Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thoughts for Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a day in which we set aside time to reflect upon the many blessings that God has given to us this past year.  Really our list should be quite long and our time of praise should be quite long as well.  But I have found that it is easy to give thanks for the "stuff" of life, you know, food - and what abundance we have, clothing - our closets are filled and our biggest problems is determining what to wear, health - too often we take this for granted, but, having just lost a brother to cancer a few weeks ago, I know that health is a precious gift to us, as is family. 

And how can we forget to thank our wonderful God of our salvation.  I have been reminded of this as I have been working on a Communion Meditation that I will be sharing Sunday from the story of Hosea.  What an amazing love Hosea had for his wayward, unfaithful bride Gomer.  Then God reminds Hosea that his love for Gomer is a portrait of God's love for His wayward, unfaithful people.  In order to set Gomer free, Hosea had to step out of his comfort zone and enter into the messy world of prostitution.  As one reads his story one can almost feel the shame that Hosea experienced and the humiliation as everyone knew that Gomer was the wife of the prophet.  Yet, drawn by his love, Hosea went forward, paid the required price to set his wife free.  I believe that  until her dying day, Gomer probably never fully understood that amazing love.  But is that not what God did for us.  We enter into this Advent Season where we celebrate God's love.  Yes, God stepped out of His "comfort zone" - the glories of heaven - and came here to this messy world to rescue us from the bondage to sin.  He, too, paid the price for our redemption.  So, with David in Psalm 103, I want to praise God for the blessings of redemption, of my salvation, of having received God's amazing love.

I have just finished reading Ben Carson's newest book titled, "A More Perfect Union."  It is one of the clearest explanations of the United States Constitution that I have ever read.  I highly recommend it to you.  After reading that book, I want to add another item to my Thanksgiving list: that I live in the United States of America.  And I want to thank those Founding Fathers for their vision of what America could be.  Those men had a knowledge of the Scriptures.  They understood the sinful condition of the human heart.  And they understood the character of a just God and that the country they were creating should be a reflection of that justice upon a sinful man.  And they did it well. 

My heart is saddened as I read of a generation of young people who are growing up and not fully understanding the freedoms that they have received.  I was just reading an article this morning written by Ben Shapiro.  You can find the article at:,  Let me just share a few quotes from the article: "Four in 10 young Americans have no idea what America is.  That's the takeaway from a new Pew Research poll showing that 40 percent of Americans aged 18-34 say that the government should be able to prevent people from making 'statements that are offensive to minority groups.'  This same group of young people has granted broad awareness to the culture of 'microaggression' - unintended slights taken as grave insults by their victims; they've also called for 'trigger warnings,' alerts that certain communications may dredge up unpleasant past memories or ideas.  With such ghoulish cruelties haunting the most privileged generation in human history, naturally we'd want to toss out the bedrock of Western civilization: The right to debate, to express unpopular opinions.  We wouldn't want to offend."  Friends, what this younger generation seems to have not learned - perhaps it was because they were not taught it - is that debate, the arguments of thought was the foundation upon which our nation was built.  I remember reading with fascination Joseph Ellis' book titled, "An American Creation," which is the account of the writing of the Constitution.  Yes, feelings were hurt.  Yes, tempers flared.  Yes, words were said that were later regretted.  But ideas were exchanged.  Compromise was done.  And the world has been blessed because of those agonizing weeks in 1787 in Philadelphia. 

It seems that today we want to shield everyone from anything that might be offensive.  But let's be honest: that can only happen if a person crawls into a cave and pushes the rock to close the entrance.  Life is full of ideas and differences of opinions.  Just look at Jesus: His world certainly was filled with those who differed from Him.  But Jesus entered into dialogue with them.  He freely shared His ideas and truths with them.  And the continuation of that debate over truths and ideas was central to the success of the early Church - example of Paul in Athens in Acts 17,  What is happening on the campuses across our nation is the suppression of ideas, the suppression of debate, the suppression of truth.  When such debate is stifled and quenched, intellectual growth ceases.  For it is in the presence of debate of ideas that our own intellect matures.  I remember a famous preacher once shared with a group of us young pastors these words, "Men, every year I read one or two books that I know I will strongly disagree with.  I do that to strengthen my own understanding of truth." 

