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.”

 

 

 

 

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The Times They are a-Changing!

album_ab4d8dff5c4543c3ed2a0c5efabf4234_3What comes to mind when we think Britain? Writers and poets through the ages have depicted British ways with tea and scones and cucumber sandwiches. Visions of Wimbledon tennis enjoyed with strawberries and cream, test cricket at Lords, pies and mash, the Union Jack, Buckingham Palace, they all portray stiff upper lip Britain. Over fifty years ago Bob Dylan (pictured) wrote, “The Times They are a-changing” and that title fits perfectly into the circumstances we are about to consider.

Sadiq Khan, a Muslim and a member of the British Labour Party was recently elected Mayor of London. His victory raised questions and provoked wild and sometimes wise speculation. How could someone other than a dyed in the wool Brit land the job? A Muslim? How? What is happening in the Old Dart?

The Daily Beast brought the reason home for all: ‘London, the United Kingdom, Europe and the wider West have been going through something of an identity crisis.” They say the mounting Muslim tide throughout the world is forcing change.

The head-in-the-sand crowd will bury the facts and avoid reality. More astute observers will note other dramatic changes and include population demographics to the study.

Mayor Khan is a member of the British Labour Party where too many headlines this year have had to do with controversial anti-Semitism by leading figures. An article published last May by the Gatestone Institute said: “Two of the Labour Party’s senior members were suspended as a result of their anti-Semitic remarks, and there is talk that 50 secret suspensions have been made.”

The author of the article Denis MacEoin declared ‘the British Labour Party is collapsing.” He blamed fierce anti-Semitism as a major cause, but despite that negative climate, Khan won anyway.

Sadiq_Khan_official_party_photoThe new Mayor (pictured has shown no signs of anti-Semitism. His first official function was to attend the Holocaust Memorial where he was seated next to Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who just a week before, publicly criticized the anti-Semitism within the British Labour Party.

Population

Khan’s election points to a significant change in the make up of old London Town itself and the demographics involved will point to similar developments elsewhere. In 1939 London had a population of 8,614,245 but by the 1981 census that number dropped to 6.607,513, a fall of around 25 percent in just four decades. (worldpopulationview.com)

That same world population analysis said: “Of the 7.17 million people living in London at the time of the 2001 census, only 5.23 million had actually been born in the United Kingdom. The remaining two million people were born outside the UK. The most common country of birth for London residents (other than the UK) was India – 172,162 people living in London in 2001 were born there – followed closely by the Republic of Ireland (172,162) people.”

Each sector provides its own energy and adds to the cultural diversity of the city. This is true for cities and locations all over the world as we watch vast population numbers spread globally.

Today London embraces Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Sikh and Buddhist religions. 15.8 per-cent identify as having no religion. All these variables must learn to live with one another or disaster looms.

Last February the Australian population reached 24 million people. We add one migrant every 2 minutes and 39 seconds. (George Allan, February 15,2016 blog.id.com.au)

With our wide open spaces we may miss the current crisis. The world is facing a population crunch. According to United Nations forecasts the world population will 8.51 billion by 2030. It reached 7.3 billion mid 2015.

The UN report says: “During 2015-2050, half of the world’s population growth is expected to be concentrated in nine countries: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, United Republic of Tanzania, United States of America, Indonesia and Uganda, listed according to the size of their contribution to the total growth.”

Decline

Their forecast warns Europe will decline: “the populations of 48 countries or areas in the world are expected to decrease between 2015 and 2050. Several countries are expected to see their populations decline by more than 15 per cent by 2050, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Serbia, and Ukraine.” India is expected to overtake China in population numbers.

The world is changing. People are moving from place to place in search of a better life and brighter prospects. How do we cope with changing times? The pie man on the corner may soon be replaced by a falafel stand. The Bible prepares us for such a time as this. Jesus Christ was approached by a learned teacher of the law who asked Him, “which of the commandments is the most important?” Jesus answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark chapter 12, verse 31)

The great author and teacher C.S. Lewis wrote, “There are no ordinary people.” He added: “You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.” (C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory)

So it is time to embrace change because it is happening regardless. So how do we cope? Ancient Greek playwright Sophocles explains: “One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.”

