Monday, October 15, 2018

Israel and Hamas Poised on the Brink of War

The crisis between Israel and Hamas within the Gaza Strip seems near the "boiling over" point.  Tensions have been building since the border-fence riots began last March.  Dozens of Palestinians have been killed as the IDF has retaliated following attacks by Hamas rebels.  Thousands of acres of Israeli farm fields, pastures, and orchards have been scorched by the incendiary balloon and kites launched from Gaza into Israel's Negev communities.  The border crossings have often been closed because of violence that occurred there.  And, when the border crossings are closed, that means that the people living in Gaza are denied those supplies upon which they rely for survival.  But, when Israel does open those crossings, immediately they become the focal points of Hamas attacks.



In today's front page article of the Jerusalem Post, Prime Minister Netanyahu states that unless quiet is restored along the border with Gaza, "fearsome blows" would occur.  He did not detail what those "blows" would be, but it appears that Israel might launch another offensive into the Gaza Strip as they did several years ago.  The continued draining of the financial resources of the people living within the Gaza Strip by the leadership of Hamas certainly demonstrates that they have very little, if any, concern for the welfare of its citizens.  People are starving, but let's spend those dollars sent to us on bullets instead of beans.  Unemployment is high, but, instead of creating jobs that will benefit the welfare of all its citizens, people are told to stoke fires with tires, dig tunnels, and to create mayhem along the borders. 




In spite of the obvious fact, at least to many of us, that Hamas is the chief antagonist, the world continues to condemn Israel, with the Palestinian Authority leadership bringing Israel before the International Court on charges of "crimes against humanity."  If the charges were not so serious, they would seem ludicrous.  I find it fascinating that, when there are days with no Hamas-directed attacks against the frontier fence, the IDF merely monitors as they would any other part of the nation.  It is not the IDF that is stirring up conflict, but Hamas seeking to cause as much destruction and death as it possibly can.  Yet, I don't hear anyone declare about Hamas that it is guilty of "crimes against humanity." 




And the United Nations continues it assault upon the legitimacy of Israel as a nation.  Last Wednesday, the PX Commission of the Executive Board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, better known as UNESCO, adopted a resolution that declared the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem to be an integral part of the Palestinian Territory.  I find this to be a resolution based, not upon history, but upon political bias.  The cave of Machpelah in Hebron, was purchased by Abraham from the Hittites to be used for a burial place for his wife Sarah.  Subsequently Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah, and finally Jacob were all buried here.  Friends, the history of a Hebrew presence in Hebron goes back nearly four millenniums.  Centuries later, Hebron was given as an inheritance to Caleb who drove out its giants.  The city became one of the Levitical Cities, even being a City of Refuge.  The earliest known Muslim presence in Hebron did not occur until the 7th century AD - some 2700 years after the time of Abraham.  Yet, somehow in the minds of the leadership of UNESCO, Hebron is a Palestinian Historical Site. 




According to an article published on the United with Israel website, "Israel has long criticized the anti-Israel bias within UNESCO, where Israel and its allies are far outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters.  Since 2009, UNESCO has passed 71 resolutions condemning Israel and only two resolutions against all other countries combined."  (www.unitedwithisrael.org/unesco-again-attempts-to-steal-Israeli-heritage-with-lies-and-biases.)




Last year United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nicki Halley, withdrew the United States from UNESCO citing its increasingly growing anti-Semitism.  (She will be sorely missed as an advocate for our nation and for Israel in the United Nations).  Israel is in the process of withdrawing from UNESCO as well. 




Prime Minister Netanyahu declared that "UNESCO must top the absurdity of passing resolutions which deny the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, between the Jewish people and our eternal capital Jerusalem.  No matter what UNESCO says, the Western Wall is not occupied Palestinian territory and the Cave of the Patriarchs - the burial site of Abraham, Sara, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Leah - is not a Palestinian Heritage Site."  On those two issues, the Prime Minister is absolutely correct. 


President Trump has stated that he has developed a plan for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.  His plan has not yet been made public.  Is it a workable plan?  President Trump has declared before the world that he recognizes Jerusalem as the historical, undivided capital of the states of Israel.  The Israeli leaders have categorically stated that the issue of the return of Palestinian refugees is a non-starter for them.  To grant such a request would be tantamount to the destruction of the Jewish State.  And Israel would certainly strongly object to having any Palestinian State become an armed one.  You had to have traveled in Israel in order to understand why Israel would make this demand.  The very survival of Israel would depend upon an unarmed Palestinian state.  So, there are not a lot of substantive issues remaining upon which to broker a deal for a two-state solution. 


Friends, I am convinced that there will always be unrest in the Middle East until, first the antichrist comes and declares a time of pseudo-peace in the region which will last for a brief time.  Then he will declare his true intentions and conflict on a scale unseen before will be unleashed in the Middle East.  True peace will only come when The Prince of Peace returns to establish His Kingdom.  And oh what a day that will be.  Perhaps it will occur soon!  Hallelujah!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

A New Justice and a New Hurricane

Over the weekend Judge Kavanaugh became Associate Justice Kavanaugh.  But the final decision was wrought with drama.  In spite of an FBI report, which the Democrats had aggressively sought and for which Senator Flake (R-AZ) had requested, that showed there was no corroborative evidence for the allegation that Dr. Ford had brought, the minority party was still not satisfied.  They now yelled that the FBI had not done an adequate job.  But, you can only go as far as the evidence will direct you, and, in this case, there simply was no evidence.  Would the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh be stopped because of unsubstantiated allegations?  The fate of that decision would be decided by the vote of three senators: Collins (R-ME), Flake (R-AZ), and Manchin (D-WV).  Senator Collins, on Friday afternoon, made an impassioned speech in which she affirmed her "yes" vote on the confirmation.  Almost immediately she became the target of the aggressive hatred from the Left.  Senator Collins speech was based upon her belief that a man should not be convicted if there was no evidence to substantiate the charges brought against him.  In fact, Senator Collins spoke in favor of what the United States Constitution declares: a man is innocent until he is proven guilty. 


On Saturday afternoon we witnessed an historic vote.  Judge Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to sit on the highest court in the land - the United States Supreme Court.  With his confirmation, the Supreme Court has a conservative majority.  This will be a Court that will NOT be inclined to make law, but merely to interpret law.  It is a Court that will ask the question: what was the original intent of the framers of the Constitution.  And with that the Court will be in the place where the framers originally intended it to be. 


I have had people come to me and say that now Roe v. Wade will be overturned.  Friends, I highly doubt that will happen.  If one studies the rulings of the Supreme Court it is very adverse to overturning precedent-setting cases, even if those cases really were bad rulings.  The Dred Scott Decision, perhaps one of the worst rulings ever from a Supreme Court, was not overturned.  Roe v. Wade will not be either.  But, I believe the Court will be more inclined to listen to arguments that might restrict some of the latitude we have seen with recent Roe v. Wade type cases.  There are many interesting and important cases the Court will be hearing in this Fall Session.  Justice Kavanaugh will not have the opportunity to crawl into a corner and just listen.  No, his positions will soon become evident. 


But this is what grieves me - the hostility and hatred shown by the Left and by the mainstream media toward those who voted for this confirmation.  Emails threatening beheadings have been sent to family members of the Senators.  Vicious verbal assaults have been unleashed upon Senators when in public.  Friends, these actions are simply un-American and totally unacceptable.  Yes, we can have disagreements.  Yes, we can choose sides on issues.  But we do NOT have the right to incite riots or to threaten bodily harm to those who disagree with us. 


We are now just four weeks away from the most important midterm election of my lifetime.  The stakes could not be any higher.  The control of the House of Representatives and the Senate are prizes that both parties are eagerly seeking.  Positions of leadership on both the state and local levels are to be determined.  Here in the State of Minnesota we are electing a governor and two United States Senators.  This is not a time when Christians are to sit at home indifferent to what is happening.  This is the time to study the candidates and the issues.  Then, on November 6, it is time to go to the polling places and vote your conscience. 


I want to close with a prophetic weather update.  A 7.2 earthquake with its accompanying tsunami takes the lives of over 1200 people in Indonesia.  One of the strongest cyclones in history brings destruction to the Philippines, Hong Kong, and into China.  Hurricane Floyd left a path of devastation across the Carolinas.  Now Hurricane Michael, one of the strongest storms to hit the northeast coast of Florida in years, is poised to strike.  Portions of the Midwest have been drenched with multi-day rain events.  Rivers are swollen and flooding has become almost inevitable.  Now, we can either blame all these events on climate change, or we can say that God is trying to get our attention that time is running out.  I prefer to believe the latter.  I believe the natural world is probably more conscious of the imminent return of Jesus than are most people.  The Apostle Paul, in Romans 8, proclaims that the creation groans awaiting its redemption.  Seems to me that the groaning is getting louder and louder.  I think this planet is getting excited because its King is soon to come! 


It is time for us to "wake up" from our slumber and apathy.  It is time for us to put on the whole armor of God.  It is time for us to get back into the front lines of the struggle for the souls of lost men and women, teenagers, and boys and girls.  Time is running out...it's time to get going for Jesus!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Why Are People Leaving the Church Today? Two Viewpoints.

