Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Thoughts for Yom Kippur and Proceedings at the United Nations

Today marks the celebration of Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement - for our Jewish friends.  You will remember it being described in Leviticus 16:2-34, Leviticus 23:26-32, and in Numbers 29:7-11.  This was a day for fasting before God, in fact, Leviticus 23:29 declares that anyone who did not fast on that day should be destroyed. 

The Day of Atonement was the only day of the year when the High Priest was permitted to enter into the Most Holy Place, that sanctuary where the Ark of the Covenant rested and where the Shekinah Glory of God resided.  On that day the High Priest took meticulous care as to how he was dressed, how he had addressed his own sins in his own life, and the attitude with which he was to enter into this most sacred place.  Two goats were selected with one goat being offered as a sacrifice.  The High Priest carried upon his heart the sins of the entire nation of Israel.  Upon entering the Most Holy Place, he would sprinkle the blood of that goat upon the atonement cover atop the Ark on behalf of the nation.  Then the second goat would be brought to him.  He would place his hands upon the head of that living goat, transferring the sins of the people to that goat - the goat thus becoming the sin-bearer for the nation.  That goat was then led away deep into the wilderness and turned loose, never to be seen again.  It was an illustration and a reminder to the people of how God had removed their sins from them.  King David would later exclaim, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12).

Praise God that Jesus Christ has borne the penalty for our sins and His blood, poured out upon the cross, removes those sins from our lives as we come to acknowledge and believe in Him as our Savior.  I pause on Yom Kippur and say "Thank you, Jesus, for Your powerful sacrifice.  You were truly the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world.  Thank you for taking away my sins."  Perhaps, on this holy day, you might want to pause and do the same.

Of course, even though it is Yom Kippur, the world continues to shake its fist in the face of the living God.  I trust you are following the events at the United Nations this week.  Yesterday our President addressed the General Assembly and once again reiterated that the United States would use its resolve to stop the Iranians from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  He threatened the use of military force, if necessary.  One wonders how those words were heard in both Tehran and Jerusalem.  The President, in an interview over the weekend with CBS's Sixty Minutes, had said that he would not listen to all the "noise" coming from various regions about the status with Iran.  Of course, everyone knew that the "noise" he was referring to was that of Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel.  Personally, I am getting the feeling that the United States has no plan in place as to this pending crisis with Iran.  I hope I am wrong - guess time will tell, but, if Israeli intelligence is correct, there is not much time left.

Today, the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will address the General Assembly.  Over the weekend, he, too, gave us an insight into what he would be saying.  He reminded the world that Israel has no historical presence in the Middle East at all - that they have only come into the area since the early part of the 20th century, whereas the Muslims have been there forever.  Now, President Ahmadinejad never has excelled in history, otherwise he would know that Israel has been historically identified with the land since the time of Abraham over four millenniums ago.  The Muslims can only trace their presence since the 7th century AD, or less than a millennium and a half.

Finally, on Friday, Prime Minister Netanyahu will speak.  I will be paying close attention to what he has to say.  I believe he is a man who understands what a war with Iran could do to his nation, yet he also understands what a nuclear Iran could do as well.  More next week about the United Nations.

Finally, I have received e-mails from many of my readers that included an e-mail stating that there was a lot of military activity going on in Israel and wondered if something was up.  A friend of mine, David Dolan, who has spoken to several of our tour groups while in Jerusalem, and is a former CBS reporter from Israel, wrote this in his blog: "Reports went out around the world via the Internet during September that Israel was in the final stages of massive war preparations, said to be in anticipation of an imminent Israeli military strike upon Iran's nuclear facilities.  However government and military spokemen said that while Israel is indeed preparing for war, this has been the case for some time, and nothing unusual has been occurring in recent months or weeks.  Well placed Israeli sources have informed me that this was an accurate assertion, although all also realize that growing regional instability means that war could break out at virtually any time.  ....  Some of the spreading war rumors may have been sparked by an unusual Israeli military drill held during the month.  IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz put out an unexpected order to many army unit commanders to immediately rush their forces to Israel's northern border with Syria on the Golan Heights.  Once they got there, live fire exercises and other drills were carried out under conditions that simulated an enemy attack upon the area. .... Although the drill was quite unusual, the IDF later issued a bland statement claiming, 'This drill is part of a routine program of checks and surprise exercises held throughout the year.'  Despite this, many Israelis said the drill was another indication that the escalating internal war in Syria, which has left an estimated 20,000 people dead, may soon grow to directly involve Israel."

Yes, there was a movement of troops.  Yes, Israel continues to prepare for war.  But if one looks at the pages of history since the UN Resolution creating the State of Israel on November 29, 1947, Israel has always been preparing for war.  Even when there have been those times of peaceful interludes, the preparations for war are never removed from their hearts.  I know those of you who sent me the e-mails are diligently praying for Israel - its leaders, its people, and its lands.  Keep on praying, remembering that it was King David who challenged us to "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May those who love you be secure.  May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels" (Psalm 122:6-7).

