Wednesday, April 30, 2014

An Incredible Chapter

Since early September of last year, I have had the privilege of sharing with a group of two dozen or so men at an early Tuesday morning Bible study here at Buffalo Covenant Church.  We have been slowly working our way through the first eight chapters of Romans.  We have had some very interesting discussions along the way that has caused us to be stretched in our understanding of the Scriptures.  We are now in the middle of chapter eight - one of the greatest passages in all the Bible, or at least from the pen of Paul. 

As you might remember, the chapter begins and closes with two incredible truth-statements about our relationship with Jesus Christ.  Paul begins so powerfully with what I call "Tower #1" - "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set met free from the law of sin and death."  What an incredible statement - "I am no longer condemned by God because my trust is now in Jesus Christ."  I am reminded that Paul wrote to the Ephesians and shared with them that before they came to a saving knowledge of Jesus, they were "dead in their trespasses and sins" and they were "separated from God."  We were at war with God because our sins were hostile to God.  But then we met Jesus and the war with God ceased.  Not just a cease-fire, but the war stopped.  There was an unconditional surrender of self to God.  And peace came.  Paul referred to it in Romans 5:1 - "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."  This results in no longer being under the condemnation of God!

Paul closes this chapter with a powerful truth I call "Tower #2" - For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Isn't that an amazing truth?  Once we have experienced that love that God has shown us in the sacrifice of His Son, there is nothing that can separate us from that love...absolutely nothing!  Praise God for this powerful truth!

Now what caught my attention this past week are those verses that describe how we are eagerly waiting for the redemption of our bodies.  Paul writes, "Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (verse 23).  Our adoption as sons of God has been initiated, but it is not yet completed.  That completion will occur when we receive our risen, glorified, transformed bodies.  Paul says, "For in this hope we were saved" (verse 24).  This got me to thinking: What do we emphasize when someone comes to Christ for salvation?  Well, we tell them that God will forgive their sins which happens immediately.  We tell them that they are reconciled to God, which also happens immediately.  We tell them that they are now children of God, also an immediate happening.  And we might tell them they have eternal life which is also an immediate happening, however, most of us actually believe it becomes ours when we die.  But do we ever share with them that someday they will get a new body?  And yet Paul says that is part of the hope we have when we are saved.  The older I get the more I appreciate the fact that this body I presently live in is not my final one.  I have a new body that awaits me some day - a body fitted, not for life on this earth, but for life on a new earth. 

One final thought from this amazing section.  Paul says "But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently" (verse 25).  I believe there is a twofold warning implied here in this statement.  First, we can get so excited over the perceived nearness of this redemption - this return of Jesus - that we just settle into our "spiritual rocking chairs" and wait.  If one searches the Internet, one can find those who are making predictions about the return of Jesus that it is very soon.  (And, by the way, I believe that the signs are multiplying and becoming more clearly defined, leading me to believe that the coming might be getting closer).  Yet the problem with this excitement is that it causes some people, especially younger people, to not focus clearly upon how God might direct their futures.  "Well, the Lord is coming, so I probably should not go to college."  "Well, the Lord is coming, so I need to be careful about getting married and starting a family or making any long-term commitments." 

There is a second warning: We see the signs around us and we get apathetic about them.  It is so easy to say, "Well, we have gone through similar situations in history before and the Lord did not come then.  What about the Holocaust, that was certainly a tragic situation and the Lord did not come then.  Why should He come now?"  This is what I call "Ecclesiastes-thinking."  You might remember that little book Solomon wrote late in his life.  "There is a time for every purpose under heaven" and "there is nothing new under the sun."  To summarize Solomon, history is just a big circle and we are like a hamster on the treadmill running around the circle.  And, mostly I would agree.  Yet, there have been moments when God has stepping onto that circle and changed the course.  He did it at the time of the flood.  Read 2 Peter 3 to see how Peter relates that event to those with "Ecclesiastes-thinking" at the end of the age.  And He will do it again when He returns.

So, how are we to respond as we groan, awaiting the redemption of our bodies and the completion of our adoption?  Paul say we are to wait patiently.  That means that, yes, I will pay attention to what is happening around me.  Yes, I will get excited for the coming of the Lord.  And, yes, I will be faithful in living my life as a testimony before others.  As one preacher said, "Live as if today Jesus might come; plan as if He might come ten years from now."  Good advice. 

