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.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

An Historic Summit and a Changing World Order

Of course the major news story dominating the airwaves this week has been the summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jung Un in Singapore.  This was the very first meeting between a sitting United States President and the leader of The People's Republic of North Korea, technically a nation with which we are still at war.  Of course the pundits and naysayers within the mainstream media shouted their disdain for this summit and ridiculed every aspect of it, and they are quick to state that nothing good came out of the summit.  Many within the mainstream media have compared this summit to that between British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and German Chancellor Adolph Hitler in Munich in 1938, which resulted in the handing over of the Sudetenland to Hitler.  But, as history has shown, that appeasement of Hitler did not stop his maniacal ambitions.  Did President Trump merely appease Kim Jung Un?  From what I have read of the final document, the term appeasement could not be used of that accord.  Also, President Trump has said that he desires Congress to ratify this accord, hardly what a President would do if all that was accomplished was appeasement.


This was an historic meeting between two nations that fought a bitter war in the early 1950's, a war that ended with only an armistice being signed.  History will be the final judge of what occurred these past two days in Singapore, but perhaps they will rank with President Nixon's visit to China which opened the doors to China becoming part of the world of nations, or to President Reagan's summit with Soviet Leader Gorbachev in Iceland which eventually led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the wall of the Iron Curtain. 


Can you imagine what a unified Korean Peninsula would be like?  I could see the Korean Church sending leaders into the North where the Gospel has been rarely heard - even as there was in Eastern Europe and Russia when the Iron Curtain collapsed.  Instead of the North Korean leadership spending hundreds of millions of dollars on nuclear research and weapons manufacture, just think how the people of North Korea would benefit if those monies were used to improve their lot in life.  Friends, this is something that I will be watching closely.


Speaking of our changing world, I recently read a fascinating article written by Victor Davis Hanson and published in the National Review.  It is titled, "The Post-War Order Is Over."  I strongly recommend this article.  It can be found at the National Review website.  Allow me to just quote a few portions of this amazing and thought-provoking article.  "The post-war order is over.  And not because Trump wrecked it.  The 75-year-old post-war order crafted by the United States after World War II is falling apart.  Almost every major foreign-policy initiative of the last 16 years seems to have gone haywire.  Donald Trump's presidency was a reflection, not a catalyst, of the demise of the foreign-policy status quo.  Much of the world now already operates on premises that have little to do with official post-war institutions, customs, and traditions, which, however once successful, belong now to a bygone age.


"There is also nothing sacred about the European Union.  It certainly is not the blueprint for any continental-wide democratic civilization - any more than Bonaparte's rigged 'continental system' (to which the EU is on occasion strangely and favorably compared to by its proponents).  The often-crude imposition of a democratic socialism, pacifism, and multiculturalism, under the auspices of anti-democratic elites, from the Atlantic to the Russian border, is spreading, not curbing, chaos.  The EU utopian mindset has altered European demography, immigration policy, energy production, and defense.  The result is that there are already four sorts of antithetical EUs: a renegade and departing United Kingdom, an estranged Eastern European bloc worried over open borders, an insolvent South bitter over front-line illegal immigration and fiscal austerity, and the old core of Western Europe (a euphemism now for German hegemony)."


I found his assessment of the Middle East to be fascinating.  Dr. Hanson writes, "The Palestinian issue of the last 75 years is ossified.  If the millions of persons displaced in Europe and the Middle East between 1946 and 1950 - at about the same time as Palestinians left present-day Israel - were not considered 'refugees' for decades, then Palestinians can hardly be singular sufferers.  Perpetual victimhood is not a basis for a national agenda, much less a blank check for endless, virtue-signaling Western aid.  Moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem was simply an iconic recognition of what has been true for nearly a decade.  The West Bank's rich Arab patrons now fear Iran more than they do Israel.  The next Middle East war will be between Israel and Iran, not the Palestinians and their Arab sponsors and Tel Aviv - and the Sunni Arab world will be rooting for Israel to defeat Islamic Iran."


Finally, I want to share an article from the Patriot Post, published on June 9, 2018.  You can find this article at www.partriotpost.us/articles/56457-settled-science-on-evolution-and-history.  "Newly released research that analyzed millions of DNA barcodes has come to a surprising conclusion that effectively turns the theory of evolution on its head.  The massive study, which spanned a decade of work from hundreds of scientists, found that 9 out of 10 animal species on the planet came into being around the same time as humans, 100,000 to 200,000 years ago.  Senior research associate at the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University Mark Stoeckle and University of Basel geneticist David Thaler found that 90% of all animal life on earth appeared at approximately the same time.  Thaler said, 'This conclusion is very surprising, and I fought against it as hard as I could.'


"Another study coming out of Cornell University has found significant inaccuracies in one of the key methods archaeologists use to determine the age of objects made from organic material - radiocarbon dating.  Stuart Manning, professor of archaeology at Cornell University, recently published his study, 'Fluctuating Radiocarbon Offsets Observed in the Southern Levant and Implications for Archaeological Chronology Debates.'  Manning states, "We went looking to test the assumptions behind the whole field of radiocarbon dating.  We know from atmospheric measurements over the last 50 years that radiocarbon levels vary through the year, and we also know that plants typically grow at different times in different parts of the Northern Hemisphere.  So we wondered whether the radiocarbon levels relevant to dating organic material might also vary for different areas and whether this might affect archaeological dating.'"


The article concludes by stating that Professor Manning and his team found that the calibrations using radiocarbon dating for artifacts discovered in Israel and Jordan and identified with the early Bronze Age and Biblical chronology were off by an average of 19 years.  "Manning concluded, 'Our work should prompt a round of revisions and rethinking for the timeline of the archaeology and early history of the southern Levant through the early Biblical period."


This is one of those studies in science and archaeology that will tend to get lost, but it is one that Bible scholars and evangelical believers should applaud.  It really is affirming of the Genesis record.


Friends, God is in control.  These are exciting days.  What opportunities God is giving to us to be His ambassadors to proclaim His truth into the lives of those around us.  Will the trumpet soon be sounding?  Every day we get one day closer.  And to that truth we proclaim a strong "Amen!"

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

"Little" Victories, Gazan Strife, and Offensive Proms

Sometimes in life one has to celebrate the "little" victories.  One such "little" victory occurred this past Monday when the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony.  The decision of the judges was 7-2 in favor of Mr. Phillips.  Mr. Phillips was the owner of the Masterpiece Cakeshop located in Lakewood, Colorado.  He was sued by two homosexual men for his refusal to bake a wedding cake for them on the basis of his religious beliefs.  The Colorado Civil Rights Commission entered the case on the side of the plaintiffs.  The Supreme Court strongly rebuked the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for its excessively hostile attitudes toward Mr. Phillips and his religious convictions.  It truly was a great day for Mr. Phillips and gave a measure of hope that other Christian business people might experience a similar result.


Yet, here is where I call this just a "little" victory.  In ruling on this case - Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission - the Court did not broaden its judgment to include other similar cases pending within the lower courts.  Their decision only applied to that of Mr. Phillips.  So there is still uncertainty about how the Court might rule in other cases that involve the conflict between the religious liberty of a business owner and a person's right to purchase services from that business - whether it is flowers, or cakes, or pictures, or invitations.  But "little" victories can soon add up to "big" victories.


Last week I wrote of the continued violence within the Gaza Strip and stated that the responsibility for this unrest could be laid at the feet of the leadership - Hamas.  This past week, Efraim Karsh, the director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and editor of the Middle East Quarterly, wrote a very interesting article that was published in The Jerusalem Post on June 3.  You can find this article at: www.meforum.org/articles/2018/it-s-not-gaza-s-economy,-stupid.  I would like to quote from this article so as to document what is truly the reason for the continued unrest within the Gaza Strip.  "No cliché has dominated the discourse on the Gaza situation more than the perception of Palestinian violence as a corollary of the Strip's dire economic condition.  No sooner had Hamas and Israel been locked in yet another armed confrontation over the past weeks than the media, foreign policy experts and politicians throughout the world urged the immediate rehabilitation of Gaza as panacea to its endemic propensity for violence.  Even senior members of the Israel Defense Forces opined that a 'nonmilitary process' of humanitarian aid could produce a major change in the Gaza situation.


"While there is no denying the argument's widespread appeal, there is also no way around the fact that it is not only completely unfounded but the inverse of the truth.  For it is not Gaza's economic malaise that has precipitated Palestinian violence; rather, it is the endemic violence that has cause the Strip's humanitarian crisis.


