A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

Showing posts with label Israel and Middle East. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Israel and Middle East. Show all posts

December 28, 2015

Turn Your Attention To Israel

     We've had a couple of days in which we could legitimately turn our focus away from the world and its events in order to concentrate on our faith and families.  But it is a testament to the times in which we live that less than 24 hours after Christmas Day, the leader of ISIS declares that the Holy Land of Israel will become a graveyard to the Jews.
      In a video released on Saturday, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi directly threatened the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem, saying, "The Jews thought we forgot Palestine and that they had distracted us from it ... Not at all, Jews. We did not forget Palestine for a moment. With the help of Allah, we will not forget it … The pioneers of the jihadist fighters will surround you on a day that you think is distant and we know is close. We are getting closer every day."
     His message is in response to increased opposition from the US-backed alliance of Syrian Kurds and Arab rebel groups, and other coalition forces.  Russia has also stepped up its bombing of ISIS infrastructure and positions from its Khmeimim airbase in Latakia since late Fall, at the request of the Syrian authorities.  Yet it is difficult for us here in the US and the West to understand the complexities of this battle in the Middle East against Evil.
     An article on The Guardian website puts it all in perspective:  "The fundamental issue is that ISIS is an enemy of the enemies of many Arabs – Iran and Assad, whom Tehran has backed to the hilt since the Syrian crisis began in 2011.  So far the Saudis still fear Iran in the long term more than they fear Daesh (the Arab term for ISIS)... Everyone says they are against ISIS, but it is no one’s top priority. It is not yet the organizing principle of politics in this region."
     And so, al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, feels safe in boasting "that God will grant victory to those who worship him, and hear the good news that our state is doing well. The more intense the war against it, the purer it becomes and the tougher it gets."  He also feels confident in calling on Saudi citizens - the second biggest contributor to ISIS ranks - to "rise up" against their government as he dimissed the kingdom's newly formed Muslim coalition against the caliphate.  "If the Islamic coalition against ISIS were truly Islamic, it would declare that it was cutting ties with its Jewish and crusader masters and that its goal was to kill the Jews and liberate Palestine," he said on the released tape.
     To be honest with you, it is difficult for me to understand -- or even to believe -- what we are told through various sources.  Who is on which side?  Are the coalition forces really working together, or are they each trying to benefit their own political agendas?  How do the various factions of the Islamic faith play out in relationship to ISIS and their goals?  Is any nation in the Middle East really concerned about stopping ISIS's aggression against the West?  I think we all have these questions, and more, and nothing seems to be getting solved; ISIS seems to be getting more aggressive and the involvement of nations like Russia, Syria, Iran, and Turkey have clear Biblical implications -- for those of us to whom that matters.
     Therefore, this latest diatribe against Israel and recent warnings from a branch of ISIS in Damascus, Syria that "We will enter Al-Aqsa mosque as conquerors and our car bombs will strike the ramparts of the Jews." has me seriously considering the Bible's prophecy in Zechariah 14, that "I (God) will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped."  (This certainly fits the mode of operation employed by ISIS). You see, it is not just ISIS, or Iran, or Hezbollah, or Hamas, who think that Israel unjustly occupies the Land.  Throughout the Bible, nations have sought to remove Israel and the tribe of Judah from the land appointed to them by YHWH.
     And the final book of the Bible, Revelation, tells us that Jesus (Yeshua), the Messiah, is returning to save Israel from the final nations and armies of this world who will, once again, accuse her of stealing the Land.  But, according to the Bible, the "right side" to be on is "Israel's side" in this coming battle.   Because Yeshua is returning to not only judge the world, but to judge Israel, as well -- just as God has judged and disciplined them throughout their history.  But we must never forget that the remnant of Israel is much beloved by God and it is Jesus who will save the children of Israel and destroy her enemies.
     From my limited perspective, it certainly looks as if events are pointing towards Israel standing alone.  And that fits what the Bible has forecast, too.  So, as we watch the world rushing towards the fulfilling of the Bible's prophecies, we can almost see it unfolding before our eyes.  There are the rumors that Israel is seeking new relations with Turkey and to restore diplomatic ties.  I have even read articles from the UK that purport some kind of secret "peace deal" between Israel and Hamas, brokered by former Prime Minister Tony Blair.  All of it hints at Daniel's prophecy of a seven-year peace treaty during which time the Anti-Christ will be revealed.
     None of us, and least of all me, can predict when and if we are on the precipice of fulfillment of these prophecies.  But our discernment is telling us that the time is near; that we need to be right with God, and we need to pray for Israel.  For just like we Christians, Her only hope is in God, Jesus (Yeshua), the Messiah.  Evil is marching towards Her and the Day of the Lord is at hand.

 Isaiah 34:16     "Seek out of the book of the Lord and read: not one of these [details of prophecy] shall fail, none shall want and lack her mate [in fulfillment]. For the mouth [of the Lord] has commanded, and His Spirit has gathered them."

December 2, 2015

What's In A Name?

     While I'm watching the leaders of the world put on their spectacle called "The Global Warming Summit", I want to take a little side trip to a topic that grabbed my attention over my break.  Even though the President states that climate change offers a threat equal to, or greater, than Islamic terrorism, have you begun to notice that he and a few of the media are beginning to use the term "Daesh" (pronounced variously as DIE-ESH or DASH) to refer to ISIS?  My first thought was, "Isn't it enough that we play this little word game between ISIS and ISIL?  Now we have to add a new name to the discussion?"
     Then I decided there had to be a specific reason that this name play is being propagated, so what is the theory and reasoning behind our President, the Prime Minister of Australia, and the various heads of Europe using it?  I found several articles -- all from the Western world -- which basically explained it this way:  Just as ISIS is short for "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria," or "Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham," which is an old Arabic term for the area, and ISIL translates to “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” DAESH is supposedly an Arabic acronym for “al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham”, which is what they call themselves.  It can sometimes be spelled DAIISH, Da'esh or Daech, a popular French version.  Confused yet?  (Personally, I don't quite see where you get the letters D-A-E-S-H from that Arabic phrase).  You will also read in the Western media that the reason DAESH hates being called DAESH is because it’s similar to the verb Daes, which means “one who crushes something underfoot".   It also sounds similar to Dahes, or “one who sows discord.”
     Another explanation for the use of DAESH in the West is that, depending on how it is conjugated in Arabic, it can be an insult.  It can mean anything from ‘to trample down and crush’ to ‘a bigot who imposes his view on others' -- not exactly the high opinion that the Islamic Caliphate holds of itself.
    You can see why it's easy to attribute those meanings to the new name of the Middle Eastern threat... they make sense to our Western minds.  But then I happened upon an article by Alice Guthrie, an actual Arabic translator.  She attempts to school us, here in the West, about the real reason this new name is being used.
     Guthrie says that not only are these explanations wrong, but the same misinformation is being shared across the Western media -- sometimes word for word -- and it simply doesn't make sense.  To be sure, the acronym of ISIS can be seen in the term “al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham” (Dawla = State; Islamiya = Islamic; Iraq = Iraq (naturally); and al-Sham = Damascus/Syria).  So, we can see where the word "ISIS" comes from; and can see the connection between DAESH and the Arabic verb Daes (meaning "one who crushes something underfoot"), but why would the self-proclaimed Caliphate give a darn what the Western world calls them?  Why are Leaders and media in the West so determined to add another acronym to their description?
     I'll ask the same question Alice Guthrie presents:  Why are the people it describes in such a fury about it? I will let Alice answer her own question:  "Because they hear it, quite rightly, as a challenge to their legitimacy: a dismissal of their aspirations to define Islamic practice, to be 'a state for all Muslims’ and – crucially – as a refusal to acknowledge and address them as such. They want to be addressed as exactly what they claim to be, by people so in awe of them that they use the pompous, long and delusional name created by the group, not some funny-sounding made-up word. And here is the very simple key point that has been overlooked in all the English-speaking press coverage I’ve seen: in Arabic, acronyms are not anything like as widely used as they are in English, and so Arabic-speaking people are not as used to hearing them as those of us in the West are. Thus, the creation and use of a title that stands out as a nonsensical, newly-coined word for an organization like this one is inherently funny, disrespectful, and ultimately threatening of the organization’s status."
     Guthrie goes on to explain that we must not dismiss the power of social media in the use of DAESH, as well.  The use of this word is part of a multi-pronged, diverse range of efforts by Arabs and Muslims to reject the terrorists’ linguistic posturing, their pseudo-classical use of Arabic, their claims to Quranic authority and an absolute foundation in sacred scripture, as reflected in their pompous name.
     So while the use of satire in the East is part of the proliferation of the use of DAESH to describe the self-appointed Caliphate, there is another aspect that the West tends to miss.  First of all, both the shape of the word and the combination of letters in it are suggestive of words from al-jahaliyya, the pre-Islamic Dark Ages or ‘age of ignorance’ that – as well as being a time rich in poetry and narrative heritage – has huge connotations of hideous barbarity in the popular Arab imagination, being the realm of jinns and monsters and evil spirits and marauding freaks.
     Another  equally important point is another reason why the new acronym is insulting: it’s an obviously fictitious name, for an obviously fictional concept. Once again, the Caliphate movement's claim to legitimacy as a state, and it's right to rule, is being rejected as nonsense, reflected in a fabricated nonsense name for them.
     So the real reason that the name DAESH insults the Caliphate is not just that the name makes them sound little, silly, and powerless, but that it implies they are monsters, and that they are made-up.  So can you see the frustration and confusion that surrounds the use of this new acronym?  The proper use of it in the Arab-speaking world is designed to insult and de-legitimize the terrorist organization.  But none of that is explained here in the West, and there is no sense of the intended mockery and derision.  So why even use it?  If we, the American and Western audience, don't fully understand the purpose of its use, doesn't the term DAESH tend to add more mystery and authority to these evil men?
     Ultimately, I guess the question becomes this:  will the application of the term in the West serve to damage their cause as much as it will in the Middle East?  I don't claim to know the answer to that, but I thought you should have a little more information about the terminology than we have received to date.  So, what is in a name?  In this case, it doesn't change a thing whether you call the Islamic terrorists ISIS, ISIL, or DAESH.... but, now, if you choose to call them by the latest moniker, you'll know WHY.

