Thursday, September 18, 2014

An Apology

Yesterday I included at the close of my blog some information regarding an e-mail our church had received asking for urgent prayer for those Christians suffering in Iraq.  The e-mail, purported to be a letter from a Crisis Relief International worker, related about children being beheaded.


That e-mail was a bogus one I came to find out.  The reference is the following web-address: www.matthiasmedia.com/briefing/2014/08/handling-the-urgent-international-prayer-request.  That website will share the fallacy of the e-mail I related yesterday.


I try to do my best to make sure that all my facts are straight and the e-mail links are vetted as well as I know how to do, but this one just slipped by.  So, please accept my apologies. 


But the message to pray for the suffering believers in the path of ISIS is not a bogus event.  They really do need our prayers for God's strength to be given to them. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Warning That Needs to Be Heeded

I read an article this morning that I found very disturbing.  It was an article written by Chelsea Schilling and posted at www.wnd.com/2014/09/isis-luring-u-s-women-with-cash-for-babies-promises. "Islamic State terrorists are recruiting women from Western countries to fly to the Middle East, marry jihadists and bear their children in a 'cash-for-babies' scheme.  The depravity of ISIS Muslims already has been well-documented, with their torture and murder of children in Iraq, their crucifixions of adults and their use of women as sex slaves.  But observers are saying the latest report, how ISIS is luring American women by promising money in return for bearing children for militants, takes the jihadist group to a whole new level."  And, once again, Minnesota takes center stage.  The article states, "Female members of at least three Somali families in Minneapolis have gone missing in the past six weeks.  A 19-year-old from the area is known to have flown to Turkey in secret before crossing the border into Syria. ... It was reported one of the missing Somalians from Minnesota 'left home saying she was attending a bridal shower [but] instead flew to Turkey.'"


According to the article, "'They [speaking of ISIS] are selling them [these young girls] this mystical sisterhood of going to the caliphate and being able to be Muslim in this idealized, utopian society,' warned Mia Bloom, a professor at the center for terrorism and security studies at the University of Massachusetts.  'They are targeting these young girls in a very predatory way - the way child sex abusers target young children.'  .. Bloom also expressed concern that ISIS will use the women as suicide bombers.  She said, while most women would stand out on a military installation, in most other public places, people wouldn't expect a woman to carry out a suicide attack.  'If you change your tactics and target mosques or schools, that's when women are really quite ideal,' she explained." 


Friends, I would strongly urge you to read this article.  This is the world we are living in.  The power of radical groups, such as ISIS, is not to be overlooked.  Historically there have always been those who seek to be identified with such groups, whether it is out of the sense of adventure, or just to escape their own problems back home, or to feel that they are part of a new world order. 


Giving our young people today more things does not fill that void within their hearts, yet that is what our society through the tentacles of the media would have us believe.  Every ad on television or on Facebook or on Twitter is a reminder that "things bring happiness."  But they don't.  That ache within the hearts of many of our young people today also cannot be filled with religion.  Young people today are fed-up with the false promises and the hypocrisy they have seen in religious ceremonies and rites and so they have bailed out of organized religious practices by the hundred of thousands. 


That void, that emptiness, can only be filled with the presence of Jesus Christ.  I believe that young people today are truly seeking for truth.  Many are tired of "the game of life" and want to know what life is really about.  As a Christian parent, I have a strong opportunity to influence my children for Jesus.  As a Christian grandparent, I need to use those opportunities to influence my grandchildren for Jesus.  I need to model before them what "Jesus in the flesh" looks like.  I need to share truth with them - not just opinions.  I need to let them know that the Bible is the foundation upon which I make the choices for everyday living.  Friends, this MUST begin in the home.  For too long we have thrust this responsibility upon our schools and upon our churches.  Both have failed - in some cases failed miserably.  In Deuteronomy 6, God instructs Moses to tell the people that "dads, get involved in the lives of your children from the time they get up in the morning until they go to bed at night.  Use those moments to share truth with them."  Yes, I know dads are busy these days - there are a lot of demands upon them.  But, Dad, don't just shower your children with things; shower them with who you are - the real you. 


