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You Are Greater than Elijah!

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Matthew 11.11 says “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Think about that statement for a minute! The group of people born of women includes Elijah, Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joshua, Hosea and Elisha! And Jesus said clearly that John the Baptist was greater than all of them. And then Jesus said – just as clearly – that the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John.

Do you realize the magnitude of what Jesus has said? You might be the worst Christian on the planet, the least Christian in the history of the world – but you are greater than Isaiah, than David, than Abraham, than Moses, than Elijah!

You are a born again Christian. You are right with God. You have the same spirit inside you that raised Christ from the dead. You can speak and it happens. You can live a life of freedom, grace and wisdom that the Old Testament Christians could only dream about!

They had to beg for the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit lives in you and will never leave you.
They had a set of commandments to obey to be blessed, you are already blessed.
They had accredited righteousness, you have been made righteous.
They had faith in God, you have the faith of God inside you
They had dead spirits, you have a living spirit.
They had to contend with the accuser of the brethren, you live in an age where the devil has been completely dealt with.

God’s Words, Satan’s words and your words (Stephen J Hales)

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God’s Words, Satan’s words and your words (Stephen J Hales) 

There are three main voices that your spirit will hear as you walk out your Christian faith, they are God’s Word (Both His written Word and His Spirit talking to you) Satan’s word and finally your words. Faith comes by hearing God’s Word, fear comes by hearing Satan’s word and your words are the deciding factor!

The words you agree with will be the words that you speak. Life and death are in the power of the tongue, if you will speak God’s Word it will always produce life, conversely if you speak Satan’s words they will always produce death. The only way to be faith filled and fear free is to confess God’s Word in faith. I have seen this work so many times in my own life and in the lives of many other people. Jesus Himself said that we have what we say (Mark 11:23) I know people don’t like to hear that, but it is the truth nevertheless, I’m not going to argue with Jesus! Are you? No the Bible says, “Let God be true and every man a liar.” I don’t mind saying it, if any man, even if he is a preacher, denies what Jesus said in Mark 11:23 then he is a liar! The absolute truth is that your words dominate your life, words bring images to your spirit and mind, word are containers, they contain whatever is spoken. For instance if harsh words have been spoken between a man and his wife and you just happen to be visiting, you can tell by the atmosphere that something is wrong. If you were to close your eyes and I said dog, in your minds eye you would see a dog, it may be your own dog; however if I said, big black and white dog then that is what you will see. Why? Because words paint pictures on the canvas of your heart. When you speak God’s word it will paint the image of whatever it have promised on your heart, you will then conceive that word in your spiritual womb, and by holding fast to your confession you will give birth to the promise. The same thing is true in the negative, if you speak Satan’s word you will get the same results but in the negative stream. Your words are the deciding factor, agree with God, and speak His Words and you will get positive results; speak Satan’s word and the opposite is true. Make the right choice today and decide to confess the Word of God no matter what.

 

More on Celebrating Christmas

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Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened ‘to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.

Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.

He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.

Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of the Virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.

Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.

Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.

Justified by faith, let us be at peace with God: for justice and peace have embraced one another. Through our Lord Jesus Christ: for Truth has arisen from the earth. Through whom we have access to that grace in which we stand, and our boast is in our hope of God’s glory. He does not say: “of our glory”, but of God’s glory: for justice has not come out of us but has looked down from heaven. Therefore he who glories, let him glory, not in himself, but in the Lord.

For this reason, when our Lord was born of the Virgin, the message of the angelic voices was: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to men of good will.

For how could there be peace on earth unless Truth has arisen from the earth, that is, unless Christ were born of our flesh? And he is our peace who made the two into one: that we might be men of good will, sweetly linked by the bond of unity.

Let us then rejoice in this grace, so that our glorying may bear witness to our good conscience by which we glory, not in ourselves, but in the Lord. That is why Scripture says: He is my glory, the one who lifts up my head. For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become son of God?

Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace.

Excerpt from a sermon by Augustine on the mystery of the Incarnation.

An On Fire Christian Can Never Be Stopped

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Steal from them and they will joyfully give you everything they own.

Force them to be your slave and they will happily be your servant.

Smack them on the nose and they will turn the other cheek again and again.

Kill them – it is simply gain.

Don’t kill them – they will simply live for Christ.

Put them in jail and they will use the time to commune with the Lord and write down their revelations which will then turn the world upside down.

An Onfire Christian can never be stopped.

Healing and the Anointing (And A FREE BOOK!)

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The gifts of healings are part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit and they are awesome to watch.  People being spectacularly healed before your very eyes, people receiving the anointing of God in a tangible way and then being set free from horrific malignant diseases.  Awesome!

This weekend we are going to watch Melvin Banks minister through the gifts of healings and it is going to be wonderful.  Come and see the miracles if you can!

