Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Lesson From History That Needs to Be Learned Once Again

Over eighty years ago, a dark shadow began to appear over the landscape of Europe.  At first the world gave it little attention, its leader virtually ignored.  Yet that shadow continued to grow; its leader grew in stature among the people of Germany.  Almost without warning, the growth of Nazism exploded.  The world's leaders tried to appease its radical-madman leader, but Nazism continued to infiltrate: Austria, the Sudetenland, and Bohemia.  The goal of this maniacal Nazi leader was to rule all of Europe, if not all the world, and to show the superiority of the Arian Race.  On September 1, 1939, the armies of Nazi Germany advanced into defenseless Poland.  Brimming with success other countries soon collapsed as well.  It looked like the dream of domination by Hitler would be achieved. 

Not satisfied with just crushing nations, Hitler was bent on purging out all those who were not accepting of his radical belief system.  Concentration camps soon became extermination camps.  The Nazis became creative in how they put people to death.  Josef Mengele practiced his horrific brand of medical procedures upon the helpless victims at Auschwitz.  Millions perished through starvation, suicide, or through the gas chambers.  It was a most brutal time: the pictures still haunt us. 

But, as we know from our history books, the world came together in a united front to defeat that Axis of Germany, Italy, and Japan.  The victories did not come easily: the cost was tremendous in lives lost and monies spent.  But radical Nazism was defeated. 

Friends, I believe there is a direct parallel between the Nazi brand of beliefs in Germany of the 1930's and early 40's and those of the Islamic State today.  IS seeks to create a new Islamic Caliphate that would subject the entire world to a radical interpretation of Islam.  Their brutality is almost beyond description - certainly nothing like it has occurred since those days of Nazi domination in Europe.  These past couple of weeks we have witnessed some of the most gruesome pictures imaginable: a Jordanian pilot, locked in a cage, and then burned alive; twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christians beheaded along the shores of the Mediterranean in Libya; forty five Iraqis burned alive just a couple days ago.  Those images need to be ingrained upon our minds as strongly as those from the Nazi death camps.

And look at how IS has expanded.  They are no longer just contained in portions of Iraq and Syria.  There are IS cells in Libya, as evidenced by their brutality this past weekend - and I read yesterday that they have captured another 45 Egyptians in Libya, whose fate can only be guessed.  There are IS cells in the Sinai, threatening both Egypt and Israel.  There are IS cells in Afghanistan, linking up with the Taliban there.  And there is a known connection between IS and AQAP (Al-Qaeda Arabian Peninsula) in Yemen.  What about the connection between IS and Boko Harum in Nigeria?  And look what has happened in Europe.  The attacks in France, then in Denmark. 

And it gets even more scary.  I was reading an article published in the Jerusalem Post that stated: "Islamic State has set its sights on taking over Libya as a bridgehead to eventually waging war all across southern Europe, the British "Telegraph" is reporting on Wednesday.  The newspaper cited letters written by ISIS supporters.  According to the report, ISIS jihadists plan to 'flood Libya with militiamen from Syria and Iraq, who will then sail across the Mediterranean posing as migrants on people-trafficking vessels.'  ISIS would then run amok in southern European cities and also try to attack maritime shipping."  Friends, look at a map.  Libya is no more than 300 miles from the southern tip of Italy.  And, as they were butchering those Coptic Christians, the IS leader said that they would destroy Rome and behead the Pope.  These people are to be taken seriously.

The Islamic State has become a real threat around the globe.  The Jordanians know it and have become aggressive in their assaults upon IS bases and supply lines in Syria.  The Egyptians know it and have launched air assaults against IS in Libya.  Even the Iranians know it and are sending supplies to Iraqi forces battling IS militants.  The Saudis are nervous, especially since the death of their king and the enthroning of a new king.  The instability in Yemen threatens the entire Arabian peninsula. 

I was reading this week that our government has agreed to allow nearly 30,000 Syrian refugees into our country.  That is a magnanimous gesture, but a very dangerous one; for as the article continued, our government has no way of adequately screening those who are entering.  Do you think that some IS militants just might be among those who slip in - legally, mind you?  How many IS militants slip over our southern border every day? 