I believe that if we model this well - and it will take some time because it is a whole new way of parenting and grandparenting than what has been in the recent past - then, perhaps we will not have young girls running off to join radical groups.  We will not have young people abandoning the church as they grow older. 


As I close this blog this morning, I want to share an urgent prayer request my church received from a neighboring church.  They concern e-mails received from missionaries working in the area where ISIS has been active.  "Missionaries who are in the areas that are being attacked by ISIS are asking to be showered in prayer.  ISIS has taken over the town they are in today.  He said ISIS is systematically going house to house to all the Christians and asking the children to denounce Jesus.  He said so far not one child has.  And so far all have consequently been killed.    But not the parents.  The UN has withdrawn and the missionaries are on their own.  They are determined to stick it out for the sake of the families - even if it means their own deaths.  They are very afraid, have no idea how to even begin ministering to these families who have seen their children martyred.  Yet he says he knows God has called them for some reason to be His voice and hands at this place at this time."


Friends, will you pray for these who are serving Christ in these war-torn places?  Will you pray for those Christians in northern Iraq who are paying the ultimate sacrifice because of their love for Jesus?  Our God is still in control!  Amen!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

On the Eve of ... What?

Tonight our President will address the nation on his plans to contain and destroy the Islamic State (IS) or also known as ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).  Perhaps it is no coincidence that this speech comes on the eve of 9/11 - one of the darkest days in our recent past; a day in which we witnessed the boldness and determined face of terrorists committed to a radical ideology that has no respect for life, only for principles.  Over three thousand Americans died that day and a nation that had assumed that the war on terror was "somewhere over there" was rudely awakened to the reality that terror respects no boundaries.  Al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, was focused on the destruction of the twin evils of Zionism (Israel) and Western civilization, best represented by the United States.  And so he led his followers to perpetrate acts of horrific destruction around the world, culminating in the attacks on the World Trade Center towers and Pentagon on September 11, 2001. 


But, as many analysts have written, ISIS is a greater threat than was Al-Qaeda.  Yes, ISIS has a documented history of systematic and horrific violence.  The brutality with which they have attacked Christians in Iraq is well documented.  The pictures of captured Syrian soldiers being marched into the desert and executed are difficult to view.  And the recent beheadings of two American journalists repulsed many in the civilized world, as well they should.  Here is what I find so incredibly sad.  Those images of Christians in and around Mosul being literally butchered by the ISIS soldiers caused little uproar among many in the world; they certainly did not grab the heart of our governmental leaders.  It took the ghastly beheadings of those two American journalists to final awaken our leaders to the imminent threat that ISIS continues to be.  But the greatest threat from ISIS is not what it seeks to destroy, but what it seeks to create - a new world order based upon the radical interpretations of Islam.  The leaders of ISIS envision a world - a caliphate - that is under the rule of radical Islamic law.  They are seeking to recapture those days when the Islamic Caliphate ruled with strength, especially in the Middle East and reaching into Europe. 


Last week Maajid Nawaz, a former radical leader in Egypt who once believed in building an Islamic Caliphate through terrorism, was interviewed on the Fox News Channel's "The Kelly File."  Mr. Nawaz said, "There is absolutely no justification for what they've done.  We must not only condemn ISIS' tactical beheading of innocent people, including journalists from across the world and in particular Sotloff today, but we must go further than that because mere condemnation is not enough.  We've got to actively work to undermine not just them as an organization, but to undermine the ideology, the poisonous ideology that they are based upon.  Calling them psychopaths does kind of let them off too easily.  They bear 100 percent responsibility for their actions.  They subscribe to a dogma that they justify in their own minds what they're doing.  They think somehow they're serving a higher, noble cause and it's that cause, it's that narrative, it's that ideological world view that we need to undermine.  We need to actively work to undermine it on a civil society level so that it becomes unattractive and as unappealing as Soviet Communism has become today."  As the interview closed, Mr. Nawaz compared ISIS and Nazi Germany, stating that we are seeing that same evil now in a different form. 