Friends, I would encourage you to sit down this week and read this amazing chapter.  Don't read it quickly.  Read it slowly and with careful thought.  I can guarantee that God will speak to your heart through His Spirit as you read and you will develop a deeper appreciation of your relationship with Him. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Frustrating Peace Process

I trust you had a blessed Passover and/or Easter Season  Truly we can say "Hosanna!" and "He is risen, indeed!" 

I find the news coming out of the on-gain, off-again peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians to be frustrating.  From the very start of the peace process during the time of PA Chairman Yassar Arafat, the Palestinians keep adding to the term of pre-conditions in order for them to either come to the negotiating table or to remain there.  The current Palestinian Chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, learned well from his predecessor.  On Tuesday, Chairman Abbas said that he is prepared to extend the peace talks with Israel for another nine months if Israel will agree to three conditions: a three month freeze on building in East Jerusalem and in other settlements, a release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons, and a discussion of the matter of borders. 

What makes this so interesting is that also on Tuesday, a meeting was held in Gaza between Hamas, the ruling faction within the Gaza Strip, and members of the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of Abbas.  A report coming from those talks relates that some type of unity government could occur within the next five weeks, although most doubt whether that will happen as there have been other attempts at a unity government in the past that have failed. 

Now, to add a third component just to show you how confused the situation really is.  Also on Tuesday, Abbas indicated that if Israel did not return to the negotiating tables that he might just dismantle the Palestinian Authority and let Israel pick up the pieces.  So, on the same day we have the following: 1) The Palestinian leader saying that in order to return to the negotiating table Israel had to meet three more conditions; 2) The Palestinian leader was involved in conversations to form a unity government with rival Hamas; and 3) The Palestinian leader said that he would dismantle his government if there were no peace talk resumptions.  Are you confused?  Just imagine how the Israelis must feel.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu declared, "Every time we get to the point of re-launching the negotiations, Abbas stacks on an additional condition which he knows that Israel cannot give.  So instead of moving toward peace with Israel, he's moving toward peace with Hamas.  He has to choose.  Does he want peace with Hamas or peace with Israel?  You can have one but not the other.  I hope he chooses peace, but so far he hasn't done so." 

It seems like there is no ending in sight in the peace negotiations.  Every American President since Jimmy Carter has sought to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but to no avail.  Will there ever be peace?  The Bible assures us that it will happen when an unnamed world leader - we know him as the Antichrist - signs a peace-agreement with Israel as described for us in Daniel 9:27.  How will this person be successful whereas other leaders have not, the Bible does not explain.  It simply states that he will confirm a covenant with Israel for seven years, a period of time we know as the Tribulation.

So, what are we to make of what is happening today?  First of all, the focus is upon that centerpiece in God's plan - Israel and the Middle East - which is important for us to understand.  It is God's desire for Israel to be at peace.  Second, God will allow that peace process to be fulfilled when He desires it and for His purposes.  So, friends, I encourage you to keep your eyes focused upon what happens in Jerusalem for that will be center stage for God's great climatic act. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hosanna: Yes He Did

As I sit at my computer and look out my window the landscape looks more like a pre-Christmas setting than just four days before Easter.  Snow is falling and beginning to pile up on the ground.  Robins have the appearance of total dismay.  And what flowers had begun to peek through the cold soil wonder exactly what season of the year it truly is.  Yet, within days we will celebrate that most amazing demonstration of God's love the world has ever seen: the crucifixion and then resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

Today also marks the second day of Passover, a time when our Jewish friends celebrate as families one of the most amazing demonstrations of God's power the world has ever seen: the bringing forth of the children of Israel out of their centuries long bondage in Egypt. 

