A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In

May 26, 2015

And Then The Floods Came

     It is news across the nation that Texas has received so much rain that parts of our great state are now out of the years-long drought we have been experiencing.  Our tank, which has been dry for the last 4 years, is overflowing and trees which have been thirsty for rain water during the drought are being uprooted and falling because they have been sitting in water for too long.
     The whole state is due more rain this week, and the word that ranchers and homeowners fear more than "Drought" is now going to become a reality ... "Flooding".   The Blanco River in Central Texas crested at 43 feet, a rise of over 31 feet since late Saturday night. That 31-foot surge in the river level included a rise of 17 feet in just 30 minutes!  It has resulted in massive flooding and loss of life ... entire families were swept away and the number of missing is rising.  There are not words to describe the heartbreak we are experiencing in Texas.
     Yesterday, our capital city, Austin, experienced rain and floods that rival the historic Memorial Day Flood of 1981.  Having experienced that one, I watched the new coverage of flooded streets and heard the reports from family and friends, and it was like I was reliving a nightmare.
     Also, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) began notifying homeowners in the small southeast Texas town of Cuero that the Guadalupe River is expected to rise to over 40 feet by Thursday morning.  The flood stage is set at 24 feet, with moderate flooding at 33 feet, so you can imagine the devastation that is expected in the next 48-72 hours.  We have friends and family that live in Cuero, so this situation is also personal for me.
     The Red Cross is already implementing shelter in the school gymnasium for those who will be impacted by the flood waters, and people are voluntarily evacuating their homes.  It is times like this that you hope the community comes together to serve each other and lighten the burdens of fellow human beings.  A good friend told me that that is what happened during the "flood of 1998", which was the previous milestone for the town of Cuero.  At the time, the citizens had no warning and little time to get themselves and their belongings to safety.  But what a difference 17 years makes.
     Now with technology, people began receiving messages on their phones, directly from FEMA, of what was coming, and giving them at least 48 hours to pack up and move to higher ground.  Red Cross and community volunteers were pre-warned, so the organization to provide shelter should be better coordinated and implemented.  People flocked to the local grocery store for food, water, bug spray and batteries.  Valuables are being relocated and decisions being made as to what is important to save, should the worst happen.
     It is at this time that priorities become crystal clear in your mind... all the material "things" that we humans collect and covet are suddenly unimportant.  The only things you really need are a method to protect yourself and your family,  important papers to prove ownership of your property, a few photos to maintain your ties to the past, enough clothes and food to sustain a few days or a couple of weeks until you can start the cleanup, and your Bible to give you hope.  Everything else is replaceable.
     The last time that Cuero, Texas flooded martial law and curfews were invoked due to the unexpected flooding and the chaos that comes with devastation.  It will be interesting to see if that measure is needed across Texas, as more and more towns are affected by the raging flood waters that are rolling downstream.  If deemed necessary, how will it be instituted and received, given the difference in today's political climate?  Will the diverse races come together in mutual support, or will the turmoil (both real and perceived) that is fueled by the internet serve to separate and divide communities?
     Now, more than ever, is the time for all of us to see beyond the color of our skin, and become the family of man.  It is hard for me to reconcile that Evil would take advantage of such a miserable situation, yet that is exactly the vulnerability that comes with such catastrophes.  No one is sure exactly how much damage to expect in the coming days, but right now the sky is clear and the rain has stopped.  Please pray with me for the deliverance of Texas from the destructive flood waters and any social upheaval that the Enemy perpetuates.  Let's pray that the stories coming out of this situation will glorify our Lord and restore the concept of "neighbor", as our state pulls together for the betterment of all.

Psalm 29:10-11    "The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever. May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!"


May 25, 2015

Duty, Honor, Country

     Today is the official celebration of Memorial Day, the day that our country honors those men and women who have died in the service of our country.  It is also a day that we honor all veterans who have selflessly contributed to the safety and protection of our nation.
     The Bible is full of stories of warriors ... Samson, David and Joshua are memorialized as valiant protectors of their people.  And from Isaac Davis, the first officer to be killed in the American Revolutionary War to Nathan Chapman, the first American soldier to be killed in combat in the war in Afghanistan, this nation has seen no shortage of men and women who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the ideals this country stands for.
     As the daughter of a Navy veteran from the Greatest Generation of WWII, I have always been proud of our U.S. military.  As I grew older, I can remember the first time that the undeserved criticism was launched against our Vietnam Veterans.  So, on this celebrated day, I would like to tell you the story of one special soldier from that era.
     You may be unfamiliar with his name and his story, and this post might appear a little longer than usual.  But I promise you it will be worth your while to learn about him.  His name is Roy Benavidez, and he received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Ronald Reagan in 1981.  Roy's story is not only remarkable for what he accomplished on the battlefield, but for what he accomplished in his life.
     He was born in South Texas, near where I live today; the son of a sharecropper who was orphaned at the age of 10, and who only received a 7th grade education.  But this is no sad story of missed opportunities and potential.  It is a miraculous story of perseverance and commitment that would serve him in unforgettable circumstances.  When President Reagan reflected on his heroism in battle, he remarked, "If this was a movie script, they would never believe it."
     But I want you to hear the story of Master Sergeant Roy P. Benavidez, and read the official recognition from President Ronald Reagan:  The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of the Congress the Medal of Honor to Master Sergeant Roy P. Benavidez, United States Army, Retired for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.  (Here is the story of his gallantry and bravery):

On May 2, 1968, Master Sergeant (then Staff Sergeant) Roy P. Benavidez distinguished himself by a series of daring and extremely valorous actions while assigned to Detachment B-56, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, Republic of Vietnam. On the morning of May 2, 1968, a 12-man Special Forces Reconnaissance Team was inserted by helicopters in a dense jungle area west of Loc Ninh, Vietnam to gather intelligence information about confirmed large-scale enemy activity. This area was controlled and routinely patrolled by the North Vietnamese Army. After a short period of time on the ground, the team met heavy enemy resistance, and requested emergency extraction. Three helicopters attempted extraction, but were unable to land due to intense enemy small arms and antiaircraft fire. Sergeant Benavidez was at the Forward Operating Base in Loc Ninh monitoring the operation by radio when these helicopters returned to off-load wounded crew members and to assess aircraft damage. Sergeant Benavidez voluntarily boarded a returning aircraft to assist in another extraction attempt. Realizing that all the team members were either dead or wounded and unable to move to the pickup zone, he directed the aircraft to a nearby clearing where he jumped from the hovering helicopter, and ran approximately 75 meters under withering small arms fire to the crippled team. Prior to reaching the team's position, he was wounded in his right leg, face, and head. Despite these painful injuries, he took charge, repositioning the team members and directing their fire to facilitate the landing of an extraction aircraft, and the loading of wounded and dead team members. He then threw smoke cannisters to direct the aircraft to the team's position. Despite his severe wounds and under intense enemy fire, he carried and dragged half of the wounded team members to the awaiting aircraft. He then provided protective fire by running alongside the aircraft as it moved to pick up the remaining team members. As the enemy's fire intensified, he hurried to recover the body and the classified documents on the dead team leader. When he reached the team leader's body, Sergeant Benavidez was severely wounded by small arms fire in the abdomen and grenade fragments in his back. At nearly the same moment, the aircraft pilot was mortally wounded, and his helicopter crashed. Although in extremely critical condition due to his multiple wounds, Sergeant Benavidez secured the classified documents and made his way back to the wreckage, where he aided the wounded out of the overturned aircraft, and gathered the stunned survivors into a defensive perimeter. Under increasing enemy automatic weapons and grenade fire, he moved around the perimeter distributing water and ammunition to his weary men, reinstilling in them a will to live and fight. Facing a build-up of enemy opposition with a beleagured team, Sergeant Benavidez mustered his strength, and began calling in tactical air strikes and directing the fire from supporting gunships, to suppress the enemy's fire and so permit another extraction attempt. He was wounded again in his thigh by small arms fire while administering first aid to a wounded team member just before another extraction helicopter was able to land. His indomitable spirit kept him going as he began to ferry his comrades to the craft. On his second trip with the wounded, he was clubbed from behind by an enemy soldier. In the ensuing hand-to-hand combat, he sustained additional wounds to his head and arms before killing his adversary. He then continued under devastating fire to carry the wounded to the helicopter. Upon reaching the aircraft, he spotted and killed two enemy soldiers who were rushing the craft from an angle that prevented the aircraft door gunner from firing upon them. With little strength remaining, he made one last trip to the perimeter to ensure that all classified material had been collected or destroyed, and to bring in the remaining wounded. Only then, in extremely serious condition from numerous wounds and loss of blood, did he allow himself to be pulled into the extraction aircraft. Sergeant Benavidez' gallant choice to join voluntarily his comrades who were in critical straits, to expose himself constantly to withering enemy fire, and his refusal to be stopped despite numerous severe wounds, saved the lives of at least eight men. His fearless personal leadership, tenacious devotion to duty, and extremely valorous actions in the face of overwhelming odds were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflect the utmost credit on him and the United States Army.