On September 4, former CIA operative Bob Baer told CNN's Jake Tapper that ISIS is in the United States and capable of carrying out an attack.  He told Mr. Tapper, "The people who collect tactical intelligence on the ground, day-to-day, and this isn't Washington, but people collecting this stuff say they're here, they're capable of striking.  They don't know what their plans and intentions are.  But it's a definite concern.  The people who do this for a living are very alarmed."  Of special concern is that ISIS terrorists could easily enter the United States through our porous southern border. 


It will be interesting to see how President Obama will describe ISIS this evening - will he dare to use the term "radical Islamic terrorists" - a term he has not used in the past?  Will he share with us how a coalition is being formed?  Will he share how his administration is actively courting real help from Middle Eastern Islamic states: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, just to name a couple?  Friends, this war with ISIS cannot be seen as another attempt by the West to thwart an advance of Islam.  The world needs to see that Muslims band together to destroy a group that has radicalized Islam and used it to accomplish terroristic purposes.  The President does not need to give us more "red-lines" that become meaningless.  The President does not need to give us vitriolic rhetoric, for words have little meaning unless they are supported by actions.  The President does need to give the American people a clearly stated action plan for the destruction of ISIS.  Polls show that the American people are willing to support some type of military campaign against ISIS.  But they want clarity and bi-partisan support.  The time for political grandstanding is over. 


Political intrigue continues to plague Israel and its neighbors.  Saturday evening, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas spoke to journalists in Cairo, warning that the unity deal he and his party Fatah reached with Hamas in April, was on the brink of collapse.  Abbas said, "I don't trust Hamas much because they change their words all the time.  There must be a united Palestinian Authority."  He then accused Hamas of smuggling arms into the West Bank, not for the purposes of fighting Israel, but to hold a coup against the Palestinian Authority.  Abbas stated, "Hamas has been trying to cause the Palestinian Authority to fail since the day it was formed."  Abbas then went on to state that while he is in New York to attend the opening week of the United Nations, he will present a plan to have the United Nations set a timeline demanding Israel withdraw from the those territories captured in 1967.  (Friends, the United Nations begins its fall session this coming week.  Look for lots of barbs to be thrown at Israel during the various speeches by world leaders.  It could be a very interesting week).


We are living in a world that is caught in the grips of fear.  Many parents are not sending their children to school tomorrow because of 9/11 and the threat of another attack.  Many employees are staying home from work tomorrow for fear that their building might be attacked.  There is a fear that the world is coming to an end.  There is a fear that the world will just continue as it has in the past.  Recently I have been drawn to those words of Jesus to His disciples: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).  Friends, isn't that reassuring - Jesus has overcome the world!  He is in complete control!  Nothing happens without His permission!  As  believers we are in the safest place in the world - we are in the hands of Jesus, and nothing can snatch us away.  So, friends, rest secure in the arms of Jesus.  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  Pray for wisdom for world leaders as they seek to prevent another holocaust, not just of Jews, but of all those who oppose radical Islam.  And, as you pray, share the love of Christ with those in your neighborhood and in your workplace.  Tell them that the only real hope we can have is found in Jesus.  And keep listening for the trumpet to sound.  Amen!



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

So, What Do You Believe About Jesus?

Yesterday I read an article written by Joe Kovacs and posted at the World Net Daily website: www.wnd.com/2014/09/Christian-singer-jesus-may-have-lied-about-adam-noah.  "Michael Gungor, lead singer of the Grammy-nominated worship band Gungor, suggested Jesus may have been wrong about the creation story, or possibly even lied about it to fit in with popular culture."  The article then quotes Mr. Gungor: "I think you're making a lot of assumptions based in a perspective that was handed to you from our culture, and the way we think in the modern world is very different than how people thought in the pre-modern world.   To just see a few words that somebody said, that Jesus said about Noah, and you assume that you can get into Jesus' mind and know exactly how he thought about the whole situation, and how He considered history versus myth versus whatever - how do you know?  And even if He was wrong, even if he did believe that Noah was a historical person, or Adam was a historical person, and ended up being wrong, I don't understand how that even would deny the divinity of Christ.  The whole idea of the divinity of Christ being fully human and fully God, that God lowered Himself to become a human being with a human brain, in a human culture with human language and human needs and human limitations.  The point is it wouldn't freak me out if He was wrong about it, in His human side. But I still don't see the issue.  If Noah and Adam were mythical ideas, the point of what Jesus was saying still applies to me.   It has very little to do, in my perspective, with Jesus trying to lay out a history of the world for a historical-minded people.  Even if Jesus knew that Noah and Adam were mythical, but knew He was talking to people who thought they were real, that's another possibility.  Jesus was just referring to a story he was part of to these Jewish people that know that story." 


