Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Christmas Greeting

We are now just hours away from celebrating one of the most joyous announcements the world has ever heard - "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10-11). I shared with my congregation last Sunday, as we examined this carol of Christmas, God did not send to the world an advisor. The world had more than enough advisers. Neither did God send the world a reformer; reformation had been tried - the list included Joash, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah, Nehemiah and Ezra - but was only short-lived. No, what the world needed was a Savior - someone who could bring lost mankind back into a relationship with a holy and loving God.

Amid the din of those times, only a few listened to this glorious announcement. A few shepherds heard and risked their very careers by leaving their flocks unattended as they hurried to worship the Savior who lay in a manger. And a few magi (wise men) risked their very lives as they traveled hundreds of miles to come and worship the Savior and to share gifts with Him. Simeon and Anna, two elderly saints, heard and offered their final praises to God upon seeing the Savior.

Sadly the majority of the world failed to listen to the message. Herod sought to protect his throne. The Pharisees sought to protect their religion. And the common folk sought to protect their ignorance.

This Christmas Season the response to the announcement that the angels shared with a terrified group of shepherds has not changed. The majority of the world continues to pay little heed. Many seek to protect their religious rites and rituals. Others seek to protect their careers and livelihood. Multitudes seek the protection of their ignorance. In fact, the battle cry is whether to call December 25 and this season of the year "Christmas" or just a "holiday." Schools no longer have "Christmas programs;" if they have any program at all it is a "winter program." Clerks in stores are fearful of losing their employment if they dared to respond with a "Merry Christmas" to a customer. It is as if the world cries out, "Let's have Christmas but without Christ." If Christ be taken out of Christmas what remains? December 25 becomes just another day. Christ is so much more than Christmas, but Christmas finds its significance only in the person of Jesus Christ.

Through the years of time since that first Christmas a few have heard the message and have hurried to the manger as did the shepherds. For them to know Christ is to experience Christmas. I trust that you have come to know Jesus Christ as your Savior. If you have not, then I invite you to accept the gift He came to give - the salvation from your sins and acceptance into the family of God. Then you will experience what Christmas truly is: Jesus Christ.

We do not know what 2012 holds for us - many say the world will end in 2012; but I am prepared if it should, are you? The world will continue teetering on the edge of the abyss; there will be more wars and rumors of wars; there will be more unusual weather patterns impacting millions around the globe; the financial markets will continue riding the roller coaster of highs and lows. But, friends, behind each event will be the hand of God directing each act toward His intended climax - the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, our King.

Marlys and I want to wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a blessed beginning to the New Year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Message of True Peace

The message of the angelic choir to the shepherds guarding their flocks on the hillsides outside of Bethlehem that very first Christmas Eve was this: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests" (Luke 2:14). This may be one of the most misunderstood statements in all of the gospel accounts.

Many have interpreted this statement to mean that Jesus came to bring peace on earth. Certainly this was what the Jews had hoped would happen. If only the presence of Rome could be expunged from their land real peace would come. Others reasoned that if the power of the Roman tax collectors could be eliminated, then there would be financial peace. And still others hoped that there might be relief from the oppressive legalistic practices the Pharisees had imposed upon the people, all in the name of a "loving" God.

Did Jesus Christ come to bring peace to the world? If one examines the historical evidence, the answer is a most assured "no!" Even Jesus Himself died at the hands of violent Roman executioners. Within three decades of His death, the Roman armies destroyed the city of Jerusalem and its temple and sent tens of thousands of Jews to either their death or to slavery. And, how many wars have there been since then? How many people have been killed in those wars? The answer would be countless millions. Peace - hardly!

What about those who cried out for relief from the oppressive legalistic practices of the religion of the day? It seems that the rules became more oppressive, especially after the temple with its ritual sacrifices was destroyed. Peace - hardly!

No much has changed in our world of the twenty-first century. Once again the world teeters on the brink of war. Reports this week included the news that the Syrians have armed 600 missiles with chemical warheads. The Iranians have announced that they will conduct war games in the Persian Gulf and will close the Straits of Hormuz to all shipping. Sectarian violence continues in many parts of the world. Even within our own country we have seen thousands take to the streets, often using violence, to voice their strong disapproval for the widening gap between the "haves and the have-nots." Peace in our time - hardly likely!

So, what was the message of the angelic choir that night? Let's reread the carol: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Earthly peace - no! Religious peace - no! A restored relationship with God - absolutely! Jesus Christ came as a savior, not as a king. He came to change the hearts of men, not to change the circumstances of men. He came to do that which mankind could not do for themselves. He came so that, those who would believe in Him, might know the peace of God. That they might know that the condemnation of an angry God was removed forever. Paul expressed it this way: "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).

Will the world ever experience the peace that its seeks? Yes, that will occur when Jesus Christ returns to claim His throne. Then He shall be known as the Prince of Peace. But until that day, we celebrate this Advent Season the wonderful news of the peace we can have with God. May we not take this gift lightly.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas: Its a Miracle

We are now half way through the Advent Season. All around us are the trappings of Christmas - brightly lit trees gleam in the darkness of the cold winter evenings, bells ring beside red Salvation Army kettles informing us that many will be without a Christmas unless we respond, and everywhere people are rushing too and fro looking for that "perfect" gift. For those of us who live in the northern climes, the ground has its first dusting of snow and the temperatures have plunged to the near-zero range. It certainly begins to feel like Christmas.

But what is Christmas? This is the season of the year that rings so hollow for many. Psychologists inform us that December ranks among the highest months of the year for suicides. Depression grips the hearts of countless others. Where is the joy? Where is the peace? Are we missing something?

I believe the answer is "yes, we are!" We are missing Jesus. We get so caught up in all that happens at the Christmas Season that we forget the reason why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. Without Jesus, guess what?; there would be no Christmas. If there is no incarnation, there is no reason to light the trees, ring the bells, or shop for that "perfect" gift. Without the incarnation, the line from C. S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" rings true: "It is always winter and never Christmas!"

I know it is not Christmas just yet, but I would like to share my favorite Christmas verse with you. We live in a world that is daily filled with news that, at times, turns our stomach and causes our blood to boil. But let me share some good news. "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). Friends, this is perhaps the greatest text on the incarnation of Jesus we have in the Bible. But, in order to more fully understand it, we need to go back to the very first verse of John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." You got that? Hard to comprehend, isn't it? The first two parts are easy to understand: fact #1 - there was the Word in the beginning; fact #2 - this Word was alongside of God. But it is that third fact - the Word was not only equal with God, but was in fact God - that really causes our minds to spin.

Then John shares that this Word - who was God - became flesh; He became a man. God became a man. Not just a man, but a baby! I have often wondered what Joseph thought as he cradled the baby Jesus in his arms, knowing that he held the God of the universe. But now that God needed to be fed. He needed to have His diapers changed. He probably cried when hungry, perhaps keeping Joseph and Mary from sleep. God became a baby! Can you fully imagine that thought? The One who spoke the worlds into existence now needed to learn how to speak. The One who had crafted everything with His almighty hands now learned how to sharpen a saw-blade and to drive a nail. Amazing, isn't it?

But there was a reason for this incarnation. It was not just so God could experience what it was like to be a man. No, God took upon Himself flesh as the only way in which to reach a lost mankind with His love. He had tried the impersonal way through sacrifices and regulations, but those had failed. Now He came to show love with the greatest demonstration coming at the cross.

Yes, without Christ there is no Christmas. It is sad that for many this is a holiday, but it is not Christmas!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Is the Middle East Ready to Explode?

What an incredible week this is turning out to be! Hang with me as we try to work through the major prophetic news items in just the past three or four days.

First, elections toward a new parliament in Egypt began on Monday. Thousands of Egyptians participated in the first of several steps involved in the first truly free elections in Egypt in over 60 years. The first day went peaceful, but I read this morning that yesterday a few demonstrators got violent and out of control. Who will be the big winner in these elections to be ultimately decided by late spring 2012? Most pundants see the Muslim Brotherhood coming out on top. And you remember that one of their top initiatives is the total destruction of Israel. I look for increase tensions in the coming months along the Egyptian-Israeli borders in the Sinai. I also look for a continued emboldening of Hamas in the Gaza Strip as they are granted less restrictions by the Egyptian military government.

Second, the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate significantly. Over the weekend the Arab League imposed some strict economic sanctions upon President Assad. Their concern was the mounting death toll of Syrians who have opposed the Assad regime. There has been no response fr9m Damascus, but yesterday four Katyusha rockets were fired from Hezbollah bases in southern Lebanon into northern Israel. With tensions mounting the United States has ordered the evacuation of all Americans from Syria and has placed a carrier group off the Syrian coast. Many feel this is a sign of an American-led NATO military operation against Assad, like what the European Union and NATO did against Libya that brought down the regime of Qaddafi.

Here comes the interesting question: What will be Iran's response to any attack upon Syria - its proxy in the region? You can rest assured that Israel is rather nervous right now.

Speaking of Iran, have you been following the series of mysterious explosions that have been occurring on their military bases? So far each one has been labeled as an accident, but a series of accidents? Stay tuned for further news on this front.