So, I am grateful that I live in a nation that still grants me that freedom to express my thoughts and ideas.  I know that, if the present conditions prevail, that freedom will soon be a freedom in the past.

Finally, I want to just share a word about what is happening in the Middle East.  As you know, yesterday a Russian fighter jet was shot down as it crossed over into Turkish air space.  Tensions, already strained have now become even more heightened.  And I read this morning that it was reported that IAF (Israel Air Force) planes bombed Syrian units inside Syria - although this report has yet to be confirmed.  Yesterday our President met with the French President in the White House and promised America help in destroying ISIS, yet the very fact that ISIS was able to do what it did in Paris and shut down the city of Brussels indicate that its destruction will take a new type of warfare that the world has not prepared for.  The world grows even darker.  Yet I was encouraged with these words from Marvin Olasky, the editor of "World" magazine (which by the way I highly endorse): "We play checkers, but God plays chess, as His billions of moves bring the world toward its culmination." 

So, at this Thanksgiving Season I am grateful that God is in control.  Aren't you?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

These Are Dangerous Times

The senselessness of the wanton taking of innocent human lives by ISIS continues.  The slaughter of 129 innocent people in Paris last Friday was another reminder that the world is at war with a group of people who have placed no value upon human life - except for their own.  In their estimation, they are right and everyone else is wrong; they are the only ones worthy of life, everyone else is worthy of death.  One can only imagine what this world would be like if their ideology prevailed. 

But the actions and attitudes that ISIS displays toward the rest of the world also reminds us of how self-centered many are today.  My way is the right way.  Your way is the wrong way.  We are no longer tolerant of others with differing beliefs, but feel threatened whenever someone takes issue with our ideas.  In today's world, if you do not fully agree and accept my views and beliefs, then I am left with no other recourse than to seek your destruction.  And we see this played out over and over again.

I read an article, written by Douglas Ernst and posted on the WND website, that literally made my heart stop.  You can find the article at:  "Berkeley College students attend a Nov 6, 2015, protest in response to racial message, allegedly written by a KKK supporter, on a library computer.  A well-established black student coalition is calling for violence if the U.S. Constitution is not replaced with a version that serves 'the interests of black people.'  Afrikan Black Coalition was created in 2003 to connect activists across the University of California system.  It has gone from concentrating on the low admittance and retention rates of black students in California to developing leadership and communication skills for members."

I want to share with you some of what that group posted in an op-ed article titled, "A New Constitution or the Bullet" on November 4.  Read it carefully.  "I have come to realize that the Constitution is the root of virtually all our problems in America.  In order to understand the injustices against Black folks in United States, we must look back to its foundation.  The U.S. is a country that was founded on slavery, genocide, rape, and white-male patriarchy.  A body cannot be separated from its head and remain living.  The Constitution and all the evil that it allows to be perpetuated are the head of White America, or more so corrupt America.  Racist America. ...A Constitution written by only white men will never serve the interests of black people.  The Constitution was written for the ruling class of white men which constructed whiteness to be more valuable than any other race.  Do we not have the right to abolish the laws that oppress us?  It is time to claim the Declaration of Independence and apply it to our struggle as colonized black people in America.  The United States has us; it is time we demand a new constitution or tell America that she will get the bullet.  White supremacy's bullets are killing black people every day.  If America does not protect us, then it is our human right to defend ourselves by any means necessary.  It is our human right to overthrow a government that has been destructive to our people.  This is why we must rise up and let all people come together and write new constitution to serve ALL people. ...We must pick up where the Black Panthers left off and declare a new constitution or it will be the bullet." 

