Wednesday, May 27, 2015

More Signs of the Times

An article appeared in the May 21 edition of the Israelnationalnews.com website edition that has garnered little attention, yet speaks volumes as to why the continued search for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians will be futile.  The article was written by Shimon Cohen and can be found at www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/195697.  "While Israeli politicians continue to debate the merits of the 'two-state solution,' their Palestinian interlocutors have long moved beyond that model for the solution of the Middle East conflict.  For Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the idea of a 'greater Palestine' - that would stretch from 'the river to the sea' - is now an official policy.  If this policy had until now been elucidated verbally in Arabic, by 'minor' government officials - allowing the PA to say that they had been speaking out of turn or voicing personal opinions - it has now taken on a much more official persona.  In a series of videos and images discovered and released by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), the PA's official propaganda ministry has made clear that when the PA says, "Palestinian state,' it means not just Ramallah and Jenin, but also Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Beersheva.  The change, said PMW, apparently took effect on May 7; since then, all broadcasts on official PA TV discussing the Arab-Israeli conflict have stressed the need for PA Arabs to 'return to their homes.'"


So, how does the PA think it could possibly gain control over all of Israel?  It is through a policy known as "the right of return."  This goes back to the War of Independence of 1948 where thousands of Arabs left Palestine when the five Arab armies attacked Israel.  These Arabs were told to simply leave everything behind - as it would only be a short time before they could return - the Arabs were that confident of their victory over the fledgling Israeli state.  But, as we know from history, the young Israeli State survived and won their battle for independence.  Their victory created a problem for the Arab world: what were they to do with all these thousands of refugees who had fled their homes with the promise that they could return?  Israel offered to repatriate many of them, but the Arab response was a resounding "no!"  The Arab solution was to place the Palestinian refugees into refugee camps - many of them in Jordan and Lebanon.  These people have become pawns in a great political game.  Every time there is talk of a "two-state solution" the question arises as to what to do with the descendants of these refugees?  The Arab world is adamant that the descendants of those refugees need to be allowed to return to those ancestral homes prior to the 1948 War.  Of course, now we are not speaking of tens of thousands of Arabs returning, but hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Arabs.  Given the "right to return" you can easily see that it would not be long before the Jewish community would become the minority community, and Israel would become just another Arab-state now known as Palestine. 


It is this thought that drives the Palestinian leadership.  This is the vision they aspire toward.  This is what they will be pressuring both the United Nations and the International Court to do on their behalf.  So the struggles in the Middle East continue and certainly bear our watching.


I also want to share with you a rather disturbing article posted on the World News Daily website.  It is titled: 'Father' to marry 'son,' with court's blessing!'  You can find it at: www.wnd.com/2015/05/father-to-marry-son-with-courts-blessing.  "The Pandora's box of same-sex marriage has just released a new pairing unimaginable a few short years ago.  Norman MacArthur and Bill Novak, father and son, though not biologically, will soon be husband and... whatever, reports the Patch of Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  The pair, both in their 70's, have been together for 50 years and registered in New York City as domestic partners in 1994.  But when they moved to Pennsylvania, they discovered their domestic partnership wasn't recognized, and legalized same-sex marriage was nowhere on the horizon.  Needing to take care of estate-planning issues, the pair pursued a novel legal approach.  Novak adopted MacArthur in 2000.  The fact their parents were deceased removed any legal objection.  When the United States District Court declared unconstitutional Pennsylvania's marriage laws prohibiting same-sex marriage in 2014, Novak and MacArthur wanted to tie the knot in marriage, but their earlier legal gambit now became an obstacle.  Pennsylvania law doesn't permit marriage between parents and children.  So, a week ago, the father and son's Petition to Vacate Adoption Decree was approved, and the pair simply became two single men now allowed to marry.  The pair has been given a marriage license and is planning a summer wedding." 


