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Archive for the tag “Middle East”

They will be safe

they will be safe

The imagery of safety is a strong one for me – one of the characteristics of God is that He is omnipotent.  I think that there is a wall of fire protecting me and my family when I allow Him to be my glory.

What I still can’t quite grasp is that this is not as important to most Christians as one might think.  In fact, I know that if we were living in an opulent lifestyle and God called us out to go to a place a little bit more rustic and a little bit more in the open plain, we would reject the call.  Maybe I should go one step further.  I am willing to suggest that even if God warned us that the opulent lifestyle was going to end and that destruction was coming to the region or our immediate world, we would still not want to go.

How do I know this.  Just take a look at Lot’s family – I mean the angel pretty much had to drag that family out of Sodom.  Look at the children of Israel after 70 years in Babylon.  They did not want to go back to Israel even when God warned them the Persians were coming to destroy Babylon.  Would you believe that 90% of the people of Israel decided to stay and perished in captivity.

Just the fact that I would know that I am no longer under the protection of the Almighty would make me want to go wherever He is calling me.  He will always be my safe haven, my shelter, and my refuge.  From that perspective I can lead with confidence.

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Bethlehem

exterior_basilica_natividad

Just thinking how little and low Bethlehem is at yet she has produced the mightest of kings.  We are obsessed with our wealth and postion and yet this tiny town, poor as it was, would be the birthplace of the only King who could save His people.  Our deliver, the Messiah, would be born, as a baby, in Bethlehem and at the time of His death would reign as the eternal King.

 Here is a click from someone who went to visit Bethlehem

 

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Has truth and righteousness perished, evil triumphs and prospered?

gold-sun-shineThis is a thought and an attitude that will prevail during the last days, before Christ‘s return.  What surprises me and maybe it shouldn’t, is how over the years of war, famine, pestilence and pain, the people complain how much evil seems to rule, to have a hand over good, maybe to the point that the Devil is the real ruler of this world and that God is just a spectator unable to do anything.

Yet, in truth they are right.

They have rejected God and they have desired to go their own way and do their own thing and reap what they have sown – and I am sure God weeps over this, gets angry about it, is moved by the martyrs and the blood that is shed by them as they try to live for Him in this world of so much pain.  For even they try to bring peace and hope with the message of salvation and they and their message are consistently rejected.

It seems that people really never have changed.

As I reflect on the OT people, they are no different from today.  As I reflect on the empires of the NT, they are the same and when I contemplate our world today, especially Middle East and Africa and Asia, the pain of the people put on them by the evil of a few, is hardly containable and healable.

So I conclude, as maybe the people of God in times past, that God has a plan, a timetable.  A time for peace, a time for war, a time when people turn to Him and a time when they turn away, a time for evil people to rise and for them to fall, a time for righteousness and truth and a time for evil to reign and have the upper hand…

May I, no matter what time I find myself in, be found searching for Him, desiring to follow Him, willing to die for Him, in sickness or in health, whether in poverty or blessing.

 

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Are you a troublemaker?

I met a new friend the other day.  He is a street preacher who has located himself at what us Torontonians have dubbed, Dundas Square, our replica of Times Square.

The reason we met is that he and I share a mutual friend.  We connected on Facebook, I watched a few of his video clips as they shared some of his experiences on the street, sharing the gospel.

He is a true peacemaker, trying to bring the Word of God out on the street with a voice that is battling the other voices that exist in order to point in the direction of Jesus.  He is, by the very nature of being on the street, an apologetic and able with some persuasive speech, win a few engagements as they come along.  By and large, there are always a few people who stay and listen to what he has to say.

When I say peacemaker, I mean that in its truest form.  He loves as he preaches.  He is not crazy, does not yell and shout, does not damn anyone, sticks to only one message – Christ came for only one reason – to save us.

Well, this past weekend was our Pride parade and he thought he should be there, at his corner, with another voice, proclaiming the Word of God.  Can’t say it was pretty, and I am sure he was all alone because most Christians made a point of not being anywhere near the parade.

Police came, asked him to leave.  There were arguments about tolerance for one but not for the other; freedom of speech for one and not for the other etc.

What would be the charges on Christians who were brave enough to stand and proclaim the Gospel in our cities today?

I think they would reference us to something like a plague, someone who corrupts the morals of others.  Maybe turbulent, or an encourager of tumult and disorder – our message does not fit in.   Not just a person who acts like a  pestilent, but that we were the very pestilence itself.

There is not doubt that they would be seen as a ringleader – speaking on behalf of all Christians –  so active, and so prominent in preaching the gospel.

Many of us Christians would try to distant ourselves from them and call them a sect, even heretical.

If they didn’t already belong to a denomination, we would make up one for them and I am sure it would be given by way of contempt.

