Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Two Powerful Articles That Identify What America is Becoming

Todd Starnes, a contributor to Fox News and one of those people who keeps a close watch on the moral structure of our nation, wrote an interesting article published last week.  You can find the article at: www.toddstarnes.com/faith/army-chaplain-faces-possible-court-martial-over-religious-beliefs.  "A decorated Army chaplain at Fort Bragg in North Carolina could face a possible court martial and even military prison after he explained to a soldier he could not conduct a marriage retreat that included same-sex couples because of his religious beliefs, his attorneys allege.  An Army investigator under the command of Major General Kurt Sonntag recommended that Chaplain Scott Squires be found guilty of 'dereliction of duty' for taking three business days to reschedule the 'Strong Bonds' marriage retreat he was prohibited from facilitating.  Squires, who was officially accused of discrimination, is endorsed by the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board (NAMB).


"According to NAMB policy, chaplains are prohibited from conducting 'Strong Bonds' events for same-sex couples.  The policy clearly states 'endorsed chaplains will not conduct or attend a wedding ceremony for any same-sex couple, bless such a union or perform counseling in support of such a union...nor offer any kind of relationship training or retreat, on or off a military installation.'  When Squires realized he could not participate in the 'Strong Bonds' event, he rescheduled the conference to accommodate a lesbian couple with a chaplain who could oversee the retreat.  However, the couple chose not to attend.


"Had Squires participated in the marriage retreat he would have risked losing his endorsement by the Southern Baptists.  Likewise, the Army requires its chaplains to adhere to their endorsers' rules and religious tenets.  'I simply did what I'm required to do under Army regulations and my endorser's rules,' Chaplain Squires said.  'I am shocked that I would even be investigated, let alone threatened with punishment, for following the rules.'"


Friends, we have witnessed this kind of threat too many times these past few years.  We have heard of floral-shop owners, bakers, photographers, and banquet hall operators who have been arrested, charged, and penalized because they took a stand for their religious convictions and beliefs.  Yet the First Amendment to the United States Constitution grants every American the right to freedom of religious expression.  Just this past summer the United States Supreme Court ruled that an individual cannot be targeted just because of his or her religious beliefs.  This Army chaplain was acting according to the rules and regulations of the Department of the Army and the Southern Baptist Convention.  He took the time to reschedule another chaplain who was free to participate in an event in which a same-sex couple could be free to attend.  He did all the right things.  The threat of litigation is a "bully-club" the left enjoys using in order to get their own way.  But it is time that Christians take a stand for biblical truth.  The vacillation has got to stop.  Either there is a Truth worth defending or there is just non-truth.  I can only hope that the Army will stand with this Chaplain because he took a stand for what was right and he did it in a right way.


There was a fascinating article, written by Linda Goudsmit, and titled "Trump derangement syndrome: A prelude to anarchy," that was also published last week.  You can find this important article at: www.renewamerica.com/columns/goudsmit/180805.  The article begins with a powerful opening paragraph which sets the tone for the remainder of the article.  "The election of President Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to the emotional stability of those living in subjective reality because they cannot tolerate the threat of objective reality that President Trump represents.  The clash between subjective reality and objective reality has launched what is known as Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDR) or more recently Trump Anxiety Disorder (TAD).  The incursion of objective reality is so threatening to Anti-Trumpers that they break down psychologically and require medication and psychological services. 


"Mark Alexander posted an article he wrote 8.1.18 titled 'Therapists Rebrand "Trump Derangement Syndrome" exploring the subject: 'The pop culture Urban Dictionary defines Trump Derangement Syndrome as 'a mental condition in which a person has been driven effectively insane due to their dislike of Donald Trump, to the point at which they will abandon all logic and reason.  Symptoms for this condition can be very diverse, ranging from hysterical outbursts to a complete mental break...I would suggest that the increasing frequency and intensity of hysterics associated with TDR is greatly exacerbated by the unmitigated, constant consumption of hateful Democrat/mainstream media propaganda, 24/7/365.  The result is a mass movement of those so intent on undermining Trump that they are now far off the reality reservation and utterly obsessed with defeating peace and prosperity.'


"Anti-Trumpers were groomed to become global citizens in the mythical land of income equality and social justice.  They believed the myth of collectivism because it made them FEEL good - no mention of failed socialism - no talk of Venezuela - until President Trump.  Objective reality is the world of facts - subjective reality is the world of feelings.  The United States of America was founded on the principles of ordered liberty articulated in our Constitution and supported by objective reality.  The Culture War that is attacking America is an attack on ordered liberty, the Constitution, and objective reality.  The Culture War is supported by subjective reality and its world of feelings. ... The left is pressuring society to accept Orwellian doublespeak.  They want you to accept feelings as facts, subjective reality as objective reality, and insanity as sanity. ... The divisiveness in America is now a war over reality.  The country is divided between those living in objective reality and those living in subjective reality."


