Category Archives: Uncategorized

TEAR Fund NZ: Christian Action in Palestine

Steve Tollestrup, CEO of TEAR Fund NZ has issued the following statement defending their position on Israel-Palestine and decision to sponsor my lecture tour in New Zealand.

May I begin by stating categorically that TEAR Fund:

1. Supports the right of the Jewish people to have a national homeland with safe and secure borders.
2. Considers anti-Semitism as abhorrent and evil.
3. Rejects unconditionally violence and takes seriously Christ’s call to be peace-makers and good Samaritans.

I have had the opportunity to spend time with Stephen Sizer and his wife Joanna over the last week and have repeatedly heard him at length support a Jewish homeland, reject anti-Semitism and urgently calling on the church to be praying for peace.

I was raised by a Jewish parent ( my step-father ) with both holocaust survivors and victims’ in my family. I know anti-Semitism when I see it. I have never heard Stephen Sizer say something that would make me feel he is anything but repulsed by anti-Semitism or that he is antagonist to TEAR Fund’s position stated above.

TEAR Fund over the last eighteen years has been transparent with our supporters about our work with Palestinian refugees and poor families. In fact the very first grant TEAR Fund awarded in the 1960’s, was for Palestinian refugees. This is nothing new. I also work very closely with Messianic Jews in Israel as partners in local and international projects and peace-building witness.

Stephen Sizer has been in New Zealand hosted by TEAR Fund and Laidlaw College. Likewise he works in association with World Vision and was interviewed on both Shine TV and Radio Rhema. Do you seriously think that TEAR Fund, Laidlaw, World Vision and Rhema, all Christian ministries committed to the Gospel, would support anti-Semitism? Stephen’s message is not complicated: Christian’s have a mandate to see that Palestinians as well as Israeli’s are also provided with rights and a secure future for their families. Further he ( and TEAR Fund ) affirm that the Palestinian church be supported and equipped to be a witness of Christ and a peace-maker in the region.

In Christ whom we love and serve,

Steve Tollestrup

Executive Director TEAR Fund.

Steve Haas, Vice President of World Vision USA, has made this statement in support of TEAR Fund NZ.

“I am thrilled that TEAR Fund NZ is serving as host for the very important visit of Rev’d Dr. Stephen Sizer. Stephen is clearly aware of the hurdles to Middle East reconciliation and serves as a tireless spokesman for peace in the Middle East and one that is shared by the Israelis and Palestinians that live there. Stephen has my utmost support and admiration.”

Steve Haas
Vice President, Chief Catalyst, World Vision US

See also:

See more photos of TEAR Fund NZ here

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Is God a Delusion? John Lennox

Read more about John Lennox.

The Lennox-Dawkins Debate.

Christ Church, Virginia Water. GU25 4PT.

Phone 01344 844946 for tickets

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Christianity Explored Launch in Burundi

This week, Craig Dyer (training director of Christianity Explored), Jim McAnlis (of Fields of Life and East Africa coordinator of Christianity Explored) and I are in Burundi to launch the new Kirundi translation of Christianity Explored.

CE is a popular ten week evangelistic course, based entirely on Mark’s gospel which includes talks, group Bible discussion and personal reflection. Now available in more than 20 languages and being used in more than 70 countries, CE is designed to help participants answer three simple questions around which Mark’s gospel is structured: Who is Jesus? Why did Jesus come? What is his claim on my life? It is literally a walk through Mark’s gospel to explain, through the teaching, the miracles, the death and resurrection of Jesus, the incredible claim made in the very first verse, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1).

The course is also designed to help give church members confidence in the Word of God and learn how to share their faith as well as train new church leaders. The strategy is to train hundreds to equip thousands to reach millions. CE is distinctive among other similar courses because it simply allows the gospel to teach the gospel.

This is the fourth year we have visited East Africa to train pastors and clergy to use Christianity Explored. In previous years we have held conferences at Carlisle College in Nairobi, Kenya, at Kiwoko Bible Week, and for clergy in Luwero and Masindi Dioceses in Uganda. Working closely with the Anglican Bishops, Pentecostal leaders, the Uganda Bible Society, Kiwoko Hospital and Fields of Life, we have launched translations in Luganda and Swahili and trained several thousand clergy to use the course. It is estimated that tens of thousands have completed the course in Uganda and we know of new churches that have been planted as a result.