 

Revolution: Jesus loves Every Jihadist

Love your enemies! Has there ever been a more difficult edict? Every day we are confronted by bloodshed and violence inflicted by very unloving types. Graphic TV news portrays distressing vision depicting innocent victims mutilated by Islamic State or other brutal jihadists.

How can we love enemies who demonstrate such ruthless character? First we must accept Jesus came as a revolutionary. He came to confront the spiralling disaster of a fallen world.

015-jesus-diesThe Romans actually crucified Jesus as a traitor. He was charged with the crime of sedition. A sign saying ‘King of the Jews’ was nailed on his cross, to indicate his crime. He was seen to be a threat to the ruling Roman power of the day. He was a Jewish revolutionary, as far as they were concerned.

From the cross Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” Love verbalised in the most brutal circumstances.

 Violence

Violence was not uncommon to Jesus or his followers. In fact Matthew, the gospel writer quotes Jesus saying to them: “But I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew chapter 5, verse 44) No hiding conflict and persecution there.

Before we think about modern terrorism and the brutality of jihadist groups let us confirm Jesus knew what he was saying.

He warned the disciples ‘I am sending you out like sheep in the midst of wolves’ and ‘they will flog you in the synagogues.” (Matthew chapter 10, verse 16)

The Apostle John was the only disciple who did not die violently. Peter was martyred in Rome where he was crucified upside down, so that his death would not be seen as the equal of Jesus. James died by the sword. His unnamed accuser was so moved by his courage he embraced the Christian faith and asked to die with the disciple. The Romans obliged and both were beheaded. Jesus also chose to die violently.

The revolution in His teaching is found in three words: “God is love.” He is not about love. He does not have to choose love. He is love. If we know him and have united with him we are bathed in love. It’s amazing.

Molenbeek

UnknownSo how do we deal with jihadists? People are slaughtered week after week and we are deeply moved by so many bloody events.

Molenbeek is a neighbourhood in Brussels and it is described as the incubator for the recent Paris and Brussels terror attacks. It is home to a critical community battling poverty and unemployed youth. Out of this unhealthy environment jihadi foreign fighters emerge and many are active in Syria and Iraq. Belgium has the highest EU ratio of young men who have links with ISIS in Syria.

The hurt and pain is still evident in Molenbeek. There is a gathering of Muslim mothers today who are getting support from a group called ‘Les Parents Concernes’ (The Affected Parents). They are meeting with mothers who are grieving. These hurting women have watched their kin become radicalized and join ISIS. “Our children are buying one way tickets to their graves,” one mother said.

These mothers are trying to make a difference but they feel isolated and cope in the face of little or no support.

Christian Aid Mission (CAM) is on the frontline. They report Islamic State militants are disguising themselves as refugees at UN refugee camps in Jordan.

“The camps are dangerous because they have ISIS, Iraqi militants and Syrian militias. It’s a place for gangs,’ the spokesman said. Mission workers enter only with police protection.

An ISIS fighter came to faith in Jesus after watching the love of God demonstrated by the Christians.

Action

A man in the Middle East told me he came to faith after being taught to hate all his life. Love your enemies was an explosive shock to him.

The jihadists are made in the image of God. He grieves for them. Remember what Jesus told his disciples? “Pray for those who persecute you.”

While we want them restrained, contained and even detained, above all we pray for their salvation. We pray for outreaches like Christian Aid Mission and all the others courageously impacting the danger zones today.

Many Muslims are very distressed. Every day thousands are leaving Islam. According to a report by faithfreedom.org in Africa alone, 16,000 Muslims leave Islam everyday. This same report quoted an interview with an Islamic cleric Ahmad al Qataari on the internet site Aljazeera.net. He said, ‘in every hour, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity. Every day, 16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity. Every year, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity.” (Islam in Fast Demise by Ali Sina, faithfreedom.org)

God is love. Visit the Christian Aid Mission website – http://www.christianaid.org. Pray for Christians ministering on the frontlines. Above all else, pray.