Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Another Assault upon Christmas

If there is one season of the year in which those on the Left unite together against a common foe it is the Christmas Season.  Their assault upon the season of our Savior's birth seems to know no limitations.  Over the years we have seen Christmas programs within our elementary and secondary schools changed to Winter programs.  We now celebrate snow and snowmen rather than the Savior and the shepherds.  (Note: I am grateful for those schools who have not bent the knee to this Leftist lunacy and who still allow their students to celebrate the real reason for Christmas.  I pray that they will continue to be firm in their resolve). 


Municipalities have battled for years the legality of having a Nativity set up on the Town Square.  When I was a boy growing up, nearly every little town in Iowa had its Nativity scene - some more elaborate than others, but each was a declaration by the community of the real reason for Christmas.  Now one must travel for miles in search of such a Nativity display.  The fears of lengthy and expensive litigation has now kept the manger in the warehouse. 


Then a few years ago it became marketable to not use the words "Merry Christmas" within the retail communities.  Yes, you could still use the greeting of "Happy Holidays" which I found to be inconsistent with their thinking.  Let's see, the word "holiday" is a contraction of two words "holy" and "day."  Now, let me ask you, "What makes this season, as opposed to, let's say August 25 or September 25 or July 25, a "holy day?"  Is it not the birthday of Jesus Christ?  So, when I say to a friend, "Happy Holidays," which I am really saying is this is a holy day because of Jesus.


But, just when you think the Left could not get more creative in their assault upon Christmas, a professor at Minnesota State University in Mankato dropped a bombshell this past week.  Dr. Eric Sprankle is a professor in the graduate school of psychology at the university and also teaches classes on sexuality in the undergraduate school.  Here is what Dr. Sprankle tweeted last week: "The virgin birth story is about an all-knowing, all-powerful deity impregnating a human teen.  There is no definition of consent that would include that scenario.  Happy Holidays."  In other words, Dr. Sprankle is accusing God of sexually assaulting Mary against her wishes. 


Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas responded, "Dr. Sprankle's comments are nothing but blasphemous babble from a liberal who is completely ignorant of the Bible." (quote from his interview with Todd Starnes). 


Let's analyze the Biblical story to refute what Dr. Sprankle has said.  First, there is no statement within the Gospel of Luke that records any sexual involvement between God and Mary.  Here is what Luke simply says, "The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).  Why does Dr. Sprankle accuse God of sexual assault?  It is because he has a limited view of God.  According to him, there is only one way to create a baby and that is through a sexual union.  And, you know, for every human being since the time of Adam and Eve, that is a true fact.  But the conception of Jesus was unique.  There was no sexual union.  Mary remained a virgin until after she had given birth.  So, Dr. Sprankle, there could be no assault because there was no sexual union. 


Second, Luke records that Mary did consent to God's request.  Again, let's read from the Luke text: "'I am the Lord's servant,' Mary answered.  'May it be to me as you have said.'" (Luke 1:38).  Friends, those are words of consent.  Those are words still filled with many unanswered questions.  Those are words still shrouded with fear.  Yet, Mary agreed to this unique invitation from God.  She said, "Yes!" 


Did the angel put pressure upon Mary so that she had no other option but to say "yes?"  Certainly there is no indication of such pressure within the Luke story.  Did Mary fear the reprisals from God if she said "no?"  Again, there is no indication within the text.  No, Luke would have us believe that Mary made her decision based upon faith.  When approached, Mary volunteered for the assignment God had commissioned. 


Dr. Sprankle, you are just wrong in your understanding of the most beautiful birth narrative recorded in human history.  There has never been a baby born, either before or after, like Jesus.  His birth marks the defining moment in the history of mankind.  Calendars were changed because of His birth.  No, Dr. Sprankle, the only thing more difficult to understand than the birth itself, is the reason why God entered into His world.  And that reason can be stated with just one word; love.  Dr. Sprankle, I want you to know that John 3:16 is for you, just as it is for me: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."  Oh that you would know the truth from that text. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

My Annual Christmas Recommended Reading List

Today has been designated as a day of national mourning and prayer in memory of the death of our nation's 41st president, George H.W. Bush, who passed away at the age of 94.  Bush's presidency is often lost as it was sandwiched between that of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.  President Bush completed the process of the tearing down of the Iron Curtain that President Reagan had initiated.  When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1991, President Bush quickly assembled a coalition and countered that invasion.  The only blemish in that war, which was won in a matter of days, was that he did not order the coalition forces to sweep on into Baghdad and overthrow the Saddam regime.  If he had, perhaps 9-11 might not have happened. 