It was one of those remarkable first days of the week.  Streets and alleyways of Jerusalem were beginning to swell with those pilgrims arriving for the Passover celebration.  There was an aura of excitement that seemed more prevalent than in the past.  It certainly made the Jewish leaders and Roman authorities more edgy.  Talk among the pilgrims centered upon some Messianic figure who would soon come to bring freedom even as Moses had nearly a millennium and a half ago.  It seemed that all eyes were focused upon Jesus.  So, it was with pomp and celebration that, as He made His way down the slopes of the Mount of Olives across the Kidron Valley and into the city itself, there were cries of "Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord."  "Hosanna" means "save us."  And that is exactly what they expected Jesus, the great miracle worker from Galilee, to do.  After all, if He could heal lepers and lame men and open the eyes of the blind, could He not rally an army for liberation?  After all, if He could bring the dead back to life, could He not bring back a nation that was in the spirals of death in slavery to their Roman oppressors?  I believe that journey also buoyed the thoughts that had been incubating within the hearts of the disciples.  Perhaps all this talk of death at the hands of Jewish leaders was simply that, talk.  Perhaps Jesus would act with power and authority to bring about salvation for the Jewish people.  They certainly hoped it would be that way.

Little did the people and the disciples understand that those cries of "Hosanna!" would be answered in a matter of a few days.  Yes, Jesus came to bring salvation, not from Rome, but from an even greater and more insidious evil - sin itself.  It would have been an easier task, I believe, to assemble an army to fight the Romans, but, when victory came, what then?  Would it not be right back to a different form of slavery?  Might it not even be a more intense form of religious slavery under a new set of rules and regulations?  No, the people did not need freedom from Rome's whips.  They needed freedom from Satan's tyranny. 

As one reads the various Gospel accounts of the events that transpired between that Palm Sunday and that final meal Jesus had with His disciples, one is amazed at the bold, confrontative spirit of Jesus.  He turned over the tables of the money changers in the Temple.  He gave a "tongue-lashing" to the Pharisees, reminding them of their own spiritual hypocrisy.  He refused to answer a question as to the origins of His authority unless His critics answered His question of the authority of John's baptism.  The Jesus we see during Passion Week is not the meek and mild Jesus often portrayed.  There is an anger that is burning within Him, an anger toward the sins that are holding the people captive.  And, I believe, these accounts of Jesus only propel those feelings of the disciples and the people that something dramatic is about to happen. 

The first group to experience a deflation are the disciples.  As they enter that room that evening for a Passover dinner with Jesus, they are arguing among themselves as to who would share in what position of power in the coming Kingdom.  Then Jesus "pops the balloon" by announcing that, before the evening is over, one of them will betray Him to the authorities, Peter would deny Him, not just once but three times, and the rest of the disciples would scatter to the winds.  Talk about ruining a wonderful party. 

And that crowd that had cried out "Hosanna! Save us!" on Sunday became convinced that Jesus would not bring their deliverance from Rome.  So their cries became those of disappointment - "crucify Him!"  Little did they know, or anyone else for that matter, that it was in that way that salvation would come.  And so Jesus was crucified enduring a punishment that should have been yours and mine.  He was that Passover Lamb slain for sins - not His own, but yours and mine.  I am reminded of those powerful words from the pen of Isaiah, "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). 

And so the curtain dropped that Friday evening upon a dead Jesus, hastily buried in a borrowed tomb, and a handful of His followers who locked themselves in that room where they had first tasted of disappointment.  They feared a similar fate as that of their leader.  One can only imagine the tears of disappointment and perhaps even of anger that were shed there.  "Why didn't we do something?  How could we not have seen this happening?" 

The curtain then rises early on another first-day of the week.  Several women had left early to complete the task of giving Jesus a proper burial.  Their thoughts centered around who would move the massive stone that had been rolled in front of the tomb's entrance.  It was with heavy hearts they meandered through the streets to the site where Jesus was buried.  To their utter amazement, the stone was already rolled away.  And two angelic beings announced to them that Jesus was not there, but had risen from the dead.  Now there was a mixture of emotions.  Mark tells us they were filled with fear.  Matthew says they were afraid yet filled with joy.  They hurried back to the disciples and reported to them the good news.  The reaction of the disciples was similar to those of the women.  Only two - Peter and John - ran to the tomb to see for themselves whether the story was indeed true.  Yet, even though Jesus would appear to them later that evening, it took several days before the truths of His resurrection would impact their lives. 