Ecclesiastes 7:1    "A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth."

October 20, 2015

Terror In Israel & Why I Care

     In the West, the recent attacks on Israeli citizens is treated as just another element of the ongoing violence between Palestinians and the occupying state of Israel.  And, if as a Romans 11 Believer, I am called a "Christian Zionist" when I decry the bloodshed of innocent Israelis, then so be it.  As I explained in a recent blog, my approach to the situation in Israel is from a Biblical (and "big picture") perspective.  The current state of Israel -- in all its nationalistic, political, and largely secular condition -- is not yet that Biblical nation of Israel with whom God established a covenant .... but one day it will be.  Until then, it is still God's beloved Zion, with whom He has established an eternal covenant to bless all the earth.  We're at the beginning stages; they are "back in the land" and moving towards their prophetic role and purpose of leading the world to God.
    In the meantime, the world is throwing everything it can at them; just as the Bible tells us it will be.  But I find the manner in which the media is treating the current violence rather ironic.  Last year's violence in the so-called "Gaza war", found the world's media condemning the deaths of innocent Palestinians (even they were being used as human shields by Hamas).  But, now when the victims of the latest rock-throwing, gun ambushes, and stabbings with knives and screw drivers happen to be Israelis, the media's attention is noticeably smaller.  
     Amid unfounded rumors that Israel is planning to destroy, or at least confiscate, the Temple Mount, there has risen a spate of hate-crazed, religiously motivated attacks.  In the Old City of Jerusalem a young man, his wife, and their two children (in baby strollers) were attacked with a knife.  The young father was killed, along with another innocent bystander.  And as the mother lay on the ground, she cried out for Palestinian shopkeepers to help her.  The shopkeepers spat on her, and the Palestinian youths responsible for the attack cursed at her; one of them slapped her and another laughed in her face and told her to “drop dead” when she told him she’d give him a million shekels if he helped her get away with her two babies.
     When reporting the brutal attack, did the BBC lament the unprovoked attack?  No.  Their headline read, Palestinian Shot Dead After Jerusalem Attack Kills Two.  In recent days, there have been 7 Israelis killed and dozens wounded in four different shooting, car ramming and stabbing attacks in Jerusalem and central Israel -- all attacks against innocent Israeli citizens.  The response to such unsolicited attacks have left at least 30 Palestinians (the attacks among them) dead.  Yet the world equates what they call "Israeli occupation" with South African apartheid and its associated pain, suffering, discrimination and no hope that things will ever change.  And our Secretary of State, John Kerry, announces to the world audience, "I am not going to point fingers from afar at who's responsible for violence."  Perhaps the world and the media can no longer avoid the true perpetrators after Friday's torching of Joseph's Tomb, one of the holiest shrines in the Holy Land.
     The Tomb is the funerary monument to Joseph, one of the Patriarchs of the nation of Israel.  It has been venerated for centuries by Jews, Samaritans, Christians and Muslims.  But such is the hatred for the Jews in their ancestral homeland, that attackers would choose to firebomb the holy site in retaliation for their very presence.  The tomb is located in a compound in the city of Nablus, and was transferred to Palestinian control in 1995.  It was ransacked and burnt by Palestinian rioters at the start of an uprising in October, 2000; and currently, Jewish pilgrims are only permitted to visit at night, once a month go pray, and under Israeli military protection.  
     And still the world lays the ongoing violence at the feet of the Jews.  It doesn't seem to matter that school text books used by Palestinian Muslim children give classroom instruction on "How To Stab A Jew".  Or that the Palestinian terror group HAMAS  is celebrating the Palestinian murders of two Israelis on a Jerusalem bus last week by distributing a sick re-enactment film.  In the eyes of the world, its governing bodies, and the biased media coverage, this is a one-sided conflict, and Israel and the Jews deserve no consideration.
     I have no reason to think that these attacks will subside in the near future.  In fact, there seems to have been a steady stream of attacks in the recent past.  So, as we watch the increasing tension in the Middle East, we see the Biblical End Times enemies of Israel aligning against her, and we know where this is headed.  No amount of effort by Western leaders in Washington and European capitals, as well as at the United Nations, will result in a permanent "peace process" that will divert the inevitable march of Israel's enemies towards the battle in the Valley of Megiddo.   
     But we can pray for God to strengthen His hedge of protection around the faithful Jews in Israel; around those who are faithful to their covenant with Him.  Those Messianic-believing Jews, those who have kept their part of the covenant, will experience perfect and blameless shielding from all their enemies.  The Bible tells us that the Lord will have a holy people in these Last Days.  That remnant is living in Israel today; yes, even in the midst of their worldly, lost and blinded countrymen.  And it is because of them that I care what is going on in Israel; that I take notice of increasing and almost daily violence.  And it is because I do not want any Israeli Jew to lose their life before having the opportunity to recognize their Messiah.  So I will continue to pray for Jerusalem and that God will never again cede her to her enemies.

Special consideration:  I would like to extend my deep and sincere sympathy to the family of Jack Kelley, a Christian writer and founder of the website ministry "Gracethrufaith.com".  Jack's writing always provided me with a clear picture of the full counsel of God's Word, and I often referenced it in my own writing.  Jack was unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer and received the ultimate healing in just a matter of days.  Please pray for his family and thank God for all the work Jack Kelley did for His kingdom while on earth.  It is only appropriate that I share how Jack answered a question regarding the loss of a loved one.  Please read how Jack glorified God in his response and, ultimately, in his life. 

Isaiah 61:3     The Spirit of the Lord is upon me ... To grant to those who mourn in Zion the following: To give them a turban instead of dust [on their heads, a sign of mourning]; The oil of joy instead of mourning; The garment [expressive] of praise instead of a disheartened spirit. So they will be called the trees of righteousness [strong and magnificent, distinguished for integrity, justice, and right standing with God], The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.