Thought for the Week: "Some minds are like concrete: Thoroughly mixed up and permanently set."   

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Jesus - Married?! And China and Japan on the Verge of War?

An article appeared yesterday in the Huffington Post Religion page that had the following headlines: ""'The Gospel of Jesus' Wife,' New Early Christian Text Indicates Jesus May Have Been Married."  Of course most media sources immediately picked up on this story as being another refutation of the New Testament account of the life of Jesus. 

What is interesting is that this purported text comes a fourth century AD papyrus that is the size of a business card written in the Coptic language.  It has been translated by Karen L. King, a professor at the Harvard Divinity School.  Dr. King focuses her teaching upon Coptic literature, Gnosticism and women in the Bible and has published research on both the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Mary of Magdala - both of which are Gnostic gospels.  Dr. King went on to state, "The discovery of this new gospel offers an occasion to rethink what we thought we knew by asking what role claims about Jesus's marital status played historically in early Christian controversies over marriage, celibacy, and family.  Christian tradition preserved only those voices that claimed Jesus never married.  The Gospel of Jesus's Wife now shows that some Christians thought otherwise." 

Friends, during the time between the second and third centuries after Christ, there were many stories being circulated about His life.  One story focused upon His childhood, for after all, Jesus must have had a childhood, although we know nothing of it except for one scene when He was twelve years old.  It is a wonderful story of a boy who had power to do worthy things - like heal a bird; but also power to do unworthy things - like cause a friend who snubbed him to become sick.  As evangelical Christians we do not put any legitimate claim upon these fanciful stories.  Much excitement was generated a few years ago over the publication of the lost Gospel of Judas, but it was shown to be just another Gnostic attempt to create another version of Jesus.  And now we learn that Jesus had a wife!  I find it amazing that many people will come to actually believe this to be a true story.  The question I ask myself is this: If Jesus was married - and according to another Gnostic story, Jesus had married Mary of Magdala, better known as Mary Magdalene - why didn't the four Gospel writers mention this in at least one of their accounts?  Why didn't Jesus talk about His own marriage in those passages, such as Matthew 19, where He talks in detail about the significance of marriage?  Truly He could have said to His followers, "Just follow the example Mary and I have set before you", but He didn't say that at all. 

Friends, these Gnostic discoveries are important and reinforce the necessity for those early Church Councils where the doctrines about Christ were established.  I do not put any stock into a few lines that come from a business-card sized piece of a papyrus. 

The other headline that caught my attention yesterday was from the "Washington Free Beacon."  It read: "Chinese General: Prepare for Combat."  I will be honest, I was not aware of the small chain of islands known as the Senkakus located south of Okinawa and north of Taiwan.  Both Japan and China have claimed these islands, but recently Japan purchased three of these privately held islands from their Japanese owners.  This has led to mass protests on the streets of Beijing and other major Chinese cities.  Some protestors carried signs that said, "Kill all Japanese" and "Fight to the Death."  General Xu Caihou, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, considered the most senior military political commissar, said Friday that military forces should be "prepared for any possible military combat."  This was reported by the Xinhua new agency.  China has sent six patrol vessels into the Japanese controlled waters around these islands, ignoring warnings from the Japanese to leave the area.  Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, "While the world's attention was turned to other crises, including Iran's nuclear program and concerns over the faltering Euro, China has upped the ante, playing the role of a schoolyard bully towards its maritime neighbors.  From one end to the other of the South China Sea, Beijing has increased both in belligerence and bellicosity."  You can read the entire article at 

This next week should prove to be very interesting.  On Tuesday, President Obama will address the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly, and on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will speak before the UN General Assembly.  Of course Iranian President Ahmadinejad will speak - not sure of the day or time, but you know what he will say - 45 minutes of tirades against Israel and Zionism.  The new president of Egypt, Morsi, will also speak, I believe on Tuesday.  These speeches are more than symbolic, for I believe they convey the attitude of the people and we need to listen carefully. 

Friends, keep looking up.  As Marlys and I met with a group of friends this past Sunday evening to celebrate Rosh HaShana, we blew the shofars - certainly not as elegantly as were those blown by our Jewish friends in Israel, but it was a joyful noise just the same - and I thought of how we need to be listening for God's shofar to be blown.  I believe it is not that distant.  Even so come, Lord Jesus!

Quote for the Week:  Don't put a question mark where God puts a period.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Remembering September 11 - Some Things Have Not Changed; and Peanut Butter Is Racial?

Yesterday was a day filled with deep-seated memories of what happened eleven years ago.  Yet, as with many experiences in life, the further removed we are from those events, the less time we take to reflect upon them.  For many, September 11 will soon have no more relevance than do December 7 or November 22.  How quickly and easily do we forget.

