IRAQ/SYRIA: Former Fighter Prays for the Islamic State

Islamic State Prayercast

Source: Prayercast, February 2, 2015

Up to 1.2 million people were displaced by the violence in Iraq in 2014 alone. Millions more live in fear. Massacres, beheadings, crucifixions, abductions, and sexual violence are rampant. Islamic State has attempted to eliminate entire Christian communities. As many as eight million people are believed to now live under the partial, or complete, control of IS.

This modern-day nightmare has not only darkened the landscape of Iraq and Syria, but the whole world, with over 11,000 people from abroad joining the ranks of the 30-50,000 Islamic State militants. Teaching an extreme interpretation of Sunni Islam, they believe they are the only true believers and see the rest of the world as their enemy. Using violence to get what they want, their goal is the creation of an Islamic caliphate ruled by a single political and religious leader, ruling Muslim communities around the world.

Despite these gruesome realities, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but…against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). This is a spiritual battle against our adversary, the devil, who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

We hate the darkness and underlying evil, and we grieve the resulting bloodshed and pain. Yet Jesus still says, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). God’s love reaches not only those suffering under this oppression, but it reaches even into the ranks of Islamic State. Just as God transformed Saul into Paul through an encounter with Jesus, so can he transform today’s persecutors into tomorrow’s evangelists.

» Read full story and watch the related Prayercast video.

» See also two inspiring pieces: a video about an Iraqi Christian child extending forgiveness to those who displaced her family (SAT-7) and the story How Libya’s Martyrs Are Witnessing to Egypt (Christianity Today).

USA: Church Filled With Muslims Every Sunday

Source: Godreports, February 25, 2015

Pastor Adrian Rodriguez has been preaching the gospel, translated by his wife, to about 30 people every Sunday in a church on the outskirts of Hartford, Connecticut, and not one of the congregants is Christian.

“We’re dealing with very hardcore Muslims,” he says of the immigrant refugees from the Middle East who are drawn to his church. “They’re very indoctrinated. But God is speaking to their hearts.”

Pastor Adrian’s response to America’s burgeoning Muslim enclaves is perhaps Christianity’s best model: View them with eyes of compassion, not with eyes of suspicion.

» Read full story.

WORLD: Are Refugees the Problem?

Source: various, via Pat Noble

Three of the four gospel writers record that Jesus warned that in the last days, “nation shall rise up against nation.” For many years I assumed this meant political nations going to war as we saw in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Greek word translated nation, though, is the same as is used in the Great Commission of Mathew 28, which says “…go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”

While reading headlines for this edition I found many stories about “ethne rising up against ethne.” Take a look:

» Foreign Shop Owner Set Alight in South Africa (Al Jazeera)
» Cracking Down on Illegal Workers (Crossroads Arabia)
» Pakistan: Stop Forced Return of Afghans (Human Rights Watch)
» Two Charts Showing That “Deterring” Migrant Boats Is Failing (IRIN)
» What Would You Do if ISIS Was Approaching and Safety Was Only 70 Miles across the Sea? (The Independent)
» Afghan Refugee on National Geographic Cover Embroiled in ID Row and Vulnerable Families Bear the Brunt of Norway’s Crackdown on Asylum Seekers (The Guardian)

INDIA: Veteran Pastor’s Gentle Answers Turn Away Wrath

Source: Christian Aid Mission, February 19, 2015

Adept at gently answering the hostilities of radical Hindus, threatening Muslims, and suspicious government authorities, a pastor in northern India found himself facing an inflammatory media question last December.

Amid a roiling controversy about religious conversion in India, an interviewer from a Delhi television station asked the pastor and leader of an evangelistic ministry in Uttar Pradesh, whether conversions should be allowed. High-level Hindu nationalists were proposing that conversions be prohibited.

Working in an area where harassment from radical Hindus preempts public evangelistic events and nearly half of the residents are Muslims whose prohibition of leaving Islam sometimes leads to violence, the pastor appeared to be driven into a corner wherein anything he said would pour fuel onto the fires of controversy.

He surprised the journalist by answering that he was not only against forced conversion, but “totally against any religious conversion.”

“Jesus never taught about religious conversion,” Sankar said. “He taught about conversion of the heart, and that we preach.”

The interviewer pressed him, asking him if he converted people.

“I cannot convert people. I teach them from the Bible what we believe, and the law in our country is that everyone is free to preach his or her religion, and everyone is free to change his religion,” he said. “But if you want to talk about that, I share what I believe, and it’s Jesus who converts them. It is Jesus who changes their heart, and if they start coming to my church, it is not my problem. It is his problem. Go and ask him!”