October 2, 2015

The World On Edge

     It took only a matter of hours after his speech at the United Nations for Russian President Vladimir Putin to act.  It was a speech that argued that "certain" nations had circumvented the U.N. charter and acted selfishly, resulting in a power vacuum in the Middle East that has been filled by Islamic terrorists.  It was a speech that charged "it is hypocritical and irresponsible to make loud declarations about the threat of international terrorism while turning a blind eye to the channels of financing and supporting terrorists, including the process of trafficking and illicit trade in oil and arms."  He went on to say, "It would be equally irresponsible to try to manipulate extremist groups and place them at one's service in order to achieve one's own political goals in the hope of later dealing with them or, in other words, liquidating them."
     To sum up his speech, it was one that seemed to indicate not only veiled accusations against the U.S., but also proposed that the UN had out-lived its original purpose, and nations must come together and build a coalition against global terrorism.  But he also stressed that state sovereignty must be recognized, and seemed to indicate that where this sovereignty came into conflict with the UN charter, that a nation's autonomy and dominion ruled.

     So, as I said at the beginning of this blog post, it took a very short time for him to act on the latter proposition.  On Wednesday, Russia, without U.N. authorization, began airstrikes in Syria, and have since conscripted a reported 150,000 troops to begin a ground offensive.  Depending on whether you listen to U.S. spokesmen, or Russian, these attacks are designed to prolong the sectarian strife in the Middle East, or to begin a campaign for wiping out ISIS, which Russia says other world leaders have let go far too long.
     I certainly cannot offer an informed analysis on what is really behind the actions of global powers.  Since when has any government been truthful to its people during wartime?  All I know is that my Biblical worldview is becoming clearer.   In the battle of Ezekiel 38-39, the armies come primarily from the north and involve only a few nations of the earth.  I am not ready to declare that this is what we are seeing at the moment, but it certainly feels like we are headed in that direction.  Russia and Iran are definitely combining their efforts, supposedly to join forces to fight ISIS.  But has anyone given any thought to how this might eventually effect Israel?
     We must not forget the following statements from the leading military and religious leaders of Iran...  the major general of Iran’s army proclaimed this, "We will annihilate Israel for sure. We are glad that we are in the forefront of executing the supreme leader’s order to destroy Israel." And as for the Supreme Ayatollah, himself—a few days after the US/Iran nuclear deal was announced, he released his latest book.  It is a 400-page creed planning to destroy the state of Israel.  Last month, Khomeini once again made the genocidal intentions clear before Iran’s top clerical body, the Assembly of Experts.  He spoke about Israel—home to over 6 million Jews. He pledged, "There will be no Israel in 25 years."
     Therefore, I submit to you the words of Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as he spoke before the United Nations General Assembly.  Netanyahu said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I have long said that the greatest danger facing our world is the coupling of militant Islam with nuclear weapons. I am gravely concerned that the nuclear deal with Iran will prove to be the marriage certificate of that holy union. I know that well-intentioned people sincerely believe that this is the best way to block Iran’s path to the bomb, but one of history’s most important, yet least learned lessons is this, the best intentions don’t prevent the worst outcomes. The vast majority of Israelis believe that this nuclear deal with Iran is a very bad deal. What makes matters even worse is that we see a world celebrating this bad deal ... Seventy years after the murder of 6 million Jews, Iran’s rulers promised to destroy my country, murder my people, and the response from this body, the response from nearly every one of the governments represented here has been absolutely nothing. Utter silence. Deafening silence.”
     Then Netanyahu made his point in a most dramatic way --- he stood silent for almost a minute.  And then he continued, “Ladies and gentlemen, it is not easy to oppose something that is embraced by the greatest powers in the world.  Believe me, it would be far easier to remain silent. But throughout our history, the Jewish people have learned the heavy price of silence. And as the Prime Minister of the Jewish state—as someone who knows that history, I refuse to be silent. I’ll say it again—the days when the Jewish people remain passive in the face of genocidal enemies, those days are over...  For in every generation, there were those who rose up to destroy our people. In antiquity we faced destruction from the ancient empires of Babylon and Rome, and in the Middle Ages we faced inquisition and expulsion, and in modern times we faced the Holocaust, and yet the Jewish people have persevered, and now another regime has surfaced swearing to destroy Israel. That the regime would be wise to consider this, I stand here today representing Israel, a country 67 years young, but the nation state of the people nearly 4,000 years old. Yet, the empires of Babylon and Rome are not represented in this hall of nations, and neither is the thousand year Reich, those seemingly invisible empires are long gone, but Israel lives. The people of Israel live.
     So, I ask you, what is the significance of Russia and Iran uniting to fight in Syria?  After all, these very nations are the ancient nations of Old Testament prophecies.  Gog, Magog (Russia), Persia (Iran) and the city of Damascus in Syria all play important parts in End Times eschatology.  And we must not ignore that Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and China are players to be considered, too.  So, has God begun to implement His judgment upon the earth?  Are these the first stirrings of the Tribulation?  No one can say.  But this much I do know ... if it is the beginning, it is all for God's glory and to call His nation Israel back to Him.  Just like America, the people of Israel [largely] do not recognize or worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The Talmud and Kabbalah are methods, Rabbinic teachings, and doctrines that originated in Judaism but often distort God's original Word, just as the Emerging Church and New Age religion have twisted the Church.
     We must not be surprised if war is a Divine factor in their awakening and redemption.  Whether it happens tomorrow, next week, next month, or several years from now, He will save His remnant ... He always has.  May that day come soon.

Isaiah 37:29    "Because you rage against Me and because your insolence has reached My ears, I will put my hook in your nose and My bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came."

August 27, 2015

Warning: Are Divine Judgments In Our Future?

     While everyone is focused on the volatile stock market and our economic future, I would caution that we need to be more concerned about the upcoming ratification of the so-called "Iran Nuke Deal".  I don't need to be a foreign policy expert to employ my critical thinking faculties and sense that there is nothing good that will come from this treaty ... except for the mullahs of Iran.  They have made no secret of their hate for both Israel and America, nor of their desire to wipe us both off the face of the earth.
     The lifting of economic sanctions against Iran will give their government the cash to continue their enrichment of nuclear material and eventual development of nuclear weapons, along with bankrolling the enemies of Middle East peace (think Bashar Assad, the Palestinian Authority, and ISIS).  Plus far from establishing strict inspection protocols, the deal allows the Iranians to further their policy of bureaucratic stalling and subterfuge.  It will be the same old story ... when the IAEA requests permission to inspect the nuclear sites, Iran will stall, giving themselves time to hide the evidence that they are violating the treaty, before finally giving inspectors access.
     But perhaps worst of all, this "Iran Deal" will escalate the sectarian and religious conflicts in the region.  Iran will finally gain the legitimacy of a superpower in the region, ensuring that Sunni/Shia theological rivalries will arise and threaten the balance of the entire Middle East.  There is a toxicity among these relationships, and I fear that the part we are playing by promoting this Deal will be the spark that incites the flames of hell.
     And sitting right in the middle of this combustible chaos is the nation of Israel, the apple of God's eye.  As I wrote in a 2012 article, titled America and Israel: Destinies Intertwined, we must expect Divine judgment for any curses that we, as a nation, place on Israel by our actions.  Our country has suffered a number of catastrophic natural disasters as a result of undermining the sovereignty of Israel with our foreign policy decisions.  Just in recent history, we suffered the "Perfect Storm" in 1991; Hurricane Andrew in 1992; the Northridge, CA earthquake in 1994; the devastating Texas floods in 1998; the powerful Super Tornado in 1999; and perhaps the most famous and destructive of them all, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 -- all after we pressed Israel into compromising with Palestinian demands and relinquishing territory in exchange for promised peace.  Israel gave up portions of Gaza and the Golan Heights ... but peace has never been established.  
     We have never quite understood that the land of Israel is God's land; the place where Divine providence is especially manifest. "The eyes of the Lord... are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year" (Deuteronomy 11:12). It is "holy" land to God; land set apart by Him for His people.  To go against that covenant is to invite not only curses upon us, but Divine judgment.
     And now this Iran Deal has the potential to go far beyond giving up a piece of the land.  It could result in the very real possibility that the Enemy of Israel (both physical and spiritual) will try to blow God's land off the face of the earth... and we will have given them the opportunity.
     I know that you have heard it spoken that the month of September may bring some huge calamity upon the world; perhaps a global economic collapse, a world war, or more natural disasters.  But I always try to look at the future through a Biblical lens, and through God's prophetic advisories.  The coming months of September, into October, bring celebrations of God's Feasts.  First will be the Feast of Trumpets, or Rosh Hashana; then Yom Kippur, also called the Day of Atonement (a time of confession and repentance); and finally, the Feast of Tabernacles, when God returns to fellowship with man on earth.  These are high holy days on God's biblical calendar; meant to focus one's heart on the mighty judgment seat of God.  The Bible tells us that on some future Feast Day in September, the trumpets will sound and the dead will rise to meet our Lord in the sky.  At the end of the Feasts, when He tabernacles with us on earth, He will set up His judgment seat, and we must all face Him for what we have done with our lives.
     Our history shows us that we have surely grieved God with our Supreme Court decisions on abortion, removing prayer from schools, and most recently, the arrogant redefinition of the God-given covenant of marriage.  When you add our partnership (with Satan's servants) to destroy Israel, we will have to answer for having contributed to the destruction of God's Land. 
     No one can say if this Iran Deal will be passed by Congress in September, and if so, whether this will be the September that we must stand before God's judgment seat.  But one thing is clear ... America is on a dangerous track away from God.  No one can deny that these are grave and serious times. We stand at a very critical crossroads.... for our nation; for our society and culture; for the world's population; for the Church; and most importantly for the existence of Israel.
     We must declare our allegiance to God and to His people, and we must pray for the deliverance of the world's leaders from the deluding spirits of the Enemy.  God has clearly shown us that His judgment follows on the heels of cursing Israel. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!