     President Reagan then finished reading the citation, and turned to speak to MSG Benavidez:  "Sergeant Benavidez, a nation grateful to you, and to all your comrades living and dead, awards you its highest symbol of gratitude for service above and beyond the call of duty, the Congressional Medal of Honor."

     But it is the words of the man himself, that best exemplify the duty and commitment that our U.S. military feels towards their comrades.  Here is a speech given by MSG Benavidez, himself, in 1991:

     I come from a little town called Cuero, Texas.  After the death of my mother and father at an early age, my brother and I were adopted by an aunt and uncle, and we moved to El Campo, TX, about an hour and a half southwest of Houston.  I was raised there, and went to school there.  I worked at odd jobs there; I shined shoes, sold newspapers, picked cotton.  And like a fool, I dropped out of school and ran away from home.  I’m not proud of that.
     I needed to learn a skill.  I needed an education.  My adopted father would tell me, “Son, an education and a diploma are the keys to success. Bad habits and bad company will ruin you.”
     I was too old to go back to school, and didn’t want to return there, so I joined the Texas National Guard.  And I liked what I saw in men in uniform.  I qualified to join the regular Army, and was accepted, where I heard about Airborne.  I heard about that extra pay you get for jumping out of airplanes (audience laughter), so I qualified to go to jump school at Fort Benning, Georgia, but the durn recruiters never told me what the training was like.  For every mistake you make, you do push-ups.  And I can honestly tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that I’m one of the guys who helped put Georgia into South Carolina, doing push-ups.
     Well, I finished my training and got assigned to a well-known unit at Fort Bragg, NC, 82nd Airborne Division.  After awhile, I heard about the Special Forces … you know them as the Green Berets.  I qualified.  We in the Special Forces are trained to operate deep behind enemy lines, living on little or no support at all.  We were trained in 5 specialties; I am trained in three.  I’m trained in Operations and Intelligence, where I learned oceanography, meteorology, photography; I’m an interrogator and I’m a linguist.  I’m trained in light and heavy weapons, and cross-trained schematics.
     I’ve been all over the world:  the Far East, Europe, South and Central America, and two tours in Viet Nam.  I was assigned to Berlin, and I declared one time that I was the only Hispanic American who could speak German with a southern accent…
     In 1965, I was sent to Viet Nam as an advisor to a Vietnamese infantry unit.  After a short period of time there, I stepped on a mine.  I woke up in the Philippine Islands.  I was paralyzed from the waist down.  I was declared to never walk again.  I was transferred to Fort Sam Houston in Texas.  The doctors were initiating my medical discharge papers, but at night, I would slip out of bed and crawl to a wall, using my elbows and my chin.  My back would be killing me and I would be crying, but I’d get to the wall and set myself against the wall, and I’d back myself up against the wall and I’d stand there.  Like Kaw-Liga, the Indian.  I’d stand there and move my toes, right and left, right and left – every single chance I got.  I wanted to walk; I wanted to go back to Viet Nam because of what the news media was saying about us; that our presence wasn’t needed there; and they were burning the flag.  And I saw a lot of other patients coming back, with limbs missing … I wanted to go back; I was determined.  Because I remembered what I was taught in jump school.  That old Master Sergeant would tell me, “Benavidez, quitters never win; and winners never quit.  What are you?” … I’d say, “I’m a winner.”
     And I remembered my Special Forces training and one of the training missions I was on.  I remember that my leader would tell me, “Face [it].  Determination.  Determination and Positive Attitude will carry you further than Ability.  You can do it, Benavidez…   You can do it.”  I never forgot those words.
     So there I was.  At night, I’d slip out of bed; the nurses would catch me sometimes and chew me out.  They would give me a sleeping pill to put me asleep.  They would tell the doctors in the morning.  But I was determined to walk.
     Nine months later, here comes my medical discharge papers.  And I told the doctor, “Doctor, look what I can do.”  He said, “Sergeant, I’m sorry.  Even if you can stand up, you’ll never be able to walk.”  I jumped out of bed, and I stood up right before him; my back was aching, I was crying, and I moved just a little bit.  The doctor said, “Benavidez, if you walk out of this room, I’ll tear your papers up.”  I walked out of that ward… I walked out with a limp and went back to Fort Bragg, NC and began running five or ten miles a day; doing 50 to 100 push-ups; and I made three parachute jumps in one day.  I was physically and mentally ready to go back to Viet Nam.  
     My orders were to go to Central America as an Advisor, but as a non-commissioned officer and knowing some of the good officers in the right places (he said with a smile), my orders were diverted, and I went back to Viet Nam in 1968.
     In the latter part of April, my buddy and I began to gather intelligence information behind enemy lines.  After two days on the ground, my buddy was shot in the eye, the back, and the legs.  Our mission was complete, but I didn’t want to leave my buddy behind.  I called for an extraction helicopter to come and get us out.  They dropped a McGuire line … nothing more than a rope … and we hooked on.  As they lifted us up, those two ropes began twisting and rubbing (nylon ropes will burn).  As we ascended above the canopy of the jungle, those ropes were completely entwined and burning.  As we got close to the helicopter, the soldier sitting in the safety seat saw that those ropes were burning, and lowered himself outside that helicopter and separated those ropes.  That’s Dedication … I will never forget that man.  The enemy was still firing at us, but they never shot us.  
     We landed at a safe spot, and my buddy was taken to the hospital, where he expired a short time later.  I was in another staging area, waiting for assignment, when I heard on the radio something like a popcorn machine.  Then I heard a voice … “Get us outta here!  Get us outta here!  Come get us quick!  ASAP!”  
     I asked the radio operator, “Who are those [guys]?”  He said, “I don’t know.  They haven’t given us a call sign.”  Then I saw some helicopter pilots running to the flight line; scrambling.  I ran right behind them.  We saw a helicopter coming in, and the door gunner was slumped over his weapon.  When the helicopter landed, I unstrapped the door gunner… Michael Craig, 19 years old.  I cradled him in my arms, and his last words were, “My God, my mother and father.”  
     I asked the pilot, “Who are the people on the ground?”  He said, “Hey, it’s that non-commissioned officer that saved your life the other day.  Remember?”  I said, “Leroy Wright”.  Leroy always got picked for top-secret assignments … it was an instant reaction.  I saw a bag of medical supplies, picked it up and went over to my helicopter … and they told me, “You can’t go in there; it’s too hot.”  Little did I know that I was going to spend six hours in hell.  
You heard [President Reagan] read the citation of how I earned the Congressional Medal of Honor.  But he didn’t tell you all that I went through when I engaged in the hand-to-hand combat.  I was hit in the mouth with the butt of the weapon; my jaws were locked.  After my last return to the helicopter, when I was boarded on … I was holding my intestines in my hand.  
     We lifted up.  The helicopter was overloaded; blood was flowing on both sides of the helicopter.  When we landed at our staging area, and started unloading and identifying the dead bodies, they found that I had loaded three dead enemy soldiers in that helicopter … I didn’t want to leave anybody behind (to audience laughter and applause).  My mission was to recover the classified material, and anybody [who] had it – he was on the helicopter.  
     They laid the enemy soldiers on the side, and since I look kind of oriental, they laid me alongside them.  They were inserting the dead into body bags, and I can remember my feet being lifted into a body bag and the sound of that zipper coming up, and I was thinking, “Oh, my God, No! No!”  
     My eyes were shut because I had blood all over my face, which had dried.  And I couldn’t talk because my jaws were locked.  One of my buddies was jumping up and down, doing the Mexican hat dance, and shouting, “That’s Roy!  That’s Roy Benavidez!”  And the doctor said, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do for him.”  And that zipper kept coming up!
     I was trying to wiggle around in my own blood, and finally, Jerry made that doctor feel for my heartbeat.  When I felt that hand on my chest, I made the luckiest shot I ever made in my life … I spit in that doctor’s face.  So the doctor said, “I think he’ll make it.”
     I was cleaned up, and put on the helicopter; alongside one of my buddies that I had saved.  We got airborne, and I just said, “Hold on buddy; just hold on.  We’re going to get some medical attention.”  And his grip tightened up on me … and then he let go.
     I said, “Oh, God, why do you put me through this test?  Why?  You have me get these men out, and save that material, and now You take them away from me.  Why?”  And I was crying and moving around so much that the co-pilot thought I was gasping for air.  So he gets out of his seat and grabs his bayonet and is going to do a tracheotomy on me, and I’m about to kick him out of the helicopter … that was just too much for one day!
     We landed at the hospital, and I was wheeled into the operating room.  As I was being lifted to the operating table, I saw this nurse on her hands and knees crying; yelling and asking God, “Why do you do this to these men?  Why?”  I turned just a little bit to my left, and I saw on the other operating table a man who had both legs and both arms missing.  I passed out.  
     I woke up in a ward.  One of my buddies was laying next to me who was so bandaged up, we couldn’t talk.  We used to wiggle our toes to make sure we were still alive.  After a short while, my buddy was transferred from there, and I thought he had died.  I was transferred to Japan. In the medevac plane that I was flying in, we lost two men.  And I remember this nurse kept yelling at me, “Benavidez, you’re not going to die on me.  I’m going to pinch you every time you close your eyes.”
     When I got to Japan and they rolled me into the operating room, the doctor looked at me, and said, “What in the world happened to you?”  I had red and blue spots all over me, and I told him, “That lady kept pinching me up there”.  
     I went back to Fort Sam Houston and I stayed in that hospital for almost a year. I continued with my career and then I was awarded the Congressional Medal.  I was dedicating myself to come and speak to schools and to civic groups; to help anyone that I could help.  My life was spared for a reason, and I hope it has been for a good reason.
     A lot of people call me a hero.  I appreciate that title.  But the real heroes are the ones who gave their lives for this country.  The real heroes are our wives and our mothers.   Above all, the real heroes are the ones who are laying in those hospital beds, disabled for life...
     You know, there is a saying among us veterans … For those who have fought for it, life has a special flavor that the protected will never know.  You have never lived, until you’ve almost died.   And it is us veterans who pray for peace most of all, especially the wounded, because we have to suffer the wounds of war.
     I’m asked hundreds of times, “Would you do it over again?”  (Long pause) … In my 25 years in the military, I feel like I’ve been overpaid for the service to my country.  There will never be enough paper to print the money, or enough gold in Fort Knox, for me to have to keep from doing what I did.  I’m proud to be an American, and even prouder that I’ve been given the privilege to wear the Green Beret.  I live by the motto of Duty, Honor, Country… God Bless America.

