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. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

More Violence Along the Israeli-Gazan Border: Is There any Hope?

Tensions continue to remain high along the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip.  Yesterday dozens of rockets and mortar rounds were fired from Gaza into Israel resulting in several injuries but no casualties among the Israelis.  Although one of the rockets hit inside a school play ground, no student was injured.  The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for those rocket attacks.  Almost immediately Israeli warplanes were scrambled and flew several missions over the Gaza Strip destroying training facilities for Hamas recruiting.  An emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council is scheduled for today to discuss this latest increase in violence along this volatile border. 


The cry from the liberal left here in America and in Europe is that the responsibility for the unrest within the Gaza Strip can be laid at the feet of the Israeli people.  After all, it is the Israeli people who are keeping the Palestinians prisoner within the Gaza Strip.  Fact number one: Egypt joined Israel in isolating the Gaza Strip in 2007 when Hamas declared itself the sole representative of the Palestinian people living within Gaza.  From 2005, after the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip, to 2007 both Israel and Egypt had become the recipients of terrorist assaults.  So in 2007, both Israel and Egypt joined forces to isolate the Gaza Strip with border closures and a sea-embargo. 


Fact number two: The plight of the Palestinian people living in the Gaza Strip can be laid directly at the feet of the leadership of Hamas.  The dollars from Europe and the United Nations Relief Agencies have often been used, not for foods and medicines and housing and businesses so the people could have a job, but to purchase rockets, weapons, and to dig tunnels.  Just think of what could have been accomplished for the Palestinian people if they had been given incentives to better their lives. 


Fact number three, and this is a fact that the liberal left does not want to hear: Since the Israeli War of Independence of 1948, those Arabs who fled their homes at the urging of the Arab League leadership, have been recognized by the Arab world and the United Nations as being refugees.  No Arab nation wanted to assimilate these Arabs into their states.  Tens of millions of dollars are spent every year to help these people maintain their status as refugees.  Few have sought gainful employment, and why should they as the United Nations will take care of them.  Of course their status is never elevated - that would destroy the picture of a refugee that enters into the minds of many of us.  It really is time for the world to remove the label of "refugee" from these people and instead seek to bring them into the 21st century.


But, how is that to happen, you might ask.  Well that brings us to fact number four, and this is one that needs to be corrected: The ultimate goal of the Palestinian leadership is the complete destruction of the State of Israel.  This doctrine of hate is taught to children, beginning in the elementary years.  I have seen videos where children as young as six or seven are taught in school how to kill Jews.  With this hatred being taught from one generation to another, there can be no hope for peace or even for a betterment of life.  Hatred breeds violence; violence breeds more hatred.  It is a destructive cycle that can only be broken if the Palestinian people determine that they want something better for their children other than death through acts of terror. 


Yes, Israel can be part of the solution - but only part of the solution, and that only after the Palestinian people resolve to take steps to better their own lives, not through hatred and violence, but through acceptance and peace.  It is going to take a decision on the part of the people to change the leadership, to remove from power those who have only been the warmongers.  Can such a revolution occur within the Gaza Strip?  It seems highly unlikely but I have learned never to count something completely out. 


Does God have a plan for the Gaza Strip?  Yes, He most certainly does.  Does God care for those people within Gaza who are suffering because of terrible political decisions?  Yes, He most certainly does  And we know that God's purposes will always been accomplished.  Praise God for that powerful truth. 


On a lighter note: This past weekend was Memorial Day.  Marlys and I were in the Des Moines area to attend our granddaughter Meghan's high school graduation.  On Monday afternoon we drove to the cemetery where Marlys's parents are buried and also Meghan's Mom.  Hundreds of American flags fluttered over the driveways that meandered through the cemetery.  And small American flags graced the graves of all the veterans buried there.  It brought tears to one's eyes.  Hundreds of men and women had given time out of their lives to serve our nation - many of them during times of war.  Oh the debt of gratitude that we owe them.  Then last night we attended the graduation exercises for  Meghan.  It was held at the Hilton Coliseum on the campus of Iowa State University.  Perhaps the highlight of the ceremony was the playing and singing of The Battle Hymn of the Republic by the choir and symphonic band of Ankeny High School.  That piece has become the traditional closing for graduation ceremonies.  As that song neared its crescendo at the end, two large American flags were unfurled, one behind the choir, the second behind the band.  The audience rose with thunderous applause.  It still feels good to be an American.  It still feels good to get a tear in your eye as you see our flag being honored.  Now it is off to our granddaughter Abby's graduation at Stewartville, Minnesota on Friday night.  Ah, life does go on.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Another School Shooting; Another Call for Gun Control - But Is That the Solution?

