Wednesday, January 29, 2014

An Anchor that Holds in Today's World

The other evening as Marlys and I sat in the living room - I was reading the newspaper and she was reading several blogs on her ipad - I made the comment that the world seemed to be coming apart at the seams.  All I had read in the newspaper were stories of riots, of murders, of assaults, of disrespect of individuals.  I made a list of those countries whose stories were included in the paper that day: riots in Ukraine, violence and near civil war in South Sudan, fears of turmoil in Uganda, civil war in Central African Republic, terrorist attacks in Russia just before the Olympics, suicide attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan claiming dozens of lives, the perceived threat of China against Japan, and rockets flying from Gaza into Southern Israel with Israel's retaliation.  And that did not even include all the stories occurring here in our country: a stock market that has suddenly seemed to have lost its footing, drought in California that will soon impact most of us in the grocery aisles, the celebration of gay marriage at the Grammy Awards, and who can forget the weather that keeps most of the country in misery this winter. 

As I sat there reading story after story, I came to realize that if a person did not have a relationship with a Sovereign God, there would be reason to be filled with despair and a sense of hopelessness.  The question is raised, "Whom do you trust?"  Trust in our governmental leaders, from the President down through Congress to the local level, continues to deteriorate.  Trust in our financial institutions and Wall Street also is less than stable - rising one day, down the next.  Trust in our educational institutions is waning as many parents wrestle with just what is being taught in the classroom - or, should I say, what is not being taught in the classroom.  Trust in our churches also is at historic lows as people ask themselves, "What does my church believe and stand for?"  There is an ebb and flow that seems to pervade every aspect of life today, not only here but around the globe.    The result is that people have lost their moorings.  There seems to be no place to securely anchor their lives.  In fact, many people really have lost an interest in what is happening around them.  Apathy and indifference are growing.

Friends, isn't it good to know that our God is in control over all these situations.  I am reminded of the words of the Psalmist David, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God" (Psalm 20:7).  Or, these words from the Psalmist David, written when he was being pursued by Saul and was forced to flee into the camp of the Philistines, "When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid.  What can mortal man do to me?" (Psalm 56:3-4).  Friends, our trust is to be in the Lord God.  He is our stronghold.  He is our refuge.  He is our fortress.  He is the one upon whom we can anchor our lives.  And He is in control!  These past few months I have read Psalm 2 many times.  I think it is an appropriate one for the days in which we are living.  Allow me to quote the final few verses, "Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth.  Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling.  Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment.  Blessed are all who take refuge in him." (Psalm 2:10-12). 

Yes, I will continue reading the newspaper.  Yes, I will continue reading blogs.  Yes, I will continue keeping abreast of what is happening in the world around us.  But, no, I will not become discouraged with what I read.  No, I won't lose sleep at night worrying.  It is because my trust is in the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.  My trust is in the God of creation who has promised that He would never leave me or forsake me.  Allow me to share one more passage of Scripture that has powerful meaning to us concerning God's faithfulness.  Paul, in writing to Timothy, said, "If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself" (1 Timothy 2:13).  Now there is a promise a person can anchor his or her soul and life upon.      

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

An Alarm Is Being Sounded - Are We Hearing It Ring?

I read an interesting article this past week, written by Raymond Ibrahim, a writer and correspondent with the Middle East Forum.  You can find this article at:  The article is titled, "The Existential Elephant in the 'Christian Persecution' Room."  The article was a confirmation of a reality that somehow we seek to avoid, yet we must understand if we are to know the nature of persecution of Christians taking place around the world, a persecution that has doubled the number of martyrs this past year from those of 2012. 

The article indicates those 50 worst nations around the globe that persecute Christians.  Topping the list was North Korea and the radical regime of Kim Jong-Un - really a continuation of the radicalization of governmental leaders in Korea for the past several decades.  But, the article goes on to state, "of the 50 worst nations for persecution, 37 of them are Muslims, or 74%. ... Those persecuting Christians in 41 of 50 nations are Muslims; that is, a whopping 82% of all persecutions around the globe is being committed by the adherents of Islam - sometimes in Christian majority nations; for example, the Central African Republic which, after the 2013 Islamic takeover, now ranks #16, 'severe persecution' (the Christian-majority nation did not even appear in the previous year's top 50)."  Allow me to quote once again, "A recent Morning Star News report listing 2013's ten most horrific anecdotes of Christian persecution around the world finds that nine out of ten - again, 90% - were committed at the hands of those professing Islam." 