     Roy Benavidez died in 1998.  Yes, he was a hero who performed his duties beyond human imagination.  But everyday, in this country, men and women put on the uniform and go to work for this nation.  They may not all serve in far off locations, and their stories may not be as momentous as the one you read today.  But each of them is a hero in my eyes; a person who believes in something greater than themselves and who is willing to put others first.  That is what people do who share honorable qualities.  That is fulfilling the commandment of our Lord to love others as we love ourselves.
     I cannot finish this post without praying that the forces, both physical and spiritual, who are working to defile the nobility and integrity of our military will be unsuccessful.  This nation has a long history of admiration and support for those who protect us, and may it never be disrupted or corrupted.  And thank you to all veterans -- past, present, and future -- who continue to believe in Duty, Honor, and Country.  May God bless you!

Today I am dedicating this post and blog to the memory of Captain John Hardy, USAF, a pilot who was shot down over North Vietnam.  I wore an MIA bracelet bearing his name for years, and it wasn't until around the year 2000, that I discovered that there was a website where you could find out the status of MIA/POW soldiers in the Viet Nam War, that I learned of his fate.  Throughout the years, I had always prayed for him, and hoped he had made it home.  I was devastated to find out that he died in the jungles of that far-off country.  I never knew him, but he was more than a name on a silver bracelet.  In the year 2004, I had the opportunity to visit the Viet Nam War Memorial in Washington D.C., and the impact of that long black marble wall with all those names on it was overwhelming.  I have a pencil rub of his name in the Bible my grandmother gave me, and I will honor his memory for the rest of my life.  Here is his official status as listed on THE WALL, a website devoted to those who gave their lives in that war:  

Captain John Charles Hardy, USAF
Length of service 8 years
His tour began on Jan 15, 1968
Casualty was on Apr 3, 1968
Hostile, died while missing, FIXED WING - CREW
Body was recovered

Ecclesiastes 3:8     "a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace."

May 24, 2015

2 Chronicles 24:20

"Because you have forsaken the Lord, 
He has also forsaken you."