Where is American leadership in this hour of crisis?  Well, let's look back into history and we see another parallel.  Britain and France declared war on Germany in September 1939.  President Roosevelt determined to keep America out of "Europe's War."  And that lasted until December 7, 1941 when our nation was attacked, not by Germany, but by their partner Japan.  Only then did our nation go to war.  Our President certainly does not seem to be very excited over what is happening in Africa, in the Middle East, and in Europe.  Golfing is one of his priorities - he is setting a record for golfing that I hope his successors never try to emulate.  The Egyptian president Sisi is looking for leadership; he knows taking on IS is a bigger challenge than Egypt can handle alone.  King Abdullah is looking for leadership; he knows taking on IS is a bigger challenge than Jordan can handle alone.  Prime Minister Netanyahu is wondering how the lack of American leadership will impact Israel. 

Our President can begin by identifying IS as what it is: radical Islamic terrorists.  King Abdullah has named them rightly, so has Egyptian President Sisi, and, interestingly enough, so has the Iranian President Rohani.  It is time for America to be bold, to be brave, and to lead the world once again in victory over an evil that is as destructive as was Nazism.  If the world does not unite against IS and those aligned with them, then I am fearful of the consequences for the world.

However, I need to close on a bright note: God is in control and everything is working toward the accomplishment of His plan.  So we need not despair.  We need to just move forward trusting the Lord.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Some Thoughts on the Presidential Prayer Breakfast

Last Thursday was the National Presidential Prayer Breakfast held in Washington D.C.  Back in 2007, Marlys and I had the privilege of attending that event.  I am not sure why they call it a "prayer breakfast" - you do eat a nice breakfast and you do get to meet some wonderful Christian people from around the country, but there is very little praying that is done.  There is always a guest speaker - this year it was Darryl Waltrip, the famous racecar driver.  The year we attended, it was Dr. Francis Collins, director of the Genome Project.  Most of the Congressmen and Senators are present, along with cabinet members, and of course, the President of the United States. 

This past Thursday, during his remarks to this Breakfast Meeting, President Obama said that we, as Americans, had better get off our "high horse" and remember that Christianity has been guilty of many of the same atrocities that IS is perpetrating today  He said, "Unless we get on our high horse and think this (beheadings, sex-slavery, crucifixion, roasting humans) is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ."

In an article posted at the Middle East Forum website, titled, "Obama" We're No Better Than Islamic State," the author writes: "First, the obvious: the wide gulf between violence and hate 'justified in the name of Christ; and violence and hate 'justified in the name of Muhammad' is that Christ never justified it, while Muhammad continuously did.  This is not just a theoretic point; it is the very reason that Muslims are still committing savage atrocities.  Every evil act IS commits - whether beheading, crucifying, raping, enslaving, or immolating humans - has precedents in the deeds of Muhammad, that most 'perfect' and 'moral' man, per Koran 33:21 and 68:4."

The author continues, "Does Obama know something about Christ - who eschewed violence and told people to love and forgive their enemies - that we don't?  Perhaps he's clinging to that solitary verse that academics like Philip Jenkins habitually highlight, that Christ - who 'spoke to the multitudes in parables and without a parable spoke not' once said, 'I come not to bring peace but a sword' (Matt. 10:34, 13:34),  Jesus was not commanding violence against non- Christians but rather predicting that Christians will be persecuted, including by family members (as, for example, when a Muslim family slaughters their child for 'apostatizing' to Christianity as happens frequently)."

The author then proceeds to remind us that the Crusades were a response to the same atrocities being committed then as they are today.  The author says, "The true lesson of the Crusades is that Islamic violence has been remarkably consistent, down to its very patterns of persecution.  And, according to primary historical texts - not modern day fantasies peddled by the likes of Karen Armstrong - Muslim persecution of Christians was indeed a primary impetus for the Crusades."

"In short, Obama's claim that there will always be people willing to 'hijack religion for their own murderous ends' is patently false when applied to the Islamic State and like organizations and individuals.  Muhammad himself called for the murder of his enemies; he permitted Muslims to feign friendship to his enemies in order to assassinate them; he incited his followers to conquer and plunder non-believers, promising them a sexual paradise if they were martyred; he kept sex slaves and practiced pedophilia with his 'child-bride,' Aisha.  He, the prophet of Islam, did everything the Islamic State is doing.  If Muslims are supposed to follow the summa or example, of Muhammad, and if Muhammad engaged in and justified every barbarity being committed by the Islamic State and other Muslims - how, exactly, are they 'hijacking' Islam?  Such is the simple logic Obama fails to grasp.  Or else he does grasp it - but hopes most Americans don't." 