Let me close with a couple more paragraphs from this insightful article.  "Our elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities have been politicized by educators and administrators who embrace the Marxist doctrines of collectivism lauded by our enemies.  Political correctness, moral relativity, and historical revisionism are the tenets of the new religion of leftist liberalism that has replaced traditional religions and traditional education in America.  Obama's 'resistance' movement is an anti-American coalition of groups who identify as marginalized and victimized - they are a coalition of identity politics who refuse to accept the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.  They refuse to accept objective reality.


"In 1950 the goal of parenting was to help your child become a self-sufficient adult.  In the 60s the goal of parenting shifted from self-reliance to insuring your child's happiness.  Schools adopted the shift in the 70s and 80s and continue to be agents of social change.  Schools abandoned individualism and the meritocracy and replaced them with collectivism and the happiness standard.  Schools abandoned facts and adopted 'feelings' as the standard and every student became a butterfly.  From the time they were in elementary school students were pressed to live in subjective reality so their feelings would not be hurt.  They were lied to and told they were all butterflies - not true - some kids are smarter than others.  They were lied to and told that they could do anything - not true - some kids do not have the aptitude or physical strength to do what they wanted to do. 


"We are now watching these butterflies come undone at the university.  It is not surprising that they refuse to accept the outcome of the election- they still live in subjective reality and lack the coping skills to absorb disappointment.  They are so fragile and so emotionally underdeveloped they need Play-Doh and safe spaces to protect themselves from unwelcome ideas on campus including unwelcome election outcomes.  We are witnessing a generational failure to mature - the unwillingness to accept facts - the student anti-Trumpers refuse to accept objective reality. 


"Objective reality is an existential threat to those living in subjective reality.  Subjective reality is an existential threat to the stability and future of the United States of America.  As President Trump exposes the fiction of subjective reality his enemies are getting more and more desperate to stop him.  Trump Derangement Syndrome is a prelude to anarchy."


Friends, this is an incredibly well-written and honest assessment of where our nation is right now.  Once again we see how we have replaced truth with opinions, with feelings.  It is only truth that can set a person free.  Because we have willingly abandoned truth, we are becoming a nation becoming enslaved to the opinions of others.  Soon it may be said of us as it was of ancient Israel, "In those days there was no king, every man did that which was right in his own eyes."  And, friends, that is anarchy. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

How Would You Describe America Today?

If someone were to ask you to create a list of words to describe the state of the Unites States in the year 2018, what words would you use?  I know you would want to give some time before creating that list.  I have thought about what words I would use.  Let me share several with you.


First, I would use the word "violence."  We live in a violent society.  Mass murders have almost become commonplace.  Cities, such as Chicago and Baltimore, experience shootings and murders at an almost exhausting rate.  Last weekend alone there were 11 murders and over 70 people were wounded in shootings in Chicago, and Baltimore has become the newest "murder capital" of America based upon its population.  Just visit a store that sells video games and the most popular ones are the most violent ones.  It seems we take great satisfaction in spending our free time killing people on the small screen and watching people get killed on the big screen. 


The problem with so many young people playing such violent games is that they are not able to separate the real world from the fantasy world.  In their minds, you can shoot a person and just seconds later you can shoot that person all over again.  So, if I take a gun to school and shoot someone else, I forget that it is the real world and when a person dies in the real world, he is dead.  So we have created a vast realm of confusion within their minds.  And then with the ease at which guns can be obtained, a problem of violence has been created.  Now I am a very strong supporter of the Second Amendment even though I do not own a gun nor would I desire to own one.  But somehow we need to figure out how to limit access to guns as a deterrent to the violence.  I wish I knew what that looked like, but something has to work.


Second, I would use the word "double-standard."  Okay, so that might be two words.  Perhaps our society has always lived with a double-standard, but it seems more prevalent today.  For example, just look at the millions of dollars and the countless hours that have been consumed to determine whether the Trump presidential team committed any collusion or obstruction of justice in the 2016 election.  The media has almost worn that "cloak" for the past two years, while the reality of the known crimes committed by the Clinton campaign that same time seem to be shoved under the rugs.  That is a double-standard.  Media giants such as Apple, Twitter, Facebook, and others carefully screen through emails and other communications, focusing they say upon what they consider to be hate-speech.  But more often their targets are conservative Christian groups who promote a Christian values system.  Those on the left are usually not even approached.  Whenever you hold one group of people to a higher standard than others there is the risk for conflict. 