Sometimes I think that when we are only about peacekeeping, we must be pretty soft in our message.  The gospel message is a tough message and one does not win friends and influence people when one speaks into the  lives of people the truth of this message.  I work with SAT-7 who broadcasts into the Middle East and North Africa, and we are always afraid of those who will take offense of the message because there is history in this region of such action.  In Toronto, the worse thing so far is an escort off your street corner at a time when it probably would have saved your life.

Somehow I am coming to a place where I need to participate in making some noise, disturb a little bit with the truth of the Gospel, make some waves in the traditional walk of life, calling people to a place where their lives will be radically changed with an encounter with Jesus’ love.  I can only pray that my Church and those that I meet would not see me as a troublemaker – but who am I kidding.

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Set your affairs in order

I think that most of us would agree that this is something one would do when it has been confirmed that death is imminent and that without the miraculous interposition of God, we will need to have our Wills completed and final instructions given.

However, if Augustine is correct – “Take care of your body as if you were going to live forever; and take care of your soul as if you were going to die tomorrow” – than it means that each and every day there needs to be a plan in place to ensure that matters are taken care of for any possibility of death.

Part of living is the planning for the day we will die and to avoid such thinking takes us away from our mandate of stewardship of the things that God has provided for us and from our mandate to die for the things that matter to Christ.

Without that, we live with no purpose and have no plan for our life.

That is why I think Christ’s ministry was so powerful – in three and a half years He accomplished an entire new call to what it means to be a follower of God – changed the entire landscape of what it means to have a relationship with God.  I believe He lived with the thought that there was no time to lose – He gave it His all.

Even on the cross He realized He had left no one to look after the spiritual needs of His mother and made sure John knew he was responsible.

It is a sign of love and respect to those you are leaving behind as much as it is a personal sense of stewardship.  It determines that your family and friends matter and your final testimony of your faith is the opportunity for a final word of encouragement and instructions that will make the process of moving your affairs forward as easy as possible when so many are in a period of grief and a sense of loss.

For Canadians, I wrote a Will Planning Guide that you might find useful.  I put it on my SAT-7 Canada ministry’s blog as part of my page.  It might help with how to go about the process of setting your affairs in order.  It is quite in-depth and was written so that you could get the full scope of possibilities. For my international friends, I think there are still quite a few principles that you can glean from this, especially some elements of stewardship.

The empowering element of living with this philosophy is that it sets you free to be who God wants you to be and do the things He wants you to do without worrying about the things of this world.  Enjoy your freedom as you lay your affairs before God and lead the world He has called you to lead knowing that it has all be taken care of. 

 http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xifzsg_getting-your-affairs-in-order_news

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Convocation

Whenever I am in the midst of a large gathering, or responsible to ensure that a large gathering is present for an important meeting, I try to think through the process that makes it as formal as possible.  Formality allows the participant to enter into the importance of the meeting without saying a word.

My wife and I were recently invited to North America’s first year anniversary of the Christian Youth Channel – a satellite television program based in Canada among the Coptic and completely youth based initiative.

The tickets said black tie was optional so you knew something was up.  As we entered into the church parking lot, we figured that the event was in the church hall – but what a hall it was – beautifully designed, simple lines – you knew you were going to enjoy the evening.

First impressions matter.

We allowed a few miscues to go by as a result, but the important message that was to be delivered by the founder of this youth channel did not do his job.

I compare his presentation to my own CEO of SAT-7 when he visited the US and Canadian offices.  We had no fancy attire, probably messed up the first impression, but of the people who came, 80% filled out a response device and all of them praise the clarity and incredible ministry of SAT-7 in the Middle East and North Africa.  Can you imagine 80% of your audience giving a financial gift, encouragement, and willingly desiring to participate make the ministry of SAT-7 successful.

What was the difference?

Convocation – the reason for the large assembly is not to impress only, but with the impression, to share an incredible,  powerful message that will change our worldview and shed light not only on the world at large, but how we fit into that world.

Prayer is mandatory.

Scripture is mandatory.

Worship is mandatory.

May the same principles be found in our own personal lives too.

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The donkey speaks!

As a bit of a side note, going back to the story of Balaam and his donkey speaking – I find it incredible that the donkey spoke, Balaam understood and started to have a conversation with the donkey…no stuttering, fear, unbelief…a few moments to recover…nothing.  Just find that part interesting.

But lately I have been using this phrase – in fact, coming to think of it, I use it whenever I am engaging with a body of believers.  I have used it to describe myself and I have used it to describe others.

Basically, somewhere in the conversation, someone will put down someone or some ministry.  I will use it to describe another ministry in the Middle East that “just doesn’t get it” and others will use it to describe a church body, or a set of beliefs or a person that has some strange method of sharing their faith.