Perhaps George H.W. Bush was the most qualified man to have sat in the Oval Office since the time of George Washington.  His resume of political service was a long and distinguished one.  Yet, he will be most remembered for those infamous words uttered during his presidential campaign, "Read my lips: No new taxes."  Yet, he could not honor that pledge and that was his undoing when he attempted to run for a second term.  There are some things the American people are quick to forget - immorality in the White House during the days of Bill Clinton; but there are some things people never seem to forget, especially when it comes to taxes. 


It was right for President Trump to declare today a day of national mourning.  It is right for our nation to honor a man who served us well.  The historians can now tell the story of Bush #41.  It will be a story worth reading, I am sure.


Speaking of stories to read.  I want to highly recommend the newest book from the pen of Doris Kearns Goodwin.  It is titled, "Leadership."  Ms. Goodwin is a gifted writer of history.  She researches her subjects well and she carefully documents her stories.  This book is the study of four American presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson.  Now, friends, you cannot get more diverse than these four.  Ms. Goodwin shares the remarkable story of how each of these men grew up and how each grew in his abilities to lead.  Then she identifies one crisis in each one's administration that tested that leadership ability.  For Lincoln, her focus was upon the Emancipation Proclamation; for Theodore Roosevelt, it was the coal strike; for Franklin Roosevelt, it was the great depression; and for Lyndon Johnson, it was the civil rights act of 1964.  These crises certainly tested the resolve of each man.  At times they walked the pathway alone, yet, all the while, continually teaching their cabinets and other officials of the necessity of following that vision.  Ms. Goodwin closes her book with a study of how the death of each man impacted those that followed.  This is not a difficult book to read.  Ms. Goodwin has a way of drawing you into the story.  I found myself getting involved in the tensions created within each president.  This book would make for an excellent Christmas gift to that person who enjoys American history and to that person who is seeking to cultivate his or her leadership skills. 


A second book that I would recommend is the newest book by Bill O'Reilly and titled, "Killing the SS."  This is the latest book in his "Killing" series.  Like most of his other books, this one reads so easily.  Again it is well footnoted.  The thesis for this book is the intense hunt that took place following World War II for those Nazi leaders who had orchestrated the "Final Solution" which came to be known as the Holocaust.  The center piece of that focus was Adolph Eichmann.  Others included Joseph Mengele, the doctor who performed medical experiments upon victims at Auschwitz, and Klaus Barbie, also known as the "Butcher of Lyon."  One of the facts that surprised me as I read was the number of former SS officers who, following the War, were hired by our CIA to spy on the Russians.  Some were never held accountable for the atrocities committed by the SS during the War.  I found myself getting caught up in the intrigue of the search for Eichmann, of his kidnapping from his hiding place in Argentina, his trial and execution in Israel.   This book would make a great Christmas gift to those readers on your list.


Let me close with two additional titles that were meaningful to me this past year.  The first is titled, "The True Jesus" and was written by David Limbaugh.  This book is a follow-up to a previous book titled, "The Emmaus Code."  In that book, Mr. Limbaugh shares the portraits of Christ found in the Old Testament.  He sort of envisions Jesus' conversation with the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus that first resurrection morning, thus the title.  "The True Jesus" is a look at the portrait of Christ found within the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Mr. Limbaugh attempts to follow the life of Jesus in a chronological sequence, and he does it very well.  Either of these books could be used as a small group resource.  I am anxious to read his latest book in this series, "Jesus Is Risen" which is the portrait of Christ discovered within the writings of the Apostle Paul and the Early Church writers.  I have this on my shelf as a must for 2019. 


The final book I would recommend is titled, "Grant" and was written by Ron Chernow; the same author who gave us the biography of Alexander Hamilton upon which the Broadway musical success "Hamilton" is based.  This book will probably be the definitive study of the life of the man who led the Union to victory in the Civil War.  Having only studied about Grant's war years, it was fascinating to me to read of those tumultuous years he served as President.  Historians have been quick to cast the title of "inept or corrupt" upon the Grant Administration, but Mr. Chernow helped me to see that Grant was too accepting of people - he took them at face value.  This was often the cause for people misusing that trust to accomplish their purposes rather than those of the President.  This is a huge book - don't let its volume of pages deter you from a powerful read.  After the reading I believe you will be convinced that Ulysses S Grant was one of the most dynamic leaders our nation has produced. 