It appears that the FBI is nearing the end of its investigation of the allegations made against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanagh.  The findings of the FBI should prove to be interesting as the foundations for these allegations appear to be crumbling - filled with inconsistencies and still lacking corroboration.  It appears, at least from reports from several news sources, that the confirmation vote will occur probably on Saturday.  As people will look back upon this nomination they will certainly discover that this was NOT one of America's finest moments.  It can only be hoped that what happened with this nomination is not setting a trend for future nominations not only to the Supreme Court but to other governmental appointments. 


Last week two articles came across my desk.  One was an editorial, written by Ron Way who lives in Edina, MN, that was published in the September 23 edition of the "StarTribune."  The editorial was titled, "What Churches Get Wrong [and how to repopulate them]."  The second was an article, written by Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Ministries located in Georgia, that was published by Fox News.  It was titled, "Five reasons people leave the church."  This article can be found at: www.foxnews.com/opinions/2018/09/23/five-reasons-people-leave-church


Both Mr. Way and Pastor Stanley are looking at the growing concern of people leaving American churches today.  As Mr. Way looks at the churches of today he describes the scene of abandonment by many this way: "Sure, folks are busy.  But there's something more basic: The church, broadly, has been hijacked by TV scammers, narrow-interest evangelicals and unending sex scandal.  Too, the church has largely stuck with Sunday school scripture by anecdote and has failed to remain relevant to society's altered priorities.  Frankly, the institutional church has itself to blame.  In a period of social divide and gathering doubts, it's a bit puzzling why so many mainline churches seem mired in orthodoxy and creedal dogma that take us on Sunday morning jaunts through antiquity before sending us out and into today."  Later in the editorial he would write, "Mainline churches too often take the Bible wildly out of context, spread misinformation (no, Jesus did not oppose gay marriage, and it was Romans, not Jews, who crucified Jesus as a Galilean insurrectionist), and insist the Bible was divinely inspired.  As more people peeked behind the curtain as I did, they see a church tied to ancient myth while missing the larger messages for today."  One of Mr. Way's criticisms of the church is that it is "mired" in the scriptures.  He states that is one of the problems that is causing people to leave the church. 


But is proclaiming the Scriptures really the problem?  I am presently teaching a class here at my church on Church History.  It has been a fascinating journey filled with those moments of "Wow! can you believe that!" to moments of "You have got to be kidding."  And yet the Bible was proclaimed.  But something was wrong then, and something is wrong today.  The Bible was preached but it was never made relevant to the needs of the people.  The Bible was proclaimed in a sterile environment.  People never made the connection between what the Bible said and how it was to be lived out in their very lives.  


Furthermore, if the Bible is simply a collection of ancient myths, legends, and fables, as Mr. Way contends, then how can it purport to be relevant to our lives today.  I can read the stories of the ancient Babylonian legends but find no connection between those stories and real life today.  I can read the ancient stories that were a part of the Egyptian history, but again, find no connection between those stories and real life today.  So, if I only believe the Bible to be a collection of myths and legends, then it follows that I really cannot make a relevant connection between those stories and the world in which my congregation and I live.  My understanding of the Bible creates the framework for my proclamation of the Bible.  


But, what if the Bible really does relate to us God's Story?  What if the Bible really does tell us of actual people, living in an actual time period, and facing actual problems and difficulties in life?  If those are true, then the Bible takes on a relevancy for life today. 


So, as I read Mr. Way's editorial I was affirmed with two truths.  First, I affirmed that the Bible is the inerrant, inspired, infallible, authoritative Word of God.  I affirmed that God created the heavens and the earth.  I affirmed that God appeared to Moses in a burning bush.  I affirmed that fire fell from heaven when Elijah prayed.  I affirmed that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin and that He died upon a cross and rose three days later from the dead.  Basically I affirmed that the Bible is true!  Second, I affirmed that I MUST proclaim Biblical truth and make it relevant to the times in which we live.  It was not just good enough for the prophets to say "thus says the Lord" to their generation, but they MUST say "thus says the Lord" to our generation.  So, as much as I struggled with many of Mr. Way's points, I have to say that I believe he had a strong point to make and I appreciated the reminder.


Andy Stanley approached this topic of people leaving the church from a different viewpoint.  He states in his article, "Many people see Christianity as anti-intellectual, overly simplistic, and easily discredited.  For decades, college professors with biases against religion have found Christian freshmen easy targets.  Much of what makes American Christianity so resistible to those outside the faith are things we should have been resisting all along.  While many of us have been working hard to make church more interesting, it turns out that fewer people are actually interested."  He then proceeds to share five reasons why people are leaving the church. 


"1.  We tell people that the Bible is the basis of Christianity."  I must confess that I struggled with this thought.  Yet, the more I pondered what Dr. Stanley was saying, the more I had to agree with Him.  Yes, we need to hold the Bible up as our standard of Truth, but the Bible must never replace our focus upon Jesus Christ.  For He alone is the true basis for our faith. 


"2.  They believe suffering disproves the existence of God. ... But the foundation of our faith is not a world without suffering.  Pain and suffering don't disprove the existence of God.  It only disproves the existence of a god who doesn't allow pain and suffering."


"3.  They had a bad church experience."  I have witnessed this many times over the 46-plus years I have been in the ministry.  Those bad experiences are not easily forgotten or overcome.


"4.  We're bad at making people feel welcome. ... It wasn't just his message that made Jesus irresistible.  It was Jesus himself.  People who were nothing like him, liked him.  And Jesus liked people who were nothing like him.  Jesus invited unbelieving, misbehaving, troublemaking men and women to follow him and to embrace something new, and they accepted his invitation." 


"5.  We made 'ekklesia' (the church) a building. ... 'Ekklesia' was not, and is not, a religious term.  It does not mean church or house of the Lord.  It certainly shouldn't be associated with a temple.  The term was used widely to describe a gathering, assembly, civic gatherings, or an assemble of soldiers.  Or as was the case in Acts 19, an assembly of rioting idol manufacturers.  An 'ekklesia' was a gathering of people for a specific purpose.  Any specific purpose.  It's not a building.  It's not a physical location.  It's a group of people.  It's a lot easier to stop showing up at a place than it is to disconnect from a group of people who intimately know, love, and support each other."


Two writers, each looking at the decline of the American Church but through differing lenses.  Yet there is much we can learn from each viewpoint.  I appreciate the way Dr. Stanley closed his article: "If we want people to stop leaving the church - if we want Christianity to be irresistible again to the world - then maybe it's time to take another look at the movement Jesus started 2,000 years ago."  To that I would say a rousing "Amen!" 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A Brazen Attack upon the Constitution by the Left

Tomorrow the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a special meeting to question Dr. Christina Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh.  Dr. Ford has alleged that, while in high school some three decades ago, she was sexually assaulted by Judge Kavanaugh.  Those whom she has recalled being present at the time of the alleged assault do not themselves recall being there.  There is no corroborative witnesses; there is no corroborative evidence.  To date Dr. Ford has not been placed under oath to share here story; that being placed under oath is to occur tomorrow.  I am grateful that Dr. Ford will have this opportunity, as will Judge Kavanaugh. 


But here is where my anger kicks in, friends.  Why is the burden of proof being placed upon Judge Kavanaugh to show his innocence?  Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said, "We have a constitutional duty to get to the bottom of these allegations.  They are serious and credible.  And now, the person with the most knowledge about them, namely, Judge Brett Karanaugh, has a responsibility to come forward with evidence to rebut them."  Really!  You have to be kidding!  This is not the way our judicial system has worked so well these many years.  In American jurisprudence, a person is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. I have watched enough Perry Mason and Matlock shows to know that a client always enters a plea of "not guilty."  That is his/her constitutional privilege.  The burden of proof rests upon the prosecutor with the presentation of evidence to support the accusation, and only then, does the burden of proof rest upon the defense team to refute that evidence and to enter additional evidence in support of the accused.


Yet, even with the complete lack of any evidence to support her allegations, the Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have fully believed her story.  The mainstream media members have trumpeted her story as if it was the only story worth knowing.  And, if polls are to be believed, a growing number of Americans have believed the mainstream media reports and believed Dr. Ford rather than Judge Kavanaugh.  The clamor is for the FBI to investigate these allegations.  But what is the FBI to investigate?  No criminal complaint was ever filed by Dr. Ford after the alleged assault.  No threats were ever lodged against Dr. Ford by Judge Kavanaugh over the years.  There is no evidence to even warrant an investigation.  The reason for the continued clamoring for an FBI investigation is simply to delay the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to a seat on the United States Supreme Court.


What adds to my anger of what is happening is that those who want an FBI investigation are those who have already said they fully believe Dr. Ford's story and have been on public record as opposing Judge Kavanaugh's nomination since it occurred in July.  It would make no difference to them to have an investigation by the FBI and to have as its final report that Judge Kavanaugh was never involved in this alleged incident; they would not change their vote.  Yes, they have the right to vote no.  That right is accorded to them under the Constitution of the United States.  But, those who desire to vote yes also have a constitutional right to do so.  Right now, that right is being impeded. 