"Hosanna! Save us!" was the people's cry.  The response of Jesus was "Father, not My will but Yours be done."  And salvation was accomplished.  Jesus was the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"  Jesus is "the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."  As the disciples, weeks later would publicly proclaim, "there is salvation found no where else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved."  It is Jesus and only Jesus!

Bill and Gloria Gaither captured the power of that first Easter morning with these words: "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; Because He lives, all fear is gone; Because I know He holds the future, And life is worth the living just because He lives."

To my Jewish friends I wish you a Chag Kasher VeSameach.  And to my brothers and sisters in Christ, I proclaim with you, "He is risen!  He is risen indeed!"

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Auschwitz - A Review of the New Joel Rosenberg Novel

In March 1997 I had been invited to travel to southern Poland to share as the Bible-hour speaker for a conference of missionaries and national staff affiliated with International Messengers, a mission organization located in Clear Lake, IA, whose ministry included English Language Camps in Eastern Europe.  God had blessed that week with His blessings.  Following the conference I was invited to spend a couple days with the IM staff team located in Krakow, an invitation which I eagerly accepted.

It was a cold, windy morning, with flakes of snow flying through the dark-gray skies, when Greg McKelvey, an IM staff leader living at the time in Krakow, and I traveled the few miles from Krakow to one of the most infamous and notorious killing fields of all times - Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Of course I had heard about this "death camp" and had even seen scenes of it in the recently released film by Steven Spielberg, "Schindler's List."  But I was not ready to experience Auschwitz itself.  I remember walking through those double fences of electrified wires, underneath that iron sign that hung over the gate reading, "Arbeit Mach Frei," translated "work makes free."  We walked over to the underground gas chamber.  I remember feeling so uneasy as we entered and stood under those shower heads.  If one were quiet the screams of those who had entered in the past could still be heard.  I was never so excited to excit a place as I was that gas chamber.  To walk the grounds and through the barracks that remained at Auschwitz provided images that my mind, yet today, still wants to deny.  Rooms filled with nothing but hundreds of thousands of pairs of shoes.  Another room filled with wheel chairs and prosthetics.  Yet another room filled with hair - human hair - tons of it.  And wherever you walked there were the ghosts of the past that lingered in the shadows, crying out, "Why didn't you care?"  I remember walking past those rooms where Dr. Josef Mengele performed his medical experiments that could only be described as subhuman.  And there were the gallows where many were hung, as a warning to those within the camp as to the penalties of violating camp rules.

As difficult as Auschwitz was, the journey into Birkenau was more so.  Birkenau was established, not as a labor camp, but purely as a death camp.  The clapboard barracks were built not to house people, but merely to shelter them until it was their turn to enter the gas chambers and then to have their bodies consumed in the gigantic crematories.  As we entered one such building, with the cold and snow swirling around us, I tried to envision what it must have been like to have been in this place; yet my mind could not comprehend such a thing. 

I remember leaving Auschwitz feeling totally drained emotionally.  There is a spirit of darkness that hangs over that place.  Your heart and mind cry out, "How could human beings do these things to other human beings?"  That verse from Jeremiah came to mind reminding me that "the heart is desperately wicked, who can know it?" 

I know you are asking me, "Max, why this 'memory lane' trip to Auschwitz?"  Well, last week I read the newest novel from the pen of Joel Rosenberg.  It is titled, "The Auschwitz Escape."  Friends, it was a gripping book, yet, I must add, one of the most depressing books that I have read.  And perhaps that was caused because of the flashback memories to that cold, windy, snowy day in March 1997.  This novel is Joel's first entry into the world of historical fiction and he has done a masterful job, howbeit a difficult job of telling the story of those who dared to plan to escape from Auschwitz to tell the world what was happening there.  Joel tells the story as graphically and as realistically as possible.  Yet, throughout its pages, there is the story of hope: Perhaps if but one person can get out safely, then others will come to our rescue.  As Joel recounts, for many there was the absence of God in Auschwitz, yet for others God was still there.  I will not share with you how the story ends, only to say that the ghosts of decisions made concerning Auschwitz and the other labor-death camps still haunt world leaders.  Friends, I highly recommend this book.  Its story will keep you turning pages.  Your heart will call into question about the conditions of the human heart.  Yet your spirit will see the hand of God at work even in the midst of the darkest period of modern history. 

