the effects of exposure to violent media; e.g., if an adult helps the child interpret and critique the viewed material, the negative effects are lessened. Later research on violent video games has largely supported these effects of violent media, showing that exposure to video game violence leads to increased aggression, an effect that has been demonstrated both as a short-term consequence and longer-term effect of excessive exposure.” (www.psychology.org.au)

Smoking?

A study authored by L.Rowell Huesman and Brad Bushman, both professors at the University of Michigan found: “Violence depicted on television, in films and video games raises the risk of aggressive behavior in adults and young viewers and poses a serious threat to public health, according to a new study.”

After 50 years of research and analysis of the impact of violence in the media, the professors declared “only smoking is a greater risk for public health than video games!”

The website gamepolitics.com responded by interviewing Huesman who said, “Please be aware that an implication of the body of research I reviewed is that the mass media and video games are very powerful teachers. Video games can teach wonderful things or they can teach bad things. It would be a shame if my review were used to indict all video games. There are many great games that teach kids very valuable things.”

The most important lessons children learn most often comes from parents. By stopping a violent cartoon, game or video and explaining why it is not appropriate is the best influence of all.

The Apostle Paul was a great witness to his followers. His behavior was so impeccable he was able to write to the church in Philippi saying: “Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are right, whatever things are pure, whatever things are pleasing, whatever things are commendable, if there is any excellence of character and if anything praiseworthy, think about these things. And the things which you have learned and received and heard about and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians Chapter 4, verses 8 and 9)

“Seen in me” he wrote. What an amazing witness? It is true however, children learn a great deal from watching their elders and observing what we allow into their lives. The Letter by Paul was great advice then and it remains the best advice for our children today.