I have not heard Senator Feinstein request those 65 women, who have worked alongside of Judge Kavanaugh and have known him these many years, to come and testify.  Sixty-five women - that is a significant number who have knowledge of the character and conduct of Judge Kavanaugh.  But, does their testimony count for anything?  Of course not because those women's stories do not agree with the outcome Senator Feinstein and her allies desire: the derailing of this nomination.  Friends, if you are going to request testimonial evidence - which, right now, in this case, is basically hearsay evidence as there is a lack of physical evidence - then seek the complete testimonial evidence.  Yes, invite Dr. Ford and those one or two others who have allegedly come forward with accusations.  But also invite as many of those 65 other women to testify as are able to come and do so.  That is the American way of jurisprudence.  But sadly it seems to be lacking in this case. 


Ultimately, friends, this is a Constitutional matter.  On Monday night, Tucker Carlson, a Fox Channel news host, shared a monologue which appeared in written form on Tuesday.  This monologue can be found at: www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/09/25/tucker-carlson-kavanaugh-chaos-if-youre=republican-may-be-wondering-why-should-bother-to-vote.   This is an article that every American needs to read.  It is alarming!  Allow me to share five brief sentences from Mr. Tucker's monologue: "If the Bill of Rights doesn't apply to Brett Kavanaugh, it probably doesn't apply to you, either. ... It's not just Kavanaugh under assault.  Elected officials have announced they no longer believe in our Western understanding of justice.  There's no precedent for that.  It's stunning."


Last week, Thomas Gallatin wrote an editorial that was published by the Patriot Post.  It is found at: www.patriotpost.us/articles/58294-democrats-assault-the-constitution-over-kavanaugh.  This is another highly recommended article to be read.  Mr. Gallatin writes: "Democrats' calls to immediately halt the confirmation vote on Kavanaugh in order to investigate this allegation undermine the very spirit of the Constitution and the American judicial system.  The foundational concept of 'innocent until proven guilty' is what has made the U.S. justice system the envy of the world.  Democrats are pushing the dangerously flaws concept of assuming guilt based solely on the seriousness of the accusation and then demanding that the accused prove his innocence.  Make no mistake, this is an assault on the Constitution - and today is, ironically, Constitution Day."


So, what can we do as Christians?  It is time that we join hands in praying for that Senate Judiciary Committee hearing tomorrow.  To pray for Senator Grassley as he chairs that committee.  For Judge Kavanaugh and his family as they endure another day of accusations.  For Judge Kavanaugh to be open and transparent with the committee members.  And that a decision will be reached, not based upon a political mindset, but upon the truth that is revealed.  I invite you to join with me in prayer tomorrow morning as these hearings begin.  God is still in control.  And I know His purposes will be accomplished.  Thanks for praying. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Whatever Happened to Innocent Until Proven Guilty?

I am leaving for a conference in Greensboro, NC tomorrow morning so decided to get my blog out early this week.  The conference several of the leaders from our church are attending is a D6 Conference.  D6 stands for Deuteronomy 6, a passage that refers to the challenge to parents to disciple their own children.  I am looking forward to going and being challenged to help do just that with many of the families within my congregation. 


I am not sure how you are responding to the events surrounding the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court, but I have become angry in my spirit.  I can almost imagine what that special Judiciary Committee hearing on Monday will be like.  It will be partisan and contentious.  Angry voices will be heard.  Diatribes will be offered by senators.  Dialogue will be absent and decorum not present.  This has all the bearings of the 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill. 


This entire last-minute desperation act by Senator Feinstein is just that - desperation.  She has known of this story since last July.  She had numerous opportunities to address this alleged act with Judge Kavanaugh both in private conversations as well as during the public hearings.  But she said nothing until the hearings were over.  Then she brings out this alleged "smoking gun."  Why?  Because she saw that Judge Kavanaugh had conducted himself with decorum and class during the confirmation hearings.  He did not become argumentative.  He held firmly to his beliefs that a judge should not make law, only interpret law according to the dictates of the Constitution.  She and her Democratic allies had to do something to derail this man from serving on the Court. 


Here is what is so sad to me and what makes me angry in my spirit.  Judge Kavanaugh has been tried and found guilty in the eyes of many of the members of the Senate and in the eyes of the media.  To listen to the mainstream media, Judge Kavanaugh should withdraw his name from consideration, not withstanding his own assertions of innocence.  According to the Constitution, a person is presumed to be innocent until he or she is found to be guilty.  This has been the legal discourse that has made the American system of jurisprudence so special.  But that discourse does not apply in the case with Judge Kavanaugh it would seem. 


Friends, aren't you glad that somehow in the process of life we finally do grow up.  We are not what we once were.  I think of those stories of our heroes from the Bible.  Take Abraham for example.  Because of fear he placed his wife in a difficult place not once but twice.  We almost could accuse Abraham of spousal abuse today because of that.  Yet God gave some powerful promises to Abraham.  Take David as another example.  David was the king, yet he violated God's commands by having an adulterous relationship with not just another man's wife, but the wife of one of his closest advisors and friends; then having that friend put in a position within a battle where he would knowingly be killed.  Yet God gave to David the promise of an eternal throne.  Let's look at another example, this time from the New Testament.  How about Peter: impulsive, impetuous, a denier of his Lord.  Yet God uses Peter to become the leader of the Church. 


If each of these men were living today and were being considered for a leadership role each would probably be denied not because of something "allegedly" done in their past, but knowingly done.  I can hear the voices of the confirmation hearings on Abraham challenging him on why he abused his wife by putting her into harms way.  Perhaps David might be excused for his sexual indiscretions because, after all, we have had experience of Presidents doing something very similar. 


People can change and I am eternally grateful for that powerful truth.  God changes people's lives.  If one would carefully examine the life of Judge Kavanaugh with care, one will notice that he has a strong record of moral decency and community service that is impeccable.  Many are those who would come forward to substantiate his decency as a man, as a husband, as a father, and as a judge.  This is who he is.  And it is upon this fact that the confirmation of this man either rises or falls. 


I will be praying that truth will be revealed at those hearings on Monday.  That there will be civility in the dialogue.  That the United States Senate will rediscover the roots that have made it the august body that it has been historically.  That at the close of those hearings there will be clarity on how to move forward.  And I know you will join me in that prayer.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Of Weather, the Palestinians, and Nike

This is beginning to look like it will be a very active hurricane season for both the Atlantic and Pacific regions as well as the Caribbean coastlines.  As Hurricane Florence continues its migration toward the regions of Coastal Carolina, gaining strength with each surpassing hour, two other hurricanes are forming in the Atlantic, and a strong low-pressure system is forming in the Caribbean that might impact the Texas coast.  Meanwhile Hawaii is being threatened with its third hurricane of the season: Hector, Lane, and now Olivia.  It is almost as if the storms are lining up on both coasts just taking turns in causing devastation.


Then there are the increase in the frequency of earthquakes, such that they are hardly reported in the news any longer.  It almost takes a catastrophic quake to make the major news sources.  Then I saw a picture of giraffes standing in snow as a almost-unheard-of snowfall occurred in Africa.  It seems the weather patterns are following a path that is less than normal.  I keep returning to those words of Jesus to His disciples as they asked about the end of days.  He said that there would be earthquakes and famines in diverse places.  And I remember reading the Apostle Paul's words to the Roman believers about how creation moans awaiting its redemption (see Romans 8).  There seems to be a lot of moaning taking place right now, and it is growing in its intensity. 


There are two news stories that I want to focus upon this week.  The first is the decision that the Trump Administration made on Monday to close the offices of the Palestine Liberation Organization, also known as the PLO, in Washington, DC.  Two reasons were given for its closure.  First, the failure on the part of the Palestinian Leadership to participate in meaningful negotiations with the Israelis seeking to finalize some type of two-state solution.  Second, the continued threat of the PLO to take Israel before the International Criminal Court (the ICC) and charge them with war crimes because of the actions in the conflict with Hamas in Gaza.  Neither the United States nor Israel recognize the existence of the ICC.


In addition the United States has moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thus recognizing that city as the capital of Israel.  The United States has severely reduced its funding to UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency) which has overseen the care of those Palestinian refugees since the 1948 war of independence.  This follows the drastic cuts in funding given to the Palestinian Authority itself.  That number of refugees has grown from nearly 700,000 in 1948 to over 5 million today.  And days ago the United States cut its funding for hospitals in East Jerusalem.  It is the hope that such financial cuts would bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table in good faith.  Instead the response from PLO leadership has been defiance and determination to proceed with their case against Israel in the ICC. 


I was asked recently my response to these decisions by the Trump State Department leaders.  I have applauded the move of the United States Embassy to Jerusalem.  Friends, it should have been done years  before, but everyone thought that such a move might be the catalyst for World War III.  Well, now that it has been done, we are not in that type of war.  And I have applauded the drastic cuts in American taxpayer dollars going to a Palestinian leadership that rewards those who kill Israelis.  And I applaud the continued pressure - both financially and diplomatically - being placed upon Palestinian President Abbas in order for him to see the reality of the world in which he lives.  Will these actions bring the intended consequence?  I guess only time will tell.  Israel is certainly not a perfect state filled with perfect leaders, but then again neither is the United States - if the stories we hear coming out of Washington are correct.  But Israel has always been our closest and most dependable ally in that stormy region of the world.  I saw a T-shirt while in Israel this past spring that read: "Don't worry America, Israel has your back."  Do we have Israel's back?  For the present moment, I think it is safe to say that we do.


