Observation of a Disturbing Trend

I remember how at one time most unbelievers I met might have had negative views of the church, but they’d generally profess respect for Jesus.

Not any more.

I’m seeing more and more examples of Jesus being mocked or despised.

 

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Fleeing ISIS, Finding Jesus (2)

fleeing finding.jpgIn my previous post about this book I mentioned my initial disappointment when it didn’t seem to fulfill my expectations regarding testimonies of Muslims coming to faith in Jesus.

Then I recognised that “finding Jesus” wasn’t only applicable to new converts fleeing their old religious affiliation, but it also applied to professing followers of Jesus who would find a deeper relationship with Him when they faced unimaginable adversity.

My initial expectation was eventually fulfilled, but the hoped for evidence of Muslims finding the truth of Christ was often closely related to existing believers finding that deeper faith, as the security of their past was stripped away.

“For me as a believer, life is even better now than it was before ISIS. There are new opportunities and open doors to speak out loud about Jesus, to talk about Islam. A lot of Muslims are questioning who is God, and you only need to look on the Internet to see so many Muslims saying ‘if that’s God, I don’t want Him anymore.'”

Through the upheaval caused by the brutaility of ISIS and the resulting flight of those in their path, previously insular groups were brought together with a common plight.

…one of the themes that has come out of this displacement is the fact that Christian, Muslim, and Yazidi communities are no longer living in enclaves, isolated from the villages around them.

The brutality of ISIS forced everone to leave their homes and engage with people they had previously avoided…

How easy it is to sit here in the “west” and choose to read a book about Muslims coming to faith in Jesus in the Middle East, being turned against the religion of their birth by the evils they see in ISIS and other extremist groups who claim to embody Islam; as well as the stories of Muslims being pointed towards the truth of Jesus through dreams and visions.
Testimonies like that are encouraging, a joy to read and hear.

What isn’t so easy is taking the time to consider the other part of the story – the part about perecuted Christians, about followers of Jesus losing everything they had, being driven from their homes by the very same ISIS.

And yet those Christians, stripped of material security, play an important part in the aspect of the story we find so encouraging. If we REALLY consider the changes experienced by those believers, and if we considered their experience in light of scripture, and what Jesus said about those who follow Him; we ought to see how closely they fit the biblical descriptions, and how we in the west don’t.

If we could take a step back and dispationately compare the two vastly different Christian experiences which would we see as the most authentically and effectively lived, Christian witness?

“I look at the west and wonder if Satan uses our affluence to limit the growth of the church. I wonder whether his tactic for keeping God out is by providing comfort, by giving so many riches and so much wealth that people feel like they don’t need God.”

“When real persecution happens, you’re not afforded that. You have to call on God multiple times a day. Can you imagine what it does to your faith when you don’t know where the next meal is coming from or if you’re an Iraqi that’s lost a million dollars and two homes and a couple of cars and are sitting in a tent freezing in winter? Maybe that’ll be the first time in your life that you find yourself really calling out to God.”

Most of us here in the west won’t face the loss and tragedy being experienced elswehere, where  evil forces like ISIS, or their inevitable successors, express hatred through killing, stealing and destroying on a massive scale.

But we ought to meditate on the question of our own response if we did have to experience what so many have already faced elsewhere in the world. Would we be able (or willing) to trust God if those things we’d considered to be His blessings were torn away from us?

One thing that makes me think we in the prosperous West might find it difficult to summon up that willingness is the evidence of how even Western “believers” have responded to the plight of those who have been through the experience of losing home, possessions and family through the violence of others elsewhere in the world.

As they flee from the violence, seeking sanctuary in the west, they have ben rejected, shut out, pushed away in fear. Our fear. Fear of the disruption and cost that so many needy refugees would create to our comforatble, established lives.

Towards the end of the book the authors quote an interview related to their topic.

“I think there’s a lot of Christians who, rather than go and fulfill the Great Commission, they said, ‘I think I’ll stay home and pray for the Great Commission.’ And God said, ‘I want you to be part of it, so I’m going to bring the Great Commission to you'”

David Garrison

What has been the reaction of many when God brings the Great Commission to us?

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Fleeing ISIS, Finding Jesus

fleeing finding.jpgThis book wasn’t exactly what I expected.
I thought it would be about Muslims who fled from ISIS controlled areas, and in the process of fleeing to safety, found faith in Jesus.

That in escaping extremist Islam, their experiences not only made them question their own Islamic faith, but through that experience they came to know the love of God through Christ.

At first I thought the title was misleading because it didn’t fulfil that expectation. However, about halfway through I recognised the title had a different kind of application. That recognition came when reading the story of a man, an Iraqi Christian from a Christian community. He tells of experiencing a change:

“…it was as if someone took away all my sadness and gave me another light shining on me. I started a new relationship with Jesus, and I felt like a new man, a new person. I found my hope in Christ. I began to see that in some ways I lost everything when ISIS came to Qaraqosh, but really I found Jesus.”

A related, significant reality I found expressed in this book, is the gaping disconnect between the lives Christians live in the west, and those lived by believers elsewhere.

The man mentioned above didn’t have anything like the prosperity that the west takes for granted, but when he lost what he had, he found something much more valuable; something he thought he already had – and then with the loss of everything else he recognised a sufficiency and wealth only available through closeness to Christ that he’d not experienced before.

There is a vital lesson to be learned by Christians in the west. A lesson that will challenge the seeming obsession with maintaining and protecting a perceived quality of life that is often attributed to God’s blessing. The price of protecting those “blessings” is often a denial of help to people in need, a failure to share those “blessings”.