Friends, that op-ed may seem almost too radical to be believed, but there are those who actually believe it to be true.  This is another example of either "accept my beliefs or I will destroy you" mentality.  Here is my question to this group: What will you replace the Constitution with?  Are you capable of having a constructive dialogue as those men did back in Philadelphia in 1787 that would lead to a document that literally changed the course of the world?  Will you, in your Constitutional Convention, even allow room for a constructive dialogue?  What really are your complaints with the Constitution as it presently is - it is a pretty incredible document?  I would like to tell this Afrikan Black Coalition that the only reason they could publish their op-ed piece in the first place was because of the safeguards given within the Constitution and its First Amendment.  They certainly could not express those views if they were living in Saudi Arabia or Yemen or even in Russia. 

I also want to refer you to another powerful article written by Jesse Lee Peterson and posted on November 15.  You can find this article at:  I want to share just a few lines from the closing of this article: "If you stand up against the bullies - whether they're radical black bullies on campuses, or Islamic bullies, they will go sit down.  But if you act with fear, they will run over you and your children.  You can't prove anything to angry people.  You just have to speak up, be honest and live your life.  Telling the truth and setting a living example is the only way to change anything for the better.  The greatest civilizations in the world are being destroyed by the godless.  The godless have not been raised by decent parents.  They're looking for love in all the wrong places, and in the wrong way.  And now they're destroying the free world.  It's time for whites in America, and in Europe, to stop the madness.  if it isn't stopped, your way of life - and possibly your life itself - will be stopped." 

As I have read these articles and others like them, and as I have listened to newscasts of the almost unrelenting violence that is impacting nearly every society around the world, I was reminded of those words of Jesus as He shared with His disciples what the world would be like at the close of the age.  Jesus spoke these words: "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold" (Matthew 24:12).  There is a hatred that is growing around the world - a hatred that has turned each against the other.  Can this growing hatred be stopped?  Can this accelerating "my way or the highway" mentality be destroyed before we all are destroyed by it?  The answer is found in the return of the Lord Jesus.  Only then will the world know peace.  Only then will the world truly love one another.  But, until that day comes, our assignment, as believers in Jesus Christ, is to be salt and light in this increasingly evil world (see Matthew 5:13-16).  May we model Christ's love well before others.  And, yes, come quickly, Lord Jesus continues to be our prayer.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Debate and a Campus Debacle

Like many of you I watched a portion of the Republican Presidential Debate last night.  I did not see the debate in its entirety, but I was impressed with what I did see.  I thought that any of those eight people on that stage would make a great President.  I was listening for some key words.  One such word was "values."  It seemed that almost every candidate said that America needed to get back to those "values" that had made it great.  It was good to know that, as diversified as are those candidates, that there is a centrality to their thinking: America is in decline and the only way to stop the slide is to get back to those principles that made America what it has been in the past.  A second word I listened for was "family."  Perhaps it is because the church that I serve has a strong focus on "family" as its ministry.  In fact, "family" is the heart and soul of our focus here at Buffalo Covenant Church.  I was so impressed with the emphasis that Marco Rubio placed upon "family."  He was unapologetic.  (By the way, I have been impressed with how Paul Ryan, the new Speaker of the House, has said that he will continue his focus upon his family.)  Yes, government is important, but family is biblical.  A third word I listened for was "small government."  I am a strong believer in "small government."  I am a strong believer in allowing the states to do what the Constitution guarantees to them.  Nearly every candidate emphasized their desire to shrink Washington.  Have I made up my mind as to whom I will support?  Not yet, but I was impressed with the quality of men and women represented on that stage last night. 

