Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Netanyahu and Clinton: Not Exactly a Marriage Made in Heaven

The United States is up to its old tricks again when it comes to dealing with its only true ally in the Middle East: Israel. Last Thursday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Secretary of State Clinton in New York. At the top of the discussion list was the status, or should I say non-status, of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. As I have shared with you in previous blogs, the 10-month moratorium on Israeli building in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank, as the world calls it) was allowed to expire on September 26. PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas followed through on his demands that unless the building freeze was re-instituted, there would be no more negotiations. So, there have been no more negotiations.

Prime Minister Netanyahu stated in early October that he would return to the negotiating table with Chairman Abbas if the Palestinians would declare that Israel would be a Jewish State. You would have thought that he asked for the Dead Sea to becoming living. Of course the Arab world would never acknowledge that Israel is a Jewish State. That would have consequences that would be detrimental to their plans to eventually destroy Israel, if not from without, then from within.

Last Thursday Secretary Clinton made the following offer to the Israeli Prime Minister: In return for extending the building freeze in Judea and Samaria another 90 days, the United States would provide Israel with 20 jet fighters, as well as an automatic veto of any anti-Israel resolution or demand in the United Nations. On the surface this looks like a win-win for Israel. The 90 day building moratorium cannot be renewed and Israel gets needed fighter planes as well as the promise of United States support in the United Nations.

But, as Israeli Minister of Infrastructure Uzi Landau stated to the reporters, "All the American promises share a similar characteristic - they lack specifics, and are not carried out if they are found to be damaging to American interests." He goes on to state, "You see that the Americans are demanding that we come to a full agreement with the PA in order for the benefits to kick in. You only get the benefits in the event of a final-status agreement - only when everything is over." Furthermore Minister Landau was concerned that America's veto interest in the United Nations on behalf of Israel was now something that could be negotiated.

It is also interesting to note that the Palestinians are not happy with this newest American proposal since the 90-day building freeze does not include those areas around Jerusalem that the Palestinians claim as belonging to them. So, the likelihood of their coming to the negotiating table seems rather remote at best.

As of today, November 17, the Israeli Knesset has not voted on accepting this newest American proposal. Prime Minister Netanyahu is leaning in the direction of accepting it; a near majority of the members of the Knesset are opposed. Could this topple the Netanyahu coalition government? Quite possibly.

We need to be in prayer for the leadership within Israel. These are critically important days. We are instructed in Psalm 122 to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem." May God soon sent the Prince of Peace.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Canadians Got It Right!

Our President is now on another of his foreign junkets, this time to India, Indonesia, South Korea, and Japan. (I find it very interesting that in his first two years in office he has made numerous trips overseas, but he has never visited the nation of Israel. I wonder why?) His purpose is to shore up trade relations with those nations and to secure cooperation in the war against terror. Plus, he has had the opportunity of doing some tourist events - like visiting the Taj Mahal in India. He has made some statements that seem confusing to me. While in India he was asked why he was traveling in India because so many American jobs have been outsourced to India. There is even a network television program based upon this outsourcing. His response, "Well, he has helped create 50,000 jobs in India." How will those jobs help create jobs in our country? I don't know. Perhaps he will explain that when he returns on Sunday evening.

I find it very interesting that while our President is overseas visiting, among other places the nation with the largest Muslim population in the world, the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, is visiting our country. While addressing a large Jewish Convention meeting in New Orleans, the Prime Minister informed the audience that Israel would build another 1300 housing units in Jerusalem, primarily in what is known as East Jerusalem. Our President's response was swift, "This kind of activity is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations. I'm concerned that we're not seeing each side make the extra effort involved to get a breakthrough....Each of these incremental steps can end up breaking trust."

Let us review history for just a few moments. It was last December that the Israelis imposed a building moratorium both in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem in order to bring the Palestinians to the peace-table. That was what PA Chairman Abbas had demanded. Nine months elapsed with no inclination on the part of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to come to the table. Then, when Israel announced that it would not extend the building moratorium, the PA said that they would not come to the table unless the building freeze was extended. On September 26 that building freeze was lifted.