I remember sharing with a group of people several years ago that if the definition of marriage was ever changed from the traditional one of "one man and one woman" - you know, the way God intended marriage to be - then no one could really prohibit any type of marriage.  If marriage is no longer "between one man and one woman," then could not a man have more than one woman as a wife?  Could not a woman have more than one man as a husband?  Could not a mother marry her son or her daughter?  Could not a father marry his daughter or his son?  Could not a man marry his dog?  You are probably saying, "Max, don't be so ludicrous."  Let's be logical for a moment: What has been the recognized definition of marriage since, well since the time of Adam and Eve?  Has it not been based upon Genesis 2:24 - "A man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh?"  Friends, that definition has guided civilizations and cultures down through the centuries and millenniums.  Yes, there have been deviations from that definition - you even have an example of it in Genesis 4 where a man named Lamech boasts to his two wives.  But those exceptions never changed the basic definition.  Now states and nations are redefining marriage.  Oh, marriage between one man and one woman will still be an option; but that is just it, it will only be an option among many diverse forms of marriage. 


So what can we do?  First, as believers in Jesus Christ, we need to affirm the sanctity of biblical marriage: one man-one woman.  We need to instruct our children and young teens that this is God's prescribed way.  Second, as believers in Jesus Christ, we need to affirm that any deviation from God's definition of marriage is sin.  Yes, God says there is a right and a wrong.  The problem today is that our society has confused what God says is right and wrong.  But, as with all sins, forgiveness can be obtained through Jesus Christ, and lives can be changed through the power of the Holy Spirit.   How we need to return to the Scriptures and affirm that it is the very foundation upon which we can build our lives and how we need to encourage our young teens to build upon that same foundation.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Gender Absurdity!

As we get closer to the decision of the United States Supreme Court on the issue of the constitutionality of same-sex marriage, the whole matter of the "gender debate" becomes increasingly more bizarre.  Allow me to share just a couple of recent cases.


On May 14, I received an e-mail from the American Family Association (AFA) with the following headlines: "Girl Scouts of America policy change: Boys dressing as girls can join."   The policy says, in part, "If the child is recognized by the family and school/community as a girl and lives culturally as a girl, then Girl Scouts is an organization that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe."  The AFA article then continues, "This means girls in the organization will be forced to recognize and accept transgenderism as a normal lifestyle.  Boys in skirts, boys in make-up and boys in tents will become a part of the program.  This change will put young innocent girls at risk.  ... Adults are willing to experiment on our kids - both the boys who are confused and the girls who will wonder why a boy in a dress is in the bathroom with them."  To be perfectly honest, if I had a granddaughter who was thinking about joining the Girl Scouts of America, I would certainly encourage her to look elsewhere for social interaction of that type.  As I read the article, I wondered what those churches will do who sponsor either a Girl Scout or Boy Scout program.  Those churches had better know what they believe about those first two chapters in Genesis.


A day later, I read an article, written by Todd Starnes, on the FoxNews.com website.  You can read the article at: www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/05/15/parents-furious-over-school-s-plan-to-teach-gender-spectrum.  Allow me to share portions of the article with you:


"One of the nation's largest public school systems is preparing to include gender identity to its classroom curriculum, including lessons on sexual fluidity and spectrum - the idea that there's no such thing as 100 percent boys or 100 percent girls."  After reading that initial statement, the writer had my attention.  "Wait a minute!" I wanted to cry out.  "You can't be serious!  Are you telling me that a boy is not really a full boy and a girl is not really a full girl?  Not what my Bible says.  My Bible says that "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27).  Adam was a male - 100% male; Eve was a female - 100% female."


The article continues, "Fairfax County Public Schools (this is in Virginia) released a report recommending changes to their family life curriculum for grades 7 through 12.  The changes, which critics call radical gender ideology, will be formally introduced next week.  ... The plan calls for teaching seventh graders about transgenderism and tenth graders about the concept that sexuality is a broader spectrum."  In part the new policy reads, "Students will be provided definitions for sexual orientation terms heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality; and the gender identity term transgender.  Emphasis will be placed on recognizing that everyone is experiencing changes and the role of respectful, inclusive language in promoting an environment free of bias and discrimination."  Todd Starnes explains, "Eighth graders will be taught that individual identity 'occurs over a lifetime and includes the component of sexual orientation and gender identity.   Individual identity will also be described as having four parts - biological gender, gender identity (includes transgender), gender role, and sexual orientation (includes heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual).  Emphasis will be placed on an understanding that there is a broader, boundless, and fluid spectrum of sexuality that is developed throughout a lifetime." 