Meanwhile, all is not quiet on the Jordanian frontier either. A steady stream of refugees from Iraq and from Syria are crossing the borders. That, coupled with the increasing presence of the Muslim Brotherhood, creates a climate where King Abdullah and his government are rather nervous. One worry that the Jordanians have was expressed this way by Oded Eran of the Institute for National Securities Studies: "The U.S. final withdrawal from Iraq may cause anarchy there, which in turn will increase the flow of Iraqi refugees to Jordan." Another concern the Jordanians have is the prospect of a unity government in the West Bank between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA). One of the consequences of such a unity government would be the inevitability of another Palestinian Intifadah against Israel, resulting in many Palestinians fleeing to Jordan for refuge.

Can any one say "Psalm 83 War?" I wake up each morning expecting to hear the headlines on the 6 o'clock news saying that war has broken out in the Middle East. I keep wondering how long the tides of war there can be held back. Yet I know all things are in God's hands. He is still the Sovereign God of His universe. But another Middle East war between Israel and her neighbors is inevitable because He has said it would happen. So now we just watch the pages of God's calendar turn day by day. Of course, we have a lot to do as we watch. Our mission for Christ has not changed just because the earth is unraveling. We are still to go and make disciples of all nations. May we do this faithfully and prayerfully as we wait patiently.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Egypt, Syria, Iran, and a God Who Is in Control

I trust you have been following carefully what has been happening in the Middle East, particularly in Egypt and in Syria. Let's begin with Egypt. This past weekend, demonstrators once again took to the streets of Cairo and in Tahrir Square. You might remember that it was in Tahrir Square in January that the "Arab Spring" was launched, resulting in the overthrow of then President Mubarak. And you remember that the Egyptian military assumed control of the country - in actuality, they have been in charge for the past 60 years or so, as both Anwar Sadat and Mubarak were military leaders. The military leaders promised the people that democratic elections would be held this fall, but they never occurred. Now the military is saying that those elections would be held next summer.

I listened to a news report this past weekend that related the concerns the Egyptian military has with having elections so quickly. According to the analysts, the Egyptian military leaders - many of whom are classified as secular Islamists - have a fear of the Muslim Brotherhood. The later is very well organized and poised to gain significant seats in a nationwide election. The Muslim Brotherhood has not been quiet in its desire for a Sharia-led government. So there is a philosophical and ideological battle being waged. So far the military has held the upper hand. But one wonders how long that will last now that the second "Arab Spring" has materialized. Nearly three dozen demonstrators have been killed by Egyptian soldiers. And, unlike in Syria where many within the military are defecting toward the side of the demonstrators, the Egyptian military seems to be holding firm. Egypt is definitely in crisis, and it is one you need to pay close attention to.

Meanwhile the government of President Bashir Assad in Syria holds the reigns of power tightly. But with many of his military leaders defecting and with increased isolation even from the Arab world, one wonders how much longer he can remain in power. Just days ago, King Abdullah of Jordan, until recently a supporter of the Syrian regime, said that it was time for Assad to go. The Arab League has gone on record as opposing the use of violence by Assad. One wonders how much support Assad is getting from his friends in Tehran these days. After all, he has served them well with his continual pressure upon Israel. The major concern with Syria is the vacuum that will be created when Assad steps down from power. Will the Muslim Brotherhood step into the gap? Will Iran exert more pressure through its proxy Hezbollah in neighboring Lebanon? And what will the absence of Assad mean for the Israelis and the security along the Golan Heights? This is another of those area of strong interest and vital concern.

And, lingering over the entire Middle East is the threat of a nuclear Iran. I can assure you that the Saudis are very nervous about having a nuclear Iran as its neighbor, especially if Iran begins to impose its weight in Iraq following the withdrawal of American forces there in a matter of a few weeks. Iran already bullies many of the smaller Arab states that lie along the eastern side of the Arabian peninsula. And, remember, the leadership in Riyadh is getting old. One wonders when the "Arab Spring" will come to Saudi Arabia.

When one thinks of a nuclear Iran, the next question is: What will Israel do to prevent it? From editorials in several Jewish papers, the conclusions range from an imminent air assault, possibly before Christmas, to doing very little unless there is cooperation with the United States and NATO. I think the last thing this Administration and Congress want is to engage in another Middle Eastern war, therefore support for Israel might only be of the verbal variety.

Among the attributes of God for which I am most thankful this year is His sovereign control over the affairs of this world. I don't know about you, but I am so grateful that the apparent senselessness of what is happening all around us makes complete sense to our God. In fact, it is part of His purpose and plan to bring in the inauguration of His Son.

I would like to close with the words to a great old hymn of the Church that celebrates God.
"Immortal, invisible, God only wise, In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, Almighty, victorious - Thy great name we praise."

May you and your families have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Occupy Wall Street - What Is Really Going On?

I have to admit that I am having a very difficult time with the Occupy Wall Street protest mobs. Yes, I will use that term to describe them. They have a mob-mentality. They act like a mob. And, in many cities, the local authorities are treating them like a mob. Of course, the actions of the local police have come under review. The use of tear, that is just nasty. The use of night sticks...that is so harsh. Yet examine for just a moment what these mobs, that seem to now occupy almost every governmental center and/or park in the major cities in our nation, have accomplished.

Are the people on Wall Street, their supposed targets, paying any attention? Absolutely not! Business on the Street continues with most Americans watching the ebb and flow of their 401(k) and IRA investments. Are the major banks and lending institutions paying any attention? Well, some might say that the recent decision of Bank of America to back away from its $5 per month fee for using its debit cards was a victory. But, I contend, that victory came not through the obnoxious cries of those within the mob, but the statement made by many of BoA's clients as they changed banks. Although they held on longer than I would have thought, eventually the leaders at BoA saw the light and rescinded the fee. But there has been one group that has been paying attention: the liberal media. It seems that almost nightly there is a report on one of the "Occupy" groups with negligible negativity. (If this were the Tea Party, these would be described as being terrorists.)

So, if the Occupy Wall Street mobs have had no impact upon those they have targeted, what have they done. Well, they have destroyed property. They have defecated and urinated on public property. They have committed criminal acts - vandalism, rape and sexual assault, just to name a few. They have caused cities to take police from regular beats and put them into security positions, thus raising the chances for crime to rise in local neighborhoods. And cities have been forced to use precious tax-payer resources to pay for protection, emergency medical assistance, and clean-up.

What is it that these protesters want? A few, mind you it is a very small percentage, truly are seeking for something better, perhaps at least a job. But the majority want something for nothing. As one protester was heard to exclaim, "I want to have a full time pay, but not have to work." A large percentage of these mobsters - there I said it! - pay no income taxes; they are receiving food stamps and other forms of governmental assistance. They feel that someone needs to contribute more so they can better themselves.

I remember reading E. Gibbons classic study, "The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire." In its latter days, before the invasion by the barbaric hordes, Rome had become a state filled with those who received entitlements. They were on the public payrolls. When those who received governmental handouts exceeded those who paid taxes to the government, society began to rapidly collapse. I believe we are seeing a repeat of that decline here in America today.

I am asked if anything can be done. Honestly, I don't know. I shared with a friend this past week that Humpty Dumpty has certainly fallen off the wall and I am not sure all the king's men can put him together again. These little acts of anarchy - for I believe that is what they truly are - are merely reminders of a greater anarchy that is yet to come after the Church has been raptured away. I invite you to read about those times in 2 Thessalonians 2.

Anyway, keep looking up for that is where our hope comes from. And don't forget to share that hope with someone who desperately needs to come to Christ.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Anything Happening of Importance?

Yesterday the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its report on the Iranian nuclear project. The conclusion to the report stated: "After assessing carefully and critically the extensive information available to it, the agency finds the information to be, overall, credible. This information indicates that Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device." This has been the contention held by most of the western world leaders since Iranian President Ahmadinejad announced that Iran was developing a nuclear capability back in 2005. Of course he indicated that it would be for the generation of electricity, but the world had strong suspicions.

According to one US based report, Iran presently has enough low-enriched uranium (LEU) to create four nuclear warheads. And we know that Iran has already developed a more sophisticated missile arsenal to deliver those potential warheads to Israel and into southern Europe. And with their recent threat to have Iranian ships patrolling international waters off America's east coast, one can imagine what might happen if one of those ships carried a missile armed with a nuclear device.

Last week, prior to the IAEA's report, Israel successfully tested its newest long-range ballistic missile, code-named Jericho 3. It has an effective range of over 4600 miles and is capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. Also, last week, we learned that the Israel Air Force (IAF) had participated in some NATO-led military exercises over the skies of Italy, and then had invited both the Italian and Greek air forces to practice over the skies of Israel. Immediately speculation was raised that these exercises were a precursor to a NATO strike against Iran. The validity of that speculation is yet to be seen.

We have now entered the most dangerous phase of this "cat and mouse" game. Iran has the capabilities of instantly closing the Straits of Hormuz driving up the price of oil by shutting off all export from the Persian Gulf. High priced oil could topple a world economy that is perilously close to plunging off the cliff. Yet a rogue Iranian government, possessing several nuclear warheads, is a threat to not only the security in the Middle East, but to the rest of the world. Will the nations of the free-world step to in prevent that from happening? What would be the response of the Russians and Chinese who have strong alliances with Iran? Will Israel act alone? Stay tuned as I believe these questions might soon be answered.

