Donald and Goliath

imagesIs there a hidden ingredient behind the momentum of US President-elect Donald J. Trump? Could it be a divine hand has chosen him?

For eight years the Obama administration has been at least aloof towards Israel. The relationship between President Obama and Israeli PM Netanyahu has been mean and bitter.

Obama supporters like to point to the $38 billion military aid deal US granted Israel last year. It was the largest deal of its kind in American history but it also gave a huge subsidy to the weapons industry in the USA.

Recent action taken by the US Obama administration at the UN against Israel, rocked the world and sparks our Donald Trump thoughts.

“I think Obama will join Jimmy Carter as somebody who will always stand against Israel, but who will be tossed into the dustbin of history when it comes to the Middle East, and this will harm his legacy tremendously,” said esteemed legal scholar Professor Alan Dershowitz.

 Brutus.

“Today’s passage of an ill-conceived resolution on Israeli settlements marks another shameful chapter in the bizarre anti-Israel history of the United Nations,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in a statement. “The abstention of the United States has made us complicit in this outrageous attack, and marks a troubling departure from our nation’s long, bipartisan history of defending our ally Israel in the United Nations.”

Yes America the so-called stalwart of Israel became Brutus. Even Democrats issued scathing statements aimed at the Obama tactic. Incoming Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer said the decision was ‘extremely frustrating, disappointing and confounding.’

“Whatever one’s views are on settlements, the UN is the wrong forum to settle these issues,” Schumer said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, called the US’s abstention from the vote “unconscionable.” “A two-state solution must be negotiated directly between the Israelis and Palestinians, and this resolution flies in the face of this necessity,” Blumenthal said.

images-1The Democrats were soundly demolished during recent US elections. Donald Trump trounced Hillary Clinton, and Republicans won both houses. Whether or not the anti-Israel move was a Barrack Obama dummy spit or not. His decision placed the USA on precarious turf.

 Zechariah

Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef declared, “Sometimes, we need to be reminded from above, that we can count on no one but our Father who art in heaven.” He declared to his followers that the USA has forsaken Israel and now the Jewish state can now place its trust in God.

Among the authors in the Bible there is Zechariah, a man who is called ‘the prophet of hope.’ His writing covers the centuries of the pagan empire and moves on to the age of Messiah.

He wrote these very interesting words: “On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered around her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock to all nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves.” (Zechariah chapter 12, verse 3)

Theologian Matthew Henry wrote about this. “The enemies of God and of His kingdom bear a great deal of malice and ill-will toward Jerusalem and form designs for its destruction, but it will prove at last, that they are but preparing ruin for themselves.”

Picture the scene at the UN. The nations of the world led by the USA are gathered around the tiny state of Israel determined to do harm. It is amazing to me that New Zealand, a small nation itself, could be part of this agenda. (Thankfully our Australian leaders would have none of it!)

On his blog Stan Goodenough cut loose: “There is no Palestinian territory. There never has been. You can call it that until you are blue in the face but it has never been – and it is not – Palestinian territory. Weeks ago you let UNESCO cut the Jews off from their holiest site, the Temple Mount, the Mountain of the Lord.

You’re going to learn this soon. You will eventually get it: The Land belongs to the LORD God of Israel. Jerusalem is the City of David. The Temple Mount is the Mountain of the LORD – the throne room of the Great King.”

Remember what Rabbi Yosef said. He declared the USA had forsaken Israel and now Israel must trust God. If Obama has been concerned for his legacy, he sealed it at the UN. He will forever be Brutus.

But now the divine implications (or are they?) From January 20, Obama will be replaced, by President Donald Trump, a declared champion of Israel.

When he chose to run for office, the US media went into frenzy. They found and exposed every possible flaw in his character and openly championed Hilary Clinton to win. But the Trump train rumbled on, all the way to the White House.

President Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu plan to meet in February. There are strong indications a much stronger US-Israel relationship will be achieved.

Remember the Obama big deal with Iran? That could well face serious challenge. Trump called it ‘the worst deal ever negotiated.’ I imagine Bibi and The Donald will enjoy their time together.

Before then, comes the Trump Inauguration on January 20. The US media has thrilled to announce every singer, actor or stooge who prefers not to appear. At school they were the types who ‘don’t want to play with you anymore.’ Life will go on and Trump will be President.

Among the faith leaders who will be there is Rev Franklin Graham, who has been a staunch Trump supporter all along. The media describes Graham as anti-gay and anti-Islam, a petulant press playing childish games! On the other hand Franklin Graham has credited God for Trump’s win in the election.