But the gifts of healings often bring confusion to the church as often people leave healing meetings not healed.  The person in the seat next to them was powerfully touched and healed, but they were bypassed.

This is due to the fact that the gifts of healings are as the Holy Spirit wills.

But do not be in despair if this happens to you.  The gifts of healings are an accelerant: they are like petrol on a bonfire, they make everything burn quicker, they make the healing come quicker.

But even without the gifts of healings – if you stand on the WORD you will be healed.

If God did not heal you using the gifts of healings, don’t despair, get excited!

This means that God TRUSTS you to stand on His Word.  And as you stand on the Word of God, the power of the Holy Spirit inside you will manifest and your healing will come.   You are healed by His stripes and as you listen to that and say that and visualise that, your healing will come.

Then you will know God as Healer in a way you would never know Him if you had a healing through the gifts.  Watch carefully at healing meetings and you will see it is the non-Christians and the baby Christians that get healed through the gifts of healings.  You are expected to grow up and stand up for your own healing.  You have to reach a stage where you welcome men of God, but you don’t need them because you have become a man (or woman!) of God yourself!

For more Biblical teaching on this topic, and to hear Pastor Benjamin’s testimony of how God led him to stop looking for men of God and start being a man of God, purchase his book Rivers and Wells, or email us on ben@treeoflifechurch.org.uk THIS WEEK ONLY for a free copy of the PDF download.

Wonderful News Healing Crusade

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Wonderful News Healing Crusade!

Melvin Banks has seen the deaf hear, the lame and crippled walk and lives completely changed by the power of God for over 40 years of ministry.

He is known throughout the world as an evangelist who preaches the Word of God with honestly, simplicity and integrity.

And now – for three days only – he will be in Dagenham with Tree of Life Church.  This is a sign of divine favour on our church and we are believing for awesome signs and wonders and salvations for these days.

Saturday 21st August 7pm
Sunday 22nd August 9.30am

Both these services are in Dagenham Park Leisure Centre.  For directions click here.  All services are free of charge, and all are welcome.  To reserve seats please contact us.

In addition, on Thursday 9th September at 7pm, Melvin Banks is joining us in Harmony House for a Special Free Buffet.  Again, all are welcome – but it would be preferable to call and let us know if you are coming for the purposes of preparing appropriate amounts of food!

Mission Turkey (by Matt Smith)

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Mission Turkey:

Why The Church Needs To Evangelize Turkey

Islam and Geography

No one can ignore the threat Islam poses to our world today especially the Christian missionary.  It is interesting to note as well that the many unreached people for Christ are under the Islamic curtain.  According to Olson Islam is:

…the most widespread of the world’s religions and is found significantly on two continents and expanding into others.  It is the largest of the world’s religions (other than Christianity) with over a billion adherents.  It is unique among non-Christian religions in that it not only claims to be the only true religion, but it has followed up that claim by a sense of world mission that the other religions lack.[1]

This means that if we as the church Universal are able to focus on any area with zeal and organization it ought to be a Muslim area.  Olson follows the above statement with the argument that Islam cannot be addressed as a geographical phenomenon but a global one.[2] This means that there is no geographical area to focus on but instead a sense of world mission to Muslims.  While this is important to be committed to it does not preclude the fact that ideas have their source.  Mormons are influenced and encouraged everywhere but predominately in Salt Lake City Utah.  If I were intent on really making a difference in the Mormon world I would want to win Salt Lake City to Christ and let newly converted Mormons lead Mormons to Christ.  In the same vein, win Muslims to Christ and set them free to reach their own people and we will see a third of the world evangelized.  This is simplistic logic at best but in attempting to pinpoint any area of need in missions it seems important to address the places where people are in numbers.  In this case Islam is the center of the unevangelized.   It is the job of any sending agency to ascertain where that center is.  It is the contention of this paper that Turkey is the best spot to focus on in terms of Muslim outreach that can literally impact the globe.

There are essentially three schools of thought when it comes to reaching Muslims for Christ.  One idea is to race against the sword of Islam to reach areas that have not been reached or affected by this group. The second school of thought is to ignore and avoid Muslims in giving the Gospel thinking that they are just too hard.  These two ideas seem to be the modus operandi of the church for the last bunch of years.  The third idea is to engage Islam at the source and see converts from the heart of the system that could then affect change from the inside out.  Paul took this approach in that he went to the cities and not simply villages to ply his evangelistic mission.  The idea was that the people from the cities would spread and consequently spread the Gospel with them.  This is precisely what happened and what can still happen today.  Paul also challenged the major religious systems of the day at the highest forums possible going directly to the source.  Though he was in chains he went to the very seat of power in the Roman Empire and gave the gospel.  Today in thinking about evangelizing Muslims Paul’s approach seems best.  Where then should we focus?

