Friday, March 29, 2013

Another Sign of the Times

Yesterday published an article that grabbed my attention.  It is titled, "Watch Out, World Bank: Here Comes the BRICS Bank."  The article originated with The Associated Press and Reuters.  BRICS stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa; these nations have been petitioning for a new world currency.  The article began: "Leaders of the five BRICS nations plan to create a development bank in a direct challenge to the World Bank that they accuse of Western bias.  The bank would use $50 billion of seed capital shared equally between Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa but would undoubtedly be dominated by China.  It would be the first institution of the informal forum started in 2009 amid the economic meltdown to chart a new and more equitable world economic order.  At a summit meeting on Wednesday in Durban, South Africa, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave support for the bank but cautioned it 'must work on market principles.'  India's trade minister said BRICS will 'have a defining influence on the global order of this century.'  The five countries represent a fifth of global GDP and share high growth and geopolitical importance in their separate regions, but have struggled to find common ground that would convert their economic weight into joint political clout."

The article continued, "At the Durban summit, the group's fifth since 2009, the BRICS leaders were also expected to endorse plans to create a joint foreign exchange reserves pool.  The proposed development bank and reserves pool reflect frustration among emerging nations at having to rely on the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which some see as reflecting the interests of rich nations.  The reserves pool of central bank money would be available to emerging economies facing balance of payment difficulties or could be tapped to stabilize economies during crises, according to documents obtained by Reuters outlining it."

Now you might be asking why this article caught my attention.  The world's financial condition is approaching a crisis.  These five countries, as I have stated above and in previous blogs, have indicated that they desire a new monetary system, replacing that built upon the America dollar.  Now they are stating powerfully to those third world countries - targeting especially Africa and Latin America - that they do not have to depend upon pleading with the Western-focused World Bank and International Monetary Fund, but now have friends who can assist them with capital funds, providing jobs for roads, ports, railroads, and power facilities. 

I believe this is simply another step forward toward the creation of a universal monetary system.  The Bible, especially in Revelation 13, strongly indicates that a day is coming when one person will have absolute influence over the economies of the world.  We are getting closer to the unveiling of that one person. 

You can find the above cited article at

Again, I wish you a Blessed Easter and Resurrection Sunday. 

P.S. There will not be a blog next week as I will be taking a few days off to spend time with family in Florida.   

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Easter - Praise God for Our Blessed Hope

To my Jewish friends, I want to begin with "Chag Pesach Sameach" - Happy Passover.  Passover officially began at sundown this past Monday evening.  It is a time of festive celebration and remembrance of God's deliverance of Israel from Egypt.  For the next three evenings, the church I serve as Preaching Pastor will be celebrating the Seder.  During the Seder we will be focusing upon those portions of that meal that Jesus used as symbols of His impending death for our sins. 

Even though this is Holy Week and Passover, world events continue to dramatically unfold around us.  The situation on the island of Cyprus is another wake-up call to the fragility of the world's economy.  Those individuals who hold accounts in Cyprian banks above $130,000 will now be taxed at 40%, thus reducing the savings of many individuals and families significantly.  Just ask yourself this question: If the U.S. government declared that, in order to pay down the country's debt, every bank account or investment account over $100,000 would be taxed 40%, what would be your response?  Cypriots, in haste to draw down their accounts, could only remove $130 per day.  What confidence do you think they have in their government right now who has said that they would protect financial accounts within government banks?  What confidence would you have in the U.S. government if they taxed those accounts that they have said they would protect?  Friends, I believe this is just another wake-up warning reminding us of the impending financial collapse around the globe and of Satan's "man of the hour" being revealed.  If my understanding of Paul's words in 2 Thessalonians 2 about the restrainer of the man of lawlessness being the ministry of the Holy Spirit through the Church, then can the Rapture be far away?  Even if my understanding of those words is not accurate, that does not nullify the nearness of a scenario that will bring about the introduction of the Antichrist. 

