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Orwell Was an Optimist

‎13 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎01:35:27 AM | Steve ElwartGo to full article

The second beast was allowed to impart life to the image of the first beast so that the image of the beast could talk and order the execution of those who would not worship the image of the beast. The second beast forces all people—important and unimportant, rich and poor, free and slaves—to be marked on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that no one may buy or sell unless he has the mark, which is the beast’s name or the number of its name.

Revelation 13:15–17 (ISV)

Much has been written about this verse. In the last 10 years the Islamic implications of this verse have also been put forth.

However, whether the beast the world would identify with would have an Islamic, European, or Assyrian origin, there is another aspect to Revelation 13 that has not been discussed very much. That is the technology behind being able to enforce this restriction on commerce.

The Technology Behind Prophecy

To stop all transactions unless a person has the Mark of the Beast would need high surveillance on all aspects of a person’s life. The government would have to watch everyone’s movement 24 hours a day and also enforce a ban on transactions if someone tried.

The technology to make this a reality is here today and its ability to control every aspect of a person’s life is so advanced and so pervasive it makes the world George Orwell created in his book “1984” seem utopian by comparison. Absolute power and control breeds absolute evil. The books of Daniel and Revelation describe this final world order and ultimate evil that will come together under the reign of the Antichrist just before the return of Christ (Daniel 2 & 7, Revelation 13)

The surveillance society predicted in Orwell’s book is now becoming a stark reality in every country of the world. At all levels of government, the use of video monitoring is becoming widespread. In high crime areas, at major intersections, attached to downtown buildings and light poles, inside sports arenas and public facilities, along interstate highways, and mounted on every police vehicle, the constancy of surveillance is being felt by everyone. Virtually all public buildings and private commercial properties have mounted video cameras to watch your comings and goings. This is now true in every country around the globe, from the most advanced to even Third World emerging economies.

Combine this video surveillance with facial recognition technology and rapid license plate reading software and your movements are being tracked everywhere you go whether you like it or not. No earlier governments could have come close to the level of control now possible – not even the most extreme totalitarian regimes had this ability.

We have seen the Enemy

The outlook for civil liberties grows bleaker by the day, from the various government’s embrace of indefinite detention for its citizens and armed surveillance drones flying overhead to warrantless surveillance of phone, email, and Internet communications and prosecutions of government whistle-blowers. Meanwhile, countries are increasingly coming under the influence of a police-industrial controlled complex. The line between local and federal law enforcement is being blurred. We have seen the enemy of the State and it is us. And if true, as governments assert their technological advantage, its citizens are at an ever increasing disadvantage.

Seek and Destroy

Even more troubling, the technology used to spy on its citizens is being paired with technologies to kill them as well.

In the United States, the Sixth Amendment to its Constitution was intended to not only make sure of a “speedy and public trial,” but it was also supposed to prevent the government from keeping someone in jail for unspecified offenses. That too has been a casualty of the War on Terror. Between the National Defense Authorization Act’s (NDAA) indefinite detention clause and the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) legislation, which has been used to justify killing American citizens with drones without a court trial, the Sixth Amendment’s guarantees have become meaningless.

Other countries have followed the United States’ lead.

In August 2015, the British government authorized an RAF drone attack in Syria that killed two Britons fighting with Islamic State. This was the first acknowledged assassinated via drone strike against a British national by that country. ‘There was a terrorist directing murder on our streets and no other means to stop him.’ said David Cameron the British Prime Minister.

“Those of us who have criticized the Obama administration’s targeted killing policy have long warned that other states cite it to attempt to justify their own legal violations. The concerns were, however, over Russia, China and North Korea, not the United Kingdom,” said Mary Ellen O’Connell, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame.

Drone strikes by surveillance craft are becoming more frequent and are being launched by more countries as the technology improves and costs go down. It is often becoming the assassination instrument of choice by many countries.

Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said countries like Pakistan that face ongoing threats from extremists threatening to overrun the central government see drones as “just another tool for them to use in that campaign [against militants].”