"For one thing, countless nations and groups in today's world endure far harsher socioeconomic or political conditions that the Palestinians, yet none have embraced violence and terrorism against their neighbors with such alacrity and on such a massive scale.  For another thing, there is no casual relationship between economic hardship and mass violence.  On the contrary, in the modern world it is not the poor and the oppressed who have carried out the worst acts of terrorism and violence but, rather, the militant vanguards from among the better educated and more moneyed circles of society, be they homegrown terrorist groups in the West or their Middle Eastern counterparts."


The author then proceeds to give facts concerning the education and financial means of those who have led the modern terrorist movement.  The facts were alarming.  He then states how, under the leadership of Hamas, the socioeconomic environment among those living within the Gaza Strip has deteriorated. 


"In short, it is not socioeconomic despair but the total rejection of Israel's right to exist, inculcated by the PLO and Hamas in their hapless West Bank and Gaza subjects over the past 25 years, which underlies the relentless anti-Israel violence emanating from these territories and its attendant economic stagnation and decline. 


"This, in turn, means that so long as Gaza continues to be governed by Hamas's rule of the jungle, no Palestinian civil society, let alone a viable state, can develop.  Just as the creation of free and democratic societies in Germany and Japan after World War II necessitated a comprehensive sociopolitical and educational transformation, so, too, it is only when the local population sweeps its oppressive rulers from power, eradicates the endemic violence from political and social life, and teaches the virtues of coexistence with Israel that Gaza can look forward to a better future."


This article is highly recommended.  More money is not the answer to the problems within the Gaza Strip.  The solution is a change of leadership and a change of focus from destruction to construction, from violence to peace, from hatred toward one's neighbor to reaching out to accept help from that neighbor.  Will this happen?  Only if there is a concerted effort on the part of the people to seek to improve their lives.  To be honest, right now I truly do not see that happening any time soon.  So the violence will continue.  The plight of the people living within the Gaza Strip will continue to be deplorable.  The response from the Western world media will continue to cast blame at the feet of Israel for the plight found within the Strip.  Tunnels will continue to be dug.  Rockets will continue to be fired into Israel.  Israeli warplanes will continue bombing Hamas leadership sites.  And people will continue to die. 


I close with an article, written by Jarrett Stepman, and published by The Daily Signal on May 21.  It is titled, "Only in America's Schools Could 'Partying Like It's 1776' Be Offensive."  "At the rate we are going, saying 'good morning' might become offensive.  The principal of Cherry Hill High School East in New Jersey issued an apology after some students deemed the public school's prom theme, 'Party Like It's 1776.' to be insensitive.  'I am writing to apologize for the hurt feelings this reference caused for members of our school family, ' Dennis Perry wrote Friday in a letter, according to the Cherry Hill Courier Post.  'I especially apologize to our African American students, who I have let down by not initially recognizing the inappropriateness of this wording,' he said.


"The principle announced that tickets would not be needed to get into the prom, a name would suffice, the tickets would be redesigned, and 'safeguards' would be laid down in the future to make sure nobody is offended by anything the school does.  What is especially ridiculous about this whole situation is that the school is hosting the prom at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, a building that pays tribute to the nation's founding documents. 


"Every American, of any background, has a good reason to celebrate 1776.  While it is true that the promise of freedom imbued in the Declaration of Independence wasn't extended to everyone initially, it nevertheless set the stage for an advancement of liberty in the future."


Friends, what happened in 1776 truly changed the course of the world.  What those men, in that room in Philadelphia, created has been a tool that has challenged the political and civil landscapes of nearly every nation on the face of the earth.  The Declaration of Independence, together with the Constitution, written about a dozen years later, form two of the most powerful documents ever written by human governmental leaders.  Neither document is perfect, but the foundation they have created has stood the tests of nearly two and a half centuries. 


The article concludes: "It is said and disturbing to think that modern Americans today cannot unite behind something as universal as the Spirit of '76.  Episodes like these are making Americans lose faith in their public schools, and demonstrate why the issue of school choice is so essential.  Education goes beyond test scores and angling to get into competitive colleges.  It's about preparing young people to live as free citizens in a constitutional republic.  If our schools are failing to do that, parents need the tools to pressure them to do a better job of teaching them American values and American history.  At the very least, we must give parents the option to put their children in a school that will.  Americans face dire consequences if we allow this system of public education to go unfixed. 


"John Adams once said that Independence Day would be celebrated as one of the most important in history (though the nation's second president mistakenly thought it would be celebrated July 2).  'I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival,' Adam's wrote in a letter to his wife, Abigail, adding: 'It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.  It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.'"


So well put, Mr. Adams. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

More Violence Along the Israeli-Gazan Border: Is There any Hope?

Tensions continue to remain high along the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip.  Yesterday dozens of rockets and mortar rounds were fired from Gaza into Israel resulting in several injuries but no casualties among the Israelis.  Although one of the rockets hit inside a school play ground, no student was injured.  The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for those rocket attacks.  Almost immediately Israeli warplanes were scrambled and flew several missions over the Gaza Strip destroying training facilities for Hamas recruiting.  An emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council is scheduled for today to discuss this latest increase in violence along this volatile border. 


The cry from the liberal left here in America and in Europe is that the responsibility for the unrest within the Gaza Strip can be laid at the feet of the Israeli people.  After all, it is the Israeli people who are keeping the Palestinians prisoner within the Gaza Strip.  Fact number one: Egypt joined Israel in isolating the Gaza Strip in 2007 when Hamas declared itself the sole representative of the Palestinian people living within Gaza.  From 2005, after the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip, to 2007 both Israel and Egypt had become the recipients of terrorist assaults.  So in 2007, both Israel and Egypt joined forces to isolate the Gaza Strip with border closures and a sea-embargo. 


Fact number two: The plight of the Palestinian people living in the Gaza Strip can be laid directly at the feet of the leadership of Hamas.  The dollars from Europe and the United Nations Relief Agencies have often been used, not for foods and medicines and housing and businesses so the people could have a job, but to purchase rockets, weapons, and to dig tunnels.  Just think of what could have been accomplished for the Palestinian people if they had been given incentives to better their lives. 


Fact number three, and this is a fact that the liberal left does not want to hear: Since the Israeli War of Independence of 1948, those Arabs who fled their homes at the urging of the Arab League leadership, have been recognized by the Arab world and the United Nations as being refugees.  No Arab nation wanted to assimilate these Arabs into their states.  Tens of millions of dollars are spent every year to help these people maintain their status as refugees.  Few have sought gainful employment, and why should they as the United Nations will take care of them.  Of course their status is never elevated - that would destroy the picture of a refugee that enters into the minds of many of us.  It really is time for the world to remove the label of "refugee" from these people and instead seek to bring them into the 21st century.


But, how is that to happen, you might ask.  Well that brings us to fact number four, and this is one that needs to be corrected: The ultimate goal of the Palestinian leadership is the complete destruction of the State of Israel.  This doctrine of hate is taught to children, beginning in the elementary years.  I have seen videos where children as young as six or seven are taught in school how to kill Jews.  With this hatred being taught from one generation to another, there can be no hope for peace or even for a betterment of life.  Hatred breeds violence; violence breeds more hatred.  It is a destructive cycle that can only be broken if the Palestinian people determine that they want something better for their children other than death through acts of terror. 


Yes, Israel can be part of the solution - but only part of the solution, and that only after the Palestinian people resolve to take steps to better their own lives, not through hatred and violence, but through acceptance and peace.  It is going to take a decision on the part of the people to change the leadership, to remove from power those who have only been the warmongers.  Can such a revolution occur within the Gaza Strip?  It seems highly unlikely but I have learned never to count something completely out. 


Does God have a plan for the Gaza Strip?  Yes, He most certainly does.  Does God care for those people within Gaza who are suffering because of terrible political decisions?  Yes, He most certainly does  And we know that God's purposes will always been accomplished.  Praise God for that powerful truth. 


