Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Response to Sandy

Our minds are still struggling to comprehend the magnitude of the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy.  As hurricanes go, it was a relatively minor one, barely making it to a category 1 storm.  But its timing and scope was incredible.  A hurricane, even with relatively minor wind speeds, arriving at the same time as the high tides under a full moon - probably not on anyone's radar screen.  A hurricane arriving just as a strong cold front was arriving as well along the East Coast - also probably not on anyone's radar screen.  Yet that combination has proven to have had devastating and deadly consequences.  Shorelines literally changed.  Towns along the Atlantic Coast now completely gone.  Subways filled with water.  A thirteen foot wall of water inundating houses and businesses.  And significant snowfalls in the mountains.  Wall Street closed for two days because of the storm - a first since the latter part of the 19th century.  Political campaign events postponed as both candidates focused upon people facing very real problems.  What I found so amazing about this storm was its magnitude - stretching east-west for over one thousand miles - causing damage as far away as Chicago and Milwaukee.  The satellite imagery was startling.  With one storm, one third of our nation was impacted.   

Little noted because of Hurricane Sandy was the strong 7.7 magnitude earthquake along the western coastline of Canada.  Tsunami warnings were posted as far away as Hawaii.  Yet, thankfully, damage was minimal. 

Were these two events a wake up call from God?  I am not sure, but the timing this close to the election hardly seems coincidental.  Does the Bible say anything about weather in the last days?  In His Olivet Discourse, Jesus mentions earthquakes and famines: "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pangs" (Matthew 24:7-8).  In the Book of Revelation, there is mention of earthquakes (Revelation 6:12 and 16:18) as well as changes in the atmospheric heavens (Revelation 6:12-14 and 16:18).  John also describes an incredible hailstorm with one hundred pound hailstones (Revelation 16:21).  So hurricanes, tornadoes, snowstorms, and floods are not directly cited, but I believe it is safe to say that weather conditions are truly used by God to get men's attention.  But are we listening?  That is the ultimate question.  And sadly it is my belief that we are asleep spiritually. 

The continued drought that has plagued America's heartland for nearly a year, wildfires in America's western wildernesses, and now this devastating hurricane are tools that God is using to cause our nation to get back to is foundational roots, roots based upon the Word of God.  The warning is being sounded, the end is getting closer.  How are we going to respond? 

On a lighter note, but just as relevant: Fox News reported yesterday that Dina Kourda, a local volunteer with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has requested that the Orange County (CA) highway department erect a sign honoring hundreds of fish who were killed when the truck hauling them to market crashed - those fish were soon going to grace the tables of some of America's finest restaurants.  You have got to be kidding me? 

With relevance to those who are voting on the same-sex-marriage question.  In an article published October 18 at the website, "Australian school children are to be told that heterosexuality is not the norm, according to a new education department pilot program called 'Proud Schools.'  'Heterosexism' is one of the evils that the Proud Schools program is intended to stamp out, along with 'homophobia and transphobia' education officials have said.  ... The committee suggested that teachers must monitor the playground in order to stamp out 'heterosexist' language among children in out-of-class hours."  I guess teachers don't have enough to do so they can become "language monitors."  Is it any wonder that our educational system is broken?  Friends, this is what happens when one removes God from culture and from civilized norms.  Read those verses in Romans 1:18-32 and see if you don't agree that they mirror our thinking today.  Will God give us over to our depravities?  Yes He most certainly can and will. 

One final scary piece of news.  According to a report in the Al Arabiya News, published on October 29, Iranian officials have acknowledged that they now have very sophisticated drone planes.  As reported a couple weeks ago, IDF warplanes shot down a drone near the Dimona nuclear reactor in Israel.  This drone had been sent by Hezbollah, Iran's proxy in Lebanon.  Now Iran admits that it has far better drones than that one and will use those drone to patrol and police the Persian Gulf.  And so the rhetoric continues in the Middle East.  A showdown seems inevitable...but when? - that is anyone's guess. 

Let me leave you with this thought for the week: Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Verse for Our Times

The final countdown has begun toward the fall elections.  The debates are over.  The television and radio ads have multiplied like rabbits.  Mailboxes are being inundated with information proclaiming the deficiencies of the candidates.  Newspaper editorial teams are making their prognostications, but the value of these editorial endorsements has decreased as newspapers continue to falter in the delivery of the news.  And the polls, I never knew there were so many polling groups.  And I have always wondered how a person gets called for one of these polls.  I have been a registered voter since 1965 and I have yet to be called.  Not sure what the magic formula is to get your name drawn. 