Rights are Disappearing

Due to rapid advances in technology and a heightened surveillance culture, the burden of proof has been shifted so the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty has been usurped by a new norm in which all citizens are suspects. Where once the police were expected to catch criminals and bring them to justice. Now, they are expected to stop crime before it happens. It is a noble goal, but the only way to stop a crime from happening is to watch all the people, all the time. This is exemplified by police practices of stopping and frisking people who are merely walking down the street and where there is no evidence of wrongdoing. Likewise, by subjecting innocent civilians to full-body scans and license-plate readers without their knowledge or compliance and then storing the scans for later use, the government state has erected what has amounted to the police-industrial complex. In such an environment, we are all potentially guilty of some wrongdoing. If someone is watched closely enough, they will be caught doing something wrong.

Data Overload

All of this surveillance requires someone to process it. This job for humans is impossible. Enter the computer. Computer software is becoming more sophisticated and inexpensive as time goes on and has become an important tool in a surveillance state.

Facial recognition software promises to create a society in which every individual who steps out into public (or stays in their home) is tracked and recorded as they go about their daily business. The goal is for the government to scan a crowd of people and instantaneously identify all the individuals present. People who are identified in the scan can be cross matched with a database to see if they are on anyone’s watchlist. They may of interest to the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, Department of Energy, Secret Service, National Security Agency, Interpol, Local, County or State law enforcement, or a host of other agencies that are watching people.

If they are on the list, those individuals can have their cellphone conversations bugged and their movements isolated and stored for later review. They can even have the cameras and microphones in their smartphones turned on and monitored, even if the device is turned off. (At many intelligence briefings, attendees are required to surrender their phones and sometimes remove the batteries.)

Computer algorithms have been developed that allow supercomputers to sift through the exabytes of data that are being harvested as text, audio and visual data.

A machine that harvests large amounts of data, analyzes it, and decides on what is important and what is not is a machine with something approximating human capacities. It is a machine that some would describe as having artificial intelligence (AI).

Take AI, add to it the advances in robotics and you have something akin to transhuman.

I, Golem

In researching this article, the author came across something interesting. In the Oxford Concise Dictionary, an alternative definition for the word “golem” is “robot.” I asked Dr. William Welty a research analyst in Advanced Communication Technologies and Executive Director of the ISV foundation, why “robot” would be an alternative definition. His answer was simple. “Because the Brits have a better knowledge of the English language than we do.”

The title of the popular Will Smith movie, “I, Robot,” could have well been called “I, Golem.”

A golem is a legendary creature made of clay and dust by human hands in a magical, artificial way to serve its creator. The word appears only once in the Bible where it refers to “unformed limbs (or embryos)” (Ps. 139:16). The Talmud relates the Sages could create living beings through their knowledge of Kabbalah. In describing the first 12 hours of Adam’s existence, the Talmud calls him a golem, a “shapeless mass” fashioned into a body that did not yet own a soul (Sanhedrin 38b). It also observes that “if the righteous desired it, they could [by living a life of absolute purity] be creators… Rava created a man and sent him to Rabbi Zera, who spoke to him and, receiving no answer, said to the man: ‘You are a creature of the magicians. Return to your dust’” (Sanhedrin 65b).

In the Middle Ages arose the belief in the possibility of infusing life into a clay or wooden figure of a human being, which figure was termed “golem” by writers of the 18th century. The golem grew in size, and could carry any message or obey mechanically any order of its master. This sounds very much like the characteristics of what people conceived of early robots.

Building an artificial intelligence is like building a golem. It is a creature made from dust and clay (sand, i.e., silicone) by human hands. Being made by humans, it would also have man’s sinful nature programmed into it. As the programming became more sophisticated, an AI would also grow in power. It would soon reach a point where its intelligence would exceed man’s. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Stephen Hawking may be right in saying the efforts to create thinking machines could have a capability that would pose a threat to man’s existence.

Is the Beast a Robot?

All the above leads to a very interesting hypothesis. There is a line of reasoning that the Beast spoken of in Revelation is actually a sentient AI, a working prototype or a robot so sophisticated that it comes alive.

A Fallen Man would have programmed the AI, but in the process, also programmed his sinful nature into the machine. The intelligence would eventually be faster and smarter than man’s “wet brain” and would become sentient and come to life. But since only God can create life, the “life” exhibited by this intelligence would be an imitation of life.

It would be demonic.

This Beast would merely be a manifestation of Satan pretending to be a living being. The Beast would be the culmination of the progression of man’s sinful nature taken to its logical conclusion.

Some believe it is after this intelligence “comes alive” Christ would return in His Second Coming and put an end to it.