On a lighter note: This past weekend was Memorial Day.  Marlys and I were in the Des Moines area to attend our granddaughter Meghan's high school graduation.  On Monday afternoon we drove to the cemetery where Marlys's parents are buried and also Meghan's Mom.  Hundreds of American flags fluttered over the driveways that meandered through the cemetery.  And small American flags graced the graves of all the veterans buried there.  It brought tears to one's eyes.  Hundreds of men and women had given time out of their lives to serve our nation - many of them during times of war.  Oh the debt of gratitude that we owe them.  Then last night we attended the graduation exercises for  Meghan.  It was held at the Hilton Coliseum on the campus of Iowa State University.  Perhaps the highlight of the ceremony was the playing and singing of The Battle Hymn of the Republic by the choir and symphonic band of Ankeny High School.  That piece has become the traditional closing for graduation ceremonies.  As that song neared its crescendo at the end, two large American flags were unfurled, one behind the choir, the second behind the band.  The audience rose with thunderous applause.  It still feels good to be an American.  It still feels good to get a tear in your eye as you see our flag being honored.  Now it is off to our granddaughter Abby's graduation at Stewartville, Minnesota on Friday night.  Ah, life does go on.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Another School Shooting; Another Call for Gun Control - But Is That the Solution?

Last week's shooting at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas, rekindled that American debate regarding gun control and the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.  That Amendment states: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."  For the past nearly two and a half centuries, that amendment has guided the American response to matters focusing on guns.  Yes, some safeguards, such as firearm registration and waiting periods and background checks have made the ownership of guns safer.  The United States Supreme Court has upheld the right for Americans to possess firearms. 


But, whenever there is a tragic incident where guns were used, the immediate cry is for "gun control."  An example of such conversations occurred on Sunday when ABC "This Week" Host George Stephanopoulos interviewed Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick about the Santa Fe shooting.  Stephanopoulos began his interview: "Children who've never known school without lockdown drills expecting what should be unthinkable.  Santa Fe, the ninth fatal school shooting this year reflected in this stunning fact: There have now been more students or teachers killed by guns in U.S. schools than active duty military deaths in 2018.  A year not even halfway over."  (www.newsbusters.org/blogs/nb/nicholas-fondacaro/2018/05/20/abc-host-pushes-gun-control-ignores-devaluation-life).


The Lieutenant Governor's response was: "George, should we be surprised in this nation?  We have devalued life.  Whether it's through abortion, whether it's the breakup of families, through violent movies, and particularly violent video games....  But we, again, we have to look at our culture of violence, just our violent society.  Our Facebook.  Our Twitter.  The bullying of adults on adults and children on children.  We have to look at ourselves, George.  It's not about the guns.  It's about us.  Can there be gun regulation?  Gun control?  I believe that starts at home, George." 


This Lieutenant Governor really "hit the nail on the head."  We do live in a culture of violence.  Violence sells on the big screen - in fact, the more violence the more tickets that are sold.  The language we use toward one another is filled with hatred.  Domestic violence has reached epidemic proportions.  We worship at the shrine of violence.


But I think there is a second problem that is little addressed.  It primarily concerns our young people.  They are growing up in a world where the line between fantasy and reality is blurred.  They play video games where the object is to kill as many of the "bad guys" as possible.  Yet, those images of the "bad guys" keep reappearing.  Perhaps death is just a game.  They attend movies where one star is shot to death; yet the following week that star reappears in a new movie.  Again, there is that thought that perhaps death is just a game.  So they take a gun and shoot others thinking that death is just a game to be played.  Yet death is a stark reality.  There is no "do-over" with death.  There is no "recovery" from death.  There is a finality with death that I believe many of our young people today simply do not know. 


So, is there a solution?  I can assure you that the solution is not the confiscation of guns, yet I believe that that will ultimately happen when the Antichrist begins his rule over this world.  Perhaps a limit can be placed upon who can purchase and use weapons that are primarily designed to kill other humans.  Not everyone needs a military-style weapon.  Perhaps our young people should be trained to discern more clearly between fantasy and reality. 


The ability to own and use firearms is almost as American as baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie.  The Lieutenant Governor of Texas was correct - it is not guns that kill; it is the person using the gun.  Friends, if we were to use the arguments from George Stephanopoulos, then automobiles should be controlled because more people are killed by cars in a year time than by any other instrument. 


It is time that we return to the biblical understanding of the condition of man's heart - it is inherently sinful (Jeremiah 17:9).  The Apostle Paul exclaimed it this way - for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  We have a heart problem - not a gun problem.  It is time to take a hard look into the heart of America.  How America needs what only Jesus can do - change the heart. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The US Embassy Move: What the Main Stream Media Got Wrong

This past Monday marked an historic day.  First, it marked the 70th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel.  And second, it was the day that the United States opened its embassy in Jerusalem, having moved it from Tel Aviv.  The majority of the world condemned the Trump Administration for moving the embassy, although appropriations for such a move were approved by a bipartisan act of Congress back in 1995.  Our European Allies were highly critical and representatives from those nations did not attend the dedicatory service on Monday.


The main stream media's focus was upon the strife within the Gaza Strip that day.  The headlines of the Minneapolis "Star Tribune" stated: "Carnage in Gaza as U.S. moves embassy."  That paper joined with dozens of other major papers across America in denigrating the embassy move.  What should have been recognized as acknowledging that Jerusalem is Israel's capital city, instead became another picture of the self-imposed carnage that is the Gaza Strip. 


Yes, there were deaths along the Israeli-Gazan border.  As of this morning 60 Palestinians were killed by IDF soldiers who were protecting that border.  For the past six weeks, the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, at the behest of their Hamas leadership, threatened to break through the security fence with the objectives of killing Israelis, burning their fields, and hoping to kidnap an Israeli soldier.  Tunnels were dug under the fence; fortunately the Israeli military discovered those tunnels and they were destroyed.  It seemed that almost everyday, for the past six weeks, forays were made by the Palestinians against the fence, but those attempts were stopped by the IDF.  On Monday, huge stacks of tires were set on fire creating an intense black smoke that shielded the attackers from the IDF security forces.  Several thousands of Palestinians rushed the security fence in several locations with wire cutters in hand as well as torches, weapons, knives, etc.  In the melee which followed, Palestinians were killed - many of them were Hamas members. 


Almost immediately the main stream media began to declare the injustice of Israel's response to the encroachment of their border.  Here was the response by Rupert Colville, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: "The mere fact of approaching a fence is not a lethal, life-threatening act, so that does not warrant being shot.  Lethal force may only be used as a measure of last, not first, resort.  It is not acceptable to say that 'this is Hamas and therefore this is OK.'"  (www.israelnationalnews.com).  Yet what other nation would just stand idly by and let their security be breached and allow their citizens to be terrorized?  Friends, this was not a peaceful demonstration on the part of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.  It was never intended to be peaceful.  The Hamas leadership encouraged the people to create acts of violence saying that it would be through violence that the land of Palestine would be fully returned to the Palestinian people. 


The world's press and leaders would have us believe that the people living in the Gaza Strip are living in a virtual prison created by the Israeli government.  When the Israelis, under the leadership of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, disengaged from the Gaza Strip back in 2005, it was with the hopes that the people living in the Gaza Strip would become productive members of society.  But what happened?  Almost as soon as the last Israeli had been removed - many of them forcefully by the IDF - every vestige of Jewish life was destroyed, including Jewish hospitals, clinics, and synagogues.  Almost immediately the leaders of Hamas led the people in anti-Israeli demonstrations.  Rockets have consistently been launched from Gaza into Israel.  The leadership of Hamas have consistently declared that there can be no peace while Israel occupies their lands.  It is through the humanitarian aspects of Israel's government that food, medical supplies, electricity, natural gas and other necessities for life are brought into the Gaza Strip; this is a fact that the world's media often overlooks.  Friends, it is no wonder that Israel is building a security wall - most of it underground - around the Gaza Strip for purposes of protecting its own people.


Yesterday marked the Palestinian day of "nakba" which means "destruction."  It is a commemoration of the fleeing of Arabs from the British Mandate after Israel's declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948.  Nearly 700,000 Arabs fled their homes at the request of Arab leaders.  They were told that the war would be short and Arab victory was inevitable.  Many left their homes with dishes still on the table, fleeing into Jordan and Lebanon.  Of course, the outcome of the War of Independence was not exactly what they had hoped.  Following the war, Israel offered the "rite of return" to tens of thousands of Arabs, but that offer was rejected.  Thus those people became refugees - many of them by choice.  To this day, the descendants of those refugees lay claim to homes and lands they abandoned in 1948, demanding that the Israeli government grant them a full return. 