Friends, that is my annual list of books I recommend for those readers on your list.  With the winter months upon us, how refreshing it is to sit by the fireside with a steaming cup of hot tea or hot chocolate, and grab a book that will encourage and challenge us. 
 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

On the Edge of an Ethical Slope

Yesterday there was an article in the "Minneapolis Star-Tribune" that caught my eye.  It was headlined: "Scientist claims first DNA-edited babies."  The article was written by Marilynn Marchione, a writer for the Associated Press.  The substance of this article is bound to stimulate a heated debate among scientists and ethicists around the globe.  Allow me to quote briefly from this article: "Scientists and bioethics experts reacted with shock, anger and alarm Monday to a Chinese researcher's claim that he helped make the world's first genetically edited babies.


"He Jiankui of Southern University of Science and Technology of China said he altered the DNA of twin girls born earlier this month to try to help them resist possible future infection with the AIDS virus - a dubious goal, ethically and scientifically."


Okay, let's think through this for a few moments.  Whenever genetic material is altered either by addition or subtraction, that genetic material is changed forever.  In fact, really it is the creation of a new genetic material.  Recently such genetic-editing has been used in cases of adults who are being treated for serious diseases.  But, in the case of these twin girls whose genetic material was altered while still in the sperm and egg stage, or early embryo stage, these girls were born genetically different from their parents.  They will now pass on to their children this genetic difference.  And here is the problem: scientists do not know the long-term consequences of such genetic editing or alteration for future generations. 


The article quotes from Notre Dame Law School Prof. O Carter Snead, a former presidential adviser on bioethics, who said the report was "deeply troubling, if true."  Snead continued, "No matter how well intentioned, this intervention is dangerous, unethical, and represents a perilous new moment in human history.  These children, and their children's children, have had their futures irrevocably changed without consent, ethical review or meaningful deliberations." 


Friends, if this claim can be substantiated, then the future of "test-tube babies" has risen greatly.  If we can genetically modify the material within an egg and sperm to eliminate the threat of AIDS, could not the same thing be done to prevent Down's Syndrome, or Parkinson's Disease, or leukemia, or, how about, cancers and heart disease?  I know, on the surface we would almost cheer such a happening.  But, here is the dilemma which is played-out in almost every sci-fi movie: for every good that is created, inevitably there is also something bad that is also created.  So, these twin girls do not have to worry about an AIDS infection, but perhaps that altered DNA is now subject to something greater than AIDS.  The scientific and ethical communities pose that question.  And it is a very real one.


What is happening, friends, is that we have taken another step toward playing "god" in our world.  The ultimate goal is to create the perfect world, filled with perfect people, living within a perfect environment.  And, in that process we do not need the presence of God any longer.  Man is the measure of all things; it is no longer God.  Let me phrase it this way: the more man knows, in other words, the more information and knowledge a man has, the less inclined that man is to relying upon God.  I believe this report is just another indicator pointing toward the soon return of the Lord Jesus. 


Meanwhile, the Ukraine is poised on the brink of war with Russia over the latter's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula a few years ago.  The civil war in Yemen seems to have no solution as Saudi Arabia and Iran seem to be using that small nation as the chessboard for who will dominate the Middle East.  The Taliban and Al-Qada have stepped up their attacks upon American troops and Afghan civilians in their attempt to regain control of Afghanistan.  The shaky cease-fire along the Israeli-Gazan border is still holding, but barely.  California seeks to recover from the most devastating wildfires in its history.  And, on America's southern border, pressures are mounting from those who seek to by-pass American law and enter into our country illegally.  I do not doubt that, among the thousands of people crowded into camps around Tijuana, and soon to be other places, there are stories of legitimate need.  These people need to be told that if they proceed with the proper paperwork and applications and follow the required protocols, that Americans will welcome them as they have millions of others down through the centuries. 


