Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What in the World Is Going On?

The news almost leaps off the pages of our newspapers and from our smartphone screens.  Last week was one of those weeks when it seemed that the world was crying out to be heard.  Boston was the scene of tragedy, yet modern technology helped to locate and capture one young terrorist and kill another before greater tragedies could be meted out by this pair of brothers.  Surveillance cameras created incredible images that greatly assisted law enforcement officials.  Yet the question remains as to whether such cameras are an invasion into our rights to privacy.  For those who advocate a greater use of such cameras, Boston will become exhibit A as to their effectiveness.  We would probably be surprised if we knew how many times a day our picture was being taken by unseen cameras. 

What was the motivation for these two young men to wreck such terror upon innocent by-standers just watching the Boston Marathon?  It is being learned that the older brother, during the time he spent in his homeland of Dagastan, one of the former Soviet Republics, had often attended a mosque where anti-American rhetoric was common.  Some say that he had become brain-washed.  And, perhaps he had.  I believe it is time that we wake up and begin to understand that since 9-11 our nation has experienced several terrorist attacks.  What is common to each is that thread of radical Islamic teaching.  I heard a statement on the radio the other day that I thought was very good.  The speaker said, "In America we need to understand that not all Muslims are terrorists, but that all terrorists are radical Muslims."  There are many good, honest, law-abiding Muslims in our country and around the world.  Many just want to be accepted as others are accepted.  Yet, as is so often the case, it is the actions of the few that bring judgment upon the many.  Perhaps it is time that we begin to monitor more carefully the anti-American rhetoric spoken in many mosques, including those here in the United States.  If evangelical pastors are going to be monitored to see if they include any hate-statement against homosexuals with the threat of imprisonment if heard and caught, why should we not monitor anti-American statements in the mosques?  If we are to infringe upon the First Amendment rights of one group, why should another group not have the same infringement made upon them? 

I was interested in the headlines in one of the Jewish on-line services this morning.  "Ex-MI Head: Iran Has Passed Red Line" (see www.IsraelNationalNews.com for April 23, 2013.)  The article reads in part, "Former Military Intelligence head, Maj. Gen (res) Amos Yadlin, said Tuesday that 'Iran has already crossed Israel's new "red line" regarding nuclear weapons development.  Yadlin, who is the Head of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), said that in the summer Iran will reach a distance of one or two months between a decision and a bomb.  That is, it will be able to build a nuclear bomb within a month or two of deciding to do so.  'This will be a breakthrough range that will make it very difficult to stop Iran, when it decides to have a bomb.'"  The article concluded with these thoughts from Yadlin: "Negotiations can succeed if the U.S. creates a credible military option.  This will be achieved if the U.,S. prepares for a surgical strike for stopping the nuclear program and makes clear that it will be able to deal with the escalation that will follow such a strike."  So, once again the threat of some type of pre-emptive strike against Iran begins to take center-stage.  Could we be looking at some type of action late spring or early summer?  Recent talks with Iran proved fruitless; in fact, they sort of laughed at the attempts.  The impact such a pre-emptive strike might have is portrayed very well in Joel Rosenberg's latest books, including "The Twelfth Iman" and "Damascus Countdown." 

Tensions remain high on the Korean Peninsula.  The North Korean government has made it very clear that the price for de-escalating its nuclear ambitions would be the lifting of all sanctions imposed upon it.  Many wonder if the North Koreans would be so foolish as to launch some type of nuclear attack upon South Korea or Japan?  Here is just my opinion, so take it as just that - an opinion: the North Koreans could be banking upon the fact that the world is growing tired of war, especially here in America, that they might be betting that the response of the world would be conciliatory rather than retaliatory.  They have observed the rhetoric launched against their ally Iran, but it has been just that - rhetoric.  Perhaps North Korea is acting as a ploy for Iran, being used by Iran to see how serious the world might be in a response.  Whatever the case, I believe the Korean Peninsula will become a very interesting place in the next few weeks, if not sooner. 

Meanwhile the status of things in Syria continues with relentless bloodshed being perpetrated by both sides.  Now comes confirmation that Assad has used chemical weapons against the rebels.  According to Brig. Gen. Itay Brun, head of the Research Section of Military Intelligence for the IDF, Bashar Assad's regime has used chemical weapons in Syria recently.  He said, "To the best of our professional understanding, the regime has made use of deadly chemical weapons against the rebels in a number of incidents in the past few months."  He goes on to state that the physical symptoms suffered by those had been exposed to the chemical sarin were evident: "The reduced pupils, the foam coming out of the mouth and other additional signs provide evidence that deadly chemical weapons have been used."  The General concluded with these words, "There is a huge arsenal of chemical weapons in Syria.  The developments are worrisome; the very use of chemical weapons without a suitable response from the world could signal that this is legitimate."  Sort of troubling words, don't you think? 

