Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Man dressed in glowing white

"Jesus is moving in these Middle East nations. Many there are disillusioned and broken and just want to know the truth. Now more than ever there is a harvest among Muslims that has not been seen in history."

So says Tyler Connell, a young American who travels to faraway countries, like countries in the Middle East, then visits American universities like Harvard, Iowa State, Clemson and the University of Georgia to tell what he has seen.

He tells the story of a young man named Daniel* who works among Syrian refugees in Jordan. One day he visited a family of eight. The father was a devout Muslim. "I'm Daniel and I'm here to tell you about Jesus," he said. The family turned almost white and looked at each other. The father was yelling.

Daniel's interpreter explained that the previous night a Man dressed in glowing white opened the door of their tent and stood in the entrance. "My name is Jesus and I am sending a man tomorrow named Daniel to tell you more about Me," He said. Then He disappeared.

When Daniel arrived at their doorway and told them his name they were undone. The whole family gave their lives to Jesus and are now planting underground churches in Jordan.

The father got a large mobile phone bill and asked his 15-year-old daughter about it. "It's because I'm telling all our relatives in Saudi Arabia about Jesus," she said.

You can see more here.

*Name changed for security reasons.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Muslims 'sick of Islam'

A 21-year-old Iraqi woman who escaped after being tortured and kept as a sex slave by ISIS, speaking in London, appealed for the world to "come on board" in fighting the terrorist group. ISIS were  criminals, she said, and needed to be tackled by the world community.

Nadia Murad said her mother saw ISIS fighters kill six of Nadia's brothers, then they took her mother and killed her. "I was already orphaned because I didn't have a father. All I had was my mother."

Nadia was taken as a sex slave along with 5,000 other Yazidi girls and women. "When they took me to Mosul and raped me, I forgot my mother and brothers, because what they were doing to the women was more difficult than death.

"Until now girls as young as nine are being rented and sold out. A year and a half has passed and the genocide against the Yazidis is continuous. We die every day because we see the world silent in face of our plight."

A hundred women who escaped ISIS when their mountain stronghold was attacked in 2014 are now fighting alongside Kurdish Peshmerga forces. Another 500 are waiting to be trained. "We will do whatever is asked of us," they said.

Christian Aid Mission reports that more and more Muslims in Iraq are hungry to know about Christ after witnessing the brutality of groups like ISIS. "They're just sick of Islam," said one ministry leader.

Friday, February 19, 2016

How Ingrid Bergman found Christ

Gladys Aylward was a housemaid in London. For years she had dreamt of being a missionary in China. When the China Inland Mission turned her down, she decided to go alone.

She saved for months for the fare, then travelled overland - the cheapest way to go - carrying a suitcase of baked beans, hard-boiled eggs and cream crackers to feed her on the journey.

In China, she learned to speak fluent Chinese and had some amazing adventures, not least when she led more than 100 orphan children through Japanese-occupied territory to freedom.

It was decided to make a film of her life called The Inn of the Sixth Happiness; Ingrid Bergman was chosen to play "the small woman" (Gladys Aylward was just 4ft 10in tall). Gladys was critical, having heard that Bergman had had children out of wedlock with film director Roberto Rossellini.

Bergman was so moved by the story of Gladys Aylward that she felt she must meet her. She travelled to Taiwan, where Gladys was living. Unfortunately, by the time she arrived, Gladys had died.

Kathleen Langton-Smith, who had gone out to Taiwan to help Gladys, showed her the room where Gladys had lived and the bed in which she had slept. Bergman was so overcome she fell to her knees in tears. Kathleen used the occasion to lead her to Christ.

You can read more details of the story here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Taking human life without restriction

I suppose it had to come - but it speaks volumes about the hard-as-flint state of our hearts regarding the disposal of unwanted human life.

A new organisation has made its appearance, called We Trust Women. It points out that abortion is still a crime (subsequent legislation did not alter the fact; it simply said that there would be no prosecutions if abortions were carried out according to certain circumstances).

We Trust Women says this harms women, restricts women's fundamental rights - though there has never been a right to abortion - and suggests a woman's body is her own, without making mention of the body of the unborn child. It wants all legislation sweeping away, so that nurses and midwives would be able to perform abortions, women would be able to have abortions - including sex-selection abortions - at any time without reference to doctors, and women would be able to take the abortion pill at home.

The new organisation appears to be largely the work of BPAS, Britain's largest abortion provider. (Ann Furedi, BPAS's chief executive officer, has always been honest about wanting abortion to be legal at any time for any reason.) BPAS is supported by a number of pro-abortion groups - and the Royal College of Midwives.