But, here is what the world's press will not tell you.  When the War of Independence broke out in 1948, over 600,000 Jews were expelled from Arab nations in the Middle East.  Many of them left with only the clothes they had on their back.  Yet, when was the last time you heard their stories?  Answer - you have never heard their stories unless you have done incredible research on that period of time.  Did they become refugees?  No they did not.  Many of them immigrated to the United States.  Many of them chose to live in the new land called Israel.


Friends, I would urge you to not believe everything you read in the main stream media when it comes to matters of Israel and the Palestinians.  They are hardly objective in their reporting of the facts.  No matter what happens, Israel is always the antagonist.  Israel is always the bad guy.  Will real peace ever come to the Middle East?  The answer is "absolutely, but not until Jesus returns."  What a day that will be!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Some Thoughts from Israel

I begin with greetings from the land of Israel.  As you know, Marlys and I had the privilege of sharing with a group of 25 for two weeks in the Holy Land.  What a wonderful time we had.  The land of Israel continues to be one of those amazing places.


We visited many sites - both new and old.  Yet, at almost every place we were reminded that Israel is a nation that is always under the threat of war.  We stood on a Sunday morning on the platform atop the Carmelite Monastery at Mount Carmel. We joined a group of about 25 young Israeli soldiers.  They were there as part of their training.  They seemed so young, yet the burden of war lay heavily upon their shoulders.  This was the first time I had ever witnessed soldiers on Mount Carmel.  But that area is of strategic importance.


While in the Galilee area, we drove to Mount Bental, a former Israeli observation post peeking over into Syria.  Mount Bental lies deep within the Golan Heights.  Just below this former observation post lies the city of Kuneitra - a Syria city that changed hands during both the Six Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973.  While standing there, we saw the puffs of smoke coming from mortar fire within the city and then heard the sounds of automatic weapons.  It became quite intense.  Our guide shared with us that it "merely the cousins shooting at each other."  The forces loyal to Syrian President Assad waging war with rebel forces.  One could almost imagine the presence of Iranian Revolutionary Guards in that city as well.  It was just another reminder to us that Israel is always on the state of high alert.


Just yesterday, Israeli authorities placed a high alert status upon those living in the Golan.  They were to be ready to head to bomb-shelters as Israel had seen an increased presence of Iranian activity near the border.  While we were in Israel, Israeli planes bombed a missile site just north of Damascus where the Iranian backed forces of Syrian President Assad were storing missiles.  In that strike several Iranian soldiers were killed and Iran has vowed to retaliate.  Since returning home, Israeli planes have attacked another munitions depot south of Damascus. 


And yet, in spite of the heightened threat of war, thousands of visitors flocked to the holy sites of Christendom.  To be honest, I have never seen so many people in Jerusalem in my life.  One of our visits was to the site of the Upper Room.  People were packed into that room so tightly that it almost became claustrophobic.  And the Church of the Holy Sepulchre reminded me of trying to walk down the grand concourse at the Minnesota State Fair on the final day of the fair.  Hotels were filled.  Buses were filled.  Traffic jams were commonplace.  Perhaps people are sensing that if they do not get to Israel soon, the opportunities for unfettered visits there might soon end. 


Next week the United States will move its embassy staff from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, housing the embassy in one of its two consulates within the city of Jerusalem.  This move will surely bring some types of demonstrations.  But I am grateful that finally the embassy is where it should be - within the eternal capital of the nation of Israel.  By the way, several others countries are now following the American lead by moving their embassies as well. 


Where is the greatest threat to Israel?  Is it from Hamas located within the Gaza Strip?  It would appear that the Israeli Defense Forces have Hamas pretty well in check.  The border, although penetrated on occasions, remains pretty secure.  And Israel has not been afraid to use bunker-buster bombs to destroy tunnel-makers.  Oh, there will always be tension along the Gaza Border, but Hamas is not a real threat.


Is it from Syria?  Certainly the presence of Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Syria presents a problem for Israel.  Yet, Tehran knows that any attack upon Israel will be met with an equally strong attack from Israel.  Plus, there is the likelihood that America would stand by its Middle East Ally, Israel.  So, there will continue to be those surgical strikes from the Israeli Air Force keeping the Iranians from stockpiling weapons that could be used against Israel. 


It seems to me that the greatest threat to Israel comes from Hezbollah which operates out of Lebanon.  Forces of Hezbollah have been fighting alongside the Syrian army in the Civil War there.  They have become battle-hardened.  They have the backing of the Iranians and are seen as Iranian proxies in this fight.  I refer you to an excellent article written by Jacob L. Shapiro titled "The Next Israeli War."  It was posted on the Geopolitical Futures website on May 4 - www.geopoliticalfutures.com.  The author presents a strong case for a possible war between Israel and Hezbollah.  These two forces have tangled in the past - as recently as 2006.  Could this become the "strike zone?" 


Friends, although our group felt incredibly safe while in Israel, there were just those reminders that Israel lies within a war zone.  Its military is always on alert.  Its planes are always in the skies.  Its people know what to do should the alarms go off.  And yet life continues as normal.  Perhaps that is the greatest psychological impact Israel has upon its neighbors.  They do not exhibit daily fears.  They go to work.  They play soccer in the parks.  They attend the theater.  They eat at the many sidewalk cafes.  Their children attend school.  They attend the synagogue.  The Israelis are an amazing group of people to observe. 


I want to close this blog by reminding us of our responsibility toward the people of Jerusalem and Israel.  It is found in Psalm 122:6-9 which states, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: 'May those who love you be secure.  May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.'  For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, 'Peace be within you.'  For the sake of the house of the LORD, our God, I will seek your prosperity." 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Chick-fil-A Is Targeted Once Again

Chick-fil-A is back in the news once again.  One of the fastest growing fast-food chains has been "called-on-the-carpet" - not because of the quality of its food (I love their chicken soup and Oreo shakes) or because of its service, which ranks among the highest in the fast-food industry.  No, according to a piece written by Dan Piepenbring and published in The New Yorker magazine, Chick-fil-A is infiltrating New York with "pervasive Christian traditionalism."


Thomas Gallatin, an in article posted at The Patriot Post website - www.patriotpost.us/articles/55375-the-left-hates-chick-fil-a-because-of-christianity, exposes the hypocrisy of Dan Piepenbring.  "Piepenbring sees as problematic the fact that Chick-fil-A's Atlanta headquarters facility 'is adorned with Bible verses and a statue of Jesus washing a disciple's feet.' and that 'its stores close on Sundays.'  Piepenbring writes, 'There's something especially distasteful about Chick-fil-A, which has sought to portray itself as better than other fast food: cleaner, gentler, and more ethical, with its poultry slightly healthier than the mystery meat of burgers.'  He adds, 'Its politics, its décor, and its commercial-evangelical messaging are inflected with this suburban piety.'


"He wasn't done.  Piepenbring relates, 'The restaurant's corporate purpose still begins with the words "to glorify God," and that proselytism thrums below the surface of the Fulton Street restaurant, which has the ersatz homespun ambiance of a megachurch.'  Wow, so any company with traditional Christian beliefs that dares to apply its beliefs is 'an infiltration.'  How 'woke' of him to call out this consistent belief system.


"If any fast-food restaurant deserves praise not just for its quality food and service but also for its treatment of employees, community engagement and public generosity, it's Chick-fil-A.  There's a reason it's on course to becoming the third-largest fast food chain behind only McDonald's and Starbucks, and that's not in spite of founder S. Truett Cathy's 'Christian traditionalism' but because of it.  What is 'creepy' is the number of deeply insecure leftists who produce, promote and feed on this kind of intolerant and hypocritical groupthink.  Image if the fast-food chain in question was Muslim-owned - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio would be rolling out the red carpet for it instead of calling for a boycott.


"Piepenbring epitomizes the rapidly spreading bigotry of leftists, who are completely unwilling to offer the same tolerance and deference to opposing views and opinions that they demand from others.  Meanwhile, they hypocritically lay claim to the 'pro-diversity' moniker.  Specifically, the Left hates conservative Christianity because it refuses to bow to its 'new morality.'  So, no matter how well-made the product or how good the service, if the business's owner holds a traditional conservative and Christian worldview, then leftist dogma demands it be opposed and maligned." 


I don't know about you - but this makes me want to visit my nearest Chick-fil-A more often.  If this restaurant chain is in the cross-hairs of culture's line of fire, then there must be something worthy of that chain having my dining out business.  I appreciate a company who, although interested in making a profit, has not let that desire for profit deter it from the foundations upon which Chick-fil-A was created.  Would that more companies would return to those initial foundational principles.  So "Eat Mor Chiken."


