A Dream of Light That Brought Refugee To Jesus

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Achmed lives with his family in a refugee camp. He had never seen himself as a good Muslim and would often beat himself up about his lack. One night, he had a dream where he was in complete darkness. Then suddenly, a hand reached out to him, pulled him out of the darkness and into the light. The next day, Achmed met one of our workers, disciple Prabu, and shared about the dream. Although he was affected by the dream, he was unsure how God could ever forgive him for the life he had led.

Prabu began discipling Achmed, and over time Jesus opened Achmed's heart to His forgiving and loving nature as a Father. Achmed started a bible group that has grown into two groups! Jesus continues to show His love among refugees all around the world through dreams and stories!

Share the miracle, and show what God is doing among the nations!

Perfect Love Casts Out Terror!

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That’s how Jonathan, a co-worker living in the Middle East described his response to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut. "Perfect love casts out terror." The outpouring of terror in Paris and Beirut make me angry – but it does not dictate my attitude to terrorists. Jesus defines my responses to terror, more than any government or act of terror ever will be able to do!

I know the difference between my response as an American citizen and my response as a citizen of the Kingdom of God. God’s kingdom comes above America, as much as I love my country.

There is a place for governments to protects it’s citizens. God has created them for that purpose. But while government armies can protect us, they cannot win the real war, the war for people’s hearts. That is the war that counts for eternity. And it is not fought with human weapons.

God challenged me years ago with these words, “You see yourself more as an American than a Christian –I want that to change.” I made a covenant with God in that moment to build my life - and my identity - on the words of Jesus

Perhaps these words from Jesus in John 10:10 can help you as much as they did me to respond like Jesus to terrorists and others far from God – I know they helped me:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

What we’re seeing in ISIS and its associates is a movement of fear: of killing and destroying.

Jesus is the leader of another kind of movement, a movement of life and love. People who use terror and violence to advance their cause do so because they are losing the battle for people’s hearts and minds.

That’s right. They are losing the battle precisely because they fight with hate and violence.

Terrorists get the media’s attention, but they don’t win the battle for people’s hearts. There are far more people responding to the love of Jesus than will ever join up with ISIS and it’s movement of fear!

Millions of Muslims are turning to Jesus around the world and it is precisely for that reason: they are sick and tired of hate and violence. They are tired of man-made religion. Of rules and self-righteousness. They want something more. They hunger for what only Jesus can offer.

All Nations, through our ministry called Serve Syria, is part of a movement of love and life. We are sharing the love of Jesus with Muslims in many countries, especially with the Syrian refugees.

One such Syrian refugee named Ishmael was a former secret service agent in Syria – assigned to assassinate those who opposed the regime. He was sickened by what he was doing, but fearful to speak up. He decided to run for his life – literally. He escaped at night across the desert with his family to Jordan.

There Ishmael met “George” (not his real name – changed to protect his identity as he continues to minister in Jordan). George led him to faith in Christ and Ishmael in turn started 38 Bible studies with other refugees – including back in Syria itself.

The real war on terror isn’t fought with drones and AK47s! It is being combatted with love by our dedicated workers who are right now serving on the Syrian border and in refugee camps in Europe.

Terror is just another word for fear. And perfect love casts out terror and fear!

Love Never Ends: A Meditation...

The following is a piece written by BRIAN ZAHND.  If you would like to see the original post or read more from Brian please click on the link to view his blog site -  Brian's blog  

Why is there something instead of nothing? The only answer I can imagine is Genesis 1:1. In the beginning God… But why would God say, “Let there be light” and initiate Creation? The only answer I can imagine is God is love.

What is light? God’s love in the form of photons. What is water? A liquid expression of God’s love. What is a mountain? God’s love in granite, so much older than human sorrow. What is a tree? God’s love growing up from the ground. What is a bull moose? God’s love sporting spectacular antlers. What is a whale? Fifty tons of God’s love swimming in the ocean.

As we learn to see Creation as goodness flowing from God’s own love— We begin to see the sacredness of all things. As Dylan and Dostoevsky say, in every grain of sand. All of creation is a gift — a gift flowing from the self-giving love of God.

Why is there light and oceans and trees and moose and whales and every grain of sand? Because God is love — love seeking expression in self-giving creativity. Unless we understand this we’ll misunderstand everything and misspend our lives. In our misunderstanding and misspent lives we harm Creation— Including our sisters and brothers, all of whom bear the image of God.

Love never ends. At the end of all things there is love. Love abides. Love endures. When the last star burns out, God’s love will be there for whatever comes after. In the end it all adds up to love. So when you are calculating the meaning of life— If it doesn’t add up to love, recalculate, because you’ve made a serious mistake!