Some Christians were put off by the flaws in the Trump character but then they missed the murder and adultery of David and the Christian killer lust of the Apostle Paul.

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

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

Ron Ross previous articles may be viewed at

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

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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.

 

 

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

Archaeology: The Stones Cry Out!

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey he faced an interesting exchange with the religious Pharisees. Crowds gathered to adore and honour Jesus. The Pharisees were deeply offended. They rebuked him and suggested he should not be received and honoured with such adoration and dignity. In the midst of this spectacle Jesus answered very distinctly. He turned and indicated his disciples saying, if they did not praise him, the stones would do it! (See Luke chapter 19, verse 40) He might have said, My creation would declare Me!

October has been a rocks crying out month in Israel. It is as though the world makes an absurd declaration and creation screams, “Rubbish!”

Papyrus

images-1In October, the Israel Antiquities Authority unveiled a 2,700 year old papyrus that predates the Dead Sea Scrolls by centuries. In fact radiocarbon dating has determined the papyrus is from the 7th century BCE.

Immediate debate over the authenticity began. A Professor Rollston from George Washington University said, ‘Ancient papyrus is readily available for purchase online. No modern forger worth his or her salt would forge an inscription on modern papyrus.”

A professor from the Hebrew University, Jerusalem debunked the criticism pointing out the wording used on the papyrus was very rare.

Amor Ganir (Antiquities Authority) said the writing was the first mention in Hebrew of the city of Jerusalem, outside the New Testament. It proved, he said, ‘Jews were in the city 2,700 years ago.”

Temple Mount

Another October gem was uncovered when Israeli and Muslim authorities worked together on the Temple Mount. The artifacts unearthed were the first dated to the time of the First Temple, more than 2,600 years ago. The limited scientific excavations were the first of their kind since the British Mandate.

“It’s the first time that we’ve found artifacts from this period in situ on the Temple Mount,” said Yuval Baruch, the head of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The digs were carried out between 2007 and last year after the Waqf requested authorization from Israel to perform maintenance work on infrastructure servicing the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

Baruch teased further information will be published including findings uncovered while working on Solomon’s Stables.

Titus

A breach uncovered in the Third Wall of Jerusalem was the very place the Roman armies broke through in 70CE. That incursion led to the destruction of the Second temple.

Archaeologists discovered the remains of a tower jutting from the city wall. Opposite the tower’s western façade were scores of ballista and sling stones that they attribute to Roman forces firing from catapults.

“This is a fascinating testimony of the intensive bombardment by the Roman army, led by Titus, on their way to conquering the city and destroying the Second Temple,” concluded Dr Rina Avner and Kfir Abib, excavation directors for the Israel Antiquities Authority.

 Jesus’ Tomb

images-2The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a prominent attraction for Christian visitors to Israel. It is also known as the Church of the Resurrection for some. A discovery, archaeologist Fredrik Hiebert called ‘astonishing’ came about through renovation work.

Working in the innermost chamber of the site, a restoration team peeled away a layer of marble to what is believed to be the rock surface on which the body of Jesus Christ was placed.

National Geographic is partnering with experts to document the work.

The circumstances leading to this treasure was sparked when Israeli police briefly shut down the building when it was declared unsafe by Israel Antiquity Authorities. This prompted the Christian denominations who share the space to OK the necessary repairs.

A media report gave a first hand account (“Restoration workers peel back ancient layers surrounding cave said to be Jesus’ tomb in Jerusalem”, October 29, 2016, news.com.au)

“David Grenier, secretary of a group that oversees Roman Catholic church properties in the Holy Land, stood with a few other Franciscan friars, watching the work crew in awe. “What happened here 2000 years ago completely changed the history of the world,” he said. “To be able to dig, let’s say, to the rock where the body of Jesus was laid … it’s overwhelming joy.”

At one point, a National Geographic film crew documented the site as clergy burned incense around them in a daily church rite.

After the film crew cleared out, a pair of clergymen in brown frocks, and an Israeli policeman stationed at the church to help keep the peace, clambered over a pile of work tools, electrical wires and a yellow hard hat on the Edicule floor to lean into the inner chamber and snap cell phone photos of the exposed tomb.

“It’s a historic moment, huh?” the policeman said.