On another cultural note, I read a powerful article this week, written by Avery Foley which was posted on the Answer in Genesis website.  You can reference this article at:
www.answersingenesis.org/sin/can-church-embrace-homosexual-behavior-in-name-of-love. The author of this article begins with a powerful statement: "Being a Christian is about 'living in the tension'" a reference to the tension between grace and truth.  The author continues, "That's what Christ did.  He loved people - loved them enough to die for his enemies (Romans 5:8)!  He was filled with grace and extended that grace toward sinners (including millions of other believers and me!)  But Scripture tells us he came filled with 'grace and truth' (John 1:14).  And that's the tension!  We love people, but that doesn't mean we wish them to live in their sin.  Instead, we're called to speak 'the truth in love' (Ephesians 4:15)."


The article concludes: "There's hope for everyone in the Cross of Jesus Christ, whether you are a liar, a thief, an adulterer, a homosexual, or a drunkard.  God's church is made up of people who've been redeemed from all kinds of sinful backgrounds and who have one thing in common: they've been given new life through the power of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). ... True hope and peace are not found in practicing, affirming, or celebrating sinful behaviors.  They're found in repentance and the new life that Christ can give."


This will be the final blog for a couple of weeks.  Marlys and I will be leading a tour to Israel, leaving on Friday.  We will be in Israel for nearly two weeks.  We have twenty-five in our group, most of whom will be visiting Israel for the very first time.  Oh the excitement just to walk where Jesus walked.  Oh the wonder of being on the Sea of Galilee.  And oh the mysteries that become unfolded as one visits the Old City.  We thank you for your prayers for us and our team while we are gone.  And, upon our return, I will write and let you know of how God worked in our lives. 


So, until then, keep looking up because your redemption is drawing near, and keep working because the fields are white unto harvest. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Of Syria, Gaza, and Guns

Things in the Middle East are continuing to approach the "boiling over" point.  The civil war in Syria simply has no ending - at least not in the near future.  Russia and Iran are doing everything to continue supporting the dictatorial and oppressive regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.  Last weekend it was reported that forces loyal to the Syrian government used chemical weapons against a Damascus suburb that was in the control of anti-government forces.  This was not the first time that Assad has used chemical weapons against his own people. 


On Monday, the United Nations Security Counsel was presented with a resolution, sponsored by the United States, that condemned the Syrian government for using chemical weapons.  The resolution was vetoed by Russia.  Britain and France have threatened air strikes against Syrian government bases.  Israel has already conducted an air strike against the military base from which the chemical weapons were launched.  President Trump has also voiced his anger at the chemical attack and has vowed some type of US retaliatory strike.  Both Russia and Iran have uttered their own threats should the United States strike back at the Assad regime. 


President Trump is in a very awkward position.  Last week he announced his intentions to begin bringing home the troops that we have in Syria.  He declared that victory over ISIS had been achieved in Syria.  He does not want the United States to become embroiled with the Syrian War itself.  Yet, he has stated that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.  Furthermore, will Congress be supportive of the President's actions? 


We do know from the prophetic writings that Damascus, Syria's capital, will play a role in the last days, but will be suddenly destroyed completely.  Perhaps we are inching toward that very time.  You can bet that Israeli intelligence operatives are keeping a very watchful eye on what is happening to their neighbor on the northeast.


For the past several weeks, tensions have reached the "boiling point" along Israel's Gaza Strip border.  This protest has been named the "March of Return."  It is scheduled to culminate on May 14 - the 70th anniversary of the Declaration of Israel's Independence.  The goal is to flood Israel with millions of Palestinian "refugees", each claiming the right-of-return to those properties abandoned by family members in 1948 as they fled the War of Independence.  This right-of-return is an essential element in the Palestinian peace narrative.  If allowed, it would turn Israel from a Jewish state to an Arab Islamic State - simply because the Arab population would be the majority.  There have been almost constant border clashes with many Palestinian casualties. 


In this uncertain times, one can hardly afford not to pay attention to what is happening in the Middle East.  Many of the players that Ezekiel describes in chapters 38-39 are coming to the table.  Just last week key leaders from Iran, Turkey, and Russia met in Turkey to discuss the future of Syria and the Middle East.  Wow! These are exciting times for the believer!


Here at home, debate continues over gun control.  Louis DeBroux wrote a piece for The Patriot Post a couple weeks ago that I thought was excellent.  You can find the entire article at: www.patriotpost.us/articles/55014-yes-leftists-want-to-repeal-the-second-amendment.  "The recent mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school renewed the debate on gun control and the Second Amendment itself.  The stakes were raised this week.  The principle of the debate is simple: namely, the right to self-defense is a God-given right that predates government itself.  The Declaration of Independence proclaims we are each endowed by our Creator with certain 'unalienable rights' and that 'to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed.'  Got that?  Rights are secured, NOT granted, by government.


"Not according to former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who this week declared in a New York Times op-ed that it is time to repeal the Second Amendment.  He argued that the Court erred in 2008 when it ruled the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms (District of Columbia v. Heller).  Bizarrely, by arguing the amendment pertains only to the right of the government to form a well-regulated militia, Stevens claims to be the only right listed in the Bill of Rights that protects government rather than the individual.


"Indeed, the entire reason for the adoption of the Second Amendment was not to protect sport shooting, or hunting, or even for defense against criminals.  It was to provide a bulwark against the potential infringements on Liberty by a tyrannical government."


The article concludes: "In his Commentaries on the Constitution, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, the 'Father of American Jurisprudence,' made it clear and unambiguous, declaring, 'The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.'  Disarming law-abiding citizens will not protect innocent people; it will only leave them defenseless against those with homicidal intentions - not to mention at the mercy of tyrannical government.  It is beyond foolish to think otherwise."


Friends, the push toward the confiscation of guns is merely the first step.  In London, a city with extremely strict gun-control laws, the new weapon of choice is knives.  Now the Mayor of London wants to control the knives on the streets.  This is one of those vicious cycles that has no ending until every means that can be used for self-defense is taken away.  When that happens, the government will be in total control.  Those will be the days of the Antichrist. 


We live in a very confused world.  But there is hope on the horizon with that wonderful promise that the Lord is coming soon.  Oh what a day that will be when our Jesus we shall see!  How we need to help people be prepared when it happens.



Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Easter - Under Attack - Really?

Is it just me or is the assault upon Christianity intensifying.  We have seen the video clip over and over of Joy Behar, one of the hosts on the ABC program "The View", and her rank against Vice President Pence because he declared that he talked with God and God talked with him.  For her, that was a sign of mental illness.  I guess she has never prayed before - perhaps she doesn't need to because she seems to have life all figured-out.  But I believe that someday Joy Behar will be in a position where she will strongly want to hear from God. 


This past week, Thomas Gallatin wrote an amazing article for the Patriot Post.  You can read the entire article at: www.patriotpost.us/articles/55089-leftmedias-deliberate-mischaracterization-of-Christianity.  The author writes: "From National Public Radio to NBC News to CNN, the mainstream media's ignorant misrepresentation of basic and central Christian beliefs and doctrines would be understandable if it wasn't for the fact that Christianity is the religion practiced by some 70% of Americans.  On Good Friday, MPR published an article that addressed a report that Pope Francis had denied the existence of hell.  NPR originally described Easter as 'the day celebrating the idea that Jesus did not die and go to hell or purgatory or anywhere at all, but rather arose into heaven.'  After receiving much deserved blowback, NPR corrected the piece to read, 'Easter - the day Christians celebrate Jesus' Resurrection.'  How could NPR get one of the most foundational beliefs of Christianity so terribly wrong?


"Far worse, NBC News marked the sacred occasion with a piece entitled, 'On Easter Sunday, Christians must remember how easily and often our faith is used to defend white supremacy.'  The article relays a story of a bunch of white southern racists who murdered several blacks and other defenders of Reconstruction one Easter Sunday in 1873 in Colfax County, Louisiana.  It is indeed a horrific story, but it is far from emblematic of Christian beliefs or practices.  And it was 145 years ago.  Ironically, the article does exactly what it condemns - it seeks to co-opt the Christian message, ignoring its central teachings, so as to promote an anti-Donald Trump pro-leftist political cause.  The question once again is how did the MSM get the Christian doctrine of Easter this wrong?