The second story is one that truly grieves me.  It is the decision that the leadership at Nike made to have Colin Kaepernick be the spokesman for their "Just Do It" campaign.  Colin Kaepernick was the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers a few years ago.  He had a fleeting moment of glory, then his flower began to fade.  Last year, Colin Kaepernick decided to take a knee in protest as the national anthem was being played.  Soon other NFL players joined with him in this protest against cruelty by police departments across our country toward blacks.  Football fans were caught in this storm of protest.  Attendance at NFL games began to plunge.  Television ratings dropped like lead sinkers on the end of a fish line.  Talk show hosts pontificated over the merits and demerits of what these Colin Kaepernick inspired players were doing.  Many felt that such a protest against the American flag was almost a sacrilege to those who fought and died defending that flag and the nation it represented. 


In spite of these strong feelings on the part of average Americans, Nike announced that Colin Kaepernick would be the face of the new "Just Do It" campaign.  In the commercial, Mr. Kaepernick says, "Believe in something.  Even if it means sacrificing everything."  I ask myself this question: What has Mr. Kaepernick sacrificed?  He is presently unemployed, which may say more about his football skills than about his protest.  When I heard that statement, friends, I wanted to say to him, "Mr. Kaepernick, if you want to know what it means to sacrifice everything, then let me take you to any of the national cemeteries that dot the American landscape.  Let's begin at Arlington.  Mr. Kaepernick, there are rows and rows and more rows of crosses that mark the graves of those who truly sacrificed everything.  Mr. Kaepernick, let me show you those opening scenes from that incredible movie 'Saving Private Ryan' as American forces hit the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.  Now that is sacrificing everything.  Mr. Kaepernick, if you feel you need to protest, then choose a different way than desecrating our nation's flag and its national anthem.  For as that national anthem so pointedly proclaims: 'This star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.'" 


The leaders at Nike have every right to select whom they desire to be their spokes person.  But I applaud those schools that have chosen to no longer use the Nike brand as the athletic wear of their choice.  And I agree with the letter from the National Association of Police Organizations and their president Michael McHale asking their members to boycott all Nike products. 


One final item worthy of news is the release of photographs and an accompanying story that trumpeted the appearance of the red-heifer in Israel.  This calf has been fully authenticated and certified by Jewish rabbis as being a fully red-heifer.  This is a major story as it relates to the last days.  According to Number 19, a red heifer was sacrificed and its ashes were mixed with water to form the agent that would purify those articles used within the tabernacle.  According to the news source, a red heifer has not been born for the past 2000 years.  If this calf truly is the red heifer, that means that the Jewish religious leaders have an animal which can be sacrificed and then burned, with those ashes being used to purify those implements for use in the third temple; which, by the way, are now completely built - I have seen them with my own eyes while in Jerusalem.  With the birth of this red heifer we are one step closer to the return of the Lord Jesus.  And I will say a full and loud "Amen!" to that. 


And to my Jewish friends I do want to wish you a "shana tova" as the new year begins. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

A Congressional Brawl and a Conflicted Church

Yesterday confirmation hearings for President Trump's nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to be an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court began.  Even before the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Senator Charles Grassley, could gavel the hearing's beginning, several Democratic senators boisterously demanded that the hearings be halted because of the lack of sufficient time to read the documents representing Judge Kavanaugh's extensive judicial portfolio.  Yet more documentation has been provided about Judge Kavanaugh than any other Supreme Court appointment in American history.  And, those that requested even more information were senators who had already gone on record as opposing Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation. 


But, as I watched some of the video from that opening day, what grieved my heart was the complete lack of civility within that hearing room.  Seventy people were arrested by Capital Hill Police because of unlawful demonstrations.  The vitriol became so intense that Judge Kavanaugh's wife had to usher their two daughters from the hearing room in order to spare them from hearing what was being said about her husband and their father.  How sad that at a moment in which a family should take incredible pride, there will only be memories of slanderous words being used against those girls' father.  What an image of American democracy at work - or should I say, a failure of that democracy to work as the Founding Fathers envisioned it.


Yes, there is a need for a hearing on this appointment.  Yes, there is a strong need to have dialogue on the issues.  But, Americans today have forgotten how to have a dialogue.  But we certainly have lots of practice in having arguments complete with vicious slander and name-calling.  We have created a society where "I am right and you are wrong" becomes the dominant theme.  We no longer listen with open minds or open hearts because our minds and hearts are already cemented in what we believe to be right.  Truth is no longer applicable as there is no longer an absolute standard of truth.


We hear arguments that Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation will mean the end of Roe v. Wade.  But Judge Kavanaugh has made it abundantly clear in previous decisions that he strongly holds to legal precedent.  That means that Roe v. Wade will not suddenly disappear under the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh any more than it did under the confirmations of Judges Thomas, Roberts, and Alito.  The threat of overthrowing Roe v. Wade simply does not hold water any longer. 


Hearings continue through the remainder of this week.  One can only imagine the intense grilling this man will have to endure before he is confirmed.  After watching a portion of yesterday's Congressional brawl, I wonder who, in their right mind, would want to be a public servant?  Oh the depths to which America has plunged. 


There is a second momentous event that is shaking the foundations of American beliefs.  This concerns the continued exposure of decades of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.  I read a fascinating article in the National Review, written by David French, and published on August 27.  It is titled, "Protestants Should Care Deeply about the Catholic Catastrophe."  Allow me to quote a few paragraphs from this article:


"As I watch the crisis engulfing the Catholic Church, an analogy one of my pastors once made comes to mind.  It will likely make some of my Catholic friends uncomfortable, but it's helpful for understanding the way many Protestants view the larger body of Christ, the 'Holy Catholic Church' of the Apostles' Creed, so here goes: The Church is like a navy, a collection of ships united in purpose and in destination.  Each denomination is like a different ship in that navy, and while each crew is primarily tasked with the health and well-being of its own vessel, it's also deeply invested in the strength of the fleet.  Each vessel is more vulnerable as the fleet weakens.  Each vessel is stronger surrounded by its protective armada.


"If the analogy holds, then one of the mightiest battleships in the fleet, the Catholic Church, is taking torpedoes left and right.  It's now rocked by allegations of wrongdoing that go all the way to the Vatican, to the pope himself. .... Protestants cannot and must not view these events with a kind of detachment or distance, for numerous reasons.


"First, we cannot forget that each and every revelation of abuse is the revelation of a life-altering (and sometimes life-shattering) event for the victim and a faith-crippling moment for friends, family, and countless others.  Second, given the plethora of recent sexual scandals in Evangelical churches and seminaries, the Catholic catastrophe should remind us that perhaps only the lack of an equivalent hierarchy has spared Evangelical churches from similar, systemic sin.  'Our' scandals are more fragmented only because our churches are more fragmented.  Yet the entire church should be galvanized by what's happened and diligently consider the extent to which our own congregations are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.


"Third, reputational harm to the church can sweep far and wide - well beyond the guilty parties themselves.  No one should presume that in an increasingly secular world our fellow citizens can so easily discern the good guys and the bad guys.


"Finally, and critically, there are immense theological stakes for the larger church.  While condemnation of child abuse is universal, the recent spate of claims of consensual sex between two priests or between priests and other adults is leading once again to confrontation along the old fault lines, between traditionalists and those who seek greater 'inclusion.'"


David French concludes his article with these words: "It's fashionable for modern Christians to slide past the Old Testament and linger on the New.  But as secular and religious institutions collapse around us, it's hard to escape the feeling that we live in a period of Old Testament-style rebellion against God.  Our Catholic cathedrals and suburban mega-churches alike are shot-through with the same sins that pollute the world.  None of us has the luxury of believing 'our' institutions are safe or that 'our side' of the Christian divide has adequately guarded itself against the demonic spirit that stalks the land.  Ships in the Christian armada are ablaze.  We must not simply sail on and leave them to their fate."


Friends, Jesus admonished His disciples that there were to be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves."  Yet He also stated that "the gates of hell would not prevail against the church."  Jesus never promised that the Church would have an easy road.  Since its inception on that Day of Pentecost so many years ago, it has been the recipient of Satan's broadsides.  Yet we have this sure and certain promise from the Savior Himself - "in the world you will have tribulations, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world."  This does not mean that we can be apathetic about what is happening around us.  Instead it means that we need to guard with more diligence and care those foundational truths that have been entrusted to us (see Jude 3).  Yes, we are in a war...but we know how the war ends!  Hallelujah for that great truth!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Death of a Hero and the State of Politics

This past weekend America lost one of its heroes from the Vietnam War Era.  I remember seeing those pictures of John McCain arriving back in California after being held in the "Hanoi Hilton" for over five years.  His survival did not come without a moment of breakdown when, after days of severe beatings, he signed an anti-United States propaganda sheet.  He later wrote, "I had learned what we all learned over there.  Every man has his breaking point.  I had reached mine."  He continued, "It was as a prisoner that I fell in love with my country.  I had loved her before then, but like most young people, my affection was little more than a simple appreciation for the comforts and privileges most Americans took for granted.  It wasn't until I had lost America for a time that I realized how much I loved her." 


John McCain would serve as the distinguished Senator from the state of Arizona for several decades.  He ran for the office of President of the United States on two occasions.  In 2000 he lost in the Republican primaries to George W Bush, and then in 2008, although winning the Republican nomination, he was defeated by Barak Obama.  In recent years he became an outspoken critic of many of the policies of President Trump.  Although he was a Republican, he often was viewed as being more of an Independent. 


