Sunday, April 30, 2006

Israel & The US: About Building Walls

In both Israel and the United States, the issue about building walls to protect their borders is very much in the news today. Both countries feel they are being besieged by neighbors who take advantage of “unwalled” borders to in effect destroy their culture and nationality. In Israel, it is the continuing problem of suicide bombers, who routinely enter Israel and blow themselves up along with Israeli citizens as they go about their daily lives. In the US, it is the stream of illegal immigrants and who knows whom else, who stream primarily across the US/Mexican border. Socially, these illegals puts a strain on US social services. Militarily, other illegals whose intents are far more malevolent, may one day attempt to destroy one or more American cities.

As I thought about writing this post, my thoughts focused on the routine character of “fortified” cities described throughout the Bible, therefore reinforcing the position of those in favor of building these walls to protect their countries. The Bible says: The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall. (Proverbs 18:6 NIV) Israel is in fact well on its way in building a wall to separate themselves physically from their Palestinian enemies. Statistics do in fact show a decrease in the number of suicide attacks in areas where the wall has already been erected. As such, Israel would like to accelerate the wall construction in some of the more volatile areas as the following news account indicates:
Israel's Cabinet voted on Sunday to lay temporary fencing around areas
of Jerusalem where the controversial West Bank separation barrier still hasn't
been built, calling it a quick solution to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers
from entering the country. Palestinians said it would make life tougher for
thousands of Palestinians who have crucial ties to the disputed city, and
strengthen Israel's claims to all of Jerusalem. (4/30/06)

Are walls effective at minimizing the breaches of a nation’s borders by those who wish to break the laws of that nation or at worst would like to subvert the security of that nation? The answer is probably a certain “yes”, despite the claims to the contrary by those in opposition to such barriers. The motivation of these wall-opponents are almost always not the security of the nation, instead they really desire changing the social character of that nation to something that is far more universal and inclusive of the “outside” peoples and nations.

However, as I surveyed the numerous biblical scriptures pertaining to walled and fortified cities, a more intriguing message emerged. That being the false security that physical walls present. The Bible communicates the following …The Israelites secretly did things against the LORD their God that were not right. From watchtower to fortified city they built themselves high places in all their towns…They did wicked things that provoked the LORD to anger. They worshiped idols, though the LORD had said, "You shall not do this."… They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their fathers and the warnings he had given them. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless…Therefore the LORD rejected all the people of Israel; he afflicted them and gave them into the hands of plunderers, until he thrust them from his presence. (2 Kings 17:9, 11-12; 15, 20 NIV). The reality here that the Bible conveys is that the building of man-made fortification to protect a nation’s security is fleeting and ultimately futile to prevent the destruction of such a nation. Worse than “unsecured” borders is “unsecured” hearts. The scripture above says that the nation had rejected God’s “decrees and covenants”. As an Israeli or American reading this, do you think that Israel or America has rejected God’s covenant? Are these nations embracing (especially publically) of God’s decrees? Your answer to this will provide you with an indication about just how secure these two nations will ultimately be with the building of their physical walls.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Radical Muslim Deception

Since the turn of the century, we have seen a dramatic increase in Muslim inspired terrorism throughout the world, highlighted (or should I say low lighted) by the attacks of September 11th, 2001. One of terrorist's primary tactic is the suicide bombing, where again September 11th was perhaps the most spectacular example. However, we have seen this insidious act hundreds of times in places such as the Palestinian attacks on Israel, the Al Qaeda attacks throughout the Iraq war, the subway bombings in London, the hotel bombings in Bali, Indonesia, the theater attacks in Russia and the hotel bombings in Jordan.

The insanity of the notion (evidently taught by radical Muslim philosophy), that one will enhance their standing before God by killing themselves and others in the process, is the kind of lie and deception that comes only from the master deceiver himself: Satan. The Bible calls Satan out in this way: …He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44 NIV)

Unfortunately, I expect the trend of Muslim ispired suicide bombings will continue (and eventually here in the United States). It is very difficult to stop. And what glee the devil must have as these deluded individuals march right into his trap completely unaware of the realty that awaits them immediately upon detonation. He promises them the things that allure most men…probably most notably, the 70 virgins. Instead, upon their suicide, these deluded people are confronted with the same reality that confronted the similarly deceived rich man in Jesus’ Bible parable: "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day…The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, `Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.' (Luke 16:19, 22-24 NIV) For God did not spare even the angels when they sinned; he threw them into hell, in gloomy caves and darkness until the judgment day. And God did not spare the ancient world--except for Noah and his family of seven. Noah warned the world of God's righteous judgment. Then God destroyed the whole world of ungodly people with a vast flood. Later, he turned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into heaps of ashes and swept them off the face of the earth. He made them an example of what will happen to ungodly people. (2 Peter 2:4-6 NLT)