There is an interesting book recently released by a secular geopolitical historian named George Friedman.  In his fascinating book called The Next Hundred Years, he lays out from a purely geopolitical, secular perspective where he believes the seat of Islamic power will reside.  The point of his book is not focused on this subject but instead is focused on the subject of examining history according to geographical realities and broad global trends and patterns to examine and lay out a possible scenario of the next hundred years.  Friedman has from a purely secular perspective laid out the geopolitical realities, a sort of forest rather than trees outlook, of the movement that is Islam.  He makes the case that Iran and Iraq are merely spasms that are the result of the fall of the communist Soviet Union.[3] His basic argument is that the Soviet Empire held the warring Middle East in check and inadvertently created a sort of stalemate in this area.  What we are seeing today, according to Friedman is the result of unintended consequences.  His point is not that it is unimportant but in terms of geographical history it is inconsequential.  The real threat from Islam he believes will come from an Islamic superpower.  He examines three possible areas for this super power to rise up.  According to Friedman:

Indonesia, the largest Muslim state in the world, is in no position to assert itself.  Pakistan is the second largest Muslim state.  It is also a nuclear power.  But it is so internally divided that it is difficult to see how it could evolve into a major power or, geographically, how it could spread its power, bracketed by Afghanistan to the west, China and Russia to the north, and India to the east.  After Indonesia and Pakistan there are three other major Muslims nation-states.  The largest is Egypt with 80 million people, Turkey is second with 71 million people, and Iran is third with 65 million.[4]

He rejected Egypt as a potential superpower based on it recent failure to become leader of the Islamic world under Gamal Abdel Nasser who consequently antagonized key players like the Saudis.[5] Given its insularity, isolation and poor economy it is hard to see Egypt as a major player on the world stage.  Iran is summarily rejected based on bad geography, being surrounded by opposing forces and by a general bad reputation by the United States.  In short if one were playing the game of Risk, Iran is in a bad spot to be a power in the long term.

Turkey is a different story altogether.  Having the seventeenth largest economy in the world with a GDP of about 660 billion it is a force to be reckoned with.  Turkey is not only a major world economy but also the largest in the region giving it the ability to grow without threat on the borders.[6] Again using the Risk analogy it can move in many different directions and can remain off the radar of the United States because it poses no threat to us.  It does not, like Iran, have to devote resources to protect and defend against the United States and so it can grow and reemerge in its old role, as the dominant force in the region.[7]

There is one more factor making Turkey a viable candidate for the global super Islamic power and that is its history.  According to Wikepedia.com:

The Ottoman Empire or Ottoman State (Ottoman Turkish: دولتْ علیّه عثمانیّه Devlet-i ʿAliyye-i ʿOs̠māniyye,[3] Modern Turkish: Osmanlı İmparatorluğu or Osmanlı Devleti), also known by its contemporaries as the Turkish Empire or Turkey (see the other names of the Ottoman State), was an empire that lasted from 1302 to November 1, 1922[4] (as an imperial monarchy) or July 24, 1923[5] (de jure, as a state.) It was succeeded by the Republic of Turkey,[6] which was officially proclaimed on October 29, 1923

At the height of its power (16th–17th century), it spanned three continents, controlling much of Southeastern Europe, Western Asia and North Africa. The Ottoman Empire contained 29 provinces and numerous vassal states; some of which were later absorbed into the empire, while others gained various types of autonomy during the course of centuries. The empire also temporarily gained authority over distant overseas lands through declarations of allegiance to the Ottoman Sultan and Caliph, such as the declaration by the Sultan of Aceh in 1565; or through the temporary acquisitions of islands in the Atlantic Ocean, such as Lanzarote (1585).[7]

The empire was at the centre of interactions between the Eastern and Western worlds for six centuries. With Constantinople (Istanbul) as its capital city,[8][9] and vast control of lands around the eastern Mediterranean during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent (ruled 1520 to 1566), the Ottoman Empire was, in many respects, an Islamic successor to the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire.[8]

Friedman says that today Turkey is an internally complex society, containing a secular regime protected by a military charged with keeping peace as the culture moves towards Islam.[9] It is precisely this fact that causes the United States to taut Turkey as the model of Islamic democracy a dubious term that ignores the real threat that is Islam.  Ultimately however the subject is not the government of Turkey but its future center of Islamic power.