A third word I would use is "entitlement."  No, I am not talking about Medicare or Social Security as I do not view these as entitlements.  I have been putting money into Social Security for over 55 years, as well as into Medicare.  I have earned my Social Security checks.  By entitlements I am referring to those areas where we have expectations for others to take care of us.  One of the battle cries today is that our kids are owed a free college education - four years, no less.  Another cry is that we are owed free healthcare.  Many of our students graduate from our colleges and universities believing that they are owed a high-paying job that requires very little work.  And, yes, I know that there are times you have to take a job that is not exactly to your specifications.  I remember one summer I worked at a Christian college and my job for the entire summer was to clean bathrooms in all of the dormitories.  Eight hours a day - five days a week - cleaning showers, toilets, sinks, and floors.  I learned then that I did not want to do that job the rest of my life, but I needed a job to support my family.  It seems we have forgotten how to work today - we want somebody else to work for us. 


I would also use the word "opportunity."  America has always been the land of opportunity.  It was opportunity for freedom of worship that brought the Pilgrims and Puritans to our shores.  It was the opportunity for financial independence that brought others to Jamestown and then to New York.  It was the opportunity for adventure and advancement that led those pioneers to cross those Allegheny Mountains and head west.  It was opportunity that drove them all the way to the shores of the Pacific Ocean.  America is the land of opportunity.  For those who dream big dreams and who are not afraid of some "blood, sweat, toil, and tears" the opportunities in America are boundless.  Yes, there are risks to be taken; it was very risky crossing the storm-tossed Atlantic in the late fall of 1620.  It was very risky loading all your possessions into a covered wagon and cross those mountains, knowing the risks of climate and enemies.  I am grateful that there still are opportunities here in our great nation.  I am still grateful that others want to come to America legally because they see opportunities.


A final word that I would use to describe America today is "truth-starved."  Yes, I know I made up that word.  But it conveys the reality of our times.  We live in a nation that is starved for truth.  Every day we feast upon opinions and interpretations.  I thought of that the other night as I watched one of the popular talk-shows on television.  Although the conveying of truth was its objective, the hour was basically spent in personal opinions.  God has commanded us to be purveyors of His Truth.  But, in order for America to know truth, it must have a turning to the God of truth.  God is Truth.  And it is His Truth that sets people free.  How can I convince others to seek God's truth?  I need to live it out in my own life in such a way that others see it. 


Well, that is my list.  Let me ask you: What words are on your list?  Take some time this weekend and sit down and create your list.  I am confident you will learn as you think and process.       

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Some Post-Sabbatical Thoughts on War and Current Affairs

It is good to be back "in the saddle again."  Marlys and I have spent the last four weeks on the East Coast on my very first sabbatical.  We had rented a home in Fredericksburg, Virginia - a home that was a great fit for us.  The owners of the home were believers and we could sense the presence of God within.  I was able to get a lot of study completed and worked on the first twelve sermons in my new fall series on the Gospels - the story of the coming of that thread of redemption promised in the Old Testament.  In spite of the very hot and humid weather conditions, we got to experience many of the sites, sounds, and flavors of northern Virginia and southeastern Pennsylvania.   


We spent time visiting many of the historical sites in northern Virginia, including many Civil War battlefields.  One forgets that more blood was shed on Virginia soil during those four years than in any other state - Union or Confederate.  I spent part of one afternoon just walking the sunken road there in Fredericksburg and then climbing to the top of Marye's Heights.  It was here in December 1862 that Union General Ambrose Burnside ordered a charge up those slopes.  It was all open ground.  Poised within that sunken road were troops commanded by Robert E Lee and positioned on the top of Marye's Heights were artillery batteries.  I stood along that road - some of the original wall along the road still remains - and pictured myself as a Union soldier attempting to scale that hill.  It was a suicide mission.  As I walked along that road I wondered at those who had died that day.  Was I walking along a place where a soldier had fallen?  Someone's son or husband or father?  I have to admit it was a rather sobering moment for me.  And that was repeated as I walked for a short distance along "Bloody Lane" at Antietam - the bloodiest single day in the history of America; at the copse of trees at Gettysburg where Pickett's Charge was finally repelled by Union forces; and at the "bloody angle" on the fields of Spotsylvania.  These truly were America's "killing fields."  The war became more alive for me these past four weeks than at any other time I had visited Gettysburg alone.  The magnitude of the war was overwhelming.  The depth of the stories of heroism and courage was inspiring.  The immensity of the suffering gripped one's heart.  I stood looking into the room where General 'Stonewall" Jackson died and realized that he would never see his daughter grow up.  And then realized that story was repeated hundreds of thousands of times - and is still being repeated today by those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and other regions where our armed forces serve so faithfully. 


While we were out East, the world continued its slide down the slippery-slope.  Israel was poised on the brink of another military invasion of the Gaza Strip following months of riots along the border, the death of an Israeli soldier killed by a Hamas militant, and the launching of both rockets and incendiary kites and balloons which have caused the scorching of hundreds of acres of Israeli farmland and orchards.  Egypt stepped in at the eleventh hour and brokered a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, a cease-fire that seems to be holding.  But, as we know from history, Hamas will use this time of cease-fire to rebuild their tunnels, restock their weapons and ammunition, and prepare for the next assault upon Israel. 