As you think about these jaded lunatics and their incredibly horrible end and transition into a permanent state of torment, please stop and think about this fact also. The thousands of people that are killed in their suicide bombings and beheadings face exactly the same fate as their killers unless they have been born again in Jesus Christ. The Bible puts it this way: …In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again". (John 3:33 NIV) What this means is that on the day those airplanes were flown into the World Trade Center, the incredible irony is that those sick and deceived suicide pilots ended up in the same place as the majority of their ill-fated law abiding passengers. Unfortunately, it is not only the fanatical Muslims who are deceived; it is also the majority of us here in the civilized Western world. The Bible clearly states the following: God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son (Jesus Christ) merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. "This is the crisis we're in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won't come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is." (John 3:17-21 (parenthesis mine) The Message Bible)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Duke Case: An American Cliché

The issue of the alleged rape of a black woman among a crowd of white college jocks at Duke University this month is simply the latest object lesson of the moral wasteland that is 2006 America. The aspects of this incident is classically indicative of what this nation has become throughout the past 100 years:

On one side you have the majority media and college culture emblematic of Duke, instantly blaming the woman in knee-jerk fashion primarily because in their eyes, her color gives her no credibility. On the other side, you have the African American community defending her in knee-jerk fashion because her alleged attackers are white.

True in keeping with their political scripts, those who lean right (and generally conservative) gives deference to the upper-class boys. Those who lean left (and automatically liberal) gives deference to the woman because she is a minority.

I have not heard much from the religious community with respect to the incident, however predictably the Reverend Jesse Jackson (whom I believe is legally ordained as a Minister) offered to reward the woman with a college scholarship. I am curious as to the kind of message that this sends to young African American girls with respect to the profession of exotic dancing being rewarded by a presumed religious leader.

In this Duke case, what we have are poor decisions being made by all participants, which resulted in a predictable train-wreck for all concerned. Predictably the national reaction to all this appears to be “let’s defend our ideological niche in this case against our social and political adversaries”: black verses white, conservatives verses liberals, men verses women, rich verses poor, upper class verses lower class. All the while…evidently lost among the combatants is the moral undressing that this case represents about much of what America has become. The fact that this was a stripper, supposedly working this job because her children has no father to support them, while being confronted by “devil-may-care” (pun intended) privileged “kids”. These young men saw it as the typical American college rite of a boozing frat party being topped off by being entertained by women strip-teasing in front of them and who apparently dared to say no to being sexually engaged by the drunken mob. To be sure, in all of the public and media commentary about this case, I have yet to hear much condemnation about the events that led to the end result.

Interestingly, the Bible has this to say to perhaps someone who would previously have been part of such a crowd as those who were in that Duke campus house the other night…For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do--living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead…” (1 Peter 4:3-6 NIV). Dead! The Lord basically says that those who behave like this Duke crowd (and I include the women in this) are dead. Therefore, while the dead perform, America bickers over who is being “wronged” in this case! Not surprising however, given that by and large, America is just as dead also. Dead because it has rejected the God that was worshipped by it’s earliest settlers hundreds of years ago.

As ordinary Americans watch this saga unfold over the next few weeks and months, it would be wise for them to take heed of the following scripture: Then this message came to me from the LORD: "Son of man, suppose the people of a country were to sin against me, and I lifted my fist to crush them, cutting off their food supply and sending a famine to destroy both people and animals alike. Even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were there, their righteousness would save no one but themselves, declares the Sovereign LORD (Ezekiel 14:12-14 NLT) Remember this verse of scripture, perhaps the next time a major calamity strikes this country, and people are left asking “why would a loving God allow this to happen?”

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A&E’s God or the Girl

I happened to come across the new ‘reality’ series “God or the Girl” on the A&E Network today and watched a brief portion. I had seen some advanced discussion about the series, including in-depth interviews with the young men featured in the program, each of whom ostensibly facing the dilemma of choosing the Catholic priesthood or life with their girlfriends, which would be an automatic disqualifier against the priesthood.