The feature story on the news last night was the events happening at the University of Missouri.  Through the pressure by students - and just a few students, certainly not the majority of students at that University - both the President and Chancellor of the University have resigned.  The complaint: the University of Missouri has been a hotbed of racism and the President and Chancellor have done nothing to prevent racism from occurring.  As I was driving into the Cities for a breakfast meeting this morning, one of the talk show hosts played a montage of clips from students as to why this protest occurred.  Among responses were these: it was a backlash against what happened in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this year; it was a sign that the university leadership had not been sensitive to the needs of students of minority who have been oppressed historically for centuries; and that if a person undertakes a hunger-strike for a number of days and sees no results, then a protest must occur. 

That same talk show host then read the email sent to the students on the campus of the University of Missouri from the Campus Security Department that if they heard any words that they viewed as being hurtful, the students were to call the campus 911 number.  As I was driving I thought to myself: you have got to be kidding!  If I hear words that I consider hurtful, I am to call the police using the number designated for emergencies? 

Let me ask you: How many times have you heard "hurtful" words said to you?  Did you call the authorities?  You say, "Max, don't be silly!  Of course not!"  And that is right.  Friends, I have to admit that there was a time in my life when, if I had followed the new directives used at the University of Missouri, I would have had an almost daily police protection.  I would like to tell those students, "Grow up!"  Yes, words can be hurtful.  I think of all the hurtful words that were hurled against Jesus as He hung upon that cross for you and for me.  I cannot begin to imagine the vindictive tone of the voices of those who hurled one insult after another.  Yet, what was the response of Jesus?  Did He protest?  No, He forgave! 

The problem in our country today is that we are so focused upon ourselves and our rights and our feelings that we have little regard for others.  Of course, it is politically correct to be sensitive to only certain words.  I need to be sensitive when I talk about gender - I don't want to offend anyone.  So, if I am walking around the campus of the University of Missouri I had better be careful about using the "gay" or "homosexual" words or I might offend someone and soon have the police at my shoulder.  I also need to be sensitive when I talk about race - I don't want to offend anyone.  So, if I am walking around the campus of the University of Missouri I had better be careful about how I speak of "black Americans" or I might offend someone and soon have the police at my shoulder.  However, I do not need to be careful at all as to how I speak of Christians - after all, they are always a welcome fodder for our conversations. 

Friends, the Bible instructs us that we are to be careful in our speech.  The way I guard my speech is to guard what goes into my heart for Jesus said, "But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.'  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander." (Matthew 15:19).  My speech is a reflection of my heart.  So, yes I need to exercise care.

But, we do live in a land where we still have a First Amendment which proclaims that I do have the right to freedom of speech.  That Amendment gives me the right to say what I want to say.  A person may not like it, but I can still say it.  This "right" is being taken from us.  Will there now be "thought police" at the University of Missouri?  They had those in Nazi Germany.  Will people be afraid to speak out now because someone might just be listening who would be offended?  When a culture becomes afraid to engage in significant dialogue and surrenders to the political correctness of the moment, that culture soon will die. 

Think about that statement for a moment: If we surrender to the political correctness of the moment, that culture soon will die.  Look at what the world is pressuring us to become.  Let's all have the same amount of money - no rich people, no poor people.  (Note: been tried before and didn't work too well, so was abandoned; why? because there is no incentive to work).  Let's all think alike - everyone thinks about everything in the same way - no diversity of thought.  Let's all believe the same way - everyone is going to heaven, so why make a big deal out of Jesus.  (Note: sadly this is the belief of so many, including some evangelicals).  Let's all be part of the same government - one-worldism is growing. 

As I look at what happened these past few days on the University of Missouri campus, I realized that we simply are turning another page toward the coming of the Lord Jesus.  And for that I get very excited.  How about you?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Dying with Peace and Hope

This past Sunday afternoon, my brother slipped away from the cares of this life into those unimaginable joys of glory.  Cancer may have claimed his body, but it could not claim his soul.  His confidence of his destination was evidenced by the peace he displayed throughout the many months of his battle with that horrible disease. 