Joel 3:1-3    "For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of My people and My heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up My land, and have cast lots for My people, and have traded a boy for a prostitute, and have sold a girl for wine and have drunk it."

July 20, 2015

The Iran Deal Is As Good As Done

    You knew it before it was even public record, didn't you?  All the signs were there.  There was no real backbone in the spines of the Americans sitting at the negotiating table with Iran.  And the smile on Iranian President Rouhani revealed how easily they had achieved their aims of moving forward on his nation's capabilities to develop a nuclear bomb.
     For the life of me, I am trying to figure out exactly why this was a good deal for me and the American people.  From my distinctively simple analysis, it would appear that Iran got the OK to proceed with their nuclear plans, while we received no real assurances that we or our ally Israel will not be the recipient of that advancement.  It's kind of hard to feel safe and secure when it looks as if all of Tehran is dancing in the street and shouting "Death to America."  It also does not reassure me when Reuters reports that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says "the nuclear deal with world powers did not signal any wider shift in Iran's relationship with Washington or its policies in the Middle East ... We have repeatedly said we don't negotiate with the U.S. on regional or international affairs; not even on bilateral issues. There are some exceptions like the nuclear program that we negotiated with the Americans to serve our interests."
     Did you notice what I chose to italicize in that last sentence?  What exactly do you think is at the heart of those "interests" in the mind of the religious leader of The Islamic Republic which, by the way, is considered the preeminent state sponsor of terrorism in the world by the U.S. State Department?  As a religious leader, he probably views the events in the Middle East as part of an ongoing religious war; the Shi'ites versus the Sunnis.
     So it should come as no surprise that he says, "We will never stop supporting our friends in the region and the people of Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon. Even after this deal our policy towards the arrogant U.S. will not change."  What I find interesting in this comment is that Iran is primarily Shia, while Palestine is Sunni.  Yemen and Lebanon appear to be about evenly dispersed between the two Muslim factions.  Syria looks to be mostly Sunni, and Bahrain is mostly Shia.  The conflict in Iraq is focused on the sectarian divide between the majority of Iraq's Muslims, who are Shia, and the Isis militants, who are Sunni.  So why would Khamenei call both warring factions of his faith his "friends"?
     Once again from my limited understanding, I think it all goes back to the old axiom that we are all familiar with:  The enemy of my enemy is my friend.  Iran is willing to form a coalition with its traditional enemies in order to defeat its arch enemies in the region, Saudi Arabia and Israel.  And who is the biggest ally of these two Middle Eastern outcasts?  Why us, "The Great Satan", of course!  This is how, in 2011, Mohsen M. Milani, a Professor of Politics and Chair of the Department of Government and International Affairs at the University of South Florida in Tampa, explained the situation between Iran and Saudi Arabia:  "Iran and Saudi Arabia are neither natural allies nor natural enemies but natural rivals who have long competed as major oil producers and self-proclaimed defenders of Shia and Sunni Islam, respectively. Until the Iranian revolution in 1979, their rivalry was managed and controlled by the United States, with whom they were both strategic allies. But after the Shah was overthrown, Saudi Arabia’s leadership became frightened by the Ayatollah Khomenei’s denunciation of the Saudi monarchy as antithetical to Islam and his ambition to export the revolution to the Arab world. Saudi Arabia remained an ally of the United States; Iran became an implacable foe. Thereafter, the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia became defined by the new U.S. strategy - ally with Saudi Arabia to offset Iran."
     That has been our traditional approach to the Middle East situation.  But this new deal with Iran surely has to make not only Saudi Arabia nervous, but must especially heighten the protective instincts of Israel.  And can you blame them?  As part of the deal we negotiated alongside the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—(China, France, Russia, UK, U.S.—plus Germany), and the European Union, Iran will be relieved of the economic sanctions that served to keep their nuclear program in check.
     In addition, Iran will soon be able to buy conventional arms because the arms embargo against them has been relaxed.   Iranian groups and individuals from terrorist-designated countries are now free to travel and do business around the world.  The Iranian nuclear program is also protected from sabotage by outside parties—meaning, pretty obviously, Israel.
     Those who support this deal will tell us that if some kind of deal had not been struck, putting at least these weak time restraints on Iran, then they would have proceeded, unabated, and headlong towards a nuclear bomb and certain war in the region.  If that happened, then the U.S. would necessarily have to strike, causing Russia to most likely side with Iran and the possible onset of Armageddon.
     I agree that it seems as if there was a no-win solution for the West.  But how does this agreement leave our ally, Israel?  At best, it is a huge gamble!  Does anyone really trust Iran to stick to, what seems to me, short timelines?  And now they are free to support and supply the other Middle East nations who hate Israel!  Haven't we laid out their path to the nuclear bomb?  And, as writer Jeffrey Goldberg has pointed out, "[haven't we] signaled to Iran’s leaders that they have a right—a previously unknown right in the vast catalogue of rights accorded to sovereign states—to enrich uranium, which is quite a thing to signal to a country designated by the United States as a committed and energetic sponsor of terror?"
     In the end, I do not have the knowledge to figure out how this debacle will end -- only God knows.  But from this vantage point, it seems as if we have done more to "lose the dogs of war" than we have to maintain the peace of the region.  All I know is that this deal is likely to result in "wars and rumors of wars; nation rising against nation."  And what will the U.S. Congress do?  Sadly, Congress, will only be able to express approval or disapproval (with an up or down vote), and the president will have the ability to move forward by vetoing any resolution of disapproval. And it is next to impossible for those who disapprove of this deal to get the 13 votes they would need to override a veto.
     However, with all that being said, the one thing I know for sure is that the God of Israel will not leave her defenseless.  Let men do what they will, our Sovereign God will work His plan for their national redemption.  Praise the Lord!

Malachi 3:6       For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

July 17, 2015

Let Me Make Myself Perfectly Clear ...

At first, this post might seem designed specifically for Christian Believers, but I think it is an important topic for secular readers, as well.  We all need to understand each other and our different opinions concerning the land of Israel.   