Existence only makes sense when seen through the lens of love. At the beginning of time there is love. At the bottom of the universe there is love. It’s in God’s ocean of endless love that we live and move and have our being.

Admittedly freedom allows for other things too (from cancer cells to atomic bombs)— But at the bottom of the universe it’s love all the way down. Cancer cells and atomic bombs will not have the final say. Love alone has the last word.

“Unless you love, your life will flash by.” (Thank you, Terrence Malick.) Love alone gives meaning to our fleeting fourscore sojourn. Why? Because everything else returns to dust. It’s love alone that never ends. It’s love alone that is greater than the grave. Death severs all save love. We remain connected to our departed loved ones by the un-severable bond of love.

Love remembers. God’s love is great enough to remember all and to re-member all. If Creation is an explosion (or rapid expansion) of God’s love (and I believe it is)— New Creation (or resurrection) is the triumph of God’s endless love over death. This is the question: Which is endless, Love or Death? The answer is Love.

If God is love and if love never ends and if the meaning of being is love… And if Jesus is the supreme incarnation of God’s eternal love… Then that should tell us something about what it looks like to follow Jesus.

Following Jesus is a journey toward perfection in the love of God. It’s a journey that will take us a lifetime, and perhaps longer. But the trajectory is clear: We are always moving toward the way of love.

If what we’re doing, praying, preaching, saying, isn’t moving us toward love… Then it’s not the true way of following the love of God who is Jesus Christ. This needs to be said, because it is too easily forgotten. Loveless orthodoxy is death.

We’ve all seen those who in the name of Jesus have perfected meanness. The iconic and tragic-comic example would be the Westboro Baptist folk… But there are plenty of other less egregious, but still tragic, examples.

The journey of faith almost always begins as somewhat elitist (I’m saved!)— But it always move toward becoming egalitarian. (Peter learning Gentiles are accepted by God.) Love triggers the divine and deep (but often repressed) instinct that all things belong. (All God has created is good. Sin is the corruption, the hole, in the fabric of God’s goodness.)

You too belong. You too are accepted. I will make room for you. Over time, as we are properly formed, love will elicit this kind of language. Love is open. Love is expansive. There is a largeness to love. Sin is mean, petty, and small. The whole world of Hell in C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce was no bigger than a grain of sand. Selah.

If Creation comes from the explosive expansion of God’s love— Then I find it significant that we live in an ever expanding universe. The universe is not shrinking, it’s not static, it’s expanding…at the speed of light!

God is love. God is light. God’s love is expanding at the speed of light. And what is the wrath of God? The love of God wrongly received. Either we go with the grain of love or we suffer the shards of self-inflicted harm. (And that you “did it to yourself” by resisting God’s love makes it no less of a judgment.)

What about the borders of your love? Are they shrinking? Static? Expanding? Who are you embracing in love. Fewer people? The same people? More people? I’m not worried about having borders of love that are too broad. Loving too many people will hardly be a crime at the judgment seat of Christ.

In my earliest days of following Jesus I had an air of triumphalism. (I’m on the winning team!) But as I mature I find triumphalism shrinking and love expanding. Today I find it much easier to love people who are very different from me.

I’ve learned to genuinely love people of other religions. (And still confess Jesus is Lord.) Jews…Muslims…Hindus…Buddhists…Atheists. I’m thinking of specific people…friends. But will they be saved?! That’s not my business. My business is to love and point to Jesus. (I do believe that no one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end.)

Back to the question about our borders of love… Why would our borders of love shrink and not expand? Only one answer: Fear. As I observe the world — politically, socially, economically, religiously… I observe there really are only two forces that move people: Fear and Love.

So when you observe the events that make news (especially if there’s controversy)— Ask this simple question: What’s at work here? Fear or Love? Then ask yourself another question: What’s moving me? Fear or Love? Finally, make the decision to move with love and refuse to respond to fear. You can afford to make that risky move because… God is love and love never ends.

Whose Side Is God On? by Greg Albrecht

The following is an excerpt from Spiritual Soup for the Hungry Soul Vol. 2 © Copyright 2013 by Greg Albrecht, published by Plain Truth Ministries, Pasadena, CA, USA.   Used by permission. "Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand.  Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” - Joshua 5:13-14

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Have you ever noticed how many individual Christians and incorporated religious institutions assume that God is exclusively on their side? Many seem to think that God is a member-in-good-standing of their denomination. Many seem to assume that God carries the same national passport they do and that He always supports their country in any military altercation. Some even act and talk as if God supports their favorite athletic team and their particular political party.