Dr. Ibrahim relates that, although there was persecution of Christians in Stalinist Russia and other Iron Curtain countries, when Communism was toppled in the late 1980's and early 1990's, persecution of Christians ceased in those countries.  It can be imagined that a similar result would occur in a country like North Korea should its government be toppled.  Yet, what happens in the Muslim world when a totalitarian regime, like Saddam Hussein or Moamar Qaddafi in Libya, falls.  Persecution of Christians seems to intensify.   Dr. Ibrahim explains this phenomena: "The reason for this dichotomy is that Christian persecution by non-Muslims (mostly communists) is often rooted to a temporal regime or ideology.  Conversely, Muslim persecution of Christians is perennial, existential, and far transcends this or that regime or ruler.  It is part and parcel of the history, doctrines, and socio-political makeup of Islam - hence its tenacity; hence its ubiquity."

But, somehow as we read of Christian persecution - Syria is a great example right now with thousands of Christians being killed during the civil war there - we miss seeing the common thread.  Perhaps it is an oversight.  But I rather believe it is intentional on our part.  Perhaps it is our fear of the radicalized Muslims and what they are capable of doing - we saw it on 9/11, and we have seen it elsewhere around the globe.  Perhaps it is just our way of being optimistic - we want to think the best of all people.  Perhaps it is our ignorance of the teachings of Islam and of their eschatological teachings of a worldwide caliphate ruled by the twelfth Iman.  Perhaps it is a combination of all the above.  But we need to begin making the connection between radical Islam - and I believe it is often the radicalize Muslims who are most prone toward persecuting Christians and Jews around the globe - and the persecution of believers.

Speaking of Syria, reports coming out of that country are heart-rendering.  Over two million Syrians are now considered as refugees - many taking refuge in Iraq, Lebanon (watch as the civil war in neighboring Syria begins to strike at this nation as well), and Jordan (where the majority of the refugees have fled).  Conditions are horrible.  I read a report from Franklin Graham, director of Samaritan's Purse, who recently visited a Syrian refugee camp in northern Iraq.  People are living by the hundreds of thousands in tents with little food and water and in the midst of winter's cold and wet.  Many have escaped with only the clothes on their backs.  While most of the refugees are Muslims fleeing from the Shi'ite-Sunni civil war, many are Christians fleeing the horrors of persecution being administered by both the Assad and rebel regimes.  After reading these people's stories, I could not complain as loudly about the extreme cold we are experiencing in Minnesota these days.  I have a warm home - not a covering with canvas or plastic.  I have ample food - not just a daily allowance of bread and a few grains of rice.  What an opportunity for us to reach out to these people through Samaritan's Purse or World Vision or other relief agencies, sharing food, heaters for their tents, medical supplies, and the message that we care. 

I know some of you are saying that such persecution could not happen here.  But I read an article yesterday on the website.  It was titled, "Syria: Al Qaeda Training Western Citizens for Terror Abroad."  As I read this article I have to admit that I was frightened.  Al Qaeda has learned the art of exporting terror through home-grown terrorists.  According to the article, "A defector, speaking from the Turkish border - a route commonly taken by foreign Islamist fighters into Syria - said that Al Qaeda has been training recruits from Europe, the UK and the US how to make and detonate car bombs and suicide vests in anticipation of being sent home to start new terror cells." 

Friends, it can happen and it probably will.  I worry about the Olympics in the next few weeks in Sochi.  What a showcase for a terror strike!  It would perhaps have an even greater impact upon the world than the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center towers.  And we must remember the ultimate goal is the creation of a worldwide Islamic empire - freed of Jews and Christians. 

It is time for us to wake up to the reality around us.  It is time for us to rise up and support our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering persecution.  And it is time for us to prepare for those days when persecution will come to our shores.  And all the while we need to keep focused upon Jesus, who is our Lord and Captain. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ariel Sharon: A Postscript

This past weekend the nation of Israel lost one of its great heroes from the past.  Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon passed away at the age of 85 after being in a comatose state since suffering a serious stroke in 2006.  As Israelis will tell you, Sharon was a leader.  He was among those who fought so brilliantly during the 1948 War of Independence and later was responsible for leadership during the days of the 1956 Suez Canal crisis and then both the 1967 Six-Day War  and later the 1973 Yom Kippur War, winning a decisive tank battle destroying 150 of the 250 Egyptian tanks that his unit faced.  He was seen as a war hero. 