I just want to comment on a couple of others stories that caught my attention this past week.  The first is an article found at  The article begins, "In a north London hospital, scientists are growing noses, ears and blood vessels in the laboratory in a bold attempt to make body parts using stem cells.  It is among several labs around the world, including in the U.S., that are working on the futuristic idea of growing custom-made organs in the lab."  Let me close with the final paragraph, "'If people are not that fussy, we could manufacture different sizes of noses so the surgeon could choose a size and tailor it for patients before implanting it', said Alexander Seifalian at University College London.  'People think your nose is very individual and personal but this is something that we could mass produce like in a factory one day.'"  I can only wonder if God will allow that to happen.  We are certainly entering into an area of uncharted waters ethically and morally.

A second article was equally disturbing.  It was found at  This past Monday, the United States Supreme Court "refused to hear the appeal of a New Mexico photographer sued by a lesbian couple after she refused to take pictures at their commitment ceremony because of her religious convictions.  The case centered on Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin and their business, Elane Photography.  In 2006, they refused to work at the commitment ceremony of Vanessa Willock and Misti Collinsworth.  The lesbian couple was able to find another photographer but still filed a discrimination grievance against Elane Photography with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission."  The article continues by recording that at each judicial level, the Huguenin's lost.  Jordan Lorence, of the Alliance Defending Freedom organization, said that while the refusal by the Supreme Court to hear the case was a disappointment, there was still a silver lining.  He said, concerning the actions of the Court, "They do have a general habit of waiting for an issue to percolate in the lower courts and not necessarily take the first one but take the third or fourth one or something like that." 

This case in New Mexico joins with dozens of other cases around the country.  Lorence cited a case in Maine: "I had a case in Maine, where a social worker spoke out in a political campaign in support of marriage.  He had complaints filed that he should lose his professional license as a social worker because of his position on marriage.  I think the imagination of those zealots on the other side knows no boundaries, and they will be pushing this to ostracize and marginalize people as much as possible."  His words of advice are sound and so necessary, "Americans need to stand up and just say, 'This has gone too far, that we can have reasonable debates without demonizing and ostracizing the losers of the debate or people that are on a side that the courts and others are not supporting right now." 

Friends, I believe Attorney Lorence is correct.  We have created a society where we can no longer have a debate over issues.  We live in a culture where there are winners and losers.  If I am on the winning side, I certainly do not need to listen to you, the loser.  And, if I am on the losing side, then how dare I speak against those on the winning side.  And so we put people into categories.  Our Founding Fathers, in their marvelous creation known as the Constitution, believed that people had the right to freely speak what was on their hearts.  Within that freedom comes the power of persuasion, not of intimidation.  We have lost the ability today of persuading people.  Instead we intimidate them with threats of legal action.  Read or listen to some of the greatest speeches of all time - the words of George Washington in his "Farewell Address" or of Abraham Lincoln in his "Second Inaugural" or of Ronald Reagan at the Berlin Wall.  These were leaders who spoke words that persuaded and influenced generations.  But, as long as intimidation works, there will little opportunity for civil dialogue and decency. 

Yet what a marvelous hope we have as believers as we look forward with enthusiasm to the coming of Jesus.  "Lord, come quickly!"  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Of Earthquakes, Famines, and Negotiations

There is a very interesting text in the little post-exilic prophecy of Haggai that says, "This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land.  I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come (a reference to the coming of Jesus), and I will fill this house (speaking of the temple in Jerusalem) with glory,' says the LORD Almighty." (Haggai 2:6-7). 

Have you been noticing how the earth is suddenly shaking at an almost alarming rate?  For the past couple of years, the frequency and intensity of earthquakes around the globe has been rather subdued.  But, recently they have increased in both frequency and magnitude.  Last Saturday, a 5.1 magnitude quake rattled the cities in Southern California.  It caused people to wonder if the "big one" was soon to come; even one seismologist said that there was a 5% chance that the "big one" would come in a matter of weeks.  The earth has been rumbling in Oklahoma for the past couple of months - nothing severe, but just enough to catch people's attention.  There have been some quakes reported in Yellowstone National Park, perhaps associated with the volcano that lies under the park.  Then last night, off the coast of Chile, an 8.2 magnitude quake was felt, prompting a tsunami warning all along the western coast of South America.  Is God shaking the earth as the ancient prophet proclaimed?  We remember that Jesus shared with His disciples that in the last days "there will be famines and earthquakes in various places" (Matthew 24:7). 