During my 43 years in ministry I have had the opportunity of sitting by the bedsides of many as they ended their journey.  Some have died in such agony as I believe they become conscious of an eternal destiny without Christ.  Their rebellion against God was completed as they died.  Satan gives no peace at the end because he knows no peace.  He only takes; he never gives in return.  Those moments with those families became very difficult.  What can one say to a family whose loved one has died without knowing Jesus Christ as Savior?  There certainly is no hope; all one can do is talk about what was done in this life but make no mention of what is happening in the life after death.

But oh to sit beside the bed of one who knows the reality of sins forgiven, who knows the joys that await him or her.  They say with the Apostle Paul, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith.  Therefore there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord will award me on that day."  Those words could be said of my brother.  He knew where he was going.  And he knew the way. 

Friends, I cannot begin to understand all that heaven must be.  The Bible only gives us such short glimpses into glory.  But, even with those short glimpses we stand in awe of that place God has prepared for us.  I love reading Revelation 4 and 5.  I would encourage you to read them soon.  Read those verses slowly and let your mind begin to picture what John is describing.  Soon you, too, will be singing songs of praise to our God.  Heaven is truly indescribable.  We know more of what is not in heaven than of what is in heaven.  Revelation 21 and 22 help us to understand that.  But of this we are certain: heaven is where Jesus is and if that is all heaven would be, that would be more than enough. 

I wish I could visit with my brother right now.  I wish my phone would ring and I would hear those words, "This is your younger brother."  I believe he would talk until my cell phone battery died and still not lack for things to say.  I believe he would put my Dad on the phone.  Mike knew of my love for the prophet Isaiah, so perhaps he would have him give me a greeting - hopefully someone would translate from the ancient Hebrew for me.  But I will never receive that phone call.  But I can know that my brother is now with the Lord.  His battle with pain is completed.  His body, which had been so destroyed because of the cancer, is now whole.  Instead of pain, he has joy.  My brother was never one to sing - guess that is a male tendency in the Frazier clan as my father could only sing one note well; he always said he made a "joyful noise unto the Lord" - but my brother is singing now. 

What makes the difference between dying with no hope and dying with hope?  That difference Maker is Jesus Christ.  As a young boy my brother had placed his trust in Christ and that decision carried him through life.  As I love to tell people, referring them to Romans 5:1, when a person receives Jesus Christ as Savior, the war with God ends; Paul says we have "the peace with God."  And, in Romans 8:1 he reminds us that, with Christ as our Savior, we will never stand condemned before God because Jesus Christ took our condemnation on the cross. 

Friends, my brother Mike knew where he was going.  And as the end came last Sunday afternoon, he rested his soul into the hands of Jesus.  And so, as we would always say when we closed our phone calls, "Mike, I'll talk to you later."  And it may not be that far away!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Saying "Good-by" to My Brother

I spent some time yesterday with my younger brother - younger by some 17 months - who is in the final days of his life here on this earth.  Over a year ago he was diagnosed with kidney cancer which had metastasized in his bones.  He went through many rounds of chemotherapy which helped him to have a measure of quality of life with his family for many months.  But this cancer would not surrender to the chemo, although it was attacked by those drugs vigorously. 

My brother is home having expressed that as his desire.  I had last seen my brother some ten days earlier.  He had been alert and we talked about politics - which he loved to do; we had many conversations through the years as he pushed 18 wheels down between the two white stripes on the highway.  He joked with the nurses who came in to administer his medications.  I could tell that he was in a lot of pain, but it was being monitored with his newly acquired morphine-pump.  I put my hand on this shoulder - he winced because of the pain - and I prayed for him and his family.  I said, "Mike, I may never get to see you again here on this side of glory, but I will see you up there someday."  We both had tears as we said good-bye.  Our usual way of ending a conversations was, "Talk to you later." 