The Future Radical Ottoman Empire

As we see today, even though Turkey is run by a secular government granting “religious freedom,” the reality is quickly changing.  Turkey is becoming daily more radical and is less and less the model of tolerance our government promotes.  Turkey is beginning to radicalize and is perfectly poised to spread radical Islam to the whole world.   One blogger commented on the radicalization of the government of Turkey with these words:

The Turkish military has announced joint military maneuvers with Syria. That means a NATO ally is working more closely–and to some extent revealing military equipment and tactics–to a country that sponsors Hamas, Hizballah and the Iraqi insurgents killing U.S. soldiers in Iraq; orders terrorist attacks in Lebanon to assassinate political and military figures there; wages war on Israel, and just got caught building a covert nuclear weapons’ building installation in conjunction with North Korea and Iran… Turkey’s regime has moved toward Iran, ignoring international sanctions, in no small part due to energy needs. Yet the improvements of relations go well beyond that. The latest step in rapprochement with the Iran-led alliance is the announcement that Turkey and Syria, Iran’s ally, will stage joint military exercises for the first time, April 27-29….     While Turkey is a NATO member, Syria is an Iranian bloc member and a sponsor of terrorism in its own right. This is one more step in the erosion of any serious effort to build an alignment against the growing power of the Iran-Syria alliance and should be treated seriously. Unfortunately, Western enthusiasm about Turkey as the perfect example of a Muslim-majority state being a democracy and illusions about Syrian moderation will prevent this from happening.[10]

This is significant on a geopolitical scale but it is the regular person on the street commentary that paints a clearer picture.  Daniel Blake, from Christian Today had this to write:

The three Christians who were martyred in Turkey last week were horribly tortured for three hours prior to being killed, Christian Today has learned, as details continue to emerge.

According to the Washington-DC based human rights group International Christian Concern, the three were put through a horrific ordeal which included multiple stabbings before finally being killed.

An ICC statement tells: “As difficult and sorrowful as it is to learn more, we believe that we must expose the truly hellish nature of this attack for what it is.”

On Easter Sunday, five of the killers had been to a service that one of the victims, Pastor Necati, had arranged in the city of Malatya. The men were known to the believers as “seekers”.

These young men, one of whom is the son of a mayor in the Province of Malatya, are part of a tarikat, or a group of “faithful believers” in Islam, ICC has learned.

“Tarikat membership is highly respected; it’s like a fraternity membership,” ICC has stated. “In fact, it is said that no one can get into public office without membership in a tarikat.”

On the day of the killing, the young Muslim men had arranged to meet the Christians at 10 am to learn more about the Bible.

“They had gathered guns, breadknives, ropes and towels – they knew there would be a lot of blood – ready for their act,” ICC said.[11]

The violence that is seen today in Turkey mirrors perfectly the Koran which begins by calling for tolerance of the Christians and Jews but ends with the cutting off of their heads.  Literally by the end of Mohammed’s life it was said of him that he met no person that he did not either kill or convert.  Further even in the United States what most people are not aware of is the threat moderate Islam poses.  There is really no such thing as moderate Islam because the doctrine of abrogation, a doctrine stating that later suras are to override and supercede earlier ones, means that the peaceful loving sections are abrogated with the calls to “kill the infidel.”  This is an obvious fact for any religious Muslim and leaves the Muslim either believing in a violent religion of war or a bipolar religion making no sense.  This fact was brought out during a Fox News interview with the Son of Hamas, a man recently converted to Christianity who is speaking out against Islam and Hamas.  Further, in the ecumenical stage that is being set here in the United States and Europe many have no idea that the Muslim spokespersons can lie with a clear conscience to the infidels giving them incentive to promote the peacefulness of Islam which is simply not real.  When Islam is followed the people that have religious freedom will see themselves under attack.  Take the following shocking example:

In a bizarre show of Turkish nationalism, a young Muslim here took a Christian Turk at knife point, draped his head with the national flag and threatened to slit the throat of the “missionary dog” in broad daylight earlier this week.  Yasin Karasu, 24, held Ýsmail Aydýn, 35, hostage for less than half an hour on Monday (Aug. 3) in a busy district on the Asian side of Istanbul in front of passersby and police who promptly came to the scene.  “This is Turkey, and you can’t hand out gospels,” he yelled, according to the daily newspaper Haberturk. “These godless ones without the true book are doing missionary work.”  About 99 percent of Turkey’s population is at least nominally Muslim, and in the popular mindset the religion is strongly connected with being Turkish.  Karasu threatened to slit Aydin’s throat if anyone came near him and commanded those watching to give him a Turkish flag. Within minutes, Aydin told Compass, bystanders produced two flags. Karasu, who has known Aydin for a year, wrapped the larger of the two flags around Aydin’s head, making it difficult for him to breathe in heat that reached the low 30s Celsius (90s F) this week.  “Do you see this missionary dog?” he yelled at the crowd. “He is handing out gospels and he is breaking up the country!”  Karasu placed the smaller flag in Aydin’s hand and commanded him to wave it.  “Both flags came at the same time,” Aydin told Compass. “The big one he put very tightly over my head, and in the heat I couldn’t breathe.”  The whole time Karasu held a large knife to Aydin’s throat.  “You missionary dogs, do you see this flag?” he said, commanding Aydin to wave the flag. “This is a holy flag washed in the blood of our fathers.”  Aydin said he told Karasu, “Yasin, in any case this flag is mine as well! I’m a Turk too, but I’m a Christian.”  Karasu insisted that Aydin was not a Turk because he had betrayed the Turkish flag and country by his evangelism, according to Aydin.  Aydin said he told Karasu, “No, Yasin, I’m a Turk and I’m waving this flag with love. This is my flag. I’m a Turk.” He said Karasu replied, “No, you can’t be – you are breaking up the country, and I won’t allow it.”  Police managed to convince Karasu to put down the knife and release Aydin, telling him that if he killed the convert Turkey would be ridiculed around the world, and that as a last resort they were authorized to shoot to kill him.[12]

It is clear that Turkey is central in its power and radical in its movement.  With 98 percent of the country being Muslim it seems clear that this is an area of great evangelical need.