Andrea Lafferty, president of Traditional Values Coalition, said, "Parents need to protect their kids form this assault.  Who could imagine that we are in this place today - but we are."  She went on to say, "At the end of this is the deconstruction of gender.  The majority of people pushing (this) are not saying that - but that clearly is the motivation." 


Friends, have you ever heard of anything so absurd?  And to compound this even more, have you noticed how the media is having a "love-affair" with Bruce Jenner, the former Olympian, who is now in the process of becoming a woman.  He has been the subject of countless interviews, and almost daily there is an update on his progress.  He is being promoted as some sort of hero.  The Bible warns us that when we flaunt sin, we are in danger of the wrath of God.  If you read through the book of Leviticus, sexual sins were among those most abhorrent to God - and the penalty was always death.  Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed - why? because of their sexual perversity, including homosexuality.  The tribe of Benjamin was nearly destroyed - why? because of their sexual perversity, including homosexuality.  Perhaps it is time that we begin to teach our young boys what it means to be a man and to teach our young girls what it means to be a woman.  We have become a culture that has emasculated men causing men to be confused as to what it means to be a man.  It is time we stop and rediscover what the Bible says about the roles of men and women.  God created them to complement each other, not to conquer one another, or to become confused with each other.  It is time to wake up before it is too late.


I need to share one more article with you.  It can be found at: www.foxnews.com/us/2015/05/17/air-force-general-who-spoke-god-in-speech-should-be-court-martialed.  "An Air Force general who recently spoke about how God has guided his career should be court-martialed, a civil liberties group is saying.  In a speech at a National Day of Prayer Task Force event on May 7, Maj. Gen. Craig Olson credits God for his accomplishments in the military, and refers to himself as a 'redeemed believer in Christ.'  The Air Force Times reports that the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has taken issue with Olson's remarks, is calling for the two-star general to be court-martialed and 'aggressively and very visibly brought to justice for his unforgivable crimes and transgressions.'"  Wow!  A little over the top, don't you think.  This general is to be court-martialed for the unforgivable crime of sharing about his relationship with Jesus Christ.  If this is an unforgivable crime, would that we all would be guilty of committing it. 


Wonder why we have gender confusion?  When a culture and civilization abandons God and the absolute truths that are foundational with God, then all that exists is confusion...about everything.  Friends, read Romans 1:18-32 and ask yourself this question: Was Paul writing about first century Rome or twenty-first century America?  Have we reached that point where God has "given us over to our depraved minds?"  If He hasn't already, then we are certainly hastening toward that day when He will. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Of Auschwitz, the TSA, and Surrendering Freedoms to the Government

In recent weeks the world has celebrated the 70th anniversary of the ending of the Second World War in Europe.  As part of that celebration remembrances were held at several of the notorious Nazi Concentration and Death Camps: Dachau and Auschwitz in particular.  I remember walking those graveled streets of Auschwitz years ago - on a cold, snowy March morning.  I remember the sense I had as I walked with my friend through those iron gates with the word "Arbeit Mach Frei" greeting those who entered - "Work Makes Free!"  I was there just as a visitor; Auschwitz was deserted except for an occasional school group that walked in silence down those same streets.  Yet I could not help but sense the ghosts that still lingered there some fifty years after the War.


As we walked through one building after another, my senses cried out - "Did this really happen?  Could one human being treat another like this?"  There were rooms filled with eyeglasses - nothing but eyeglasses from floor to ceiling.  Another room had nothing but human hair - tons of human hair.  Still another room had teeth; another filled with shoes; another with suitcases that had once held the only possessions these people had brought with them to this place.  Even as I am writing these words those scenes freshly appear before my mind and I experience those emotions once again. 