Meanwhile, at the United Nations it was business as usual - the condemnation of Israel for their inhumane treatment of the Palestinians, both within Gaza and the West Bank.  I am grateful for our ambassador to the United Nations, Nicki Haley, who has had the courage to stand up and call out the hypocrisy of the United Nations.  She reminded the General Assembly that the human rights abuses in Venezuela and Nicaragua go unnoticed and the human rights of those living in Iran are ignored.  The only direction the United Nations looks is toward Israel.  I pray that God will continue to give her boldness to proclaim truth there in that hostile place. 


While we were gone, President Trump nominated Brent Kavanaugh to be the next Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court.  I listened to Judge Kavanaugh's acceptance speech and was gladden to hear that he believes the duty of a judge is not to make law, but merely to interpret law as it relates to the United States Constitution.  I know many fear that, if his nomination is affirmed by the Senate, then immediately such positions as Roe v Wade will be overturned.  I do not believe that Roe v Wade will ever be overturned, nor other decisions which have attacked our sense of moral structure.  The Supreme Court has very fairly in the past ever overturned a precedent case.  But, I do believe that it is the duty of the Supreme Court to decide the relationship that exists between those decisions and the rights expressed within the First Amendment to the Constitution - that of the freedom of religion and freedom of speech.  I believe that Judge Kavanaugh understands that principle from his time on the Court of Appeals.  I understand that confirmation hearings will begin in September.  This could be a very strategic nominating process that we need to keep before us.   


Also, in July President Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland.  Although the final press conference probably did not go as hoped - words often get into the way - still our President believed that dialogue was the way to avoid confrontation.  Soon after that summit meeting, each invited the other to meet in Washington and in Moscow.  I am grateful that our President encourages these types of dialogues with Russia and North Korea, and now he has said he would be open to meeting with the Iranian leadership.  While he is rebuilding our military strength, President Trump understands that strength can provide an opportunity for dialogue. 


Finally, the wild fires out west continue to dominate our weather news.  Hundreds of thousands of acres have been destroyed.  At last count, nearly a thousands homes have gone up in flames.  Hundreds of people have been made homeless.  Lives have been lost.  And there seems to be no end in sight.  Yet America is not alone with such natural disasters.  Greece had historical fires that swept along their coasts taking many lives.  India was plagued with epic flooding.  Earthquakes and volcanoes seem to just pop up all over.  Again I am reminded of the words of Jesus to His disciples, "There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains" (Matthew 24:7-8).


These truly are exciting times in which to serve our Savior.  Many people have a hunger for the truth and what a privilege it is for us to share with them that truth is found in Jesus Christ and within His Word.  Let's never compromise truth but to proclaim it with a boldness that comes through the filling of the Holy Spirit.  Some day the trumpet will sound.  I certainly want to be ready...and I trust you do as well. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The New Civil Rights War Is About to Begin

The lead story that came out of this past weekend was the "kicking out" of Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders from a restaurant in Lexington, Virginia.  The reason cited for the refusal to serve Mrs. Sanders and to ask her to leave was based upon the fact that Mrs. Sanders works in the administration of President Trump and the owner does not support many of the positions of the Trump Administration.  Stephanie Wilkinson, owner of the Red Hen Restaurant "cited the press secretary's work for the 'inhumane and unethical' Trump Administration.  'I'm not a huge fan of confrontation.  I have a business, and I want the business to thrive.  This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.'" (www.gopusa.com). 


Friends, I found this story to be appalling.  Our nation spent nearly a decade or longer in what is called "the civil rights" movement to counter such attitudes that Stephanie Wilkinson displayed.  I remember the stories, as a child growing up, of how black people were refused service in a restaurant simply because of the color of their skin.  I guess if you had asked the owners of those restaurants they might have said that they had a moral reason for making their place off-limits to blacks.  But, our nation said they were wrong.  Because we live in a democracy a person should have the freedom to visit any place of business regardless of his or her skin color. 


We have heard often these past months of how the Trump Administration has been characterized as being like the Hitler regime.  Friends, how is the attitude of Stephanie Wilkinson, owner of the Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington, VA, any different from those shop owners in 1930's Germany who posted signs saying that Jews were not allowed in their stores?  Those people were excluded simply because of their religious convictions.


Can you imagine the uproar if, instead of the Press Secretary that was asked to leave, it had been a gay person who was asked to leave because the owner of the restaurant did not want to serve a hamburger to a gay?  Yet, because this was one of President Trump's administrative leaders, it was okay.  Can Americans no longer have a dialogue based upon respect for one another?  Can Americans no longer listen respectfully to one another?  Can Americans no longer hold differing opinions without tearing one another apart? 


