Have you ever wondered what the label “Christian”, in all kinds of different scenarios, really stands for? The article below helps to sort “the sheep from the goats”, when we talk about what it means to be a “true Christian”, opposed to the “nominal brand”.
Today I received a powerful lesson, using the simplest every-day example!
I am sure the following example happens to most of us. When this is used to teach us a spiritual lesson, we can be sure that the Spirit, who lives in believers (in Christ), is and has been speaking to us! What a privelege this is!
What I am talking about is the situation, when we are looking for something, anything really, expecting it to be in a certain place, and it isn’t, all the while missing the fact that it is right in front of us!
This happened to me this morning; I was looking for my cup of coffee, convinced it was in a certain place but it wasn’t. All of a sudden I realised that all that time it had been right in front of my nose! Simple, but powerful, if applied to the spiritual realm!
Take for example, (as this is a website set up primarily to help refugees) a refugee who has just landed in Italy, or Greece or Spain, originally boarding from anywhere in North Africa (most of the time Lybia). Most refugees set their sights on Germany, France etc. They are convinced that those countries will meet all their needs. So, all their efforts are applied to get to those countries. Can you see how my above example could apply to them? Are they believers in Christ? Is God limited in his provision? Could they be missing out on what God has prepared for them because of their expectations as to where the answer will come from?
This applies to every area of need.
Let’s not limit God. Instead, allow Him to prove that He cares and wants our best! Expect His provision in the most unlikely places and you won’t miss out!
As I read in Exodus 21, about God’s directions to the Israelites regarding slaves, I realize that it wasn’t and isn’t God who instituted slavery but rather, it is a fruit of the kingdom of darkness. This fruit has plagued humanity for millenia and is particularly evil! As a matter of fact, despite the general abolition of slavery a century ago, this practice has continued covertly, unhindered!
My study into present human trafficking statistics, published on this website, (https://worldwiderefugeeprayernetwork.com/2015/05/13/the-curse-of-people-smuggling-2/ reveals that it is at present one of the most lucrative trades in the world! I quote from my study, for those who want the facts, without having to look up the whole report (very worthwhile reading!):
“The value of the black market in human smuggling was estimated to be worth $35 Billion a year (conservative estimate, my comment), according to the IOM.”
Source: “It’s Time to Take Action and Save Lives of Migrants Caught in Crisis,” International Organization for Migration, Press Release, December 17, 2013.
My addition: Some comparisons; “Human trafficking creates approximately $150 billion in illegal revenue annually” Taken from ENDcrowd website. This compares favourably with … “the arms trade has been approaching US$100 billion annually.
[Source: Solutions, “The Arms Trade Treaty: Building a Path to Disarmament”, 2013]”
On the other hand, Microsoft’s income in the US is said to have been 22.07 Billion US$ (Statistica Website) and 76.4 Billion (untaxed) US$ in foreign earnings (Reuters 2015, quoted in Wikipedia).
Although a while ago since publishing my article and since the publication of these figures, they certainly would not have decreased, on the contrary! With refugee figures constantly increasing, there is a lucrative connection between people smuggling and people trafficking, and these vulnerable people often end up being trafficked, against their will!
Jesus’ words in John 10:10 (“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full…”) and John 8:36 (“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”) require to be prayed over this people group worldwide!
Let us pray for all those who have been forcefully enslaved; that they would come to know Jesus and that He would set them free! Amen.
“But if I were you, I would appeal to God;
I would lay my cause before him.
9 He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted.
10 He provides rain for the earth;
he sends water on the countryside.
11 The lowly he sets on high,
and those who mourn are lifted to safety.
12 He thwarts the plans of the crafty,
so that their hands achieve no success.
13 He catches the wise in their craftiness,
and the schemes of the wily are swept away.
14 Darkness comes upon them in the daytime;
at noon they grope as in the night.
15 He saves the needy from the sword in their mouth;
he saves them from the clutches of the powerful.