One final thought. Friday the United Nations Security Council has scheduled a vote to grant a declaration of statehood to the Palestinian Authority (PA). However, in today's edition of Arutz Sheva,, a report stated that PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki told Associated Press, "It is clear now, with the U.S. counter effort and intervention, that we are not going to have these nine votes." Even the sub-committee that was appointed to examine the bid introduced by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in September, was deadlocked in whether to accept or reject the application. In all likelihood, the request will be rejected because the nine votes will not be secured. This certainly gets the United States out of a precarious position. It had promised to veto any resolution granting statehood, but that would have greatly angered an already anti-American Arab world. If the votes had been present and the United States would have abstained, then Israel would have been left hanging over the edge.

Perhaps that last statement has little relevance in the light of the comment President Obama made in response to a off-hand remark from French President Sarkozy at last week's G-20 summit in Cannes, France. Sarkozy, thinking his microphone was silenced, said concerning Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, "I cannot stand him. He is a liar." To which, President Obama replied, "You're fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day." The Anti-Defamation League issued this statement: "President Obama's response to Mr. Sarkozy implies that he agrees with the French leader. In light of the revelations here, we hope that the Obama administration will do everything it can to reassure Israel that the relationship remains on a sure footing and to reinvigorate the trust between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, which clearly is not what it should be."

And so the world continues to implode. I don't have time to write about the new economic crisis in Europe that caused the DOW to plunge nearly 400 points today. Italy is the new crisis nation, and from what I have read, their crisis makes the Greek crisis look small. Could be a rocky week in the markets.

Hey, keep looking up. Someday soon we will be gathered to be with Jesus in a world that knows no crises. Praise God!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Another Cry for a New World Currency

The world's economic collapse continues. This past Monday the stock market dropped nearly 300 points based on the news that, in spite of a proposed European bailout of the immense Greek debt, the Greek Prime Minister said that the proposal would have to be put to the vote of the Greek people. Because of the severe austerity built into the bailout agreement, it is highly unlikely that the Greek people will give their approval. Like so many today they have come to view hand outs from the government as entitlements. Wall Street's fear, joined by all the world markets, is that Greece's default on debt will be imminent, creating a possible snowball effect in countries like Spain and Italy that are already teetering on the brink. Are we seeing the collapse of the Eurozone? Quite possibly. I read where some of the Greeks simply said, "Well, we can go back to printing drachmas once again." In other words, we will simply print our own money. Does that sound familiar?

In the light of the European financial crisis and with the continued struggle the United States has getting its own financial house in order, the cries for a one-world economic system complete with a one-world currency continues to be heard. On October 24, The Vatican called for
radical reform of the world's financial systems, including the creation of a global political authority to manage the economy. A proposal by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace calls for a new world economic order based on ethics and the 'achievement of a universal common good.' It follows Pope Benedict XVI's 2009 economic encyclical that denounced a profit-at-all-cost mentality as responsible for the global financial meltdown." (

In previous blogs we have cited the concerns of the BRICS nations over the declining confidence in the dollar as well as the Euro. You remember the BRICS nations are: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. These are the nations to which we owe the greatest debt. They have called for a new world currency to replace the dollar. So far their call has not gained much traction, but it still lingers out there.

Then, on Monday, I received a report from WorldNetDaily, written by Aaron Klein. It was titled: "Next target of protesters: U.S. dollar? Group seeks global currency to replace each nation's financial system." Let me quote from the article: "A group working with Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is proposing a global alternative currency system to replace the currencies of individual nations. ... The group calls itself OWS Currency. ...Occupy Wall Street and subsequent occupations prove that the people are eager for a new system, states OWS Currency. Let's help them build it."

Whether one is a student of the End Times or not, one has heard that some type of one-world governmental organization will occur at the end of time. We know this as the government of the Antichrist. You can read about his economic administration in Revelation 13 and 18. From Scriptures it appears that he will step onto the world's scene just when it seems that all is hopelessly lost. He will have a plan to save the earth from financial and political chaos. It will come at the price of peoples and nations surrendering themselves to his leadership. He will have the answers. He will have the solution to all the troubles - both economically and politically. And people will listen and respond.

Some of you are saying to yourself, "This simply cannot happen." But, something similar has happened before. I have been reading a new history of World War II, titled - "The Storms of War" - and written by Andrew Roberts. After the defeat of Germany and the Axis powers in World War I, the French and British punished Germany financially. It was a country humiliated and decimated. In the early 1920's a rogue from Austria came onto the landscape. At first people paid no attention to him. In fact he was arrested and imprisoned for several years. But during that imprisonment he fleshed out his ideas to create a super world. Upon his release, his ideas began to resonate with the German peoples; and, well you know the rest of the story of Hitler and his powerful influence over the German people.

Is there a solution to the world's financial difficulties? I don't know. But the Bible implies that Satan does have a strategy that will be revealed through his puppet - the Antichrist. Is the stage being set for his appearance? I believe that it is and from the announcement of the Vatican and from the Occupy Wall Street Currency people, perhaps it is nearer than we think.

So, keep rejoicing in the hope we have in Christ Jesus. He is coming soon.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Message from a Strong Leader

I would like to write on something very different from past blogs. I would like to focus upon one passage found in the book of Nehemiah that God has recently impressed upon my heart. First, let me explain my interest in this book. At Buffalo Covenant Church - the place where I am serving as Preaching-Teaching Pastor - I have the privilege this fall of leading nearly 50 men through this book. It is a class we are calling Deep Waters, whose purpose is to prepare men for leadership roles in the home, in the workplace, in the community, as well as in the church. Nehemiah truly represents a man with profound leadership skills.

Let me set the background for this text. Nehemiah and the people have been working on rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem for nearly two months. It has not come without its share of trials and frustrations. There was the constant harassment of Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem and their friends (chapter 4). There were the internal difficulties associated with severe financial stress (chapter 5). And here in chapter 6, as the work nears its completion, the enemy makes one last determined effort to stop the work. This time they begin by inviting Nehemiah to attend a conference. Perhaps it is one on "Effective Wall-Building" or "How to Be More Tolerant to Your Neighbors." Nehemiah assumes that the purpose of this meeting was to bring him harm - and he was probably right.

But it is how he responded that has ignited my own heart. Listen to his words: "I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?" (Nehemiah 6:3). To paraphrase: "I am really busy right now and cannot take time off. Why don't you give me a call in a week or so?"

I have found that one of Satan's most effective tools is to get us sidetracked from what our real purpose and mission is. We lose sight of our vision. Without vision leadership fails and people soon perish. Because Nehemiah was driven by his vision of a city surrounded with solid walls and strong gates, he could refuse an invitation that, if not costing him his life, certainly would have delayed the completion of the project. Nehemiah kept his focus on his vision.

I believe one of the reasons why many churches are in trouble today is because they have lost their vision. I also believe a lost vision is the reason why America is headed in the wrong direction. We have forgotten why our nation was founded 235 years ago. We talk about greatness, but we have lost the vision of what generated that greatness.

I am grateful that Nehemiah never lost sight of the vision within his mind and his heart. And I am confident that the people of Jerusalem were equally grateful. Sometimes, as leaders, we need to say "no" in order to complete the work God has given to us.

I would encourage you to work slowly through this amazing book. I know that God will touch your heart with the life of this giant of a leader.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What Is the Value of a Human Life?

What is the value of a human life? In the field of medicine, a life is so valuable that we will spend thousands of dollars to treat an illness, conquer a disease, or provide normalcy for someone with a disability. In the field of business, hundreds of dollars are spent to train an individual with needed skills to fill a company vacancy. In the field of sports, a team will often sacrifice the future by trading high draft choices to obtain a player that will provide instant help for a struggling team.

Yesterday we learned the value of one soldier's life in Israel. After spending more than five years in captivity in the Hamas-held Gaza Strip, Gilad Shalit was exchanged for 1,027 Palestinian terrorists, murderers, and men convicted of other crimes within Israel. The nation of Israel has as part of its ethical philosophy that they will leave no soldier behind. So one soldier's life was valued at over one thousand lives of others. Was everyone in Israel rejoicing in this prisoner exchange? To quote from the family whose 15-year old daughter had been stabbed in the heart by one of those Palestinians released yesterday, "We feel like our daughter has been murdered all over again." The question being asked among many Israelis is this: How much more Jewish blood will be spilt by those who have been set free? We know that during their incarceration in Israeli prisons, these men did not have pangs of conscience that told them to change their ways. Many , if not most of them, will quickly be persuaded to return to their terrorist and murderous ways. One of the military leaders of Hamas has gone on record to state that Hamas will attempt even more kidnappings of Israeli soldiers until all Palestinian prisoners have been set free with future prisoner exchanges.

What is the value of a human life? Let's ask God that question. And what is His response? "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Now that is an incredible statement affirming human value. God loved us enough that He sent Jesus Christ, His Son, to die for us. Now here is the amazing thing: Gilad Shalit had been a loyal soldier in the IDF before his capture - perhaps we could say that he was worthy to be redeemed. But, you and I were enemies of God. The Apostle Paul proclaims that we were strangers and aliens from Him (Colossians 1:21). There was nothing worthy about us at all. And yet God still redeemed us with the life of His Son. This is one of those biblical truths that defies our comprehension. But praise God it is true!

What is the value of a human life? It is worth the life of God's Son! That fact alone should give meaning and purpose to all of life. I truly am special because of what God did for me there on the cross. And, as an old preacher once said, "Jesus Christ would have come and died for you if you had been the only person on the face of the earth." Think about that truth for a moment or two!

