Sunday, January 25, 2009

Is God Going To Judge America?

"I tremble for my country when I recall that God is just; and that His justice will not sleep forever."
Thomas Jefferson

A question that seems to be on many Christians' minds lately concerns the possibility that God is displeased with America, and that we are beginning to see signs of His judgment appearing. So what makes people think God may be displeased with America? Could it be the obvious decline in our moral standards? The fact that every day we can read somewhere about sexual sin such as public figures having extra-marital affairs, living together without being married, teachers having sexual contact with their students, or even "sexting" the new term for students that take sexually provocative pictures of themselves and send them to others over their cell phones.

Or maybe it may be that we see the country electing leaders on the basis of what they believe about abortion, the environment, global warming, or gay rights, instead of what they believe about God and the fact this country was founded on the principles taught in the Bible? Instead of standing on the moral absolutes God has revealed in His word, we elect leaders that preach tolerance, and acceptance of alternative lifestyles, and make promises that feed the attitude of greed that fueled the economic crisis we find ourselves in today.

"If God doesn't judge America He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah."
Rev. Billy Graham

So what does God have to say about this? Can we find something in the Bible that addresses the question we have asked? Actually, I think the answer is very clear if we begin by looking at Paul's letter to the Romans. In the very first chapter, verses 18-32 I think we can see exactly what is happening in our country today because Paul explains what happens when we turn our eyes away from God, and let us not forget that the direction of our country is determined by the collective will of the people. If the majority turn their eyes from God and elect leaders that agree with their beliefs and priorities, the path we will follow has only one end.

The key to the problem is found in verses 18-20 where Paul tells us that all men have the knowledge of God because what is "known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them." He then backs that up by saying that the attributes of God can be "clearly seen" through His creation. So we have two statements here; God has given every man the awareness of His existence within ourselves, and we can also see God in the creation around us as physical evidence to support that. In spite of that, a problem arises which is that certain people choose to ignore the evidence and instead "speculate" about alternative explanations which results in their "foolish heart" being darkened. God says it best in verse 22 where He tells us that "professing to be wise, they became fools."

So what is the result of this choice to not honor God as the creator, and rely on His truth as revealed in scripture? Paul tells us in verses 24 through 32 that there are three results or evidences of people making this choice. The first is listed in verse 25 where we find that people begin to worship the creation rather than the creator. The second is found in verses 26-27 which tells us that sexual sin becomes commonplace. The third is explained in detail in from verse 28 to the end of the chapter where we are told that people develop such a perverse spirit that their personality changes into the complete opposite of what God intended. In verses 30-31 God uses words like "insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful;". The saddest commentary of all is found in verse 32 where we are told that even though they know what God says, and know that God's judgment for this is death, they not only continue to do it, they encourage others to do it as well.

So lets see here. If I'm not mistaken, in this chapter God tells us through Paul that those who choose to reject Him will end up worshipping(making it your priority) the creation, engaging in sexual sin, develop a personality that doesn't reflect the fruits of the spirit while encouraging others to do the same. Is it just me or does that sound like what we see in America today? Unless I'm wrong, America just elected a president that said his priorities were the environment, toleration, and fixing the economy so we can resume the same spending habits that produced the problem with the economy in the first place? Somehow I think the answer to our original question is pretty evident.

So why hasn't God's judgment occurred yet? I believe the key may be Genesis 12:2-3 where we are told those who bless Israel will themselves be blessed. America has long supported Israel and their right to exist, and I'm sure in no small part this is the reason we may have escaped national judgment so far. Many are saying, however, our new president intends to change many of our long standing policies with regards to Israel. How do you think that decision might be received in Heaven?

We might shortly find out.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

More Labor Pains?

When Jesus began to teach His disciples about the end times, one of the more well known illustrations He used was of a woman in labor. While I know that not all who read this blog may have personally experienced the ups and downs of a pregnancy, all are probably familiar with the process and how it works. Most should realize too, that labor pains don't begin until it's time for the birth to occur. So when Jesus tells His disciples to watch for the labor pains, He basically is saying that if you see the pains, the time is very very near.

Many have written of the "birth pains" the world is experiencing even now, and making the point that we are living in the end times that Jesus described. Obviously I have done that as well, but I always am watching for another sign as I have no idea how many pains, or how long the labor will last until the church is delivered. That brings me to what I want to share with you today. I did, in fact, have another blog ready for today but this news came across the wires just this morning, so bear with me as I try to explain what I see here on short notice, and without a lot of polish.

If you have followed the news at all in Europe, you may be familiar with the troubles between the former Soviet Union, Ukraine, and the European Union in regards to the transport of natural gas. The major pipeline to Europe goes through the Ukraine, and the relationship between Russia and it's former state is tenuous at best. For many reasons, mostly political but described as economic, Russia is refusing to sell natural gas to the Ukraine. This means as that the gas which would pass through the pipeline and on to Europe is stopped as well. So far this winter there are reports of numerous deaths in Europe due to the shortage of natural gas for heating, and this has naturally produced outrage by the European Union towards Russia. They did in fact threaten unspecified sanctions against Russia and the Ukraine if the gas did not begin to flow tomorrow, (January 19). This is not the first time Russia has shut off the gas to the Ukraine and Europe, so one must wonder if there is an ulterior motive behind the actions of Russia.

