Dangerous Love

I’m reading Dangerous Love by Ray Norman.
Norman was national director for World Vision in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania where he worked with his wife Helene.

His book looks at the challenges and cost of mission work, where Christian witness requires the casting aside of a lot of “western” preconceptions.

As well-educated and comparatively wealthy foreigners, we easily succumb to the notion that we are somehow higher in the pecking order, that our important objectives and busy schedules should take precedence because “we know best”. And too often our image among the poor is tainted, and our actions reflect a sense of entitlement and thinly veiled arrogance (in spite of our good intentions…

… In much of the world outside of Europe and north America, people are less achievement-oriented and place significantly higher value on relationships. On days after an unexpectedly long exchange with farmers, I might glance at my watch and mumble something to the effect that there was still much I had not accomplished that day. I would often hear words such as, ‘Yes, but those things can always get done tomorrow. At least today we have done the important thing and gotten to know each other better.’

During his tenure in Mauretania, an act of extreme violence against Norman and his daughter Hannah challenged the family’s resolve to continue the work they felt called to do. They were also made aware of inadequacies in the way fellow believers reacted to them in the aftermath of that violent incident.

It seemed that even our own pastor in France, a man who, along with his spouse, had been a source of support and encouragement to us over the years, seemed to strufggle with how to respond to us. He had been informed of what had happened, and once we arrived in Calais we expected to hear from him or his wife but never did. I eventually called him on our third or fourth day there. He told me that he’d heard our news, and he listened quietly as I chatted. But it seemed our situation was beyond him…

Eventually, the healing process began when the family chose to return to their work in Mauretania, and the greatest help came from those intended to be the recipients of the Norman’s ministry work. A clear example of this came from the women of Arafat, a nearby poverty stricken township, who invited Helene Norman to their community.

We understand because we too are women. And we want you to know that we are here to walk with you, to support and encourage you in this experience in which you have suffered deeply. So please know, Madame Norman, that we have brought you here among us to let you know you are not alone on this journey. We are here with you.

 

Ray Norman reflects on this as his wife tells him the full story:

I stood there in stunned silence , and between her sobs, she began to explain in halting words how the women of Arafat had provided for her, in her deepest time of need, what no friend or gathering among her many Christian acquaintances across three continents (Africa, Europe, or America) had been able, or had the insight to provide. How in the most unlikely of places, she had found common ground with those who suffer, and how God had touched her heart and demonstrated his promise of faithfulness in a remote land through ‘the least of these’ (Matt. 25:40)

 

 

 

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Backyard Birds

After moving into my house more than 12 years ago I’ve been keeping a list of the different birds I’ve seen either in our garden or from our garden. It’s been several months since I’ve been able to add a new one to the list: until Sunday morning.

rainbow lorikeetx2.jpgOn Sunday I was walking around outside and heard an unfamiliar bird chattering away. In a neighbour’s tree I saw a once familiar sight – a pair of rainbow lorikeets.

They were a frequent visitor around my previous home in Sydney. They would sit on the window sill, or on the balcony table, and were “tame” enough to be handfed. However, they’re not supposed to be native to more inland areas like the town where I now live.

According to the two bird field guides I own, their habitat should be closer to the coast. However, changing climate seems to be having its effect on the movement of wild life, and the range of some birds (rainbow lorikeets included) is expanding.

rainbow lorikeet

Both photos were taken from my back garden.

Let no one deceive you by any means

“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first…”

In age of Trump, evangelicals back self-styled top U.S. pimp

PAHRUMP, Nev. (Reuters) – He styles himself as America’s best-known pimp, a strip-club owner who runs multiple brothels and looks set to win a seat as a Republican in the Nevada legislature with the blessing of many conservative Christian voters.

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When news broke that Hof had won the nominating contest for a state Assembly seat on June 12, evangelical pastor Victor Fuentes said he closed his eyes and prayed.

He did not ask God to deliver Nevada and the Republican Party from Hof, the thrice-divorced author of “The Art of the Pimp” who campaigned as the “Trump of Pahrump.” Although Christian groups have long rallied against the state’s legal brothel industry, Fuentes was willing to overlook Hof’s history as a champion of the flesh trade and gave thanks for his victory

 

full article here: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-religion-brothels/in-age-of-trump-evangelicals-back-self-styled-top-u-s-pimp-idUSKBN1JI1A9?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=twitter

(Thanks to Chris for finding the article above)

 

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1: 28-32)

Discipleship, works of the flesh and confusion about kingdoms

My friend Steve visits this blog and occasionally shares a comment or two regarding topics being addressed.
We share a concern about the increasing politicisation of “evangelicals” and how it compromises Christian witness.

Recently he has written about his experience of seeing someone, whose views he had respected, take  a detour down an increasingly extreme political path.

See Steve’s blog post here:

https://cross-purposes.blogspot.com/2018/06/why-delete-link.html

What Steve describes matches my own experience of seeing professing believers stray into partisan-political territory and before long into beliefs that have little relationship to reality and NOTHING in common with the truth of Jesus Christ.

 

Steve writes:

It’s a breaking-point, for me, when people choose to assert a “reality” contrary to the one God created and sustains, in which rational people believe and live.

I’ve lost count of how many friendships I’ve lost through those friends becoming increasingly politicised, and justifying that increasingly political partisanship with questionable use of biblical references. While they may have thought their interpretation of scripture supported the direction political ideology was taking them, they paid no attention to the very ungodly attitudes and behaviour they adopted as a result.

It became increasingly noticeable to me around the time of the election of Obama as president, and the blatant Obama-hatred that dates back to that time continues today. (Steve’s blog post gives an example that he has seen from one “evangelical”).