"But then there was what may have been the worst understanding of Easter - this one from CNN.  In an article title, 'How Easter became a #MeToo moment,' which was not listed as an opinion piece, author John Blake asserted that Jesus was a victim of sexual humiliation as a result of being hung naked on the cross, and therefore 'if linking the Easter story with the #MeToo movement is offensive and bewildering to some, perhaps that is fitting.'  Additionally, Mary Magdalene was a #MeToo victim of male authority.  Blake continued, 'The Easter stories in the Gospels have a jarring, unexpected quality about them as well. ... The stories are enigmatic and elusive.  They continue to yield surprises even 2,000 years later.  They are, in some ways, much like the figure of Jesus himself.'  While attempting to sound profound, Blake reveals once again a shocking amount of ignorance of what Easter is actually all about."


Friends, these stories - and they could be multiplied countless times over - are evidence of how our culture has turned against God and the truths of His Word.  How could anyone possible get Easter wrong?  It is very easy if you take God out of the picture.  Then the death of Jesus becomes nothing other than a strong case of injustice.  The death of Jesus becomes a "poster-child" for the cause of social justice.  Instead of Jesus being "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" He becomes merely a means to an end. 


Then I read an article yesterday posted by Fox News.  It can be found at: www.foxnews.com/us/2018/04/03/christians-and-white-people-get-unmerited-perks-live-easier-lives-George-Washington-university-seminar-says.  Friends, this article is alarming and very revealing of what the attitude is on many of our secular university campuses.  "George Washington University is hosting a seminar on combating 'Christian privilege' in America.  According to an event description, students in a 90-minute training sessions will learn about ways American Christians receive things they don't deserve and are not worthy of getting: 'How do we...acknowledge that Christians receive unmerited perks from institutions and systems all across our country?'  The Multicultural Student Services Center (MSSC) at GWU is hosting 'Christian Privilege: But Our Founding Fathers Were All Christian, Right?!'  According to the website, MSSC Associate Director and LGBTQ Resources Director Timothy Kane will discuss how American Christians have 'easier' lives and get 'built-in advantages over non-Christians' as well as making 'room for all religious and secular identities on an equal playing field.' ... 'These trainings equip students and staff with the necessary skills to promote diversity and inclusion in the different environments in which they find themselves frequently,' the website says.


"Former Secret Service Agent, Dan Bongino, tweeted about the 'disturbing' story as reported by The College Fix, saying, 'Someone should've told the martyrs about 'Christian privilege.'  Another person on Twitter, Chad Prather, tweeted that with martyrdom, beatings, and beheadings they should host the workshop in Libya, Ethiopia, Iran or northern Nigeria.  'I think America has too much 'university privilege,' Prather wrote."


I want to share one more article that really wrestles with the core issue.  It was written by Emilie Kao and can be found at The Daily Signal website.  It is titled, "Americans Grapple With Evil Amid Decline in Religious Faith."  Let me quote briefly some of the highlights.  "Blaise Pascal once described a 'God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man.'  But in modern-day America, few statements can raise eyebrows more swiftly than expressing faith in the transcendent. ... In a world where we can drive vehicles, communicate globally, and change the temperature of our homes with the touch of a finger, it is easy to believe that we have mastered our physical environment.  Yet we are stumped when the age-old problem of evil rears its ugly head.  It's no surprise, then, that in the aftermath of the Parkland tragedy, we fixate on a material solution - gun control - to solve what we assess as a material problem.  But what if the problem is much deeper than raising the gun-buying age by a few years or making it harder to get certain types of guns?  What if the roots of the problem are actually internal and moral, and even spiritual?"


The writer of the article continues by quoting from Professor emeritus of psychology at New York University Paul Vitz.  Dr. Vitz "attributes teens' skyrocketing anxiety, self-harm, suicides, and school shootings to their poor spiritual health.  Despite being born into a world with more material comforts and mental health resources than ever, the next generation seems increasingly drawn toward self-destruction.  Vitz observes that without belief in objective truth, goodness, and beauty, including the belief that they are created in the image of God, the next generation clings to external sources of identity: social media, sexual experiences, and material possessions.  In a sea of ever-changing cultural and social trends, such flimsy sources of meaning can predictably leave some of them bewildered and overwhelmed.  'Countless young people...feel there is nothing for them to believe in,  Emotional numbness is one of the consequences.  They...no longer find self-worth in their efforts to lead lives based on truth and love.'  Vitz proposes that Americans re-examine the value of faith and its power to help people live happier, healthier, and longer lives."


This is the world in which we live.  This is the world that I am leaving behind for my grandchildren.  How vitally important it is that parents, grandparents, and the church do all it can to help prepare those children and grandchildren to have a faith that is anchored securely to the Rock Christ Jesus.   

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Thoughts for Holy Week

This is one of the most sacred of weeks in the Christian calendar - a week in which we at least pause, if not come to a complete stop, and remember the suffering and death of our Savior.  And, for our Jewish friends, Saturday will make the first day of Pesach or Passover - a time of remembrance of God's miraculous sparing of their lives moments before they left the slavery of Egypt behind; yet remembering also the sacrifice of an innocent lamb whose blood was applied to the door frames of homes, thus sparing them from the ravages of death.  Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrifice - as we hear those words from John the Baptist: "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" 


I know that there are a lot of news stories I could cover this week - and they are important stories that impact our lives.  But I want to focus our thoughts for a few moments on Holy Week.  Perhaps it is because I had the privilege Sunday of preaching the "Servant Songs" in Isaiah that I am conscious of the events in those final days and hours of Christ's life. 


The physical suffering of Jesus almost overwhelms our souls.  No other person has suffered as did Jesus.  His was a violent death that came as a consequence of hatred being poured out upon Him.  The Jewish leadership truly hated Jesus.  They hated His person.  They hated His actions.  They hated His words.  So, when Jesus surrendered to their authority, that hatred was heaped upon Jesus.  Isaiah portrays that hatred with these words: "I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting" (Isaiah 50:6).  And that was just the beginning.  The Gospel writers tell us that Pilate had Jesus flogged - an act of violence that often led to death.  A whip with pieces of glass and iron and stone was lashed across the back, but often the thongs would wrap around a person's chest and waist.  The glass pieces would cut deeply tearing away the flesh, often exposing the deep muscular structure and even internal organs.  Friend, the miracle was that Jesus survived that flogging. 


Suffering from acute blood loss and dehydration, Jesus was forced to carry the cross-beam to the place of execution.  His physical strength was nearing the point of complete exhaustion.  Jesus stumbled and fell and so another was commanded to carry the cross piece for Him.  Arriving at Golgatha, the hands and feet of Jesus was nailed to the cross - the Romans doing it in such a manner to create the most excruciating pain imaginable.  And then the cross was hoisted into place, dropping with a thud into the hole.  When that occurred the shoulders separated creating even more pain. 


Friends, Isaiah states something about the appearance of Jesus upon the cross that staggers us: "Just as many were appalled (a better translation of this word is "shocked") at him - his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness" (Isaiah 52:14).  Did you grasp the magnitude of Isaiah's words?  As Jesus hung upon that cross He was barely recognizable as being a human.  Hatred had done its awful work!  The body of Jesus was ravaged in a way no other person ever has been. 


And then there was the emotional pain.  The voices spewing hatred continued almost unabated.  The leaders were not satisfied with a horrific death.  No, they heaped words of hate upon Jesus as well.  And finally there was the spiritual pain.  Darkness enveloped that scene of death and we hear those anguished words of Jesus, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?"  It was for that very moment that Jesus had come to this earth.  It was for that very moment that Jesus had committed Himself before the foundations of the world were laid.  It was at that moment Jesus became "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."  All the hatred, all the evil that this world could create was placed upon the shoulders of one whose physical strength and emotional strength were nearing an end.  Yet the spiritual strength, although wavering, held strong.  Satan had accomplished his work.  Yet, listen to those final words of Jesus: "It is finished!"  This is not the cry of defeat; it is the cry of victory.  With that cry it is almost as if Jesus is anticipating the coming resurrection, the coming glory that would be His.


Friends, I challenged my congregation last Sunday to take some quiet time this week and reread Isaiah 53.  Picture afresh in your mind the cross and Christ's sacrifice.  Remember that He died for you.  He took your place.  It is then that we can sing "Hallelujah, What a Savior!" 