Missions in Turkey Today

In light of these stories is difficult to ascertain the realistic mission work going on in Turkey today.  For example, when the story of the young Muslim from Hamas previously mentioned came public with his story there were assurances passed around in the Southern Baptist circles that “we have stuff going on in turkey right now shhh.”   This is all well and good but it leaves one with the real problem of not knowing what impact if any that is being felt there from the missions work.  One evangelical spokesman in turkey had this to say:

“Actually, the state might be secular, but it’s not making that distinction in its activities,” said Isa Karatas, spokesman for Turkey’s perhaps 80 evangelical Protestant churches.  Until religious minorities succeeded in changing the law, Turkey required Christians and Jews to study Islam in the religion classes that are compulsory in Turkish schools from the fourth grade. The state has confiscated hundreds of church properties, only recently returning portions under pressure from the European Union, which Turkey is trying to join.  With perhaps 100,000 Christians in a population of 70 million, Turkey officially tolerates and protects faiths other than Islam. Unlike Afghanistan, which last month threatened to execute a Christian convert, the country has no laws barring Muslims from leaving the faith or against attempts to lure them away.  Yet Turkish police charged 293 people with “missionary activity” from 1998 to 2001, a state minister told parliament recently. People who place calls to Christian groups operating inside Turkey are warned against uttering the word “missionary” on an open phone line.[13]

Olson brings light to the fact that the problem faced in these areas is whether to try to reach Muslims through the dead Armenian, Coptic, or Syrian churches or whether to start over.[14] Today with many missionaries going into the region as “tentmakers” there is word of indigenous churches starting but again this is hard to quantify.  Regardless of the specific numbers it is clear that this is an area not being impacted for Christ.

What Can Be Done?

The irony of the whole contention of this paper is that one of the very places Paul began, Ephesus, is where this paper believes we ought to begin again. Ephesus which is located near the Aegean Sea in modern day Turkey, was one of the great cities of the Greeks in Asia Minor and home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  Today, the ruins of Ephesus are a major tourist attraction, especially for travelers on Mediterranean cruises.[15] According to the Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary:

Paul first visited Ephesus on his second missionary journey (Acts 18:19). He also spent between two and three years of his third journey in Ephesus (Acts 19:8–10; 20:31). He left the city during a riot caused by silver craftsmen who felt their religion and trade were being threatened (Acts 19:24–28; 20:1). Paul later visited with the Ephesian elders at Miletus on his journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20:17–38).

The city ranked with Alexandria and Antioch of Syria as one of the most important cities of the eastern Mediterranean Roman world. It was a port city located on the Cayster River, three miles from the Aegean. It was an important city commercially as the starting place of a great overland trade route to the east.

Ephesus was the worship center of the Greek goddess Artemis (Diana in Latin). The temple of Artemis was 340 feet long, 160 feet wide, and richly decorated with 100 columns more than 55 feet high. The city was the guardian of the sacred image of Artemis, which was believed to have fallen from heaven (Acts 19:35).[16]

When Paul began making converts in numbers he saw them burning their books of magic in the streets an act literally turning Ephesus upside down (Acts 19).  This paper is not arguing specifically for Ephesus as the exact spot but the idea that Paul went to the center of power in Turkey and spread the Gospel from there to the rest of the world.  This is the same technique he used in reaching the world from Rome and today it remains the best way of reaching the many unevangelized Muslims.  Begin the center of influence and spread the furthest the fastest.  Interesting Paul describes the conflict in this area for the Gospel and in Revelation we see Paul praise this church for standing doctrinally strong in the midst of serious cultural pressure to depart.  Where is the Ephesian church today?  This paper believes it remains to be planted!