The second beast was allowed to impart life to the image of the first beast so that the image of the beast could talk and order the execution of those who would not worship the image of the beast.

Revelation 13:15 (ISV)

In the Book of Revelation, the False Prophet is allowed to give “life” to this first beast. If the first beast is an AI, who is the false prophet? Will the surveillance technologies combined with killing capabilities (decapitation?) play a part in enforcing the ban on buying and selling? And what is the significance of “6–6–6”? Is it a mark or is it a mistranslation in the text?

One thing is sure, advanced predictions about prophecy are almost always wrong. Ezekiel 12:13 is a prime example:

But I’ll throw my net over him. As a result, he’ll be captured with my net, and with it I’ll bring him to Babel, the land of the Chaldeans. He won’t see it, though he’ll die there. (ISV)

Ezekiel’s prophecy about Zedekiah made no sense before it was fulfilled. After it was fulfilled, it made perfect sense:

They executed Zedekiah’s sons in his presence, blinded Zedekiah, bound him with bronze chains, and transported him to Babylon [where he died].

2 Kings 25:7 (ISV)

The interpretations of prophecies found in Revelation may be the same way. They may make little sense now or be plain wrong. They will however be clear once they are fulfilled.

One thing we can be sure of. We need to trust in Him who has given us salvation and peace.

I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

1 John 5:13 (ISV)

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A New Agenda

‎13 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎01:34:16 AM | Steve ElwartGo to full article

Whatever has happened, will happen again; whatever has been done, will be done again. There is nothing new on earth.

— Ecclesiastes 1:9 (ISV)

Agenda 21 Redux

With all the time given to the pope’s visit to the United States and to the United Nations, scant attention is being paid to an old agenda being repackaged and foisted on the world community.

This new initiative is a reintroduction of the old Agenda 21. It is called Agenda 2030.

The representatives in the U.N. enthusiastically adopted Agenda 21 in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, but when it came time to carry out the plan, some of the signatory countries balked at the more onerous elements of the initiative.

Facing this opposition, the forces behind using the Agenda as a vehicle for world governance, hence world government, are trying a different tack and set up a new plan they are calling “The Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.” The preamble to the plan is:

This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. It also seeks to strengthen universal peace in larger freedom. We recognize that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development. All countries and all stakeholders, acting in collaborative partnership, will implement this plan. We are resolved to free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet. We are determined to take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path. As we embark on this collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets which we are announcing today demonstrate the scale and ambition of this new universal Agenda. They seek to build on the Millennium Development Goals and complete what these did not achieve. They seek to realize the human rights of all and to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. They are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental.

The U.N. met several times to push both Agenda 21 and the Millennium Development Goals.

Rio+5 – Also known as the Earth Summit was a special meeting held in New York in 1997, to appraise the status of Agenda 21 and show the progress of globalization. The participants came away from the meeting disappointed. They suggested that “through crisis new strength can be found for future action.” They also felt that due to the inactions of governments, progress on Agenda 21could be made by NGOs (non-governmental organizations.)

“This is an occasion when the non-governmental organizations should come to the rescue.”

— General Assembly President Razali Ismail

Therefore there was a rise of NGOs fanning out into local communities promoting “smart growth” and “sustainable growth” to advance Agenda 21 in ways national governments could not.

Then came Rio+10. This meeting was also called Earth Summit 2002 and included both government and non-governmental organizations. It also issued a status report on the progress of Agenda 21. It also issued several agreements including the Johannesburg Declaration as well as several other international agreements. Instead of new agreements between governments, Rio+10 was organized mostly around almost 300 “partnership initiatives” known as Type II private partnerships, as opposed to Type I Partnerships between nations. These were to be the key means to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. These agreements and the progress made on them are kept in a database of Partnerships for Sustainable Development.

In 2012, at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), the 180 attending members reaffirmed their commitment to Agenda 21 in their outcome document called “The Future We Want.” They also produced a political document designed to shape global environmental policy. A few key global leaders—mostly G–20 leaders and namely United States President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron—did not come to the conference and blamed their absence on the ongoing European sovereign-debt crisis. Their collective absence was seen as a reflection of their administrations’ failure to make sustainability issues a priority.