In yesterday's Minneapolis Star-Tribune newspaper, there was an editorial written by Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times.  He wrote, "After his cancer-diagnosis, McCain wrote in his recent memoir that because his career was nearing its end, 'I'm freer than colleagues who will face the voters again.  I can speak my mind without fearing the consequences much.  And I can vote my conscience without worry.'"  McManus then writes, "Have three sadder sentences ever been written about American politics?"


If John McCain felt that way, then there must be about another 534 men and women in Washington who also can express similar thoughts.  What is the state of politics in America today?  I have in my library a book written by Joseph Ellis and titled, "An American Creation."  It is the story of the writing of the United States Constitution.  It is an amazing story.  Gathered in Philadelphia were a group of the most independent, strong-willed thinkers perhaps ever assembled on American soil.  They were tasked with the responsibility of finding a better way of governing America as the Articles of Confederation had proven to be inadequate.  Under the leadership of a young man from Virginia, named James Madison, a new concept began to emerge.  Oh the incredible debates that occurred within those committees and upon the floor of that convention.  Yet, what that group of men had that I find sadly missing in the halls of Congress today was the determination to find a solution that would actually make America a stronger union.  And in order for that to be achieved, these men - as strong-willed and independent as they were - compromised many of their aspirations.  Thus one of the greatest documents ever written in the English language was created - a document that has become the model for scores of nations who have sought to become independent and self-governing. 


Very seldom do we hear the word "compromise" today when it comes to political dialogue.  Instead we draw the proverbial "red line" and refuse to cross it.  I understand that each party holds to its own distinctive philosophical leanings.  The two party system is one of America's strengths and it has been since the election of 1800.  Whatever happened to asking the question, "What really is best for our country?" instead of "What is best for my party?"  Debate - yes we need that, and the more lively the debate, the better for everyone.  Freedom to speak what is upon one's heart - absolutely, for it is safe-guarded in that Bill of Rights.  But when the time for debate is closed, it is time for the dialogue to begin with this question ever before those who represent us: What is best for America and for Americans? 


Speaking of democracy, the mainstream media, in fact, most media today have failed to chronicle what is happening in South Africa.  A friend of mine sent me the following article that opened my eyes to an impending tragedy that I was unaware of.  The article was written by Robin Smith and can be found at: www.patriotpost.us/articles/57883-south-africa-when-social-justice-becomes-theft.  let me quote a few paragraphs from this article.  "It's South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, working with the communist African National Congress, who is proposing changes to that nation's constitution to take land from white farmers.  Those farmers are the descendants of the European colonists who first settled the region and fought subsequent battles for the geographically favorable land at the southern-most tip of the African continent.  Ramaphosa is working to collectivize and control the country's farming infrastructure.


"But why?  Why would a nation ranked 77th in the world by The Heritage Foundation's 2018 Index of Economic Freedom, with relatively positive commentary about the improved investments and reduction in tax burdens and trade barriers, seek to turn an entire sector of its economy into a state-controlled industry by the confiscation of private property to be reassigned to other owners?


"In the name of social justice, the president of a nation with a very high unemployment rate of over 25% has determined that the remedy to its out-of-work blacks (almost 30%) is to change its 'laws' to permit the theft of legally possessed land of white farmers to redistribute the possession to nonwhite citizens.  And, you might be asking, what crime has the white citizen population committed that has been supported by evidence and convicted in a court of law to have such restitution enforced as part of an act of justice?  Good question.


"Has this ever occurred?  Surely, such tyrannical behavior has no place in modern-day history!  Well, um, South Africa's neighbor had its own 'Land Reform' back in 1980 and it kinda didn't work out so well.  Zimbabwe, as described by Wikipedia, engaged in 'an effort to more equitably distribute land between black subsistence farmers and white Zimbabweans of European ancestry ... to alter the ethnic balance of land ownership.'  From its beginnings, the program paid white farmers of European descent for their land.  When this money ran out, the Zimbabwe government engaged in a 'fast track' program to take the properties with no compensation.  Not only were political structures shaken, the banking system was rocked with violence spurred by the natural conflict of government-sanctioned theft.  That was followed by food shortages and two decades of economic loss, all in the name of some manufactured social justice."


The policy of "taking from the rich to give to the poor" has seldom worked.  Yes, the stories of Robin Hood glamorize that idea, but Robin Hood's efforts soon lost their steam.  In 1917 Communists took over the Russian State imposing harsh economic policies where equality was mandated.  People lived on collectivized farms or worked in collectivized factories.  They lived in apartment complexes that all looked alike.  Yet, even hard-core Communist leaders realized that de-incentivizing people led only to unrest and economic collapse; thus the revolution of the late 1980's when the Iron Curtain was torn down. 


When a government or a society takes from its rich and gives to its poor two things happen, both of which are bad.  First, there is no longer any incentive to begin factories or to own shops or to advance oneself economically because your wealth is no longer your own, it belongs to someone else - in all likelihood the government.  Why should any entrepreneur invest "blood, sweat, toil, and tears" to increase his profit-margin when someone will take it away?  Second, just to give money to the poor without holding them accountable is simply instilling within them the mentality of entitlement; that they are owed.  If I am given money, why should I look for a job?  If I am given money, why should I seek to advance myself? 


Free college education - sounds great, but who is going to pay for it?  Are America's colleges and university faculty and staff suddenly going to work for nothing?  I hardly think so.  So, where does the money come to pay them?  Free medical care - sounds great, but who is going to pay for it?  Are America's physicians and hospitals suddenly going to work for nothing?  I hardly think so.  So, where does the money come to pay them?  It can't come from the poor because they have no money; therefore, it can only come from those who are creating wealth.  Socialism becomes a very slippery slope that ends within a gigantic puddle of mud. 


Friends, as strongly as I oppose any thought of socialism, I do believe it is on the horizon because the Scriptures state clearly that after the Church has been raptured away, there will be a one-world government, a one-world economy, a one-world system.  Yet, in the end this, too, will fail when the King of kings and Lord of lords arrives and creates a kingdom based upon the principles of God.  Oh what a day that will be!
 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Banning of Truth Has Serious Consequences

I never cease to marvel at the attempts of the world to snuff out the light of the Truth.  This past July, Marlys and I spent 23 days living in Fredericksburg, Virginia - right in the Bible-belt.  In fact, as we drove hundreds of miles through the winding Virginia back-country roads and through small towns and villages, we commented on how we saw more churches than bars.  While in Fredericksburg we were privileged to attend three churches - very different each from the other - but whose message was that of Truth. 


So I was surprised to read a report from Todd Starnes this past week about a pastor living in Fredericksburg who faced eviction from his apartment because he was leading a Bible study in his home.  You can find the article posted at: www.patriotpost.us/opinions/57702-pastor-faces-eviction-for-hosting-home-bible-study.  "A semi-retired Lutheran minister in Fredericksburg, Virginia, faces the possibility of being evicted from a senior living community because he's been hosting a small Bible study in the privacy of his apartment, his attorney alleges.  First Liberty Institute, a law firm that specializes in religious liberty cases, is representing Pastor Ken Hauge.  They accused the management of  The Evergreens at Smith Run of a pattern of verbal abuse and harassment directed at Christians who live in the complex.


"'The threat of eviction follows repeated religious discrimination by Evergreens management, including forcing Hauge to refer to his event as a "Book Review" rather than a "Bible Study,"' First Liberty attorney Hiram Sasser wrote in a letter to the corporate owner of the community.  Sasser told the 'Todd Starnes Radio Show' that management also withdrew support of a social event because a resident said grace over a meal.  It also banned all religious activities from the community room.  He is calling on Evergreens to rescind the eviction threat, rescind the rule banning religious activities from the community room, and stop the harassment of people of faith.


"Pastor Hauge's troubles with management began in early 2017 when a group of about 20 residents asked him to lead a nondenominational Bible study in the community room.  That gathering eventually moved to a private apartment.  Management initially approved of the gathering provided the participants call it a 'Book Review' meeting instead of a 'Bible Study.'  In 2018 management relented after a resident complained to corporate headquarters. ... On July 23 residents received a notice that the community room was off-limits to future religious activities.  Bingo and poker were permissible; prayer was not.  On that same day Pastor Hauge and his wife were threatened with an eviction notice.  'The notice threatened to terminate the Hauge's lease and evict them unless Hauge stopped leading the Bible study entirely, either in his private apartment or in the community room,' Sasser said."


Friends, I am shocked but not surprised as I read this article.  Talking about the Bible is off-limits in many public spaces these days.  Truth has been dis-invited into the public arenas.  There is a general fear of what the Truth might expose, thus affirming what Jesus said in John 3 that "men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed" (John 3:19-20).  But it is sad that a person cannot have a Bible study within his or her home without the fear of violating some organizational rule or community ordinance. 


Speaking of Truth or the lack of Truth, one of the consequences is the rise of anxious, depressed college students.  I found this interesting article at The College Fix website: www.thecollegefix.com/post/47900.  The article was written by Katie Anderson.  Allow me to share just a portion of this thought-provoking article with you. 


"Yale University recently expanded its mental health services to meet an ever-growing need for student counseling, adding this summer four clinicians and three new psychiatrists to handle the caseload.  Yale is not alone.  The number of college students looking to counseling for help for mental health struggles is drastically increasing across the nation, according to studies, campus counselors, and many recent news reports. 