At the invitation of the Anglican Archbishop of Burundi, the Right Revd Bernard Ntahoturi, this week we visited Matana Cathedral and trained about 70 of his clergy to use the course. In Makamba Diocese, with the blessing of Bishop Martin Blaise Nyaboho, the Diocesan centre hosted a similar conference for over 200 pastors and clergy from 35 different denominations. This was the first time many of them had experienced a small group bible discussion. They discovered the value of group study to personalise, compliment, reinforce and apply Biblical teaching.

Returning to Bujumbura, through the beautiful mountain scenery of Burundi, we stopped by the shores of Lake Tanganyika at the large stone making the place where in 1874, Livingstone, coming from the coast of Tanzania, met Stanley coming from the Congo.

The world has changed dramatically in the last 140 years, but the heart of the human problem remains the problem of the human heart. Transcending the barriers of language and culture, people are discovering through CE and the teaching of Jesus, that we are more sinful that we ever realised but more loved that we ever dreamed.

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Jesus Confronts Racism and Prejudice with Compassion and Mercy

This ‘sermon’ is just 1 minute 48 seconds but it sums up the last 35 years of my full time Christian ministry. If I never preached another sermon, this is the one I’d want you to remember me by.

“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37)

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 24:40)

Source: With God on our Side

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Jesus and the widow who knew how to handle money

The Widow’s Mite from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

The Butterball Turkey company has a hotline to answer consumer questions about preparing and cooking turkeys. Occasionally they get a rather unusual query. One lady called to inquire about cooking a turkey that had been in her freezer for 23 years. The operator told her it might be safe if the freezer had been kept below 0 degrees the entire time. But the operator warned the woman that, even if it were safe, the flavour had probably deteriorated, and she wouldn’t recommend eating it. The caller replied, “That’s what we thought. We’ll just give it to the church.” Why do we find that story funny? She was consecrating her Turkey to God, wasn’t she? It’s the thought that counts, doesn’t it? This morning, in our series on Jesus and women, we meet the lady who knew how to handle money. I want us to observe how impressed Jesus is with her. We don’t know her name but we do learn:

True Giving is Unpretentious: Observed by God’s Son

True Giving is Sacrificial: Prized in God’s Economy

True Giving is Reckless: Trust in God’s Provision

1. True Giving is Unpretentious: Observed by God’s Son

“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.” (Mark 12:41-42)

Imagine the scene. Jesus has just had a rather tense confrontation with some of the religious leaders. He heads to the Temple with his disciples. In the temple, there is a section called court of the women which both men and women were allowed to come, and where the temple treasury was located. The Bible says that Jesus sat down on a bench where he could watch the people bring their offerings and put them in one of the thirteen trumpet-shaped collection boxes. Each one had a different purpose. There was a box for contributions to the building fund. One was for the priests’ salary. One was for helping the poor. When people went up to put their tithe and offering into the box they would announce the amount of the gift and its purpose. They might say, “£500 for the building fund, and £200 for the hunger relief fund.” And metal on metal, their gifts made a good deal of noise as they fell into the collection boxes. But not this widow’s contribution. Her two coins were lepta, the smallest coins in circulation. They were worth almost nothing. Amidst the din of the wealthy givers, her contribution would have made no sound at all. And had it not been for Jesus, her visit to the Temple that day would have been unnoticed. But Jesus not only observed her giving. He observed her condition and motivation.

What do you think? Is God observing us in the same way today? Does he read our minds? Does he delight in our motives? Not how much we give but why we give? I believe He does. Giving is an act of worship, our response to God’s revelation of Himself. How much we give will reflect our thankfulness for all that God has given us. How much we give reveals much about how we view all that he has entrusted to us. In giving we are expressing the level of our gratefulness. It is not the amount but the motivation Jesus is looking at. True Giving is Unpretentious: Observed by God’s Son.

2. True Giving is Sacrificial: Prized in God’s Economy

“Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.” (Mark 12:43)

Amongst the noise of the large quantities of coins being tossed into the collection boxes, this woman’s contribution would not have been heard or noticed. But in God’s upside down economy the noise made by her small gift was deafening.