Seeing interest in Agenda 21 wane, global environmental activists repackaged the program and rebranded it Agenda 2030. The direction the United Nations is heading in this initiative is troubling. In his opening address to the General Debate of the 70th session of the United Nations, Mogens Lykketoft, used some very interesting phraseology:

With the Sustainable Development Goals, however, we acknowledge that eradication of poverty in all its forms is only possible with a much more complex transformation of the entire global economy, the environment and social structures.

Incredible and unsustainable inequality in income, wealth, access to resources and to quality education and health services must be overcome.

We acknowledge also that people in developed countries cannot continue to consume and produce in the manner they are used to.

Agenda 2030 and the Vatican

During his address to the United Nations, Pope Francis gave his support to the U.N. and its Agenda 2030 program:

The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable ­Development at the World Summit which opens today is an important sign of hope. I am similarly confident that the Paris Conference on Climatic Change will secure fundamental and effective agreements.

However, the Vatican Curia must have read the fine print of Agenda 2030 after the pope’s address, because shortly after the pope’s speech, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations, backed away from the “verbatim inclusion of the U.N. sustainable development goals and targets” in the UN’s 2030 Agenda.

Subgoal 5.6 under “Gender Equality” of Agenda 2030 ensures “universal access to sexual and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the 1994 Program of Action, which states that “prevention of unwanted pregnancies must always be given the highest priority…. In circumstances where abortion is not against the law, such abortion should be safe.”

However, in a Sept. 1 revision, the Archbishop Auza expressed “reservations,” about the document’s use of the terms “sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights,” stating that “the Holy See does not consider abortion or access to abortion or abortifacients as a dimension of these terms.”

Hopefully, other countries and private organizations will also back away from this rebranded attempt at global government before it is too late.

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A Pope for Which Season?

‎06 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:30:45 AM | Steve ElwartGo to full article
(Ed. Note: Steve Elwart was raised a Roman Catholic and studied to be a Catholic priest. He had a self-described “Martin Luther moment” and later left the seminary and Catholicism. Steve went on to pursue a Ph.D. from Louisiana Baptist University and is now an ordained minister. He continues to have contacts with members of the Catholic clergy both inside and outside the Vatican and has obtained insights in the current workings of the Roman Curia.)

“More is a man of an angel’s wit and singular learning. He is a man of many excellent virtues; I know not his fellow. For where is the man (in whom is so many goodly virtues) of that gentleness, lowliness and affability and as time requires, a man of marvelous mirth and pastimes and sometime of steadfast gravity — a man for all seasons.”

Robert Whittington, 1520

In his stage play about Thomas More (later made into a movie of the same name), Robert Bolt used “A Man for all Seasons” as a title because he believed Thomas More remained a man of principle, acting only as his conscience dictated. He remained constant in his belief and did not bend to the political winds of the time. He was constant “in all seasons.” He stayed true to his beliefs even though it cost him his life.

Please note, the following is not meant to be an apologetic for the head of the Roman Catholic Church; it is to merely serve as a guide to help explain some of the goings on during his stay in the United States. Some of the things written about the Papal visit in the United States were written out of ignorance and out of context and can serve as a disservice to the writer. We as Christians need to be discerning in our discussions. When the information we spread is inaccurate or uncharitable it can tarnish the larger message of the love and salvation brought to us by Jesus Christ.

Instead, exalt the Messiah as Lord in your lives. Always be prepared to give a defense to everyone who asks you to explain the hope you have. But do this gently and respectfully, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak evil of your good conduct in the Messiah will be ashamed of slandering you.

— 1 Peter 3:15–16 (ISV)

Now that Pope Francis has completed his tour of the United States it may be a good time to look at his visit and look at his words and his actions and put them in the context of his life, his culture and his Church.

Many try to compare the current Roman Catholic Pontiff Francis (Jorge Mario Bergoglio) to Thomas More because they feel, he too, stays true to his beliefs. A more accurate summary of his visit may be one of vacillation and trying to be all things to all people.

Pope Francis himself believes that Thomas More is a good role model for these times. (Francis has said he prays to More every day.) The times in which More lived mirror today’s time. The early 16th century saw the break up of Christianity, a loss of central authority and a fragmentation of European society. Where the 1500s saw a schism between Catholicism and Protestantism, primarily over who was the temporal head of the Church, today’s fracture is much deeper. Our war rages over the collapse of traditional virtues across the entire West — along with the rise of moral indifference and a cheerful nihilism.

