Only When One Turns to the Lord the Veil is Taken Away

We do not arrive at the TRUTH by carefully aligning Biblical proof texts into systematically organized themes, topics, doctrines, or systems of beliefs however important they might be. By doing so many have arrived at diverse teachings and truths, all supported by some kind of inner logic and reasoning, yet more often than not at odds with each other, while claiming the sole authority of the Bible in their conclusions.

We arrive at the TRUTH by beholding Jesus as revealed in the Gospels, and on the pages of the New Testament, and letting Him interpret and reinterpret everything else – whether the Old Testament covenant, or my church tradition or denominational beliefs, or my cherished beliefs, or fashionable beliefs of the day. 

But only a few dare to do so. Most of us find it very offensive and too radical still to accept that Jesus Christ is THE cornerstone upon which all our cherished notions of God, life, religion and the world, stand or fall. To look for the Truth elsewhere means to choose blindness. It means to remain under the veil of ignorance, confusion and without direction. 

The truth is that “whenever anyone turns to the Lord the veil is taken away…” (2. Corinthians  3:16.) Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, but I tell you!” (Matthew 5:21.27.31.33.38.43.)

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Meeting Jesus on the Refugee Trail, Webinar

Zoom attendance requires registration. Register here.

The treatment of refugees and migrants over the past several years has been a very much contested issue in the US and Europe. The spectrum of attitudes towards them, shared among many Christians too, ranges from the expressions of compassion and acceptance to those of hostility and aggression. Often Christians are the most vocal against the acceptance of refugees and immigrants. Too many Christians, in Europe and the US, and other places are rejecting any policy and action that would treat refugees and migrants with empathy and dignity.

The current situation begs a question: After 70 years of the 1951 International Convention of Refugees in existence, and several years of intensive and challenging migrations of people across international borders, what stand should Christians take in regard to the treatment of refugees and migrants as they come to our countries? In short, should the Followers of Jesus welcome refugees and immigrants, or reject them? 

Some of the questions included in the conversation will be: Why are Christians divided so much over the acceptance of refugees and immigrants into our countries? Are you or your church, and in what way involved in aiding refugees? What obstacles have you faced in your ministering to refugees or immigrants? How can Christians help other Christians, and our communities, to welcome refugees/immigrants, and treat them with respect? What does the Jesus-centered theology of refugees and immigrants look like?

Our team of international panelists, all of them leaders with the firsthand experience in ministering to refugees, immigrants and minorities, include Ryan Smith, US; Jyl Hall Smith, US; Liviu Bocaniala, Romania; Noemi Mena Montes, The Netherlands; Ali Naghondoost, Croatia; Mihaela Kovacs, Romania; Tihomir Kukolja, US. One of our panelists has a personal experience of being a refugee.

This webinar will go live also on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/leadfocusinternational

Join us via Zoom, Thursday 22 April, 2021, at 6.00pm GMT, and be a part of this important conversation. Register now to attend.

Watch the webinar here:

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Palestinian Christians, Webinar Notes

Webinar Notes, Palestinian Christians: Have We Forgotten Our Palestinian Brothers and Sister? A group of young Palestinian Christians talk about the challenges Palestinian Christians are facing due to the biases of many American and Western Christians. Featured contributors are Areej Murad, Shadia Qubti, Yousef Alkhouri, Lamma Mansour and Jack Munayer. They all represent a new generation of young Palestinian leaders, actively involved in peace-building, reconciliation, and human rights and social activism. Time 15:10 min. 

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Christian Nationalism, Webinar Notes

A selection of webinar highlights from two webinars, Overcoming Christian Nationalism, and Christian Nationalism and Christian Identity Do Not Belong Together” produced by Leadership Focus International, February and March 2021. Time 28.33 min.

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Christian Identity and Christian Nationalism Do Not Belong Together

Camilla Bocaniala, one of the panelists

‘Christian Identity and Christian Nationalism Do Not Go Together’, was a message a group of international panelists shared on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. It is one thing to love one’s country, and quite another to be idolatrously obsessed with one’s country, nation, race at the expense of healthy relationships with anyone outside the circle. It is even worse when nationalism is wrapped in a ‘Christian’ blanket. 