It seemed that as we walked the cries of death greeted us wherever we turned.  Images of people dying flooded our minds - dying, not in a normal way upon hospital beds with family surrounding them, but often just succumbing to disease and malnutrition with no one there who seemingly cared.  And, then we walked into the gas chamber where the emotions were extended almost beyond capacity.  I closed my eyes and tried to imagine what those people thought as they entered into this place, many of them realizing that they would not leave alive. 


Could this happen again?  Could something like this happen in America?  We might be tempted to shake our heads and say, "No, don't be so absurd!"  But let us look more seriously at what caused an Auschwitz to happen in the first place.  That place was the product of a people - a strong-willed, determined people - who yielded their liberties into the hands of their government.  When one reads a book like William Shirer's "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" one realizes that such yielding of personal freedoms came gradually; but the more the people yielded, the more the government took. 


Friends, we are living in a time when our government has accelerated its taking of our personal liberties and freedoms.  We have highlighted some of those cases in recent blogs.  I was recently reading in Ecclesiastes, preparing my heart for a preaching series through this book, and came across the words of Agur in Proverbs 30:15-16 where he describes four things that are never satisfied.  I believe if Agur were alive today, he might have added a fifth: government. 


Now I realize that there are certain areas where we need governmental involvement and oversight.  But let me share an experience Marlys and I had this past weekend.  We had flown down to Dallas to see our grandson in his Fourth Grade Play and then to see both our grandsons play some baseball.  Well we saw the play, but the ballgames were rained out.  We arrived at the airport on Sunday afternoon anxious about our flight home because of stormy weather conditions there.  Of course we were greeted with the security line.  Now, I have gone through many security lines and have generally been greeted with people who somewhat seem normal, perhaps even somewhat sympathetic toward those going through the security experience.  But no such person greeted us on this Sunday.  This TSA officer barked orders as if she was a drill sergeant.  "Get into two lines."  "Take your belts off."  "Take your shoes off."  "Everything out of your pockets."  These were not said in a pleasant tone of voice, but with harshness.  I was part of a line where I felt like a herd of cattle being forced up a ramp into a trailer that was taking them who knows where.  Perhaps this experience hit me harder because of the time I had focused in recent weeks on the German Concentration Camp experience; but as I stood in that long line, I suddenly began to be aware of how those people must have felt: rising anxiety levels, uncertainty about tomorrow, fears of dying, simply looking for someone who cared. 

I know we need at TSA in the light of what happened on September 11, 2001.  And I realize that theirs is a difficult task.  But I know that for at least two travelers this past Sunday, it would have been more reassuring if one particular TSA official had a compassionate heart toward those she was responsible toward. 


As those of you know who have been following this blog for the past several years, I love history, and I love learning from history.  And, I must admit, that as a student of history I am concerned about the pathway that America is taking that mirrors that of Germany in the late 1920's and 1930's.  I wonder what the Church will do when the government begins to make demands upon its membership and upon its preachers.  Will they crumble as did many of the German pastors and congregations under the intimidation of the Nazi government, or will they resolve to continue proclaiming the Gospel as did those of the Confessing Church under the leadership of Martin Niemoeller and Detrich Bonhoeffer?  We need to be prepared.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"The Only Thing Logical Is The Illogical"

There are times when I just scratch my head and wonder what is going on.  I am reminded of the words from my good friend, Amnon in Israel, who said: "Max, the only thing logical about the Middle East is the illogical."  I am becoming more convinced that those words can also apply to what is happening in America right now. 




This past week, two gunmen plotted an attack upon a convention being held in Garland, Texas,  The nature of the convention was to present characterizations of the Prophet Mohammed.  Fortunately, an alert security guard shot and killed the two gunmen before they had the opportunity of causing mayhem and destruction.  Later, ISIS claimed responsibility for that attack.  Now you would think there would be a sense of outrage at what happened.  Once again our nation was attacked by a radical Islamic group with the intent of creating terror among the people.  However, the event hardly made the national news casts, at least for the mainstream media.  Our President, to my knowledge, said very little about it.  The response of the American people, for the most part, was business-as-usual.  "The only thing logical is the illogical."  What is it going to take before we are aroused out of our slumber and apathy?  Or, are we so like "the duck in the kettle" that we will just keep swimming to our heart's content even though the water becomes boiling and will eventually destroy us? 