From my heart I echo these words from the pen of Charles Wesley: "Amazing love! How can it be! That Thou my God shoulds't die for me?" Gilad Shalit is free today because the Israeli government released 1,027 prisoners in exchange for his life. I am free today because God willingly sacrificed His Son on a cross in exchange of my life. Have you experienced that freedom today? Have you discovered the value of your life?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What a Messy and Interesting World!

Saturday night riots erupted in Cairo, Egypt that quickly spread through the streets of that city reaching Tahir Square, the site of the Arab Spring revolution this past January. Unlike that protest which was peaceful, this one resulted in the deaths of 24 Egyptians, including 3 Egyptian soldiers. What made this protest so unusual was the initial participants. Coptic Christians had taken to the streets in protest of the lack of governmental intervention to the increasing attacks upon Coptic churches by Muslim radicals. And, furthermore, making this protest even more interesting was that many Muslims joined the protest. The target of the protests was the Egyptian military regime that has ruled Egypt since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak back in January. As one analyst said, the Egyptian military has tried to tread the middle ground, but it has not been working very successfully.

The Egyptian leadership has called for elections beginning in November. The process will take until at least March 2012 to complete (still shorter than the American election process). Speculation abounds that the Muslim Brotherhood could be the big winner...and I underscore the words "could be." Presently they are one of a few organized opposition groups to the military leadership in Egypt. We already know that one of the strong agenda items on the platform of the Muslim Brotherhood is the elimination of the State of Israel. But would they act immediately upon that threat? Would they threaten but show no response because of their need for the continuation of American economic aid to Egypt? Not sure I want to go out on the limb to make a guess as to what will happen, but I can assure you that it is imperative that Christians keep their eyes upon what is happening in Egypt. I believe it holds a key to the entire well-being of the Middle East.

On another front, this afternoon I was reading an article focusing upon a problem that I have not given much thought to lately. It is a re-visitation of the area of human cloning and genetic engineering. The thrust of the article written by Ken Klein was that we have very little idea of how the world of human cloning has evolved over the past few years. This past spring I had read an article about a genetic engineering firm in Britain that was experimenting with mixing human and animal genes. The goal was to develop a super human race that could withstand disease, etc.

In the article, based upon his documentary film titled "Trans-Humanism", Ken Klein develops upon the concept that God took centuries - beginning with Abraham, through David and Solomon down to Mary - to prepare the genetic line for the body that Jesus Christ was to inhabit here on earth. Could it be, Klein asks, that Satan is presently preparing a body for his representative, the Antichrist, to inhabit. This would not be a normal human body, but one that has been genetically prepared for him.

Honestly, I had never given this any consideration before. Still have lots of questions - sort of is too much science fiction for me. But the thought, I must admit, intrigued me. I will want to do some further study on this idea. We do know that there is experimentation being done today that borders on the absurd. Hitler wanted to create the super-race. Could it be happening once again? To be sure, it is not happening without being under the watchful eye of our Almighty God. He is orchestrating every thing that is happening with the express purpose of announcing the entrance of His Son and our Savior as the King.

So, friends, whether it is Egypt, Israel, Syria, the United States, Europe, or some genetic laboratory out in the middle of nowhere, God is working out His purposes. We may not fully understand them - in fact, let's just be honest - we won't fully understand them - but we must have a heart that trusts Him. The world may seem to be spinning out of control, but I can assure you that it is not! God still has it firmly in the palm of His hand. As the old spiritual says, "He's got the whole world in His hands." Amen!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

One Headline That Raises Serious Questions

It is hard to believe that we are into October already. Here in Minnesota it feels like summer with record setting heat and drought. But the colors of the trees has been fantastic. How creative is our God in His selection of paints from His magnificent palette.

The headlines just keep reaffirming daily the eternal truths of the Scriptures. Now I know that the vast majority of those writing for the various reporting agencies are not students of the Bible, but at times their writings certainly cause a person to focus in that direction.

Let's begin with the headlines in this morning's Minneapolis Star-Tribune - "Bernanke: Economy Near Faltering." The article, written by Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times, goes on to quote the Federal Reserve Chairman: "the recovery is close to faltering. We need to make sure that the recovery continues and doesn't drop back." Bernanke has repeatedly called on Congress to adopt a plan for paying down the nation's debt and to close the many tax loopholes. This news from the Federal Reserve Chairman, coupled with the increasing fears of a total collapse of the Euro-Zone economies, has caused the financial and stock markets around the world to teeter precariously near the brink. Will Greece survive? The opinion of many financial experts is a resounding no. Then I hear this morning of the riots taking place in Greece as people are demanding their rights...even though the Greek government has no money to give to them. (Because Greece is part of the Euro-Zone, it is unable to print its own money). Unless the people are swilling to make the sacrifices, which it appears they are unwilling to do, it looks as if Greece will default. Who knows what will happen them. And many of those same financial experts state that it is only a matter of time until Italy will be the next to fall. Standing in line are Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and France. And the German people are saying that they want no more German taxes gong to bailout these faltering governments. (By the way, I think the British are giving thanks that they never got involved in the Euro-Zone confederation).

Here comes the hard question: Are we willing to make the tough sacrifices that will be asked of us in order to divert an economic collapse here? My gut-instinct tells me that we will riot just as the Greeks are presently doing. We are already seeing the forerunners in the many Wall Street demonstrations taking place around our country. Government: do something about the high prices. Government: do something about the lack of jobs. Government: do something about the inequities around us. What has happened to the American ideal of ingenuity and hard work? What has happened to that American spirit that says "together we can do anything?" We have become to dependent upon someone else orchestrating our lives, solving our problems, taking away the pain. We have forgotten what it is like to work together as a people for a common goal and purpose. This is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad. This is the nation that carved a canal through the jungles of Panama. This is the nation that sent men to the surface of the moon. What have we labored together to accomplish lately? What has happened to that spirit of cooperation between the public and private sectors of our country? Cooperation has been replaced with competition. The result has bordered on the catastrophic.

I am asked if our nation can be turned around. My response is usually very negative, I am saddened to admit. I just do not see a spirit of sacrifice among the American people. Our demands are too great. Our dependency is too entrenched.

I believe that leadership for any type of turn around must begin with those who are called by Jesus Christ. It is time for us to take our focus off the things of this world and begin to prepare ourselves for that which is to come. It is time for the Church to become the hands and feet of Jesus. David Plat is correct when he writes in his best-seller "Radical" that Christians need to begin down-sizing and to begin focusing upon the needs around them.

One headline in today's paper. Is my hope based upon an economy that is near faltering? Or is my hope based upon a coming King and His kingdom?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The UN, Iran, and Putin

The UN General Assembly was busy last week hearing the rants from many of the world's leaders. Perhaps the most controversial one - as he has been for the past few - was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who ranted and raved about how oppressive the Israelis were and how colonial the United States was. Fortunately, many of the delegates vacated the chambers as he began. I probably would have as well. When you read his speech it is nothing but a hateful diatribe against democracy and the western nations, singling out Israel as the greatest threat in the world. He has become a very evil man.

Of interest to many of us were the speeches given by President Obama and then by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Personally, I believe our President did a great job of supporting Israel's position as a Jewish State. And most conservative commentators also cheered him, but with this disclaimer - that Obama was trying to regain the Jewish vote in America that he has lost in recent days. For the first time - perhaps since he has become President - I found myself agreeing more with him than disagreeing. Sort of startled myself.

The Palestinian Authority President and Chairman Abbas did what he had threatened to do: present a request to the Security Council that Palestine be declared unilaterally as a state with its borders being determined as they existed on the evening of June 4, 1967 - just prior to the 67 War. He also declared that East Jerusalem, including the Old City and the Western Wail - Israel's most holy site -would become the capitol. In his speech, Abbas claimed that the Israelis were solely responsible for the failure to achieve peace in the region. He described Israel as "an occupying power who has committed ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people, pushing them away from their ancestral homeland." He also said, "Our people will continue their popular, peaceful resistance." However, he ignored mentioning the thousands of rockets that have been launched from Gaza into Israel, or the many Israeli citizens who have been murdered by terrorists from both the West Bank and Gaza.

Following the speech, Abbas quickly declined invitations by the Quartet (Russia, Europe, the UN and the United States) to resume negotiations with Israel. The Palestinian "eggs" are now in the Security Council "basket." I just read that discussion on this request should begin in early October.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to the Assembly after Abbas. His speech was a powerful declaration of historical truth. Once again he extended his hand to the Palestinians in friendship and in the offer to sit down to negotiate a just and lasting peace. The Prime Minister knew he was in a hostile environment. I quote from his speech: "I know that this is not exactly the image of Israel that is often portrayed in this hall. After all, it was here in 1975 that the age-old yearning of my people to restore our national life in our ancient biblical homeland was branded shamefully as racism. It was here in 1980 that the historic peace agreement between Israel and Egypt wasn't praised. It was denounced. And it's here, year after year, that Israel is unjustly singled out for condemnation. It's singled out for condemnation more often than all the nations of the world combined." He then went on to say, "Today I hope that the light of truth will shine, if only for a few minutes, in a hall that for too long has been a place of darkness for my country." Unfortunately, few delegates were listening.

If you get the opportunity to read the Prime Minister's speech, it is certainly worth reading. Also read the PA Chairman's speech. Then you can make the comparison.