It is estimated that Russia holds 38% of the natural gas reserves in the world. They also are the worlds second leading exporter of crude oil with approximately 25% of the worlds market. Their economy is heavily dependent on the sales and export of both natural gas and oil. As such, why then would they play games with what they are so deeply dependent on? If you consider that the European states must import at least 30% of their natural gas needs, the possibility arises that Russia is using their natural gas exports as a tool to remind the European Union that they need what Russia has, and Russia has the power to shut it off. At this point in time there is nowhere else Europe can turn to get the natural gas it needs. Here is where we begin to see what Russia may be up to.

The Middle East is the next largest supplier of natural gas, with approximately 35% of the world's reserves. They are also the worlds largest supplier of crude oil providing approximately 45% of the world's consumption. So why is this relevant to the birth pains we have been talking about? If you consider the degree to which Russia has been cultivating their political agreements with countries in the Middle East over the past few years, and add up the combined percentage of oil and gas exports between these countries, you see that in effect the alliance between Russia and the Middle East results in control of 3/4 of the worlds oil and natural gas. Now ask yourself how much power over the rest of the world Russia and it's allies in the Middle East would have if they so chose? Consider then that the war of Ezekiel 38 mentions that Russia and these countries are allied to invade Israel. This obviously is more than coincidence, but the question remains, why invade Israel? Maybe that question can be answered by the news from Israel today.

According to the Jerusalem Post in an article posted today, January 18, a natural gas reservoir was discovered off the Israel coast that was described as being of "historic proportions". Though still too early to know the extent of the reserves, it goes without saying that this is a very strategic asset that changes the landscape of Israels' natural resources. This fact, however, may be a sign of the approaching apocalypse many have looked for. If you read the account of the attempted invasion that is soon to occur in Ezekiel 38, you find an interesting detail God gives us in verse 13. In that verse the countries which choose not to participate ask a question of those who do, led by Russia and Iran. That question is; "do you come to capture spoil"? It seems to say that the invasion will not necessarily be political, but a simple robbery of Israels natural resources. If that is the case, has this news from Israel today given Russia and Iran the excuse they have been looking for? Look as well at verses 10 through 13 where God says that "thoughts" will come to their minds to "devise an evil plan".

I can't help but feel that this discovery, though great for Israel, may in fact be the "spoil" Russia and Iran will be interested in. It may also prove to be another "labor pain" pointing to the imminent delivery we have been expecting.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Disproportionate Force

DIS.PRO.POR.TION.ATE [dis-pruh-pawr-shuh-nit] Adjective: Not proportionate; out of proportion, as in size or number.

If you have been following the events in Israel lately, you should probably have come across this word somewhere in the media descriptions of Israel's response to the rocket attacks from the terrorist organization Hamas. It has, in fact, seemingly been reserved solely for use against Israel and not for any other nation in recent times. So allow me to attempt to explain what is happening here, and what the world is attempting to do by use of this word.

In the more than three years that have passed since Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip and allowed the Palestinian people to self-rule, they have had to endure over 6000 rocket attacks on it's own territory by the terrorist organization Hamas. So point number one is; who in the world, or what other nation in this world has the patience to wait that long to respond to attacks of this nature? Three years? History is full of examples of nations responding immediately to provocations of a lesser degree, and yet Israel chose to wait an almost inordinate period of time before responding. Yet who has the media and the Arab world chosen to label as the "aggressor"? That's right; Israel.

Secondly, since Israel has chosen to attempt to end these attacks by using their military capabilities, which obviously exceed the capabilities of Hamas, the world chooses to describe their response using the term "disproportionate force". Now I am sure I am probably mistaken here, but somehow during the years of my life I came to the conclusion that whenever a situation results in a fight, the preferable outcome is to be the winner and not the loser. Now don't get me wrong, I firmly believe in turning the other cheek, but if you are going to fight isn't the object to win? And yet the world seems to want to insist that Israel try not to win, rather somehow fight in such a way as to virtually guarantee this fight goes on forever.

Another favorite tactic of the media, as well as Hamas itself, is to focus on the civilian casualties that are occurring and to label them as "atrocities". What isn't reported though is how Hamas chooses to fight. You see, their favorite tactic is to dress as civilians, fight from peoples homes using civilians as human shields, place their weapons in hospitals and churches and schools, all in an attempt to make Israel look bad in the eyes of the world. What doesn't get reported though is the extent to which Israel goes in order to minimize civilian casualties.

The best description I can give you was reported this week in the New York Post by columnist Ralph Peters. Rather than try to summarize, I will simply quote his words exactly from the part of his column that deals with this subject.

"From earlier briefings in Israel, I know the IDF takes an almost absurd degree of care in it's targeting. The questioning doesn't stop with "Is that the right building?" it then asks "What should be our angle of attack to ensure any rubble falls into the street, not atop the primary school next door?" ( Hamas consistently embeds terror facilities among innocent civilians.)