As there are many parallels between the two eras, there are also parallels between the two men. While More was a religious man, he was also a prominent lawyer and judge. Pope Francis is not only the religious head of a Church, he is also the secular head of a state. It is that duality that colored the pontiff’s statements during his visit.

It is said that a key to understanding the Bible is to “think Jewish.” So too, the key to understanding Pope Francis is to “think Catholic.” Pope Francis’ style of communication differs greatly from his predecessors and this has caused confusion within the Church. Many of the things he said while in the United States were very nuanced and while some of what he said may not have made much of an impression on many people who heard his words, they sent shock waves to many others. In one example of papal persuasion, days after Francis permanently removed a German bishop for his lavish spending on a renovation project, the Atlanta archbishop apologized for building a $2.2 million mansion as his residence. He moved out of his 6,000 square foot Buckhead residence and turned it into a rectory for priests.

At almost every utterance, people took to the airwaves and blogosphere and opined on the pope’s political persuasion. One statement would label him a liberal while the next sentence in the same statement would label him an arch conservative.

Pope Francis himself is a charismatic man. A writer for the Huffington Post has written that America has a “man crush” on Pope Francis. He has been called “The People’s Pope.” When he was elected pope, he appeared before the crowd for the first time without papal finery. He chose a simple white cassock and zucchetto (cap). While traveling in the United States, he traveled in a Fiat automobile rather than the “Popemobile.” After delivering an address to a joint session of Congress, Francis went directly to the homeless at Catholic Charities — an itinerary designed to send the message that his priority, and that of the Church, is the people who live at the margins. (Francis was heeding the warning whispered to him by a Brazilian cardinal just moments after he was elected pope: “Don’t forget the poor.”)

Liberal or Conservative?

While conservative Catholics in the U.S. maintain the pope affirms traditional Church teaching on homosexuality, several Catholic gay advocacy groups claim the pope is paving a new path and hope this visit will be a step toward the Church accepting openly gay and lesbian Catholics.

One homosexual who praised him for his “who am I to judge” comment in an informal interview later wrote, “So much for my respect for Pope Francis. He’s just lost a lot of respect here in the USA,” when the Vatican confirmed he met with Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis. Davis was jailed in early September for refusing to sign the marriage license of a homosexual couple who wished to have their civil marriage certified by the state of Kentucky. (Davis and her husband had come to Washington for another purpose — Mrs. Davis was to receive a “Cost of Discipleship” award on Sept. 25 from The Family Research Council.)

Even in this case, one has to go beyond the sound bite to get the true flavor of the story. If one reads the entire interview from an informal news conference on the papal flight returning from Buenos Aires, translated into English at Zenit.org, Francis was speaking of those with a homosexual orientation, and not approving of any behavior:

A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will—well, who am I to judge him? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in such a beautiful way, it says, Wait a bit, as is said and says: “these persons must not be marginalized because of this; they must be integrated in society.” The problem isn’t having this tendency, no. We must be brothers, because this is one, but there are others, others. The problem is the lobbying of this tendency

With Kim Davis, the meeting needs to be taken with a grain of salt as well. The Davis meeting was between two people with only Mrs. Davis’ version of the meeting being publicized. While the Vatican has since distanced the pope from the meeting, given the pope’s repeated statements on religious freedom, his comments to Mrs. Davis, “Stay strong!” and “Thank you for your courage,” may have been meant more along those lines than alluding to her stance on same-sex marriage, a theme he avoided during the other parts of his trip.

John Gehring, Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, a liberal advocacy group, said Francis’ intent was not to escalate America’s culture wars but to illustrate the contradictions within them.

Part of the Francis effect is making the left and the right a little bit uncomfortable, and, mission accomplished. I think Pope Francis affirms religious liberty, and he rejects the culture wars. That’s something we need to grapple with.

Either way, neither the ad hoc interview nor the meeting with Mrs. Davis can define the pontiff’s position on homosexual marriage.

Is He Godless?

On Pope Francis’ second day in the United States, he addressed a joint session of Congress. Much has been made of him not mentioning Jesus’ name during his hourlong address. Nor did he invoke Christ’s name when speaking at a White House reception. While it is incomprehensible to many that the man who is called the Vicar of Christ would not invoke His name, the Roman pontiff also serves another role. He is also a Head of State. (He was introduced to Congress formally as “the Pope of the Holy See.”) Those in the Catholic Church would also say that the main message he wanted to convey was one of religious freedom. The argument goes that if he would have invoked Christ’s name, it would have diluted his main message and alienated non-Christians.