This article came on the heals of a comment by an anonymous responder to my blog from last week.  (By the way, I never post comments from anonymous people to my blog).  That person wrote, "There is not a single piece of historical evidence to prove that Jesus ever existed.  Not one single scholar or historian from the first century AD mentioned even a single word about Jesus. ... The truth is - Jesus never existed." 


Now Mr. Gungor and Mr. Anonymous have a similar problem.  They have a faulty view of Jesus Christ.  For Mr. Anonymous, it is a question of whether Jesus ever lived or not.  And the basis for his refusal to believe in an historical Jesus is that there is no first-century historical evidence for the existence of Jesus.  My response would be - what about Dr. Luke?  Certainly he was an historian and he lived in the first century.  He had access to those people who saw Jesus personally.  Dr. Luke wrote from the perspective of someone outside the inner circle of Jesus' followers.  He also wrote from the perspective of at least two decades after the death and resurrection of Jesus.  He had access to Peter, to John, to Mary, and to a host of others who had interacted with Jesus.  He had, as a best friend, the Apostle Paul who had an encounter with the resurrected Christ.  And, I think what really captured Luke was the fact that Paul and others were willing to suffer and even to die for the truth of the historical Jesus.  Yes, Mr. Anonymous, there is credible evidence for the historical Jesus.  You deny his existence because you deny the historical-reality of the Bible.  Those accounts that we know as the Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - are as historically reliable as would be any account given by a Cicero or a Plato  or any other ancient writer. 


The problem Mr. Gungor has is that he simply cannot reconcile the divine and human natures of Christ.  Mr. Gungor's problem has deep roots in Gnosticism, a philosophy that became prevalent in the Early Church during the later decades of the first century and onward into the second, third, and fourth centuries.  The Gnostics believed in a form of dualism:  there was a good God, who was spirit; there was an evil god, who was flesh.  They believed that a good God would never inhabit that which was evil, therefore the whole idea of God becoming flesh was repulsive to them.  There was no incarnation.  There was no John 1:14.  By the way, the Apostle John wrote his Gospel and his three epistles as treatises to help the Early Church counter Gnosticism.  Friends, in a way we do not fully understand, there was a complete blending of both the human and divine natures in the person of Jesus Christ.  Could Jesus have lied?  Absolutely not!  Why?  Because He was the Son of God and God cannot lie.  Could Jesus have believed something that was a myth?  Absolutely not!  Why?  Because He was God-in-the-flesh.  Here is where Mr. Gungor has a gap of incredible proportions: if Jesus lied about Noah and Adam, stating that they were real historical figures when He knew they were just mythological imaginations, then how can we trust Jesus when He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me?"  Because of Jesus' claim to be equal with the Father - remember He said, "I and the Father are one" - then either all of Jesus' statements are true, or none of them are true.  We cannot pick and choose which ones to accept as truth and which ones to accept as myths. 


Here is what I find so troubling, especially with the statements of Mr. Gungor.  He is writing music that is being used in worship services across our nation.  But the Jesus he is writing about is not the Jesus I have committed my life to.  Oh the words sound pretty, but my Jesus believed that there was a real Noah who survived a real flood.  My Jesus believed that it was a real Adam and Eve who sinned in the Garden and whose sin was then inherited by all men everywhere.  Perhaps it is time that we simply do not use a song because the words sound good.  Perhaps it is time that we carefully research to know the heart and mind of the song writer.  Is the Jesus they are singing the same Jesus we worship?  Perhaps He is not! 