There was another huge victory in the United States Supreme Court this past week.  As I shared with you earlier this year, a case came from the State of California concerning a law that mandated that pro-life counseling centers post information about abortion and where those services could be provided.  The Supreme Court ruled that such a mandate violated the principle of freedom of religious expression found within the First Amendment.  President Trump's appointment of Justice Gorsuch has paid huge dividends already.


President Trump's representative to help broker a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians has held meetings in Jordan and Israel these past days.  Jarrod Kushner is seeking to bring all the parties to the table.  However, there is a strong hesitation, even an antagonism, on the part of the Palestinian leadership to even have the dialogue.  They are still adamant that the only solution is a land without the presence of Israel.  Will Mr. Kushner be successful?  Probably not, but at least the desire of the Trump Administration is to try to open the doors for a dialogue, first helping the Palestinians to see the reality that Israel is a nation and that Jerusalem is its capital. 


I am going to take a brief break from weekly blogs - unless something catastrophic occurs, which I hope will not be the case.  After 46 years of ministry, I am finally taking a sabbatical leave from my church for a month.  Marlys and I will be traveling to Virginia where we have rented a house for three week.  I plan to do some sermon writing on the life of Jesus, read some books, and visit a lot of historical sites.  If something occurs that needs some interpretation from a biblical standpoint, I will write on my Facebook page.  Until we connect again, keep looking for the appearance of our only Hope, and keep working in the mission fields in which God has placed you. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Tensions Continue in the Middle East Which Demands Our Attention

Tensions are mounting in Turkey as national elections approach on June 24.  At one time it was considered that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was a "shoo-in" to retain his position of power in Ankara.  But recent polls have shown a dramatic drop in his popularity among the people, thus causing many observers to wonder at the results next week.  President Erdogan has sought to take Turkey in a move away-from-center Islamic philosophy and toward a more radical one.  His relationships with Israel over the years has waxed both warm and icy-cold.  He has been aligning Turkey more with Russia and Iran than with his NATO allies in Europe, thus causing many to wonder if Turkey even belongs in NATO any longer. 


I know you are saying, "Why is Max bringing up Turkey at this point in time?"  On June 10, President Erdogan, in a speech before a political crowd in Istanbul, made a statement that should have alarmed the world, but, sadly did not even make headlines among the mainstream news media.  The Austrian government had declared that they were closing many of Austria's mosques and expelling between 40 and 60 imams and their families.  These imams were accused of receiving funding from abroad, particularly from Turkey.  Erdogan responded, "They say they're going to kick our religious men out of Austria.  Do you think we will not react if you do such a thing?  That means were going to have to do something.  These measures taken by the Austrian prime minister are, I fear, leading the world towards a war between the cross and the crescent."  (www.breitbart.com/jerusalem/2018/06/10/erdogan-predicts-war).


That is an amazing statement that should alarm each one of us.  Erdogan is viewed as a leader within the Islamic community because of how he is shifting the internal philosophies within Turkey.  And, over the years, that radical ideology has guided the Taliban, Boko Haram, and ISIS in their assaults upon all those who oppose their radical interpretation of the Quran.  Erdogan has taken us back over a millennium to those days when there was a war between the cross and the crescent - a time we know as the Crusades.  Those were horrific days with brutality being the norm for both Christians and Muslims.  Does Erdogan really want the world to revert to those days?  Hopefully this was just a political statement made in the heat of a suddenly narrowed political campaign.  But perhaps Erdogan was sharing a deeply held belief among many Muslims.  All eyes will be on Turkey in the coming days to see the direction the people want their country to go.


As you know, Marlys and I have recently returned from two weeks in Israel.  While standing on the Golan Heights near the Syrian border, we heard the sound of mortar rounds being fired in the city that lay just at the base of the mountain upon which we were standing.  These were followed by the sounds of small-arms and then automatic weapons.  It was a battle between the forces loyal to Syrian President Assad and those who have opposed his regime.  Later, Syrian forces actually fired mortar shells across the border onto the Golan Heights.  Israel responded with aerial strikes that destroyed much of the military infrastructure that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were building. 


On June 15, Yachanan Visser, a writer for the Arutz Sheva - the Israel National News association, wrote an article titled, "Analysis: Winds of war as Iran axis prepared for Golan offensive."  Allow me to quote from portions of this article: "On Sunday, the Israeli military launched a massive surprise drill in the Golan Heights involving a large number of reservists who were ordered to report for immediate duty and to show up in full gear.  In a statement, the IDF claimed the exercise had nothing to do 'with current events' and was planned 'in advance as part of the 2018 training schedule,' while the army warned residents of the mountainous plateau they could expect hearing 'loud explosions' and 'increasing traffic of vehicles.'  The statement was most likely meant to reduce tensions in the region and to prevent further escalation toward war after the Iranian-backed pro-Assad coalition started to prepare for a large-scale offensive against the various rebel groups in the border area with Jordan and Israel."