"'Data over the past five years from counseling centers nationwide have shown that the top two reasons students come for counseling are anxiety and depression,' Karen Nakayama, director of the Counseling Center at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, told The College Fix.  'Currently, anxiety is number one and depression is second.  In the past, depression was first and anxiety was second,' she said, adding the spike in students seeking help may be due in part to efforts 'destigmatizing mental health services with students.'


"According to an article published in Scientific American, 'At Northwestern University, it can take up to three weeks to get a counseling appointment.  At Washington University in St. Louis, the wait time runs nearly 13 days, on average, in the fall semester. ... At the University of Washington in Seattle, delays in getting care are so routine, the wait time is posted online; it's consistently hovered between two and three weeks in recent months.'


"Why are so many young adults anxious and depressed?  'I think college students are facing different pressures recently,' Krystalyn Geissler, who is currently getting her Master's degree in psychology at the University of New Mexico, told The College Fix via email.  'A few decades ago, a person could work a part-time job and afford [...] to get a college degree on those wages.  Now, this is definitely not the case,' she said.  ... Students are also often stressed about what job their degree will land them after they graduate.  'Another stressor is that a Bachelor's degree does not go as far as it used to.  Many times a person needs several years of experience on top of a Bachelor's degree to get paid a starting wage of around $12 [...] a lot of students work long hours, sometimes at multiple jobs, to pay for a degree that many not feel like it is worth it,' Geissler said."


This article failed to include that I believe to be a primary cause of anxiety and depression among college-aged young people today.  That cause is the absence of any clearly defined moral and ethical foundation within their lives.  They have grown up in a culture that has said to them that they are the most important people in the world.  In many cases, parents have either wittingly or unwittingly accommodated that thinking pattern.  Rarely have they said "no" to any of the expressed wishes of their children.  Difficulties at school, now it is the teacher who shoulders the parental wrath and blame.  A child learns that there are no consequences to wrong behavior - someone will be there to "bail you out."  Many within this generation are easily offended when someone says something that they disagree with, and, because they have never learned the art of dialogue, all they know how to do is to scream "I am offended!  You are wrong!  I am right!" 


What has happened?  We have removed ourselves from the Truth that is found within the Word of God and within a relationship with Jesus Christ.  The Bible IS the Word of God.  The Bible DOES NOT contain the opinions of God.  The Bible IS Truth.  The Bible is NOT simply a collection of God's personal ideas.  And, whenever we separate ourselves from Scripture we separate ourselves from Truth - a Truth that provides stability and encouragement within a world that seems to be spinning out of control.  In the absence of Truth, anxiety levels do rise.  My anxiety-level drops when I know that God is in control.  My anxiety-level drops when I realize that 'truth sets me free." 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Two Powerful Articles That Identify What America is Becoming

Todd Starnes, a contributor to Fox News and one of those people who keeps a close watch on the moral structure of our nation, wrote an interesting article published last week.  You can find the article at: www.toddstarnes.com/faith/army-chaplain-faces-possible-court-martial-over-religious-beliefs.  "A decorated Army chaplain at Fort Bragg in North Carolina could face a possible court martial and even military prison after he explained to a soldier he could not conduct a marriage retreat that included same-sex couples because of his religious beliefs, his attorneys allege.  An Army investigator under the command of Major General Kurt Sonntag recommended that Chaplain Scott Squires be found guilty of 'dereliction of duty' for taking three business days to reschedule the 'Strong Bonds' marriage retreat he was prohibited from facilitating.  Squires, who was officially accused of discrimination, is endorsed by the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board (NAMB).


"According to NAMB policy, chaplains are prohibited from conducting 'Strong Bonds' events for same-sex couples.  The policy clearly states 'endorsed chaplains will not conduct or attend a wedding ceremony for any same-sex couple, bless such a union or perform counseling in support of such a union...nor offer any kind of relationship training or retreat, on or off a military installation.'  When Squires realized he could not participate in the 'Strong Bonds' event, he rescheduled the conference to accommodate a lesbian couple with a chaplain who could oversee the retreat.  However, the couple chose not to attend.


"Had Squires participated in the marriage retreat he would have risked losing his endorsement by the Southern Baptists.  Likewise, the Army requires its chaplains to adhere to their endorsers' rules and religious tenets.  'I simply did what I'm required to do under Army regulations and my endorser's rules,' Chaplain Squires said.  'I am shocked that I would even be investigated, let alone threatened with punishment, for following the rules.'"


Friends, we have witnessed this kind of threat too many times these past few years.  We have heard of floral-shop owners, bakers, photographers, and banquet hall operators who have been arrested, charged, and penalized because they took a stand for their religious convictions and beliefs.  Yet the First Amendment to the United States Constitution grants every American the right to freedom of religious expression.  Just this past summer the United States Supreme Court ruled that an individual cannot be targeted just because of his or her religious beliefs.  This Army chaplain was acting according to the rules and regulations of the Department of the Army and the Southern Baptist Convention.  He took the time to reschedule another chaplain who was free to participate in an event in which a same-sex couple could be free to attend.  He did all the right things.  The threat of litigation is a "bully-club" the left enjoys using in order to get their own way.  But it is time that Christians take a stand for biblical truth.  The vacillation has got to stop.  Either there is a Truth worth defending or there is just non-truth.  I can only hope that the Army will stand with this Chaplain because he took a stand for what was right and he did it in a right way.


There was a fascinating article, written by Linda Goudsmit, and titled "Trump derangement syndrome: A prelude to anarchy," that was also published last week.  You can find this important article at: www.renewamerica.com/columns/goudsmit/180805.  The article begins with a powerful opening paragraph which sets the tone for the remainder of the article.  "The election of President Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to the emotional stability of those living in subjective reality because they cannot tolerate the threat of objective reality that President Trump represents.  The clash between subjective reality and objective reality has launched what is known as Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDR) or more recently Trump Anxiety Disorder (TAD).  The incursion of objective reality is so threatening to Anti-Trumpers that they break down psychologically and require medication and psychological services. 


"Mark Alexander posted an article he wrote 8.1.18 titled 'Therapists Rebrand "Trump Derangement Syndrome" exploring the subject: 'The pop culture Urban Dictionary defines Trump Derangement Syndrome as 'a mental condition in which a person has been driven effectively insane due to their dislike of Donald Trump, to the point at which they will abandon all logic and reason.  Symptoms for this condition can be very diverse, ranging from hysterical outbursts to a complete mental break...I would suggest that the increasing frequency and intensity of hysterics associated with TDR is greatly exacerbated by the unmitigated, constant consumption of hateful Democrat/mainstream media propaganda, 24/7/365.  The result is a mass movement of those so intent on undermining Trump that they are now far off the reality reservation and utterly obsessed with defeating peace and prosperity.'


"Anti-Trumpers were groomed to become global citizens in the mythical land of income equality and social justice.  They believed the myth of collectivism because it made them FEEL good - no mention of failed socialism - no talk of Venezuela - until President Trump.  Objective reality is the world of facts - subjective reality is the world of feelings.  The United States of America was founded on the principles of ordered liberty articulated in our Constitution and supported by objective reality.  The Culture War that is attacking America is an attack on ordered liberty, the Constitution, and objective reality.  The Culture War is supported by subjective reality and its world of feelings. ... The left is pressuring society to accept Orwellian doublespeak.  They want you to accept feelings as facts, subjective reality as objective reality, and insanity as sanity. ... The divisiveness in America is now a war over reality.  The country is divided between those living in objective reality and those living in subjective reality."


Let me close with a couple more paragraphs from this insightful article.  "Our elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities have been politicized by educators and administrators who embrace the Marxist doctrines of collectivism lauded by our enemies.  Political correctness, moral relativity, and historical revisionism are the tenets of the new religion of leftist liberalism that has replaced traditional religions and traditional education in America.  Obama's 'resistance' movement is an anti-American coalition of groups who identify as marginalized and victimized - they are a coalition of identity politics who refuse to accept the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.  They refuse to accept objective reality.


"In 1950 the goal of parenting was to help your child become a self-sufficient adult.  In the 60s the goal of parenting shifted from self-reliance to insuring your child's happiness.  Schools adopted the shift in the 70s and 80s and continue to be agents of social change.  Schools abandoned individualism and the meritocracy and replaced them with collectivism and the happiness standard.  Schools abandoned facts and adopted 'feelings' as the standard and every student became a butterfly.  From the time they were in elementary school students were pressed to live in subjective reality so their feelings would not be hurt.  They were lied to and told they were all butterflies - not true - some kids are smarter than others.  They were lied to and told that they could do anything - not true - some kids do not have the aptitude or physical strength to do what they wanted to do. 


"We are now watching these butterflies come undone at the university.  It is not surprising that they refuse to accept the outcome of the election- they still live in subjective reality and lack the coping skills to absorb disappointment.  They are so fragile and so emotionally underdeveloped they need Play-Doh and safe spaces to protect themselves from unwelcome ideas on campus including unwelcome election outcomes.  We are witnessing a generational failure to mature - the unwillingness to accept facts - the student anti-Trumpers refuse to accept objective reality. 


"Objective reality is an existential threat to those living in subjective reality.  Subjective reality is an existential threat to the stability and future of the United States of America.  As President Trump exposes the fiction of subjective reality his enemies are getting more and more desperate to stop him.  Trump Derangement Syndrome is a prelude to anarchy."