Given all the above, Francis still claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ and there was a huge missed opportunity to invoke Jesus name, head of state of not. As Paul said:

And whatever you do, whether by speech or action, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

— Colossians 3:17 (ISV)

Is He Even Christian?

The Internet exploded when Francis spoke at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. In his homily, he made the statement “Jesus Christ and his life, … ended in failure, the failure of the cross.” His comments called into question whether he even believed in the divinity of Jesus Himself. Many of those that traffic in professional outrage left out part of the quote. The pope’s comments, in context, reads:

Ours is to plant the seeds: God sees to the fruits of our labors. And if at times our efforts and works seem to fail and produce no fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus and his life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, the failure of the cross.

Even some of those that left in the critical phrase “humanly speaking” missed the point. John Loeffler in his Oct.3 “Steel on Steel” broadcast called this “theological sniping.”

What Francis was saying was during the time of Jesus, people expected the Messiah to lead a triumphant rebellion against the Romans and reign as a Davidic king. Instead, the Romans killed him, and they did so in a particularly painful and humiliating way. From the perspective of most people of the day, based on their expectations of what the Messiah would do, he looked like a failed political revolutionary.

We know, however, as Chuck Missler often says, “The death of Jesus Christ was not a tragedy; it was an achievement.”

The pope’s use of the phrase, “humanly speaking” told his audience that the pope is setting up precisely this kind of contrast between the human and the divine perspective.

Is He a Communist?

The pope spoke a lot about “economic justice” while he was in the United States. His comments made many conservatives in the United States very uncomfortable. Francis’ remarks triggered a debate about his political leanings. His U.S. speeches, combined with statements made in South America have led right wing pundits to place him politically somewhere between a neo-socialist to an outright Marxist.

A look at his papal encyclical Evangelii Gaudium (Gospel of Joy), gives insight into his thinking on economic systems.

In the encyclical the pertinent section is “The economy and the distribution of income.” In it, he makes statements, such as, “Inequality is the root of social ills,” and “We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market.” These statements harken back to the socialistic slogans of the liberation theology, developed mainly by Latin American Roman Catholics in the 1970s. It emphasized liberation from social, political, and economic oppression as an anticipation of ultimate salvation. It has rightly been called Christianized Marxism.

The thrust of what he was saying was that we are living in a global economy and economic decisions now affect the entire world. People who know the pope have voiced his concerns for the poor such as the people that work for pennies a day making garments and electronic components in places such as China and Thailand for export for Western nations. It is that perspective Francis had when authorizing the letter.

He is also a product of his times. From 1976 to 1983 Francis’ home country of Argentina was in the grip of the military dictator Col. Jorge Rafael Videla. This was a man responsible for the torture, murder and disappearance of thousands of political opponents and other political opponents. He also dispensed favors and government contracts to businesses and political cronies who grew rich at the expense of the vast majority of the Argentine population. What the then Fr. Bergoglio experienced was not capitalism, but “crony capitalism” and fascism.

Climate Change

In one area the Roman pontiff broke new theological ground was in climate change. In remarks to the largest gathering of world leaders in U.N. history — close to 200 prime ministers, presidents and potentates, Pope Francis blamed environmental degradation on “a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity” that causes untold suffering for the poor who “are cast off by society.” This address follows his 180-page encyclical he wrote on the subject “Laudato Si’” (On Care for Our Common Home). Among other issues was a moral call for action for phasing out fossil fuels.

His comments, a repeat of what he said the previous day at the White House admonished against:

… a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity [which] leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged.

Francis called on the world’s rich nations to pay their “grave social debt” to the poor and take concrete steps on climate change, saying failure to do so presents an undeniable risk to a “common home” that is resembling a “pile of filth.”

While the pope’s comments and papal letter may have been birthed from the best of intentions, there are enough wide openings that have been inserted into them by those pushing for global control over climate change to the benefit of their scheme.

One needs to remember that these papal encyclicals are not written by the pope himself, but by a team of writers, many of them with their own agendas. They may reflect the pope’s overall intent, but other agendas may hide in the details of the letter.