Two other news-worthy items. Reuters reported today that Iran raised the prospect of sending military ships close to the United States Atlantic coast. The Iranian head of the Navy said, "Like the arrogant powers that are present near our marine borders, we will also have a powerful presence close to American marine borders." When I read this, I could not help but recall those scenes in one of Joel Rosenberg's novels about Iranian nuclear missiles being fired from ships off shore.

And, have you been paying attention to what is happening in Russia. Putin simply won't go away. Now he has declared his candidacy for President once again in elections to be held in March 2012. And he will win - and with an overwhelming vote besides. Since he left that office, the length of term for the Russian President has been extended from four years to six, which means that he could hold that office for two terms or twelve years. As one reporter said, we will have a new Russian Czar. And I think that is exactly what Putin wants to see happen. He is positioning Russia for greater influence. Do I hear the sounds of Ezekiel 38-39 on the horizon?

When I look out over the world and see what is happening, I am so encouraged to know that God is in total control. Nothing happening catches Him by surprise. He is in charge! Therefore our confidence needs to be completely in Him. Keep looking up!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Nehemiah: A Lesson for Today

Are you ready for a crazy few days at the United Nations? Friday is supposed to be the big day when Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, after addressing the General Assembly, will present his case for a unilateral declaration of statehood for the Palestinians before the Security Council. He will need nine affirmative votes out of the 15 member nations on the Security Council, as well as no veto by any of the five permanent members of that Council: China, Russia, Britain, France, and the United States.

This morning one of the lead stories in the "Artuz Shev Daily Israel Report" stated that the latest strategy being discussed in order to "save face" for all the participants is to have Abbas present his request and then the Council will table it for discussion later on and encouraging the PA to resume talks with the Israelis for a negotiated settlement. (This renewed negotiation is almost impossible as the PA had made so many conditions that Israeli leaders will never accede to).

Abbas is not absolutely certain he has the nine votes needed for passage and he is certainly not certain of what the United States response would be: a veto, an affirmative vote (probably not), or an abstention. If Abbas would fail to get the nine votes needed, it would mean political failure for him and chaos in the ranks of the PA. Abbas has pretty much staked his future on the passage of this unilateral request for a Palestinian State.

If the request is tabled it gets the United States out of, at least, a temporary problem. If they should veto the PA request, they risk further angering the Arab world which is not looking with much kindness on our nation right now anyway. Last week the Saudi King announced that if the United States vetoed the PA request, then they would lose their status as friends with Saudi Arabia. However, if the United States approved the PA request, then it would further damage already strained relationships with Israel. An abstention would probably anger both sides. Thus, the indefinite tabling methodology looks appealing.

This past week, in my preparation for a time with a group of men beginning a three-year training for leadership in their homes, in our community, and in our church, I was in Nehemiah 2. (Our focus for the first eleven weeks of study is this book). When Nehemiah gets to Jerusalem he immediately encounters strong opposition from those who were benefited by the failure of the Jews to rebuild that city. The opposition included Sanballat, the leader of the Samaritans - who lived north of the city; Tobiah, one of the chief officials of the Ammonites - who lived east across the Jordan River; and Geshem the Arab, one of the most powerful men of his day as he led the coalition of Arab tribes that dominated the southern regions as far as Egypt.

Let me share with you verse 20: "I answered them by saying, 'The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.'" Wow! What an incredible statement for Nehemiah to make in his day! And, upon further analysis, it would be a great statement for Jewish leaders to make today. Let's break the verse apart.

First, Nehemiah declares that Sanballot, Tobiah, and Geshem have no historic claims to Jerusalem or the surrounding area. "You have no share in Jerusalem." Nehemiah is saying, "If you look into the historical records, you have no history here. This is a Jewish city. This is Jewish land." Today, Palestinians have been attempting to prove that they have an ancient history with Jerusalem, but, as our guide in Israel says, "we have yet to uncover an ancient mosque anywhere around the city, or in Israel for that matter."

Second, Nehemiah states that these three men have no present rights for any claim: "or any claim." In other words, they do not belong there. They can present no evidence for the authority they have had in the past.

Finally, Nehemiah affirms that Sanballot, Tobiah and Geshem and their groups have no future in Jerusalem: "or historic right to it." In other words, Nehemiah is stating strongly that Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside will always be Jewish.

Nehemiah stood boldly before those who had taken advantage of the Jewish absence during the Babylonian exile and had staked a claim for themselves. Nehemiah says, "We are back; it is time for you to move out and never come back. This place is now ours once again." Did not something similar happen in 1948, again in 1967, and still again in 1973? Did not the nation of Israel declare to the world that "we are back home! It is time for you to leave." That does not mean that Israel would run rough-shod over others; in fact, just the opposite has occurred: Israel has helped those who lived in the land, Israeli-Arabs are very prosperous, among the most prosperous Arabs in the world. And those Israeli-Arabs enjoy a freedom not found in the rest of the Arab world.

I believe Israeli leaders need to stand firm as did Nehemiah. And, when he did, good things happened.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Postscript to 9-11 Anniversary

So where do I begin this week? Let's see: There was the remembrance this past Sunday on the tenth anniversary of the 9-11 attack. Memorial services were held around our country. Following one of our services at church on Sunday, one member came to me and exclaimed, "Pastor Max, that certainly was a tragic day." I agreed, but then added, "The greatest tragedy is that we failed to learn from the experiences of that day!" He got kind of a quizzical expression on his face. We did not have time to complete our conversation, but here is what I wanted to say to him, "I believe 9-11 was a wake-up call to our country that we were walking down the wrong side of the highway. We had decided to abandon God in our journey as a nation. Immediately following 9-11 churches were full, people were asking important questions about life and its meaning. But, in a matter of a few weeks, it was back to 'business as usual.' Our trust was now in the resources of our military who were seeking out and punishing those who had perpetrated that heinous act." What did we learn? Really nothing. Is the world a safer place because of 9-11? Ask those who live in neighborhoods in Detroit who cower in fear. Ask those believers living in Egypt. Ask the Christians in Sudan. And the list goes on and on. 9-11 was a call that should have resulted in repentance and fear of the living God. Instead, we have tolerated all gods because we don't want to offend any of them.

Can I share something with you? Well I am, anyway. For the past forty plus years I have been diligently studying the Old Testament. I see a remarkable resemblance between those days with ancient Israel and America in the twenty-first century. How many times did God sound the alarm admonishing the people that they were traveling down the wrong side of the road? Over and over again. Sometimes it was through natural catastrophes: earthquakes, plagues of locusts, famines. Sometimes it was through defeat by their enemies: Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians. Sometimes God warned them through the prophets. What was the response of the people to such warnings: an immediate turning to God, followed by the continuation of their lives as they had been in the past. The lingering effects of God's warnings really changed nothing concerning sinful society. In fact, to be perfectly honest, when you study the pages of the Old Testament you come to the conclusion that sinful practices became embolden as a consequence of the people's failure to heed God's warnings.

Do you see a pattern here with our world today? Just look where we have come since 9-11. The homosexual agenda has exploded where now it is a crime to even mention that you believe such practices are wrong. The status of marriage has crumbled to the point where States are actually having to have voter referendums on how to define marriage. Unthinkable that that should even have to happen.

I truly believe, friends, that God's anger toward our nation will shortly be released upon us. He has given us opportunity after opportunity, warning after warning, and yet we continue to hide our faces in the sand and continue in our sinful ways. Israel tried that approach for 200 years; but finally the day came when the armies of Assyria not only knocked on the doors of Samaria, but crashed through the doors. 150 years later something similar happened in Jerusalem when the armies of Babylon arrived.

I have been sharing with people that it is time for Christians to get right with God personally. Jesus is coming and we want to be ready ourselves. It may be too late to save our nation - and I only say those words with great sadness - but we can prepare ourselves. We can strengthen the witness of our churches with a renewed commitment to holiness, resulting in snatching a few more from the fires to come.

I am challenged with these words of Jesus: "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). Something to chew upon.

Postscript: Next week I will focus upon the United Nations vote to recognize Palestine as a nation. This vote is scheduled for next Tuesday. The repercussions of such a vote could be devastating. Stay tuned.

Postscript 2: By the way, the Middle East is about ready to explode. Over the weekend Turkey announced that it will be sending some of its warships to accompany the next flotilla destined for Gaza. And this past week the Turkish military removed equipment from their fighter jets that had indicated that Israeli planes were friendly; the Turks are not so friendly anymore. And then there was the assault in Cairo of the Israeli embassy there. Interesting to compare notes with that event and a similar one in Tehran in 1979 - the only difference being that it was the American embassy attacked there. If you want to read a definitive account of those days, I would encourage you to read Dore Gold's book: "The Rise of Nuclear Iran." It is powerfully written.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tensions Growing in the Middle East

Tensions continue to mount in the Middle East after the terrorist attack in late August that resulted in the deaths of eight Israelis near the southern port city of Eilat. The terrorists, affiliated with a Sinai branch of Al-Qaeda, had crossed the now porous Egyptian border. Israel was quick to retaliate but in a more restrained way than at other times. Yet the border incursion reminds us that the situation within Egypt regarding Israel and the continuation of the Camp David Accords of 1979 are tenuous at best.