       As I've told you before, I am reading the Bible (again) from Genesis to Revelation; only this time it is with a much deeper yearning and a more discerning heart for God's message to me, a repentant sinner.  I am on the tail end of the Books of 1 and 2 Kings/1 and 2 Chronicles, and I'm sure you will understand when I say that it takes some serious study to keep all the kings and their deeds separate. 
     First of all, it is important to glean that 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings give a political history of Israel and Judah, while 1 and 2 Chronicles present a religious history of the Davidic dynasty of Judah.  While it is easy to think that it all runs together and the narrative regarding the various kings reads the same, nothing could be further from the truth.  After Solomon died and the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah came into existence, there are stark differences in the two kingdom's attitudes toward worship, the way they ran their governments, and how their rulership affected the people they served.
     There were 19 Kings that ruled the northern kingdom of Israel, beginning with Jeroboam, an Ephraimite, to Hoshea, the last king of Israel, before it was captured by Assyria.  The history of the nation of Israel, and its subsequent kings can be summed up in 2 Kings 17:22-23 ...  For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them; Until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had said by all his servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day. 
     As hard as it is to believe, there was not one of the 19 kings of the Kingdom of Israel that was not wicked.  As you read their histories in the Bible, it is noted of each of them, "And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, and followed the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin."  It is important that we know exactly what those sins of Jeroboam were, so great were they that they infected the entire history of the nation of Israel.  
     Here's what he did:  1) He urged the people to turn from worshipping at God's Temple in Jerusalem to temples he established in the kingdom of Israel;  2)  He made two golden calves and called them "gods", leading his people to worship false gods and idols;  3)  He established shrines to these false gods;  4)  He appointed priests that were not from the tribe of Levi as God had commanded; and 5)  He proclaimed his own feast day, and made sacrifices to false gods on unholy altars, using priests not sanctified by God.
     To a Holy God who had made a covenant with the Israelites in return for them obeying His statues and commandments for all their generations, this was obvious rebellion.  The consequences are stated in the chosen Scripture for today ... Because you have forsaken the Lord, He has also forsaken you.
     The consequences were profound.  Jeroboam had been given the great commandment to reign over the 10 tribes of Israel.  But his idolatry and apostasy caused him not only the life of his son, but would result in the scattering of the 10 tribes of Israel unto this day.  
     The nation of Judah shares in the sins of Israel with their own kings who embraced idolatry and apostasy -- with a striking difference.  From Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, to Zedekiah, there were actually eight good kings who walked in the ways of the Lord.  From King Asa, who was a righteous man, and who "took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made" -- to good King Josiah who restored the Torah to the Jews, which resulted in the reinstitution of Covenant between God and His people, the restoration of Passover, and reforms in how the people of Judah worshipped the Lord.
     But God is a Holy and Righteous God, and the sins of the rest of the kings of Judah, and the people, outweighed the attempts to keep them obedient to the Lord's commandments and statutes.  Time and again, the kings of Judah were tempted to follow after false gods, and the Lord would send a word by his prophets and raise up a good king to return the people of Judah to His ways.  But God, by His Sovereign plan, tolerated only so much, and as it says in 2 Chronicles 36:16, "But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words, and misused His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people; till there was no remedy."  King Nebuchadnezzar and captivity in Babylon was their punishment.
     What will be ours?  For surely, we have sinned against God as greatly as the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.  Our God is the same God they worshipped, and we know that God is consistent in His commandments and His justice.  History has shown us that the northern kingdom of Israel was so rebellious and disobedient that God scattered them.  The kingdom of Judah was the only tribe with whom God kept His covenant because they humbled themselves and repented.  However, they did not escape discipline and were often weakened before their enemies and exiled.  So how will our history be written?  Will we remain rebellious and break our covenant with the God of our fathers?  Or will we humble ourselves and repent and turn back toward the Lord?  
     The one thing we need to realize is that those scattered tribes of Israel have not been forgotten by God.  He will soon send His Son back to earth to redeem them.  All Israel will be saved.  The question remains ... what about the other nations of the world, including us?     

May 23, 2015

Scientists and Sin: What They Don't Understand

     In light of yesterday's post, I just want to point out the obvious.  Now that the futurists and scientists are gleefully clapping their hands over the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a powerful possibility for the human race, they are contemplating a new reality and philosophical question ... what if AI decides to turn on its creators; and can it be pre-programmed to make moral and ethical decisions?  Will it be responsible for its actions?
     Hmmm, don't those considerations sound, well, distinctly "human"?  Is the Intelligentsia unknowingly coming into conflict with what we Christians innately know as flaws in our human nature ... Sin?  Could it be that even if they are able to create a "being" that is as much computer as it is human, they cannot escape the inevitable sins that serve to endanger the existence of not only the created robots, but their human creators, as well?
     Secularists and Scientists and Skeptics, through medicine and philosophy, have tried to cure humanity of the pesky reality called "sin" for several generations now.  Moral relativism and Atheism have done their best to convince society that God is unnecessary, and we are capable of managing ourselves and plotting our own future.  Just in the last 100 years, we have had two World Wars, countless regional conflicts, and at least 7 attempted genocides resulting in nearly 18,000,000 deaths  (Armenians in Turkey; Stalin's forced famine; the Japanese atrocities at Nanking; the Nazi Holocaust; Pol Pot in Cambodia; Rwanda; and Bosnia-Herzegovina) ... so how has that worked for us?  Do they really think if they create drones that can decide for themselves when to pull the trigger, that it will result in a better outcome?  Or that they can avoid that annoying certainty called "death" by developing ways to isolate our brains from our decaying bodies?  If they only knew how disdainfully their Creator looks upon their schemes.
     There is no better description of the vanity of man and the depravity of human nature, than that described by David in the Bible:  The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord?  (Psalm 1-4).
     Yet, it is amazing to me how safe and secure these small "c" creators feel in their godless world.  They do not see their wickedness, their folly, or the danger they are in.  They are what the Bible calls "workers of iniquity".  As the noted theologian Matthew Henry describes them:  "they design it, they practice it, and take as much pleasure in it as ever any man did in his business."  They refuse to acknowledge the role God plays in His Universe, and their view of themselves as superior in the knowledge of what the future holds, only serves to showcase their blind and selfish motivations, as well as their utter foolishness. They mock God and they have no idea of the eternal danger in which they have placed their souls.
     But wait ... they aren't interested in "souls", are they?  After all, they are trying to redesign human existence and remove the "spirit" component from the human mind/body/spirit bond, which was made in God's image.  Yet, they will one day learn that those who refuse to fear God will reap the rewards of their folly.  They, who refused to admit His existence; who saw themselves above His Righteous Judgment and Sovereignty, and felt capable of creating their own eternity, will stand in awe and abject terror at what their pride has cost them.  Oh, they will experience eternity, alright -- it just won't be where, or when, or how they convinced themselves it would be.

Proverbs 17:24    "The discerning sets his face toward wisdom, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth."


May 22, 2015

How Close Are We To A Post-Human World?