Another sign that we cannot ignore.  I have shared with you from time to time about the rapid moral descent of our nation.  As reported by Drew Zahn on on March 23, "students from the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School, or PVPA - which serves 400 pupils, grades 7-12, in South Hadley, Mass. - on March 15-17 performed the controversial play, 'The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told.'  A 1998 Paul Rudnick comedy that had a run in theaters in New York City, 'The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told' alters the biblical book of Genesis to include homosexual couples Adam and Steve and Jane and Mabel in the Garden; as well as a 'horny' rhinoceros that tries to seduce men on the Ark; and Mary, the mother of Christ, arguing she can't be pregnant, because she's a lesbian" The article then relates that at St. Timothy's United Methodist Church in Cedar Falls, IA, at its living Nativity scene in December 2010, two women were featured instead of a man and woman starring as Joseph and Mary.  The pastor, Rev. Linda Butler, was quoted, "It's not very ground breaking at all to use the youngest baby in the congregation to play the role of Jesus.  The parents just happened to be two women.  They were playing the role of the Holy Family, not necessarily Mary and Joseph.  We never referred to the moms as Mary and Joseph.  We referred to them as the Holy Family."  How much longer before God says, "I am giving you over to the depravity of your minds and hearts?"

Fox News Radio reported on an incident that occurred at Florida Atlantic University.  It was reported by Todd Starnes on March 21, and can be found at  The instructor, Deandre Poole, had told the students in his Intercultural Communications class, to write the name "Jesus" on a sheet of paper.  Then they were told to put the paper on the floor, stand up, and stomp on it.  One young student, a devout Mormon named Ryan Rotela, refused to do that and said to the teacher, "With all due respect to your authority as a professor, I do not believe what you told us to do was appropriate.  I believe it was unprofessional and I was deeply offended by what you told me to do."  Now that student is facing disciplinary action from the University.  The question is asked, "Why stomp on the name Jesus?  Why not stomp on the name Mohammed or Buddha or Pope Francis?  If the purpose of the lesson was to "discuss the importance of symbols in culture," why was Jesus chosen as the symbol?  I think it shows the prevailing attitude in academia toward Christ and His followers. 

Friends, aren't you grateful for that wonderful news that "He is risen...He is risen indeed?"  Aren't you grateful for that exciting hope we have in the return of Jesus for us...hopefully very soon?  I believe the world is going to become an increasingly more hostile place for those who are committed followers of Jesus Christ.  Those very principles we have held dear are being assaulted viciously at times.  Marriage is being redefined, not according to God's definition, but according to the cultural screams of the crowds today. 

Let me, just for a moment, make a connection that God has impressed upon my heart these past few days.  On Palm Sunday, the crowds enthusiastically shouted, "Hosanna."  Now that word means "save us."  Those people were looking for Jesus to ride into Jerusalem and save them from Roman tyranny.  A few days later, many of those same people shouted, "Crucify Him."  Little did they know that they were asking for that very thing that would bring them the salvation they had asked for the previous Sunday - a salvation not from Rome's tyranny, but from the tyranny of sin.  In essence, they would receive the answer to their request - they just did not know it.  I believe that the crowds today are shouting to God what they want - certainly not "Hosanna" or "save us", but "set us free so we can do what our hearts want to do."  And, according to Romans 1, such a day of God's "setting them free" to do exactly what they desire will soon be upon them.  What a sad day for them!  What a joyous day for us as we await the return of our resurrection Lord and Savior!

