Saturday, May 16, 2015

The week of Israel's 67th anniversary of independence

The land of Israel has never belonged to the so-called Palestinians because there is no such thing as a distinct Palestinian culture, language, or people. During the time of the Balfour Declaration before Israel’s independence, the Jews themselves were called Palestinians, so the term is not exactly historically solid. The name Palestine is derived from the ancient enemies of Israel called the Philistines. The Romans crushed the revolt of Shimon Bar Kokhba in 132 AD and ordered the land be called Palestine to remove Jewish connection to the land. Arabs living in the land were not even called Palestinians until the 20th century.

Arthur James Balfour wrote a letter that became the Balfour Declaration on November 2, 1917. This British Mandate became officially recognized thanks to the League of Nations--the precursor to the United Nations--on July 24, 1922. It was very Pro-Arab in nature in that it pushed for a Jewish home in the land, but without the right of the Jewish people to govern themselves. So anti-Jewish was the British treatment of Jews during this time that they captured Jews who were trying to escape the growing intensity of the hatred that caused the Holocaust and sent them back. The British only allowed 75,000 immigrants in the first five years thanks to the British White Paper of 1939. Thanks to the efforts of the Irgun in fighting the unjust British policies, the British ended up leaving.

This week, Israel celebrated the 67th anniversary of their independence. It was declared at the Tel Aviv museum on May 14, 1948 at 4:32 PM local time. President Harry Truman immediately recognized the new State of Israel. The Declaration of that day follows and can be heard here:

The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.
After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.
Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses. Pioneers, ma'pilim [(Hebrew) - immigrants coming to Eretz-Israel in defiance of restrictive legislation] and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country's inhabitants, and aspiring towards independent nationhood.
In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country.
This right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz-Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home.
The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people - the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe - was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the comity of nations.
Survivors of the Nazi holocaust in Europe, as well as Jews from other parts of the world, continued to migrate to Eretz-Israel, undaunted by difficulties, restrictions and dangers, and never ceased to assert their right to a life of dignity, freedom and honest toil in their national homeland.
In the Second World War, the Jewish community of this country contributed its full share to the struggle of the freedom- and peace-loving nations against the forces of Nazi wickedness and, by the blood of its soldiers and its war effort, gained the right to be reckoned among the peoples who founded the United Nations.
On the 29th November, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel; the General Assembly required the inhabitants of Eretz-Israel to take such steps as were necessary on their part for the implementation of that resolution. This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable.
This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.
WE DECLARE that, with effect from the moment of the termination of the Mandate being tonight, the eve of Sabbath, the 6th Iyar, 5708 (15th May, 1948), until the establishment of the elected, regular authorities of the State in accordance with the Constitution which shall be adopted by the Elected Constituent Assembly not later than the 1st October 1948, the People's Council shall act as a Provisional Council of State, and its executive organ, the People's Administration, shall be the Provisional Government of the Jewish State, to be called "Israel".
THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
THE STATE OF ISRAEL is prepared to cooperate with the agencies and representatives of the United Nations in implementing the resolution of the General Assembly of the 29th November, 1947, and will take steps to bring about the economic union of the whole of Eretz-Israel.
WE APPEAL to the United Nations to assist the Jewish people in the building-up of its State and to receive the State of Israel into the comity of nations.
WE APPEAL - in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months - to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.
WE EXTEND our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.
WE APPEAL to the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora to rally round the Jews of Eretz-Israel in the tasks of immigration and upbuilding and to stand by them in the great struggle for the realization of the age-old dream - the redemption of Israel.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Heart sins that defile 3

In a continuation of the Heart Sins That Defile posts, my next post is on sexual immorality. I have already covered evil thoughts, murders, and adulteries. The next on the list is sexual immorality, which is a broader term than the specific sexual sins in the Bible that fit under the umbrella term of sexual immorality. The Greek word used here is “porneia.” It can also be translated “fornications.” It is used 26 times in the New Testament.

As I said, this is an umbrella term that covers all sexual immorality. Sexual immorality includes adultery, sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, beastiality, incest, prostitution, and in a spiritual sense idolatry. These are all outward actions done with the body, but begin with the heart. No action is done in the body that does not begin within. Then it stands to reason that if one is to defeat these sins in their life and have a life that fulfills the requirement of repentance, he or she must begin by changing how they think before the temptation ever has a chance to manifest itself.

Every one of these sexual sins begins with selfishness. Selfishness does not care about others or their well-being. It is focused on fulfilling one’s own desires at the expense of anyone or anything else. It is impossible to have a healthy relationship with God or anyone else if selfishness has a root in your life. Pride is the cousin of selfishness so to speak and pride is the thing that got Lucifer removed from his position when he began to be called Satan.

There is a great one hour program called “Every Young Man’s Battle” based off of a book by the same name. It outlines some strategies on how to deal with sexual immorality, specifically pornography since that is such a battle in the lives of so many people, old and young, male and female. Ephesians 5:3 says, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” So how does one counter something like this? One way the program suggested doing something like that is by “creating a covenant” with your eyes. “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman” (Job 31:1). Creating a covenant with your eyes can mean actively avoiding situations where you know you will be tempted, similar to the way an alcoholic would avoid a bar. That may be difficult in our society, but it is not impossible if you want to succeed.