Friends, this is an incredibly well-written and honest assessment of where our nation is right now.  Once again we see how we have replaced truth with opinions, with feelings.  It is only truth that can set a person free.  Because we have willingly abandoned truth, we are becoming a nation becoming enslaved to the opinions of others.  Soon it may be said of us as it was of ancient Israel, "In those days there was no king, every man did that which was right in his own eyes."  And, friends, that is anarchy. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

How Would You Describe America Today?

If someone were to ask you to create a list of words to describe the state of the Unites States in the year 2018, what words would you use?  I know you would want to give some time before creating that list.  I have thought about what words I would use.  Let me share several with you.


First, I would use the word "violence."  We live in a violent society.  Mass murders have almost become commonplace.  Cities, such as Chicago and Baltimore, experience shootings and murders at an almost exhausting rate.  Last weekend alone there were 11 murders and over 70 people were wounded in shootings in Chicago, and Baltimore has become the newest "murder capital" of America based upon its population.  Just visit a store that sells video games and the most popular ones are the most violent ones.  It seems we take great satisfaction in spending our free time killing people on the small screen and watching people get killed on the big screen. 


The problem with so many young people playing such violent games is that they are not able to separate the real world from the fantasy world.  In their minds, you can shoot a person and just seconds later you can shoot that person all over again.  So, if I take a gun to school and shoot someone else, I forget that it is the real world and when a person dies in the real world, he is dead.  So we have created a vast realm of confusion within their minds.  And then with the ease at which guns can be obtained, a problem of violence has been created.  Now I am a very strong supporter of the Second Amendment even though I do not own a gun nor would I desire to own one.  But somehow we need to figure out how to limit access to guns as a deterrent to the violence.  I wish I knew what that looked like, but something has to work.


Second, I would use the word "double-standard."  Okay, so that might be two words.  Perhaps our society has always lived with a double-standard, but it seems more prevalent today.  For example, just look at the millions of dollars and the countless hours that have been consumed to determine whether the Trump presidential team committed any collusion or obstruction of justice in the 2016 election.  The media has almost worn that "cloak" for the past two years, while the reality of the known crimes committed by the Clinton campaign that same time seem to be shoved under the rugs.  That is a double-standard.  Media giants such as Apple, Twitter, Facebook, and others carefully screen through emails and other communications, focusing they say upon what they consider to be hate-speech.  But more often their targets are conservative Christian groups who promote a Christian values system.  Those on the left are usually not even approached.  Whenever you hold one group of people to a higher standard than others there is the risk for conflict. 


A third word I would use is "entitlement."  No, I am not talking about Medicare or Social Security as I do not view these as entitlements.  I have been putting money into Social Security for over 55 years, as well as into Medicare.  I have earned my Social Security checks.  By entitlements I am referring to those areas where we have expectations for others to take care of us.  One of the battle cries today is that our kids are owed a free college education - four years, no less.  Another cry is that we are owed free healthcare.  Many of our students graduate from our colleges and universities believing that they are owed a high-paying job that requires very little work.  And, yes, I know that there are times you have to take a job that is not exactly to your specifications.  I remember one summer I worked at a Christian college and my job for the entire summer was to clean bathrooms in all of the dormitories.  Eight hours a day - five days a week - cleaning showers, toilets, sinks, and floors.  I learned then that I did not want to do that job the rest of my life, but I needed a job to support my family.  It seems we have forgotten how to work today - we want somebody else to work for us. 


I would also use the word "opportunity."  America has always been the land of opportunity.  It was opportunity for freedom of worship that brought the Pilgrims and Puritans to our shores.  It was the opportunity for financial independence that brought others to Jamestown and then to New York.  It was the opportunity for adventure and advancement that led those pioneers to cross those Allegheny Mountains and head west.  It was opportunity that drove them all the way to the shores of the Pacific Ocean.  America is the land of opportunity.  For those who dream big dreams and who are not afraid of some "blood, sweat, toil, and tears" the opportunities in America are boundless.  Yes, there are risks to be taken; it was very risky crossing the storm-tossed Atlantic in the late fall of 1620.  It was very risky loading all your possessions into a covered wagon and cross those mountains, knowing the risks of climate and enemies.  I am grateful that there still are opportunities here in our great nation.  I am still grateful that others want to come to America legally because they see opportunities.


A final word that I would use to describe America today is "truth-starved."  Yes, I know I made up that word.  But it conveys the reality of our times.  We live in a nation that is starved for truth.  Every day we feast upon opinions and interpretations.  I thought of that the other night as I watched one of the popular talk-shows on television.  Although the conveying of truth was its objective, the hour was basically spent in personal opinions.  God has commanded us to be purveyors of His Truth.  But, in order for America to know truth, it must have a turning to the God of truth.  God is Truth.  And it is His Truth that sets people free.  How can I convince others to seek God's truth?  I need to live it out in my own life in such a way that others see it. 


Well, that is my list.  Let me ask you: What words are on your list?  Take some time this weekend and sit down and create your list.  I am confident you will learn as you think and process.       

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Some Post-Sabbatical Thoughts on War and Current Affairs

It is good to be back "in the saddle again."  Marlys and I have spent the last four weeks on the East Coast on my very first sabbatical.  We had rented a home in Fredericksburg, Virginia - a home that was a great fit for us.  The owners of the home were believers and we could sense the presence of God within.  I was able to get a lot of study completed and worked on the first twelve sermons in my new fall series on the Gospels - the story of the coming of that thread of redemption promised in the Old Testament.  In spite of the very hot and humid weather conditions, we got to experience many of the sites, sounds, and flavors of northern Virginia and southeastern Pennsylvania.   


We spent time visiting many of the historical sites in northern Virginia, including many Civil War battlefields.  One forgets that more blood was shed on Virginia soil during those four years than in any other state - Union or Confederate.  I spent part of one afternoon just walking the sunken road there in Fredericksburg and then climbing to the top of Marye's Heights.  It was here in December 1862 that Union General Ambrose Burnside ordered a charge up those slopes.  It was all open ground.  Poised within that sunken road were troops commanded by Robert E Lee and positioned on the top of Marye's Heights were artillery batteries.  I stood along that road - some of the original wall along the road still remains - and pictured myself as a Union soldier attempting to scale that hill.  It was a suicide mission.  As I walked along that road I wondered at those who had died that day.  Was I walking along a place where a soldier had fallen?  Someone's son or husband or father?  I have to admit it was a rather sobering moment for me.  And that was repeated as I walked for a short distance along "Bloody Lane" at Antietam - the bloodiest single day in the history of America; at the copse of trees at Gettysburg where Pickett's Charge was finally repelled by Union forces; and at the "bloody angle" on the fields of Spotsylvania.  These truly were America's "killing fields."  The war became more alive for me these past four weeks than at any other time I had visited Gettysburg alone.  The magnitude of the war was overwhelming.  The depth of the stories of heroism and courage was inspiring.  The immensity of the suffering gripped one's heart.  I stood looking into the room where General 'Stonewall" Jackson died and realized that he would never see his daughter grow up.  And then realized that story was repeated hundreds of thousands of times - and is still being repeated today by those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and other regions where our armed forces serve so faithfully. 


While we were out East, the world continued its slide down the slippery-slope.  Israel was poised on the brink of another military invasion of the Gaza Strip following months of riots along the border, the death of an Israeli soldier killed by a Hamas militant, and the launching of both rockets and incendiary kites and balloons which have caused the scorching of hundreds of acres of Israeli farmland and orchards.  Egypt stepped in at the eleventh hour and brokered a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, a cease-fire that seems to be holding.  But, as we know from history, Hamas will use this time of cease-fire to rebuild their tunnels, restock their weapons and ammunition, and prepare for the next assault upon Israel. 


Meanwhile, at the United Nations it was business as usual - the condemnation of Israel for their inhumane treatment of the Palestinians, both within Gaza and the West Bank.  I am grateful for our ambassador to the United Nations, Nicki Haley, who has had the courage to stand up and call out the hypocrisy of the United Nations.  She reminded the General Assembly that the human rights abuses in Venezuela and Nicaragua go unnoticed and the human rights of those living in Iran are ignored.  The only direction the United Nations looks is toward Israel.  I pray that God will continue to give her boldness to proclaim truth there in that hostile place. 


While we were gone, President Trump nominated Brent Kavanaugh to be the next Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court.  I listened to Judge Kavanaugh's acceptance speech and was gladden to hear that he believes the duty of a judge is not to make law, but merely to interpret law as it relates to the United States Constitution.  I know many fear that, if his nomination is affirmed by the Senate, then immediately such positions as Roe v Wade will be overturned.  I do not believe that Roe v Wade will ever be overturned, nor other decisions which have attacked our sense of moral structure.  The Supreme Court has very fairly in the past ever overturned a precedent case.  But, I do believe that it is the duty of the Supreme Court to decide the relationship that exists between those decisions and the rights expressed within the First Amendment to the Constitution - that of the freedom of religion and freedom of speech.  I believe that Judge Kavanaugh understands that principle from his time on the Court of Appeals.  I understand that confirmation hearings will begin in September.  This could be a very strategic nominating process that we need to keep before us.   