The author writes of the generosity of the nation of Jordan, who welcomed so many refugees from neighbouring Syria and Iraq, that refugees now made up one in four of the population.

“If that were the United States, it would be like half of Mexico and all of Canada moving in”

Is it necessary to say anything else to address the difference in attitude displayed by western nations with an alleged strong Christian foundation?

The author continues, describing the hardships that have been created,

“…the influx of people looking for cheap accommodations had caused both rents and the prices of staple goods to rise sharply, making life even harder for Jordan’s population. And yet still they open their doors and invite refugees in.”

On questioning a local about the inconvenience of this, he received the reply “What else can we do? Wouldn’t you do the same?”

Sadly most in the west clearly wouldn’t. And neither would many western “Christians”.

I wonder what it will take for THEM to find Jesus.

 

“Veritaphilia”

In my previous post I said that truth and reality relate to what actually IS.

While thinking about that I recall God’s revelation of Himself to Moses, where God identified Himself as “I Am That I Am“.

A  name reflecting the present tense of the verb “to be”.
A name proclaiming existence, actuality, the truth, what IS.

I coined the term “veritaphobia” -and defined it as “the fear and rejection of truth”.
In this post I refer to “veritaphilia” and define it as loving the truth.  Paul made it clear that a love of truth is a vital requirement of knowing God.

In his second letter to the Thessalonian church he writes of the importance of truth, and in particular our attitude to it. He told them that people will perish if they refuse to love the truth, disqualifying themselves from salvation.

Why is love of truth so important?

Jesus identified Himself with the Truth, saying:

 ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus the Truth, is the only way to gain access God, His Father, the Father of truth.

Rejection of truth is a rejection of God, denying ourselves any chance of knowing Him, ensuring we “will believe the lie“.

Those who reject the Truth, are described in this statement from Jesus:

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

The only truth is God’s Truth.

We can not create our own – our attempts to do so will inevitably follow the pattern established by the father of lies, the original rebel against God, and those taking that path are destined to share his fate.

Know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

truth

“Veritaphobia”

Last week I saw a news story about a 69 year old man in the Netherlands who had taken a case to court to have his age legally recognised as being 49, claiming he identified more with the younger age. (Also having to list himself as 69 was a hindrance on Tinder).

I saw this story as yet another example of the madness going on in the world today – where “truth” is being redefined to suit the feelings of individuals; where objective reality is pushed aside and replaced by what we choose to “identify” as truth.

The story was a logical progression from the current gender fad – where birth gender no longer determines whether someone is male or female. The increasingly accepted philosophy demands that people be accepted as the gender with which they identify (at a particular time).

I have since seen another reference to the 69 year old’s story.
Now he is being accused of “transphobic” intentions, that he’s making a mockery of those who choose to identify with a gender contrary to the biological reality of their bodies.

Now, of course I can’t say what his motive may be – but I have to ask, why should a case like his (related to age) be judged any differently to a case of someone who wants to change the identity of their own gender?

How can his accuser label him as  “transphobic” without that accuser being guilty of being something I’ll call geriatriphobic?

If gender can be adopted according to preference rather than biological evidence, why can’t age be adopted in the same way?

Or race?

Remember white born Rachel Dolezal who identified as black and lived as a black woman but was later demonised when her actual biological identity was exposed? Why was her right to identify as she saw fit rejected, in contrast to the rights of those who choose which gender they prefer to be?

I see the three examples given above are highlighting a crucial issue – the world’s changing attitude to truth, reality, and what actually IS.

They see truth as something malleable, to be shaped by personal choice. They make the individual the arbiter of what is “true” or “real”. Everyone is free to determine their own truth…

But not always – as shown in the “transphobia” accusation against the 69 year old, and the hostility against Rachel Dolezal. It seems a person’s entitlement to define their own identity reality isn’t being recognised across the board. But why? If we are free to create our own truth, what gives anyone the right to stop that freedom from being extended to everyone else, according to their own particular identity desires?

I suggest that REAL issue behind all of this is not “transphobia” or my new word “geriatriphobia”, it is  Veritaphobia.
The fear and rejection of truth.

People don’t like a truth that defines their identity and behaviour if that truth isn’t flexible enough to bow to their own desires.  They don’t like the idea of an objective, fixed truth based on facts – or a reality separate from personal desire or choice.

In Hebrew and Greek (the biblical languages), the same words are apparently used to describe both truth and reality.

What is true is real.

Truth is  ACTUALITY – what IS and not what someone might want or prefer.

There is a very significant reason why attempts would be made to redefine truth/reality to suit personal desire. If truth can be changed to suit the individual, then there is no longer any accountability to anything, anyone, or any truth, outside of that indvidual. We can make our own rules and give ourselves legitimacy for any path we choose to make for ourselves.

Faithfulness and Disowning

If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
if we are faithless,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot disown himself

(2 Tim 2)

The proponents of “Once Saved Always Saved” like to use part of the above section of scripture to support their view.
They overlook the bit about disowning and highlight the part about God’s faithfulness.

They must read this as if it means faithlessness on our part towards Him doesn’t matter because He will remain faithful towards us regardless.

But that interpretation is undermined by the preceding statements about disowning, and the reality that the latter part of the quote is about God’s faithfulness to HIMSELF (clue is in “he cannot disown himself”).

So no matter how much He desires to see everyone saved, He cannot grant salvation if doing so compromises the righteous aspect His character.

People always prefer to recognise God as love – but aren’t as keen to balance that with His righteousness.
The tension between those two parts of His character is the reason why God’s love for the world was expressed in the giving of His Son and NOT in the giving of salvation without the sacrifice of His Son.

God’s righteousness made it necessary for His love to be costly to HIM.