And as we approach November 6, many people are meeting for prayers of intercession on behalf of our nation.  I hear terms such as "this is the most important election in my lifetime" spoken over and over again.  And I believe that statement to be true.  And I have heard that promise from 2 Chronicles 7:14 quoted over and over again as if it were some type of magic formula.  I thought I would spend some time with that verse as I have been giving it a lot of thought these days.  The verse is found in the context of God answering the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the newly constructed temple.  And the immediate context is found in connection with God's statement concerning judgment that would come upon the people for their sins.  Then God says, 'if my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

Remembering that this verse is found in the context of a declaration of national judgment (vs. 13), I want us to notice the following:
1.  The onus for any national healing falls upon the shoulders of "my people."  And who are they today?  They are those who have put their faith and trust for salvation into the hands of Jesus Christ.  In other words, if there is to be any type of national healing, it must begin in the household of God.  We cannot expect the world to shape up; it does not know how to do that.  But we can expect that those who follow Jesus Christ should shape up. 

2.  The beginning point for national healing comes when believers in Jesus Christ "humble themselves."  Humility is one of the most difficult traits to achieve for just when you think you have arrived, pride of accomplishment can set in.  We live in a culture and society that worships at the throne built by pride.  And because of that spirit of pride we have come to the conclusion that we do not need anyone's help.  We can do it ourselves.  We can fix any problem.  We can solve any dilemma.  Humility admits that "I can't do anything alone." 

3.  National healing begins with humility and continues with believers praying and seeking the face of God.  We seek a lot of things today: possessions by the score, advancement in our careers, promotion of our families, etc.  But how many of us truly seek the face of God?  This seeking does not come by accident.  It must be deliberate on our part.  I must have the strong desire to pursue the very presence of God in my life.  That hunger is what drives me to the very throne of grace.

4.  Finally, national healing becomes available when God's people "turn from their wicked ways."  Friends, this will not happen unless there is first a humbling and then a seeking of God's face.  It is only when we truly see ourselves as God sees us that we discover how sinful we truly are.  No more excuses.  No more rationalizing.  No more blaming someone else.  Not only are we to confess our sins, but to make a deliberate decision to turn away from those sins. 

Friends, it is then that national healing can begin.  And what our nation truly needs is a healing from God.  How sad is it that we think of this need only when our nation is either facing a crisis or facing an election.  Let's not just read this verse in order to win an election.  But let us face the fact that God's judgment is coming and, unless God's people turn once again to Him, that judgment will be experienced.  No administration can prevent its happening.  No government can stop its influence.  Only God's people can stay God's hand. 

Quote for the week: God loves everyone, but probably prefers "fruit of the Spirit" over "religious nuts."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Important Election News

We are now twenty days from the most important election in my life time.  According to most of the polls the election is too close to call at this moment.  One final debate on foreign policy next Monday evening will prepare the way for the final two weeks of campaigning.  The President's track record on foreign policy has been less than stellar the past four years.  Is the world a safer place now than it was four years ago?  The answer is an obvious "no."  We have seen the increased boldness of al-Qaeda and its affiliates, even after the death of their leader Osama bin Laden.  We have witnessed the Arab Spring - a moment of hopefulness - become a time of increased hostilities toward anything Western with the exception being money from the American taxpayers.  We have watched as Iran continues its pathway toward becoming the newest nuclear member - the sanctions put in place against Iran have done little to detour it from its intended goal, causing only hardships upon the common people.  We have seen China grow in power and come to the brink of war with neighboring Japan.  And there was the tragedy of Benghazi and the murder of our ambassador there.  And, finally, and close to my own heart, is our coolness toward our only ally in the Middle East - Israel.  While we may not have thrown Israel under the bus, we have opened the door of the bus and have our foot on their back ready to do so.

Friendship with America was once held to be a high honor.  Those who had been our enemies soon became our friends.  Look what happened after World War II.  Our friendships with Britain and France gained strength during the war years, and after the war, we held out the hand of friendship to both Germany and Japan - both of whom became strong allies.  We were there to help the German people following the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain.  And, in 1948, we were among the first nations to recognize the independence of the State of Israel.  Yet today something has happened.  Those solid friendships have developed cracks in their fascade.  Questions of "can we count on America?" are echoed around the world.  It is time to ponder the fact that we no longer are that friend we used to be.  So, it is that with interest I will be listening to the debate on Monday night.