What is the solution?  Planting churches through Muslim converts who are equipped prayed for and encouraged.  One of the best ways to spread the Gospel in Turkey is through mass media like television and radio.  Currently Muslims in areas like Turkey are accepting Christ in large numbers secretly.  The problem is that Islam is a way of life and these secret believers are afraid to come out about their faith.  According to Mosab Hassan Yousef the son of one of the founders of Hamas Islam is crumbling from the inside out.  He claims that Islam has no ability to argue for its own merit but by the sword.  The regular Joe Muslim cannot even read the Koran.  For starters it is written in Old Arabic a language not spoken today and so many in the Islamic faith get their belief much the same way that those in the middle ages received theirs, priests told them what to believe.  For the past fourteen hundred years Islam was able to hold its believers captive by keeping out any influence from the outside but today almost any modern Muslim can turn on their computer and get just about any information they want.  At this point the lack of coherence in Islam is being exposed for what it is and the perception of strength is just that.  In fact, according to Yousef, a personal friend, Islam is being torn apart from the inside out by its own inconsistencies.  The polarizing of the Islamic community is a reaction to this and must be seen in some ways as the death throes of a false religion, he claims.  If a Muslim comes out about their faith they could face persecution of many types and this is truly a scary prospect.  It is imperative however that Muslims stand up about their new faith and face what comes.  At this point those having the ability to support Muslims through their lives and witness ought to be willing to stand with them.  To begin Muslims here in the United States ought to be encouraged to tell their families of their new faith in Jesus and they must be accepted publicly and without fear by local churches wherever they are found.  The church cannot hide it must be public in its stand and light.  This paper is radically calling for the possible persecution of many but it is the very way Martin Luther King sought to change things here in the United States.

In many respects this whole issue needs to be on the minds and hearts of Christians from America because it is from here that so many of the world’s missionaries are sent.  If the common American Christian is not really aware of the real need for prayer and financial assistance needed they cannot be expected to mobilize.  It is then the job of Pastors and sending agencies to be bold in their cry for Muslim outreach.  Turkey is ripe for the harvest are we willing to go?

Romans 1.18

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For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

This is a very serious verse and one that needs considerable contemplation by all Christians. Let’s first of all define the phrase “wrath of God”. The Greek word is orge (pronounced or-gay) and it can mean violent emotions or it can mean punishment.

Most commentaries I read seem to lean towards defining orge in this verse as violent emotions. This goes back to the Calvinist idea that God is angry with the world. I even read one commentary that said that God hates sinners – that if you sin, God hates you until you repent.

I believe whole heartedly that this idea of “sinners in the hand of an angry God” is a false one. We are not sinners in the hands of an angry God, and we were never sinners in the hands of an angry God! We were sinners, but God was not angry. Now, as Christians, we are not sinners any more: we are righteous saints in the hands of a loving Father.

The preacher of “sinners in the hands of an angry God” first transcribed sermon was about how God will not save anyone who comes to Him in sincere faith, as God can do what He likes and God will only save who He wants to save! People in his church were so depressed by his preaching that some of them committed suicide, including his own uncle. He then said that it was God that made them kill themselves! If I thought that unless I was specially chosen by God there was no way I could be redeemed from sin, no matter how much I wanted to be, I think I would be suicidal too! It is utterly Biblically incorrect to say that we are sinners in the hands of an angry God, yet many Christians use this era of Christianity as their benchmark of living Christianity and ignore the book of Acts!

Let’s look at this topic of the wrath of God across the wider Biblical teaching of God and then let’s look at this within the context of Romans 1 and unpick what this verse means. I believe it means that the legal punishment of God is revealed, not God’s emotional anger.

Firstly, let me say that the Bible is clear that God is pure and righteous and holy. Godliness is about being pure and acting right and living holy. I am not for sin – sin is a killer: sin will keep you enslaved and take you places where death can attack and destroy you. However, the sin problem has been dealt with. Sin will never affect your relationship and intimacy with God.

You see when God created Adam and Eve and when they first sinned, God did not punish them. Pain in childbirth, having to work and sweat to make the world produce, difficulty in relationships, being dead spiritually and eventually dying physically were not placed on Adam and Eve by God – they were just the natural consequences of kicking God out of your life and your planet. God gave Adam and Eve planet Earth and they booted God out of it – no wonder the planet is in a mess! No wonder marriages are in a mess – they booted God out of marriage! No wonder child-rearing and producing a living are such hard work – they booted God out of these things!

God wasn’t punishing them, they were just dealing with the natural consequences of their actions. If you live a promiscuous lifestyle and catch a sexually transmitted disease, God didn’t put that on you – it is simply the natural consequence of you actions. If you eat 5000+ calories a day, and you have a heart attack – God didn’t do it. If you drink and drive and crash your car, God didn’t do it. If you sin and end up in hell because you never accepted the redemptive work of Christ at Calvary, God didn’t send you to hell – it is simply the consequence of your actions.

God found Adam and Eve and clothed them with the skin of an animal. God brought death into an animal, so that Adam and Eve could live. That is not the actions of someone who is “violently emotional and angry”. You don’t make a sacrifice for someone you hate.

Now, God continually showed love and affection to the human race. Cain murdered his brother and God marked him. The mark of Cain wasn’t judgment it was mercy: it said that you couldn’t punish Cain. It was protection. You don’t protect a murderer if you are violently emotional and angry.