This past weekend Turkey broke off diplomatic and military relations with Israel, recalling their ambassador from Tel Aviv and expelling Israel's ambassador to Ankara. This was prompted by the recent Palmer Report to the United Nations concerning the May 2010 Israeli commando raid on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara in which nine Turkish protesters were killed. This ship was part of the flotilla seeking to break the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Palmer Commission Report affirmed Israel's right to blockade Gaza, and also strongly criticized Israel for its use of force on the ship. Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Erdogan had stated that Turkey would take drastic actions unless Israel apologized, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has refused to do. Now, relations between these two nations are more fractured than ever. Just another sign that Turkey is pointing in a more easterly direction for support than in a westerly one as in the past.

Also, this past weekend, IDF Major General Eyal Eisenberg, chief of Israel's Home Front Command, speaking before the Institute for National Securities Studies in Tel Aviv, said that, in his opinion, "the likelihood of an all-out war is increasingly growing." he went on to say, "Iran has not abandoned its nuclear program.... In Egypt, the army is collapsing under the burden of regular security operations, and this is reflected in the loss of control in the Sinai and the turning of the border with Israel into a terror border, with the possibility that Sinai will fall under the control of an Islamic entity. ... In Lebanon, Hezbollah is growing stronger within government arms, but it has not lost its desire to harm Israel." ("Arutz Sheva, September 6, 2011). Eisenberg described this as a "radical Islamic winter," and warned that "this raises the likelihood of an all-out, total war, with the possibility of weapons of mass destruction being used."

And, what is the United States doing? In a piece published by journalist Jeffrey Goldberg (who is no friend of Israel), he quoted former Defense Secretary Robert Gates as saying that Prime Minister Netanyahu was an "ungrateful ally." Gates went on to say, "Netanyahu is not only ungrateful, but also endangering his country by refusing to grapple with Israel's growing isolation and with the demographic challenges it faces if it keeps control of the West Bank." So much for friendships.

This weekend marks the tenth anniversary of the 9-11 attack. What has changed since that day? Is the world a safer place? Just ask Israelis. Just ask Pakistanis. Just ask Afghans. Or citizens of Norway. Or the Coptic Christians in Egypt. Has terrorism been even slowed down? Even our own law-enforcement leaders are concerned, not about another 9-11 style attack, but about the one or two individuals who are living next door and are plotting an attack upon a nearby restaurant or shopping mall. It seems that the evil in the world is growing at an alarming rate. One wonders what it will be like when God finally takes the Restrainer from the world's scene (2 Thessalonians 2). I don't even want to begin to imagine.

Friends, I would invite you to continue praying for the peace of Jerusalem. We are commanded to pray thusly in Psalm 122:6. Pray for Israel's leadership that they might seek God's will and direction. And pray that our leaders will remember that promise given to Abraham of old: "I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you" (Genesis 12:3). God's purposes will be accomplished. Keep looking up.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Response to Richard Dawkins

This past Friday, on the Opinion Exchange page of the Minneapolis "Star-Tribune," there appeared an editorial, written by Richard Dawkins and titled "View on evolution say a lot about a candidate", that literally caused my blood-pressure to rise to dangerous levels. What grabbed my attention was the sub-headline which read: "Evolution is a fact, as securely established as any in science. Those who deny it are likely ignorant in other fields as well." I trust that your blood is beginning to get a little warmer just reading those two statements.

Richard Dawkins is an atheist and avowed evolutionist. In his most recent book, titled, "The God Delusion", he basically states that God does not exist and has never existed. To adapt from the teachings of Karl Marx, religion - for Dawkins and others of his ilk, that would mean any worldview that even fosters some concept of a god - is merely an opiate (or a crutch) for the people.

Dawkins began his editorial - originally published by the "Washington Post" - by focusing upon Texas governor and Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Perry who has championed the cause for the teaching of both creationism and evolution within the Texas school systems. Listen to what Dawkins thinks of Governor Perry: "...There is nothing unusual about Perry. Uneducated fools can be found in every country and every period of history, and they are not unknown in high office. What is unusual about today's Republican Party is this: In any other party and in any other country, an individual may occasionally rise to the top in spite of being an uneducated ignoramus. In today's Republican Party 'in spite of' is not the phrase we need. Ignorance and lack of education are positive qualifications, bordering on obligatory." Now are you getting a little fired-up? Let me rephrase what Dawkins has said just in case you missed it: If you are a Republican and you do not accept the evolutionary theory, then you must be some type of ignorant, red-necked, back-woods, uneducated fool; you certainly have no hope of advancing in the world where real knowledge is maintained."

Friends, that was just the first column of the five column editorial. Ready for column two? Now Dawkins begins his thrust against creationism and his defense of evolution. "Evolution is a fact, as securely established as any in science, and he who denies it betrays woeful ignorance and lack of education, which likely extends to other fields as well." Stop here! Because I don't accept evolution, according to Dawkins, then I will probably be ignorant and lacking educational foundations for business, for literature, for politics, for medicine - for that matter, any other field of learning. Wow! I do feel ignorant in some fields - electronics, for example - but I didn't realize I was that far off base in other areas. I wished someone had told me this a long time ago - it would have spared me some headaches along the way.

Dawkins then continues, "Evolution is the stunningly simple but elegant explanation of our very existence and the existence of every living creature on the planet. Thanks to Darwin, we now understand why we are here and why we are the way we are. You cannot be ignorant of evolution and be a cultivated and adequate citizen of today." Feeling good about yourself about now? Or is your blood-pressure beginning to rise?

"Darwin's idea is arguably the most powerful ever to occur to a human mind. ... A theory that assumes most of what it is trying to explain is a bad theory. That is why the creationist or 'intelligent design' theory is such a rotten theory." Hold the fort! Has Dawkins forgotten all the "missing links" in his "scientific fact of evolution?" Since Darwin first published his book in the mid-part of the 19th century not one single "missing link" has been found. Friends, that is a fact. And yet those "missing links" are the foundation for the supposed incontrovertible fact of evolution? It seems to me, that by Dawkins's definition, evolution is a bad theory.

Dawkins then seeks to help us to understand the complexity of the body of a bird - and he does a great job of defining its complexity. He then states, "The whole machine is immensely improbable in the sense that, if you randomly shook up the parts over and over again, never in a million years would they fall into the right shape." And you know, he is right. But here is where Dawkins misses the point. What if there was a Master Designer who actually made that little bird? Could He not once again assemble those millions of parts to create another bird? Friends, is that not what God does with each new birth. Last Saturday we attended the Minnesota State Fair. One of the buildings we stopped at was the "Birthing Barn." What a crowd was there! And what were we observing?- the miracle of birth - of chickens, turkeys, calves, lambs, and piglets. I was reminded of those powerful words of David in Psalm 139, speaking of his own creation in his mother's womb: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made..." (Psalm 139:13-14).

Finally Dawkins states, "The rival theory to explain the functional complexity of life - creationism - is about as bad a theory as has ever been proposed. It is such a bad theory it doesn't deserve to be called one at all, and it certainly doesn't deserve to be taught alongside evolution in science classes." Did you hear what he was saying? Creationism is only worthy of being tossed into the trash. Throw God into the dumpster, if you will. Through Darwin we have figured out this thing we call life. Frankly, friends, I don't want to be standing any where near Richard Dawkins on Judgment Day. If you and I are angry - at least I know I am angry - can you imagine what God is feeling when He knows this man's heart?

Let me share one more quote from this long editorial: "To die in ignorance of its (evolution) elegance, and power to explain our own existence, is a tragic loss, comparable to dying without ever having experienced great music, great literature or a beautiful sunset." My response to Richard Dawkins is this: "Richard, you are the one who has lost. You have gone through life and never known what great music really is. You have experienced life and have never known the real beauty of the world around you. You have been the greater loser because you have failed to know the great and awesome God behind everything you see. Richard, in your eyes I may be one of the greatest ignoramuses that ever lived, but a day is coming when you will realize how ignorant you have truly been. Only then, Richard, it will be too late to make any changes."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wow! What a Week!

Wow! What a week this has been and it is only Wednesday. Where does a person begin? Well, let's start with the earthquakes this past week. First, there was one on Monday in southwestern Colorado near the New Mexico border - nearly a 5 on the Richter scale. Some damage done, but not extensive. Then, yesterday there was a 5.8 quake epicentered near Richmond, VA. But the quake was felt as far north as Maine and as far west as Chicago. Some minimal damage done, but the assessments are still ongoing. Strongest earthquake to hit the East Coast since 1897. It was interesting that over the weekend Marlys and I had been talking about what is happening in the world and she commented, "Honey, you know we have not had an earthquake that made news for awhile." Guess she spoke too soon.

Continuing along the weather-front, Hurricane Irene has its eyes set upon the Eastern seaboard. Depending upon the weather-service one listens to, this could be either a Category 3 or 4 storm as it slams into the Carolina coastline this weekend. Evacuations are already underway. Some say it could be the strongest storm to hit the East Coast in decades. An East Coast earthquake followed by a strong East Coast hurricane - just a coincidence, you say. I don't think so!

Let's turn our attention to the continued saga of the Middle East. Last Thursday armed terrorists crossed the Egyptian Sinai border into southern Israel attacking buses and cars just north of the Israeli port city of Eilat. Eight Israelis were killed, including six civilians. Hamas also fired over 100 rockets from Gaza into Israeli communities, reaching as far north as Ashdod and as far east as Beersheba where another civilian was killed. IAF planes were scrambled and retaliated against Hamas strongholds within Gaza. The immediate question concerned Israel's response with Egypt. A firefight ensued as IDF soldiers pursued the terrorists back into the Sinai. Sadly three Egyptian soldiers were killed. Now emotions against Israel have deepened within Egypt. The cold-peace that Israel has had with Egypt for the past 32 years is now threatened. Could another war in the Middle East be imminent? With elections supposedly to happen in Egypt in September, the prognosis does not look good.