You can find the article at

The day before the Presidential Prayer Breakfast, President Obama met in the White House with "Muslim leaders" across America.  The meeting was held in secret and only now are we finding out the names of those who attended, including members of known jihadist groups.  You can access this article at:  It is a most enlightening article - makes one wonder what is really happening in the White House.

Friends, there is cause for concern.  We have an Administration that seemingly has not come to grips with the intent of these radical Islamic groups.  Yes, they are radicals.  But they are radical Islamists.  And that is the fact that the Administration does not want to address.  Yes, those who participated in the Crusades and during the time of the Inquisition did some incredibly evil the name of religion.  But, and here is where the similarity stops...the Church eventually condemned those acts...the Crusades were abandoned...the Inquisition was stopped.  But the evils committed by radical Islamists back in the 11th-13th centuries still persist today.  And, although there are some voices within the Muslim community calling for the eradication of IS, they are voices that are not being heard loudly enough.  And so, IS grows...perhaps even here in the United States.  And the indifference toward them is growing.  How confused are our times! 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Risks of the Final Play

Well the football season is finally over.  A new champion has been crowned.  And now the pundits are asking the question of why Coach Pete Carroll called that play with timeouts remaining, one of the best running backs in the game in his backfield, and on the one yard line of the opponent.  Four points down, it seemed that a touchdown was imminent.  But then the play was called.  The pass intercepted.  The game over.  Was it the right call?  That is the question many around the NFL, and especially in Seattle, are asking.  In an interview yesterday, Coach Carroll said it was the right call and he had an explanation for it.  Not understanding all the intricacies of football, his explanation made sense to me. 

There is an important lesson to be learned from those final moments of Super Bowl XLIX.  Play-calling involves risk taking.  That is true not just in football games, but in all sports.  Woody Hayes, the late head football coach at Ohio State often said of the forward pass, "Three things happen when you throw the ball, and two of them are bad." In other words, there is always the risk when you throw a forward pass.  Coaches know that they might call the wrong play.  Players know that they can execute a play badly.  Yes, there are risks in the world of athletics. 

There are also risks in the world of business.  What is a safe investment?  Outside of giving your money to the work of the Lord Jesus, all investments come with risks.  The stock market is up one day and down the next.  It is bullish, then bearish.  One never knows how long one animal is going to stick around.  Yet a person makes a decision regarding investments.  Sometimes it is a good one.  Other times it is not so good.  A wise old financial planner once told me, "Max, never invest money that you cannot afford to lose."  Yes, there are risks in the world of business.

All decisions come with risks.  There is a safe way out...and that is to let someone else make the decision for you.  When we do that then we do not have to assume responsibility for the consequences of the decision.  There comes a time when a person just has to "bite the bullet" and make a decision.  You have studied all the options.  You have weighed the costs.  You have looked at all the alternatives.  It is time to make a decision, to take a risk.  Is it scary?  At times very much so.  But there is a time for action. 

One of my favorite leaders in the Old Testament is Joshua.  As his life was drawing to a close, and after he had led Israel in their conquest of the Promised Land, he gathered the people together for one final word of encouragement.  He was troubled at what he was seeing in the people's attraction to the gods of the peoples they had conquered.  Joshua understand the history and heritage of the people - after all, they had come from a pagan background and had lived in a pagan land for nearly 400 years.  But God - his God and their God - had led them this far.  It was time for them to make a decision.  He knew he could not make it for them.  He knew there were great risks if they decided to serve other gods.  But the people could only remain on the fence so was time to decide which side of the fence they were going to land in.  Listen to these familiar words of Joshua: "Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness.  Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.  But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.  But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:14-15).

Joshua had confidence in his God.  And so Joshua made a decision.  He took a risk that following God was the right choice.  He led the way.  Others soon made the same declaration.  Did Joshua ever second-guess his decision?  Probably not! 

Friends, perhaps God is calling you to do something.  Only you know what it is.  You might even say, "But God, I really need more information; I really need more clarity.  How can I be sure?"  And God's response is simply, "You have all the information you need; you have all the clarity you need.  Now, just trust Me!"  What God is saying is, "It is time to take a risk.  It is time to make a decision.  Now, go for it; dare to trust Me."  And, unlike Coach Carroll's final play-calling that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, you can't lose when you are following God's leading.