     That is a question that Sir Martin Rees, the British Astronomer Royal attempts to answer in his astute article in The Telegraph.  Before giving you some of his insightful theories on this subject, I must admit that, as a Christian, I believe some of his prognostications will never materialize, because God will not allow His creation to become so violated.  That being said, I absolutely believe that what Sir Martin predicts will be attempted by those who think they can out-maneuver God.  Therefore, it is important for us to be able to recognize the machinations of such "geniuses".
     Much of what Rees reveals is what we've been hearing for awhile ... due to the overcrowding and over heating of the earth, technology will become an important part of our "survival", and it will have profound ramifications on humankind; most importantly, in the sphere of agriculture, biotech, and robotics.  Because our ecology is threatened, and our "footprint" is too big, scientists and futurists tell us that something must be done to save the planet.  So, it all comes down to this realization: We can now control the weather, the development of viruses, and robotic systems; all of which have the potential to affect how -- and if -- we live.
     Perhaps one of the most chilling statements that Sir Martin made was this:  "And there are downsides to the huge advances in biotech, despite the bright prospects these offer for medicine and agriculture. There were reports last month that Chinese researchers had been gene-editing human embryos using a new technique called CRISPR, raising controversial ethical issues about “designer babies”. But more disquieting are the experiments at the University of Wisconsin and in the Netherlands that show it’s surprisingly easy to make an influenza virus more virulent and transmissible. Last October, the US federal government decided to cease funding these so-called “gain of function” experiments."
     Rees pointed out that such "experiments" are hotly debated among his colleagues, with some wanting to stay one step ahead of natural mutations, while others are concerned about the danger and the risks associated with such scary science.  "What would happen, for instance, if an ebola virus were modified to be transmissible through the air? And they worried that the risk of failure to contain the pathogens within the lab is too high to justify the knowledge gained."  I'm glad someone is being clear-sighted!
     But I found it especially frightening when he discussed the dangers that will come from millions of people having the capability to misuse biotech, and who might have access to biomedical labs, just as millions can misuse cybertech today.  "Not all those with “bio” expertise will be balanced and rational. My worst nightmare is an “eco-fanatic”, empowered by the biohacking expertise that may be routine by 2050 [when 2 billion people will occupy the planet], and who thinks that “Gaia” can only be saved if the human population is reduced. The global village will have its village idiots, and they will have global range."
     Sir Martin also joins the chorus of voices such as physicist Stephen Hawking and Tesla Motors CEO and product architect, Elon Musk, who all warn of the dangers of the rapid ascent of artificial intelligence (AI).  "We’re witnessing a momentous speed-up in artificial intelligence (AI) – in the power of machines to learn, communicate and interact with us. Computers don’t learn like we do: they use “brute force” methods... Experts disagree on how long it will take before machines achieve general-purpose human level intelligence. Some say 25 years. Others say “never”. The median guess in a recent survey was about 50 years... And there is disagreement about the route towards human-level intelligence. Some think we should emulate nature and reverse-engineer the human brain. Others say that’s a misguided approach – like designing a flying machine by copying how birds flap their wings. But it’s clear that once a threshold is crossed, there will be an intelligence explosion."
     All these summations bring the question of ethics and responsibility to the forefront.  But when has that ever stopped mankind's sinful nature?  From the Garden of Eden, to Nimrod's Tower of Babel, to the Third Reich's "experiments", to Ray Kurzweil's plans to transcend biology by merging our brains with computers -- the purpose of all these evil designs is to assume the role of God in our own lives.  Is it in our future "to lose our individuality and evolve into a common consciousness" with computers and robots; in essence, to spiritually "go over to the other side"?
     What I found so compelling about Sir Martin's discourse is that he is the Astronomer Royal, the head of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich (a position in existence since 1675) and the official scientific advisor to the British government -- and, I could go into all the conspiratorial implications that this suggests, but that is a different topic for a different day.  Nevertheless, sometimes it is best to listen to what those in prestigious positions have to say; and he appears to be warning us to pay attention and be on the alert for what is going to be inevitable in our near future.
     As the chief expert on the stars and the heavens, so to speak, Rees has a particular viewpoint that I think we should heed.  In the matter of human/computer integration, listen to what he says:  "Let me briefly deploy an astronomical perspective and speculate about the really far future – the post-human era. There are chemical and metabolic limits to the size and processing power of organic brains. Maybe humans are close to these limits already. But there are no such constraints on silicon-based computers (still less, perhaps, quantum computers): for these, the potential for further development could be as dramatic as the evolution from monocellular organisms to humans. So, by any definition of “thinking”, the amount and intensity that’s done by organic human-type brains will, in the far future, be utterly swamped by the cerebrations of AI. Moreover, the Earth’s biosphere in which organic life has symbiotically evolved is not a constraint for advanced AI. Indeed, it is far from optimal – interplanetary and interstellar space will be the preferred arena where robotic fabricators will have the grandest scope for construction, and where non-biological “brains” may develop insights as far beyond our imaginings as string theory is for a mouse... So, in the far future, it won’t be the minds of humans, but those of machines, that will most fully understand the cosmos – and it will be the actions of autonomous machines that will most drastically change our world, and perhaps what lies beyond."  Does anyone else think that this is simply Satan's 21st century plan to recreate the Tower of Babel and help man gain access to the Heavenly realm and God's throne room?
     Can you see how far our human pride has taken us?  Do you really think God is going to let man -- whom He created -- usurp His creation of the Universe?  And if we are really that close to crossing the line into altering the organic make-up (the God-formed structure) of our brains, how long before God decides we've gone far enough, and it's time to pull the plug?  We know that God allows all things for His Glory.  Because of the speed with which these technological events are happening -- and the determination that their "creators" are exhibiting -- His Glory is soon going to fill the earth!  I can hardly wait!!

Isaiah 44: 9, 20:    All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame... a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

May 21, 2015

The Immigrant Experience: Yesterday and Today

     This is a topic that has been on my mind for several days, so I'm going to just jump in.  Immigration has been a hot button subject in our national conversation for some time, and is sure to be at the center of the Presidential election debates in the coming months.  For sure, it is quite controversial.  But immigration has been at the heart of the history of our great nation since the beginning, and has contributed immensely to our success. So I wanted to take a look at how and why our opinion of it today is so contentious.
     We often look back on our history of immigration through the lens of nostalgia and view it in a sentimental light ... We are all familiar with poet Emma Lazarus's invitation engraved on the Statue of Liberty:  “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”  Those words have inspired millions of people to make the dangerous journey to our shores.  I think it is important for us to recognize both the similarities and the differences in how immigration has impacted our nation.