Hitting a terrorist hideout in an apartment building, for example, an F-16 would be armed with the smallest warhead that could do the job. If the terrorists are tucked into rooms on the fourth floor, targeting officers evaluate which window the guided missile should go through to kill the terrorists, while minimizing harm to civilians living below.

Any military veteran can tell that the Israelis are taking enormous care to spare civilians. Given the number of airstrikes thus far and the hundreds of tons of bombs dropped, it remains remarkable that so few innocents have been injured in such a dense urban environment."

So why is the world media so slanted against the nation of Israel in it's reporting? Why does the UN attempt to pass resolutions condemning Israels' "aggression" without once mentioning the terrorist attacks by Hamas which provoke the response? Let's not forget that the Bible predicts a worldwide hatred of the Jews in the end times. Even the antichrist, who brokers a peace to begin the seven year tribulation, breaks that peace at the mid-point and begins a campaign to completely destroy the Jews. What we are seeing here is simply the beginning of the move towards that end. It matters little what Israel chooses to do in this, or any other conflict. World opinion of the nation of Israel and the Jewish people will continue to become more hostile in nature until that great day when the Messiah will return to Israel the second time to save His people and establish His throne forever.

That day is on the horizon friends. Please pray for the peace of Israel, and God's protection of His people today.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Middle East Update

Much has happened in Israel in the past week, and I will try to summarize what has occurred, what is happening now, and where I feel this may go in the next week. As I hope you know by now, Israeli forces began to attack Hamas missile launching sites in the Gaza strip last week. Using the Israeli Air Force, precision bombs targeted these launching sites to great effect. They then began targeting the Hamas infrastructure by attacking government office buildings, police stations, and even the homes of the Hamas leaders. This was followed by attacks on known bomb and rocket stockpiles, as well as the tunnels used to smuggle these arms into Gaza from Egypt. These attacks have been successful in severely crippling the ability of Hamas to attack Israel, but unfortunately it has come with an unfortunate price.

It has always been the habit of Hamas to hide themselves among the general population in order to attempt to keep Israel from directly attacking them. It is their standard operating procedure to operate from schools, hospitals, mosques, even orphanages in an attempt to escape retaliation for their attacks on Israel. Although Israel has made every attempt to warn the civilian population to flee and not allow Hamas to use them as shields, civilian casualties are mounting as Hamas forces these unfortunate people to stay.

The good news from the Israeli side is that their attacks are severely crippling Hamas, and most of their forces under the age of 25 or so have deserted and refused to fight. The rest have retreated to tunnels in an attempt to hide from the Israeli attacks. This is why on Saturday morning the Israeli army began a ground incursion into the Gaza Strip in an attempt to once and for all root out the remaining Hamas forces, and find the remaining armament stockpiles and destroy them. As of this morning the good news is that there have been no Israeli casualties reported, and only two severely wounded soldiers.

There have been, however, developments that bode ill towards Israel that may in fact relate to the prophecy of Isaiah 17 that I believe is the next prophecy regarding Israel that the Bible tells us will occur. On Tuesday of this last week Hamas launched Grad type rockets at the town of Beersheva, located in the south of Israel. Two important points need to be recognized here. One, these rockets came from Iran, smuggled through tunnels from Egypt, and also on freighters to the coast of Gaza. Two, these are not the only rockets Hamas has from Iran. They have also been given Fajr-3 rockets which have a much longer range. Why is this important? Simply because Israels' nuclear installation at Dimona is only 20 miles east of Beersheva, and I hope you know by now that the prophecy of Isaiah 17 refers to the area of Dimona coming under attack. The only question left unanswered is will Hamas decide to use these rockets to attack Dimona?

As this week progresses and Israels' forces begin to squeeze the Gaza Strip to flush out the remaining resistance Hamas is faced with a serious dilemma. If they do not launch these missiles two things will likely happen. One, obviously, they will lose them to Israel who will most assuredly destroy them. Two, if they allow that to happen, Iran would probably decide to never give them any more, and Hamas would lose not only their ability to attack Israel, but lose face with other terrorist organizations in the Middle East as well as their own supporters.

I believe this week will go a long way in deciding the immediate future of the Middle East and Israels' relationship with the Arab world. Those organizations that oppose Israel find themselves in a very awkward position. If they remain on the sidelines and allow Hamas to fail, they lose their credibility and most likely a good portion of their support. It sends the message that if you want to attack Israel, you are on your own. I truly believe that Iran and Syria will not remain neutral much longer. Yesterday Saeed Jalili, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council arrived in Syria for talks with Bashar Assad, president of Syria. Reports are that what was discussed was an attack by Hizbullah as a result of the ground incursion of Gaza. If Israel is attacked by Hizbullah in the north, and Hamas from the west, to what degree will it respond? Especially if the decision to attack Israels' nuclear capability is made? It appears that all the pieces are beginning to fall into place concerning much of what the Bible has to say about the last days.

As we watch the events in the Middle East unfold, please remember to pray for the people affected by this conflict, and to pray for the peace that only God can bring to this part of the world. Keep watching.