Speaking of the Middle East, the status in Libya is still uncertain. Has Qaddafi been deposed? Where is he? Who is in charge? I know there are lots of cheers within the streets of Tripoli by the rebels claiming victory. Even American journalists have voiced delight similar to those scenes within Cairo back in January. Yet, if there is a lesson to be learned from what happened in Egypt it is that a dictator maintains a measure of stability. For all those years that Mubarak ruled in Egypt - yes, I know he was a dictator and probably a crook - Egypt still maintained a presence on the world's stage and Egypt maintained relationships of peace with its neighbors. Now look at the situation in Egypt. Will something similar happen in Libya? I am fearful that lying quietly in the background in Libya is the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamist groups. They are poised to claim power there as they have in Egypt.

Democracy is not just the freedom from a dictator's rule. Democracy is the freedom to enjoy privileges and rights that were not present during a dictator's rule. Freedom to give expression to one's beliefs. Freedom to share in opportunities for personal advancement. Again, using Egypt as the model since the Arab Spring uprisings, are there more freedoms of expression in Egypt now as compared to the days of Mubarak. Ask the Coptic believers. Persecution of Coptic Christians has hit an all time high, with churches being burned and some pastors even being martyred for their faith. Democracy in Egypt - I hardly think so. Friends, I have said this before and it bears repeating, democracy is something that must be learned from another. It is not something that happens automatically. As leaders of the Free-World since World War II, we have failed to teach the world the principles of democratic rule. We have had the mistaken belief that all the world needed to do was to observe us and they would understand what democracy was. That strategy has not worked well, has it.

Let me use another analogy. Many Christians have the idea that all they have to do is live a Christ-honoring life before others. Their neighbors, family, and friends will observe them and then come to know Christ. But the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 10:14-15 that people need to hear the vocal message of Christ. In other words, we need to teach them.

What an incredible week thus far! The days are hastening onward toward the appearance of the King. These are days filled with hope and assurance for those of us who know Christ as Savior and Lord. These are days filled with opportunities to share Him with others who do not share our hope. May we remain faithful in our service for the King!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What If - A Palestinian State is Created by the United Nations?

The clock continues ticking down to the September 20 date when the Palestinian Authority is scheduled to present to the United Nations its plan for a unilateral declaration of statehood. At present it appears that their Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has enough votes within the membership of the General Assembly to secure passage of his proposal. However, the status of the proposal within the Security Council is not as assured. The United States has indicated that it will not vote for the proposal, but American leaders have not stated whether they would veto or just abstain from the vote. A veto is crucial, as a mere abstention would allow the proposal to be adopted.

Let's look for a few moments at what the Palestinian Authority (PA) is asking. According to the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States - this is the prevailing legal standard defining what constitutes a state - a state is defined as "a person of international law possessing the following qualifications: a) a permanent population; b) a defined territory; c) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with other states. (Taken from an article titled, "The Palestinians' Imaginary State" by Steven J. Rosen, found at the Middle East Forum website -

In that article the author states that there are presently two Palestinian states that would meet the criteria of the 1933 Montevideo Convention. The first is the state of Gaza. It has a permanent population. It has a defined territory. It has a government under the leadership of Hamas, howbeit, one that certainly has not been recognized by most of the civilized world. And it has already entered into relationships with other nations, Iran being an example.

The second Palestinian state already in existence is known as the West Bank. It has a permanent population. It has a defined territory. It has a government under the leadership of Fatah. And it has already entered into relationships with other nations.

However, the state that will be presented to the United Nations General Assembly is a state that does not presently exist. It is a unification of Gaza and the West Bank into one nation. However, there are some serious difficulties here. Both entities are under different political parties, and in spite of their agreement earlier this summer to form a unified government, no such unification has occurred; instead the rift between Hamas and Fatah has seemed to widen. Furthermore, there is great concern about the legitimacy of the government of Abbas and the PA. His term of office expired in 2009, and although it was extended to 2010, new elections have not been called for within the West Bank. (Note: Abbas has hinted that he would have elections early next year, but don't take that word to the bank quite yet). Abbas has traveled extensively in Europe and South America seeking support for his proposal.

What will happen if, in September, the United Nations unilaterally declares a sovereign Palestinian State made up of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem? According to Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, in an interview with reporters on August 7, there will be war. To quote him, "The Palestinian Authority is getting ready for bloodshed on a scale we haven't seen. The more they speak about non-violent action, the more they are preparing for bloodshed." He believes that once a declaration is adopted, Arabs from the West Bank and Gaza will flood the various checkpoints, forcing their way past IDF soldiers and into Israel's major cities.

So, as you can see, the situation pending before the United Nations in September has grave consequences. Some of you might be saying, "So, what! Why should I care?" Just last week, in a meeting with a United States Congressional Delegation visiting Ramallah, PA Chairman Abbas stated that he wants a NATO force, under the leadership of the United States, to guarantee and to guard the security of the new Palestinian state. Do you know what that means? American soldiers will be stationed in East Jerusalem, Jericho, Ramallah, Nabullus, Bethlehem, and other strategic locations along the newly created Israeli-Palestinian border. We thought Iraq and Afghanistan were bad; this will be worse. Would American forces fire upon Israeli forces? Would a situation like this totally destroy any relationship still existing between Israel and the United States?

I also see such a declaration, if it comes to pass, to be the match that lights the fuse of what we know as the Psalm 83 War. All the pieces are in place; just lacking the trigger mechanism.

What can you do? First, you can pray for Prime Minister Netanyahu, that he will remain firm in his resolve on behalf of the people of Israel. You can pray that American leadership will stand firmly behind Israel and not waver in the face of worldwide opposition. Second, you can write your legislative leaders and encourage them to tell our American Ambassador to the United Nations to veto any proposal toward a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.

One other interesting piece of news, not reported by the Main Stream Media. Iranian General Mohammed Reza Naqdi, commander of Iran's Basij (volunteer) forces, announced that he is ready to dispatch Iranian forces to London to act as peacekeepers. He told the Iranian Fars news agency last Thursday, "If the UN General Assembly approves, the Basij Organization is ready to send a number of Ashura and al-Zahra brigades to Liverpool and Birmingham as peacekeepers to monitor observation of human rights laws and deter use of force." Friends, that would be like having the fox guard the hen house. Protecting human rights? From a nation that has violated every human right known? From a nation that is still executing people every day as a means of quelling unrest in its own country? Oh the world has gotten crazy!

Friends, it is time we steadfastly keep our eyes on Jesus. These are not days to waver in our focus. If we do, the waves of the turmoil around us will suck us under. It is time that we warn others of the dangers of continually neglecting Jesus as there is not much time remaining.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Thoughts for Tish B'Av

Today is a very special day on the Jewish calendar. It is known as Tish B'Av - the ninth of Av. It is a day of fasting, mourning, and special prayers. Special prayer services are held at the Western Wall (the Kotel). I know you are asking, "Why should I care what Tish B'Av is?" Let me share with you what that day signifies.

In the year 586 BC, the armies under Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon assaulted and destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem. Nothing was left standing in place. Those residents of the city and of the country of Judea who survived were led captive into the land of Babylon where they would remain for seventy years. Upon their return from captivity during the days of Cyrus in 536 BC, the Jews began rebuilding their Temple, but work was stopped because of the complaints of Jerusalem's neighbors. Finally, Zerubbabel completed the project in 516 BC. This Temple paled in comparison with the one Solomon had built. When Herod the Great ascended the throne in Jerusalem as King of the Jews, he began to rebuild the Temple - a project that would take over 60 years to complete. Then in 70 AD, while putting down a Jewish revolt, the Roman army under Titus destroyed the Temple once again. Now, here is where the story gets very interesting: both destructions occurred on the very same day, some 656 years apart: Tish B'Av.

What makes this day so interesting is that in the year 1492, on Tish B'Av, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain ordered that all Jews be exiled from Spain. It was also on Tish B'Av in 1914 that World War I began, which would eventually culminate in the rise of the anti-Semitic Nazis and their leader Adolph Hitler. I think now you can begin to understand why it became a day of national mourning.

But, what about us? Yesterday we witnessed one of the six worst days in the history of Wall Street. Millions of Americans saw their portfolios decline by thousands of dollars. Now our leaders are playing the blame game as to who is responsible. I have the answer - are you ready to hear it? We all are responsible! For too long we have grown accustomed to our government helping us out, whether it was with cheap student loans, guaranteed mortgages for our homes, subsidized prices for our crops, well, you can add to the list. It has brought us to the point where now our government has more obligations than it has cash to pay for them. Something had to give.

Then witness what happened over the weekend in London. Riots that literally set portions of that great city on fire. And I am sure that many of those taking to the streets have no idea why they are rioting. London is a portrait of what could happen across Europe.

Finally, there was the tragic loss of 31 American servicemen with the downing of their helicopter in Afghanistan. Just another reminder that after ten years of war there, we seem no closer to seeing the end. Now the cry is to bring all of our troops home. Mission: unaccomplished. Could it be another Vietnam all over again? It seems that as Americans we have lost the will to win! Since World War II - which, by the way, was a great victory of the American people and their spirit - we have not won a war.

