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

Clinton-Trump Flawed? Me Too!

clinton-trumpjpegHillary Clinton and Donald Trump, in the US presidential race share one thing, negativity ratings north of fifty percent. It is hard to understand how either became their party candidate. Personally, I follow US politics closely maybe because of the years I spent reporting news in Israel. America with its superpower status effects nations all over the world and the US President holds great power. The negatives out of this campaign have been hard to take. One thing after another claimed headlines and provided topic fodder for the gossip hungry media.

Speaking about abortion Hillary Clinton said,”and deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” Writing for Charisma News Ron Cantor wrote: “It used to be, you were considered compassionate, caring and humble to embrace the values of the Bible. Now you are the enemy … according to Secretary Clinton and President Obama. It is only going to get worse.” (Cantor is the director of Messiah’s Mandate International, Israel). Hillary has mounting concerns over many other issues but suggesting we can rewrite or dismiss Bible teaching is a major concern for me at least.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump for gossip seeking journalists and commentators is the gift that keeps on giving. He supposedly represents the Republican Party but most of his party leaders have denounced and disowned him. As headline after headline brings more negativity he slugs it out maintaining support from a nation tired of the political playbook.

It is time to take a deep breath. What headlines would appear if our biblical hero David ran for office today? His victory over Goliath would be a great start. He arrived onto the public arena with enormous public support. He is instantly hailed as a deserving hero, only sling and stones you say? What a champion? Even the incumbent King Saul is feeling threatened by his popularity. In line with the Clinton-Trump campaign, we must seek to destroy him! Saul cannot wait to meet David face to face to say, “You’re fired!”

To report on King David we have to study the Old Testament books First and Second Samuel. As King he lacked suitable administrative skills and relied heavily on his cousin Joab. But if we are searching for headlines appropriate for our modern media, I think we have it. David had one of his own soldiers killed so he could take his wife, behavior that angered God (1 Samuel chapters 11 and 12). The reports would carry the story for weeks and surely our ratings jump high. The Bible refuses to sugarcoat the character of its heroes.

Sinners

In fact the Apostle Paul speaks very clearly, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” Romans chapter 3 verse 23.

Our Bible heroes Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samuel and Elijah all had sinful moments. The famous Apostle Paul persecuted Christians zealously, Peter denied Christ, the Bible tells us the truth. There is no politically correct cover up, just the facts.

imagesYears ago I watched and admired Archbishop Fulton Sheen on his television broadcasts. He was an eloquent and courageous communicator. Thomas Reeves wrote a biography of Sheen, ‘America’s Bishop, The Life and Times of Fulton J. Sheen.’ (Encounter Books). Here is a brief quote: “Fulton had appeared at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. He had accepted the invitation against the advice of his cardiologist, Dr. Bruno, who accompanied him to the event. Officials asked Billy Graham, who was present, to be ready to fill in should Sheen be unable to carry on. Graham wrote later, “Even as he made his halting way to the podium, I silently prayed that God would grant him the necessary physical and spiritual strength.”

“Mr. President,” Fulton began, turning toward the chief executive and his wife, “you are a sinner.” Having everyone’s undivided attention, he then pointed to himself and said, “I am a sinner.” He looked around the huge ballroom at the sophisticated and influential spectators, and continued, “We are all sinners, and we all need to turn to God…” Graham wrote, “He then went on the preach one of the most challenging and eloquent sermons I have ever heard.”

If we want a sinless leader there is only One, Jesus Christ, the righteous.

The real danger comes when we are so downtrodden by sin that we refuse to rise up and allow God to bless us with His love. Every hero in the Bible, apart from Jesus, is a sinner. Every politician who stands for office, is a sinner. You are a sinner. So am I. But we do not have to live there or be burdened by it. It matters not the colour of our skin, the nation of our birth or the differences we created, we are all sinners but Jesus sets us free and washes us clean.