But if you think about the whole idea of God being polarized and politicized for about three seconds, it really doesn’t make any sense, does it? After all the Bible clearly teaches that God loves all mankind equally. The man in our keynote passage who appeared to Joshua could have been an angel of the Lord, or this incident could have been yet another example of a theophany, an appearance of God himself. Whether it was the Lord or an angel of the Lord is really not all that important - what is important is the message given to Joshua and the context of that message.

As the book of Joshua begins, the nation of Israel (after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness) is poised to inherit the land God promised to them. Joshua has taken over for Moses as the national leader. As he is preparing for war against Jericho, the first city-state that he and the nation of Israel will conquer, Joshua has a visitor. In the midst of Joshua’s military preparations the Lord (or His angel) appeared with a drawn sword. As the commander-in-chief of Israel’s army, Joshua’s first question is natural: “Are you for us or against us? Are you a friend or foe?”

The answer is profound. In effect God says to Joshua: “Whether I am on your side is not the real issue. The most important question is whether you are on my side. You follow my directions and decisions - not the other way around.” If you are an American, I presume you know that the words “God bless America” are not in the Bible.  If you are a citizen of another country you probably understand that “God bless Canada” or “God bless England or Nigeria or Germany or Afghanistan or India or China or Indonesia” does not appear in the Bible either.

I love my country. I tear up when I hear the stories of those who have sacrificed for the freedoms we Americans enjoy. I sing the Star Spangled Banner and recite the Pledge of Allegiance with respect. I am thankful I have been given the opportunity to live in the United States. For that matter, I recognize and give thanks for the blessings of friends and family, and spiritual brothers and sisters who experience life within any democracy, in a country where freedom of thought, assembly and worship is given. And there are many such places in our world today.

My wife and I lived in the United Kingdom for a number of years, and enjoyed the blessings of life in such an environment. As an American, I am deeply moved by the beneficial work of Americans as they help people both within our country and abroad. But I am not blind to the sins of our country. I am not blind to the fact that no country or any political system is without sin. I am not blind to the fact that many wars are contested by countries and nations that are both wrong in their motives for fighting and killing.

I do not worship my country any more than I worship a church or a religion. I worship Jesus alone. When all is said and done, when we read history carefully, we find out that warfare is a dirty and corrupt business, and that there have been few times when one side is absolutely clean and righteous in their motivation for fighting and in the way they have prosecuted and carried out warfare. It is important for Christians to maintain their focus on Jesus Christ, rather than falling into the ditch of nationalism.

John 3:16, the most often quoted and memorized verse in the entire Bible, tells us that God loves the entire world. Romans 2:11 tells us that God does not show favoritism. God loves us all, and that all-encompassing, all-embracing love is one of the things that makes Him God. He does not have favorites. He is not partisan or political. He is above the kind of petty squabbles and conflicts that we humans get into. God is not involved in the struggles that often define us and consume us. He is truly above it all - He doesn’t take sides!

And that’s exactly how God replied to Joshua’s inquiry as to whether He was on Joshua’s side or on the side of Joshua’s enemies. God (or the angel who conveyed God’s message) said neither. The ninth chapter of the Gospel of Mark records a fascinating story from Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’ disciples came to Him and told Him about a man who was driving demons out of people, in Jesus’ name. The disciples told Jesus that they had told him to stop healing people, because, as Mark records them saying to Jesus, he was not one of us  (Mark 9:38).

“He or she is not one of us!” How often has that been said, over the centuries, in those exact words or something similar, by those who thought they were faithfully following Jesus? Some within Christendom become so confident in their creeds, doctrines, dogmas, practices, ceremonies and beliefs that they actually believe their position is one and the same as God’s position. Pride and arrogance are not far behind.

And, of course, pride and arrogance produces intolerance and condemnation. Sometimes those who say they are following God become physically abusive to anyone who disagrees with them - for after all, “those” people are disagreeing with God, aren’t they?

When we get caught up in thinking that God is on our side and when we start making critical comments about those who do not seem to be one of us, we are not reconcilers - we are not peacemakers - but instead we become divisive - we become angry and hostile to others. When our focus leaves Jesus, the Prince of peace, we cease to be connected with others, whatever their beliefs may be. The love of our own interests, our own nation, culture, religion and values turns us away from the love that God has for all humanity.

We make judgments that “God is on our side” and “those other people are not one of us” because we are living out of fear. Fear, along with shame and guilt, is a product of Christ-less religion. In Mark 9, when the disciples complained about someone who seemed to be healing and helping people, in Jesus’ name, but someone who wasn’t in their club, someone they didn’t know, someone who didn’t appear to be “one of us” - what did Jesus say?