Also, in July President Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland.  Although the final press conference probably did not go as hoped - words often get into the way - still our President believed that dialogue was the way to avoid confrontation.  Soon after that summit meeting, each invited the other to meet in Washington and in Moscow.  I am grateful that our President encourages these types of dialogues with Russia and North Korea, and now he has said he would be open to meeting with the Iranian leadership.  While he is rebuilding our military strength, President Trump understands that strength can provide an opportunity for dialogue. 


Finally, the wild fires out west continue to dominate our weather news.  Hundreds of thousands of acres have been destroyed.  At last count, nearly a thousands homes have gone up in flames.  Hundreds of people have been made homeless.  Lives have been lost.  And there seems to be no end in sight.  Yet America is not alone with such natural disasters.  Greece had historical fires that swept along their coasts taking many lives.  India was plagued with epic flooding.  Earthquakes and volcanoes seem to just pop up all over.  Again I am reminded of the words of Jesus to His disciples, "There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains" (Matthew 24:7-8).


These truly are exciting times in which to serve our Savior.  Many people have a hunger for the truth and what a privilege it is for us to share with them that truth is found in Jesus Christ and within His Word.  Let's never compromise truth but to proclaim it with a boldness that comes through the filling of the Holy Spirit.  Some day the trumpet will sound.  I certainly want to be ready...and I trust you do as well. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The New Civil Rights War Is About to Begin

The lead story that came out of this past weekend was the "kicking out" of Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders from a restaurant in Lexington, Virginia.  The reason cited for the refusal to serve Mrs. Sanders and to ask her to leave was based upon the fact that Mrs. Sanders works in the administration of President Trump and the owner does not support many of the positions of the Trump Administration.  Stephanie Wilkinson, owner of the Red Hen Restaurant "cited the press secretary's work for the 'inhumane and unethical' Trump Administration.  'I'm not a huge fan of confrontation.  I have a business, and I want the business to thrive.  This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.'" (www.gopusa.com). 


Friends, I found this story to be appalling.  Our nation spent nearly a decade or longer in what is called "the civil rights" movement to counter such attitudes that Stephanie Wilkinson displayed.  I remember the stories, as a child growing up, of how black people were refused service in a restaurant simply because of the color of their skin.  I guess if you had asked the owners of those restaurants they might have said that they had a moral reason for making their place off-limits to blacks.  But, our nation said they were wrong.  Because we live in a democracy a person should have the freedom to visit any place of business regardless of his or her skin color. 


We have heard often these past months of how the Trump Administration has been characterized as being like the Hitler regime.  Friends, how is the attitude of Stephanie Wilkinson, owner of the Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington, VA, any different from those shop owners in 1930's Germany who posted signs saying that Jews were not allowed in their stores?  Those people were excluded simply because of their religious convictions.


Can you imagine the uproar if, instead of the Press Secretary that was asked to leave, it had been a gay person who was asked to leave because the owner of the restaurant did not want to serve a hamburger to a gay?  Yet, because this was one of President Trump's administrative leaders, it was okay.  Can Americans no longer have a dialogue based upon respect for one another?  Can Americans no longer listen respectfully to one another?  Can Americans no longer hold differing opinions without tearing one another apart? 


There was another huge victory in the United States Supreme Court this past week.  As I shared with you earlier this year, a case came from the State of California concerning a law that mandated that pro-life counseling centers post information about abortion and where those services could be provided.  The Supreme Court ruled that such a mandate violated the principle of freedom of religious expression found within the First Amendment.  President Trump's appointment of Justice Gorsuch has paid huge dividends already.


President Trump's representative to help broker a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians has held meetings in Jordan and Israel these past days.  Jarrod Kushner is seeking to bring all the parties to the table.  However, there is a strong hesitation, even an antagonism, on the part of the Palestinian leadership to even have the dialogue.  They are still adamant that the only solution is a land without the presence of Israel.  Will Mr. Kushner be successful?  Probably not, but at least the desire of the Trump Administration is to try to open the doors for a dialogue, first helping the Palestinians to see the reality that Israel is a nation and that Jerusalem is its capital. 


I am going to take a brief break from weekly blogs - unless something catastrophic occurs, which I hope will not be the case.  After 46 years of ministry, I am finally taking a sabbatical leave from my church for a month.  Marlys and I will be traveling to Virginia where we have rented a house for three week.  I plan to do some sermon writing on the life of Jesus, read some books, and visit a lot of historical sites.  If something occurs that needs some interpretation from a biblical standpoint, I will write on my Facebook page.  Until we connect again, keep looking for the appearance of our only Hope, and keep working in the mission fields in which God has placed you. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Tensions Continue in the Middle East Which Demands Our Attention

Tensions are mounting in Turkey as national elections approach on June 24.  At one time it was considered that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was a "shoo-in" to retain his position of power in Ankara.  But recent polls have shown a dramatic drop in his popularity among the people, thus causing many observers to wonder at the results next week.  President Erdogan has sought to take Turkey in a move away-from-center Islamic philosophy and toward a more radical one.  His relationships with Israel over the years has waxed both warm and icy-cold.  He has been aligning Turkey more with Russia and Iran than with his NATO allies in Europe, thus causing many to wonder if Turkey even belongs in NATO any longer. 


I know you are saying, "Why is Max bringing up Turkey at this point in time?"  On June 10, President Erdogan, in a speech before a political crowd in Istanbul, made a statement that should have alarmed the world, but, sadly did not even make headlines among the mainstream news media.  The Austrian government had declared that they were closing many of Austria's mosques and expelling between 40 and 60 imams and their families.  These imams were accused of receiving funding from abroad, particularly from Turkey.  Erdogan responded, "They say they're going to kick our religious men out of Austria.  Do you think we will not react if you do such a thing?  That means were going to have to do something.  These measures taken by the Austrian prime minister are, I fear, leading the world towards a war between the cross and the crescent."  (www.breitbart.com/jerusalem/2018/06/10/erdogan-predicts-war).


That is an amazing statement that should alarm each one of us.  Erdogan is viewed as a leader within the Islamic community because of how he is shifting the internal philosophies within Turkey.  And, over the years, that radical ideology has guided the Taliban, Boko Haram, and ISIS in their assaults upon all those who oppose their radical interpretation of the Quran.  Erdogan has taken us back over a millennium to those days when there was a war between the cross and the crescent - a time we know as the Crusades.  Those were horrific days with brutality being the norm for both Christians and Muslims.  Does Erdogan really want the world to revert to those days?  Hopefully this was just a political statement made in the heat of a suddenly narrowed political campaign.  But perhaps Erdogan was sharing a deeply held belief among many Muslims.  All eyes will be on Turkey in the coming days to see the direction the people want their country to go.


As you know, Marlys and I have recently returned from two weeks in Israel.  While standing on the Golan Heights near the Syrian border, we heard the sound of mortar rounds being fired in the city that lay just at the base of the mountain upon which we were standing.  These were followed by the sounds of small-arms and then automatic weapons.  It was a battle between the forces loyal to Syrian President Assad and those who have opposed his regime.  Later, Syrian forces actually fired mortar shells across the border onto the Golan Heights.  Israel responded with aerial strikes that destroyed much of the military infrastructure that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were building. 


On June 15, Yachanan Visser, a writer for the Arutz Sheva - the Israel National News association, wrote an article titled, "Analysis: Winds of war as Iran axis prepared for Golan offensive."  Allow me to quote from portions of this article: "On Sunday, the Israeli military launched a massive surprise drill in the Golan Heights involving a large number of reservists who were ordered to report for immediate duty and to show up in full gear.  In a statement, the IDF claimed the exercise had nothing to do 'with current events' and was planned 'in advance as part of the 2018 training schedule,' while the army warned residents of the mountainous plateau they could expect hearing 'loud explosions' and 'increasing traffic of vehicles.'  The statement was most likely meant to reduce tensions in the region and to prevent further escalation toward war after the Iranian-backed pro-Assad coalition started to prepare for a large-scale offensive against the various rebel groups in the border area with Jordan and Israel."


Reports from independent sources have shown the involvement of the Iranians near the Israeli border, thus their becoming the targets of Israeli airstrikes.  Syrian President Assad stated in an interview with an Iranian television station that "he would not object to the establishment of a permanent Iranian military base within his country's borders if such a base is necessary" (Visser article quoted above). 


Tensions continue to increase along Israel's northern borders with Lebanon and Syria.  I don't think Israel will begin a war with either Hezbollah in Lebanon or with the Syrians, but they are preparing themselves if such a war comes.  This area of the world demands our vigilant observations. 


Before signing off for this week, I want to refer you to a very disturbing article written by Arnold Ahlert on June 18 and published at www.patriotpost.us/articles/56601-teaching-cultural-degradation-to-children.  This article is alarming in what it presents of the human sexuality curriculum being taught in the California public schools.   When a pro-life group showed a video of what happens during an abortion, the uproar was loud, but just let the lower elementary students read a book titled, "I am Jazz: Reading a Children's Book to Help Understand Transgender Topics in Elementary School" and it is granted approval.  Friends, after reading this article I can see why home-schooling is becoming a growing educational choice for many families. 


Summer is now upon us - a time for some rest and relaxation.  But do not forget to observe what God is doing in His world.  He is carefully preparing the stage for the entrance of His Son to assume a throne that has long been vacant.  Oh what a glorious day that will be.