What has been learned in the ensuing eleven years since that fateful day that shook America to its very foundations?  Sadly, very little has been learned.  Once again the events of yesterday reminded us that those forces that oppose the freedoms our country has represented these past 236 years have not changed.  The hatred that caused thousands of American citizens to die as planes were commandeered and hurled into the World Trade Center Towers, the Pentagon, and into a farmfield in Pennsylvania, is still as prevalent today as it was then.  In fact, I believe that hatred has grown over the past years.  It is a hatred that will not end until the last vestiges of freedom are removed from our world and the world becomes enslaved to an ideology that has hatred at its core. 

As you have heard by now, yesterday - September 11, 2012 - an American embassy and consultate were attacked.  In Cairo Egyptian rioters stormed the American Embassy, scaling its walls, and penetrating as far as the outer courtyard.  They tore down the American flag and replaced it with a black Islamic banner.  Egyptian security personnel stood by as the assault materialized.  And in Benghazi, Libya, not only was the American Consulate attacked, but the American Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other American personnel were murdered and the consultate was burned to the ground. 

Friends, things have not changed in eleven years.  Those who hated us on September 11, 2001, hate us even more on September 11, 2012.  And that hatred continues.  Whether we recognize it or not, there is one source for such hatred.  Our embassy in Germany was not threatened.  Our embassy in Japan was not threatened.  The personnel in our embassy in London were not put on lock-down mode.  The embassies that have been attacked are in countries where radical Islamic followers have control.  Although many welcomed the "Arab Spring" in January 2010 with the overthrow of then Egyptian President Mubarak, the government of President Morsi has been strangely silent in condemning what happened yesterday in Cairo.   In fact, there has been no outcry from any of the Arab states condemning what occurred yesterday. 

What precipitated yesterday's attacks?  It was purported to be an insignificant video that depicted Mohammed in a bad way.  I understand allegiance to religion.  I am firmly committed to Jesus Christ and the Word of God.  And I will do all I can to help persuade another to give his or her life to Christ.  But, will I take a torch to the Egyptian Embassy in Washington DC because their continued persecution of my brothers and sisters in Christ there in Egypt are being singled out for humiliation and even death because they are Christians?  Of course not.  That is usually not the way those of us who adhere to the Judeo-Christian faith respond.  (I know there have been exceptions down through the years, but they are just that - exceptions).  We respect those with differing beliefs and accept them as equals.  We do not seek to retaliate.  And until we truly understand the fundamental differences between a Judeo-Christian worldview and an Islamic worldview, there can be no dialogue. 

I need to make a comment on what happened yesterday between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.  The relationship between these two leaders has been icy these past few years.  We have seen the cold appearances in the photographs that come when they have been together.  The major sticking point in their relationship continues to be what to do with Iran and its quest for a nuclear weapon.  The Israeli Prime Minister last week in talks with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Jerusalem asked for the identification of "red line" indicators that, when crossed by Iran, would cause the United States to respond in a military fashion.  The Secretary of State said that there would be no "red lines."  The Israeli Prime Minister asked if there could be a meeting between himself and President Obama the later part of September during the opening week of the United Nations General Assembly.  The Prime Minister said that he would be willing to come to Washington, if that would be more convenient.  The response of the White House was that there simply would not be time because of President Obama's tight schedule.  Of course, he did not cancel his scheduled appearance on "Late Night" with David Letterman.  I know we are in the midst of an aggressive presidential campaign, but there is a time to be a candidate and there is a time to act as the President.  With the crisis of war impending in the Middle East, the least our President should do is to sit down with the only ally we have in the Middle East and talk.  Of course, that is just my opinion.

Two other headline items that did not make the American mainstream media.  One: The leaders of Hamas have been welcomed with open arms in Cairo and will make that city their new headquarters after leaving Damascus because of the civil war there.  The London based daily "Al-Hayat" reported Tuesday that Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood administration has agreed to open a Hamas office in eastern Cairo and establish a joint committee with Hamas to discuss issues of security along the Gaza-Egypt border.  You can read the full article by going to  Two: Bill Gertz, of the "Washington Free Beacon" reports that in early August the head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, Major General Murad Muwafi met with a senior official of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security.  Again, you can read the article at

Finally, I read the following headline this morning - "Principal Sees Racism in Peanut Butter" - and thought to myself, "You have got to be kidding!"  "An Oregon grade school principal suggested in a newspaper interview that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches might be racially and culturally offensive.  'What about Somali or Hispanic students who might not eat sandwiches?' Verenice Gutierrez told the Portland Tribune."  You have to read the article for yourself to see how ridiculous our society has become.  You can find it at  How God must laugh at the foolishness of man!