Last week's shooting at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas, rekindled that American debate regarding gun control and the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.  That Amendment states: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."  For the past nearly two and a half centuries, that amendment has guided the American response to matters focusing on guns.  Yes, some safeguards, such as firearm registration and waiting periods and background checks have made the ownership of guns safer.  The United States Supreme Court has upheld the right for Americans to possess firearms. 


But, whenever there is a tragic incident where guns were used, the immediate cry is for "gun control."  An example of such conversations occurred on Sunday when ABC "This Week" Host George Stephanopoulos interviewed Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick about the Santa Fe shooting.  Stephanopoulos began his interview: "Children who've never known school without lockdown drills expecting what should be unthinkable.  Santa Fe, the ninth fatal school shooting this year reflected in this stunning fact: There have now been more students or teachers killed by guns in U.S. schools than active duty military deaths in 2018.  A year not even halfway over."  (www.newsbusters.org/blogs/nb/nicholas-fondacaro/2018/05/20/abc-host-pushes-gun-control-ignores-devaluation-life).


The Lieutenant Governor's response was: "George, should we be surprised in this nation?  We have devalued life.  Whether it's through abortion, whether it's the breakup of families, through violent movies, and particularly violent video games....  But we, again, we have to look at our culture of violence, just our violent society.  Our Facebook.  Our Twitter.  The bullying of adults on adults and children on children.  We have to look at ourselves, George.  It's not about the guns.  It's about us.  Can there be gun regulation?  Gun control?  I believe that starts at home, George." 


This Lieutenant Governor really "hit the nail on the head."  We do live in a culture of violence.  Violence sells on the big screen - in fact, the more violence the more tickets that are sold.  The language we use toward one another is filled with hatred.  Domestic violence has reached epidemic proportions.  We worship at the shrine of violence.


But I think there is a second problem that is little addressed.  It primarily concerns our young people.  They are growing up in a world where the line between fantasy and reality is blurred.  They play video games where the object is to kill as many of the "bad guys" as possible.  Yet, those images of the "bad guys" keep reappearing.  Perhaps death is just a game.  They attend movies where one star is shot to death; yet the following week that star reappears in a new movie.  Again, there is that thought that perhaps death is just a game.  So they take a gun and shoot others thinking that death is just a game to be played.  Yet death is a stark reality.  There is no "do-over" with death.  There is no "recovery" from death.  There is a finality with death that I believe many of our young people today simply do not know. 


So, is there a solution?  I can assure you that the solution is not the confiscation of guns, yet I believe that that will ultimately happen when the Antichrist begins his rule over this world.  Perhaps a limit can be placed upon who can purchase and use weapons that are primarily designed to kill other humans.  Not everyone needs a military-style weapon.  Perhaps our young people should be trained to discern more clearly between fantasy and reality. 


The ability to own and use firearms is almost as American as baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie.  The Lieutenant Governor of Texas was correct - it is not guns that kill; it is the person using the gun.  Friends, if we were to use the arguments from George Stephanopoulos, then automobiles should be controlled because more people are killed by cars in a year time than by any other instrument. 


It is time that we return to the biblical understanding of the condition of man's heart - it is inherently sinful (Jeremiah 17:9).  The Apostle Paul exclaimed it this way - for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  We have a heart problem - not a gun problem.  It is time to take a hard look into the heart of America.  How America needs what only Jesus can do - change the heart. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The US Embassy Move: What the Main Stream Media Got Wrong

This past Monday marked an historic day.  First, it marked the 70th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel.  And second, it was the day that the United States opened its embassy in Jerusalem, having moved it from Tel Aviv.  The majority of the world condemned the Trump Administration for moving the embassy, although appropriations for such a move were approved by a bipartisan act of Congress back in 1995.  Our European Allies were highly critical and representatives from those nations did not attend the dedicatory service on Monday.


The main stream media's focus was upon the strife within the Gaza Strip that day.  The headlines of the Minneapolis "Star Tribune" stated: "Carnage in Gaza as U.S. moves embassy."  That paper joined with dozens of other major papers across America in denigrating the embassy move.  What should have been recognized as acknowledging that Jerusalem is Israel's capital city, instead became another picture of the self-imposed carnage that is the Gaza Strip. 