Another key component is not just to focus on what you’re not supposed to do. Become so busy with doing what you’re supposed to be doing that you don’t have time to be caught up in anything else. There is an old saying that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” This is certainly true. There will be times where you will have to resist temptation, but the less you can put yourself in that situation, the better off you will be. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Monday, May 11, 2015

Government officials deeply concerned about ISIS threat

Will Rogers said, “We are the only nation in the world that waits till we get into a war before we start getting ready for it.” Some things never change. Government officials are saying that the ISIS threat is strong and getting stronger thanks to their use of social media among other things, which can inspire sympathizers from around the world to attack. Former acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency Michael Morrell told USA Today, "If we don't get ISIS under control, we're going to see [a 9/11-style] kind of attack.” The Pentagon is on higher alert as well. Adding to the concerns is the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan that said on Friday that the National Security Agency’s collections of telephone records went farther than the law permits. They stopped short of blocking the program by leaving that up to Congress though. The concern from some is that if the program is stopped, we will be caught off guard if ISIS or another terrorist organization to pull off a major attack in the United States.

The Will Rogers quote is applicable because the growing threat of ISIS could have been prevented in August 2013 if the Obama Administration had not turned down requests from Iraqi officials for American aid in the form of air surveillance and drone strikes when dealing with terrorists. Pulling the United States out of Iraq too soon created a vacuum where terrorists could get stronger again, effectively reversing the gains made by the United States military there. Obama’s response during a January 27, 2014 interview with The New Yorker: “The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.” Instead of taking the threat seriously, President Obama shrugged them off as a minor nuisance. The appropriate response would have something more like what Ronald Reagan said during the White House ceremony to welcome back the Iran hostages on January 27, 1981. “Let terrorists be aware that when the rules of international behavior are violated, our policy will be one of swift and effective retribution. We hear it said that we live in an era of limit to our powers. Well, let it also be understood, there are limits to our patience.” That kind of strength has been missing from White House foreign policy since 2008. We need that again.

Persecution before the Tribulation

“For then there will be great tribulation (affliction, distress, and oppression) such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now—no, and never will be [again].”- Matthew 24:21 Amplified Bible. The Lord Jesus Christ taught that we should always view His coming with an attitude of expectancy. That is why belief that He could come at any time is something that has persisted these 2,000+ years. Tied to the Second Coming of Christ are a series of 21 judgments on the unbelieving world commonly known as the Tribulation. The judgments of the Tribulation are a guaranteed fact of Scripture. However, some Christians believe Christians will endure a time of persecution before the Tribulation actually begins.

Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of evangelist Billy Graham, recently spoke of God’s judgment on America and the world in preparation for the return of Christ. I think it is safe to say that, although we are not in the Tribulation, judgment is already here and will get unbelievably worse as the years pass. This message is important for today because we want people to know Christ before the Tribulation, when only one out of four people here when the Tribulation begins will survive. It is also important for today because some in the Church have misinterpreted the message of the pre-Tribulation Rapture--which I do believe in--as one that protects from all persecution and judgment. That assumption is not only biblically incorrect, but inconsistent with Christian history.

Lotz points out that God allowed the Israelites to go through three of the 10 judgments on Egypt, so God would not be inconsistent to allow to experience times of trouble before the Lord comes. The Church has been persecuted since its founding. Jesus was persecuted to the point of death. Almost all of the apostles of Jesus were martyred with the exception of John the Revelator who died of old age after returning from exile on Patmos. Roman emperor Nero persecuted Christians beginning in AD 64 when a fire burned for six days and seven nights, destroying three quarters of the city. Many people believed Nero set the fire himself. Nero blamed the Christians for the fire and used it as an excuse to turn public opinion against them, making it fashionable to target them. Public execution of Christians for the amusement of the populace became commonplace. Roman historian Tacitus wrote about this in his book “Annals.” “Therefore, to stop the rumor [that he had set Rome on fire], he [Emperor Nero] falsely charged with guilt, and punished with the most fearful tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were [generally] hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of that name, was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the reign of Tiberius, but the pernicious superstition - repressed for a time, broke out yet again, not only through Judea, - where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, whither all things horrible and disgraceful flow from all quarters, as to a common receptacle, and where they are encouraged. Accordingly first those were arrested who confessed they were Christians; next on their information, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city, as of "hating the human race.” The Tribulation-based movie “Judgment” starring Corbin Bernsen and Mr. T uses this same charge of hatred of humanity against people who become believers during that time. Nero’s persecution led to Christians being crucified, covered with animal hides and mauled to death by dogs, burned alive and used for lighting at night.” This was the first of 10 persecutions of Christians by 10 Roman emperors, ending with Diocletian in 305 AD. I use these examples of persecution in the early church to ask how some Christians today can think they are immune from persecution when the first Christians, who in general were far better followers of Christ than the average American church member today, were not spared from persecution. Make no mistake. I am a pretribulationist. I do not believe the Church is going to go through any part of the Tribulation. I believe all genuine followers of Christ are going to be raptured and taken to Heaven before the events of the Tribulation begin. That doesn’t mean we will be spared from all persecution and hatred in ways that the first Christians were not even spared though. Our country in particular has certainly earned it with the way we have turned our backs on God more and more the last several decades.

That’s why Anne Graham Lotz has called for a time of fasting and prayer from May 15-23. She writes, “These are the nine days between the Day of the Ascension of Jesus and the Day of Pentecost that have Biblically and traditionally been days of prayer and fasting for an outpouring of God’s Spirit.” The purpose is “to implore God the Holy Spirit to compel the church to repent of sin and our nation to return to faith in the living God…, to entreat God our Savior for an abundant harvest of souls for His Kingdom in the remaining days…, and to delay or soften God’s judgment that is coming on America and on our world.” To sign up for this time of prayer, click here.

Although no one can guarantee when Jesus will return since He said “no one knows the day or the hour” (Matthew 24:36), we can have confidence that the end times prophecies talked about in the Bible will come to pass. There are 318 prophecies about Jesus’ Second Coming. There were only 109 about His First Coming. Since the events of His First Coming happened literally as prophesied, we can be sure that His Second Coming will be just as real and just as literal.