As soon as I hear the words out of my mouth, or out of the mouths of those I am in conversation with I immediately close the conversation (of gossip) with this statement – and if God can use a donkey, He can use anyone, even me.”

It works.  Try it! Gossip stops, we realize that God uses everyone, in any situation to proclaim His glory – He will be glorified!

Who are we to say that this one will bring glory and this one will not?  God’s name will be glorified and He will choose the who and the when – we can only beg and pray that God would find us fit enough, ready enough and able enough to be that “donkey” for Him to use one special moment in life and that those who do not know Jesus will know Him, will have seen Him, through our lives and our words.

 

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“If you will hand these people over to us…”

My ministry is to the people of the Middle East and North Africa and basically that means I determine to reach those who speak Arabic, Farsi or Turkish languages.

I have been doing this now for almost a year and a half.

It dawned on me this morning, that in my call to serve these people with the gospel of Jesus Christ, that I might have been going about this the wrong way.  Running forward with my call, I think I have failed to ask God to give me these people, that is, open the doors so that the gospel penetrates their hearts and souls – that His Word does not come back void.

A friend and I have been talking.  We want to somehow find a way to have 1 million people world-wide praying for these people, around the clock.  We also know that 6o million Christians have left this region in the last 15 years – we want to find them, then ask them to commit the street they used to live on to the Lord in prayer.  Just because they are living somewhere that is now safe (and they should be praying for the street they live on today), they cannot forget the people they have left behind.

It is like laying a claim on a people’s group that God loves very much and making a commitment, that with the Lord’s help, I will engage and He will give them to me as I minister the Word of God to them.

You have such groups in your life too.

I know some of you live in different countries, some of you are artists, some of you have family, some of you God has revealed secrets of living too, some of you care about justice, some of you love the homeless, and the list goes on.

Lets ask God to give us the people we are trying to reach with the Gospel.  Let us ask Him to give them to us so that He may be glorified.  I am beside myself as to what I should ask for right away – do I ask for a country (I love Morocco), do I focus on a current affair (Syria or Iran), do I focus on the most impossible (Dari speaking group in Afghanistan) – I will have to wait on the Lord for His direction of attention.  Then I will ask Him for those people to be given to me.

May the Lord guide you too and give you the desires of your heart…

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Seven

This is the ministry that I work for in Canada.

Much more recognizable in the USA and of course on the air in the Middle East and North Africa, 24/7, in Arabic, Arabic KIDS, a combination of those two and a combination of 20 hours of Farsi and 4 hours of Turkish.

The number one question, or at least in the top three, has to do with the number seven in our logo.

Seven is that number in the Bible that has reference to wholeness, or completeness, or a heavenly promise.

What I did not know until today, is that in reference to the above, it is about time as well (my favourite chapter in the entire Bible is Ecclesiastes 3 – a dissertation on time).

Did you know that most diseases change or alter on the seventh day?

Talk about sensing anger and holding your breath and counting to 10 – forget it – how about praying, meditating and seeking God out for seven days.  Then check out how holy or unholy your anger was.

Here is my new leadership strategy – to be absolutely sure, I will practice and teach this – I will not be hasty in my judgements, but will diligently search and examine everything before hand – at least, minimum, for a period of seven days.

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fire

I am an OT kind of guy – I am always tempted to rebuke someone and ask God to blind them, wither their right arm, give them leprosy and consume them with fire….

Don’t worry, it lasts for about a second in real life and I proclaim His grace and love for that individual and God is glorified in my life. Can’t say it lasts a second in my dream world, but that is not reality so lets say that does not count.

I guess I miss the incredible display of God’s mighty power.  God and fire were an awesome combination in the day.  People fell to the ground in awe.

Some people today wonder if God really exists, because they don’t see His activity in the world.  I know He is.

Someone asked me the other day why we Canadians do not have dreams and visions of God like the people in the Middle East and North Africa.  I think that God tends not to display His power in the form of mighty physical acts and instead, He works to change people’s lives through the work of other followers of Jesus (in the Middle East and North Africa, that body of believers does not exist).  When we realize this, we will begin to see acts of love and faith in our life that are just as spectacular as anything recorded in the OT.

Fire today is one of the elements that describes the work of the Holy Spirit.  The purification of my heart manifests God’s presence in my life.  He enables me to fulfill the mandate and the commission on earth, and to love and serve the Church.  I have come to expect to have the presence of God here in my life so that I might resemble the character of God.  I know that without holiness, I will not see God for how can I enter into the Holiest but by the blood of Jesus?

So I joy when the fire of the Holy Spirit consumes me for then I have the appearance of the glory of God.  There lies my true joy and pleasure as the spiritual blessings by Christ, and the gracious presence of God in me.   I fall down on my face with all reverence and humility, under a sense of the divine Majesty being so near to me, in this sensible token of His presence.

 

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