Jesus said, Do not stop him  (Mark 9:39). Please excuse my paraphrase, as I put words in Jesus’ mouth, but is seems to me that He was telling His disciples something like this:

“Listen up guys. The gospel is not about whether God is on your side - it’s about the decision you make to be on His side. The gospel is not about whether someone is one of you - it’s about the incredible news that God is for all of us - not just you guys - but everyone. Taking sides is not part of God’s grace. That’s not how His love and grace work.”

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the end of the eye-for-aneye response, a response which, of course, makes everyone blind (Matthew 5:38-42). Christ-less religion often squelches the gospel, with fever-pitched cries for vindication, politically or militarily. May God forgive us when pulpits of Christian churches are used to cry out for bloodshed. The kingdom of heaven is a multi-ethnic, international, irreligious kingdom - it most certainly is not a war-mongering, nationalistic kingdom.

One of the major lessons of the book of Revelation is that religion and the state often combine as enemies of the true gospel, so much so that Revelation 18:4 calls to the people of God, who follow Christ alone, to “Come out of her, my people.”

The book of Revelation provides a warning and a chronicle of what happens when those who profess Christ jump into bed with either Christ-less religion or the idolatry of Caesar worship - the worship of a nationalistic human empire - or a combination of both. Just as there have been religious institutions in the past that were merely pawns of a nationalistic state worship, so too religious institutions today fall into the same idolatrous worship. They fly the flag of Christ, but they are no more part of Him than those who do not even claim to be followers of Jesus. It’s so easy to respond to martial music and join the crusade of demanding an eye for an eye, but we are clearly told that our citizenship primarily lies in heaven:

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ…  (Philippians 3:20). Our true, eternal citizenship is in heaven. As Christ followers may we realize that as we live here on this earth, wherever we may live, and under whatever form of government, that we, as Christians, refuse to bow down and worship our country just as Daniel refused to worship the golden idol that King Nebuchadnezzar had formed and fashioned.

As citizens of the kingdom of heaven, we worship no golden idols here on earth. We bow the knee to the Prince of peace, not to any god of war. Our citizenship in the kingdom of heaven is based on God’s incredible love, which flows into our hearts and our lives by His grace.

In Luke chapter 9 we read that when the Samaritans refused to welcome Jesus and His disciples, James and John wanted to call fire down from heaven to consume these enemies of the gospel. How dare they stand in the way of truth?

But Jesus rebuked James and John—and then, in the very next chapter, on the heels of His rejection by the Samaritans, Jesus chose a Samaritan as the good guy of His parable about the love of God—a parable we call the parable of the Good Samaritan!

The life of Christ involves turning the other cheek to the enemy who wrongs us, blessing the enemy who curses us and praying for those who abuse us. That is the radical grace and love of the kingdom of heaven.

Whose Side Is God On?  He’s on your side and on my side. God is on the side of our next-door neighbors whose dogs bark and bother us, the neighbors who never mow their lawn and who have loud parties. He’s on the side of people who don’t attend your church - or people who don’t attend any church - or people who are not even Christians. God’s love is big enough - there’s enough of it to go around, even for people who don’t even believe in Him - at least not yet.

Whose Side Is God On?  He’s on the side of people who live outside of our borders and boundaries, who speak languages we don’t understand and practice and love a culture we don’t know or appreciate. God does not take sides as humans do. He is not against anyone. He doesn’t have favorites. The real question for you and me is whether we are on God’s side.

 

 

Five Keys To Effective Small Group Leadership

There are five keys to leading an effective small group: Love

Life

Listen

Learn 

Lead

Good leadership is more about love than technical skill or experience. Anyone can lead a small group if they practice these five principles:

LOVE the people in the group

  • The best way to lead a group is to love and care for the members of the group. Serve them food or coffee/tea with a smile, remember their names, welcome them warmly into your home/space.
  • You learn to love people by praying for them by name. The secret is to ask God to put His love in your heart for each person.
  • Learn to see people the way God sees them. Look for their potential and affirm their strengths.
  • Cultivate a culture of encouragement in the group - it spreads the grace of God.
  • People feel valued when you take time to hear their story.
  • Begin each meeting by asking several members of the group to share in one sentence something they are thankful for.
  • Establish simple guidelines for group participation (e.g., each person has opportunity to share once before others share more than once, etc.)

LIFE outside the small group creates deeper life in the small group

  • The depth of life inside the group is determined by sharing life together outside the group. A small group can be more than a meeting - it can grow into a caring family.
  • Call people after small group meetings, or text them, or get together for a cup of coffee. Let people know you are thinking about them and praying for them.
  • Encourage people to get together between meeting times. You don't have to meet with everyone in the group, but encourage everyone to meet with someone.
  • Encourage everyone in the group to form a prayer partnership with one other person.