As I walked into my brother's room yesterday, I could hardly believe what I saw.  He had slipped into a deep-sleep, perhaps one might call it a coma.  His breathing was shallow but would be interrupted with an occasional gasp for more air.  His eyes were nearly closed and his body was at rest.  I leaned over the side of his bed and told him I was there.  I think he knew my voice as he tried to move his head and briefly looked up at me; then the eyes closed once again.  As my Mom and I sat around his bedside with his wife and daughter, we talked as if Mike were part of the conversation.  I have been told by many that people who are in a coma can hear those conversations, so we were careful in our discussions. 

Then it was time to leave.  I once again put my hand upon Mike's shoulder and prayed, thanking God for those drugs that were keeping his final days as pain-free as possible; thanking God for a loving wife who was as an angel in her care for her husband; and asking God to surround that family with His love and care as they watched and waited.  And, as I was leaving, I said to my brother, "Mike, I know I will never see you again here, but I will look forward to seeing you in glory." 

As I drove home several thoughts lingered in my mind.  First, I tried to imagine what my brother's expressions might be when he steps through those portals into glory.  My brother was a truck-driver for over 35 years.  He once told me that he had driven truck in every state except for Alaska and Hawaii, and had logged well over a million miles - probably closer to two million.  If there are trucks in heaven, I know my brother will stand in line to get behind the wheels of one.  I know he will search through the crowds looking for our Dad and our grandparents.  I don't believe we can ever comprehend what those first views of eternity will be like...but I am guessing that they will be pretty fantastic.

Second, I realized once again that, even though we know the joys and glories of heaven that await those who lie there in that bed, we struggle with "letting go."  I put my arms around my niece and she said that it was so hard to see her Dad lying there and yet it was so hard to let him go.  I thought of that scene at the foot of the cross of Jesus and wondered how Mary handled the "letting go" of her son.  I think Jesus sensed her struggle when he invited John to take care of her - she was going to need someone.  We struggle with "letting go" because of the love that binds us together.  Yesterday I had flash-back moments of standing beside the bed of my Dad in those final hours of his life.  My Dad was my best-friend.  How could I manage without his counsel?  Yet I knew I needed to "let him go."  Death is a "letting go", isn't it?  Never easy, but vitally important.  And, it is easier to "let go" when we know where our loved-one is going. 

Third, as I watched Mike's wife tenderly care for him, carefully swabbing his mouth with the little sponge, gently wiping his beard with a towel after trying to get him to swallow a little broth.  She was aware of any hint of discomfort and knew exactly what to do.  I called her an angel.  She did that because of her love for her husband.  And then I thought of the Lord Jesus and those familiar words of David came to mind: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me."  That is exactly what Jesus does: He tenderly takes us by the hand and with a love that knows no limitations, He leads us safely home. 

I do not know how many days my brother has here - my prayer is that God would soon call him home.  I will miss my brother - those conversations while he was driving down the road - his contagious laugh - his friendship.  But I am blessed to know that our separation will only be for a short while; then a glorious reunion will occur.  "Therefore, comfort one another with these words."

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Why the Violence in Israel? A Theory

Almost daily we hear of violent attacks in and around the city of Jerusalem.  IDF soldiers are shot.  A young couple traveling to their home are murdered in front of their children.  A rampaging car leaps a curb while the driver attempts to hit as many people as possible standing at the bus stop.  Men and women, often with children in tow, are suddenly attacked with knives or machetes.  And, as they seek to defend themselves, Jewish authorities have killed many Palestinians. 

Why, all of a sudden, the violence?  What has changed?  The central feature in this renewed violence is the status of the Temple Mount - a place within the Old City of Jerusalem that is held sacred by both Jews and Muslims.  The Muslims claim that it was from here that the Prophet Mohammed ascended one night into heaven; it is the third most holy site in Islam.  Atop the Temple Mount today stands the Dome of the Rock, a structure built 691, along with the Al Aqsa Mosque, from which sermons are preached on Fridays, often laced with vitriolic words.  Since the end of the Six Day War in 1967, the Muslim Waqif has controlled the access to the Temple Mount. 