I know you are saying, "Max, you certainly are the "doom and gloom guy" this week."  Perhaps I am.  But look around you.  Rumors of war abound on every hand.  And I did not even mention the increase in earthquake activity around the world this past week: Iran, China, Japan, Oklahoma - just to name a few.  Friends, did not Jesus say that these would be signs to look for as we await His return?  I was just reading Matthew 24 where Jesus said, "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  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 24:6-9).  We certainly are seeing these things today.

But then Jesus continues, and this is what caught my attention: "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.  At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people" (Matthew 24:9-11).  Did you hear what Jesus said?  As we observe the wars and rumors of war, the famines and the earthquakes, we need to prepare ourselves because the next thing that will happen is persecution and hatred by the world.  I believe the Coptic Christians in Egypt know about this, as do the believers in Iran and Iraq and in Saudi Arabia and countless other places.  We are soon going to know it here in America as well.  How we need to be prepared. 

These days are only exciting if one knows of a living hope in Christ.  Friends, take courage because we know how the story ends.  Jesus Christ wins...and we will reign with Him forever.  Amen! 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Thoughts on a Boston Tragedy and An Audience with God

Our nation was rocked by the horrors of terrorism this past Monday.  Two IEDs were detonated near the finish line at the Boston Marathon resulting in the deaths of three people and the wounding of over 150, several of them critically.  As of today, the perpetrators of this vicious attack have not been found nor has a motive been established as to why the Marathon was targeted.  If there is a silver lining, it is in that at least two other IEDs did not detonate and the timing was not at the height of the finish of the race where the casualties might have been greater. 

The FBI investigation is ongoing and those responsible will be caught and brought to justice.  But one wonders what will be the consequences of this act?  Someone jokingly said, "Well, I guess pressure-cookers will now be outlawed, or at least you will have to undergo a background check in order to obtain one."  With the 9-11 terror act, flying was forever changed.  Gone were the days of free-access to airports and to greeting arriving friends at their gate.  With the shoe-bomber, shoes were now to be removed and sent through the scanners.  Then all liquids were banned, then only 3 ounces or less, in a quart bag, can be carried onto the plane.  All bags are checked as you enter a sporting arena, perhaps now that screening will include shopping centers as well.  In the name of safety, we have certainly seen our lives changed dramatically.

Of course the question is asked, "Is this the beginning of the prophesied destruction of America that the radical Islamists have proclaimed for the past decade?"  First, at this writing, we do not know if radical Islamists were behind the Marathon explosions there in Boston.  Second, at the present there is no chain of events that would link several events together.  But, that being said, there is a seriousness with which we need to take those radical Islamist threats.  Ours is a big nation and our borders are rather porous - just ask any illegal immigrant about that fact.  It would be rather easy for radicals to infiltrate and create catastrophic events and as quickly leave.  No matter the safe-guards we might put into place, it is impossible to protect every event, every building, every person 24/7.  But, I can take great hope that God is still in control, and whatever happens, God already knew about it and permitted it to happen.  We may not understand His purposes here, but we have confidence that His purpose is being accomplished. 

This year, as part of my morning devotions, I have been reading through some selections from the writings of C.S. Lewis, one of my spiritual heroes.  This portion is from the book he wrote after the death of his wife, Joy Gresham.  The book is titled, "A Grief Observed."  It is one of those short works - less than 100 pages - that packs so much encouragement, especially as one goes through trying times.  Let me share a portion with you that was a blessing to me. 
  "For all sorts of mistakes are possible when you are dealing with Him [meaning God].  Long ago, before we were married, H. [this is how Lewis usually referred to his wife - her name was Helen Joy] was haunted all one morning as she went about her work with the obscure sense of God (so to speak) 'at her elbow,' demanding her attention.  And of course, not being a perfected saint, she had the feeling that it would be a question, as it usually is, of some unrepented sin or tedious duty.  At last she gave in - I know how one puts it off - and faced Him.  But the message was 'I want to give you something' and instantly she entered into joy."