     First the similarities:  The last great wave of immigrants to our country happened between the 1890s and 1920s and consisted primarily of Eastern Europeans.  Today's surge of immigration began in the 1960s and is still growing strong.  Most of these new immigrants hail from Mexico, and Central and South America.  Surprisingly, the percentage of foreign-born in the U.S. has not changed much in the last 100 years.  It was 13.6% in 1900 and 13% today. 
     Like the immigrants of the past, today's newcomers often enter the country with low skill levels, unable to speak English, and work at low-paying jobs and for long hours.  In both eras, the jobs often involved manual labor, or performing housekeeping duties and child-care for upwardly mobile Americans.  
     As in the past, today's immigrants usually live in ethnic neighborhoods, and due to their low economic level, multiple families may live together.  There are those today who will say that the immigrants of the past were viewed as "white", and more readily accepted.  But southern European Italian and eastern European Jew immigrants a century ago were not viewed as white in the same way that people with origins in northern and western Europe were; they were often called "mongrel" races.  They were discriminated against as inferior to natural-born Americans, as many are today. 
     Additionally, maintaining political, social, economic, and cultural ties to the home country is shared between the immigrant populations of yesterday and today.  Sending money back home and frequent trips to "the motherland" have been common for the last hundred years.
      While realizing that the immigrant experience is much the same today as it was a century ago, there are some stark contrasts in the effect that immigration has had upon our country.  First of all, in 1910, there were 13.5 million immigrants in the U.S. – in 2010, there were a whopping 40 million!  In the past, there were few restrictions on immigration, and most people entered the country legally and without any prohibitions.  Today, many arrive or remain without proper documents. Estimates for 2011: 11.5 million undocumented immigrants ... and that was before the mass influx of people coming from Latin America the last two years!
     One thing that we must understand when looking at the immigration "picture", is that 100 years ago, the population was about one fifth of what it is today.  And one cannot discount the words of Stephen Malanga, contributing editor to City Journal and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute:  "... Since the mid-1960s, America has welcomed nearly 30 million legal immigrants and received perhaps another 15 million illegals, numbers unprecedented in our history. These immigrants have picked our fruit, cleaned our homes, cut our grass, worked in our factories, and washed our cars. But they have also crowded into our hospital emergency rooms, schools, and government-subsidized aid programs, sparking a fierce debate about their contributions to our society and the costs they impose on it."
     We also cannot ignore the fact that these new immigrants often have their own values, customs, ideas, and culture, which are often at odds with our own; and they have no desire to compromise or assimilate as in generations past.  Our modern economy, which relies heavily on skills in the technology sector, makes it difficult for them to succeed without the necessary skills.  This makes it difficult to climb the economic ladder, and they often rely on something that immigrants of other generations didn't have: a bloated U.S. welfare and social-services bureaucracy that has greatly amplified the cost of immigration.
     The immigrants of a century ago were Jewish tailors and seamstresses who helped create New York's garment industry, Italian stonemasons and bricklayers who helped build some of our greatest buildings, German merchants, shopkeepers, and artisans - who all brought important skills with them that fit easily into the American economy.  In fact, our economy was exploding, and these new workers, with their specialized skills, helped power our emerging economy.  
     The flood of immigrants we are experiencing today do not have those specialized skills, and at this time in our history, they are a mismatch with the state of our economy.  Even as we have made strides in welfare reform and had some success in weaning people off social programs, we are, at the same time, creating a new foreign-born underclass who become hopelessly dependent on government aid.  As famed free-market economist Milton Friedman puts it: "It's just obvious that you can't have free immigration and a welfare state."
     I would be remiss if I did not mention an element associated with today's immigration debate.  This is a statement made in a 1992 article by Richard de Uriarte in The Phoenix Gazatte:  "An interesting aspect of the balkanization of America is the often playing of the "race card" whenever the discussion of illegal immigration comes up. According to most Latino advocacy groups, just being against illegal immigration is racist. This attitude is best expressed by Alfredo Gutierrez, political consultant, "We call things racism just to get attention. We reduce complicated problems to racism, not because it is racism, but because it works."
     It is obvious that immigration is a complicated and emotional set of circumstances.  And as Christians, we are given clear instructions as to how we are to treat sojourners in our land.  It is one thing to help immigrants on an individual basis; quite another to meet the needs of 40,000,000.
     So, as you can see, I haven't offered any viable solutions to our immigration policy debate.  To be honest, I'm not sure there are any -- as long as we have a federal policy that encourages immigrants to flock to our overcrowded nation with the promise of free social programs in a waning economy.  In truth, we are still the light that shines as a beacon to the tired, poor, homeless, and tempest-tossed that yearn to breathe free -- it's just that the golden door is tarnished and the lamp is fading.

Thanks to Professor Nancy Foner, of Hunter College and Graduate Center, City University of New York for statistics on immigration.

Leviticus 19:33-34    When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

May 20, 2015

Ukraine: Multi-Levels of Persecution

      I rarely take note of it, but sometimes out of curiosity, I will decide to take a look at the native countries of my readers.  Through website analytics I am able to see from which countries readers originate.  The parameters run from who is reading that particular blog post now, or how many have read it today, during the week, the month, or the year; and finally, I am able to see which countries have read it the most during the lifetime of this website.  The numbers are often revealing.
     The readership is pretty evenly distributed, with the majority coming from the United States, of course.  But there is always a minority of readers from United Kingdom, France, Germany, India, China, Malaysia, Poland, and Russia.  But I was shocked that consistently coming in at Number Two was the eastern European country of Ukraine.  Whether daily or all-time, Ukraine's numbers far outran those of other nations.  I had no idea, and wondered what the connection might possibly be between this website and the people of Ukraine.  After a fair amount of research, I may have a glint of understanding.  It is a complex situation in Ukraine, and I would love to get some feedback from those who are living in this tense situation.
     In the meantime, the Christian world's attention is focused squarely on the Middle East and the persecution that is coming against Believers in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Sub-Saharan Africa.  The torture and beheadings at the hands of ISIS are broadcast day after day on American news sites.
     Far less known, but just as disturbing, are the persecutions of Christians in Ukraine.  Interestingly, politically disparate websites, such as NPR and The 700 Club, have both published reports that Evangelical Christians in Ukraine are under religious persecution by pro-Russian separatists.  (I must admit that there is conflicting information which states that while the persecution is real, nationalism and ethnicity have more to do with it than the anti-Christian aspect).  Indeed, persecution itself is defined as hostility based on race or political or religious beliefs.  Still, no less than The American Family News Network is also reporting anti-Christian violence in Ukraine.  Whatever the reasons, it is time the Western Church comes to the spiritual aid of our Ukrainian brethren.
    The history of Ukraine is fascinating!  A quick glance at Wikipedia's extensive file on the country reveals that "the territory of modern Ukraine has been inhabited since 32,000 BC. During the Middle Ages, the area was a key center of East Slavic culture, with the powerful state of Kievan Rus' forming the basis of Ukrainian identity. Following its fragmentation in the 13th century, the territory was contested, ruled and divided by a variety of powers, including Lithuania, Poland, the Ottoman Empire, Austro-Hungary, and Russia. A Cossack republic emerged and prospered during the 17th and 18th centuries, but Ukraine's territories remained divided until they were consolidated into a Soviet republic in the 20th century. It became independent in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union."  The dominant religion in the country is the Orthodox Church, the eastern branch of Christianity.
     According to the report by NPR, "Protestants from the separatist regions of eastern Ukraine say they are being persecuted by the Russian Orthodox Church. Many evangelicals have left because of a crackdown on religious freedom."  But from what I have read, it is my understanding that there is no real difference between the Orthodox Church in Ukraine and the Russian Orthodox Church, other than the ethnicity attached to it.  From the perspective of religious doctrine, they believe the same things.  The persecution is real, but nationalism appears to be the root cause.  (Again, I welcome the facts from those living in Ukraine).
     But we cannot ignore the anti-God influence of the old Soviet Communist regime, nor dismiss the first-hand reports coming from International Christian Concern (ICC), an organization that "acts as a bridge between believers in free countries and believers in persecuted countries."  Less than a year ago, a spokesman for ICC said, "Just this week (August, 2014), four ... volunteers with the Far East Broadcasting Company in Ukraine, which broadcasts the gospel across that country, were pulled from their building.  And it was discovered that they were Christians, that they were believers – and they were actually beaten to death for their Christian faith when it was found out that they were evangelical Christians."
     But this spokesman also reveals that "pro-Russian separatists are opposed to what they believe are immoral influences from the West and instead want fundamental Orthodox principles in Ukraine... They are suspicious of foreign or Western influences and they see evangelical Christians as a threat to the Orthodox faith," he explains. "That's one of the reasons why we've been seeing in the past few months evangelical Christians, Protestants, etcetera being targeted for violence and persecution."
     It may be difficult for us here in America to fully understand the intricacies of hate and violence that exists in the Ukraine/Russia conflict.  But there is one thing that can be agreed upon:  The war in eastern Ukraine has driven nearly a million people from their homes.  Regardless of whether the conflict is centered around ultranationalism or religious differences, the truth is that Believers in Jesus Christ are suffering and their persecution is real and personal.  We should pray for the plight of Christians and refugees in Ukraine... and all around the world.

1 Peter 4:16    "Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that Name."

May 19, 2015

Why Is It So Difficult For Us To See?