Former Vatican observer and child rights attorney Elizabeth Yore stated she was “shocked at the leftist number of experts [the Curia] brought in to the Pontifical Academy,” citing population control advocates Jeffrey Sachs and Hans J. Schnellnhuber, who helped co-author the Vatican’s April 2015 climate change encyclical.

This begs the question of whether the pope is being used for a larger agenda of which he may not be aware.

A Danger to Avoid

There are many things in the pope’s theology of which to be critical. The errors in the doctrines of transubstantiation, sacraments, conditional salvation by works, Mary’s place in the Church, prayer to saints, etc. are all deep and significant. We need to be discerning when critiquing the words and actions of others, be it laymen or religious leaders.

We all have the obligation to reach out to Roman Catholics. We should love our neighbors of whatever faith they hold. We should befriend them and spend time with them. By doing so, we earn the right to lovingly critique their views.

When we critique them, however, we need to be accurate in our criticism and do so in a spirit of love without resulting to ad hominum arguments.

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On Waters Above – Why NASA’s Announcement About Water on Mars Contributes Nothing to the Creation Science Debate

‎06 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:28:44 AM | William Welty, Ph.D.Go to full article
Ed. Note: Dr. William Welty, is the Executive Director of the ISV foundation and also serves as a research analyst in Advanced Communication Technologies and Adjunct Professor of Middle Eastern Studies on the faculty of Koinonia Institute. The opinions expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Koinonia Institute.

Then God said, “Let there be a canopy between bodies of water, separating bodies of water from bodies of water!”

— Genesis 1:6, (ISV)

I read with interest Monday, some Internet news reports that screamed with almost delirious joy an announcement released by NASA that, at long last and after decades of scientific speculation, flowing water has been observed as a present (if not seasonal) reality on the planet Mars. Writing for The Associated Press, Marcia Dunn pontificated:

Mars appears to have flowing rivulets of water, at least in the summer, scientists reported Monday in a finding that boosts the odds of life on the red planet.

Hale Crater streaks


Dark, narrow streaks on Martian slopes such as these at Hale Crater are inferred to be formed by seasonal flow of water on contemporary Mars. (NASA)

Garni Crater Dark narrow streaks


Dark narrow streaks, called “recurring slope lineae,” emanate from the walls of Garni Crater on Mars. (NASA)

“Mars is not the dry, arid planet that we thought of in the past,” said Jim Green, director of planetary science for NASA.

Conspiracy Theory Responses

NASA’s press release did not come without controversy, however. At virtually the same time that it posted news about NASA’s announcement, The Drudge Report also posted rumors that NASA timed the announcement to coincide with release of director Ridley Scott’s latest science fiction thriller, “The Martian”, which had been slated for release the very week of the announcement by NASA. The next day, writing for Breitbart News, John Nolte observed:

Keep in mind that NASA’s big announcement is NOT that water has been found on Mars. The news is that NASA has found only SIGNS of water on Mars. And now, probably by accident, “Martian” director Ridley Scott has confirmed that NASA timed the release of this bombshell maybe-news for the week of the movie’s release.

Production still from The Martian


Production still from 20th Century Fox press release for The Martian, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon. (Breitbart)

On one level, “The Martian” may be functioning as a giant advertisement for NASA, but the close collaboration between the space agency and Ridley Scott’s film-making team has resulted in the director remaining blasé about the dramatic announcement of evidence of flowing water on Mars. “I knew that months ago,” he said in response to the news. …

Scott said he had seen the photographs of water flows “about two months ago” – meaning that it was too late to incorporate the revelation into the film’s narrative.

NASA knew this months ago .

Personally, I don’t take much stock in conspiracy theories. And no, I don’t think the timing of the announcement has anything to do with the so-called Blood Moons nonsense or the currently occurring retrograde motion of the planet Mercury. If there’s any conspiracy going on at NASA, it’s more likely that senior management is posturing their announcements about finding signs of flowing water on Mars in order to boost the likelihood as we approach the end of the federal government’s fiscal year that their NASA space exploration budget remains intact or is even increased.

The Genesis Record

With all due respect to the commendable work that NASA has accomplished to bring the Mars Orbiter images back to earth for processing, nothing in NASA’s announcement comes as a surprise to those who take the message of Genesis seriously.