Finally, especially for those readers of my blog who live in Minnesota, just a reminder of the crucially important constitutional amendment that we are voting on November 6.  It is that amendment that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.  I know there has been lots of confusion because of the television ads against this amendment.  The focus of those ads has been upon emotion and love and tolerance and acceptance of alternative relationships.  But the heart of this amendment has absolutely nothing to do with emotions.  This amendment is not anti-love nor anti-commitment.  And this amendment has absolutely nothing to do with gender relationships.  This amendment does not prohibit those who wish to enter into a same-sex union.  What this amendment does is to clearly define what marriage is.  And this definition was not created by some religious zealot in the Minnesota State Legislature or any governmental body.  Nor was this definition a creation of Western civilization and culture.  Friends, this definition of marriage - between a man and a woman - is as old as the Garden of Eden.  We read these words in Genesis 2:24 - "for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."  There, the definition of marriage was given by God Himself.  And what is interesting is that down through the millenniums since, no matter the culture, no matter the civilization, that definition of marriage has remained.  Even among the pagans, marriage was between a man and a woman.  But suddenly, here in the 21st century, we think we know better than God what a marriage should be and so we shake our fist in His face and are urged to vote "no" on this amendment.  I have been asked, "what will happen if the amendment is not passed?  Will anything change?"  The answer is that nothing will change immediately, but that the definition of marriage will now be determined either by state statute or judicial declaration, thus opening the door to a variety of relationships that could be defined as marriage - not just between two men or two women, but between a man and three women, between a brother and a sister, between a man and his dog.  Now you are saying, "Don't be ridiculous, Max, that will not happen!"  Honestly, twenty years ago if you asked me if the definition of marriage would be called into question, I would have unhesitatingly said, "absolutely not!"  So, my Minnesota friends, and those who live in other states where this will be on the ballot, I urge you to vote "yes" and declare with your vote that you believe in the sanctity of marriage as defined by God.

Let me close on a somewhat lighter note with my thought for the week: The good Lord didn't create anything without a purpose, but mosquitoes come close. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Debates, Elections, Iran, and 14-Year Old Girl Targeted fr Assassination

The political scene is heating up with the debate season in full swing.  Last week's first presidential debate showed that there is a substantial difference between the two presidential candidates.  I was amazed at how Romney was able to process his thoughts.  I have had experiences in that type of setting over my years of preaching and teaching and I can assure you that it is difficult to listen to thoughts being expressed by someone else, then organize those thoughts within your own mind, and then to articulate not only those thoughts but your comments.  I believe it is a gift.  (I remember a time when I was in Poland ministering to a conference of missionaries who were working in Eastern Europe.  I had the privilege of working with a young Polish lady as my interpreter.  Now I had worked with several interpreters in previous trips to Hungary and the Czech Republic, so I asked Monika how she wanted me to proceed, knowing that each interpreter has a different style.  She said, "Pastor Max, you just talk and I will interpret."  And it was incredible to see her repeat in Polish as quickly as I was saying it in English.  I asked her how she did it and her reply, "It is easy!")  Romney certainly made it look easy last Wednesday night.

Tomorrow night is the only vice presidential debate.  Both candidates are no strangers to this type of forum.  It will be interesting to see who comes across as being most ready to be president, remembering that the vice-president is only a heartbeat away from that office. 

Speaking of elections, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced yesterday that he was moving the date for general elections in Israel from the Fall of 2013 to late January or early February 2013.  It was be very interesting to follow the election bantering that will take place among the many political parties within Israel.  The Prime Minister leads one party - Likud; the Foreign Minister leads another - Israel Beitenu; the Defense Minister leads still another - Labor; and the leading minister without portfolio leads another - Kadima.  (I think I got those right?)  Anyway, as you can see, there probably will be lots of fireworks in Israel over the next few months.  And center stage will be that nagging question, "What to do about Iran?" 

Speaking of Iran, the American media gave very little attention to the downing of a foreign drone over the skies above Bethsheba over the weekend.  This unmanned drone was shot down by IDF fighter planes.  The drone had no missiles or weapons and was probably on some type of reconnaissance mission, possibly to take pictures of Israel's nuclear facility near Dimona.  IDF experts believe that the drone was sent by Hezbollah, Iran's proxy in Lebanon.  You will say, why is this so important?  I trust you have been reading about the use of drones by US Forces over Pakistan.  Armed with missiles they have proven to be a deadly weapon in the war on terror, but at times with the risk of civilian casualties as well.  One drone equipped with one missile has the potential of creating much damage in Israel. 

Tensions are mounting on the borders of Turkey and Syria with both militaries exchanging fire over the weekend.  NATO has said that it will come to Turkey's aid should Syria cross its borders.  But one wonders how Syrian President Assad could justify a war with Turkey in the light of the continued civil war within his own nation, a civil war that seems to have no end in sight; yet the slaughter of innocents continues almost unabated.  And always lingering in the backs of everyone's minds are those questions of where are the biological and chemical weapons that Assad's forces have. 

Finally I would like to share the sad story we just have come to know about the 14-year old girl in Pakistan who was brutally hunted down and shot by Taliban terrorists yesterday.  What type of crime had this young girl perpetrated that caused her to become the object of an assassination attempt in broad daylight?  She had become a strong advocate for Pakistani girls going to school to learn to become something more than what the Taliban states is the role of women.  She had been involved in interviews that were aired not only on Pakistani television but throughout the world via the Internet.  This morning she remained in critical condition with reports that a bullet is lodged near her brain.  This story speaks volume about the character of those whom we are fighting in Afghanistan, Libya, and around the globe. 