You might have thought that midwives. being actively involved in bringing new life into the world, might not have been in favour of such an extreme position, but the college has lent its support reportedly without having consulted its members. You can express your concern and request they consult their membership here or here.

The respected group 40 Days for Life, described as the largest internationally co-ordinated pro-life movement in history, uses three methods: prayer and fasting, community outreach and peaceful vigils. It has had remarkable successes in 32 nations.

A number of women from the group Abortion Rights accuses 40 Days for Life of coercion, harassment and intimidation. The women, "representing various denominations of Christianity" - the denominations are not specified - have founded a new organisation, Christians for Choice.

One of the founders, Edem Barbara Ntumy, writes: "I believe being pro-choice and being a Christian are not diametrically opposed." She does not explain how she reconciles the deliberate taking of innocent human life with the teachings of Christ.

Friday, February 12, 2016

When we make a mistake

We all make mistakes.

I have made mistakes in the Christian life, which I have later bitterly regretted. When that happens, we have a tendency to despair. We think "I've made a mess of it. What's the use of trying now?"

Consider the story beginning at Matt 26:36. They were in Gethsemane, shortly before Jesus was crucified. He asked His disciples to pray with Him. They fell asleep. Twice.

He said "The hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going." The damage was done, and could not be undone. But Jesus did not condemn. It was as though He was saying "Come on. Let's go on to what's next." 

I remember once when I was bemoaning my failings. It was as though God spoke to me. He said *You're my son." Just three words. But those three words kept me going for days.

If we make a mistake, it isn't the end. There are still lessons to be learned; still more victories to be won. Pick yourself up and keep on going. Have we entered into a personal relationship with Christ? We are still citizens of the kingdom. Still sons of a loving Heavenly Father.

The BBC and assisted suicide

The BBC, described as a cheerleader for assisted suicide, has again been accused of bias after the broadcast documentary this week of a man taking his own life at a Swiss clinic.

Simon Binner, a British businessman, had motor neurone disease. His wife Debbie was opposed to his taking his own life. "Watching him plan his own death, while I still wanted more time, was overwhelmingly traumatic," she said. "He had rights, but how much of his life was mine?"

The BBC was said to have made last-minute changes to the documentary, How to Die: Simon's Choice, after early copies were released to journalists. Footage of Mr Binner's corpse and scenes involving the drug used were edited after an executive from the Samaritans raised concerns that the BBC might fall foul of guidelines that prevent broadcasters from giving detailed guidance about suicide methods.

Leading blogger Archbishop Cranmer said of the programme: "This wasn't human action morally scrutinised, but political policy advanced emotively. How to Die wasn't so much concerned with how to die as why on earth not? . . .

"When will the BBC sensitively follow a pregnant woman through her BPAS or Marie Stopes counselling? When will they explore the views of her distraught partner as he weeps and longs for a chance to become a father? When will they broadcast the contentious performance and harrowing process of carrying out an abortion, and justify it all to the Guardian on the grounds of it being 'ambitious,' 1compelling,' 'groundbreaking' TV journalism of 'one of the toughest decisions there is to make'? 

"Or is it that changing the law on abortion is simply not on the BBC's political agenda?"

A petition has been organised protesting the BBC's bias and requesting them, in the interests of journalistic responsibility, to air a documentary about someone who is terminally ill and deeply opposes assisted suicide.

You can sign it here 

Monday, February 08, 2016

Lessons learned in prison

Daniel Waheli, with his wife and children, was serving as a missionary in a predominantly Muslim country in Africa. One night, six men came. Four of them had guns. They took him and put him in a small cell with a thin mattress.

He had been questioned by authorities before. He would tell them that he loved their country and he had started a successful business there. Then he noticed the writing on the wall of the cell: "Oh God, it has been more than five months. Please, help me to get out of here." He realised this might take longer than he had thought.

Work had kept him busy. Here, he had time to listen to God's voice. He prayed for hours at a time. God began to speak to his heart. He could barely keep up with all the things God told him. After they gave him his Bible back, he pulled strings from the mattress to serve as bookmarks. He looked at the places he had marked each day to remember the things God had told him. Eventually, he had more than 120 bookmarks.

He was released after almost three months. The presence and the voice of Jesus were clearer to him than ever they had been before. 