If we really want a sinless leader, Jesus is the only answer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

A Flood of Refugees, The Mind of Christ.

imagesThe German publication Der Spiegel runs regular stories describing the escalating refugee crisis in what they call Fortress Europe. In a recent report they said, “Desperate scenes played out here, reminiscent of those witnessed in Hungary back in September.” They described, a group of young men who used a steal beam as a battering ram. “Men could be seen running and children screaming,’ they said.

These scenes are becoming more evident and Christians must be a radiant light in the darkness. The world is in crisis. Living by faith, as a Christian, will mean reaching the lost with the love of God, not in some wishy-washy way but with practical solutions.

As we ponder the facts, it is essential we know God is great. He promises we can do all things, through Him. There have been great champions of the faith and they stood up when the days and times were dark. We now have that opportunity. Read this carefully. Forty per cent of the world’s population will be homeless by 2030. UN Habitat estimate three billion people will need housing in less than fifteen years. 1.6 billion people in our world today live in inadequate shelter. More than 100 million people worldwide are homeless.

In 1985 the UN General Assembly declared the first Monday in October to be World Habitat Day. By UN Habitat calculations 96,150 new affordable housing units are needed every day to meet the need, that is, 4000 every hour. Forty percent means four in ten will have no place to call home in just a few years. I have grandchildren who will be in their teens in 2030.

boy-1226964__180Charles Dickens helped me embrace the situation. “Bleak, dark, and piercing cold, it was a night for the well-housed and fed to draw round the bright fire, and thank God they were at home; and for the homeless starving wretch to lay him down and die.” (Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist) It is a stark, challenging description.

 Australia

While the crisis in Europe may seem far removed from us, Homelessness Australia reports one in 200 people are homeless “on any given night.” According to their statistics, an estimated seventeen percent of homeless people in Australia, are under 12, eighteen percent are aged 25-34.

Of ‘people who sleep rough each night’ 67.6 percent are male, 32.4 percent female. One of the major causes of this distress is domestic violence. Our fellow man and woman, boy and girl, are in dire need of love, comfort and support.

The Salvation Army says ‘over 100,000 Australians will be homeless tonight.’ It is serious. “I think homelessness is an absolute tragedy. To know that you don’t belong anywhere, that you have no home to shelter in, and no one to support you. It is one of the most distressing experiences a person can have …The consequence is the quality of life for the whole community is diminished. People will do whatever it takes to survive, including turning to crime if they have to. ”

” As a community, we need to be responsive to people who are homeless, not just for moral and social reasons, but also for the sake of the stability of the entire community,” Major David Eldridge, Salvation Army said.

Love

images-2Reading through these statistics is overwhelming but the numbers represent people who need love and support. We are called to have the mind of Christ. Frankly I was overwhelmed by the details. I turned to a book ‘That Incredible Christian’ by A. W. Tozer: “The Spirit-filled, prayerful Christian actually possesses the mind of Christ, so that his reactions to the external world are the same as Christ’s. He thinks about people and things just as He does.” In the same chapter he wrote: “We must think of the surrounding world of people and things against the background of our thoughts of God.”

Joseph Reuben, singer-songwriter, on his blogsite said: “If it was not for Christian organizations like the Open Door Mission, the Salvation Army, and many others, the homeless would be getting a lot less help than they are. I appreciated every meal and every volunteer that made my life a bit more tolerable when I lived on the streets.

During that time God taught me a lot about myself. One important lesson I learned was that while I was spending a lot of my time complaining about how others were judging me for being homeless, I was judging them for not being homeless. Sometimes the hardest thing for us to do is to show grace to those who judge us.” (word-from-the-street.com)

As we assess the simple mathematics of the refugee and the homeless, surely we are challenged. How will our borders remain secure? How will our culture be affected by the surging tide of humanity seeking a safe-place? How many will seek our harm?