Reports from independent sources have shown the involvement of the Iranians near the Israeli border, thus their becoming the targets of Israeli airstrikes.  Syrian President Assad stated in an interview with an Iranian television station that "he would not object to the establishment of a permanent Iranian military base within his country's borders if such a base is necessary" (Visser article quoted above). 


Tensions continue to increase along Israel's northern borders with Lebanon and Syria.  I don't think Israel will begin a war with either Hezbollah in Lebanon or with the Syrians, but they are preparing themselves if such a war comes.  This area of the world demands our vigilant observations. 


Before signing off for this week, I want to refer you to a very disturbing article written by Arnold Ahlert on June 18 and published at www.patriotpost.us/articles/56601-teaching-cultural-degradation-to-children.  This article is alarming in what it presents of the human sexuality curriculum being taught in the California public schools.   When a pro-life group showed a video of what happens during an abortion, the uproar was loud, but just let the lower elementary students read a book titled, "I am Jazz: Reading a Children's Book to Help Understand Transgender Topics in Elementary School" and it is granted approval.  Friends, after reading this article I can see why home-schooling is becoming a growing educational choice for many families. 


Summer is now upon us - a time for some rest and relaxation.  But do not forget to observe what God is doing in His world.  He is carefully preparing the stage for the entrance of His Son to assume a throne that has long been vacant.  Oh what a glorious day that will be.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

An Historic Summit and a Changing World Order

Of course the major news story dominating the airwaves this week has been the summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jung Un in Singapore.  This was the very first meeting between a sitting United States President and the leader of The People's Republic of North Korea, technically a nation with which we are still at war.  Of course the pundits and naysayers within the mainstream media shouted their disdain for this summit and ridiculed every aspect of it, and they are quick to state that nothing good came out of the summit.  Many within the mainstream media have compared this summit to that between British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and German Chancellor Adolph Hitler in Munich in 1938, which resulted in the handing over of the Sudetenland to Hitler.  But, as history has shown, that appeasement of Hitler did not stop his maniacal ambitions.  Did President Trump merely appease Kim Jung Un?  From what I have read of the final document, the term appeasement could not be used of that accord.  Also, President Trump has said that he desires Congress to ratify this accord, hardly what a President would do if all that was accomplished was appeasement.


This was an historic meeting between two nations that fought a bitter war in the early 1950's, a war that ended with only an armistice being signed.  History will be the final judge of what occurred these past two days in Singapore, but perhaps they will rank with President Nixon's visit to China which opened the doors to China becoming part of the world of nations, or to President Reagan's summit with Soviet Leader Gorbachev in Iceland which eventually led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the wall of the Iron Curtain. 


Can you imagine what a unified Korean Peninsula would be like?  I could see the Korean Church sending leaders into the North where the Gospel has been rarely heard - even as there was in Eastern Europe and Russia when the Iron Curtain collapsed.  Instead of the North Korean leadership spending hundreds of millions of dollars on nuclear research and weapons manufacture, just think how the people of North Korea would benefit if those monies were used to improve their lot in life.  Friends, this is something that I will be watching closely.


Speaking of our changing world, I recently read a fascinating article written by Victor Davis Hanson and published in the National Review.  It is titled, "The Post-War Order Is Over."  I strongly recommend this article.  It can be found at the National Review website.  Allow me to just quote a few portions of this amazing and thought-provoking article.  "The post-war order is over.  And not because Trump wrecked it.  The 75-year-old post-war order crafted by the United States after World War II is falling apart.  Almost every major foreign-policy initiative of the last 16 years seems to have gone haywire.  Donald Trump's presidency was a reflection, not a catalyst, of the demise of the foreign-policy status quo.  Much of the world now already operates on premises that have little to do with official post-war institutions, customs, and traditions, which, however once successful, belong now to a bygone age.


"There is also nothing sacred about the European Union.  It certainly is not the blueprint for any continental-wide democratic civilization - any more than Bonaparte's rigged 'continental system' (to which the EU is on occasion strangely and favorably compared to by its proponents).  The often-crude imposition of a democratic socialism, pacifism, and multiculturalism, under the auspices of anti-democratic elites, from the Atlantic to the Russian border, is spreading, not curbing, chaos.  The EU utopian mindset has altered European demography, immigration policy, energy production, and defense.  The result is that there are already four sorts of antithetical EUs: a renegade and departing United Kingdom, an estranged Eastern European bloc worried over open borders, an insolvent South bitter over front-line illegal immigration and fiscal austerity, and the old core of Western Europe (a euphemism now for German hegemony)."