As she leaves, unnoticed in the crowds, Jesus thought her gift so important he draws the attention of his disciples to her and says, “The truth is this widow has given by far the largest offering today, far more than all the other gifts combined.  All these others made offerings that they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all!”

To the Lord, how much she gave was not as important as how much she had left afterwards. God is pleased when someone like her gives unpretentiously, joyfully and sacrificially. It is not the amount given but the motivation of the giver that is prized in God’s economy. Money is of no value to God.

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” (Acts 17:24-25)

God wants us to give, not because he needs our money but because we need to demonstrate that we trust him with his world. The Lord puts it this way in 2 Corinthians:

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)

Our generosity is measured not by what others may give but by what we are capable of giving, what we are willing to give.

That is why I hope you will contribute to our ‘Turing Wine into Water’ appeal to provide a well for Nkondo Village and enlarge Goshen Christian School in Uganda in August. I do hope you will come to Stanlake Park for the afternoon on Saturday 16th July. God highly prizes such giving. Mother Teresa once said, “If you give what you do not need, it isn’t giving” Think about that.  “If you give what you do not need, it isn’t giving” True Giving is Unpretentious: Observed by God’s Son. True Giving is Sacrificial: Prized in God’s Economy.

3. True Giving is Reckless: Trusting in God’s Provision

“They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything— all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:44)

What some might regard as foolish recklessness, Jesus praises. Jesus praises her because she had literally given all her worldly wealth to the God she loved. She placed herself entirely in the hands of God. And there is no safer place to be.

She had no one else to provide for her. And in this act of dedication she became totally dependent on God. Have you ever been in such a place? It may be utterly scary but it is totally liberating. I can only remember being in that place once in my life. As a student I went on holiday to Sweden and discovered it was rather more expensive than I had budgeted for. During my last few days and on the ferry home I lived on bread and jam bought with the last of my Kroners. When I arrived at Harwich I was penniless. I remember being accosted by a beggar on the railway station asking me for money and empathising with him as I was broke too. When you have nothing left you become very dependent.

The lady in our story had nowhere to turn but God and his provision. Did he provide for her? We are not. However we do know that God promises to provide for all who trust in Him. Psalm 37 says,

“The blameless spend their days under the LORD’s care, and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.” (Psalm 37:18-19)

That is why Jesus insists,

“Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33)

What about you? Do you think God means us to believe these promises apply to us today? Too often, we play it safe don’t we? We play it safe when we give to God with the attitude, “I’ll give this amount, but I’ll hold back the rest just in case God doesn’t come through for me.” We hedge our bets just in case God drops the ball. This applies to more than money. It applies to our time and service for God as volunteers as well. We play it safe. We want to stay in our comfort zone. We doubt that God will help us. We get comfortable in our little corner doing what we’ve always done or giving what we’ve always given. In effect we are saying we believe that we can manage our affairs better than God can. So let me ask you, are you willing to be reckless for God? Extravagant with God? That was why Jesus praises the widow’s giving, because it was unpretentious, it was sacrificial, it was reckless.