Along the western side of the Temple Mount lies the Western Wall, or, sometimes called the Wailing Wall.  It is the only part of the Temple that remains from the Second Temple period, remembering that the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 AD.  This place is the holiest site for Jews.  Daily, hundreds of Jews come to the Western Wall to meditate and to pray.  I have been to the Wall many times and it is quite an experience. 

So, you are saying, why all the commotion now?  Earlier this summer, Muslim youth, attending services at the Al Aqsa Mosque, were seen carrying rocks, catapult-like machines, and knives into the Mosque with the purpose of using hurling those rocks upon the Jewish pilgrim worshiping below at the Western Wall.  Jewish Authorities gave the Waqif a period of time to clean out the weapons, which they refused.  So, Israeli authorities sent in police that stood in front of the Mosque.  This created a call that the Jews had assaulted the Temple Mount.  And thus the violence began. 

That incident may have been the catalyst for the present violence, but I believe there are two deeper factors that are keeping the violence alive.  First, back in September, in his address before the United Nations General Assembly, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas stated that the Palestinians would no longer honor any agreement that had been reached with the State of Israel, thus nullifying the Oslo Accords which had been the legacy of the Clinton Administration.  He further stated that the Palestinians would destroy Israel , even so far as encouraging violence.  And since that speech, President Abbas has been reported as using inflammatory words to keep the Palestinian anger riled against the Jews. 

Second, I believe what we are seeing in Israel is an aftermath of the Iranian Nuclear Accords which were signed this past Sunday and now are in effect.  Suddenly the Iranian regime is being blessed with the receipt of $150 billion as sanctions are lifted.  It does not take a rocket scientist's mind to calculate what they plan to do with much of that new-found wealth.  We know that Hamas (Gaza Strip) and Hezbollah (Southern Lebanon) are proxies of Tehran.  The leadership of those two organizations committed to the annihilation of Israel are now competing for funds and weapons from Tehran.  How could you prove your value than to encourage violent attacks upon Israeli citizens.  You don't need just rockets any longer; you can use knife-wielding or truck-driving terrorists.  Last night I had the privilege of being a gathering with a Jewish Rabbi who was visiting from Israel.  I shared with him my theory and he concurred as to its possibility. 

And then there is the added presence of ISIS in the region.  I was reading an article this morning from The Israel Project website that cited a series of "ISIS propaganda videos released on Sunday praising the latest terror attacks and calling for more.  The videos urge Palestinians to 'return terror to the Jews' and to use any means at their disposal to carry out attacks, including knives, vehicles, poison and explosives.  The terrorist responsible for the attack on Sunday at the Beersheba central bus station that killed an IDF soldier and injured 11 people was inspired by ISIS. The title of one of the videos released by ISIS is 'Project Behead the Jews' and in another video, the speaker says, 'we will not enjoy our lives or take pleasure with a lavish abode until we liberate Al-Aqsa from the defilement of the sons of apes and pigs.'"  This is hardly rhetoric that defuses an already dangerous climate. 

Then, to add fuel to the proverbial fire, I read yesterday that the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) would be voting on a petition presented by six Arab States (Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates) on behalf of Palestine that would "fold the Jewish Western Wall into Islamic domain on the Temple Mount."  Friends, this is another attempt by the Muslim world to rewrite history, to purge every vestige of Jewish presence from the past in and around Jerusalem.  But how can one erase history?  The evidence of Jewish presence is almost insurmountable.  I have walked through some of the archaeological digs just outside the walls of the Old City.  It is an amazing journey back into time - not Muslim time, but Jewish time.  Ancient synagogues, ancient water systems, and ancient walls tell the stories of an ongoing Jewish presence for centuries before Mohammed was even born.  Thankfully, I read this morning that the UNESCO Committee did not adopt that portion of the petition that called for the ceding of the Western Wall into Muslim control.  But, mark my word, the Palestinians will try again and again. 