LISTEN to people's stories and experiences

  • Ask open ended questions.
  • Hear hearts  - learn to read body language.
  • Be a good observer and pray for discernment.
  • Acknowledge people's emotions (tiredness, discouragement, joy, etc.)
  • Ask one or two members to share a need and take time to pray for them.
  • Celebrate honest attempts to grow even if there is failure.
  • Create a safe place for people to be real.

LEARN by obeying not by focusing on knowledge

  • Take pressure off yourself to have all the answers.
  • Don't give the answers and tell people what to believe. People remember what they observe, not what they hear.
  • Holy Spirit is the best teacher - let Him do His job.
  • Self-discovery is a more powerful way for people to learn.
  • The Bible is the source - keep pointing people to the Word of God.
  • Don't be a talkative teacher - be a fellow learner.

LEAD with simple skills

  • Be a facilitative leader - "set the table" and invite people to eat.
  • Agree on guidelines for discussion and confidentiality.
  • If you need help seek advise from your leaders.

 

 

Learning to Love People You Don't Like

I wrote a book by that title.  It sold well.  Better than the earlliest edition of the book, titled, 'Father, Make Us One'.  I think people appreciate the 'realness' of the new title. It's hard to love some people.  If you're like me, I enjoy some people, patiently endure others, and actively seek to avoid a few.  That's brutally honest, but needs to be said if you're going to believe anything I write on this topic.

Love...real love...is not all about squishy, warm feelings of affection and devotion.  Love is hard.  At least, Jesus found it that way.

Jesus had a lot of disciples, and he chose to spend more time with some than others.

Jesus has to be our source of guidance when it comes to loving those we do church and life with.  I think we fear turning to Jesus’ words and example because deep down we know He is going to tell us to get over ourselves,  forgive and give everything up for people we hate being around.

But that is not the case.  Jesus also endured some of his disciples and avoided others.  Quite a few of his team members left him.  He confronted some of them, and a few, a small handful, became really close friends.

So how do we deal with loving people we don’t like?  Here are a few guidelines that have served me well over the years, hard learned guidelines, I might add:

1. Be honest with yourself and with God.  Spirituality is not genuine if it is not honest.  God loves truth in our inner selves.  Truth is not just who God is, a statement of doctrine, but also how we approach God.

So, if you are struggling to love or like someone, put words on that feeling to the Lord.  If they irritate you, tell God.  If they hurt you, express that to Him.  If they are offensive, say so to Him.  Tell God how you feel about that person...share with Him the deep truth of your heart.  He can handle it and you won't grow unless you're honest.

Tell him your struggles, then take the next step in the journey of healthy Jesus style love...

2.  ...ask God to let you see people with His eyes.  To see them as He sees them.  Seriously, this is not a spiritual cop-out.  If you want to mature in your love for people, you need to develop breadth in your love of people.

Get a bigger heart.  Ask God to help you grow greater breadth, greater capacity for loving people who are different to you.  If you want a greater influence on people for the kingdom of God, you need to grow in your appreciation of different kinds of people.

That doesn’t mean you are going to fall head over heals in love with every person you work with, but it does mean that you are going to learn to view them with respect and appreciation.  To have a greater awareness of their upbringing, their culture, their unique personality (given to them by God, by the way), and their special contribution to God's kingdom.

3.  Give yourself freedom to enjoy some friendships while you tolerate others.  You won't connect deeply with everyone.  You need some close friendships in your life if you are to survive and thrive as a leader.

4.  Lastly, work hard on overcoming pain and disappointment.  One of the greatest hindrances to loving the people we work with in a healthy way, is unresolved pain in our relationships.  If your reservoir of pain is getting bigger and bigger with time, the dam will eventually burst and anger, resentment, avoidance and all manner of negative emotions will flow out.

God teaches us to love by allowing, and sometimes even causing, us to be with people who offend or annoy us.  Don’t bury your irritation or pain with these people.  Don’t ignore your disappointments with them.  Deal with your pain daily with God.  Keep short accounts.  Pray for compassion.  Forgive them when they hurt you.  Keep on forgiving every time you think of them, until God releases His love in your heart for them.

Love is multi-faceted.  Set your sights on learning to love people you don't like.  Meanwhile, enjoy the ones you do! * To explore this topic further, you can order a copy of my book, 'Learning to Love People You Don’t Like' from our office in South Africa at 021-785-7201 or info@all-nations.co.za or you can order it from Amazon in other countries.