Friends, there was and is an historical Jesus.  He was and is the eternal Son of God.  He was and is "God in the flesh."  He was and is the embodiment of absolute truth.  The Apostle John was so correct when he wrote, "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:12).  I have chosen to commit my life to this historical Jesus, and He has made all the difference.  And I look forward to that day when this historical Jesus will return to claim the throne in Jerusalem that is rightfully His and will reign over the earth as no one has reigned over it before.  The angels there upon the slopes of the Mount of Olives were so correct when they announced to a sad group of disciples, "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky?  This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).  That's my hope!  I trust it is yours as well! 



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Cease-Fire, But Only Until...

I awakened this morning to news that Israel and Hamas have agreed on an open-ended cease-fire.  Several cease-fires have been declared before, but each was broken by rocket fire from Gaza into those Israeli communities along the Israel-Gaza border.  Each cease-fire infraction was met by an Israeli response with air-strikes upon Hamas targets.  Now there is a cease-fire of an undeclared duration.  I am not holding my breath that this will last long.


What is the purpose of a cease-fire?  It is a declaration by both sides that fighting will stop, at least temporarily.  It was a cease-fire that brought Israel's War of Independence to an end.  It was another cease-fire that brought both Israel's Six-Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973 to an end.  The stated purpose for this cease-fire is to provide humanitarian relief to the people living in Gaza.  An estimated 100,000 Palestinians were left homeless in Gaza.  And thousands of Israelis living along the border were forced to evacuate from their homes.  According to news sources, under this Egyptian-brokered cease-fire, Israel agreed to ease some of its import restrictions to Gaza, including materials needed for reconstruction of infrastructure and homes.  Israel also agreed that, after thirty days, they will meet in talks aimed at some of the major issues - Hamas' demand to construct a seaport and an international airport in Gaza.  Israel's only demand is that Hamas and Gaza become a demilitarized zone - a demand that Hamas has consistently said it would not do.   I keep wondering why Hamas gets to call all the shots when clearly they were the losers.  Sometimes I have to admit that I simply do not understand politics.


I was reading in the paper this morning a quote from Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader , who promised to rebuild homes that had been destroyed in this seven-week old war.  He then said, "We will build and upgrade our arsenal to be ready for the coming battle, the battle of full liberation."  Other reports indicate that the government of Qatar is sending money to help Hamas rearm itself.  Hardly sounds like Hamas is intent on this being a long-lasting cease-fire or that they are very interested in improving the lot of the people living in Gaza.


I was troubled with the statement this past week from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey. He stated rather strongly that he was not inclined for the United States to do too much against IS (the Islamic State - formerly known as ISIS or ISIL) because he did not see them as a threat to the American homeland.  To me, that is head-in-the-sand thinking.  Making the front page of this morning's "Minneapolis Star-Tribune" was an article about a 33 year old, Douglas McCain, a graduate from Cooper High School in Robbinsdale, MN (a suburb of Minneapolis) who was killed in Syria fighting for IS.  He is the first known American to die fighting for this terrorist state.  And, from all indications and intelligence reports, he is not the only American fighting for IS. 


Back to General Dempsey's statement.  If you remember back in the late 1990's, Americans thought that al-Qada would never reach the homeland.  Bin-Laden was just some crazy terrorist there in the mountains of Afghanistan.  But then 9-11 happened and suddenly Americans took a deeper interest in Bin-Laden and al-Qada.  Is it going to take another 9-11 event for us to wake-up and realize that IS is a real threat to America and the civilized world?  Are we prepared for another 9-11 event and for the response that will be necessary afterwards?  In a recent conversation I had with a retired colonel, he sadly shared with me that the status of America's armed forces today would make any type of response nearly impossible.  Instead of strengthening our military, this administration has chosen to reduce its strength both in numbers, in leadership positions, and in armaments.  We have forgotten those words from President Theodore Roosevelt - "speak softly, but carry a big stick."  Instead we draw lines in the sand and then take away the "big stick." 


Recently, while listening to a talk-show while driving home from the office, I heard an expert on terrorism make the statement that America's inner-cities are the perfect breeding ground for terrorist recruiting.  Pretty scary!