You might remember that last week I shared with you some thoughts about the impending decision of the United States Supreme Court concerning the constitutionality of same-sex marriage.  World News Daily posted a letter written by Dr. James Dobson, written to his constituency.  You can find this posted at: www.wnd.com/2015/05/high-court-on-verge-of-destroying-the-family.  I encourage you to read this letter carefully.  Dr. Dobson shares some warnings that came from President Thomas Jefferson, our third president, concerning a powerful judiciary.  He saw that back in 1803 and we are reaping the results today.  I would also refer you to an excellent article written by Bob Unruh which is posted at: www.wnd.com/2015/05/is-this-obamas-declaration-of-war-on-christian-schools.  This is an eye-opener.  The decision this Court makes in June will have broad ramifications for each of us as it will be government intrusion into a very sacred place - the biblical definition of marriage.




Some of you may have seen the interview that Family Research Council President Tony Perkins had on CBS's "Face the Nation" with reporter Bob Schieffer.  Immediately Mr. Schieffer "went for the jugular" with Tony Perkins with regard to FRC's defense of traditional marriage between one man and one woman.  Mr. Perkins handled the verbal assaults very well.  After the interview, The Conservative Action Project sent a letter to CBS demanding an apology.  The letter stated in part, "It is now clearer than ever before that the liberal media - including CBS - will stop at nothing to use their power and the power of the government to silence, shame, punish and fine Americans who embrace traditional marriage and other politically incorrect truths."  Brent Bozell, the president of the Media Research Center, added: "The character assassination underway against Christians is something that five years ago was unimaginable."  He went on to say that Christians need to be prepared: "Be prepared to be ambushed.  Be prepared to be slandered.  Be prepared to be verbally persecuted."  www.townhall.com/columnists/toddstarnes/2015/05/01/exclusive-conservative-leaders-blast-cbs-news-over-anti-christian-bigotry.  Again, "the only thing logical is the illogical."




Friends, we are living in days that I had hoped I would not live to see - the destruction of the very foundational truths that have made our nation great and blessed by God.  Could God take His hand of blessing away from America?  It is not a question of "could He," but of "when will He?"  Could a revival stay His hand?  I am not certain that it would.  Certainly there were many God-followers in Judah, but they went into exile as did those who had turned their backs upon God.  Friends, we need to take the advice of Mr. Bozell and prepare ourselves for some tumultuous days ahead.  But we serve the God that Daniel and his friends served, and God will see us through victoriously to the end.  We need to just keep looking up, anticipating that great and marvelous day when He comes.




 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Romans 13 and the United States Supreme Court

Yesterday the United States Supreme Court heard arguments concerning making same-sex marriages the law of the land.  Thirty-eight states already have legitimatized same-sex marriages, leaving twelve states that have not made such declarations.  It seems that the Justices have already tipped their hat as to the direction their ruling will be when it is issued the end of June.  In the past several months, the Court has upheld lower court rulings that determined that states with laws banning same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.  Could this be an indication of the way in which the Court will rule?  Probably so.


If the Court rules that same-sex marriage is a right protected by the United States Constitution and can be defined as the law of the land, such a ruling will rival the January 22, 1973 ruling known as Roe v. Wade which made abortion the law of the land.  That ruling in 1973 legitimated the murder of the unborn - many simply because they were an unwanted pregnancy.  Tens of millions of babies have been executed in the womb.  I believe that Roe V. Wade was the beginning of our nation's plummet down a slippery immoral slope.  If the truth about value in life has meaning no longer, then perhaps the truth about anything has meaning no longer.  Truth becomes merely another personal preference. 


Now, the truth about marriage, as declared first within the pages of Holy Scripture - going back to that first family created in the Garden of Eden: one man and one woman - and the centerpiece of cultures and civilizations that have spanned both the civilized as well as the pagan worlds, is about to be declared null and void.  Think about what such a ruling will mean?  Well, we have already seen the results: businesses will be forced to serve gay weddings that violate their own spiritual beliefs.  And, if same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land, then the struggle between biblical truth and constitutional law will become more intense. 