Conclusion

A sobbing little girl, Hattie May Wiatt, stood near a small church from which she had been turned away because it ’was too crowded.’ “I can’t go to Sunday School,” she sobbed to the preacher as he walked by. The preacher looked on her shabby, unkempt appearance, and guessed the reason – taking her by the hand, took her inside and found a place for her in the Sunday School class. The child was so touched that she went to bed that night thinking of the children who have no place to worship Jesus. About two years later, Hattie died and her parents called for the preacher, Dr. Russell H. Conwell, to handle her final arrangements. They told him that they found a  worn and crumpled purse. Inside were 57 cents and a note scribbled in childish handwriting which read, “This is to help build the little church bigger so more children can go to Sunday school.” For two years she had saved for this special offering. He wrote, “After the funeral the mother handed me the little bag with the gathered 57 cents. I took it to the church and stated that we had the first gift toward the new Sunday school building; I then changed all the money into pennies and offered them for sale. I received about $250 for the 57 pennies; and 54 of those cents were returned to me by the people who bought them. I then had them put in a frame where they could be seen and exhibited them, and we received by a sale of the $250 changed into pennies money enough to buy the next house north of the church. I walked over to see Mr. Baird, who lived on the corner and asked him what he wanted for this lot. He said that he wanted $30,000. I told him that we had only 54 cents toward the $30,000, but that we were foolish enough to think that some time we would yet own that lot. Mr. Baird said: ‘I have been thinking this matter over and have made up my mind I will sell you that lot for $25,000, and I will take the 54 cents as the first payment and you may give me a mortgage for the rest at 5%. I went back and so reported to the church, and they said: ‘Well, we can raise more money than 54 cents’, but I went over and left the 54 cents with Mr. Baird and took a receipt for it as a part payment on the lot. Mr. Baird afterwards returned the 54 cents as a gift. Thus we bought the lot, and thus encouraged of God step by step, we went on constructing this church. Then with the 54 cents they began work on Temple University, which over the years has trained thousands of young people in medicine, law and theology. Then they used the 54 cents to build the Samaritan hospital serving over 30,000 people a year. It eventually became Temple University Hospital which still provides free care for those unable to afford payment, regardless of race, nationality or creed. In Baptist Temple Church now in Blue Bell, Pasadena, there is a picture of the Hettie whose 57 cents, so sacrificially saved, made such remarkable history and helped inspire others to build a church, a university and hospital.

Giving which God delights in is unpretentious because it is observed by God’s Son. Giving which God delights in is sacrificial because it is prized in God’s economy. Giving which God delights in is reckless because it demonstrates complete trust in God’s provision. May you find that to be true in your experience today. Lets pray.

With grateful thanks to Joel Santos, Wesley Bishop, Danilo Santiago and Paul Tuck, over on www.sermoncentral.com for their sermons on this passage, together with the commentaries on Mark’s Gospel by Dick France (The People’s Bible Commentary) and J.C. Ryle (Crossway Classic Commentaries).

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The Middle East Conflict: A Christian Perspective

The Middle East Conflict: A Christian Perspective on the Origins and Solutions

a 60 minute audio-visual presentation on the origins and solutions to the Middle East conflict from a Christian perspective, delivered at Indiana University Purdue University and broadcast on local TV in Fort Wayne, in March 2011.

Also available as a higher resolution DVD for $10 or £5 from stephen@sizers.org

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Radical Conservatives: 21st Century Evangelicals in the UK

During 2011, at Christ Church we are reading, reflecting upon and applying the biblical principles highlighted in John Stott’s book The Living Church: Convictions of a lifelong pastor. In the foreword, he compares and contrasts two kinds of churches, ‘traditional’ and ’emerging’.

It seems to me that traditional and ‘emerging’ churches need to listen attentively to one another, with a view to learning from one another. The former must recognize that much of what we recognize as traditional today was itself once revolutionary and even ‘emerging’, and therefore be open to today’s creative thinking. The latter should be wary of loving newness for newness’ sake. We both could afford to be less suspicious, less dismissive of one another, and more respectful and open. For, as Archbishop Rowan Williams has written, ‘there are many ways in which the reality of ‘‘church’’ can exist’. Nevertheless, it has certain essential marks which will always characterize an authentic and living church.

John Stott insists we need churches that combine the best of both strands, in his words, “more ‘R.C.’ churches” – that is Radical Conservative churches –

‘conservative’ in the sense that they conserve what Scripture plainly requires, but ‘radical’ in relation to that combination of tradition and convention which we call ‘culture’. Scripture is unchangeable; culture is not.”

This month, the Evangelical Alliance publish the findings of a survey into the views of 17,000 evangelicals in the UK.  It is the most extensive piece of research of its kind ever conducted. Speaking as someone who aspires to be a ‘Radical Conservative’ the results are most heartening. They demonstrate that the kind of Christianity John Stott was calling for as long ago at 1958 in his first book, Basic Christianity – far from being in decline or irrelevant – is setting the pace and the agenda for the Church in Britain and offers the best hope for the conversion of the nation.  Here are some of the initial findings:

  • JESUS: 91% strongly agree that Jesus is the only way to God.
  • CHURCH: 97% attend a church service at least once a week.
  • BIBLE: 93% strongly agree that the Bible is the inspired word of God.
  • PRAYER: 76% pray daily, 95% do so at least a few times a week.
  • GIVING: 96% have given money to their church in the past year.
  • MIRACLES: 83% strongly agree miracles did not end in the 1st century.
  • FAITH: 88% strongly agree their faith is the most important thing in their life.
  • ENVIRONMENT: 94% believe we have a duty to care for the environment.
  • ENGAGEMENT: 76% watch, listen or read the news every day.
  • VOTING: 85% voted in the last General Election.
  • VOLUNTEERING: 81% do voluntary week every month.
  • VOICE: 93% believe evangelicals should have a voice in the media and engage with government.