But there is hope - it is found in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Not in Washington politics.  Not in cease-fires.  Not in armed forces.  Only in Jesus.  And that is the message the Apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5 that we are to take to a lost world: there is reconciliation between sinful man and a holy God, but only through the Lord Jesus.  So, let's not be children filled with despair or fear.  Let us be ambassadors of reconciliation, of love, and of hope.  Remember: we are on the winning side!



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ferguson and the ISIS Threat

If American concerns about the intentions of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) were not focused on the images of the slaughter of Christian refugees fleeing from Mosul and other northern Iraqi villages (and I must admit some of the images are almost too awful to view), then news that an American photo-journalist, James Foley, was beheaded by militants belonging to ISIS should.  One can only wonder about the possible fate of the remaining 25 journalists that are missing in Syria. 


We sit here in our little corner of the world, thousands of miles removed from Mosul and the Kurdish border and say to ourselves, "Well, why should I get involved?  Why should I care?  After all, they are so far away?"  It is time to wake-up.  Did you see the sign that appeared among the protesters in Ferguson, MO?  The sign read "ISIS here."  And, did you see the photos of the new Islamic State flag held in front of the White House last week? 


In an article written by Bob Unruh and posted on the wnd website - www.wnd.com/2014/08/isis-terrorists-were-here-in-ferguson - the author begins: "A sign carried by a protester in Ferguson, Missouri, declaring the presence of the Islamic State or ISIS, is an act of intimidation, warning Americans they should fear the Middle Eastern Islamic jihadist group even in their own homes, according to an expert.  Islam analyst Robert Spencer, whose Jihad Watch website (www.jihadwatch.org) monitors Islamic jihad worldwide, said the sign, which says, "ISIS here," is 'in line with supporters of the Islamic State taking photos of the Islamic State flag held in front of the White House and other landmarks.'  'The object is to "strike terror into the hearts of the enemies of Allah" (Quran 8:60) and to emphasize the desire of Islamic State jihadis to strike within the U.S.,' he said.  'The fact that they have supporters here in the U.S. who can hold the banner in Missouri and the sign at the White House shows that that is a very real possibility,' he warned."


The article then quotes from several sources cited in an article published by The Daily Mail in the United Kingdom.  I share several of these with you, but I must warn you, they are frightening:
"I believe that all #IS members in America should travel to Ferguson and prepare to establish a revolutionary Islamic state." - Amarka Al-Ahlam.
"It's time to strike fear into the hearts of the oppressors.  #FergusonUnderIS." - Amreeki Witness.
"Any and all #IS members in the kufar lands - I urge you to travel to #Ferguson and form brigades there, to take the unrestful land Inshallah." - another social media jihadist.


Are these just smoke-screen threats?  One cannot discount the intense hatred these people have for the Western world.  One cannot discount the intense hatred these people have for Christianity and for the civilized world.  These people have only one goal in mind: to see the entire world under the rule of Sharia Law.  And, they will stop at nothing in order for that goal to be realized.  They are efficient and effective murderers of any and all who stand in their way - whether it be Iraqi Christians or a photo-journalist.  These people are not the JV-team, as our President once proclaimed.  They are the varsity.  And here is what is so amazing, ISIS strikes fear within the hearts of many in the Muslim world.  Do you think the Jordanians are fearful of this neighbor on their doorstep?  Do you think the Lebanese have real concerns?  What about the Saudis whose influence in the region is threatened by this Islamic State? 


Friends, there is a seriousness to ISIS that I have not yet seen realized in our nation.  During the offertory song used this past Sunday at our Church, our Worship Leader shared pictures from the mountaintop there in Iraq where Christians have taken refuge.  It was so powerfully effective - reminding us that those people are our brothers and sisters in Christ - reminding us that what has happened to them could easily happen to us here.  Those unnamed faces spoke volumes to our hearts.  The time for apathy is gone.  The time for being na├»ve is gone.  It is time to wake up and realize that we are in a battle that has profound spiritual implications.  But, praise God, we know who will win in the end!