Our panelists were:  Camilla Bocaniala, Romania, Co-founder of Polylogos Association, a leadership development organization. David Austin, US, Worked in international and humanitarian development, including UN and US Government. Jyl Hall Smith, US, Adjunct Professor at United Theological Seminary, Ohio, and a boards member of Faith 2020. Heather Staff, UK, Political Adviser on Refugee and Migration Policy to UK Parliamentarians. Zdravko Plantak, US, Professor of Religion and Ethics at the Loma Linda University, California. 

The panelists talked about a difference between patriotism and nationalism, complexity of the identity question, our primary and defining identity in Jesus, biblical Christology, spiritual offensiveness of nationalism, practical solutions to the challenges of Christian nationalism. This webinar was a follow-up webinar. Watch here the first webinar on Christian nationalism ‘Recognizing and Overcoming Christian Nationalism’. Recommend our webinars to your friends too. 

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We Really Don’t Want to Talk About This

Photo: A view from Baytown, TX

I’ve been recently reading the Old Testament books that major in God’s judgments against the kingdoms of Israel and Judah; judgments that were delivered by means of the Assyrian and Babylonian invaders, which ultimately led both kingdoms into captivity. 

One cannot miss the point that God was delivering repeated warnings over an extended period of time, from one generation of kings, leaders and people to another. He told both kingdoms plainly that should their rebellion against Him continue, His judgments would follow with certainty and precision. 

It needs to be said that God was not angry with his people because they were involved in some petty, minor, trivial mischiefs.  One needn’t go beyond reading Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, 1. and 2. Kings, and 1. and 2. Chronicles to realize that it was the lifestyle of demonic idolatry, syncretism, abuse, injustice, oppression which made them face God’s judgment. 

The list of sins was a lengthy one, and concretely spelled out. They included “shedding of innocent blood”, “oppression of alien (immigrants, refugees)”, “mistreatment o fatherless and widows”, “acting wickedly”, as well as pursuing corruption, sacrificing their own children to demons, and leading shamelessly a promiscuous lifestyle. (Ezekiel 22). 

I used to read the Old Testament judgment accounts in the past more academically, by distancing myself from any real personal impact. Not any more. As I observe the rapid growth of moral, social, political and religious decadence today, the Old Testament judgment passages are coming to life with force. They are not any more a story of some distant, ancient tragedy far removed from the bearings of our days. They are coming to life as the harbinger of our own days.

Most of us do not like to talk about it. We really do not want to talk about this, but the day of big reckoning is coming ever closer. The sins of our age are no less grave than those so graphically painted by the Old Testament prophets. And just as God could not tolerate the sins of the ancient civilizations for ever, He will not tolerate the sins of our civilization for ever. Because of Jesus we should know better, act more accountably. “To whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more” – says Jesus. (Luke 12:48, NKJV)

“Once more”, states the author of Hebrews, “I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens” (Hebrews 12:26). My friends, this warning is not a metaphor or an abstract piece of poetry. But this time He will not use the human hands of some earthly superpower to bring His judgments about. This time it will be a decisive action of the mighty hand of the King of kings, the Lord Jesus himself.

The messages of God’s judgment were not received well by the ancient recipients. Even less it is popular today.

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Webinar, Christian Identity and Christian Nationalism

Leadership Focus International Presents a Webinar, Christian Identity and Christian Nationalism, Wednesday, March 24, 2021, 7pm GMT, 8pm CET

Zoom, Facebook, Youtube, 90 min webinar

An international group of panelists will share their insight into the current wave of Christian Nationalism in the US and Europe, and seek answers to challenging questions from the perspective of their understanding of Christian identity. 

What is Christian and religious nationalism? How do Christian nationalism, conspiracy theories (QAnon), bad theology and bad politics feed off each other and what are the consequences? Why is Christian nationalism, or any kind of nationalism that merges with faith, offensive to the teachings and character of Jesus? What are the threats of Christian nationalism, and where do you see the damaged done by the current wave of Christian or religious nationalism? What is the Gospel’s answer to Christian nationalism? What should followers of Jesus do? How could a proper understanding of our primary identity in Jesus help us overcome Christian or any other nationalism?