I found his assessment of the Middle East to be fascinating.  Dr. Hanson writes, "The Palestinian issue of the last 75 years is ossified.  If the millions of persons displaced in Europe and the Middle East between 1946 and 1950 - at about the same time as Palestinians left present-day Israel - were not considered 'refugees' for decades, then Palestinians can hardly be singular sufferers.  Perpetual victimhood is not a basis for a national agenda, much less a blank check for endless, virtue-signaling Western aid.  Moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem was simply an iconic recognition of what has been true for nearly a decade.  The West Bank's rich Arab patrons now fear Iran more than they do Israel.  The next Middle East war will be between Israel and Iran, not the Palestinians and their Arab sponsors and Tel Aviv - and the Sunni Arab world will be rooting for Israel to defeat Islamic Iran."


Finally, I want to share an article from the Patriot Post, published on June 9, 2018.  You can find this article at www.partriotpost.us/articles/56457-settled-science-on-evolution-and-history.  "Newly released research that analyzed millions of DNA barcodes has come to a surprising conclusion that effectively turns the theory of evolution on its head.  The massive study, which spanned a decade of work from hundreds of scientists, found that 9 out of 10 animal species on the planet came into being around the same time as humans, 100,000 to 200,000 years ago.  Senior research associate at the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University Mark Stoeckle and University of Basel geneticist David Thaler found that 90% of all animal life on earth appeared at approximately the same time.  Thaler said, 'This conclusion is very surprising, and I fought against it as hard as I could.'


"Another study coming out of Cornell University has found significant inaccuracies in one of the key methods archaeologists use to determine the age of objects made from organic material - radiocarbon dating.  Stuart Manning, professor of archaeology at Cornell University, recently published his study, 'Fluctuating Radiocarbon Offsets Observed in the Southern Levant and Implications for Archaeological Chronology Debates.'  Manning states, "We went looking to test the assumptions behind the whole field of radiocarbon dating.  We know from atmospheric measurements over the last 50 years that radiocarbon levels vary through the year, and we also know that plants typically grow at different times in different parts of the Northern Hemisphere.  So we wondered whether the radiocarbon levels relevant to dating organic material might also vary for different areas and whether this might affect archaeological dating.'"


The article concludes by stating that Professor Manning and his team found that the calibrations using radiocarbon dating for artifacts discovered in Israel and Jordan and identified with the early Bronze Age and Biblical chronology were off by an average of 19 years.  "Manning concluded, 'Our work should prompt a round of revisions and rethinking for the timeline of the archaeology and early history of the southern Levant through the early Biblical period."


This is one of those studies in science and archaeology that will tend to get lost, but it is one that Bible scholars and evangelical believers should applaud.  It really is affirming of the Genesis record.


Friends, God is in control.  These are exciting days.  What opportunities God is giving to us to be His ambassadors to proclaim His truth into the lives of those around us.  Will the trumpet soon be sounding?  Every day we get one day closer.  And to that truth we proclaim a strong "Amen!"

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

"Little" Victories, Gazan Strife, and Offensive Proms

Sometimes in life one has to celebrate the "little" victories.  One such "little" victory occurred this past Monday when the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony.  The decision of the judges was 7-2 in favor of Mr. Phillips.  Mr. Phillips was the owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop located in Lakewood, Colorado.  He was sued by two homosexual men for his refusal to bake a wedding cake for them on the basis of his religious beliefs.  The Colorado Civil Rights Commission entered the case on the side of the plaintiffs.  The Supreme Court strongly rebuked the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for its excessively hostile attitudes toward Mr. Phillips and his religious convictions.  It truly was a great day for Mr. Phillips and gave a measure of hope that other Christian business people might experience a similar result.


Yet, here is where I call this just a "little" victory.  In ruling on this case - Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission - the Court did not broaden its judgment to include other similar cases pending within the lower courts.  Their decision only applied to that of Mr. Phillips.  So there is still uncertainty about how the Court might rule in other cases that involve the conflict between the religious liberty of a business owner and a person's right to purchase services from that business - whether it is flowers, or cakes, or pictures, or invitations.  But "little" victories can soon add up to "big" victories.


Last week I wrote of the continued violence within the Gaza Strip and stated that the responsibility for this unrest could be laid at the feet of the leadership - Hamas.  This past week, Efraim Karsh, the director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and editor of the Middle East Quarterly, wrote a very interesting article that was published in The Jerusalem Post on June 3.  You can find this article at: www.meforum.org/articles/2018/it-s-not-gaza-s-economy,-stupid.  I would like to quote from this article so as to document what is truly the reason for the continued unrest within the Gaza Strip.  "No cliché has dominated the discourse on the Gaza situation more than the perception of Palestinian violence as a corollary of the Strip's dire economic condition.  No sooner had Hamas and Israel been locked in yet another armed confrontation over the past weeks than the media, foreign policy experts and politicians throughout the world urged the immediate rehabilitation of Gaza as panacea to its endemic propensity for violence.  Even senior members of the Israel Defense Forces opined that a 'nonmilitary process' of humanitarian aid could produce a major change in the Gaza situation.