16 So the poor have hope,
and injustice shuts its mouth.
17 “Blessed is the one whom God corrects;
so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.[a]
18 For he wounds, but he also binds up;
he injures, but his hands also heal.
19 From six calamities he will rescue you;
in seven no harm will touch you.
20 In famine he will deliver you from death,
and in battle from the stroke of the sword.
21 You will be protected from the lash of the tongue,
and need not fear when destruction comes.
22 You will laugh at destruction and famine,
and need not fear the wild animals.
23 For you will have a covenant with the stones of the field,
and the wild animals will be at peace with you.
24 You will know that your tent is secure;
you will take stock of your property and find nothing missing.
25 You will know that your children will be many,
and your descendants like the grass of the earth.
26 You will come to the grave in full vigor,
like sheaves gathered in season.
27 “We have examined this, and it is true.
So hear it and apply it to yourself.”
The amazing thing about faith in God and in His Son Jesus Christ is that those Scriptures become promises we can claim. It doesn’t work like incantations, using black magic. They don’t represent claims we have over God rather, they are his promises to us, received in an attitude of humble gratitude, knowing that the timing and the method of delivery are entirely in His hands. Those who have invested time in knowing God, through the study of His Word (both a person and a text), reap the benefit of unwavering faith and the reward of such; answered prayer!
The following link is lengthy (pardon the pun) but well worth watching. It is an excellent update on the above topic.
Below, I have used the text from the conclusion of a slightly dated but nevertheless still very relevant book by Justus Reid Weiner, ‘Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society’ (full reference listed at the end of this article). Throughout this article, I have included latest updates of some of the events and issues raised in Weiner’s summary.
“The plight of the Palestinian Christian Community cannot remain the sacrificial pawn in the larger game of the Middle East peace process.”
A Backward Glance
In April 2002, the Church of the Nativity was invaded by more than 100 Palestinian Muslim gunmen who shot their way inside, while attempting to evade capture by Israeli soldiers who had entered Bethlehem (West Bank – my comment) to quell on-going terrorism and, in particular, suicide bombings. As confirmed by Abdullah Abu-Hadid, a senior commander in the Tanzim militia, “the idea was to enter the Church in order to create international pressure on Israel” (Raab 2003). Reporting on the event, a Jerusalem-based cleric told the Jerusalem Post that, “propaganda is all that is being heard, in part because of the many cover-ups by the Christians who don’t dare speak up. They are cowards” (Gelfond 2002:260). The cleric explained that fear of Muslim terrorists silences both the churches and the communities. A Bethlehem priest quoted in the same article confirmed the assessment of the Jerusalem cleric, noting with anger, “I would have preferred silence rather than saying that everything is okay. We are worse than cowards, we are lying.” (Gefond 2002:260)
Even if peace negotiations are resumed and successfully navigate the numerous obstacles ahead, the fate of the average Palestinian will depend on the strength and orientation of his state’s institutions. The PA (Palestinian Authority) interim governing authority has proven itself incapable of guaranteeing the protection of the basic rights of Palestinian Christians, the most significant minority under its jurisdiction. One independent report stated that “the risk is that if present structures and practices go unreformed, they will shape and even predetermine future ones in negative ways.” The importance of monitoring the PA’s record, even during the ongoing violent intifada, cannot be overstated.
Some More Recent Developments
The recalcitrance of the PA to enforce international human rights standards, along with its refusal to respect the requirements of the Oslo interim agreements has made it an accomplice and even perpetrator of gross human rights abuses. Though the international community is tempted to donate further sums to the PA following the death of Yasser Arafat (in 2005 – my comment), they appear to be under the as yet unproven assumption that the ascendency of Mahmoud Abbas will rejuvenate the peace process and reinstate respect for human rights and religious freedom under the Palestinian Authority (my insert: elected interim prime minister in 2012 by Hamas and Fatah). This attempt at showing a united front has just been strengthened, as reported in an article by Aljazeera, dated 18.1.2017: “The Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority has agreed to form a unity government with rival organisation Hamas, Al Jazeera has learned. The agreement was reached late on Tuesday after a three-day negotiation in the Russian capital, Moscow [‘due to America’s seeming pro-Israel new Trump administration’ – as mentioned in same article, my comment]. The two organisations will form a new National Council, which will include Palestinians in exile and hold elections. “Today the conditions for [such an initiative] are better than ever,” Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior Fatah official, said. The deal also includes the Islamic Jihad group, which had not been involved in negotiations for a long time.”).