     I am constantly amazed at the ability of our culture to overlook or dismiss demonic activity in the evil acts of who we consider to be "ordinary citizens".  How else do you explain news stories such as the two that occurred within hours of each other last week?  There was the case of 30-year-old David Baril, who within a span of six hours, attacked four strangers in Manhattan with a claw hammer.
     Mr. Baril was no stranger to assault, having eight prior arrests, including an assault on a police officer, and jumping a counter at a fast food restaurant to launch an attack.  After making eye contact with a young woman on a park bench, Baril took a silver hammer out of his bag and struck her, according to police.  In the most recent attacks last week, he approached a 20-year-old man in Herald Square, yelling profanities at the man before hitting him with the hammer, and then running off.
     According to the local NBC affiliate in New York City, police believe Baril has been living in parks and subways since he voluntarily left a mental health facility, and frequented the area near Union Square, where he allegedly began his recent spree of assaults against the innocent victims.
     So, as a society, we look upon this disturbed man with pity, fear, confusion, indifference, and yes, probably even disgust.  But have we considered that he is just the modern-day version of the Gadarene madman pictured in Matthew, Mark and Luke?  Think about it.  The Biblical madman is described as isolated and crazed; fierce and savage; as raising a cry from the depths of his throat.  In fact, Matthew mentions that there were two demoniacs, while Mark and Luke choose to mention just one of them.  But the fact remains that both the historical madman, and the modern one, are suffering from some kind of spiritual affliction.
     In Jesus's day, they said he had "an unclean spirit".  The people of that day understood that a person could be controlled by, or afflicted by, a Satanically-influenced spirit ... a demon.  Today we use labels like paranoid, schizophrenic, co-dependent, dysfunctional... probably because we are so removed from the Biblical implications and don't want to consider anything that smacks of "God-related". But those terms are only different words for "unclean spirit".
    Now consider the story, happening just hours apart from the incidents in Manhattan.  This time it is  happening across the country in California, where a knife-wielding woman stole an ambulance, and then crashed head-on into a semi-truck, killing herself and the big rig driver.  "There were no brakes, there was no swerving, nothing," said one witness.  So, anyone think this is just a normal occurrence, or a case of someone having a bad day?  Of course not!  There was obviously something terribly wrong going on inside that woman.  And I have seen no follow-up information regarding this strange and tragic accident.  Probably because very few want to consider the possibility that this woman was afflicted with demons.
    Why are we so afraid in Western culture to examine this possibility?  Doesn't it make sense that if it happened and was acknowledged in the Bible, that it could be just as real today?  Can anyone justify any reason that conditions could have changed in the last 2,000 years that would explain away the possibility of demon-plagued individuals?
     I know there will be those who say that Christians cannot be demon-possessed.  That word "possessed" is a troublesome word.  Here's my understanding ... we are made up of soul, spirit, and physical body.  True, once we have received Christ as our Savior, our spirit is sealed by the Holy Spirit, and if we are obedient, we will be unable to be enticed by demonic spirits.  But our soul consists of our mind, emotions and will.  And obviously, our body is the physical temple of God.  There are many instances in the Bible of both soul and body being affected by "unclean spirits".
     King Saul, after rebelling against the LORD, was troubled by an evil spirit.  There are several passages in the Bible that tell the story:  Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the Lord tormented him.  And Saul’s servants said to him, “Behold now, a harmful spirit from God is tormenting you. (1 Samuel 16:14-15).  Could it be any clearer?  The Holy Spirit departed from Saul, and God allowed a harmful spirit -- an unclean spirit -- to torment Saul.  So you can see that while the Spirit of God will not share residence with a demon, it can depart if we are willful and disobedient; leaving us open for demonic affliction.
     Can you see that the mind of a man or woman could be afflicted or influenced by "unclean spirits" or demons?  I would not hesitate to conjecture that the minds of both the man in Manhattan and the woman in California were heavily controlled by demonic spirits -- nor the minds of the Aurora, CO theatre madman, or the Sandy Hook killer.  Furthermore, I can also give credence to the idea that our bodies can be impacted by spirits that wish to influence us and affect our relationship with our Creator.  The origins of alcoholism and drug dependency might easily be traced to demonic spirits attacking both our minds and bodies.
     There are many instances in the Bible of demon-oppressed people being delivered from their afflictions:  the mute man in Matthew 9; the mute and blind man in Matthew 12;  the boy in Matthew 17 who was healed after the demon plaguing him was cast out;  the demon-oppressed daughter of the Gentile woman in Mark 7; the demon-possessed man in the synagogue in Luke 4;  and perhaps one of the most famous of them all in Luke 22:  Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve.  The other clear instance of Satanic influence is found in Matthew 23:   But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”  Christ recognized that even Peter could be influenced by Satan!
     So again, I ask, isn't it time that we in the 21st century come to terms with the fact that since the Garden of Eden, Satan has attempted to influence, afflict, and oppress mankind by attacking the minds, souls, and spirits of men?  But here is the condition by which this occurs ... Satan and his evil host can do nothing the Lord does not allow them to do.  Can we know and understand God's purpose in each and every instance?  No, and that makes it hard to figure out why we are seeing so many cases of evil and unexplained savagery in the actions of men.  But just because we can't understand it, there is no reason to discount the thousands of years that demonic influence has been at the center of such behavior -- nor to consider that God has a reason to allow it.  The one thing we can count on is that He is in control, and it will ultimately glorify Him.  In the meantime, it is paramount that we clearly see what we are dealing with, and remain obedient and in relationship with the Lord.  The Bible has shown us that as our society continues to abandon God, He will allow that vacuum to be filled by the Prince of this world.  While He will ultimately be glorified in all things, I can think of much better ways I'd like to see Him exalted.  We must repent and turn towards Him!

1 Timothy 4:1   "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,"

May 18, 2015

Is Typhoid The New Ebola?