I was just reading again the other morning from Matthew 24 - Jesus's answer to the disciples' question as to when the end would come.  I would encourage each of you to read that chapter and then ponder the world in which we now live.  It is almost as if Jesus could peer that day into the heart of the 21st century.  Yes, He is coming! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A Spirit of Thanksgiving

As we enter into the season of Thanksgiving, the world continues tottering near the brink.  A fragile cease-fire continues to hold along the Israeli-Gazan border; yet that cease-fire has brought the Netanyahu government to near collapse as one of the centerpieces of his coalition has walked away because of the cease-fire.  As of now, the Prime Minister holds a narrow one-seat majority within the Knesset.  It appears that many Israelis are becoming increasingly frustrated with the "on-again, off-again" mini-wars with Hamas.  They are wanting Israel to step in and create an atmosphere of security and safety.  Will special elections be called in Israel?  Is there anyone who has the political power that Prime Minister Netanyahu has and who will challenge him?  Stay tuned because this could get very interesting.


The devastation from the fires burning in California continues to escalate.  More bodies are discovered amidst the smoldering ruins of homes and automobiles.  And there yet remains a long listing of people who are unaccounted for.  The blame game has already begun as to who is responsible for these fires.  Governor Jerry Brown has declared that it is the consequence of climate change, or global warming.  We do know that California has experienced a series of devastating droughts in the past few years.  President Trump has stated that the fires are a result of poor forest management.  There is a powerful environmentalist movement in California that has greatly influenced laws governing the harvesting of trees.  It has become increasingly more difficult for logging companies to harvest those trees that are either dead or dying.  These unharvested trees create an ample fuel supply for wildfires, such as those we have witnessed these past months.  But, whatever the causes were, the suffering of those people whose lives have been impacted is very real.  Yes, homes and businesses can be rebuilt.  But how does a family rebuild those pictures and memories from the past?  How does one start all over again?  We do need to reach out and help them as best we can. 


And what about the economy?  It is certainly on a roller-coaster ride right now.  As a financial planner shared, "this is not for the faint at heart."  The bulls had a long run - one of the longest in history.  Is it time for the bears to have their say?  If so, how long with it last?  What will be the consequences?  How will the nervousness about the financial markets impact the upcoming holiday shopping season?  How will it impact year-end giving to nonprofits and local churches, most of which are dependent upon substantial year-end gifts?


Yet, Thursday is the day set aside as a day of Thanksgiving.  In spite of the problems that surround us, each of us could compose a long list of things for which we are grateful to God.  We might include on our list our families, our jobs, our friends, our health.  Each year I am challenged with the reading of Psalm 103.  There David composes his list of things for which he is eternally grateful to God.  Allow me to highlight just a few of them.


1.   "He forgives all my sins." - Topping David's list is that of God's forgiveness of his sins.  David will later say, "He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities" (vs. 10).  And he concludes with this amazing statement: "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us" (vs. 12).  Oh how grateful I am that God still forgives  my sins.  Certainly that should be on my "thanksgiving list."


2.   "He heals all my diseases." - I find this very interesting.  Now I don't believe David had in mind those diseases that plague us because of the fallen world in which we live.  But David is referring to that greatest of diseases, that fatal disease we had known as "separation from God."  We call it salvation or "being born again."  David says, "he redeems my life from the pit."  What a gift we have received!  Yes, that most certainly should be on my "thanksgiving list."


3.  "As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him." - I am grateful for the Father's love for me.  I am grateful for those moments when He throws His arms around me and just hugs me tightly.  I am grateful for those moments when I feel His presence so very near and I hear His words of encouragement: "Max, I am right here!  Keep on going!"  That had better be on my "thanksgiving list."


Friends, there are many more suggestions for thanksgiving found within this amazing psalm.  I would strongly encourage you to spend some time these next couple of days prayerfully reading Psalm 103.  Make it your "thanksgiving prayer" to God. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Tensions in Israel with Gaza and in Florida with Ballots

Things had gotten so quiet on the Israeli border with Gaza that we almost came to think that something good had happened.  Then reality returned this past Sunday.  An undercover Israeli commando force traveling within the Gaza Strip was discovered.  A firefight ensued in which seven Palestinian militants and one Israeli officer were killed.  What followed next was one of the most massive rocket attacks upon Israel from the Gaza Strip in recent memory.  Over four hundred rockets and mortar rounds were fired from within the Gaza Strip into Israeli communities across the border.  Over 100 of those rockets were shot-down by Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system.  But those rockets that penetrated that barrier caused damage within some Israeli communities.  Once again Israeli citizens living in places such as Sderot and Beersheba heard the sounds of air-raid sirens.  Fear once again became a reality. 