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Postscript to Death: Remembering our Daughter-in-law Carol

I just wanted to share how much our family has appreciated prayers during these past few days.  On Thursday, August 7, our daughter-in-law,  Carol Frazier, went home to be with the Lord after a nearly 12 year battle with MS.  Although we will greatly miss her, we rejoice in the freedom she now has in the presence of the Lord.  For the past nearly two years, Carol had been a prisoner in her own body - being unable to do anything for herself.  Her mind was still pretty strong and she was able to communicate with Barry and her children up to the final couple of months, when even that ability to communicate was taken from her.  Our entire family was able to be together for a couple of days to celebrate her life.  And how we appreciate the strong support Barry and his family have received from their church family at Westchester Evangelical Free Church there in Des Moines. 


Carol was only 44, having just celebrated that birthday on July 28.  Certainly not old by today's standards.  Her death raises a myriad of questions which simply cannot be answered this side of glory.  Why was she stricken with such a debilitating form of MS?  Why was she taken so soon from her husband and children?  Why didn't God answer the many prayers raised on Carol's behalf for her healing?  Oh the many questions.  I sometime feel as did Job - always asking questions, never receiving any answers.  And yet we all have that peace that God was in total control.  Carol belonged to Him.  She was His child.  He only loaned her to our family for a short time of 20 years.  And when she breathed that final breath that Thursday afternoon, she was set free to enjoy that eternity that God had provided for her through Jesus Christ. 


Friends, death takes no account of age or position or power.  We are not promised a certain number of days upon this earth.  The only guarantee that comes with our birth is the certainty of our death, unless the Lord returns for His Bride.  Only God has numbered our days.  Only God sees the end from the beginning.  Only God knows.  We are instructed to be ready when that day comes for us.  Carol was ready, having trusted Christ as her Savior when she was a child.  And, as we gathered around her casket there in that cemetery this past Tuesday morning, there was a confidence that can only be described as the presence of Jesus Christ.  Yes, there were tears - but we did not sorrow as do those who have no hope.  Pastor Dave kept reminding us that Carol was not there in that casket; she was in heaven with Jesus.  And someday we will have a sweet reunion with her. 


Yes, there is a finality about death, but it does not have to be the victor over you.  Jesus tasted all of death for you when He died upon the cross.  The Apostle Paul was right when he wrote to the Corinthians, "Death is swallowed up in victory."  Carol knew that victory.  And so can you.  You just need to acknowledge your need for a Savior and believe that Jesus Christ died in your place.  When you confess your sins and invite Him to be part of your life, then you, too, will know that peace.  You, too, will have that victory when God summons you to His home.  I urge you to not put it off - remember, only God knows how many are your days. 


Before closing, I just want to make a brief comment about the still-holding ceasefire between Hamas and Israel.  Negotiations are ongoing in Cairo with Egypt acting as the chief negotiator.  America's role in the Middle East has become secondary.  I remember those days when Israeli leaders would think of doing nothing without first consulting their American allies.  I think the Israeli Prime Minister summed it up well when, speaking of President Obama, he said, "Don't ever second guess me again!"  And the exclamation point was indeed just that - an exclamation point filled with anger and almost disdain.  Will there be some type of truce achieved?  I believe it is highly unlikely.  Israel will not accede to the demands of Hamas and Hamas certainly will not acquiesce to recognizing the legitimacy of the State of Israel.  So, the fighting will stop, at least for awhile.  Hamas will seek opportunities to rearm and reposition itself.  And Israelis will rest easier for awhile, yet always being alert to the potential for rockets from Gaza.  The role of the United States will continue to be lesser than in the past, at least until a new Congress is convened in January after the midterm elections - a Congress that will hopefully be more favorable to Israel. 


I will write about IS next week.  What a monstrosity that is becoming!  And we are seeing what its intentions really are as they persecute those minority groups, including Christians, living in Iraq.  And their eyes are set upon Lebanon and Jordan.  They are like a cancer - and the only way to treat a cancer is to remove it.  Meanwhile, keep praying for "the peace of Jerusalem."  God is in control.