Tish B'Av - a day of mourning for the past. Tish B'Av - a day of mourning for the present. Tish B'Av - a day of mourning for the future? That certainly appears to be the case unless we can resolve to do the difficult things. Unless we can determine that it is no longer about who we are as individuals, but what our nation is all about. Unless we once again adopt that phrase from John Kennedy's inaugural address in 1961 - "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

Tish B'Av - as God destroyed that symbol of His presence among His people Israel, so God is beginning to destroy those symbols that we have clung to for so long. Will this mourning lead us to a turning to God, or to an anger directed toward others? Something to think about on this Tish B'Av 5771, or August 9, 2011.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lessons from a Great American

I want to do something rather different for my blog this week. I know that a lot is happening around the world - more earthquakes in Japan, continued economic unrest, the trial of former Egyptian President Mubarak now underway in Egypt, a lingering war in Libya, and a growing famine in the horn of Africa. Then there is the incessant heat wave that has literally camped out over the nation's southwest and central plains. Each of the above could provide material for many blogs. But I want to focus this week upon a comparison and contrast.

Last week Marlys and I had the privilege of traveling to Springfield, IL with our kids from Rochester. Our goal was to introduce our two granddaughters to one of my heroes - Abraham Lincoln. And we were not disappointed. Friends, it is worth the time and effort to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum there in Springfield. We spent over six hours there, and I am sure we could have spent more time. It is an amazing place with special theatre presentations and remarkable displays to help us in our understanding of our nation's 16th President.

As many of you know, Mr. Lincoln was not always a success. He failed twice in business as a store clerk and owner. (You can visit his two stores located in New Salem, just northwest of Springfield). He often was defeated in his pursuit of political office - being elected only once to the United States House of Representatives, and being defeated twice for the United States Senate seat from Illinois. But he developed a successful legal practice in Springfield and was renown throughout central Illinois for his honesty.

The year 1858 was a pivotal year for this young lawyer from Springfield. He ran against Stephen Douglas, known as the "little giant," for the Senate seat. A series of seven debates throughout Illinois began to put Abraham Lincoln upon the national political map. And, although he lost the election - in those days, senate seats were filled by appointment by the state legislatures, the nation took notice of this 6 foot 4 inch giant from America's heartland.

And, as we know, in November 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th President of the United States. He knew that the task before him was a great one. Putting his politics aside, he began to assemble his Cabinet. Three of the men who had so strongly opposed him during the Republican convention held in 1860 in Chicago were invited to serve on his Cabinet. Lincoln wanted the best gifted men in those strategic positions.

Here is what challenged me as I toured through the Museum. Lincoln had a unwavering vision of a united America. He could not and would not accept the rush toward secession that was occurring through the South. His goal was to unify our nation; and it was with that intent that the Civil War was begun in April 1861. Only later did Lincoln come to the conclusion that the emancipation of slavery should be included as an outcome of the war.

I think it safe to say that Abraham Lincoln embodied bipartisan politics. He was an American before he was a Republican. And he had a strong commitment to his vision for America. This determination, I believe, ultimately led to the North winning the Civil War and to the reunification of America. At times I am convinced he might have been tempted to retreat from that vision - his four years as president were a challenge that unequalled any other, but he did not.

After spending several hours at the Museum, we returned to our hotel. Turning on the television we focused on the debacle happening in Washington over the "debt ceiling" crisis. I made a comment to Marlys about the contrast between what we had just observed at the Museum and were observing now in Washington. It seems that today men and women are politicians first, then are Americans. Where is a vision for a united America? Who is up to the challenge of standing upon principles, not of party, but of country? Who is willing to perhaps forfeit another election for the sake of doing what is right?

As we drove away from Springfield last Sunday, I was encouraged in heart by the life and example of one of the greatest Americans who has ever lived. We can and need to learn much from his life.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Norway - A Wake-Up Call

The world was shocked this past weekend with the terrorist acts in Norway. As with all acts of terror there was much about these acts that defy our understanding. And we keep learning more about the perpetrator of those acts.

Anders Behring Breivik is a 32-year old Norwegian right-wing extremist. For the past nine years he plotted an attack that would stir Europeans into action against the growing Muslim influence in Europe. Over the course of that time he wrote a 1500 page manifesto that detailed how he believed the Muslims had invaded Europe with the intent of overthrowing governments and creating a Muslim state. He had watched as nation after nation had seemingly capitulated to the demands of those immigrants, some even adopting the Shariah law that the Muslims had advocated. He believed it was only through an act of war such inroads could be stopped.

Twice before in history the European took up arms to stop an advance of Islam. The first was on October 10, 732 at the Battle of Tours (France) where the Frankish army under Charles Martel defeated the larger Muslim force. Historians recognize this battle as one of the great turning points of history. It literally stopped the seemingly unstoppable advance of Islam into Europe. As a consequence of that battle, the Muslims retreated back into Spain and then eventually into Northern Africa. The second was on September 12, 1683 at the Battle of Vienna where, after a two-month besiegement by the Ottoman Turks, an army of Central European powers defeated the Turks, thus saving Europe once again.

Anders Breivik believed that it would take another act of war to turn the tide of Europe against the subtle Muslim invasion. As his lawyer stated yesterday, Mr. Breivik knew what he did, but believes himself to be innocent because it was an act of war.

Throughout Europe we are beginning to see the eyes of European leaders being opened to the threat that the expansive Islamic immigration has brought. Switzerland has banned the construction of minarets. France has banned the wearing of burkhas. Other nations are following suit. Earlier this year the German Chancellor Merkel stated that the German experiment with diversity had not worked. Perhaps it is too little too late - only time will tell.

You remember those words of Jesus as He described the conditions of the last days. He said that there would be "wars and rumors of war." When we think of wars we usually think of Iraq and Afghanistan. But what of the psychological warfare between the East and the West. But what of the economic warfare between the haves and the have nots. But what of the strategic warfare for power and control. I know you will say, "But, Max, these have been going on for centuries; they are as old as man himself." True, but I am not certain we have seen the intensity of such warfare literally encircle the globe - at least not since the days of World War II.

It is time to awaken out of our apathy both as a nation and as a Church. It is time to focus upon what is right and what is wrong; and, if we are not certain as how to discern between them, then we need to get back into the Word of God and make that discernment. It is time to "Wake Up!" and then to "Stand Up!"

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Financial Storm Gets More Intense

I have a friend who is in the financial planning business. He is also a strong student of the Scriptures, particularly of the end times. Dennis and I have shared in many over-lunch discussions on the prevailing economic morass that the world is facing. Because of his business relationships, Dennis reads extensively from financial reports around the globe.

Well, this week I read an article written by Caroline Glick. She is the managing editor of the "Jerusalem Post" and her articles often appear in some of the leading US papers, as well as on the conservative website: This particular article appeared on July 18. The article was titled, "Caution: Storm Approaching." I would like to share just a few thoughts from this article.

Glick first focuses upon the economic condition of Egypt that grows more desperate by the moment. Since the revolution of January/February, Egypt's wealthy elite as well as foreign investors are taking their money out of the Egyptian economy and investing it elsewhere. This "capital flight" is happening throughout the Arab world, but affecting Egypt and Syria most directly. (That is because neither country has any oil to export). She quotes from an article by David Goldman and published in the "Asia Times Online" that states: "There is a capital flight and $500 million a week are leaving the Arab world....Most of the capital flight is coming from Egypt, and at an annual rate roughly equal to Egypt's remaining reserves." The bottom line is this: Egypt will soon be broke financially and unable to feed its starving people. Some analysts believe Egypt could begin defaulting on its loans as early as the end of this year.

Then there is the situation in Syria. President Assad is spending a lot of his country's reserves to pay for political loyalty and to protect the Syrian currency. Even if Assad survives and remains in power, financially his country is nearing the edge of the precipice.

And, of course, there is the situation in Greece. In spite of severe austerity movements by the Greek Parliament, one wonders if the seemingly inevitable can be avoided. If the Italian government goes into default, and it is perilously close, the ramifications for both the United States and European banking systems will be devastating. Then there are the economic woes of Ireland, Portugal, and Spain. The Germans and British have assumed overwhelming debt loads of other nations and are now in peril themselves.

Then Glick makes reference to the financial challenges here in the States. The current United States debt level stands at 98% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Many of the European countries debt level is over 100% of GDP. According to Glick, an American commitment to more tax-and-spend policies can only have dramatic and drastic implications. We simply cannot keep changing credit cards and hope that the inevitable day of reckoning will never come.

In contrast, there is the Israeli economy. She writes, "Israel is likely to find itself in the unlikely position of standing along China and India as among the only stable, growing economies in the world." I had read elsewhere that Israel's economy was expected to grow at an annual rate of over 6% this year - one of the best growth rates in the world. God has not forsaken His people even though they are still in a condition of unbelief. That is because He still has a plan and purpose for them to accomplish.

Friends, I don't believe that either the American or the world economic conditions will change for the better any time soon. For too long we have put our confidence as people into the financial resources we have. I am reminded of these words from the ancient prophet Zephaniah, who wrote concerning the days before the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC. His words still have meaning today: "Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the LORD's wrath." (Zephaniah 1:18). The tottering world economies are another reminder that our hope is to be built - not on stocks and bonds, or on bank accounts and IRA's - but on Jesus Christ. He alone is our solid Rock.