In 1982 Sharon led the Israeli forces as they invaded into Lebanon to stop the attacks from Lebanon upon northern Israeli city-centers.  Israeli forces would remain in southern Lebanon until 2000.  It was during this time that assaults upon two Lebanese refugee centers - Sabra and Shatila occurred in 1982.  These attacks were carried out by Lebanese Christian militia, known as the Phalanges, in reprisal for the assassination of Prime Minister Bashir Gemayel whom Sharon had overseen into power.  Sharon was accused of not taking action to prevent these massacres from happening, although historical records have shown that he was not involved in any way with their happening.  Somehow, Sabra and Shatila became associated with Sharon.  Even in his passing those two names were present among those who still protested their happening 32 years previously.

On September 28, 2000, Ariel Sharon aroused hostile feelings when he went to the Temple Mount.  The aftermath of that visit is known as the Second Intifadah, a bloody reign of terror that lasted until 2004, during which scores of Jews and Palestinians died. 

But, Sharon the war-hawk became Sharon the dove as he began to endorse a plan, led by President Bush's "Road Map to Peace," to view the creation of a separate Palestinian state.  He was Prime Minister during the time of the fracturing of the Palestinian government and the creation of the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip.  In order to advance the peace process, Sharon ordered the complete disengagement of Jews from the Gaza Strip in 2005.  Anguish ensued among those who were, in many cases, forcefully evicted from Gaza.  As one looks back one wonders if that disengagement added anything to the peace process.  The answer appears to be a resounding "no."  Hamas became emboldened.  More rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel creating fear and panic.  And, in spite of several strong Israeli attempts through military invasion and action, the threats from Hamas and Gaza continue. 

It was shortly after this disengagement process was completed that Ariel Sharon had his massive stroke that left him in a vegetative state for nearly 8 years. 

How will history view Ariel Sharon?  Will he be remembered as the war hero that he was?  Will he be remembered as being one of the final pioneers to lead Israel?  (President Shimon Peres is, I believe, the last of that generation to still have some leadership authority).  Will he be remembered as the "butcher of Sabra and Shatila?"  Will he be remembered as the one who ordered the eviction of all Jews from the Gaza Strip?  Yes, he will probably be remembered for all of the above.  But, as the dust of history begins to settle, I wonder which Ariel Sharon will rise to the top. 

Now I know you are saying to yourself, "Why should I care about the death of Ariel Sharon?"  Well, you should because he was a great leader in our time.  But here is something that I have just learned that gives more cause for reflection.  Let me quote from an article that can be found at:  "When Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was still in office, vibrant and in command of his faculties, a venerated rabbi who claimed he had met the Messiah, predicted He would not come until after Sharon's death.  Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri died shortly after the stroke Sharon suffered put him in a coma in 2006.  But before the beloved Kaduri died, he wrote a cryptic note on which he named the Messiah with whom he claimed to have had a mystical encounter.  On the 108-year-old rabbi's instruction, the note would be released a year after his death.  When the sealed note was opened a year later, it was posted on Kaduri's website.  Kaduri had revealed the Messiah's name as Yehoshua, or the formal Hebrew pronunciation of Yeshua or Jesus." 

Now I find that interesting.  One can debate the legitimacy of this "prophecy" by Rabbi Kaduri.  But it is interesting that within two months of speaking these words Ariel Sharon suffered his massive stroke and Rabbi Kaduri died.  Coincidence?  One can only wonder.  Is there any validity to what was said?  Again, one can only wonder. 

And, it still gets more interesting.  This past week, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon used the following words to describe the United States peace plan and especially Secretary of State John Kerry: "messianic" and "obsessive."  It was that term "messianic" that grabbed my attention.  That term has reference to someone who comes to deliver, to save.  Is America the great deliverer of Israel?  Is that how we view ourselves?  Do we have the right to dictate to the Israeli people what they can and cannot do?  Defense Minister Yaalon has been called on the carpet because of the words that he used, but I wonder if he did not, in fact, use the right words. 