So, with joy on Sunday proclaim to one another - "He is risen...He is risen indeed!"  And then share that good news with those who are still in darkness and fear about tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Comments on Expectations of President Obama's Trip to Israel

Today the wheels of Air Force One touched down at Ben Gurion International Airport just outside Tel Aviv.  The occasion was President Obama's first state visit to Israel.  (He and his entourage will be staying at the King David Hotel.  I have had the privilege of peering into that very room on the 6th floor of that stately and historic old hotel).  We know that while in Israel, President Obama will be visiting the Shrine of the Book (the museum that houses the Dead Sea Scrolls), Yad Vashem (the memorial to the Holocaust), and to Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity.  He will also journey to Ramallah for a visit with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and later go to Amman, Jordan, for a visit with King Abdullah.  The President declined an invitation to address the Knesset, the Jewish Parliament. 

What is the purpose of this visit?  According to Thomas Friedman, editorialist for the "New York Times," not much.  He writes, "It is hard for me to recall a less-anticipated trip to Israel by an American president.  But there is a message in that empty bottle: Little is expected from this trip - not only because little is possible, but because, from a narrow U.S. point of view, little is necessary."  But, is this assessment a correct one?  It is not, according to Joel Rosenberg.  In his column, that appears at he identifies three very important questions that President Obama needs to be asked.
     1.  Have diplomacy, sanctions and covert operations failed to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons.
     2.  If so, will President Obama order airstrikes against Iran, or give Israel the "green light" to hit Iran's nuclear sites since other measures have failed?
     3.  If not, why not?

Unfortunately, I don't  believe those questions will be asked.  Yet, as Rosenberg points out in his column, the Obama Administration has given mixed signals about the situation in Iran in recent weeks.  On March 4, Vice President Biden, in a speech before the AIPAC Policy Conference meeting in Washington, stated that President Obama is committed to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear device and that the "window is closing" for diplomacy and sanctions to work.  However, on March 5, Secretary of State Kerry said that he believed the president wanted to "avoid any consideration of any kind of military action."  Also, on March 5, U.S. CENTCOM commander General James Mattis, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, in answer to a question about whether sanctions were working in Iran, responded, "No, sir."  Both President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu keep talking about an as yet undefined "red line" concerning Iran's nuclear program, but one wonders if the two men are talking about the same "red line."

So, the more I think of those three questions Joel Rosenberg has proposed, the more I believe he is right on target.  But these are the questions few are willing to ask and even fewer, especially those within political circles, are willing to answer. 

Also facing both President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu are reports that came out of Syria yesterday about the use of chemical weapons.  As of yet it has been undetermined whether those chemical weapons were used by the Assad Regime or the Rebels.  According to an article posted on the Fox News website, the Syrian state-run SANA news agency said "a missile containing a chemical substance:" was fired at the village of Khan al-Assal in Aleppo province by "terrorists" - the term it uses for rebels.  It was reported that 31 people were killed and more than 100 injured, some critically.  The rebel forces quickly denied these accusations but said that there were cases of "suffocation and poison" among civilians in Khan al-Assal after a missile was fired at the area.  The rebels went on to say that the cases were "most likely" caused by regime forces' use of "poisonous gases."  Both Israel and the United States have stayed away from any direct intervention in the Syrian Civil War that is now in its third year, but both countries have said that if chemical weapons were used, that policy would change.   So, if this report coming out of Syria this morning is validated as being true, what will be the responses of Israel and the United States?  And what will that response look like?

Finally, there is always the issue concerning the resumption of peace-negotiations with the Palestinians.  How hard will President Obama press the Israelis and the Palestinian leaders to get back to the negotiation table?  President Abbas has said that a precondition for the resumption of talks is for Israel to not only stop its settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, but to begin removing settlements.  Prime Minister Netanyahu has indicated that there would be no preconditions.  This is an impasse with great consequences.  I don't foresee any resumption of peace-talks anytime soon.  For the Israelis, this is no longer a front-burner issue as are the Syrian Civil War and the nuclear development in Iran. 

Friends, don't lose your focus upon what is happening in the Middle East.  If you want to keep abreast, read the editorial pages of the "Jerusalem Post."  You can find them at  I heartily endorse them for your reading - not always agreeing with them, but finding them stimulating. 