Well, friends, these are very interesting and exciting days.  Aren't you glad you know Jesus?  If you don't have a relationship with Him yet, I would urge you to confess your sins and ask for His forgiveness and invite Him into your life to be your Savior and Lord.  Then, and only then, will you know true hope and experience a true change that only He can bring.

And I want to wish all my Jewish friends a "Shana tova" as they celebrate Rosh HaShana at sundown this coming Sunday.  Happy 5773! to you all.  And may G-d smile with His favor upon you in this new year.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Is An Attack on Israel Imminent?

In the past few days I have been asked this question by several people: "Max, do you think Israel will bomb Iran in October?"  My response is very simply stated, "I don't know for sure, but right now I am inclined to think they would not."  However, that is not to imply that preparations for such an attack are not being hastened.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks about a "red line" that, when crossed, will result in an Israeli attack.  But the problem he has is in defining such a "red line."  That line is much different when viewed through the eyes of the people of Israel than when viewed through the eyes of the American government or the European Union.  Just this past week a former US Air Force General and CIA director said that Iran could not possibly get a nuclear bomb until sometime next year.  Michael Hayden, in an interview with the Haaretz newspaper said, "While it is probably true that the so-called 'window' regarding effective action is closing, there is still some time, as real decisions are to be made in 2013 or 2014."  One reason given for a possible delay in Israel's attacking Iran would be the need to obtain more Massive Ordnance Penetrators (MOP) bunker-buster bombs.  The thought is that Israel will agree to hold off any attack until after the US elections in order to obtain more of these bombs.  From what I have read, these are huge bombs, weighing over 30,000 pounds and able to penetrate through solid reinforced concrete to a depth of 60 feet.  One can understand why Israel would want those types of bombs in its arsenal. 

Meanwhile, the White House has denied reports that it has struck a deal with Tehran through two unidentified European intermediaries.  The report indicated that the United States would not get involved if Israel decided to attack Iran, and in return, the Iranians would not attack American targets in the Persian Gulf region.  There has been no confirmation of the story, but the mere rumor of such a story is indicative of how people feel about the nearness of such an attack.

I found the following news article, bedded deep within the website to be of interest.  They cite a report that first appeared on Israel's Channel 10 News, featuring interviews with Iranian citizens about a possible Israeli attack.  The report revealed a great tension and fear among the Iranians over the possible war with Israel.  One Iranian said, "The Iranians understand their current president says terrible things about Israel.  You can be sure that not all Iranians agree with the behavior of their leaders."  Another said, "There are a lot of poor people who need help, they work day and night to survive.  Please, do not attack us" - this in response to a question regarding how the economic sanctions were working.  One interviewee defended the right of Iran to develop its nuclear capabilities: "We are surrounded by Arabs who hate us.  Just like Israel, it makes sense for us to have a nuclear reactor." 

Other news of interest that reinforce our living in the last days.  In San Antonio's Northside Independent School District, school administrators have encountered a fire-storm of opposition from residents over a ruling that would require each student to wear a RFID chip so that school personnel would know where students were at all times.  Wearing such devices would infringe upon the rights of students.  You can read the full article at  This is just another step in training people to get used to wearing a device that will monitor your activities.  Such devices are described by John in Revelation 13 to monitor buying and selling.  We know the technology is available - it is already used on pets and other livestock.  I think we are getting closer!

One final story that confirms my lack of zeal to fly any longer.  You can find the article at  We are all familiar with the screening in order to get into the main terminals of our airports.  You know the routine: shoes off, belts off, laptops open, liquids in 3 oz containers and in a 1 quart bag, jackets off - that is before you step through the screening device.  And you think - now I can relax until the hassle of the boarding process.  Now the Transportation Security Administration has come up with a new way of interfering with our "pleasant flight experience."  Now, they are going through the terminal testing the soft drinks and water that we purchase inside the terminal itself.  Guess they want to see if there are any secret explosives in those bottles of Coke or Dasani.  But here is what really irritated me, the TSA does not screen the employees working in the airport or the supplies the vendors within the terminal receive.  Don't you think that is a bit strange?  They would rather come up to me, while I am waiting my flight and enjoying my Powerade, and ask to test my drink than to screen those bottles as they come into the terminal.  Just another reason why I limit my flying.  Just more of Big Brother watching out for us!

Friends, the more I ponder what is happening in the world, the more convinced I am that the only security we can have is found in Jesus Christ.  As the hymn writer states so powerfully, "On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand."  Oh so very true!  Praise God for the hope we have in Christ Jesus! 

I have a dear friend who sent me an e-mail containing a lot of great one-line quotes.  I thought that we all needed some cheering up, so I will give one a week.  Here is the thought for this week - timely I thought considering I begin preaching a series through the Ten Commandments this coming Sunday - "Don't let your worries get the best of you; remember, Moses started out as a basket case." 

Have a blessed week!