    This subject has been on my mind for some time, and I don't really have a long explanation of my position, but it is something that I think needs to be clarified.  Whenever I write about my Biblical view of Israel and my interpretation of their role in these End Times, I am often called a "Zionist Christian" and I am often typecast with labels like "your pro-Feast, Jewish flair" .... whatever that means.  So perhaps it is time to just give readers a short explanation of where I stand on Israel and how I view her.
     First of all, when I speak about Israel, most times I am referring to the land according to my Biblical worldview.  I see the nation of Israel as that land promised to God's Chosen People in the Bible.  And I recognize that there is a distinction between the future restoration of that land, and the existence of the current state of Israel.  I know that Jesus will not return again until God turns the focus of His saving mercies on Israel again, and Israel responds to God through Jesus Christ.  That hasn't yet happened in a national sense.
     In fact, there is not much about the modern state of Israel that coincides with the Biblical Israel.  And that's where the confusion over "Zionism" comes in.  Let me explain this term from my Biblical perspective first.  From an initial understanding of the word "Zion" in the Bible, it is synonymous with city of God, and it is a place that God loves.  (Psalm 87:2-3).  Zion is Jerusalem. Mount Zion is the high hill on which David built a citadel.  After King David's conquest of the ancient city, he built his royal palace there, and Zion/Jerusalem became the seat of power in Israel’s ancient kingdom.  When his son, Solomon, built the Lord's temple in Jerusalem, the word Zion expanded to include the temple area, what we call the Temple Mount today.
     As Biblical time marched on, Zion grew figuratively to mean Israel as the people of God in the Old Testament.   In the New Testament, Zion refers to God’s spiritual kingdom.  I admit it is confusing and covers a wide scope of understanding.
     And to make matters even more complicated, the word Zion and Zionist have taken on negative connotations among a wide variety of people.  There are those who see the reestablishment of a Jewish homeland as illegitimate.  And there are obviously those who do not know the history of the Bible, or what it says about the Jews and their ancestral land, and why it is so important to them.  For centuries the Jews had been exiled around the world from the land that God promised them, and there was a collective desire to return and resettle their ancestral lands and to revitalize and cultivate their native Hebrew culture.  They longed to return to the Biblical Zion.
     But after the atrocities of the Holocaust and with the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948, this love of Zion became a nationalistic and political movement, rather than a religious or cultural identity.  Zionism, today, continues primarily to advocate on behalf of Israel and address threats to its continued existence and security.  It has little to do with God's view of Zion.
     Let me be clear in explaining my sensitive position, and please read the next couple of paragraphs before you pass judgment ... the state of Israel, as it exists today in the Middle East, does not represent the Israel that will say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord."  They are largely a secular and political state, with no religious connection to Yeshua, their Messiah at all.  They are true political Zionists.  However, the population also includes a sizable number of religious Orthodox Jews who remain blinded to their future, and most probably view themselves as Zionists from a historical, Old Testament perspective.
     This Israel has a long way to go to return to their Scriptural identity. They are still in rebellion and refuse to recognize their Creator and Messiah.  Tel Aviv has declared itself the "gay capital of the world", as proclaimed by this Israeli citizen:  "Israel isn’t a regressive Taliban state based on ancient scriptures. It is a modern, democratic and progressive society built on democratic values. The people of Israel have chosen to have a free, secular, democratic and pluralistic society whether gays are not only tolerated, but where gay culture is celebrated."  Does this sound like the Biblical Zion?
     Now, having said all this, when I look at modern Israel, I am focused on the small, but growing numbers of Messianic Jews who see the real reason they are "back in the land", and who recognize their calling and purpose.  When I say I love and support Israel, I am looking beyond the nationalistic, political reality of the current state of Israel and seeing them as God sees them... His beloved Zion; I see the devoted Jews who have surrendered their lives to their Savior Messiah and are faithfully awaiting His return.
     So, for you Christians who believe in Replacement Theology and accuse me of supporting a Zionist state, you need to understand that I do not share your doctrine.  I do not believe that the Church (and especially not the Western Church!) has replaced Israel as God's chosen people.  I read Romans 11 and do not try to corrupt it.  I accept it word for word ... Gods gifts and His call are irrevocable [He never withdraws them when once they are given, and He does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call.] ... And so all Israel will be saved. As it is written, The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will banish ungodliness from Jacob. And this will be My covenant (My agreement) with them when I shall take away their sins.
     And for the secularists and atheists who discount the Word of God, I will agree with you that the Zionist State of Israel is not perfect.  I do not blindly uphold it as the Israel of the Bible.  But you need to understand that it is not yet that Biblical nation of Israel with whom God established a covenant .... but one day it will be.  And it is the future Israel that I pray for and long to see come out of its rebellion and recognize its Messiah.  I have close friends who are the beginning of that true Biblical remnant in Israel, and they allow me to see the hope and the promise of Israel's restoration.
     I do not expect this post to change anyone's mind, and it probably won't even help those who disagree with me to understand my position better.  So, let me take one final stab at it ... I love Israel through a Biblical lens; I pray for her to come out of her rebellion and reclaim the covenant of her  ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I long to see her restored to the fullness of her power in God; restored to her true character; and her purpose restored in leading the world to Yeshua.  For all this, I make no apologies.

Isaiah 51:16     And I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, ‘You are my people.’

April 7, 2015

The Real Power Behind "David's Sling"

     No matter which side the international community falls regarding the U.S./Iran "deal" on nuclear weapons, all can agree that Israel has a huge stake in the outcome.  It's always interesting to peruse the different media sites to try and determine how the "official spin" is being perceived.
     U.S. media outlets seem hesitant to declare it a victory for the U.S. (or the world), as all signs point to further stalling by Iran and continued development of their nuclear capabilities.  Furthermore, the U.S. seems to be more concerned with protecting Iran's "right" to nuclear expansion, than to the concerns of our ally, Israel, over overt Iranian threats to their homeland.
     Russia Today, (RT), a global multilingual television news network based in Moscow and funded by the Russian government, asserts that the recent testing of Israel's anti-ballistic missile system, called "David's Sling" is in reaction to the latest in the Iran nuclear talks.  This short-range ballistic missile defense system is designed to intercept medium range missiles from nearby Gaza, Syria, and Lebanon, home of the Shi'a Islamist militant group and political party, Hezbollah -- who, have sworn to annihilate Israel, and not surprisingly, hailed the news that Iran is closer to securing a nuclear bomb.
     Keeping in line with that sentiment, The Daily Star, a news outlet in Lebanon, declared that the preliminary success of "David's Sling" would not protect Israel "from the threat posed by Hezbollah’s ever-expanding and varied arsenal of missiles and rockets."  In fact, The Daily Star wrote that an assessment by the Israeli army released within the last week predicts that Israel could be hit by as many as 1,500 rockets a day in the next war, leaving hundreds dead and requiring mass evacuations.  They also predicted that "the success rate of Israel's 'Iron Dome' and 'David’s Sling' in knocking out Hezbollah’s rockets is largely irrelevant."  The substance of the article states that Hezbollah, and Israel's enemies, should have no problem evading "David's Sling."
     Perhaps all those who are willing to discount Israel's latest defense system should do a little historical research.  I'm sure you realize that it is no coincidence that Israel chose to name its anti-ballistic missile system after the choice of weapon of their legendary Shepherd King, David.  Israel's ancient enemy, the Philistines, also mocked the effectiveness of the original David's sling.  But those who oppose Israel in modern times should take heed of the outcome of the battle between the slight, young, boy and the giant named Goliath.  Interestingly enough, RT refers to Israel's latest anti-ballistic missile system as "unique, small, and agile", a description that could as easily be applied to David, as he engaged in his epic battle.
     Just as today, there seemed to be a huge discrepancy in the weapons the enemy combatants chose; and it looked as if David's sling was no match for the 9 foot giant, Goliath, whose protective armor weighed over 150 pounds, and who carried a spear that measured 26 feet!  But as those watching the ancient battle soon concluded, it was a mistake to underestimate David's sling or the power behind it.
     First of all, David's sling was a formidable weapon.  It has been argued by experts in ancient warfare that a good slinger hurled a stone as far and accurately as a good archer.  One Roman writer noted that opponents in leather armor were in far greater danger from sling missiles than arrows. Even if the stone did not penetrate the armor, it was capable of inflicting a fatal internal injury.
     Now consider that David, the shepherd boy, had ample practice slinging his stones at wolves, lions, and bears who attempted to attack his sheep.  He boasts to King Saul that he has killed any threat to his herd by this simple method.  Then consider that David probably wound up his sling with a circular arm motion, slinging around probably at six or seven revolutions per second.   Experts on ballistics have speculated that the stopping power of the rock fired from David's sling was roughly equal to the stopping power of a [.45 caliber] handgun.  It was an incredibly devastating weapon when applied to the center of Goliath's forehead!
     Of course, you realize that the real power behind David and his sling was the God of Israel.  David, representing the nation of Israel, declared that, with his sling, he would be delivered out of the hand of his enemies.  He prophesied that all would see that the battle was the Lord's, and that he, David, was supported by the hosts of heaven.
     If I was going to pick a name for a weapons system to protect Israel, none could be found more appropriate than "David's Sling".  Remember last summer's rocket attacks from the Palestinian militants, Hamas, against Israel?  Do you remember the miraculous interventions and divine miracles attributed to the Iron Dome defense system?  I think we can expect more such miracles for Israel, as God defends her from those who wish to destroy her.
     As I pray for the peace of Jerusalem, I also pray for the salvation of the Jews and that they make the connection between their Shepherd King David and his Holy descendant, their Messiah.  Let them call on His Name in their time of trouble, just as King David called on YHWH in his battles.  Let them recognize the source of their protection, and let the world take note of the power behind "David's Sling" ....