A few weeks ago, here at our church in Buffalo, I was preaching on the return of Jesus.  How I love preaching on that theme!  We sang an old song of the Gaithers that morning, and I close with those gloriously hopeful words: "The King is coming, the King is coming, I just heard the trumpet sounding and now His face I see; the King is coming, the King is coming, Praise God He's coming for me!"  And to that I will close with a hearty "Amen!" 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Two Sites That Bear Watching Closely

The eyes of the world are focused these days upon two locations as diverse as black is from white.  One location reminds us of the pomp and regalia that has endured for centuries, while the other location is a reminder of a war that did not end well nearly sixty years ago.   

The first location is that of the Vatican in Rome.  Last night, black smoke was seen coming from the chimney at St. Peter's indicating that, at least on the first ballot, not one of the cardinals had received the necessary two-thirds vote to become the next Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.  At least two more votes are scheduled for today.  News teams from around the world have gathered in Rome to witness this selection of a church leader.  This selection process has its roots deeply embedded within the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church.  The Church is in turmoil today with several challenges that the new Pope will have to address.  Included among those challenges are: the right of priests to marry (we know from the history of the Church, that priests were granted that privilege centuries ago; even Martin Luther was married) and the voice of women who desire roles within the priesthood.  But the paramount issue is that of the resolution of the ever deepening sexual abuse scandal that has plagued the Church.  One of the cardinals representing Great Britain was forced to resign after admitting sexual failure over the years.  The diocese of Los Angeles just yesterday received a severe financial penalty after admitting several priests under its jurisdiction had sexually abused those under their care.  The task before the new Pope will not be an easy one.  Many commentators I have read in recent days have strongly indicated that the success or failure of the Roman Catholic Church will rest solely upon the shoulders of this man. 

The second location is that of North Korea, one of the most impoverished countries in the world.  In recent weeks we have seen the North Koreans, under their new leader, Kim Jong Un, launch a long-range missile and explode an underground nuclear device.  Last week the North Koreans indicated that they would no longer abide by the armistice that ended the Korean War.  Kim Jong Un has been talking about war including a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States.  And all the while the relationship between North Korea and Iran continues to grow.  The United States and South Korea have partnered in a renewed military preparedness in recent days as well. 

Two different locations.  Two different philosophies.  Two different visions for the world.  One focuses upon the task of revitalizing a Church that seems to have lost some sense of its purpose.  The other focuses upon the task of challenging the world for dominance with fears and threats.  Both stories are incredibly important for those of us who are watching for the return of the Lord Jesus. 

Friends, we are nearing that very special week known as Holy Week.  It is the time when we remember those final days of Jesus' life and of His sacrifice on the cross for our sins.  I have been reading the Gospel accounts of those final days.  They are filled with powerful teachings that flow from the heart of Jesus.  He is strongly aware of His impending sacrificial death.  He is aware of the impact that event will have upon His disciples.  So, with great determination and passion, Jesus addresses those events that will follow His death and resurrection.  I had not been aware before of the great amount of teaching on the end times from Jesus during the final week of His life.  Matthew 24-25 and Luke 21 record what we know as the Olivet Discourse.  (I must admit there are many verses within this message of Jesus that are difficult to understand; I wonder what the disciples understood).  And then there are those powerful words of Jesus in the Upper Room that Passover Night and later in the Garden of Gethsemane (John 14-17).  I would encourage you to read these passages slowly during the next couple of weeks.  Listen to the heart of Jesus carefully.  Among His final requests to His disciples before He died were these: watch carefully for My return and work zealously until I come back.  Those are still words that should characterize our lives now twenty centuries afterwards. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Of Snow, a Presidential Visit, and Multiplication Tables

March came in like a lamb here in Minnesota, but it soon showed its lion's colors.  It has been snowing for nearly 36 hours and the totals keep climbing.  The way the meteorologists explained it, two low pressure systems merged and one slowed down the other.  But, it is March and we know the snow will not remain long now.  Spring will be arriving soon - although those of us who live in Minnesota just never know quite when the arrival will be heralded.

