Aching World. Needing the Love of the Father.

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

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

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

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

Spurgeon

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

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

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

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

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

Jerusalem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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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