In the opinion of this author, the U.S., Israel, and other members of the international community should make human rights a major issue in any future peace negotiations. By using financial incentives during this pre-state stage, the U.S., Israel and international donor communities can prevent the egregious violations of human rights partially described in this monography from accompanying the PA into the emerging Palestinian state. The leverage of the donors is significant, with over 70 percent of the PA’s budget derived from foreign sources. (Sabella 2004).
(My insert: “…in budget years 2015 and 2016, …the US Agency for International Development …sent the Palestinians $355 million…” source: http://www.businessinsider.com, dated January 2017.
Quoting from Wikipedia: “The entities that provide aid to the Palestinians are categorized into seven groups: the Arab nations, the European Union, the United States, Japan, international institutions (including agencies of the UN system), European countries, and other nations (possibly Russia? – my comment).”
[My conclusion from research into this topic: NGO’s, involved in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, who have greatly increased in numbers, are said to act to protect human rights in this region of conflict, as well as exerting considerable influence over such huge organisations as the UN and the EU, have been shown to have overt or more often covert political bias against one or the other party involved; more often against Israel. Nevertheless, finding unbiased facts is extremely difficult, as even a widely respected “NGO monitor” is funded and staffed largely by the Jewish community! Bias seems to be ingrained in the human psyche! End of my comment]
Financial incentives can be earmarked to train PA security personnel in human rights practices, to construct modern penal institutions, and to reform the legal system.
Clearly, the U.S. has considerable economic leverage in the region, and could use that influence to demand human rights improvements. However, the [past – my comment] President may be reluctant to impose serious sanctions against the Palestinian entity or even push human rights as an issue in the peace talks. The primary objective of the U.S. in the region is peace and the secondary objective is the fight against terrorism. To rebuke the PA or to make human rights an issue in the negotiations would cause the U.S. to lose influence with the PA [my comment: which seems to have happened under Trump, as identified previously by Aljazeera] when dealing with other, ‘more important’ issues.
However, in the opinion of this author, the PA’s adoption of sound human rights policies and practices would contribute immeasurably to the success of the peace process. Although Arafat’s commitment to these values in the agreements was vague at best, the Palestinians’ expectations regarding an improvement in their lives deserves to be met, and should not be limited to issues of pride or economics. As the international community furnishes financial resources to the emerging Palestinian state, it should reflect on its complicity in the human rights abuses that have emerged.
If the internal reforms fail and pressure from the U.S., Israel, and the donor communities does not materialize, there is one last resort for the Palestinian Christians. Since the PA is not a sovereign state even it has administrative responsibilities in designated areas of the West Bank and Gaza, Israeli military rule is still in effect in the territories. This means that, legally speaking, human rights are the responsibility of the PA on a day-to-day basis, but the ultimate legal responsibility rests with Israel (Weiner 1995). Of course, the current Israeli government …frustrated by endemic Palestinian terrorism, would appear ill disposed to shouldering this responsibility, given its policy of unilateral disengagement.
(Insert: …in the enclave [Gaza strip], where some two million Palestinians live… Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008.
The UN development agency has said the enclave, run by Islamist movement Hamas, could become uninhabitable by 2020, while others have warned of frustration spilling over and leading to fresh violence.
Israel strictly controls traffic into and out of Gaza, while the enclave’s border with Egypt has also remained largely closed in recent years.