I wish my Jewish friends a Passover filled with the joys of family.  May your Seder be blessed by God.  And I wish everyone else a happy Easter as we celebrate the foundation for our faith - the empty tomb.  "He is risen!  He is risen indeed!"

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

An Important Case Before the Supreme Court and Putin Wins Again

For the past few months I have been following a case that originated in California and yesterday found its way before the United States Supreme Court.  The case is known as NIFLA v Becerra.  NIFLA  stands for the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates - a prolife organization.  Xavier Becerra is the current California attorney-general who is defending the California bill that is being questioned.


Let me give a little background.  In 2015, the California legislature passed a bill known as "The Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency Act" which came to be known as the FACT Act.  The reason for the law was that, it was believed, women who faced an unplanned pregnancy were not being given adequate information regarding the availability of no and low cost medical services, including abortion, which were available through the State of California.  The FACT Act required that all crisis pregnancy centers post information regarding these services which the Sate of California provides and that such information be included in any advertisements for such facilities. 


In other words, if I am operating a nonprofit, prolife crisis pregnancy center, the law now requires that I post on my office walls and also place within my ads that abortions can be obtained through the State of California.  So, a woman who comes to my office seeking help must also be told, either verbally or through the postings, that abortion is an inexpensive option because the State will pay for it. 


Several nonprofit centers decided that such a law was an infringement upon their rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  They had the right to not share with their clients that abortion was an option because they had taken the position that abortion was wrong.  In 2016 the NIFLA sued the State of California on behalf of nonprofit crisis pregnancy centers claiming "that the law unfairly targets crisis pregnancy centers because it does not apply to clinics that perform abortions, and because it forces crisis centers to provide information they do not endorse" (www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/nifla-v-becerra-supreme-court-takes-both-abortion-first-amendment-ncna858056).


Yesterday the Supreme Court heard arguments from both sides  and will make a ruling sometime in June.  Each side had 25 minutes to present its case.  The heart of the argument made by NIFLA is that the government should not force individuals, or in this case a crisis pregnancy center, to promote a message that contradicts their sincerely held beliefs.


What I find very interesting is that the California law does not require that state-operated abortion clinics post information within their offices nor to have it published on their advertisements telling women that there is another option beside abortion.  No, this law seems to have had only one focus - upon those nonprofit crisis pregnancy centers, most of whom have some type of religious, prolife foundation.  This is just another attempt by "big government" to curtail the freedoms and rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution. 


I am grateful for the NIFLA and its willingness to take on this case.  And I am grateful that the United States Supreme Court decided to add this case to its spring docket of cases.  Now we just need to pray that, as they deliberate a decision, that they will be focused upon what is truly best for that mom and her unborn baby.  I will keep watch and will let you know when the Supreme Court has reached its decision. 


Meanwhile, President Putin has won another election in Russia.  Of course there was little opposition - the recent assassination and attempted assassination of dissident Russians living in England testify to what potentially can happen when a person falls out of favor with Putin.  Will Putin continue to bully his way with those Eastern European countries?  Probably.  Will Put continue to bully his way with the United States?  Probably.  But the Bible reminds us that as we near the end of the age, Russia will become stronger and will gather a coalition together to destroy Israel.  Will Putin be the leader of this Ezekiel-described coalition?  I can't speak with authority that he will, but I can state that the leader described in Ezekiel 38 will be someone with the nature of a Putin.  Wow1  Are these exciting times in which we live!  I am grateful that my hope is placed on the solid Rock Jesus Christ. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Dr. Hawking - A Man Who Missed God

One of the headlines today is that of the death of Dr. Stephen Hawking.  Dr. Hawking was one of the greatest thinkers of our time, especially in the realms of cosmology and quantum physics.  Dr. Hawking taught for many years at Cambridge University.  He specialized in the study of black holes.  While a graduate student at Cambridge, he was diagnosed with ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.  His doctors gave him two years to live, yet he lived with the disease for 55 years.  When asked how he coped with his disease after the diagnosis, Hawking said, "Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.  Try to make sense of what you see and about what makes the universe exist.  Be curious.  And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at.  It matters that you don't just give up."  Well, Stephen Hawking did not give up.


Dr. Hawking was not a believer in God.  He once said, "There is probably no heaven, and no afterlife either.  We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that, I am extremely grateful."  (www.aol.com/article/news/2018/03/14/stephen-hawking-dead-famed-scientist-dies-at-76).


In one of his last interviews before his death, Dr. Hawking stated that he had discovered what happened before the dawn of time.  (www.foxnews.com/science/2918/03/05/stephen-hawking-says-knows-what-happened-before-dawn-time).  Allow me to quote briefly from this article, as I found it fascinating.  "'The boundary condition of the universe...is that it has no boundary,' Hawking tells the National Geographic's Star Talk show this weekend.  In other words, there is no time before time began as time was always there.  It was just different.  He tells physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson that amid the almost infinitely small quantum foam of the singularity before the Big Bang, time existed in a 'bent' state.  It was distorted along another dimension - always getting fractionally closer to, but never becoming, nothing.  So there never was a Big Bang that created something from nothing.  It just looks that way from our point of perspective."


So, how did Dr. Hawking discover this 'different form of time?'  "Quantum theory introduces a new idea, that of imaginary time.  Imaginary time may sound like science fiction, and it has been brought into Doctor Who.  But nevertheless, it is a genuine scientific concept.  One can picture it in the following way.  One can think of ordinary, real, time as a horizontal line.  On the left, one has the past, and on the right, the future.  But there's another kind of time in the vertical dimension.  This is called imaginary time, because it is not the kind of time we normally experience.  But in a sense, it is just as real as what we call real time."


So, according to the late Dr. Hawking, there has always been time, but just of the imaginary type.  So, there really could not have been "a beginning."  That seems to make the very first statement in the Bible to be false.  Genesis 1:1 states, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  This verse seems to strongly indicate that, at some moment in eternity past - before there was time - God created the universe and the world around us.  There was a moment when we can say, "This is when it all began."  Some will say that that moment is known as "the Big-Bang."  But, that theory is fraught with problems and questions: Where did the materials come from that will explode and become the universe and our world?  Where did the energy come from that caused the explosion?  Who or what caused the explosion to occur?  The better alternative, it seems to me, is to believe what the Bible states so confidently: That God caused everything to come into being at a moment known as "the beginning."  This is very straight-forward and answers those questions raised by "the Big Bang" theory. 


But, of course, Dr. Hawking could not travel the Genesis 1:1 pathway because he denied the existence of God.  And so he has to create a concept known as imaginary time.  How can one prove the existence of imaginary time?  How can one observe imaginary time?  What are the laws that govern imaginary time?  How does imaginary time differ from our real time?  It seems that, because Dr. Hawking has denied the existence of God, that he has to create some type of hypothesis - even if his hypothesis does not seem to have logic. 


Dr. Hawking was a man of strong resolve; how else can one explain living with ALS for over fifty years.  Dr. Hawking was a man with a keen intellect which he used to advance the field of quantum physics and cosmology.  But, Dr. Hawking was a man who lacked any relationship with the living, holy, amazing God.  When he passed away yesterday, Dr. Hawking came to realize that, although he knew many things, he had failed to know one thing that would have changed his life - he had failed to know the Lord Jesus.  I believe Dr. Hawking illustrates those words of Jesus: "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?" (Luke 9:25). 


What a contrast between Billy Graham and Stephen Hawking.  Both men influenced a generation.  Both men sought to help men to understand the world around them.  Yet, Billy Graham did something that Dr. Hawking could not do - he shared with people that the only way they could understand the world around them was to understand their need for a relationship with a holy God through His Son, Jesus Christ.  One will hear those amazing words - "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joys of your Lord", while the other will hear those words of judgment - "Depart from Me, for a never knew you."  How do you want to be greeted by our Savior?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Why Young People Are Leaving the Church?

This past Saturday, the Minnesota Star-Tribune published an article written by Jean Hopfensperger.  The article was titled, "A Look At Why Young Catholics Leave."  I found the statistics offered in this article very interesting.  They follow a trend that has been observed within all churches the past ten years or so.  The basic theme from several surveys, including this one, is that young people are leaving the Church today in droves.  Few have any intent of returning.  George Barna observed this several years ago.  Others have done similar studies.  And, it is found that young people are "checking out of" the church at an earlier age.