Where can a person find hope today?  Certainly not by looking at Wall Street.  Certainly not by focusing upon government.  Hope is only found in having a relationship with the Prince of Peace - Jesus Christ.  If you have such a relationship, then you know that hope.  If you do not have a relationship with Jesus, I invite you to get to know Him as you accept His gift of salvation.  Then, no matter what happens in the world, you have a hope that cannot be shaken. 

I want to close with a quote of encouragement: God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Of Debates, Sukkot, and World Concerns

Tonight is the much anticipated first debate between President Obama and Governor Romney.  The focus will be upon domestic topics which have taken center-stage in the campaign so far.  Many of us are asking ourselves the question, "Are we better off now than we were four years ago?"  The unemployment rate is still high and only inches downward because more and more people become so discouraged in their job search that they have given up that search entirely.  Housing prices have now begun to slowly increase, but are years away from being where they were before the housing crash in 2008.  And, while the stock market has risen in recent months, the volatility still remains; one little hiccup in either the European or Asian markets could send Wall Street reeling again.  It will be interesting this evening to see which candidate can best articulate a message of hope. 

We are in the midst of the Jewish holiday known as Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles.  You might recall that this was one of the three Jewish feasts that required Jewish males to attend services at the Temple (the other two being Passover and Pentecost, both in the spring of the year).  During Sukkot, the Jews were required to live outside in shelters or booths made from branches.  This was to remind them of their years of wandering in the wilderness while on the way from Egypt to the Promised Land.  They were to remember God's faithfulness to them.  As I reflected upon Sukkot, I wondered if we had any similar celebration within Christianity.  Certainly there is none that require us to move outside and live in tents for a period of eight days.  In fact, the closest I could come to any similarity was our celebration of Thanksgiving.  The purpose of that one-day is to remember God's faithfulness and goodness to us the past year.  Often that purpose is lost in the midst of family gatherings, football games, turkey dinners with all the trimmings, and preparations for the annual Black Friday shopping extravaganzas.  In our gratitude we demonstrate our ingratitude.  Perhaps it would do us well to erect a shelter in our backyards and spend a day therein just remembering and giving thanks.  You know, there is much we can learn from our Jewish friends. 

I read an interesting article yesterday from the Telegraph, a newspaper printed in England.  The headlines grabbed my attention: "North and South Korea 'on the verge of nuclear war'."  I searched to see if any of the American news sources had picked up this news, but found none.  Surprise, surprise!  Pak Kil-yon, North Korea's foreign minister said, "Today, due to the continued US hostile policy towards the DPRK, the vicious cycle of confrontation and aggravation of tensions is an ongoing phenomenon on the Korean Peninsula, which has become the world's most dangerous hot spot and where a spark of fire could set off a thermonuclear war."  The article concluded by saying that "South Korean media are reporting that North Korean fighter jets have stepped up training flights since July, while artillery units in the west of the country are preparing for large-scale exercises and more submarines are putting to sea."  Guess we have been so caught up with the potential nuclear threat from Iran that we have forgotten that North Korea already has the bomb. 

I want to just highlight a fascinating editorial by Dennis Prager that appeared yesterday at  You can link to the article at  No, the answer is not Christianity, nor is it Islam.  It is leftism.  I also highly recommend Dennis Prager's book, "Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph."  It is an eye-opening read. 

One final article that I highly recommend was written by Daniel Pipes, one of the leading American writers on Islam.  In fact, you should read everything that Daniel Pipes will help you to better understand the Muslim mindset around the world.  Yesterday's article was titled, "Post-Mortem on the Muhammad Protests."  You can find it at  Let me just share the final paragraph with you.  "As someone who's been watching that clash since Khomeini's time, I ascertain three main trends.  First, Muslims increasingly devote themselves to the political imperative of preserving Muhammad's sanctity.  Second, Western governments and elites (i.e. journalists, lawyers, intellectuals, artists) have become increasingly timid over time when facing Islamist fury, willing to apologize, appease, and placate; for one appalling example, see the U.S. embassy in Cairo's effusions on this Sept.11, as a mob raged outside.  Third, Western non-elites have increasingly responded to Islamists with a You-want-to-be-insulted-well-take-this! attitude that includes Koran burnings, "Defeat Jihad" ads, belligerently offensive French cartoons, and a promised roll-out of Muhammad movies.  In combination, these three points lead me to predict that the conflict over values will continue to heat up." 

Well, we are getting close to the time of our Lord's return.  We are hoping for the best!  Praise the Lord!  I close with a verse of encouragement that Jesus shared with His disciples on that fateful night before He was betrayed.  They were in a state of shock over what He had announced there in the Upper Room.  While on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane, He said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).