Clifford Wilson asked: “Does Archaeology Support the Bible” He wrote; “… archaeology has done a great deal to restore confidence in the Bible as the revealed Word of God. It has thrown a great deal of light on previously obscure passages and has helped us to understand customs, culture, and background in many ways that seemed most unlikely to our fathers in a previous generation. Archaeology is highly relevant for understanding the Bible today..”

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

Internet Porn, A Click a WAY

images-1Recently I asked my Facebook followers to suggest topics we can consider here. Susan was first. She asked if online (internet porn) is ‘natural, harmless, destructive and addictive?’

Way before the internet, lust had powerful sway. One of the earliest reports described David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel chapter 11, verses 2-4). David saw Bathsheba bathing. She was very beautiful and ‘David sent messengers and took her,’ the Bible graphically reports. Jesus said, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew chapter 5, verse 28)

Years ago our Mens’ study fellowship was led by Rev Charles Widdowson. When asked how men could defend against lustful thoughts living in a city where beachside and bikinis flourished, he advised, we should praise God for female beauty and thank the Lord for His creation. (It is very hard to transgress when we bring the Lord into our thought-life).

The Bible says Christians should be ‘transformed by the renewal of the mind.’ (Romans chapter 12, verse 2) The world floods the mind with all manner of images. It is an all out war specifically attacking the mind.

Chuck Swindoll

The Apostle Paul addressed the issue. “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans.” (1 Corinthians chapter 5, verse 1) Strong language, and note these remarks were addressed to the Christians in Corinth. Fifty four percent of pastors said they viewed porn according to a Focus on the Family survey. In that same poll 47 percent of those surveyed said porn is a problem in the home.

On his Insight for Living website Chuck Swindoll wrote: “The most recent studies available suggest that one out of every two people-that’s 50 percent of the people sitting in our pews, are looking at and/or could be addicted to Internet pornography… Truth be told, that statistic could be even higher…”

So powerful is internet porn, it killed Playboy magazine. The Playboy chief executive Scott Flanders said, “The battle has been fought and won. You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free.”

Pamela Anderson the last Playboy cover-girl spoke about pornography. “Girls and guys are affected by this because young people are looking at this thinking, ‘this is how I have to act and behave in a sexual relationship.’”

There are many clinical surveys that highlight lasting mental hang-ups from porn addiction. One major problem is a difficulty to achieve intimacy with a real partner. “It is toxic miseducation about sex and relationships,” said Dr Mary Anne Layden

In his book The Centerfold Syndrome, Dr Gary Brooks writes that women in porn are only seen as glossy pictures or pixels on the screen with no sexual or relational expectations of their own. Thus men are trained for fantasy without commitment.

School Children

images-2Paul Antonio, the mayor of Queensland city Toowoomba led a pledge against pornography. The Mayor conceded this initiative in a city of 100,000 people is just the first step but it is a start.

Last year the National Boys Health Forum learned boys aged 12-17 were the fastest growing users of pornography. 88 percent of porn sites aimed their aggression at women.

Jenni Murray, a UK radio host, last October, recommended school children watch sex videos together and then have open discussions.

At the Cheltenham Literary Festival she said, “We give our kids Jane Austen to read and we say, “OK let’s analyse it ‘We might show them a news bulletin that has been on television the night before. Why not show them pornography and teach them how to analyse it?

‘You put boys and girls together in a class and you show them a pornographic film and you analyse it in exactly the same way as you teach them to read all the other cultures around them.’

Before we pillary Jenni, she has highlighted a serious problem. The boys mentioned above, no doubt found their way to porn navigating their favorite online device.

How can we stop that now everyone has access to everything? We have an educational challenge. We have a relevance issue. Moral standards are a mess.

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) ran a story last July ‘Internet Porn: Schools Warn of dangers of adolescent addiction.” “I deal with adolescents every day who have an addiction to internet pornography,” said teacher David Youl. “Many of these young men find it difficult to fulfil their normal daily duties including school work and spending time with family or friends due to a ‘need’ to access internet pornography for excessive amounts of time,” he said.

Mr Youl is just one of hundreds of concerned teachers who wrote to a Senate inquiry about the problem. A research paper issued to the inquiry claimed up to 95 percent of 16-year-old boys are regular users of porn. They added that children as young as six are exposed due to the easy availability of online devices.

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” – 1 Corinthians chapter 10, verse 13.

If you need help I suggest covenanteyes.com. Download their free eBook “The Porn Circuit.” They can also recommend a qualified Christian counselor.