However, people took the love and mercy of God and the goodness of God for granted. The world became more and more wicked, and people such as Lamech said essentially if Cain could murder and God still loved him, I will go and murder who I like. The goodness of God leads to repentance (Romans 2.4) but not if we take it for granted.

So God had to develop a system of laws. He had to wipe out everyone in a flood. But God did it as a discipline and a punishment for sin – not out of a temper. He is our Father – if a father disciplines and punishes a son, that is fine. If my son was rude or stole something, I would punish them in some appropriate way. But, if I did it out of violent anger (which I have on occasion lost my temper at my children and had to repent of it) then you would say that this was bad parenting. How much more is God a good Father?

He flooded the world because He was the judge of the world, not because He violently hated mankind. Someone in a violent emotional state would not have led Noah to build an ark and waited 100 years to discipline humanity, spending that time calling them to repent with a powerfully anointed preacher. Violently angry people do not wait 100 years pleading with people to change!

He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because He had to stop their wickedness spreading. Violently angry people don’t wait until people escape before destroying a city – God did.

You see this idea of God being violently angry and needing to be placated is actually a pagan idea, not a Christian one. The truth is that sin does need a punishment, a death, but God is the one providing the lamb that takes away the sin of the world, not the one looking for it. We are the ones looking for it, and we found it at Calvary – the love of God in a human, giving up His life for us. That is the nature of God.

God must punish sin. The wages of sin is death, and if you die in sin you will go to hell. Sin cannot enter heaven. God’s justice demands that sin is punished. But the love of God triumphs over sin through Calvary. Mercy has triumphed over justice.

This is what this verse is talking about, not a God in heaven looking at people enjoying getting them and blasting them and being violently angry at them. It is a God who knows that sin must be punished and needs to deal with that so that He doesn’t have to punish sin. God doesn’t want anyone going to hell, God doesn’t want anyone sick, anyone suffering, God loves people! Your ungodliness must be punished, your unrighteousness has to be punished! But Jesus was punished so you don’t have to be!

The context of Romans 1.18 is the gospel. The whole reason we need the good news of Jesus is the wrath of God. Not the capricious anger of God, but the punishment of God. God must punish every sin you have ever committed, every impure thought you have ever had. But far from being violently angry with you, God loves you so much that He gave up His only Son to die your death, to bear your iniquity, to take the punishment for your sin – so you could have eternal life, so you could be righteous and pure and so you could have a relationship with God! Selah!

You deserved hell, Jesus went there so you don’t have to. You deserved death, but you are going to live forever if you accept by faith that Jesus took your place. This is the good news. The wrath of God is what makes the good news good news. If there is no wrath of God, then the gospel is meaningless. If sin did not warrant death, then the gospel is useless.

But let that realization of a clear punishment for sin lead you to say that God is an angry God – He is a God who only has thoughts to prosper you not to harm you. Angry people cannot think like that. God is angry – but not at humans, He is angry at injustice, He is angry at ignorance, He is angry that the devil keeps tripping people up and lying to them and making them think that He hates them. He is angry at anything that stops you and Him enjoying fellowship and friendship. But He is not angry at you.

Look at Isaiah 54.7-8:

8In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.
9For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee.

God compares His never being wroth (angry) with us again like the promise that He will never flood the earth again. They are as important to Him. Every Christian knows that God will never flood the world again like He did. You need to know as well and as deeply in your spirit that God will NEVER be wroth with you. Ever.

Next time you see a rainbow, thank God that He is not and will never be angry with you. The wrath of God was entirely poured out on Jesus, the entire punishment for the sin of the world was laid entirely on Him.

That is good news!

Romans 1.16

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For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

This is one of my favourite verses ever. Everyone should memorize this verse in my opinion, it is so powerful. It is life changing truth.

Paul starts by saying “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ”.

The Greek word for ashamed is the word epaischynomai which means guilty, disgraced and embarassed. How do we feel about the good news of Jesus Christ? Are we disgraced by it? Does it embarass us?

I think it often does embarass us. I am not talking about not sharing the gospel and being afraid to share the gospel – you should never be afraid to tell people the good news. I think that the gospel embarasses us as Christians because it is a message of entire grace and no merit.

The gospel (Gk. euaggelion) is the good news of Christ. It is the truth that we don’t have to be spiritually dead, we don’t have to be sick, we don’t have to be poor, we don’t have to be rejected because of the redemptive work of Christ on the cross.

I think Christians are embarassed of the gospel because it is so unbelievable – as Andrew Wommack calls it, it is the “too good to be true news”. So what we do is add a little to the gospel to make it more acceptable and less embarassing: you have to go to church for it to work, you have to be a good person, you have to change, you have to pray for this long. None of this is the gospel – the gospel is that we are redeemed, we are righteous, we are healthy, we are wealthy because of Jesus Christ and because of His goodness and His brilliance.