Speaking of famines, a report issued this past week by one of the United Nations Commissions, predicted that global warming will increase the likelihood of continued famines around the globe causing a stress upon food production worldwide.  (Now, let me state that I am not a supporter of the theories of global warming - and that is just what they are - theories).  But one cannot deny that there has been some strange weather patterns lately.  I live in the Twin Cities and the forecast for tomorrow and Friday - April 3 and 4 - is for a major snow storm with up to a foot of snow predicted.  Let' see: we have had mudslides in Washington State, drought in California, deadly heat in Australia, crippling floods in the UK, record snows in Chicago and points east, and one of the coldest winters on record in the Upper Midwest.  Could it be that the changing weather phenomena is part of God's plan and has nothing to do with flatulence from cows or exhaust from cars? 

I have been known to grumble about weather - just ask my wonderful wife and she will confirm that truth.  Perhaps, instead of grumbling, I should be rejoicing because it is another sign that God is giving to us to encourage us to look up because the coming of Jesus is near. 

On another front, I have been following the on-again, off-again peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.  Our President is desperate to have a peaceful settlement of this decades-long conflict come under his watch.  Just this morning I read that Palestinian Chairman Abbas has requested that 15 commissions within the United Nations recognize the legitimacy of the State of Palestine.  Friends, as part of the agreement reached last July that led to these negotiations, Abbas agreed that he would not seek to go to the United Nations with such a request.  What is his reason for doing so now?  It is because the Israeli government did not follow through with the final release of some 400 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.  And why did the Israelis refuse to release those prisoners?  Because of the recurring and intensifying strife going on in the West Bank between Jewish settlers and Palestinians.  Do the Palestinians actually want peace?  If a settlement is reached, within the space of months would the West Bank become another Gaza?  These are the legitimate questions Israeli leaders are facing.  Furthermore - I have to admit I show my bias here - I have often wondered why Israel is forced to make all the concessions with regard to peace.  Unless there is an unconditional surrender following a war, it takes two parties to create a peace.  The burden of responsibility falls equally upon both parties.  Yet, as long as I can remember - and I have been following this conflict for the past two decades - the burden has always been upon Israel to yield to the wishes of the Palestinians.  Prisoner release: how many and when.  Settlement stoppage: just tell us when.  Surrender of land: hey, we will give you 90% of what you are asking.  And what has Israel asked in return?  A guarantee of a peaceful border and the recognition by the Arab world of their existence as a Jewish state, yet both requests have been continually rejected by both the Palestinians and the Arab world as a whole

Because of the breakdown in negotiations, I read this morning that Secretary of State Kerry has told the Israelis that there is a new bargaining chip - the release of Jonathan Pollard, who was convicted in 1985 of being a spy for Israel.  Mr. Pollard has been serving a life sentence in an American prison.  His health is rather fragile and Israel has been seeking his release for the past several years.  Suddenly the American government says it can release Mr. Pollard if Israel will agree to releasing those 400 prisoners and having a partial building freeze within East Jerusalem and the West Bank.  Friends, it will be interesting to see how this new wrinkle plays out because Mr. Pollard has said that he had no desire to be part of a prisoner trade that would permit many Palestinians terrorists back onto the streets. 

Friends, there is so much going on in the world right now.  Ukraine - is Putin playing a game of "chicken" with the West and seeing who will blink first?  Egypt - are the recent death sentences placed upon over 500 members of Morsi' party the death knell for the Muslim Brotherhood?  China - is its declaration of an increase in military spending an indication that China wants to reclaim the role of defender of the Pacific Rim?  If so, how will that impact Taiwan?  North Korea - do they really want a war with their southern neighbor?  And, of course, the burning question of the upcoming weekend is: which animal will win the Final Four - a badger, a huskie, a gator, or a wildcat?  Oh if life were as simple as that final question!