Israeli war planes responded with over 160 missions over the Gaza Strip attacking those strongholds of Hamas and its sister organization Islamic Jihad.  Yesterday both Hamas and Israeli leaders accepted a Egyptian-brokered cease fire.  As of this morning it was still holding, but is extremely fragile.  We have witnessed previous attempts at a cease fire only to have both sides shooting at each other in a matter of days.


What makes this attack difficult to understand is that both the Israelis and Hamas were actually in negotiations over a long-term peace agreement.  The citizens living within the Gaza Strip are among the most impoverished people in the world.  Unemployment is very high.  Corruption among governmental authorities is well documented.  Hamas leadership certainly knows that it would only take a few days for the IDF to completely overwhelm Gaza and bring the entire region back under Israeli authority - much as it was before the 2005 Israeli disengagement from Gaza. 


Yet I don't believe that Israeli leadership desires to have a military intervention in Gaza.  But they would like to strike some type of accord whereby the people living in Gaza would be benefited economically and the Israelis living in those border towns would experience security.  But, in order for this type of accord to be reached, Hamas would have to give up its rockets and its rocket-manufacturing entities.  Hamas would have to turn away the military hardware provided by Iran and Hezbollah.  In other words, Hamas would have to give up its stated purpose which is the total destruction of Israel.  Is the situation within Gaza desperate enough that Hamas would consider such drastic steps?  Only time will tell.  And, if such an accord is made between Israel and Hamas, how would it be monitored?  What guarantees would Israeli leaders have that Hamas would keep the accord?  There certainly is no level of trust that has been created since 2007 when Hamas wrestled the leadership of Gaza away from the Palestinian Authority. 


Underlying all this is the shadow of Iran which has used Hamas as a proxy to provoke Israel, thus keeping Israel away from attacks on Iran itself.  How much longer will Hamas continue saluting the Iranian flag?  The Iranians could care less about those people living in Gaza.  They are mere pawns in a greater contest.  Will the leadership of Hamas wake up to the realization of how they have been used by Iran to accomplish another purpose?  These are questions that linger in the fragile stillness of this cease fire. 


And, as Israel keeps a watchful eye on Gaza, it cannot dismiss the existential threats that lie at its northern borders from Hezbollah and Syria.  Tensions especially remain high along the Golan Heights as Iranian backed Syrian forces battle rebels.  Israel has warned Syria and its coalition partners - Russia and Iran - of the dangers of any type of offensive excursion into Israeli territory. 


As a believer I do keep my eyes focused upon what is happening in the Middle East.  What happens there has a significant prophetic bearing as we anticipate the arrival of the King. 


Meanwhile, the midterm elections are now a week into our rearview mirror.  Once again two counties in Florida have the final outcome of the election hanging in the balance.  I have not heard the term "hanging chads" as was heard following the 2000 election, but mysterious boxes of ballots seemingly appear out of nowhere.  They are found in closets and even in cars.  Why is it that the majority of Americans can go to the polls, cast their vote, and there is very little voter irregularity reported, yet for two counties in Florida, voting becomes a challenge?  Perhaps it is not the system that needs changed so much as it is the personnel operating the system that need changed. 


Here is what I am very interested in observing.  Many of those Democrats who were elected to the House a week ago are rookies.  This will be their first time in Washington.  Many of them ran as centrists and moderates.  Some of them even sounded somewhat conservative in their attitudes about the economy, etc.  Now they come to Washington and into a House that will be lead by "the old guard" under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, and others.  They have already indicated that their agenda will be to issue subpoena after subpoena against the President and the Administration.  They have indicated very little interest in working with the President to help better the plight of American citizens.  Americans don't want an impeachment, but they do want a solution to the immigration crisis and how our borders can be made more safe and secure.  Americans don't want Congress to conduct a "witch hunt," but they do want Congress to tackle the issue of healthcare.  Americans don't want litigation, they want legislation.  So, will these rookie House members stand up for those promises they made to their constituents that caused them to get elected, or will they buckle under the pressures of party loyalty and become mere pawns in the game being played?  If they will repudiate Nancy Pelosi and her team and take a stand for what they promised, then I believe our President will be able to work in a bipartisan way to accomplish great things for the American people. 