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

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

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

King Hezekiah Really Did Destroy Idols

imagesThe accuracy of the Bible is continually confirmed. Recent excavations in the Tel Lachish National Park in Israel have revealed a ‘gate-shrine,’ dated to the period of the First Temple, about the eighth century B.C.

“The size of the gate is consistent with the historical and archaeological knowledge we possess, whereby Lachish was a major city and the most important one after Jerusalem,” said excavation director Sa’ar Ganor. In her ChristianHeadlines.com article editor Veronica Neffinger observed: “King Hezekiah really did destroy idols, consistent with the Bible account.’ Some like to doubt and debate the historic value of the Old Testament but this evidence is conclusive.

2 Kings chapter 18, verse 4 says that King Hezekiah “removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles,” Veronica Neffinger observed. (Israel: New Discovery Confirms King Hezekiah Really Did Destroy Idols – ChristianHeadlines.com, September 28, 2016)

Archaeologists found evidence of the destruction of pagan artifacts. Included in the discovery were horns on the pagan altar which had been “intentionally truncated.”

A latrine was also found at the site. It was built as a purely symbolic statement. It was a desecration. Even this warped practice was reported in the Bible. “And they demolished the pillar of Baal, and demolished the house of Baal, and made it a latrine to this day.” (2 Kings chapter 10, verse 27) How brilliantly and accurately detailed?

Idolatry

Are we as fastidious as King Hezekiah? Has idolatry simply become a way of life for most of us? It seems appropriate to take a long hard look at the way we embrace celebrations at Christmas, for instance.

At the risk of being tagged a wowser, I am concerned at the serious debt some suffer to buy expensive gifts in what amounts to pure and simple materialism. It flies in the face of Jesus lowly birth in a manger.

I am amazed by statistics that show how many are paying off credit card debts from last year as many overspend on stuff. Stop to think a minute. The very name Christmas means ‘mass of Christ.’ It was a heathen celebration on the birthday of Sol, the Sun God, December 25. It is, actually, an ancient rite of BAALISM, which the Bible condemns as the most abominable of all idolatrous worship! King Hezekiah did not fool around with Baal and neither should we. (“You should have no other gods before me”, comes to mind)

I am not against a joy-filled Christmas celebration but I am concerned about the materialism, which has taken Jesus off the throne. It is also a curse when people who cannot afford with the mounting costs of ‘keeping up’, carry a huge burden into the New Year. Jesus came to set us free not to make life a bondage.

In a sermon on idolatry Rev John Piper said, “The only light in the universe that can bring light to the heart is the glory of God. If we exchange it for other things, we will live in darkness, no matter how brilliant we are or how many fires we may build or candles we may light.” (The First Dark Exchange, Idolatry, Romans 1: 21-23)

images-1Little Children

At Christmas we can often be like little children. I delight to watch a baby play with the wrapping paper, while the expensive gift is left unattended. Many of us display great joy over some gift on Christmas Day and hardly remember where we put it a few weeks later.

The gift to be thoroughly embraced is Jesus and frankly we should be aware of the enormity of His grace and blessing every day.

The Apostle Paul wrote: “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Romans chapter 1, verse 21)

No one enjoys Christmas more than little children. I look forward to enjoying my grandchildren right throughout the holiday season. But let us plan for Christmas this year with children in mind.

Throughout the first letter of the Apostle John, there are two words that he often repeated – paidia and teknia, both can be translated ‘little children.’ Paidia correctly refers to ‘babes in Christ”, new believers. Teknia more accurately means ‘beloved children.’

“An ancient historian relates, that when the Apostle (Paul) was so enfeebled by age as not to be able to preach, he was frequently brought into the congregation in his chair, and just uttered, Beloved children, love one another. He could not have given a more important advice. And equally important is this which lies before us; equally necessary for every part of the Church of Christ. Beloved children, keep yourselves from idols.” (John Wesley, Sermon 78, Spiritual Idolatry)

Author and preacher Max Lucado invites each of us to embrace Christmas with a Christ-centred focus. “Off to one side sits a group of shepherds. They sit silently on the floor, perhaps perplexed, perhaps in awe, no doubt in amazement. Their night watch had been interrupted by an explosion of light from heaven and a symphony of angels. God goes to those who have time to hear him–and so on this cloudless night he went to simple shepherds.”

It is appropriate to remember our most wonderfully wrapped gaudy and expensive gifts will never save us. Christ is the reason for the season and we can enjoy His gift right now.

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