Psalm 27:3    Of David ... Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.

March 18, 2015

Israel: What Does The Future Hold?

     Yesterday morning, as I awoke, I was keenly aware that the nation of Israel was deciding on its next leader.  And just as in the days of old, the decision they would make would have important consequences.
Samuel anoints Saul
     For most of its early history, the nation of Israel was led by judges and prophets. The prophets relayed the word of God, while the judges counseled the people in times of peace, and led them to battle in times of war.  Then in the year 880 BC, after 400 years of being led by prophets and judges, the people approached the Prophet Samuel, desiring a king “like all the other nations.”   Although God was disappointed in their lack of faith in relying on Him to reign over them, He nevertheless allowed Samuel to anoint Saul as Israel's first king.  We know the rest of the story ... Saul fell out of favor with God for disobeying His command to wipe out all the inhabitants of the Nephilim tribes in the Promised Land.  God then anoints David, a young shepherd, as King over Israel.  It is through his line that the true King of Israel, Jesus Christ, would be born.  God is Sovereign in all that He does and allows to happen.
     And that is what I am telling myself this morning, as it appears that Benjamin Netanyahu has been re-elected as the Prime Minister of Israel.  The choices couldn't have been any more stark, or any more grave.  Netanyahu had vowed that there will be no more concessions to terrorists while on his watch.  His primary opponent based his election promises on Socialism and Negotiations; both of which would have been injurious to Israel and the rest of the world.  They've been there before, and it did not work in their favor.
     In fact, the Bible records the consequences of Israel splitting their nation in two after the death of King Solomon in 796 B.C.   The unified nation of Israel had been strong and able to hold its own against the nations that surrounded them.  But the division came as a result of tribal discord and political unrest.  This left the once strong, unified nation a weak, divided nation; and it fell prey to the re-emerging empires of Egypt, Assyria and later, Babylon.  The peoples of the Northern Kingdom, Israel; and the Southern Kingdom, Judah, were carried off into captivity and scattered across the world.
     Now, after 2,000 years, they have returned to their homeland, and even recaptured Jerusalem, the City of David, where the Lord will one day sit upon His earthly throne.  But political unrest and discord have once again settled upon the land of Israel.  The nations of the world have sought concessions of "land for peace", while continuing to plan Israel's total destruction.
Israelis vote in what could be the
election of their lifetimes
    I believe the future of the nation of Israel hung in the balance yesterday during the nation's elections.  Depending on who won, Israel would either determine victory over her enemies -- or assure her own eventual extermination.  At the crux of the issues facing Israel is the Palestinian state.  As Breitbart.com points out, "The 'two-state solution' for peace—which is the only platform largely supported by the international community—has shown to be a complete failure in securing peace for both Israel and the Palestinian people.  With the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords, Israel became the first country to give Palestinians self-governing land. In 2005, Israel forcibly removed all Jews from the Gaza Strip in exchange for hopes of an elusive peace. In both instances, and other “land for peace” endeavors, the result has always been the same: the creation of hostile Palestinian entities that have chosen to seek Israel’s destruction through militant conquest and delegitimization practices."
     In ancient history, the nation of Israel had to live in fear of being conquered by Egypt, Assyria and Babylon.  Today, they are surrounded by state sponsors of terror like Iran and the emerging Caliphate of ISIS.  We saw what happened nearly 2600 years ago when they did not strengthen themselves from within -- their weakened state left them vulnerable to oppressive regimes.  Today, the same holds true; only the stakes are higher.  If Israel weakens their position, making further concessions or withdrawals, they won't just be scattered across the world -- they could very well be totally decimated by a nuclear Iran, or Iran's proxies.
     Voter turnout in Israel was relatively high, showing that the people are aware of the gravity of this election.  (Of course, we cannot ignore the fact that busloads of Arab voters were transported in -- seems as if voter fraud knows no national boundaries).  But ultimately, with the apparent victory of Benjamin Netanyahu, -- who has declared there will be no Palestinian State as long as he is in office -- the nation has secured (for now) the unconditional, eternal covenant that YHWH made with their ancestor Abraham -- to be restored to, and possess, the land He gave them.  Let's pray that they have elected the best man; one who will honor that sacred covenant.  And let them remember that they are not to be like "all the other nations".  It is prophesied by the Apostle Paul that Israel will one day come into its full purpose of world leadership.  Is Netanyahu the man who will fulfill that prophesy?  Only God knows the "big picture" ... but when the final victory is declared, we will have a pretty good idea of where their immediate future lies.

Jeremiah 23:1-4    "Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the Lord. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord."