The Bible instructs us to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem" (Psalm 122:6).  And so we do.  But real peace will only come when King Jesus returns to accept that throne that is rightfully His there in Jerusalem.  Then, and only then, will there be true peace.  So, as we "pray for the peace of Jerusalem" today, yes, we are praying for the violence to end, but we are also praying that Jesus would come soon.  Yes, come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fall Points to a Time of Rest

I enjoy the fall season of the year.  The colors here in Minnesota have been extraordinarily beautiful this fall.  Must have been the warm, wet summer that made the tree leaves so alive.  And the fields of pumpkins are dotted with the amazing orange spheres that will soon become jack-o-lanterns or pumpkin pies.  As the leaves begin to fall, one can see the myriad of nests the squirrels have built as their winter homes.  I always have wondered how those nests built of twigs and leaves can withstand those fierce winter winds.  But they do.  And who can resist a hot mug of apple cider with a twist of cinnamon?  Couple that with a warm apple donut and a perfect evening is created. 

As one sees the changing landscapes of fall, a person has to marvel at God's great design.  Creation, at least in the northern climes, needs a time of rest.  God knew this.  Trees need a rest - thus the shedding of the leaves.  Fields need a rest - thus the lack of planting and growing.  Even some animals need a rest - thus the long time of hibernation.  The fall season is a reminder that God often asks us to slow down, to rest.

Rest, when you come to think of it, was what God did after six long days of creation.  The Bible tells us in Genesis 2:2, "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work."  God rested!  The need for rest is a part of God's creative plan for His creation and for the pinnacle of His creation, namely man.  Yes, God expected man to work, for work is also a part of God's creative plan (Genesis 2:15 - "The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.")  But work needs to be balanced with rest.  When it came time for the children of Israel to receive those laws that would govern them as a nation, the fourth commandment stated, "Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.  On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.  For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the seas, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.  Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." (Exodus 20:8-11) 

Now rest is not laziness.  In fact, I believe many people often work hard at being lazy.  Rest does not mean inactivity.  In fact, a change of activity from what is normal can often be a great way to rest.  How important it is for us to understand that God has built a desire within each of us for rest.  Such rest is a time when we can reconnect with God.  Such rest is a time when we can reconnect with our families.  Such rest is a time when we can reconnect with ourselves. 

I know we live in an age when we are almost prideful of our busyness.  We run hither and thither often acting like a "chicken with its head cut off."  I can still close my eyes and see my grandfather swing his axe and off would come a chicken's head; then he would let it flop around.  That chicken would flop all over but had no idea where it was going.  Such scenes are often what our culture demands of us.  We create one activity after another seeking to fill our calendars with events - sporting events, cultural events, school events, and even, sadly, church events.  And today our busyness is compounded with our technological toys.  A few quiet moments become an opportunity to send a text or play a game or use the Internet.  Perhaps we equate activity with spirituality; but that is a wrong equation to make. 

I want to rediscover the value of rest.  I want to rediscover the significance of "being still before a holy God."  I want to know that "the LORD is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him" (Habakkuk 2:20).  Rest does not come automatically.  Rest does not come with a sincere desire.  Rest has to become a priority; it has to be something that we diligently seek after.  Just as creation prepares itself for a time of rest, so you and I need to prepare ourselves for a time of rest.  Perhaps it is to rediscover the value of Sunday being our Sabbath, our day of rest.  Perhaps it is to rediscover the significance of taking a week away from work - remember, leave your laptop at home and don't use that cellphone unless it is an emergency; the office can survive without you for a few days - and spending time with your family.  Perhaps you will rediscover rest by simply opening God's Word as you sit in your favorite rocking chair and allowing Him to speak to your heart in the quietness of an early morning or late evening. 

Friends, our souls long for rest.  Our bodies long for rest.  Our relationship with a living God longs for rest.  My prayer is that God will cause us to diligently prepare and seek for His rest, and that, as we experience that rest, our souls and bodies will become re-energizer with His power and His presence.