How interesting the world is becoming!  I believe God is in the final preparations before the stage is set for the entrance of the King.  How exciting will that day be!  Perhaps it will happen before this year draws to a close.  "Come, quickly, Lord Jesus."

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A Postlude to The Election

Yesterday Americans turned out in record numbers for a midterm election.  Many incumbents were dealt a defeat; many new comers to politics experienced a victory.  Some of the races that were expected to be non-contested,, instead became nail-biters.  Still many of the races are too close to call.  Many will demand recounts, so the final results might be days and even weeks away.  But, the bottom line is this: the Republicans held on to the majority role in the United States Senate - with their margin of majority perhaps increasing; the Democrats regained the majority role in the United States House of Representatives, although by not as great a margin as first guessed. 


Once again our nation is faced with a divided government.  What will be the consequences?  As I have looked at the returns from last night, knowing that some of the races are yet to be decided, there seems to be two ways our government will be impacted.  First, the most negative one is that for the next two years there will be a stalemate with very little being accomplished.  We have seen periods of stalemate before and it has not been beneficial to anyone.  Could this occur once again?  The early indications are that it could easily move in this direction.  Friends, this stalemate or non-stalemate lies within the soon-to-be chosen leadership within the House.  The old-guard leaders quickly went on record that among the first things that they will do is to increase the investigation of President Trump, to subpoena mountains of administrative records.  It will be a House leadership team that will have as its focus the President. 


But, what will be the attitude of some of those first-time elected Representatives?  Many of them ran on a platform of helping their constituents.  Will they continue to affirm those words `of pledge delivered to the people, or will they quickly fall into the desires of the old-guard?  I will be watching closely as new leaders are chosen on both sides of the aisle to get a sense of whether there will be a stalemate or not.


The second result, and one that I certainly am hopeful will occur, is that the leadership of both the House and the Senate will sit down with the President and begin to work through many of the problems facing our nation.  The economy is strong, but how can it continue in that pathway of strength?  Immigration policies need to be changed with loop holes needing to be closed.  Will there even be a civil discussion about that issue?  Healthcare needs continued reforms; again, will civility prevail in those discussions?  Will the leaders in Washington realize the need to work on behalf of all Americans, or will they just follow the "party line?" 


I know that many Christians were praying diligently for this election.  Together we affirmed that God was in control.  So, what is our role now that the election is over?  What should we be doing?  First, and perhaps most importantly, we are to pray for those who have been elected.  The Apostle Paul write these instructions to Timothy: "First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.  This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:1-4).  I may not agree with those in positions of authority - I am pretty sure that the Apostle Paul did not affirm everything that the Roman Emperor Nero said and did - yet, I believe Paul prayed for him.  Should we not do the same?  Leaders are in those roles because of the will of God.  Again, I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God" (Romans 13:1).  So, our first responsibility is to pray.


Secondly, I need to stay informed.  How can that be done today?  It seems that a person can no longer have confidence in a fair and balanced reporting from the mainstream media.  So, if I am going to be informed, then I need to go outside of the mainstream.  I can have direct communication with my senators and representatives, with my governor, with my mayor.  I can read from papers such as the Wall Street Journal which attempts at a more balanced approach in its news reporting.  There are many online news sources as well.  The better informed I am, the more focused I will be in my prayers. 


Another election has come and gone.  In a few weeks, the focus will be upon the 2020 presidential election.   Every election cycle is a celebration of the genius of our Founding Fathers.  A representative democracy is not a fail-safe method of governing; in fact, the only truly fail-safe government will occur when Jesus reigns upon His throne in Jerusalem.  But until that day, I am grateful to live in a nation where the voice of the people still can be heard. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Anti-Semitism Rears Its Ugly Head; What Can a Believer Do?

This past Saturday, a family gathered at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh to celebrate a bris, a special service of the circumcision, in the case of a boy, and the naming of a Hebrew child.  This is a festive event with friends close to the family being invited.  That which was intended to be a time of celebration became instead a time of violence, bloodshed, and death.  Robert Gregory Bowers, a 46-year old man with a strong history of anti-Semitism, entered into the synagogue fully armed and opened fire upon those present.  Eleven people were murdered and six others were injured before the assailant was himself wounded in the exchange of gunfire with authorities.  Bowers told authorities that he "just wanted to kill Jews." 