March 14, 2015

The Mark of the Cross: A Sign of Victory

     Talk of the "Mark of the Beast" is a growing subject these days.  You don't have to be a Bible-believing Christian to be aware of its significance; every secularist who watches the parade of world events on the nightly news, and every video-gamer who enters the virtual world, is exposed to the ramifications of Evil's influence upon mankind.  And for centuries there has been controversy over exactly what this "mark" will look like and how it will be administered.
     But did you know that there is also historical evidence of a "Mark of the Cross"?  Christians have long been cognizant of the "seal of God" that is forecast as appearing on the foreheads of Believers in the Book of Revelation.  It has been understood throughout the centuries of Christianity that this is a spiritual seal; a sign that one belongs to God and one that only the spiritual realm can see.  I am in perfect agreement with that.
     But a recent news story by Walid Shoebat, the outspoken former member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and radicalized Muslim turned Christian, reveals that the sacred sign of the Cross has long been utilized in both spiritual and real-world war scenarios.  In fact, through the spiritual power of the Cross, the physical manifestation of the symbol has long conquered evil, "transitioning into a temporal war in which the darkness is combated through arms" and human warfare.
Iraqi Christian forces march during their graduation
ceremony in the northwestern town of Fishkhabur
      That is why I found it extremely interesting to hear his report about "Iraq’s first Christian-only brigade of regular forces [recently graduated] to help retake the community’s towns and villages from the Islamic State group while they put the mark of God — the Holy Cross — on their foreheads, before marching to battle against ISIS. Christians are reviving a biblical custom from Ezekiel’s time in which God demanded to mark the foreheads of the followers of the true God (explained later)."
     It seems that in the wake of the decimation of Christian communities in ancient Iraq, Christian fighters have stepped forward to declare their faith and their intention of invoking God's power and protection in reclaiming their country from the evil that is ISIS.  In so doing, they are adopting the historical practice of applying the "Mark of the Cross" to their foreheads.
     So, I ask you to consider the questions that Mr. Shoebat poses:  Is the implementation of this Mark meant to be a spiritual mark or is it intended to be literal as a physical mark that is visible by the naked eye? In other words, is the Christian marked only with a spiritual mark, or is he also required to have a physical mark, or even both? Or is it possible that this whole issue is simpler than we all think; is it unusual, after all, for two opposite sides -- the followers of Christ on the one side and the followers of Antichrist on the other -- to express their allegiance to their god by displaying physical marks that are visible to everyone; either for Christ, or for Antichrist, to show the world which side they are on?
     I'd like you to consider the following examples from Biblical history ... First, we have the physical marking of the blood on the doorposts of the Israelites as they prepared to make their Exodus from Egypt.  The shape of that blood [which would repel the Angel of Death] was in the shape of a Cross.  Again, as Walid Shoebat points out, "When the Israelites fought in a battle in the 17th chapter of Exodus, Moses prayed for God’s help. However, Moses prayers were only heard when he prayed with his hands extended making a cross or a “T” shape similar to the form of Christ when He was crucified.  Moses who was an Old Testament prefigurement, or type of Christ, demonstrated (probably unknowingly) the symbol by which the Israelites (and us) would be saved."
     Then, there is the account in the 8th chapter of Ezekiel when the Lord transports his spirit to Jerusalem to see the wickedness and pagan rights taking place in His Temple.  Scripture records what Ezekiel saw in his vision:  "Then He brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the Lord’s house; and behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz [a Babylonian god, who was supposed to die annually and subsequently be resurrected] .... And He brought me to the inner court of the Lord’s house; and behold, at the door of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the bronze altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs to the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east, and they were bowing themselves toward the east and worshipping the sun ...".
     In the 9th Chapter of Ezekiel we see what the Lord instructs the prophet to do about these abominations:  "And [the Lord] called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer’s ink bottle at his side.  And the Lord said to him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in the midst of it.  And to the others He said in my hearing, Follow [the man with the ink bottle] through the city and smite; let not your eye spare, neither have any pity."
     This was obviously a physical mark that was inked upon the foreheads of faithful men to distinguish them from those that were evil.  This same mark was boldly displayed during the Crusades, when Christian soldiers fought the Muslims.  "They had the cross engraved onto their chests and their shields so as to signify the mystical lifting of their crosses within the heart and the spirit."  [It is not my purpose to uphold all that was done during the Crusades in the name of Christ, but to simply point out that the mark of the Cross was physically present during this religious warfare).
     And so it is today.  I think we would all agree that the attempt to establish an Islamic Caliphate in the Middle East is, at its center, a religious war.  But it is also a spiritual war; the forces of evil are active in influencing the atrocities of ISIS, and they wear their allegiance on their foreheads in the form of headbands that read:  “There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God.”
     But now there is a small brigade of 600 Assyrian Christian warriors who have declared their loyalty to the true God YHWH, and proudly display their Mark of the Cross as they strive for victory.  May all the powers and forces in the spiritual realm take notice that Jehovah Nissi (The Lord is My Banner), not only leads, but is in the midst of this battle, and His power is mighty to conquer.  God’s presence and power will take these brave fighters into the battle and assure their victory when the battle is done.  Just as we are called upon to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, we must pray for the Iraqi Christians who are on the front lines of this spiritual and physical war!

2 Chronicles 20:17   "You shall not need to fight in this battle; take your positions, stand still, and see the deliverance of the Lord [Who is] with you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Fear not nor be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you."

March 4, 2015

A Leader For This Time, For His People

     There has been a lot of controversy and opposing opinions over the efficacy of Israel's Prime Minister speaking before the combined Houses of Congress.  Regardless of whether you think it was warranted or not, one cannot deny the historic significance.  Benjamin Netanyahu shares with another Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, the record for the number of times to speak before the Legislative bodies of the United States Congress.
     Not only do the two Prime Ministers share the unequaled honor of appearing three times, but they found common ground in the immediacy and purpose of their visits.   In the case of Churchill, he undertook a dangerous transatlantic journey on the HMS Duke of York, within days of the Japanese strike on Pearl Harbor.  He arrived in America on December 22, in time to spend Christmas at the White House. On December 26, Churchill gave an historic address to a joint session of Congress to win support for his concept of the war.  WW II was in full swing, and the Allies desperately needed the U.S.'s participation in order to defeat the Axis Powers of Germany, Italy and Japan.
     Yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu came to the Hill to present his case for avoiding WW III.  At the center of the debate is the negotiations between the U.S. and Iran over the latter's development of nuclear weapons.  In his remarks, he said, "I've come here today because, as prime minister of Israel, I feel a profound obligation to speak to you about an issue that could well threaten the survival of my country and the future of my people: Iran's quest for nuclear weapons."  There was no pandering, no fawning, or ingratiating flattery.  He was there to state his purpose, and it was clear what that was ... to call on his ally, the United States, to stand with him and protect his people.
     His people ... there was no doubt that this Leader was there on behalf of his people, not to increase his own power or fame; not to propagandize on behalf of his personal political agenda -- he was there to lay out his opposition to any negotiations with a terrorist state that threatened the existence of his people.  Perhaps his passion lies in the fact that he is the first Prime Minister born in Israel after the establishment of the State.  Perhaps his enthusiasm comes from his military experience.  He served as a member of Israel's special forces unit, leading many commando raids during the Yom Kippur War in 1967, among other missions.  Perhaps his emotion comes from losing his older brother during an Israeli commando operation to rescue hostages at the Entebbe airport in Uganda in 1976.
     But, as he pointed out, Iran's nuclear potential is not only an immediate threat to Israel and her people, but to the entire world -- including the United States.  I found it sad that he had to school our own legislators on the important factors they should be considering before signing any deal with the terrorist state of Iran.  "Just last week, near Hormuz, Iran carried out a military exercise blowing up a mock U.S. aircraft carrier. That's just last week ... while they're having nuclear talks with the United States! But unfortunately, for the last 36 years, Iran's attacks against the United States have been anything but mock. And the targets have been all too real.
     Iran took dozens of Americans hostage in Tehran, murdered hundreds of American soldiers, Marines, in Beirut, and was responsible for killing and maiming thousands of American service men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan.
     Beyond the Middle East, Iran attacks America and its allies through its global terror network. It blew up the Jewish community center and the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires. It helped Al Qaida bomb U.S. embassies in Africa. It even attempted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, right here in Washington, D.C."
     Yet, we continue to negotiate with a nation that shouts "Death to America!" and calls us "The Great Satan".  Why does it take the Prime Minister of Israel to point out "Iran and ISIS are competing for the crown of militant Islam. One calls itself the Islamic Republic. The other calls itself the Islamic State. Both want to impose a militant Islamic empire -- first on the region, and then on the entire world. They just disagree among themselves who will be the ruler of that empire."
    Mr. Netanyahu wanted it understood that "in this deadly Game of Thrones, there is no place for America OR Israel; no peace for Christians, Jews or Muslims who don't share the Islamist medieval creed; no rights for women; no freedom for anyone."
     Is Iran someone we, the American people, want to negotiate with?  We can't even recognize or pronounce ISIS as an authentic threat, and as Netanyahu pointed out, "The difference is that ISIS is armed with butcher knives, captured weapons and YouTube, whereas Iran could soon be armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombs. We must always remember -- I'll say it one more time -- the greatest dangers facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons. To defeat ISIS and let Iran get nuclear weapons would be to win the battle, but lose the war. We can't let that happen!"
     He went on to reiterate the numerous times Iran has refused the U.N. inspectors access to their military nuclear program, and the unimaginable consequences of letting the so-called "Sunset Clause" remain on the negotiating table.  In essence, this means that virtually all the restrictions on Iran's nuclear program will automatically expire in about a decade.  Think about that!  Think ten years is a considerable amount of time to rectify this issue?  On March 19th, it will be 12 years since the U.S. invasion of Iraq.  And has that "issue" been resolved to everyone's satisfaction?  As Netanyahu bluntly explained:  "[Ten years] is the blink of an eye in the life of a nation. It's a blink of an eye in the life of our children. We all have a responsibility to consider what will happen when Iran's nuclear capabilities are virtually unrestricted and all the sanctions will have been lifted. Iran would then be free to build a huge nuclear capacity that could produce many, many nuclear bombs."
     If the American people were smart enough to listen to this address by the Israeli Prime Minister, they would have heard facts that are seemingly impossible to get from our own government.  "Iran's Supreme Leader says that Iran plans to have 190,000 centrifuges, not 6,000 or even the 19,000 that Iran has today, but 10 times that amount -- 190,000 centrifuges enriching uranium. With this massive capacity, Iran could make the fuel for an entire nuclear arsenal -- and this in a matter of weeks, once it makes that decision.  Iran could have the means to deliver that nuclear arsenal to the far-reaching corners of the earth, including to every part of the United States."
     We are told that the power behind our negotiations is economic sanctions.  But who believes that this will in anyway stall Iran's plan to light the fuse on a nuclear tinderbox in that volatile region of the world?  Or that we can stem the tide of their aggression and dominance in the region with threats of trade barriers or financial restrictions?
    But what impressed me the most about this historic speech on the floor of Congress was the pride and forcefulness with which the Prime Minister represented his country.  He made it perfectly clear that Iran not only needed to stop supporting terrorism around the world, and stop its aggression in the Middle East; but it absolutely had to stop threatening to annihilate his country, Israel; the one and only Jewish state.  Most importantly, he clearly stated that "the days when the Jewish people remained passive in the face of genocidal enemies, those days are over!  If Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand!"  
     I cannot help but admire his boldness in this, his nation's hour of crisis.  And I am unapologetic about my Biblical worldview when it comes to the nation of Israel and the Jewish people.  The West has been vocal in their criticism and restraint of Israel when it comes to defending herself.  But, as a believer in the Bible, I know that God will not allow Israel to be destroyed, and He will be her shield, her fortress, and her Deliverer.  The world would do well to keep that in mind.
     And then Benjamin Netanyahu closed his speech by pointing out to the Congress, the American people, and the world that our seat of government displays an image of Moses, the ancient Israelite leader who delivered his people from slavery to the gates of the Promised Land.  He then mentioned the message that Moses conveyed before the people of Israel entered the land of Israel.  It has become a significant theme for the Jewish people and has steeled their resolve for thousands of years.  "I leave you with [the words of Moses] today, (SPEAKING IN HEBREW), "Be strong and resolute, neither fear nor dread them."
     In the end, the real issue is whether our leaders will consider the warnings of the Leader of Israel.  Do any in our leadership still recognize the Biblical and historical significance of Israel?  Will they take the bold stand of hardline negotiations with Iran, or will they seek compromise and concession, thereby endangering Israel's very existence?  The answer to those questions will have significant and long-term effects for both Israel and America.  No matter what our nation's decision may be, one thing is for certain ... Israel will survive; God will make sure of that.