The first report will be available to view online or download from 12th January from the Evangelical Alliance website.

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Just Imagine

Do you enjoy dreaming? Do you ever remember your dreams? Do they ever reoccur? Have you ever dreamed about dreaming? Have you ever thought about sharing a dream? Having seen the film Inception, I will never think about dreams in the same way again. Inception is probably the most complicated, the most fast paced and dramatic sci-fi thriller I have ever seen. The premise is that professional thieves called “extractors” can invade people’s dreams to steal information via a drug-induced sleep that is shared by two or more people. From the ingenious mind of British filmmaker Christopher Nolan, Inception begs the question: what if you could share a dream with someone? Long before Christopher Nolan dreamed up the imaginary world of Inception, the Bible encourages us to dream, to imagine, to have visions of the future and to share the experience.

‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17; Joel 2:28)

Now I think Joel is talking more about ‘day dreaming’ than he is about night dreaming. You can’t do much about dreams at night but you can during the day. While ‘day dreaming’ is mostly associated with negative connotations, I believe we should consciously and actively cultivate the art of day dreaming. So, do you have any hopes or dreams for 2011? Are they like New Year resolutions, quickly made but soon forgotten, or will they stay with you and motivate you throughout the year ahead?

At Christ Church we have found a useful way to express our dreams has been to write out some ‘imagine’ statements. We’ve encouraged one another to imagine what kind of future we would like to see and express these ideas in simple sentences. These have helped construct a vision of the kind of future we aspire to. If you want a copy, visit our website http://www.cc-vw.org/imagine.htm or pick one up from the Church reception.

We could do the same for our community. Imagine returning to Virginia Water in five or ten year’s time. What would it look like? What would be your dreams for Virginia Water? What would your nightmares be? What would you like our community to become?

Imagine Virginia Water as a village free from crime, free from pollution, free from noise, free from stress, free from fear. Imagine Virginia Water as a place where children are safe walking to school on their own, safe playing in the parks and recreation fields. Imagine Virginia Water as a place where you are safe walking alone at night.

Imagine our community with no recorded crime. No speeding motorists, no burglaries, no shop lifting, no assaults. Imagine Virginia Water with no alcoholism, no drug abuse, no vandalism and no graffiti. Imagine not having to lock your windows or doors or gates at night. Imagine not needing an intruder alarm, surveillance cameras, high walls or need for the services of a security firm.

Imagine Virginia Water as a place where marriages last for life, where there is no infidelity, no unwanted pregnancies, no abortions, no child abuse, no adultery, no marital violence, no divorce.

Imagine our community respectful and protective of the various faith communities. Imagine no anti-Semitism, no Islamophoba, no anti-Americanism, no racism of any kind, but instead, a tolerant and caring community where minorities feel secure and accepted.

Imagine our elderly cared for by neighbours within the community. Imagine no one left alone, no one lonely, no one depressed, no one suicidal, but instead everyone valued, affirmed and encouraged to contribute to the good of the community.

Is such a vision unrealistic or naïve? Is it not worth aiming for? Is it worth investing time to try and achieve?

The Bible gives us a vision of the future. In the last chapter of the Bible, we read, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)

This vision of the future has encouraged Christ-followers down through the centuries to pray, as Jesus taught us, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10). This image of the future has motivated Christ-followers to strive to bring God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

What 2011 holds for us, we do not know. With climate change, the threat of terrorism and powerful global forces shaping our economy, it is easy to feel helpless. It is perhaps timely with the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in a few months’ time, to remember something memorable his great-grandfather once said.