“Christian love draws no distinction between one enemy and another, except that the more bitter our enemy’s hatred, the greater his need of love. Be his enmity political or religious, he has nothing to expect from a follower of Jesus but unqualified love. In such love there is not inner discord between the private person and official capacity. In both we are disciples of Christ, or we are not Christians at all,” wrote World War II hero Dietrich Bonhoeffer. (The Cost of Discipleship)

God has not been caught unawares in this crisis. The Bible tells us Jesus Christ had no place to lay His head (Luke chapter 9, verse 58). He was a refugee. He relates to homelessness.

Billy Graham reminds us: “The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service. The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.”

 

 

 

 

Queen Elizabeth, our Servant Queen.

images-2The former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey (1991-2002) was a strong advocate for Queen Elizabeth II. “Her faith, strong on conviction, but also generous and hospitable, is an example to us all in a time of radicalism and extremism. She reflects the best and most noble values of what it is to be British,” he wrote. “To be honest, she has often been more effective at communicating the timeless truths of the gospel to the nation than the many bishops and Archbishops she has seen come and go during her reign,” he added.

Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of York was born in Mayfair, London April 21, 1926. She was the first child of the future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, later called the Queen Mother. Princess Elizabeth became heir-apparent after King Edward VIII abdicated and her father King George VI ascended to the throne.

imagesAt the age of 14 Elizabeth made her first public speech on the BBC Children’s Hour to reassure children who had been separated from their parents during the Blitz. In 1945 she served Britain, during World War II, in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. The future queen trained as a mechanic and a military truck driver. She is the only female member of the royal family to serve in the armed forces.

Strong

She married Prince Philip Mountbatten of Greece and Denmark at Westminster Abbey November 20, 1947. Not many know she saved ration coupons to buy the material for her wedding dress.

Queen Elizabeth relied heavily on her faith when the royal family suffered very public setbacks. Most royal observers admired her strength as she negotiated times of mounting public concern, particularly in the nineties.

Maybe those years inspired the Queen to say: “To many of us our beliefs are of fundamental importance. For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.” (Christmas message, 2000)

Her strong Christian faith was known long before she became ‘the defender of the faith.’ On the occasion of her 21st birthday in 1947 she made a radio broadcast in which she said:   ‘I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.

‘But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do. I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.’

 Servant

images-1In an article ‘Defender of the faith’ Gillan Scott wrote: “Jesus is the Servant King, but Elizabeth perhaps should be known as the servant queen. For not only has she sought to serve us as her people, but she has also chosen to place herself under authority, serving Jesus as her own Lord and Master and seeking to follow in his footsteps.”

There is little argument the Queen has lived to serve. She has not inundated with flamboyant, long-winded speeches. Instead her words have been disciplined but appropriate. In short succinct messages the Queen communicates memorably and effectively.

‘The Servant Queen and the King She Serves’ was published by the Bible Society, HOPE and LICC this year, to mark her 90th birthday. In the foreword the Queen wrote: “I have been – and remain – very grateful to you for your prayers and to God for his steadfast love. I have indeed seen his faithfulness.”

She referred to terrorism and the refugee crisis by saying, “It is true that the world has had to confront moments of darkness this year, but the Gospel of John contains a verse of great hope, often read at Christmas carol services: ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’… Despite being displaced and persecuted throughout his short life, Christ’s unchanging message was not one of revenge or violence but simply that we should love one another.” (Christmas message, 2015)

Behind Palace walls apparently the Queen likes to sing and dance. The Queen’s cousin Lady Elizabeth Anson said: “We did a lot of singing at Kensington Palace. Nobody thought it was odd after dinner if we put on a record and all sang The Lambeth Walk. The Queen is a fantastic dancer. She’s got great rhythm.”

Her music taste includes the loveable larrikin George Formby and ‘Oklahoma’ sung by Howard Keel. Her top ten includes Vera Lynn ‘The White Cliffs of Dover” and the hymns “Praise My Soul, the King of Heaven” and “The Lord is My Shepherd.”

Prayer

A few years ago in her Christmas message the Queen inspired: “Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive… It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.” (Christmas message, 2011)

Last June, the world officially acknowledged the 90th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. “Long live the Queen!” has worked, and we pray it continues.