The Prime Minister's response to our President's statement was this: "Jerusalem is not a settlement; Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel." Good for him, for that indeed is what this city is. Although only recognized by the Israeli people and a few world governments (not the United States, I am saddened to say), all of Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

I read in Joel Rosenberg's blog today about the actions of Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. Listen to his words: "As long as I am prime minister, whether it is at the UN or the Francophonie or anywhere else, Canada will take that stand, whatever the cost. Not just because it is the right thing to do but because history shows us, and the ideology of the anti-Israeli mob tells us all too well, that those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are a threat to all of us." He went on to say, "When Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack, is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand." There is a lot about Canadian policies that I do not agree with, but with this one they hit the target squarely.

I have shared with you in previous blogs these past three years that I still believe in the promise God gave to Abraham nearly four millenniums ago: "Those who bless you I will bless; those who curse you I will curse." Let's see, would I rather be on the side of the blessing of God or the curses of God? The decision is not even close.

Continue to pray for the "peace of Jerusalem." We know it will happen when Jesus returns. Oh Lord hasten that return.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Persecution: It's Coming!

Yesterday was an historic day. The balance of power took a decidedly different look both in Washington and here in the state of Minnesota. The cry of "out with the old and in with the new" rang true in many places - among the exceptions were Nevada and California. The incoming class of freshman Representatives will be one of the largest in history. We can only hope that those elected yesterday will have their ears to the voices of the people. The American people still desire change, but they certainly spoke loudly yesterday that the change being offered the past two years was not the change they desired. Perhaps now we will truly see cooperation between the parties in Washington. I know a lot of prayer was offered for the election yesterday. But it is not time to stop; we need to pray even harder now for those who have been elected.

Earlier this week news from Iraq sounded a tragic note. Reports vary as to total casualties, but we know that over 50 people died and nearly that number were injured when a radical Islamic faction took over an Iraqi Church. The casualties were incurred when commandos stormed the church to free the hostages. Then, yesterday an Arab Church in East Jerusalem - founded by the Christian and Missionary Alliance nearly a century ago - was firebombed. Suspects include a radical extremist Jewish sect. Fortunately a group of tourists who were staying in the church escaped unharmed.

Persecution is becoming increasingly more common around the world. Christians have become the target of every radical extremist group. And I wonder how much longer before similar events will be happening here in our country. Christians are the centerpiece of the late-night comedians. Christians are often portrayed on both the big-screen and the small-screen as people who are out of balance. Christians are known as being so intolerant and narrow-minded. So far Christians have escaped loss of life for taking a stand for Christ.

I have been working on a message for November 14 - International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. It is based on Matthew 5:10-12 where Jesus invokes a blessing upon those who are persecuted for the cause of righteousness. In fact, this statement is the capstone of the Beatitudes. It is as if Jesus is saying to us, "Better expect persecution so as to respond to it appropriately." But, we have not come to expect persecution. Persecution happens in China, in Indonesia, in the Arab world, and in South America. But persecution is coming. In my study for the message I was drawn to the words of Jesus to His disciples: "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also." (John 15:18-20)

We are not to be seeking the approval of the world. The world's system is not God's system. The way the world conducts its business is not the way God's people ought to conduct the business of reaching the world. The Church marches to the drumbeat of Someone greater. Yet, sadly, the Church has tried to reach the world by adopting the world's practices. It is as if we were saying, "If we become like you, will you be inclined to become like us?" And the response has been a resounding "no!" The more the Church becomes like the world, the less it has to offer to the world. And what we have to share with the world is Jesus Christ - the very One that the world crucified on a cross; the very One that the world falsely accused of blasphemy; the very One that the world hated with a passion, unless He was feeding them or healing their sick. Throughout the history of the Church, those times when the Church was most successful in its witness for Christ were those times when it so strongly differed from the world that it was persecuted because of the difference.

Churches commandeered in Iraq and firebombed in East Jerusalem. When will we begin experiencing this in the United States? I believe it will happen when the Church begins to take a stand for truth and for the Word of God. May God help prepare us for those coming days.

Just a reminder to those of you living in the Greater Des Moines area. This coming Friday evening and Saturday morning (November 5-6), I will be sharing in a Prophecy Conference at Westchester Evangelical Free Church. Friday night begins at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. I would love to connect with you while there.