[His]claim that violent pro-Obama riots are rampant, and created to bring about a “leftist” dictatorship, doesn’t seem to match up with any reality this side of Breitbart or World Net Daily’s headlines.

I think there’s no coincidence in the fact that Obama was the first non-white president; that his name was unusual, even to the extent of having the middle name Hussein (Saddam references anyone?). I recall one of those lost friends insisted on highlighting the HUSSEIN every time he referred to Obama. And of course Obama’s dad was a foreigner, a black man, a one time Muslim. All guaranteed to add fuel to the fire.

I don’t recall any other president being subjected to so much abuse and hatred, especially from those claiming to be followers of Christ. All along I’ve suggested that with Donald Trump, God gave the American evangelical community the president who most closely reflects the attitudes* they’ve displayed in their antagonism to Obama. Effectively the Trump adoration prominent among “evangelicals” is just a natural progression of the problem that began with the hostility towards the previous president, a hostility some still retain (confirmed by the example given in Steve’s article). It’s a problem originating from confusion and ignorance leading to misguided priorities and allegiances; creating a hybrid of patriotism and religion that is mistaken for Christian commitment and a distorted understanding of the Kingdom of God.

 

* Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

Most Dangerous Place to Follow Jesus

North Korea: The Hardest Place To Follow Jesus.
This has been the most dangerous country to be a Christian for 17 years. North Koreans are forced to worship the Kim dynasty, and nothing else. Anyone with links to Christianity is arrested, tortured and even killed. Despite this, the underground church is growing, with an estimated 300,000 Christians in North Korea.

 

https://www.opendoors.org.au/persecuted-christians/world-watch-list/north-korea

Thorny Thoughts Related to Grace

Yesterday I re-blogged a post from the Anti-Itch Meditation blog that expressed some of Jeff Weddle’s concerns about the way grace has been misrepresented in commonly held doctrines. I also have a few things I want to say about that topic.

 

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

People love to quote the PARTS of scripture that seem to support the doctrinal stance they prefer – often ignoring the very next sentences. Therefore, it is common to view the above quote from Ephesians 2 with an emphasis on “not of ourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast”. As a result, a passive understanding of “grace” and salvation is developed, promoting the view that grace not only makes works unnecessary, but they are made to seem counterproductive, even harmful, leading to boasting and claiming credit that isn’t ours, and robbing God of His glory.

However continuing on, the next sentence of that quote doesn’t fit with that passive definition of grace. Salvation doesn’t divorce us from works, or make works redundant, unnecessary or even detrimental to our Christian lives. The second sentence of the quote states clearly that our purpose as followers of Jesus is to do the good works that God has prepared for us, not only to do them, but to WALK IN them.

Grace is not intended to lead to passivity, but grace is intended to prepare and equip us to live effective Christian lives. As an example of that equipping, I want to repost the following. It’s something I posted in a slightly different form on this blog in November 2013. .

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A few thoughts about Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”…

Despite common assumptions, there is no indication that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a health issue – the scriptures describe it as a messenger from Satan sent to buffet Paul.

Paul had the understanding that God COULD remove it and would possibly be willing to remove it and therefore was able to ask for it to be removed.

After seemingly having his request rejected, Paul was open enough to God’s Spirit to seek and hear God’s reason for the non-removal. He didn’t merely assume God wasn’t in the thorn-removal business.

2 Cor 12 spells out the nature of this “thorn in the flesh” and God’s revealed reason for not personally removing it:

“…because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations [given to Paul], a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

The reason for the non-removal of Paul’s thorn was because its presence prevented him from becoming conceited (proud) due to the revelation he’d been given.

God told Paul that His grace was sufficient, but sufficient for what? Sufficient for Paul to endure, or sufficient to equip Paul to personally deal with that messenger from Satan?

An interesting parallel dealing with similar issues of pride, humility and Satanic harassment can be found in James 4:6-7. I find a comparison between the two scripture passages suggests a viable answer to my question above about sufficiency.

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Receiving grace from God does not lead to passive submission to the world around us or to circumstances, or to the devil or his messengers.

Our starting point is submission – submission to GOD – then God gives His grace. The grace that is sufficient, grace that equips with the power of Christ, enabling us to live the life and do the works HE has prepared for us, freeing us from anything that would hinder us.

We are not saved by grace in order to remain weak, ineffective sinners crippled by  “total depravity”. Salvation by grace brings about change – we are created in Christ Jesus, “a new creation, old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Created in Christ Jesus for good works.

 

 

 

Grace and Purifying Yourself (Recommended article from Jeff Weddle)

Please follow the link to the full article at the end of this excerpt.

It is just one of many posts from Jeff that I could have re-blogged recently.

Note that after I re-blogged this, Jeff has made a small amendment to the beginning of his second paragraph. It now starts:

“The Bible never says sin is OK to do.  ‘Should we sin that grace may abound? In no way.’”

anti-itch meditation

People who emphasize grace do so while de-emphasizing human responsibility. For some reason, because of grace, people assume everything is OK to do.

The Bible does not say this. “Should we sin that grace may abound? In no way.” Grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts so we would live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.

Grace changes you. But grace’s change is not automatic. We are told not to take the grace of God in vain–to take grace to no profit, to have it do you no positive good.

That would be dumb.

If grace is as great as everyone keeps saying it is, why is our obedience to God so pathetic?

Because we’re not learning grace the way the Bible teaches it. We think grace means my sin is OK, change isn’t necessary, good works might even be opposed to grace! “If it’s grace…

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