Yes, there were deaths along the Israeli-Gazan border.  As of this morning 60 Palestinians were killed by IDF soldiers who were protecting that border.  For the past six weeks, the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, at the behest of their Hamas leadership, threatened to break through the security fence with the objectives of killing Israelis, burning their fields, and hoping to kidnap an Israeli soldier.  Tunnels were dug under the fence; fortunately the Israeli military discovered those tunnels and they were destroyed.  It seemed that almost everyday, for the past six weeks, forays were made by the Palestinians against the fence, but those attempts were stopped by the IDF.  On Monday, huge stacks of tires were set on fire creating an intense black smoke that shielded the attackers from the IDF security forces.  Several thousands of Palestinians rushed the security fence in several locations with wire cutters in hand as well as torches, weapons, knives, etc.  In the melee which followed, Palestinians were killed - many of them were Hamas members. 


Almost immediately the main stream media began to declare the injustice of Israel's response to the encroachment of their border.  Here was the response by Rupert Colville, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: "The mere fact of approaching a fence is not a lethal, life-threatening act, so that does not warrant being shot.  Lethal force may only be used as a measure of last, not first, resort.  It is not acceptable to say that 'this is Hamas and therefore this is OK.'"  (www.israelnationalnews.com).  Yet what other nation would just stand idly by and let their security be breached and allow their citizens to be terrorized?  Friends, this was not a peaceful demonstration on the part of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.  It was never intended to be peaceful.  The Hamas leadership encouraged the people to create acts of violence saying that it would be through violence that the land of Palestine would be fully returned to the Palestinian people. 


The world's press and leaders would have us believe that the people living in the Gaza Strip are living in a virtual prison created by the Israeli government.  When the Israelis, under the leadership of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, disengaged from the Gaza Strip back in 2005, it was with the hopes that the people living in the Gaza Strip would become productive members of society.  But what happened?  Almost as soon as the last Israeli had been removed - many of them forcefully by the IDF - every vestige of Jewish life was destroyed, including Jewish hospitals, clinics, and synagogues.  Almost immediately the leaders of Hamas led the people in anti-Israeli demonstrations.  Rockets have consistently been launched from Gaza into Israel.  The leadership of Hamas have consistently declared that there can be no peace while Israel occupies their lands.  It is through the humanitarian aspects of Israel's government that food, medical supplies, electricity, natural gas and other necessities for life are brought into the Gaza Strip; this is a fact that the world's media often overlooks.  Friends, it is no wonder that Israel is building a security wall - most of it underground - around the Gaza Strip for purposes of protecting its own people.


Yesterday marked the Palestinian day of "nakba" which means "destruction."  It is a commemoration of the fleeing of Arabs from the British Mandate after Israel's declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948.  Nearly 700,000 Arabs fled their homes at the request of Arab leaders.  They were told that the war would be short and Arab victory was inevitable.  Many left their homes with dishes still on the table, fleeing into Jordan and Lebanon.  Of course, the outcome of the War of Independence was not exactly what they had hoped.  Following the war, Israel offered the "rite of return" to tens of thousands of Arabs, but that offer was rejected.  Thus those people became refugees - many of them by choice.  To this day, the descendants of those refugees lay claim to homes and lands they abandoned in 1948, demanding that the Israeli government grant them a full return. 


But, here is what the world's press will not tell you.  When the War of Independence broke out in 1948, over 600,000 Jews were expelled from Arab nations in the Middle East.  Many of them left with only the clothes they had on their back.  Yet, when was the last time you heard their stories?  Answer - you have never heard their stories unless you have done incredible research on that period of time.  Did they become refugees?  No they did not.  Many of them immigrated to the United States.  Many of them chose to live in the new land called Israel.


Friends, I would urge you to not believe everything you read in the main stream media when it comes to matters of Israel and the Palestinians.  They are hardly objective in their reporting of the facts.  No matter what happens, Israel is always the antagonist.  Israel is always the bad guy.  Will real peace ever come to the Middle East?  The answer is "absolutely, but not until Jesus returns."  What a day that will be!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Some Thoughts from Israel

I begin with greetings from the land of Israel.  As you know, Marlys and I had the privilege of sharing with a group of 25 for two weeks in the Holy Land.  What a wonderful time we had.  The land of Israel continues to be one of those amazing places.


