This is beginning to look like it will be a very active hurricane season for both the Atlantic and Pacific regions as well as the Caribbean coastlines. As Hurricane Florence continues its migration toward the regions of Coastal Carolina, gaining strength with each surpassing hour, two other hurricanes are forming in the Atlantic, and a strong low-pressure system is forming in the Caribbean that might impact the Texas coast. Meanwhile Hawaii is being threatened with its third hurricane of the season: Hector, Lane, and now Olivia. It is almost as if the storms are lining up on both coasts just taking turns in causing devastation.
Then there are the increase in the frequency of earthquakes, such that they are hardly reported in the news any longer. It almost takes a catastrophic quake to make the major news sources. Then I saw a picture of giraffes standing in snow as a almost-unheard-of snowfall occurred in Africa. It seems the weather patterns are following a path that is less than normal. I keep returning to those words of Jesus to His disciples as they asked about the end of days. He said that there would be earthquakes and famines in diverse places. And I remember reading the Apostle Paul's words to the Roman believers about how creation moans awaiting its redemption (see Romans 8). There seems to be a lot of moaning taking place right now, and it is growing in its intensity.
There are two news stories that I want to focus upon this week. The first is the decision that the Trump Administration made on Monday to close the offices of the Palestine Liberation Organization, also known as the PLO, in Washington, DC. Two reasons were given for its closure. First, the failure on the part of the Palestinian Leadership to participate in meaningful negotiations with the Israelis seeking to finalize some type of two-state solution. Second, the continued threat of the PLO to take Israel before the International Criminal Court (the ICC) and charge them with war crimes because of the actions in the conflict with Hamas in Gaza. Neither the United States nor Israel recognize the existence of the ICC.
In addition the United States has moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thus recognizing that city as the capital of Israel. The United States has severely reduced its funding to UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency) which has overseen the care of those Palestinian refugees since the 1948 war of independence. This follows the drastic cuts in funding given to the Palestinian Authority itself. That number of refugees has grown from nearly 700,000 in 1948 to over 5 million today. And days ago the United States cut its funding for hospitals in East Jerusalem. It is the hope that such financial cuts would bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table in good faith. Instead the response from PLO leadership has been defiance and determination to proceed with their case against Israel in the ICC.
I was asked recently my response to these decisions by the Trump State Department leaders. I have applauded the move of the United States Embassy to Jerusalem. Friends, it should have been done years before, but everyone thought that such a move might be the catalyst for World War III. Well, now that it has been done, we are not in that type of war. And I have applauded the drastic cuts in American taxpayer dollars going to a Palestinian leadership that rewards those who kill Israelis. And I applaud the continued pressure - both financially and diplomatically - being placed upon Palestinian President Abbas in order for him to see the reality of the world in which he lives. Will these actions bring the intended consequence? I guess only time will tell. Israel is certainly not a perfect state filled with perfect leaders, but then again neither is the United States - if the stories we hear coming out of Washington are correct. But Israel has always been our closest and most dependable ally in that stormy region of the world. I saw a T-shirt while in Israel this past spring that read: "Don't worry America, Israel has your back." Do we have Israel's back? For the present moment, I think it is safe to say that we do.
The second story is one that truly grieves me. It is the decision that the leadership at Nike made to have Colin Kaepernick be the spokesman for their "Just Do It" campaign. Colin Kaepernick was the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers a few years ago. He had a fleeting moment of glory, then his flower began to fade. Last year, Colin Kaepernick decided to take a knee in protest as the national anthem was being played. Soon other NFL players joined with him in this protest against cruelty by police departments across our country toward blacks. Football fans were caught in this storm of protest. Attendance at NFL games began to plunge. Television ratings dropped like lead sinkers on the end of a fish line. Talk show hosts pontificated over the merits and demerits of what these Colin Kaepernick inspired players were doing. Many felt that such a protest against the American flag was almost a sacrilege to those who fought and died defending that flag and the nation it represented.
In spite of these strong feelings on the part of average Americans, Nike announced that Colin Kaepernick would be the face of the new "Just Do It" campaign. In the commercial, Mr. Kaepernick says, "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything." I ask myself this question: What has Mr. Kaepernick sacrificed? He is presently unemployed, which may say more about his football skills than about his protest. When I heard that statement, friends, I wanted to say to him, "Mr. Kaepernick, if you want to know what it means to sacrifice everything, then let me take you to any of the national cemeteries that dot the American landscape. Let's begin at Arlington. Mr. Kaepernick, there are rows and rows and more rows of crosses that mark the graves of those who truly sacrificed everything. Mr. Kaepernick, let me show you those opening scenes from that incredible movie 'Saving Private Ryan' as American forces hit the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. Now that is sacrificing everything. Mr. Kaepernick, if you feel you need to protest, then choose a different way than desecrating our nation's flag and its national anthem. For as that national anthem so pointedly proclaims: 'This star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.'"
The leaders at Nike have every right to select whom they desire to be their spokes person. But I applaud those schools that have chosen to no longer use the Nike brand as the athletic wear of their choice. And I agree with the letter from the National Association of Police Organizations and their president Michael McHale asking their members to boycott all Nike products.
One final item worthy of news is the release of photographs and an accompanying story that trumpeted the appearance of the red-heifer in Israel. This calf has been fully authenticated and certified by Jewish rabbis as being a fully red-heifer. This is a major story as it relates to the last days. According to Number 19, a red heifer was sacrificed and its ashes were mixed with water to form the agent that would purify those articles used within the tabernacle. According to the news source, a red heifer has not been born for the past 2000 years. If this calf truly is the red heifer, that means that the Jewish religious leaders have an animal which can be sacrificed and then burned, with those ashes being used to purify those implements for use in the third temple; which, by the way, are now completely built - I have seen them with my own eyes while in Jerusalem. With the birth of this red heifer we are one step closer to the return of the Lord Jesus. And I will say a full and loud "Amen!" to that.
And to my Jewish friends I do want to wish you a "shana tova" as the new year begins.