People in India, he said, don’t want to hear about Christ. They already know about him, with many counting him among their hundreds of gods. Rather, they want to see him.

» Read full story.

CYPRUS: Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians Envision Reconciliation

Source: Lausanne Movement, February 12, 2015

Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians met together in Limassol, Cyprus, January 26-30 to discuss, pray, and work towards reconciliation.

The Lausanne Initiative for Reconciliation in Israel/Palestine (LIRIP), an initiative of the Lausanne Movement, hosted the conference. Its vision is “to promote reconciliation within the body of Christ and our wider communities in Israel and Palestine by creating a network that encourages, under the auspices of the Lausanne Movement, models of gospel-based, Christ-centered reconciliation that will have prophetic impact in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Each day the participants studied Through My Enemy’s Eyes: Envisioning Reconciliation in Israel–Palestine, by participants Salim J. Munayer and Lisa Loden.

Richard Harvey, British Messianic Jewish theologian and Co-Chair of LIRIP, said:

“Our discussions were cordial and mutually respectful, but we did not flinch from addressing difficult issues and frankly expressing our disagreements. Salim and Lisa’s book is a most valuable resource for all who are interested in the challenges and possibilities of reconciliation in the region.”

Palestinian Christian Munther Isaac, Co-Chair of LIRIP and Professor at Bethlehem Bible College, added:

“We met each day to pray and read the Scriptures together, sharing our perspectives and recognizing our differences. It is important for our communities to talk to one another openly and in a Christian spirit. Reconciliation in our context is a very challenging and difficult endeavor, but the cross compels us to walk in this path.”

» Read full story.

VIDEO: Is Every Christian a Missionary?

the Mission Table 2

Source: The Mission Table

Every follower of Christ is a missionary… or are they? Missions has traditionally consisted of international or cross-cultural ministry for spiritual purposes, says Matthew Ellison of Sixteen:Fifteen. But today in many churches missions has come to include outreach ministries that are within our own community and culture. This broadening definition of missions has inevitably led to a philosophy that says every follower of Christ is a missionary. What are the implications of this philosophy? Is it biblical? Is it helpful? Does it lead to more missions work being accomplished, or less?

This is the first in a series of free, web-based dialogues about critical, controversial claims made about missions today. Each includes a video about 15 minutes in length, followed by a live webinar discussion a few weeks later (in this case, March 3). A May episode will explore whether native missionaries are more effective, and one in July will ask, do missionaries destroy cultures? If debate is not your cup of tea, these conversations may make you squirm, but they may also make you think (and see another point of view).

» Join the conversation. Watch the first video or subscribe here to be notified when each video episode is released and registration for each live webinar begins.

BOOK: Overcoming Obstacles to Serving

Hold Fast: The Mission of God & the Obstacles of Man, by Josh Cooper. Book Villages, 2013. 160 pages.

In his ministry with The Traveling Team, Josh Cooper has visited more than 150 U.S. college campuses to teach students about God’s heart for the world and challenge them to consider their part in world missions. He came to recognize nine frequent obstacles these students faced which kept them from full-time missionary service: unawareness of God’s mission purposes, a focus on needs closer to home, materialism, romantic relationships, family opposition, theological issues (e.g., pluralism), uncertainty about their calling, the burden of debt, and concerns about raising support.

Hold Fast addresses each one of these struggles, shares stories of those who have overcome them, and provides encouragement to keep moving moving forward. This is the kind of book you could put into the hands of college students to help them recognize what might be holding them back and find courage to press on. Better yet, ask them to read it and then discuss the points they find most relevant. Some of the illustrations, drawn from a variety of sources, are quite powerful and memorable. I may snag some of them for my own use!

It should be noted that this book does not attempt to provide a balanced view of ways one might live a missional life; it’s really written for would-be missionaries and encourages them to consider serving among the millions of people without access to the gospel. In places it seems to assume too close an equation between following God and going to the unreached.

» See the book website to learn more. You can purchase the ebook for US$7.99; the paperback is US$14.99. Bulk discounts are available. You might also want to learn more about The Traveling Team and see if they’re coming to your region.

BOOKS: Disciple Making Movements Books on Sale

In January we reviewed Contagious Disciple Making, the new book from our friends at City Team and Thomas Nelson. The Kindle edition of this book, by David and Paul Watson, and its two companion volumes Miraculous Movements (by Jerry Trousdale) and The Father Glorified (by Patrick Robertson and David Watson) are all currently on sale at Amazon. All three tell the stories and describe the methods behind some of the world’s fast-growing disciple making movements.

» Buy Contagious Disciple Making or either of the other two books for US$2.99 (if you live in the US). We don’t know how long the sale will last.