We visited many sites - both new and old.  Yet, at almost every place we were reminded that Israel is a nation that is always under the threat of war.  We stood on a Sunday morning on the platform atop the Carmelite Monastery at Mount Carmel. We joined a group of about 25 young Israeli soldiers.  They were there as part of their training.  They seemed so young, yet the burden of war lay heavily upon their shoulders.  This was the first time I had ever witnessed soldiers on Mount Carmel.  But that area is of strategic importance.


While in the Galilee area, we drove to Mount Bental, a former Israeli observation post peeking over into Syria.  Mount Bental lies deep within the Golan Heights.  Just below this former observation post lies the city of Kuneitra - a Syria city that changed hands during both the Six Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973.  While standing there, we saw the puffs of smoke coming from mortar fire within the city and then heard the sounds of automatic weapons.  It became quite intense.  Our guide shared with us that it "merely the cousins shooting at each other."  The forces loyal to Syrian President Assad waging war with rebel forces.  One could almost imagine the presence of Iranian Revolutionary Guards in that city as well.  It was just another reminder to us that Israel is always on the state of high alert.


Just yesterday, Israeli authorities placed a high alert status upon those living in the Golan.  They were to be ready to head to bomb-shelters as Israel had seen an increased presence of Iranian activity near the border.  While we were in Israel, Israeli planes bombed a missile site just north of Damascus where the Iranian backed forces of Syrian President Assad were storing missiles.  In that strike several Iranian soldiers were killed and Iran has vowed to retaliate.  Since returning home, Israeli planes have attacked another munitions depot south of Damascus. 


And yet, in spite of the heightened threat of war, thousands of visitors flocked to the holy sites of Christendom.  To be honest, I have never seen so many people in Jerusalem in my life.  One of our visits was to the site of the Upper Room.  People were packed into that room so tightly that it almost became claustrophobic.  And the Church of the Holy Sepulchre reminded me of trying to walk down the grand concourse at the Minnesota State Fair on the final day of the fair.  Hotels were filled.  Buses were filled.  Traffic jams were commonplace.  Perhaps people are sensing that if they do not get to Israel soon, the opportunities for unfettered visits there might soon end. 


Next week the United States will move its embassy staff from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, housing the embassy in one of its two consulates within the city of Jerusalem.  This move will surely bring some types of demonstrations.  But I am grateful that finally the embassy is where it should be - within the eternal capital of the nation of Israel.  By the way, several others countries are now following the American lead by moving their embassies as well. 


Where is the greatest threat to Israel?  Is it from Hamas located within the Gaza Strip?  It would appear that the Israeli Defense Forces have Hamas pretty well in check.  The border, although penetrated on occasions, remains pretty secure.  And Israel has not been afraid to use bunker-buster bombs to destroy tunnel-makers.  Oh, there will always be tension along the Gaza Border, but Hamas is not a real threat.


Is it from Syria?  Certainly the presence of Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Syria presents a problem for Israel.  Yet, Tehran knows that any attack upon Israel will be met with an equally strong attack from Israel.  Plus, there is the likelihood that America would stand by its Middle East Ally, Israel.  So, there will continue to be those surgical strikes from the Israeli Air Force keeping the Iranians from stockpiling weapons that could be used against Israel. 


It seems to me that the greatest threat to Israel comes from Hezbollah which operates out of Lebanon.  Forces of Hezbollah have been fighting alongside the Syrian army in the Civil War there.  They have become battle-hardened.  They have the backing of the Iranians and are seen as Iranian proxies in this fight.  I refer you to an excellent article written by Jacob L. Shapiro titled "The Next Israeli War."  It was posted on the Geopolitical Futures website on May 4 - www.geopoliticalfutures.com.  The author presents a strong case for a possible war between Israel and Hezbollah.  These two forces have tangled in the past - as recently as 2006.  Could this become the "strike zone?" 


Friends, although our group felt incredibly safe while in Israel, there were just those reminders that Israel lies within a war zone.  Its military is always on alert.  Its planes are always in the skies.  Its people know what to do should the alarms go off.  And yet life continues as normal.  Perhaps that is the greatest psychological impact Israel has upon its neighbors.  They do not exhibit daily fears.  They go to work.  They play soccer in the parks.  They attend the theater.  They eat at the many sidewalk cafes.  Their children attend school.  They attend the synagogue.  The Israelis are an amazing group of people to observe. 


I want to close this blog by reminding us of our responsibility toward the people of Jerusalem and Israel.  It is found in Psalm 122:6-9 which states, "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."