For a full transcript of Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech, click here.

Psalm 25:22   "Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles."


March 2, 2015

Purim 2015: Historical Significance?

     Tomorrow will likely be an historic day in the relationship between the United States and its only democratic ally in the Middle East, Israel.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to speak before Congress tomorrow.  It will be historical in light of the obvious rebuff by the White House and the contentious dialogue between the two leaders of state.
     This speech takes place at a time in the reborn nation of Israel's short history when all of its surrounding neighbors have declared their intention to "drive the Jews into the sea", and when even its Western allies seem to have abandoned them in their hour of strategic need.  The United States appears to be courting a "soft" negotiation with Israel's staunch enemy, Iran, over its development of nuclear weapons; a move that surely endangers Israel's security.
     But there is a deeper and far-reaching reason that this visit is historical.  Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit occurs one day before Purim, the Jewish holiday that commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from Haman’s plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day.” (Esther 3:13).  In case you don't make the connection ... modern-day Iran is ancient Persia; and should Iran gain nuclear weapons they could certainly accomplish Haman's ancient plan in a single day.
     That is why, before his historic visit, Prime Minister Netanyahu paid a visit to the Western Wall.  I think it is important for all Americans to understand the significance of this holiest site in Judaism.  That's why I went to Aish.com, a leading Jewish website, to be able to explain to you why the Prime Minister of Israel went there.  Here is what you need to know:
     The Western Wall is a surviving remnant of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. The Temple was the center of the spiritual world, the main conduit for the flow of Godliness. When the Temple stood, the world was filled with awe of God and appreciation for the genius of the Torah (which is specifically, the first five books of Moses; Genesis - Deuteronomy -- and sometimes, in general terms the Torah is considered the entire Old Testament).
     Although other parts of the Temple Mount retaining wall remain standing, the Western Wall is especially dear, as it is the spot closest to the Holy of Holies, the central focus of the Temple, and where God's presence dwelt.  The Temple Mount is also where Isaac was bound for sacrifice.  And it is here that his son Jacob dreamed of the ladder ascending to heaven.  As you can see, this site has great historic significance, as well as religious magnitude for both the Jewish and Christian faiths.
     In ancient Israel, men from across the vast breadth of the Land God had given them were commanded to travel to Jerusalem to worship at God's Temple.  Each time the Temple was destroyed throughout the centuries, and through all their captivities and exiles, Jewish prayers from around the world have been directed toward the Temple Mount.  The Western Wall also became known as "The Wailing Wall" because of the centuries of endless tears, shed by Jews yearning to rebuild Jerusalem.
      Finally, in establishing the eternal covenant with Abraham, God promised that the Jewish people will never be destroyed (Genesis 17:7). In this way, the Wall is a symbol of the Jewish people: Just as there have been many efforts to destroy the Wall and yet it remains eternal, so too the Jewish people have outlived their enemies and remain eternal.  Now, can you see why Netanyahu might want to visit this important site before coming to state his nation's purpose before Congress?
     With Iran as a nuclear threat, it is no mere photo op that finds Mr. Netanyahu at the Western Wall. The Wall has been the focal point of those who have fought for Israel in the past -- during the Bar Kochba revolt, Israel's heroes fought like lions for every stone of the Temple. When the Maccabees defeated the Syrian-Greeks, the first thing they did was to purify the Temple and light the holy Menorah.  In the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, when the ceasefire lines were drawn, Jerusalem was divided and Jews were once again banished from the Western Wall, permitted only to gaze across the barbed wire from afar.  In the 1967 Six Day War, Israeli paratroopers entered the Old City through the Lion's Gate. "Har Habayit b'Yadeinu!" – came the triumphant cry – "The Temple Mount is in our hands!" Amidst shofar blasts, grown men wept and danced at the Western Wall.  After 2,000 years, Jerusalem was finally united under Jewish control, with free access for all.  The Western Wall defines the tenacity of the Jewish people to survive against all odds, and it is fitting that Israel's national leader would visit it before appealing to its Western ally to reconsider any concessions they might make to Israel's ancient enemy.
     It is also fitting that at this time in Israel's history, their leader's name is Netanyahu, which is the Hebrew form of the name Nethaniah, which means "YAHWEH has given".  It is also fitting that after his speech to Congress and a meeting with bipartisan leaders, Mr. Netanyahu will fly back to Israel in time to begin the Purim observance and the celebration of his nation's salvation from the ancient Persians.  Just as the ancient Israeli Prime Minister, Mordechai, stopped the anti-semitic actions of the evil Haman, this modern Prime Minister is standing up for the right of the Jews to defend themselves against their enemies.  May God bless his mission tomorrow!

Esther 10:3    "For Mordecai the Jew was next to King Ahasuerus [as Prime Minister] and great among the Jews, and was a favorite with the multitude of his brethren, for he sought the welfare of his people and spoke peace to his whole race."