Friends, we are moving into a time when the principles outlined by the Apostle Paul in Romans 13 are becoming a reality.  Let's look briefly at that passage.  First, Paul affirms that governments have been established by God and that it is the responsibility of every citizen - believer as well as nonbeliever - to be submissive to that government.  (I am sure Paul must have struggled writing those words because of the oppressive regime of Emperor Nero).  Second, Paul reminds us that the purpose of government is to protect its citizens and this is done through a sense of fear the government has over its citizens.  A good example of the truth found in verse 3 is the following: you are driving down the Interstate and you see a highway patrol car up ahead parked along the shoulder.  What is you immediate first response?  To touch the brakes, isn't it?  But why would you do that?  Because that patrol car represents the government and you fear what might happen if you are pulled over for speeding. 


But, what if the government, by its declarations wants you to do something that is contrary to your religious convictions?  What if, by obeying those governmental declarations, your conscience is violated?  What should you do?  Paul says that you need to submit to God first.  Was that not the response of those apostles when they were brought before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish government of the day?  We read in Acts 5:29, "We must obey God rather than men!"  But Paul would add to those words, "When you resist a governmental degree because of your faith in Jesus Christ, then you must be prepared to pay the penalty such resistance demands."  It might mean arrest and imprisonment.  Then, go to jail willingly, counting it a small price to pay for Jesus.  It might mean the loss of a job or of a career improvement.  Then, leave that job willingly, counting it a small price to pay for Jesus.  It might mean that your business will have to close.  Then, close it willingly, counting it a small price to pay for Jesus. 


Friends, I am convinced that the Church of Jesus Christ today is not prepared for the persecution and suffering that is coming.  We need to grow our faith.  We need to have a clearly stated purpose - just as did Daniel and his friends.  We need to have a Godly backbone to stand up for truth.  This needs to be the purpose of our small group Bible studies.  This needs to be the reason why Elders meet.  This needs to be priority in sermons that are preached and classes that are taught.  We need to be equipping the saints for the spiritual warfare that lies before us.  And that spiritual warfare just might be in the form of officers of the state who are enforcing the declarations of the State that has lost sight of its moral foundations. 


Oh how I pray, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus!"

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Thoughts on Earth Day

Today is Earth Day.  Now I am not sure exactly what that means.  It certainly is not a celebration of the earth's birthday because we don't know when that occurred.  Is it a celebration of something that the earth has done?  Well, the earth has been doing what the earth has been doing for a very long time - that length of time dependent upon how one understands Genesis 1 and 2. 


Earth Day is a relatively new celebration having first been celebrated in 1970, thus making the event 45 years old.  Its purpose was to call people's attention around the world concerning the needs of environmentalism.  The Bible calls us to be good stewards of the earth that God has created for us to enjoy.  We read of God's first commandment to mankind following their creation: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground'" (Genesis 1:27-28).  Man, the last in God's creative order, was given the task of superintending the earth.  Man was to be a good steward of the world God had entrusted to his care. 


As a Christian, I have a responsibility to use the resources of this earth wisely.  I need to exercise care in how I use the water resources around me.  Should I pollute a nearby lake by throwing my trash along its shores?  Absolutely not!  Should I exercise care in how I use herbicides and pesticides on my lawn so that they will not damage the water table?  Yes, absolutely...I have used those sparingly, but I have used them.  A Christian forester exercises care in his logging operations, carefully replanting replacement trees for everyone he has harvested.  A Christian fisherman exercises care in his fishing operations, guarding carefully those spawning beds so future generations can enjoy fishing as much as he does.  A Christian farmer exercises care in his tilling of the soil making sure that both wind and water erosion is minimal on his lands.  Those practices model what God's first command to mankind really meant.  Yes, a Christian is to be an environmentalist.