On December 25th 1939, as citizens of the British Empire faced a world war, King George VI resurrected a tradition his father launched: an annual Christmas message to all the inhabitants of the Empire. In this excerpt from his speech, the King, not usually a compelling speaker, inspired and reassured his listeners by quoting a poem: “I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, ‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’ And he replied, ‘Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way.'”

May you place your hand in the hand of God this coming year. May God give you a vision of the future that will last all year and beyond. May God give you the strength and perseverance to discover and do his perfect will. And in doing so, may God bless you and those you love in 2011.

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Little Town of Bethlehem at Christ Church 28th November

Christ Church, Virginia Water are hosting a UK premier of the film Little Town of Bethlehem on Sunday 28th November at 2.00pm. Free admission. For travel details see here

Little Town of Bethlehem, a documentary film, follows the story of three men of three different faiths and their lives in Israel and Palestine. The story explores each man’s choice of nonviolent action amidst a culture of overwhelming violence.

The film examines the struggle to promote equality through nonviolent engagement in the midst of incredible violence that has dehumanized all sides.

Dr Bishara Awad denied exit visa

Dr Bishara Awad, the Principal of Bethlehem Bible College and the father of Sami Awad is due to speak at the 11.00am and 6.30pm services at Christ Church, Virginia Water on Sunday 28th November, as well as introduce the film at 2.00pm. However, the Israeli military authorities have so far denied him an exit visa to leave the ghetto prison of Bethlehem.

Little Town of Bethlehem: The Story

Sami’s story begins as a young boy living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank; Yonatan’s starts on an Israeli military base; and Ahmad’s begins in a Palestinian refugee camp.

Their three stories are interwoven through the major events of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, starting with the 1972 massacre at the Munich Olympics and following through the first Intifada, suicide bombings in Israel, the Oslo Accords, the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin, and the second Intifada. Sami, Yonatan, and Ahmad each describe the events from their unique perspective, interjecting personal reflections and explaining how these events led them to become involved in the nonviolence movement.

In Bethlehem, the city where it is said that God became man, Sami just wants to be seen as human. First learning about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a teen, he began lecturing about nonviolence in high school. Later, Sami traveled to India to learn more about Gandhi. As the result of his discoveries, he founded the organization Holy Land Trust to promote nonviolence in the Palestinian community.

Yonatan embraced his father’s legacy as a pilot in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and fulfilled his own dream of becoming an IDF helicopter pilot. However, his journey led him to the astonishing decision to join with 26 other IDF pilots who publicly refused to participate in missions that would lead to civilian casualties. Co-founding the organization Combatants for Peace, made up of former Israeli and Palestinian combatants, Yonatan struggles to reconcile his love for his country with his growing opposition to the Israeli occupation.
After studying in Spain, Ahmad returned to Bethlehem to become a nonviolence trainer. Despite the daily challenges of living in a refugee camp, Ahmad remains committed to his community and risks his life and livelihood in nonviolent actions to bring an end to oppression.

For their work, Sami and Ahmad have been labeled as “Israeli collaborators” by some within the Palestinian community, and are seen as a threat to security by the Israeli military. By refusing to participate in offensive military actions against Palestinian civilians, Yonatan has been branded a traitor by some Israelis and can no longer work in his homeland.

All three men have had their lives threatened by members of their own communities as a result of their work. Sami, Yonatan, and Ahmad continue to embrace their common humanity and equality for all, daring to have the hope that peace in the Holy Land can be achieved through nonviolent struggle.

Most films will entertain you. Good films will educate you as well. Brilliant films will engage and move you to action. Once in a while along comes a film that motivates you to become a participant rather than spectator. This is one of those rare films.

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With God on our Side: iPhone App





“With God On Our Side” takes a look at the theology of Christian Zionism, which teaches that because the Jews are God’s chosen people, they have a divine right to the land of Israel. Aspects of this belief system lead some Christians in the West to give uncritical support to Israeli government policies, even those that privilege Jews at the expense of Palestinians, leading to great suffering among Muslim and Christian Palestinians alike and threatening Israel’s security as a whole.

This film demonstrates that there is a biblical alternative for Christians who want to love and support the people of Israel, a theology that doesn’t favor one people group over another but instead promotes peace and reconciliation for both Jews and Palestinians.”

iPhone Apps Store

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