UN officials have called for the blockade to be lifted, but Israel says it is necessary to keep Hamas from obtaining weapons or materials to make them.
Mike Smith (Tel Aviv), Middelburg Observer, 30 March 2017)
Therefore, the Israeli Supreme Court is the last resort for Palestinians living under the jurisdiction of the PA. The Supreme Court, long a liberal voice, has in recent years become increasingly committed to improving human rights and the rule of law, frequently demonstrating its commitment to ensuring human rights in the West Bank and Gaza. Of course, the Palestinian Christians living in the PA would be reluctant to utilize Israeli legal institutions, but, as victims, they clearly have a need for an institution of last resort, as demonstrated by the tens of thousands of Christians who have left the territories.
It seems logical that, instead of turning to Israeli courts, the Palestinian Christians should be able to turn to the PA’s justice system. This however, would be largely unproductive at the present time. The PA’s justice system has no practical autonomy from the executive branch, even though it is independent in theory. The PA President and Justice Minister can hire, fire, retire, and otherwise control all judicial employees, including judges at all levels. Two previous chief justices were ‘retired’ by the executive branch, one possibly for un unsympathetic comment made against the PA in an interview, and the second for a decision that called for the release of ten Birzeit University students who were being detained unlawfully. (Amnesty 1999:7)
The future of the Palestinian Christian community and any other religious minority living under the PA will rest on the potential for religious tolerance and the rejection of fundamentalist and archaic attitudes towards non-Muslims. As long as the Constitution of the PA reflects the principles of Sharia law, it seems as though the emergence of religious tolerance will remain highly unlikely. Additionally, the PA must crack down on Hamas and Islamic Jihad and eliminate their influence and role as the enforcers of the more brutal aspects of Sharia law [my comment: which appears even more unlikely than when this report was written, as they have now formed a threesome alliance; Fatah/Hamas/Islamic Jihad, see previous insert published by Aljazeera].
The testimonies (more found in the actual book – my comment) provided in this monograph make it pointedly clear that lawlessness and anarchy have swept the West Bank and Gaza Strip in recent years. Gangs of thugs and thieves have created what a former Palestinian cabinet minister described as “total chaos”. It is essential that the PA arrest these militants who, in their range of mafia-like conduct, frequently abuse and intimidate Christians. (Toameh 2002c)
The political conflict, or halting efforts to resolve it, can no longer be used by the international community as an excuse for evading responsibility for the gross human rights abuses the Palestinian Christian community has come to accept. Human rights standards cannot any longer be subordinated to political motives. Only when the international community is prepared to stand behind the lofty ideals enumerated in its formative instruments, with its full economic and political resources, will the perpetrators of such abuses be forced to relinquish habits of abuse and ascribe to the norms expected of all sovereign entities.”
Main body of this extract taken from ‘Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society’, written by Justus, Reid Weiner, 2005: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Quoting from the Book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 10, verses 16 to 19: “Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”
You might be tempted to reply that this only applied to the Israelites, as it was spoken to them by God, through Moses, but may I remind you that God, as revealed in the Scriptures and through Jesus Christ “…is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) and “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)
Let’s be those who prayerfully consider the present needs of our precious country of Australia and make the effort to carefully consider the responsibility before us to appoint worthy representatives in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Are they representing our struggling and often forgotten farmers, those most vulnerable in our society such as old people, the unborn and children, mothers and children fleeing from abusive partners, the mentally ill, those in the grip of addiction, refugees and their children, left without hope and ill treated, the sale of our land and houses for mere profit, to those who don’t care for our country or its people and are robbing young couples of what used to be and still should be the great Australian dream? I am sure, you can think of other, presently neglected but vital issues which need to be revived and protected.
The time is now to take responsibility; next week it will be too late!
I wanted to watch a movie last night; instead I felt compelled to do my homework and to plow through the confusing array of choices. Prayer helps in this process!
Ultimately it comes back to one issue: “Hallowed be your Name. Your will be done on earth (as it is in heaven)!” Amen.