"They stopped believing in God.  They saw a disconnect  between what Catholics say and what they do.  They disagreed with the church's stance on social issues such as homosexuality and birth control."  With these words, the author begins her piece.  "They are the growing numbers of young Catholics living the church - the focus of a new national study to examine why they're departing and where they're landing.  It's an issue that worries church leaders across the country."  To be honest, it should worry not just Catholics, but all of us.  Why are young people leaving the church?  And why are they leaving at such an early age?


The article continues: "'Leaving the [Catholic] church crosses all age groups, but the fastest-growing demographic is age 18 to 29,' said John Vitek, president of Saint Mary's Press in Winona, which commissioned the study.  'Our data shows the median age for leaving the church was 13 years old,' he said.  'That was a surprise to everyone...and something we really have to take note of.'" 


"The survey found that the biggest reason young Catholics bailed was that they no longer believed in God.  One in five cited that lack of faith."  The author quotes from a young woman who said, "'I would like to believe that something happens when you die, that you don't just rot in the ground, but I don't know.'"


"Another 16 percent said family experiences shaped their misgivings.  Divorce, death, illnesses and perceived 'hypocrisy' were cited.  'Although my grandparents took me to church every weekend...we found out that my grandfather was having an affair,' said another respondent.  'I don't think that's part of the Catholic faith.'"


"Among other findings: Three in four said they stopped viewing themselves as Catholics between age 10 and 20; Nearly half said they were searching for spiritual practice in tune with their beliefs; About a third said they are 'done' joining churches."


Friends, the results of this Catholic survey should give us a "wake-up" call.  The church continues to fail the next generation.  According to another report I read last fall, although still being brought to church every week, a number of young people in the 6th grade had already decided that, when they left home, they would leave the church.  One has to ask the question of "why?"


First, I believe that hypocrisy with the home is a leading reason why young people are leaving the church.  They have watched mom and dad go to church every week, but when they are at home all they do is argue with one another by yelling and screaming.  Forget about "loving your neighbor as yourself" when love is absent at home.  What is said and done at home is completely different from what is said and done while at church. 


To counter this reason, many churches have become very active in a reformation-type movement to minister to parents so that they can disciple their own children.  It is known as Faith@Home or D6.  But the focus is to help parents model 24/7 their faith before their children and grandchildren.  We have been modeling this for the past six years and have seen some incredible turn-arounds within families attending our church.  It does work! 


Second, I believe that the lack of relevancy between the Gospel and contemporary culture contributes to young people leaving the church.  They have witnessed a disconnect between the Scriptures and culture.  I believe today's young people are looking for some anchor for their lives.  They want to know that the Bible has the answers.  A watered-down Gospel does not satisfy those needs.  It is time to rediscover the power of the unadulterated, passionate, authoritative teaching of God's Word. 


The focus in the past within youth ministries was to "have fun."  There is still a need for that today, but there is a greater need to teach truth.  The very future of the church depends upon it.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

To Control Guns or Not to Control Guns - Ah, That's the Question

I am not sure you have heard that over the weekend the Church of the Holy Sepulchre closed its doors in Jerusalem.  This is perhaps the most sacred of all the Christian sites in Jerusalem - at least to most people.  It is purported to be the place where Jesus was crucified and buried.  But its halls were silenced over the weekend in a dispute between church officials and the officials of the city of Jerusalem concerning taxes.  I do not fully understand all the reasons for the shut down, but just found it interesting that even a sacred site, can be used as a pawn in a political game.  I think Queen Helena might roll over in her grave if she knew.  I will be in Jerusalem in a few weeks, so will give a full report of what I find.


We continue to see the uproar caused by the Parkland, Florida, shootings.  There are loud cries to take away guns.  I recently read an article, written by Michael Swartz, and published on the Patriot Post website on February 23.  You can find it at: www.patriotpost.us/articles/54357-the-youth-massacre-outside-florida.  Allow me to quote from this article: "The tragic loss of 16 students and one coach from one high school in a single incident is bound to dominate the news for days.  But who knew that the five cities with the highest number of murders in 2017 combined to match that terrible total in just three days?  Chicago led the way with 650 murders last year, and while Baltimore was second with 343, its per capita total of 55.8 per 100,000 residents was the highest in the nation among its 50 most populous cities. 


"Bear in mind that many of these cities have stringent gun laws.  But while the Left's answer is to blame guns, there's truly much more to the story.  One key element is the issue of gangs: 'Some young men take precautions appropriate to Beirut, circling their home block three or four times in search of any person or car that is out of place, before they will park,' writes Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson.  'Others must be smuggled out of the city to avoid revenge killings,'  A lucrative drug trade and a lack of respect for human life are clearly fertilizing these killing fields."


The author, Michael Swartz, then proceeds to describe the real problem - and it is not guns.  He continues, "Yet too often among these 'war zones within the borders of America,' young men grow up without a dad.  Whether that's because the father has left the mother voluntarily (or was never really 'with' her in the first place), has since been imprisoned, or was a victim of violence himself doesn't necessarily matter - the issue is the lack of positive male influence in these children's lives.


"As marriage and family expert Suzanne Venker points out about divorce, 'More often than not, children lose contact with their fathers - for two reasons.  One, mothers remain the default custodial parent in the average American divorce and thus retain most of the control.  Second, it is usually women who consider themselves the aggrieved party, as evidenced by the fact that wives initiate 70 percent of divorces.'  She continues, 'The unfortunate result is that some divorced mothers use any opportunity to undermine their children's relationship with their father or, if not that, dismiss the significance of a father's role.'"  I would encourage you to read the full article.


The Patriot Post posted another article, written by Jordan Candler, on February 20.  You can find it at: www.patriotpost.us/articles54242-the-anti-religious-agenda-behind-gun-control.  "After every mass shooting, America succumbs to recycling the same old tropes, a process that inevitably devolves into social media attacks, public shouting matches, vitriol and polarization.  The subject, regardless of which side of the debate you're on, always ends up revolving around guns because even those who believe there are evil outside forces at work when mass shooters commit their carnage are faced with dispelling the shortsighted and erroneous notion propagated by the Left - namely, that the culprit is guns.


"The Left's plea for gun control stems largely from its refusal to acknowledge the connection between cultural depravity and America's throwing away Christianity.  The reason organizations like the Freedom From Religious Foundation are so successful is because too many Americans share the view that God is either nonexistent or is ill-suited to fulfill our idea of what faith demands. 


"Both America's long relationship with guns and 'toxic masculinity' are scapegoats the Left uses because it objects to moral changes.  On the issue of gun control, for all the talk of how conservatives don't offer ideas to curb violence, the truth is that we do; they're just meaningful and religious-oriented ones leftists reject.  ...  If America wants to see an end to mass shootings, it's literally impossible to do so without a return to the moral standards set forth through Christianity.  Most leftists believe in a lot of coincidences - the big bang, for example - and their argument against guns implies that the lack of mass shootings before God was stripped from schools is also coincidental.  In reality, its the unavoidable outcome of engendering a godless society.  Our national discussion must take on and rebut the secular approach to stop the bloodshed.  Otherwise, our rights will continue to be undermined with absolutely nothing to show for it."


The problem is not strictly guns - although I have often wondered why people need such high-powered weapons.  But, then again, I have never had any desire to own a gun.  But I know men within my church who own several guns, but use them for hunting and recreational purposes.  I have even been invited to one of their "shootings" but could not hit the "broad-side-of-a-barn."  I go now just for the food!  Friends, a gun is no more dangerous than is a car.  In fact, more people are killed every year with automobiles than guns - yet there is no rush to control automobiles.  The problem is the people who shoot the guns, the people who drive the automobiles.  And, when you talk about a people problem, you inevitably have to focus upon a moral problem - more particularly, the lack of morals.  And, whenever you begin a discussion of morality, you are driven to the ultimate question - what is right and wrong?  And, that question will bring you to the penultimate question - who decides what is right and wrong?  The answer to that question, as we know as believers, is God Himself.  But, we don't want to travel down that road, so it is much easier to say it is a matter of guns.  And so the debate will continue.  Bills will be introduced into both state and national legislatures.  Executive orders will be executed.  Stricter controls will be mandated.  But, the killings will continue - just look at what is happening in Chicago, a city with some of the most strict gun control regulations in the country.  It is not a gun problem.  It is a heart problem.  And, until we stop and admit to that side of the issue, there will be more Parkland shootings.