"While there is no denying the argument's widespread appeal, there is also no way around the fact that it is not only completely unfounded but the inverse of the truth.  For it is not Gaza's economic malaise that has precipitated Palestinian violence; rather, it is the endemic violence that has cause the Strip's humanitarian crisis.


"For one thing, countless nations and groups in today's world endure far harsher socioeconomic or political conditions that the Palestinians, yet none have embraced violence and terrorism against their neighbors with such alacrity and on such a massive scale.  For another thing, there is no casual relationship between economic hardship and mass violence.  On the contrary, in the modern world it is not the poor and the oppressed who have carried out the worst acts of terrorism and violence but, rather, the militant vanguards from among the better educated and more moneyed circles of society, be they homegrown terrorist groups in the West or their Middle Eastern counterparts."


The author then proceeds to give facts concerning the education and financial means of those who have led the modern terrorist movement.  The facts were alarming.  He then states how, under the leadership of Hamas, the socioeconomic environment among those living within the Gaza Strip has deteriorated. 


"In short, it is not socioeconomic despair but the total rejection of Israel's right to exist, inculcated by the PLO and Hamas in their hapless West Bank and Gaza subjects over the past 25 years, which underlies the relentless anti-Israel violence emanating from these territories and its attendant economic stagnation and decline. 


"This, in turn, means that so long as Gaza continues to be governed by Hamas's rule of the jungle, no Palestinian civil society, let alone a viable state, can develop.  Just as the creation of free and democratic societies in Germany and Japan after World War II necessitated a comprehensive sociopolitical and educational transformation, so, too, it is only when the local population sweeps its oppressive rulers from power, eradicates the endemic violence from political and social life, and teaches the virtues of coexistence with Israel that Gaza can look forward to a better future."


This article is highly recommended.  More money is not the answer to the problems within the Gaza Strip.  The solution is a change of leadership and a change of focus from destruction to construction, from violence to peace, from hatred toward one's neighbor to reaching out to accept help from that neighbor.  Will this happen?  Only if there is a concerted effort on the part of the people to seek to improve their lives.  To be honest, right now I truly do not see that happening any time soon.  So the violence will continue.  The plight of the people living within the Gaza Strip will continue to be deplorable.  The response from the Western world media will continue to cast blame at the feet of Israel for the plight found within the Strip.  Tunnels will continue to be dug.  Rockets will continue to be fired into Israel.  Israeli warplanes will continue bombing Hamas leadership sites.  And people will continue to die. 


I close with an article, written by Jarrett Stepman, and published by The Daily Signal on May 21.  It is titled, "Only in America's Schools Could 'Partying Like It's 1776' Be Offensive."  "At the rate we are going, saying 'good morning' might become offensive.  The principal of Cherry Hill High School East in New Jersey issued an apology after some students deemed the public school's prom theme, 'Party Like It's 1776.' to be insensitive.  'I am writing to apologize for the hurt feelings this reference caused for members of our school family, ' Dennis Perry wrote Friday in a letter, according to the Cherry Hill Courier Post.  'I especially apologize to our African American students, who I have let down by not initially recognizing the inappropriateness of this wording,' he said.


"The principle announced that tickets would not be needed to get into the prom, a name would suffice, the tickets would be redesigned, and 'safeguards' would be laid down in the future to make sure nobody is offended by anything the school does.  What is especially ridiculous about this whole situation is that the school is hosting the prom at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, a building that pays tribute to the nation's founding documents. 


"Every American, of any background, has a good reason to celebrate 1776.  While it is true that the promise of freedom imbued in the Declaration of Independence wasn't extended to everyone initially, it nevertheless set the stage for an advancement of liberty in the future."


Friends, what happened in 1776 truly changed the course of the world.  What those men, in that room in Philadelphia, created has been a tool that has challenged the political and civil landscapes of nearly every nation on the face of the earth.  The Declaration of Independence, together with the Constitution, written about a dozen years later, form two of the most powerful documents ever written by human governmental leaders.  Neither document is perfect, but the foundation they have created has stood the tests of nearly two and a half centuries. 


The article concludes: "It is said and disturbing to think that modern Americans today cannot unite behind something as universal as the Spirit of '76.  Episodes like these are making Americans lose faith in their public schools, and demonstrate why the issue of school choice is so essential.  Education goes beyond test scores and angling to get into competitive colleges.  It's about preparing young people to live as free citizens in a constitutional republic.  If our schools are failing to do that, parents need the tools to pressure them to do a better job of teaching them American values and American history.  At the very least, we must give parents the option to put their children in a school that will.  Americans face dire consequences if we allow this system of public education to go unfixed. 


"John Adams once said that Independence Day would be celebrated as one of the most important in history (though the nation's second president mistakenly thought it would be celebrated July 2).  'I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival,' Adam's wrote in a letter to his wife, Abigail, adding: 'It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.  It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.'"


So well put, Mr. Adams.