Let's see if we can connect the dots.  Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has died.  An old Messianic rabbi, who claims to have had a vision and conversation with the Messiah named Yehoshua, said that the Messiah would not come until after the death of Ariel Sharon.  And the present Israeli Defense Minister has stated that he believes John Kerry has come to Israel with an attitude described as "messianic."  We know that the United States is not Israel's Messiah - that title belongs to Jesus Christ.  Perhaps the times are getting shorter than we imagined.  Definitely not a time to entrench, but to engage the enemy.  May we put on that armor of God (Ephesians 6) and sharpen that sword of the Spirit (get more deeply into the Word of God) and become involved in the spiritual warfare around us, knowing that the lives of many depend upon our engagement. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

More Signs of the Time

I must admit that there are times when I read an article that I back up and re-read it just to make sure that I was reading it right.  I have often said to myself, "You know, you just can't make this stuff up!"  Well, I came across such an article this morning while reading the headlines on the Drudge Report.  I clicked on the article headline and began reading.  The article was written by Paul Joseph Watson and was posted on the website.  The article was titled, "Ex-DARPA Head Wants You to Swallow ID Microchips."  You can find it at

"Former DARPA director and now Google executive Regina Dugan is pushing an edible 'authentication microchip' along with an electronic tattoo that can read your mind.  No this isn't a movie script about a futuristic scientific dictatorship, it's trendy and cool!"  Dugan is quoted as saying, "This pill has a small chip inside of its with a switch.  It also has what amounts to an inside out potato battery. When you swallow it, the acids in your stomach serve as the electrolyte and that powers it up.  And the switch goes on and off and creates an 18 bit ECG wide signal in your body and essentially your entire body becomes your authentication token."  What this means is that your entire body would act as a biological authentication system to open and close your garage door, to lock and unlock your doors, to turn on your cellphone and other devices.  Sounds like you could become your own remote control.  It would sure save having to say, "Honey, where did you put the TV remote?"  The article goes on to say that the chip has already been FDA approved and could be taken 30 times a day for someone's entire life without effecting their health.  I am not sure of the validity of that claim. 

Also, according to the article, Motorola, a division of Google, is working on a wearable e-tattoo that could read a user's mind by detecting the unvocalized words.  "'It has been known for decades that when you speak to yourself in your inner voice, your brain still sends neural spike volleys to your vocal apparatus, in a similar fashion to when you actually speak aloud,' explains Extreme Tech's John Hewitt, noting that the device could allow covert voice activation as well as being used to detect stress and emotion (because Big Brother cares about your feelings)."

I have to admit that I have become fascinated with the recent articles, some reported in previous blogs, that announce this new development of technology.  The main purpose, from what I have been able to ascertain, is to allow others to know who you are and what you are doing.  It is a system of control.  We are already seeing it in the form of drone plane that hover over just about anywhere.  The little cameras within a drone are recording moments for someone else's viewing.  What if there were a device that could read your thoughts, really the last vestige of privacy that a person has, and use those thoughts against you.  Pretty scary, don't you think?  I am beginning to realize with clarity how the world, with the use of its technology, is preparing itself for the advent of someone who will use that technology and its power to control the world.  When one reads the book of Revelation in the light of today's world, it simply doesn't sound so futuristic.  One does not read Revelation and scratch his or her head as in days of old and say, "How could that possible happen?"  No, today one reads and scratches his or her head and say, "Now I am beginning to see how it all fits together."

I have to share with you one more story that was found on the Fox News website.  The article was written by Todd Starnes and was published yesterday, January 7, on the website:  The story occurs in California where "an elementary school is facing a possible lawsuit after a teacher allegedly confiscated a six-year-old child's Christmas candy canes and told him 'Jesus is not allowed in school.'  Last December, Isaiah Martinez brought his first grade classmates at Merced Elementary School candy canes.  Attached to each treat was a message explaining the religious legend surrounding the candies.  The legend references a candy maker who created the candy cane to symbolize the life of Christ.  When the six-year-old boy arrived at school, his teacher noticed the religious message and immediately confiscated the gifts.  The teacher then consulted with the supervising principal who instructed her to prevent Isaiah from distributing the candy canes.  The teacher ripped the candy cane legend off and then threw the messages back into the box and told Isaiah that he could now distribute the candy canes."  Friends, here is what is so interesting, in that same classroom, Isaiah's classmates were able to distribute gifts with images of Santa Claus, Christmas trees, etc. to others with nothing being said.  Once again we see that the message of Jesus is an offense. 

I am reminded of these words of the Apostle Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians: "For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life..." (2 Corinthians 2:15-16).  And it seems to me, anyway, that the aroma of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is becoming more offensive to the world.  Again, Jesus told us that the world would hate us because the world hated Him.  I believe that there will be a growing separation between those who stand for Christ and those who oppose Christ.  It will no longer be easy to merely pretend to be a follower of Christ.  Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, there will be the need to consider the cost. 

Friends, I believe that 2014 will prove to be a pretty interesting year.  Let's stay in the Word, our sure foundation, and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.