     A new study, which appeared in Nature Genetics, reports that an antibiotic-resistant strain of typhoid has begun to spread throughout eastern and southern Africa.  This report is fueling fear that typhoid may be quickly reaching epidemic levels.  The new strain, called H58, is a symptomatic bacterial infection, exasperated by unsanitary food and water.
     Typhoid fever affects between 20 million and 30 million people around the globe each year, and symptoms include a high, sustained fever, weakness, stomach pains, headache and loss of appetite.  As many as 20% of patients can die from the disease.  The evolving consensus from medical officials is that the unprecedented wave of cases (leading to their theory of a possible epidemic) is due to the lack of vaccinations for typhoid.  Vanessa Wong, a microbiologist at the University of Cambridge in England is quoted as saying,  "Instead, antibiotics are commonly used as a preventive measure. As a consequence, there is a rise in antibiotic resistance to many pathogens and in particular a resurgence of multidrug-resistant typhoid has been observed in some areas, including parts of Africa."
     While Typhoid fever is not as life-threatening as Ebola, one has to be concerned about the push for vaccinations.  True, we have heard the horrific historical stories of typhoid deaths -- in 430 BC, it is speculated that typhoid was the cause for the deaths of one-third of the population of Athens, Greece. Some historians believe the English colony of Jamestown, Virginia, died out from typhoid. Typhoid fever killed more than 6000 settlers between 1607 and 1624.  During the American Civil War, 81,360 Union soldiers died of typhoid or dysentery; and the Spanish-American War exposed our military to typhoid fever overseas.  I am in no way diminishing the dangers or effects of typhoid, but I am always skeptical when a disease is quickly labeled as an "epidemic", followed by a rush to vaccinate.
     As I researched this latest outbreak of typhoid, I was mildly surprised to see that similar "epidemic" headlines were posted in 2010 and 2012.  Yet, do you recall hearing any major alarms?  And each of the current reports all read the same ... " uncovered evidence of an unreported recent wave of transmission of H58 in sub-Saharan Africa".  Nothing more, nothing less.  Forgive me ... but if officials were truly convinced that we were facing a "plague" of typhoid, wouldn't we be seeing more panic and real faces on the news?
     I can't help but recall this exposé by A. True Ott, PhD, ND (Naturopathic Doctor).  In the article, Dr. Ott told the story of a Watchdog Group in Kansas City, Missouri who successfully brought suit against the Missouri Chapter of John D. Rockefeller's fledgling American Medical Assoication (AMA).  The Jackson Medical Society was specifically named in the suit.  A portion of the article reads as follows:
     "In the Fall of 1921, the health of the city was unusually good, but slow for the doctors. So the Jackson Medical Society met and resolved to make an epidemic in the city. According to the minutes of this meeting: 'MOTION WAS MADE AND SECONDED, THAT A RECOMMENDATION BE MADE BY THE COMMITTEE, TO THE BOARD OF HEALTH, THAT AN EPIDEMIC OF SMALLPOX BE DECLARED IN THE CITY. (Investigation later revealed that there was NO SIGN OF AN EPIDEMIC at the time, in the city, or anywhere in the state or region!)
     'It was moved and seconded that a day be set aside, termed VACCINATION DAY, on which physicians would be stationed at ALL SCHOOLS, clinics, public buildings and hospitals to vaccinate "free of charge". (Vaccinations are never "free". The taxpayers are always forced to pay for every one of the "free" vaccines.)
     The Protective Bureau proved in court that there WAS NO EPIDEMIC before the vaccinations!! The court records show that the Medical Society manufactured vast amounts of posters, fliers, newspaper stories and ads featuring horrific and lurid pictures of diseased children covered with massive smallpox sores and open wounds. Some pictures actually showed children's corpses covered with the same ugly sores. The PANIC-DRIVEN message was clear --- VACCINATE EVERYONE, or face a deadly public disease. There was a "sweeping epidemic" in the city; the disease was "highly contagious" and would "strike anyone who was not vaccinated" was the bill of goods sold! (Does this sound at all familiar today ­94 years later??)
     I know that some people will just label this kind of exposure as conspiratorial.  They are simply unable to conceive that humankind could exploit each other in such a way.  But we must never forget that when money is involved, and the Elite feel threatened, nothing is too inexcusable.
     Doesn't it make you want to take a closer look at the increase in cases of polio from the polio vaccinations? Or the global outbreak of HIV and AIDS?  And what about the soldiers who developed "Gulf War Syndrome" after being injected with an experimental vaccine.  Now we face "designer viruses", and "duplex vaccines" are the answer!
     I didn't mean to get on my soapbox and go so far down the rabbit hole.  But history has shown me that we need to be cautious when buying into warnings on the latest "epidemic".  Will typhoid fever prove to be a real health hazard -- or is it just another orchestrated disease to be used by the powerful and wealthy for social engineering.  You can never be too careful....

IF you would like to read more about Dr. Ott's postulation, and review the evidence for his article, please click here.

Exodus 23:25    "You shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you."

May 17, 2015

Romans 11:26 ... The Double Meaning of Salvation

And so all Israel will be saved.

     Such a simple statement by the Apostle Paul, yet one that has caused much controversy and debate through the centuries.  In Romans, perhaps my favorite book of the Bible, Paul lays out God's redemptive plan for mankind; and how, in His sovereignty, He allowed the Jews to be blinded so that the Gentiles could receive the Gospel Message.  However, in Chapter 11, Paul wants it clearly understood that once the fullness of the Gentiles has been realized, that God's Chosen People would once again operate in their full power and character, and enter into their full purpose as ordained by God ... and so all Israel will be saved.
     As the Gentile Church, we have struggled with just what that looks like.  For those who reject this possibility, and who believe in Replacement Theology (that "the Church" has replaced Israel/the Jews as God's Chosen People), they refuse to even consider the meaning of Paul's statement.  For those of us Christians who revere the Jews as a people through whom the Messiah of the World has come. and will return, we see a couple of possible meanings.
     First, is Paul saying that "ALL" means every person in the nation of Israel will be saved at Christ's return?  Or is it possible that "ALL" refers to all believing Jews; those who accept Yeshua as their Savior?  No one can say for sure.
     But let me add another voice into this conversation.  I am blessed to be involved with an organization of Messianic Jews in the nation of Israel, whose purpose is to spread the Gospel among the myriad of groups that reside in Israel ... they serve the secular, the Orthodox, Arab Christians, and anyone who will hear their message of Yeshua's love.  They have pointed out to me that this particular verse of Scripture has an entirely different perspective to Israelis.  Let me explain...
     You are probably familiar with the concept that the name of Yeshua -- Jesus -- bears the meaning of the word Y'shuah, or salvation.  The concept of salvation in Scriptures has a two-fold meaning:  one military, the other spiritual.  Both are true.  The Hebrew prophets tended to emphasize the military, national, intervention of God to save the nation from destruction.  And on the other hand, the early Messianic apostles of Yeshua tended to emphasize the eternal, spiritual, forgiveness of God to save us from sin and death.
     But we Western Christians need to understand that the number of Israelis who believe in Yeshua as the Messiah and their Savior is a very small number.  When you try to dialogue with a secular Israeli or an Orthodox member of the Jewish faith, the question "Are you saved?" has virtually no meaning in Hebrew.  The national military aspects of salvation have become more relevant in recent generations as Israel finds itself back in the Land and threatened with destruction by Jihadist groups on all sides.  
     In addition, there has been a gradual change in the meaning of Passover since Israel has become a nation.  During all the years of exile, it was primarily a religious ceremony, with symbolic remembrance of the past.  Now Passover is a national holiday, celebrated by religious and non-religious at the same time.  Some see the holiday as national, some as religious, some as both.
     It should be remembered that God established the holiday of Passover as an "appointed time".  It is to remember the death and resurrection of Yeshua that also occurred during Passover.  As the years go by, people are asking more and more questions about the symbolism, nationalism and messianism connected with Passover, and there is -- little by little -- more interest in trying to understand Messianic Jews by Israeli society as a whole.  In addition, as worldwide Islamic Jihad and anti-Israel sentiments grow, the meaning of the Passover as God's military intervention to save the people of Israel will also take on greater significance.  
      So, can you see the two different aspects of "salvation" coming together in these last days before the coming of Yeshua?  Can you picture the knowledge of Yeshua growing, and the urgency of a divine military intervention for Israel growing, as well?  All of the prophecies concerning the Second Coming of Yeshua point to both a spiritual revival and a military intervention.  "All Israel will be saved" has meanings in both the spiritual and military contexts.  
     As my Messianic friends in Israel point out, a spiritual revival in the Land will go hand in hand with crying out to the Lord for deliverance from military destruction.  Yeshua and the angels in heaven will descend to save Israel from military attack at the same time that He will bring eternal spiritual salvation.  The attack of the nations, the revival in Israel, and the divine "military" intervention will all come to a climax at the same time.  As always, Scripture is the fullness of God's Word.  Blessed is the Lord!