Have you been paying attention to what is happening in Israel these past few days?  As I shared with you a week or so ago, Prime Minister Netanyahu has been having a difficult time putting together a coalition so as to form a majority government.  Over the weekend, he petitioned President Shimon Peres, asking for an extension of time and was granted another 15 days.  If he is unable to form a government, which many believe simply would not happen, then President Peres could either ask Yair Lapid, whose party was the second highest in the recent elections, to form a government, or he could ask for new elections which would almost mean certain disaster for the Prime Minister's party.

What is making this even more complicated is President Obama's decision to make a state visit to Israel March 20-22.  If you remember, I shared that I believed one of the reasons for his visit was to press Israel toward renewed peace negotiations with the Palestinians.  According to an article written by Gil Ronen and published Monday, March 4, at website.  "According to the report (in World Tribune), Obama, who is scheduled to arrive in Israel on March 20, wants Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to present him with a detailed Israeli withdrawal plan during his visit to Israel."  The article continues, "Obama has made it clear to Netanyahu that his visit is not about photo-ops, but the business of Iran and a Palestinian state.  The implication is that if Israel won't give him something he can work with, then he'll act on his own."  President Obama believes that at the moment he is in the position of strength, not the Prime Minister.  Those three days could be very interesting.

Also wanted to let you know about the plague of locusts that have invaded Egypt.  The article, written by Adam Clark Estes, and titled, "With Passover Approaching, a Plague of Locusts Descends upon Egypt."  It was posted at  A plague of over 30 million locusts are swarming over Egypt just weeks before the Jewish Passover is to begin.  Locusts are known to have a voracious appetite.  A one-ton hoard of locusts can eat the same amount of food in one day as 2500 human beings.  That's a lot of food!  One Egyptian official stated that the crops were safe.  Egyptian Agricultural Minister Salah Abdel Moamen said, "The current inspection teams at areas targeted by locusts did not witness swarms damaging a single inch of crop."  If you remember your Passover story well, you might recall that one of the ten plagues God sent upon Egypt was that of locusts.  We also know that the prophet Joel told of an enormous plague of locusts that God sent upon the people of Israel to try to turn their hearts back to Him.  Could this plague be another in the many signs God is sharing with us to get us to wake-up and turn our eyes back to Him?

Today marks the introduction of Joel Rosenberg's newest novel.  It is titled, "Damascus Countdown" and follows "The Twelfth Iman" and "The Tehran Initiative."  I have not had the opportunity to purchase my copy, but once it is read I will give you a full report.  And I would be interested in your opinions as well.

As I close this week I would like to share something from C.S. Lewis's classic, "Mere Christianity."  He states, "Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later.  He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining 'It's not fair' before you can say Jack Robinson. A nation may say treaties don't matter; but then, next minute, they spoil their case by saying that the particular treaty they want to break was an unfair one. But if treaties do not matter, and if there is no such thing as Right and Wrong - in other words, if there is no Law of Nature - what is the difference between a fair treaty and an unfair one?  Have they not let the cat out of the bag and shown that, whatever they say, they really know the Law of Nature just like anyone else?"  Now here is the paragraph that grabbed my thoughts: "It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong.  People may be sometimes mistaken about them, just as people sometimes get their sums wrong; but they are not a matter of mere taste and opinion any more than the multiplication table."  I love that line.  There is a real Right and real Wrong just as there is a real Multiplication Table and it is not a matter of our own choosing.  One times one is always one - no matter what language is spoken.  And I believe the Ten Commandments are God's tools to help us with what is real Right and real Wrong.  It is time we get back into the Word and begin to earnestly believe what God has told us.  We will be better off for that...both as individuals and as a nation.