Our panelists are: Camilla Bocaniala, Romania, Co-founder of Polylogos Association, a leadership development organization. David Austin, US, Worked in international and humanitarian development, including UN and US Government. Jyl Hall Smith, US, Professor at United Theological Seminary, Ohio Heather Staff, UK, Political Adviser on Refugee and Migration Policy to UK Parliamentarians. Zdravko Plantak, US, Professor of Religion and Ethics at the Loma Linda University.

Plan to be with us. Tell friends about this timely and very important webinar. Register now!

This webinar will be moderated by Tihomir Kukolja, Director, Leadership Focus International, and Liviu Bocaniala, Director, Polylogos Association).

Live on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/leadfocusinternational

Join our conversation via zoom by registering now: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0vf-GqrzktH9Sh6lDWaSjBIzWE3XXtROhu

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Loved People, Love People

Refugees on the move in Europe, 2015

I do not believe in the redemptive power of social gospel. Salvation does not come through the acts of social and environmental improvements, however important they are. Salvation is ours as we – fragile as we are – trust in Jesus Christ alone, plus nothing and no one else. 

Even under the best of circumstances our righteousness, goodness, works of benevolence are no more than ‘filthy garments’.  We are incapable of redeeming the world. It will not be us ushering in the Kingdom of God but Jesus Christ, in the words of Daniel the prophet, “without a help of human hands” (Dan. 2:34). 

However, once we’ve embraced Christ, the Gospel of Christ becomes a transforming power that changes our society too to a degree we’ve ourselves become changed, making it more bearable and less painful for us to live in the world while we patiently wait “for His great appearing” (Titus 2:13). 

For example, when two hundred years ago William Wilberforce, a British politician, saw a huge cognitive dissonance between the claims of the Gospel and the lucrative attractions of slave trade, the Gospel of Jesus empowered him, and a group of his friends, to put an end to the slave trade of his days. 

I believe in the necessity of social application and implementation of the Gospel, as I believe in the necessity of the work of healing performed by medical practitioners, although hospitals will never deliver complete healing and restoration into the lives of their patients. 

One who has tasted the embrace of Christ will, in the name of Christ, go on embracing others. This is so wonderfully explained by Jesus himself: “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:35.36.) 

The formula that links the Gospel of Christ to a social action is a straightforward one: transformed disciples of Christ will keep on transforming others, including our society, however imperfect and incomplete the work and outcome may be. 

The truth of the matter is very simple: loved people, love people. And “we love because Jesus first loved us.” (1. John 4:19.) It always works like this. 

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Overcoming Christian Nationalism, Webinar Highlights

This is a selection of highlights featuring a recently held webinar “Overcoming Christian Nationalism.” The panelists presented here are: Camilla Bocaniala, Romania, Co-founder of Polylogos Association, a leadership development organization. * David Austin, US, Worked in international and humanitarian development, including UN and US Government. * Jyl Hall Smith, US, Professor at United Theological Seminary, Ohio * Heather Staff, UK, Political Adviser on Refugee and Migration Policy to UK Parliamentarians. * Zdravko Plantak, US, Professor of Religion and Ethics at the Loma Linda Ethical University. Watch the entire webinar here.

Camilla Bocaniala, Romania, Co-founder of Polylogos Association
David Austin, US, Worked in international and humanitarian development
Jyl Hall Smith, US, Professor at United Theological Seminary, Ohio
Heather Staff, UK, Political Adviser on Refugee and Migration Policy to UK Parliamentarians
Zdravko Plantak, US, Professor of Religion and Ethics at the Loma Linda Ethical University

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We Do not Worship the Monster of Unity

Photo: Fuzine, Croatia, Winter 2001

Church divided is a disgrace to the Lord. But the church that would sacrifice the uniqueness of Christ for the sake of unity scares me more than the fragmented body of Christ. 

There, where unity is worshiped, along the lines of a common and compromising minimum, and at the expense of one’s undivided allegiance to Jesus Christ, as the only Lord, King and Savior, it is only a matter of time and smart deceptions when some other “Christ”, some beastly parasite will take the throne. 

When Jesus prayed for the “unity of all believers” He meant the Church united in and around Jesus Christ alone, with no one else sharing His throne (John 17:20-23). 

He meant the Church of which He Himself is the Head, and the only head. A transplanted head of someone else on the body of the Church, or some other heads added, would turn such a church into a monster. 

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