But here is where the problem comes.  Many of today's environmentalists have elevated the status of this earth to that of being like God.  We hear of those who worship Mother Earth, as it is called.  At times there is almost a silliness to some of the decisions that are reached: a beneficial dam that would bring necessary irrigation to parched farm ground cannot be built because such a dam would endanger the life of a little snail.  And the list of such silliness grows each year.  Friends, this planet earth is not a god to be served, but is a creation by our God to be used and enjoyed with careful stewardship.  Perhaps, instead of celebrating Earth Day, as Christians we ought to celebrate Creation Day.  That way we keep the priorities right. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What Is Iran Up To?

The race for the White House in 2016 is heating up.  The Republican field is getting crowded with strong candidates representing strong conservative values throwing their hats into the ring.  And it is sounding as if the first non-politician in a long time to run as president will soon declare.  The momentum for Dr. Ben Carson has grown, especially since his address before the National Presidential Prayer Breakfast two years ago.  As a non-politician he certainly sees the office through a different lens than do others.  It will be very interesting to see how far his candidacy will go and what following he will have in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina during the early days of the process. 


On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton did what she was supposed to do.  But it is interesting the manner in which she entered the race.  The clouds that hang over her head are many.  The questions about Benghazi - what she knew and when she knew it, and about her deleted emails while Secretary of State will linger, demanding answers - and not just pat-ones.  And she will need some transparency which she has always found difficult to do.  I think it will be interesting to see whether any other Democrats will challenge her "already crowned nomination."  If they do, it could be very interesting.


I continue to watch with great interest the alignment of powers in the Middle East.  No sooner had the ink dried on the agreement that outlines the continuation of the Iran Talks, then the Iranians make two items non-negotiable.  First, President Rouhani stated that Iran will NOT give regulators access to all nuclear sites, and second, that Iran DEMANDS that all financial constraints placed upon Iran be lifted immediately the day the accords go into effect.  I wondered why they could make those types of demands so quickly.  Then I remembered seeing a picture in a newspaper of the celebration on the streets of Tehran at the announcement of the signing of these preliminary accords.  Friends, you only celebrate if you feel you have won.  There certainly was no celebration on the streets in London or Paris or Berlin or Washington.  The Iranians believe that they have won; that the P5+1 nations will not do anything.  Therefore the quick demands. 


Then, this past Monday, Fox News reported that Russia has agreed to deliver to Iran a sophisticated S-300 anti-missile system.  Iran had initially purchased this system in 2007, but Russia had halted the shipment to Iran in 2010.  Russia, one of the signatory nations of the P5+1, by virtue of its lifting the shipment ban is declaring that Iran has won.  The American response from Secretary of State John Kerry was, "We don't believe it's constructive at this time for Russia to move forward with this but we've worked very closely with the Russians on the P5+1 negotiations.  We don't think this will have an impact on unity in terms of inside the negotiating room."  Are the Israeli's concerned?  Yes they are.  Iran has always been a major threat to them.  They worry about the impact of a nuclear Iran upon Israel and upon the entire Middle East. 


Then, just this morning, Christianity Today reported that "influential Egyptian TV personality Tawfik Okasha has reportedly told Israel to bomb Iran. ... 'Put your trust in God and bomb it.  We are with you and if you need fuel for the jets, we will give it to you,' Okasha said." 


This strengthening alignment between Russia and Iran makes others in the Middle East very nervous.  And it certainly has shades of Ezekiel 38-39 written all over it.  For there, in those familiar prophetic verses, we see a strong alignment between Persia (today's Iran) and the ruler of the land of Magog (modern day Russia).  Are we nearing the end of the days of waiting for the sounding of the trumpet?  I cannot speak with absolute authority, but the Scriptural texts do seem to come alive right before our eyes.  Friends, Iran is not going away.  They have a mission to accomplish...to bring in the Twelfth Iman.  And, according to their understanding, he will come during a time of chaos and war. 


What should be the attitude of the believer?  Fear?  Absolutely not!  Apathy?  Definitely not!  Excitement?  This is a must.  Energized?  Yes, for we have a great task that still is unfinished.  These are great days.