As I read that portion I thought of how that is usually how I feel when God gets my attention.  I am like the little boy being summoned into the Principal's Office - certainly not with great feelings of joy and excitement.  Why is it that we often associate an audience with God as being one of the worst things imaginable?  God is our Father.  I believe He has only the best interests of His children at heart.  And, a father's role is not just to discipline his children, but to reward them and to bless them.  Isn't that what God delights in doing?  "I want to give you something."  Oh how like God is that statement.  I was blessed by that thought this morning.  May it bless you today.  May you receive something special from God today.  You know He loves you so greatly. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Remembrance and A Warning

The world lost a great leader this past week with the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  The world had not witnessed a woman leader with such grits and determination since the days of Jewish Prime Minister Golda Meier.  Prime Minister Thatcher was known for her steely resolve, thus earning the name "the iron lady."  She was a steadying influence in Britain during those final days of the Cold War, working hand-in-hand with her ally and friend, President Ronald Reagan to bring about the collapse of European Communism and the restructuring of Europe.  Along with the many who praised her leadership, I have been amazed at the outpouring of vitriolic speech against her yet today, even after her passing.  Along with President Reagan, Margaret Thatcher will be remembered for her quips and quotes.  Here are just a few that have resurfaced since her death on Monday:
   "The larger the slice taken by government, the smaller the cake available for everyone."
   "To be free is better than to be unfree - always.  Any politician who suggests the opposite should be treated with suspect."
   "There is much to be said for trying to improve some disadvantaged people's lot.  There is nothing to be said for trying to create heaven on earth."
  "Of course it's the same old story.  Truth usually is the same old story."
   "Constitutions have to be written on hearts, not just paper."
And here is one of my favorites:
   "Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end.  It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it's when you've had everything to do, and you've done it."

Maggie Thatcher will be missed.  With her passing an era of bold, creative, no-nonsense leaders seems to have come to an end.  She helped to safely guide Britain and the free-world through the troubled seas of her time. 

Meanwhile, the war in Syria continues to deteriorate.  One wonders how it could deteriorate any more, but it just seems that it does.  News came this past week that Assad pulled back 20,000 Syrian forces that were stationed on or near the Golan Heights with Israel, bringing them closer to Damascus.  Israel was concerned over the vacuum that created on one of the Israel's most strategic borders.  And those concerns were legitimate as Jihadists began to assume control in the region.  Israeli leaders feared that the Golan would now be an active staging ground for terrorist attacks into Galilee.  And fears heightened with thoughts of what the Jihadists would do with Syria's massive canisters of biological and chemical weapons.  Sadly the civilian casualty counts continue to increase with little involvement of those in the West.  (Note: last week, while in Florida for a few days of sun and fun, I read Joel Rosenberg's latest novel, "Damascus Countdown."  Without giving away the plot or how the story ended, let me just say that I believe it is his best novel to date.  I was riveted with the story, especially how closely it parallels and could parallel events in the Middle East today and tomorrow.  I strongly recommend it - only be sure you have a good block of time for reading, as you will not be able to put it down).

Yesterday, a friend sent me an article from "Investor's Business Daily."  It was titled, "Has U.S. Army Declared War on Christianity?"  It was an article that renewed an inner anger at what is happening around us, all in the name of tolerance.  An atheist U.S. soldier, stationed at Forward Operation Base Orgun-E in Afghanistan, made a formal complaint about the steeple and crosses on a chapel on the base.  A spokesman for the ISAF Joint Command said, "We can confirm that those items were removed from the chapel.  These items were removed out of respect for the beliefs of other faiths."  The writer of the article then stated, "Excuse us, but Christian American soldiers have died in Afghanistan protecting Muslims, just as they died in Iraq.  Americans put their lives at risk in Bosnia to protect Muslims, and the notion that a cross on a chapel on a battlefield where Americans put their lives on the line is interpreted as a reincarnation of the Crusades is, to put it charitably, nonsense.  Mosques dot the American landscape and we were told that to put a Muslim 'cultural center,' a mosque by a different name - within walking distance of where terrorists brought down the World Trade Center - was a symbol of tolerance.  We are also told a cross on a chapel at an Army base is offensive to Muslims.  Tolerance, it seems, is a one-way street."  The article then quotes an unnamed soldier, "My personal feeling is that it is a direct attack against Christianity and Judaism.  When you look at the regulation and you notice the four items directly quoted are cross, crucifixes, the Star of David and the Menorah."

This same article also related an incident where a U.S. Army training instructor listed evangelical Christianity and Catholicism as examples of religious extremism along with Al-Qaida and Hamas during a briefing with an Army Reserve unit based in Pennsylvania.  For a more complete discussion, go to www.mobile.wnd.com/2013/04/military-warned-evangelicals-no-1-threat. 

Yes, the world is seeing Christians as being more of a problem than radical Islam.  Yet, as I have written in previous blogs over the past several years, this should not come as a surprise to us for Jesus told us that the world would hate us as it hated Him.  I trust we have as steely a resolve as did Daniel and his three friends.  Read those first few chapters of Daniel again this week.  Follow their lead.  Let's be prepared to, first give an account for the hope that lies within, and second, to be willing to suffer for Christ's sake if called upon to do so.