The portion of the program that I saw was I would presume quite indicative of the series at large. The young men appeared quite earnest in their desire to conform to the presets of the priesthood as practiced in Roman Catholiscm with a particular emphasis on the rules requiring celibacy. It is here where the series focuses much on the anguish of the young men as they face the realities of girlfriends who (understandably) want to have the young men’s primary attention. As is common regarding much in today’s television and the culture at large, there are numerous scenes focusing on today's “skin” culture, replete with images of scantily clad females and comments regarding either the desire “to look…and be happy” as stated by a brother of one of the aspiring priests, which is countered by the young man who retorts “yeah…but you don’t have to gawk”. This I find to be a very realistic exchange in today’s society particularly where one of the individuals at the very least has a pull on him to try and live by God’s commands. When such a temptation and dialogue comes up in your presence, it will do well to remember this scripture: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. (2 Timothy 2: 15-17 NIV)

A trip to the World Youth Day Catholic festivities in Germany in 2005 reveals the young aspiring priest evidently focusing much on his desire to see an old girlfriend, as well as the near visual worship of the Pope as his motorcade drives by on a crowd-lined street.

Here I will add that the premise of this program which focuses on the need to choose between serving God as a priest versus life with a wife is unsupported by a general reading of the Bible. It is one of many doctrinal issues that separate Catholics from their Protestant brothers (of which I am one), so I feel compelled to make this very important distinction to the readers of this blog. I find it very unfortunate to the extent that it is the central "problem" facing these young men. In the very beginning of the Bible, God layed out His foundation for men when He created Eve to be Adam's "wife": Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called `woman,' for she was taken out of man." For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:22-24 NIV). I will state that the apostle Paul did make a point that the single life is preferrable in relation to serving God without the distractions of a family life: I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs--how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world--how he can please his wife-- and his interests are divided. (1 Corinthians 7:32-34 NIV) However, it is never commanded as a pre-requisite for Biblical Leadership - see this passage of scripture where God gave Moses the following commandment as he called the first set of priests to serve His chosen people: Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests. (Exodus 28:1 NIV). Here Aaron father to four sons, was selected directly by God to serve as priest.

Any reader of my blog can figure out that I am automatically skeptical of any attempts by the modern media to present a fair view of Christianity. This program however in my opinion quite accurately captures the essence of what many young people in today’s society will face as they struggle to choose God and His ways while being subject to the devil and his ways (the allure of money, women, self gratification etc.) which dominate today’s culture. However, young Christian viewers beware, despite the earnest presentation of these young people trying to choose a holy path, that path must follow God’s focus captured solely in the following verses of scripture: In the beginning was the Word (Jesus Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it…The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. The Word (Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1: 1-4 & 9-14 (parenthesis mine) NIV).

Friday, April 14, 2006

Not A Matter of Eating and Drinking

Today is Good Friday (the day of general public acknowledgement that Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross for the sins of all people), and I happen to be sitting with someone who was Jewish and another who was Catholic when the topic of what we had for lunch came up. The Catholic person remarked in mocked horror that she had pork and exclaimed that her mother would be horrified given that she was raised “Catholic”. The Jewish man responded that he had a kosher snack in honor of Passover. As I observed the exchange, the thought of the God’s scripture in the New Testament came to my mind: For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. (Romans 14:17-23 NIV)

The above is a difficult scripture for many. To some it suggests that eating “unclean” food is a sin before God; to others it suggests that people who cling to legalistic eating and drinking laws before God are foolish. I believe however that it suggests neither. In it’s basic term, I believe it suggests that either observing eating laws or eating liberally can be valid if done in honor of Jesus Christ. It also suggests that refraining from both to honor another’s position is equally valid if your motivation is to further the glory of Christ.

As with all else in the Bible, honoring and worshipping Christ is the key.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Fathers & The Championship

While watching the NCAA College Basketball Championships won by the University of Florida the other night, it was very gratifying to see so many shots of the father’s of the players in the stands cheering on their sons to victory. As a sports fan, it is sadly unusual to see so many of the dads of players present to share in the achievements of their children. The absence of fathers as much as anything else is leading to the demise of the social fabric of the United States.

As a dad of perhaps a 5 year old in kindergarten, just walk into the school at the end of the day to pick-up your child, and watch the countenance and faces of the ‘fatherless’ children staring at you as you walk away with your child. These are the kids, who generally grow up with incredible anger raging inside of them, which produces the carnage described in this blog, which I wrote several months ago.

God knew what was coming, when He wrote this in the Bible: Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds--his name is the LORD--and rejoice before him. A father to the fatherless… (Psalm 68:4-5 NIV).

God is the universal Father to all the fatherless. They just need to know it. The devil on the other hand will exploit their rage, and entice them to feed the anger that resides in them, which unfortunately for many, ends up destroying them.

However, in the absence of genuine repentance, all of the human fathers of the “fatherless” will certainly face their own destruction as well: …whoever welcomes a little child like this in my (Jesus’) name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. (Matthew 18:5-6 NIV)

A God who sends people to Hell?