What happened in Pittsburgh is the greatest massacre of Jews ever in the history of our nation.  And they were killed for no other reason than that they were Jews.  Over the years we have witnessed an increase in anti-Semitic acts in Europe, especially in France.  We have been led to believe that such targeted violence against Jews would not occur here.  But now it has.  In his article, published by The Patriot Post, Dennis Prager writes: "Anti-Semitism is exterminationist.  Anti-Semites don't just want to persecute, enslave or expel Jews; they want to kill them.  On Passover, Jews read the Haggadah, the ancient Jewish prayer book of the Passover Seder.  In it are contained these words: 'In every generation, they arise to annihilate us' - not 'persecute' us; not 'enslave' us; annihilate us.  So, when the murderer yelled, 'All Jews must die,' he encapsulated the uniqueness of anti-Semitism." (www.patriotpost.us/opinions/59150-the-pittsburgh-synagogue-anti-semitism-and-trump.)


Almost immediately the mainstream media placed the blame for this murderous event upon the shoulders of President Trump.  They cited President Trump's identifying himself as being a "nationalist."  According to the Webster's New World Compact School and Office Dictionary, "nationalism" is defined this way: "devotion to one's nation, patriotism."  So, in his interview with Laura Ingraham this past week, when asked about his use of the term "nationalist," President Trump responded with a dictionary definition - "I love my country."  Yet, what has happened is that the term "nationalist" has been commandeered by the media and is now identified with being a far-right white supremacist.  Now, that is not the way the dictionary defines the term, but it has become the way that culture has defined the term.  So, according to the mainstream media, when President Trump says he is a "nationalist" he is saying that he is a white-supremacist. 


Friends, I would love to share with President Trump that the definitions of words change.  For example, one has to be careful how one uses the word "gay" these days.  It used to mean "being joyous" but today it means being a homosexual.  It has changed in its meaning.  We now have to find alternatives to express the idea of what the term "gay" used to mean.  Perhaps, instead of saying "I am a nationalist," it would be better to say, "I am very patriotic."  It is indeed sad that we have come to that point in our cultural history that words need to be chosen carefully for what I intend by their meaning often is not what is heard by others.  I wrestle with that reality nearly every week as I prepare my sermon and teaching materials.  I knew what President Trump meant, but perhaps using the word "patriot" might have been less offensive. 


But this I do know, President Trump is not anti-Semitic.  If anything, he is the most strongly pro-Jewish, pro-Israeli president we have had since President Truman.  His moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem gave strong evidence the he is not anti-Semitic.  Here is what is very interesting: the mass murderer of the Jews worshiping at the Tree of Life synagogue was himself strongly anti-Trump.  He had expressed that he felt that President Trump was merely a pawn used by Israel. 


I have traveled extensively in Israel having visited that nation fourteen times.  I have cultivated relationships with several Israeli-Jews who have become friends.  I have watched with interest the politics of Israel change over the years, and I have observed their wars for survival.  Do I approve of every decision Israeli leaders make?  Of course not, no more than I approve of every decision our leaders make.  But I am continually drawn to those words of God to Abraham as found in Genesis 12: "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." 


As a follower of Jesus Christ, I must expose and oppose all forms of anti-Semitism.  Why?  First, because my Savior lived here upon this earth being raised in a Jewish home, ministered primarily among the Jewish people, and died as a Jewish rabbi.  Second, the Word of God which I proclaim each week was given to us primarily by Jewish authors.  The Bible is a Jewish book which shares with us God's plan for salvation and for abundant living.  Third, the Apostle Paul, writing in the eleventh chapter of his letter to the Romans, shares the truth that we, as Gentile believers, have been grafted into olive tree which is that of Israel. 


Friends, anti-Semitism will finally be destroyed when the King comes to claim His rightful throne in Jerusalem.  The great proponent of anti-Semitism, Satan himself, will be cast into the abyss.  The nations of the world will gather in Jerusalem to worship King Jesus.  What a remarkable day that will be!  But until that day occurs, I am challenged by Scripture to "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: 'May those who love you be secure.  May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.'  For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, 'Peace be within you.'  For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your prosperity." (Psalm 122:6-9).