Waheli says God taught him five principles about suffering that every follower of Jesus should remember:

1.  Be ready for persecution. Suffering is promised for every person who seeks to live a holy life before God, regardless of calling (2 Tim 3:12).

2.  Rejoice in your sufferings. Suffering can help us develop character which can lead to a hope that does not disappoint (Rom 5;3 - 5).

3.  You are blessed by God in your suffering (1 Pet 4:14; Matt 5:11).

4.  Seek to "bless those who persecute you" (Rom 12:14). The power of love and forgiveness in action helps suffering Christians to bless their persecutors. Pray that God gives you eyes to see your persecutors as people who know not what they are doing and who deeply need Jesus.

5.  Suffering will help you comfort others. God often allows something to happen to you so that you can learn and "be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" (2 Cor 1:4).

God intends to build our character to help us better serve Him in love and perseverance. Waheli says his suffering induced indescribable peace, joy and hope in God and in His promises that with and through Him, we will lack nothing.

May we endure hardship with joy and perseverance.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Law chief intervenes in 'gay cake' case

An appeal in the Ashers "gay cake" case in Northern Ireland was halted at the last minute this week after an intervention by Northern Ireland's Attorney General.

The McArthur family, who run Ashers Baking Company, was asked to bake a cake bearing the slogan "Support gay marriage." The McArthurs, who are committed Christians, declined. They were taken to court by the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland (with £40,000 of public funds).

Judge Isobel Brownlie decided the McArthurs had unlawfully discriminated against homosexual activist Gareth Lee on grounds of sexual discrimination and they were ordered to pay £500 compensation.

They arrived at court this week expecting their appeal to be heard before Northern Ireland's Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, but the appeal was postponed after an intervention from John Larkin QC,  Attorney General of Northern Ireland, apparently on the grounds of a potential conflict between Northern Ireland equality legislation and European human rights laws.

The Court of Appeal will meet in March to hear legal arguments on the compatibility of Northern Ireland law with European law, and the appeal will now not be heard until May.

Homosexual campaigner Peter Tatchell, who originally supported the claim against Ashers, announced this week that he had changed his mind. He said the claim against the bakers was well intended, but was "a step too far." The request to bake the cake was refused not because Mr Lee was homosexual, but because of the message that was asked for on the cake.

"Should Muslim printers be obliged to publish cartoons of Mohammed? Or Jewish ones publish the words of a Holocaust denier? Or gay bakers accept orders for cakes with homophobic slurs?" There was a difference, he suggested, between discrimination against people and discrimination against ideas.

He's right. There's a big difference between having the legal right to do what you want and forcing everybody to like it.

Monday, February 01, 2016

'Oldest hatred' js increasing

Antisemitism in Europe has reached an unprecedented level. 

Last year antisemitic incidents in London rose by more than 60 per cent. Jewish emigration from Europe had a record year, with 7,000 French people arriving in Israel. In Germany, according to an EU agency, 64 per cent of Jews avoid the public display of symbols which would identify them as Jewish.

In American universities, three quarters of Jewish students had witnessed antisemitism on campus, with a worsening of incitement and hatred.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said antisemitism was not merely growing among immigrant communities, but gaining traction across Europe. "Even respected Western opinion leaders have become affected with hatred for the Jewish people and the Jewish state," he said.

"Islamic extremists incorporate the most outrageous antisemitism into their murderous doctrines. We see this in Gaza; we see it in Raqqa; we see it in Teheran.

"The Palestinian terrorists don't want to build a state; they want to destroy a state, and they say that proudly. They want to murder Jews everywhere and they state that proudly. They don't murder for peace, and they don't murder for human rights.

"While across the region, Islamist militants brutalise entire populations, enslave and rape women,  murder Christians and gays, the UN Human Rights Council repeatedly condemns Israel. More than North Korea. More than Iran. More than Syria. More than all of them put together. Some things just don't change.

"When a state like Iran and movements like ISIS and Hamas openly declare their goal of committing another Holocaust, we will not let it happen. But Europe and the rest of the world must stand up together with us. Not for our sake; but for theirs."

●  What is the reason for the world's "oldest hatred"? People won't understand antisemitism until they recognise it is spiritual in origin. The enemy provoked Pharaoh to kill the Israelites in Egypt and Haman to kill the Jews in the Persian empire in an effort to prevent God's promises being fulfilled in the birth of Christ. He failed. He had Herod kill all the young children in Bethlehem in an effort to destroy the Saviour. He failed. He is now trying to prevent Christ's second coming, for it signals his doom. He will fail there too.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psa 122:6).