Stop being embarassed of the gospel. Tell people the truth: Jesus Christ has done it all. Jesus has paid the price for every sin you have ever committed, ever will commit, and you are free in Him if you believe in Him. You are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

This gospel – this news that it is all Jesus and not our works, not our righteousness, not our attitudes, but His redemptive work on the cross – this gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.

This is the most important truth you can ever, ever receive: the power of God is in the good news that Jesus has completely paid the price for us.

The power of God is not in fasting. The power of God is not in prayer. The power of God is certainly not in binding demons and screaming in tongues for hours. The power of God is not in our holiness. The power of God is not in special people – charismatic superstars.

The power of God is in the gospel – the good news that Jesus paid the price.

If you know someone who needs healing, you don’t need to pray and fast. You don’t need to bind the devil, you don’t need to drag them to a crusade.

You need to tell them the good news. You need to tell them the truth that Jesus Christ has completely paid the price for their healing. The power of God is in the good news.

Don’t be embarassed about the good news. Tell people they can be healed – not because of their merit, but because of Jesus. Tell people they can be wealthy because of Jesus – not because of their background or any other reason. Tell people that they can be righteous because of Jesus – not due to their actions, their prayer life, their anything! It is all Jesus.

The power is only in what Jesus has done. It is not anywhere else. If we don’t tell people boldly that Jesus has done it all, then we will not see the power of God.

This is why the church at large does not see the power of God. Galatians 3 says that we see miracles because of grace and faith, not works of the law. We have made miracles subject to our holiness, to our goodness. We have told people that they need to clean up their lives to see the goodness of God, to see healings, to see wealth, to see salvation, to be righteous.

It is all untrue – in fact, Paul calls it witchcraft in Galatians 3. It is witchcraft to say that you need to do something to be saved other than believe in Christ and His redemptive work.

Get out of witchcraft, and get into the gospel. Stop being embarassed about the gospel and tell people boldly that Jesus has done it all. Then you will see the power of God – you will see people born again, people healed, people released from poverty, from shame, from rejection. You will see people who used to hold their heads down low lift them high, their entire faces will change as the gospel renews their mind.

Stop trying to find the power of God where it is not. Stop being embarassed that Jesus has done it all and you have done nothing, are nothing and deserve nothing without Him! Admit it – you are nothing without Christ. You can do nothing without Christ. You deserve nothing without Christ.

Christ has done it all – paid the total price so we, and the world, can be righteous, can be saved, can be accepted, can be loved, can be redeemed, can be joyous, can be healed, can be happy, can work miracles, can enjoy life in abundance. It is all HIM!

All we have to do to enjoy salvation (which in the Greek means healing, peace and prosperity) is believe. That is the greatest truth in the Bible. It is the most wonderful truth in the universe. That is the most important truth you can ever realize.

BBC highlights squeeze on Christian street preachers

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BBC highlights squeeze on
Christian street preachers

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

A BBC report has highlighted some of the religious liberty issues facing Christian street preachers.

Listen to the report

An extract from BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme, broadcast on 23 August 2009. Visit the BBC’s website to listen to the entire programme.

The report, featured on Radio 4’s Sunday programme this weekend, included a recording of a recent incident where a street preacher was told by police officers that it is a criminal offence to identify homosexuality as a “sin”.

They said this to Andy Robertson, an evangelist with the Open-Air Mission (OAM), even though he had never mentioned homosexuality in his preaching.

Mark Jones, an employment lawyer who specialises in religious liberty issues, told the programme: “Giving offence of itself is not against the law.

“There is no protection that I may have from somebody simply walking up to me in the street and saying something that I might disagree with or I might be offended by.”

Mr Robertson is not alone in encountering problems while preaching in public.

Earlier this month it was reported that a street preacher had been arrested after reading out Bible passages in Maidstone, Kent.

Last summer a street preacher in Birmingham was arrested after he had mentioned homosexuality while preaching about sin and its consequences.

The Christian Institute’s Mike Judge told the Radio 4 programme why more cases like this are taking place.

He said: “I think the reason for this increase has been there is a diversity and equality agenda that doesn’t seem to allow for Christians to express their faith in a way where other people may disagree with them.”

He said that sensitivity about issues such as minority faiths and sexual orientation has put police officers and local authorities “under huge pressure to be seen to be responding”.

He added that “sometimes you get over-zealous public officials who want to step in and say, ‘you can’t say that because someone might be offended’, and that over-zealousness is I think part of the problem”.

Another evangelist with the OAM was recorded for the programme as he preached in Hounslow, West London.

Tim Whitton told the reporter: “Our approach generally is just to speak but not shout, to be friendly”.

He said the aim was to make sure that “if anyone is ever offended, they’re offended by the message of the Bible, rather than by anything that we’re doing”

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