For example, if one examines what Moses wrote circa 1,400 BC in Genesis 1:6–10, this is what you’ll learn about what happened on the second and third days of God’s creation week activities:

(6) Then God said, “Let there be a canopy between bodies of water, separating bodies of water from bodies of water!” (7) So God made a canopy that separated the water beneath the canopy from the water above it. And that is what happened: (8) God called the canopy “sky.” The twilight and the dawn were the second day. (9) Then God said, “Let the water beneath the sky come together into one area, and let dry ground appear!” And that is what happened: (10) God called the dry ground “land,” and he called the water that had come together “oceans.” And God saw how good it was. (ISV)

Observe, if you would please, how the creation text informs an observant reader that when God created the universe, he placed water throughout His universe. What God did with this water is described in the passage from Genesis that we’ve cited above: During the second day of the creation activities described in the Genesis creation narrative, the text informs us that God separated the water that he had created into two distinct portions.

  • First, he made a boundary that placed water that existed beneath the visible canopy of the sky, as verse 6 informs us. This reference to water designates the water content contained in and limited to the atmosphere of the earth, on the earth’s surface, or beneath it.
  • Second, Moses distinguished water that would be native to earth from water that lay beyond or above the sky canopy, as verse 7 informs us.

To sum up the implications of the Genesis narrative, creationists say NASA’s announcement that signs of flowing water have been sighted on Mars is old news, and it comes as no surprise. Quite the opposite, the Jewish and Christian communities observe the NASA announcement with a sort of bemused detachment.

We respond by saying to NASA, “Congratulations! You’ve finally concluded what Moses told the ancient Israelis in the fifteen century BC!” After decades of space exploration, NASA scientists finally climb to the top of the mountain of solar system knowledge about Mars—only to find the giver of The Torah sitting there on the top of that mountain. Personally, I visualize the man sitting next to a big pile of bagels and cream cheese with a sly grin on his face while he informs NASA that God knew there was water on Mars all along. In short, the NASA announcement is a big “Ho-hum! That’s boring!”

Did Life on Mars Start There? Or on Earth? Or Somewhere Else?

Here’s what’s really behind the NASA announcement: Anybody who is desperate to keep a knowledge of God out of their life is going to try to keep even the possibility of divine intervention or activity on a non-existent level. For these people, if life is unique to earth, then maybe the earth and its living species really are extraordinary. And they don’t want to contemplate that reality. So they speculate that life must have originated from a place other than earth. In their view, this kind of logic leads to the possibility of life existing on Mars on the one hand, or on the other hand, it can lead extremists to think life was planted on earth by someone or something else. But the creationist community suggests that both possibilities have very simple explanations. As to the first possibility that there exists microbial life on Mars, conservative evangelicals who take the Bible seriously suggest that if it’s ever found, it’s more likely that it arrived there from earth. Either:

  • It arrived within the last few decades on a human-engineered planetary lander that wasn’t quite as sterile as their builders thought that they had made it; or,
  • Life on Mars may have existed in the dim and ancient past, when it was brought there by antediluvian, but entirely human, astronauts who lived before the earth was first destroyed by the flood of Noah’s day; or,
  • An ancient catastrophic meteor strike on earth may have sent portions of the earth’s surface into orbit, where the orbital detritus intersected with Mars, thus infecting Mars with earth-generated microbes.

Now as to this last possibility, it has been widely suggested that a number of meteorites discovered (particularly in the earth’s arctic regions) have come from Mars in the ancient past. We wonder if the trip could not have been two-way?

The Origin of Earth’s Life: The Ultimate Off-Earth Event

Then there’s the question of whether life originated on earth or from beyond earth. It will doubtlessly come as a surprise to many evangelicals that, strictly speaking, the Bible does not claim that earth’s life originated on earth. It only claims that life on earth was crafted there by a supreme Intelligence who visited His own creation from his origin/home in another dimension in order to craft the plants and animals and then to breathe His own Spirit of life into those creations. This supreme Intelligence is the God of the Bible. His name in Hebrew (transliterated from the Hebrew language into English as YHWH) is also referred to as the eternal and uncreated creative Word of God. In the New Testament, the Apostle John identifies this being with more specificity: He identifies him as Jesus the Messiah, the Angel of the LORD who created the entire Universe, who fashioned the first human beings from the dust of the ground, who brought them to life, and who eventually became one of them in the Incarnation through his Jewish mother Mary, a descendant of King David.

In short, creationists do believe that all life on earth originated off planet, so to speak. That’s because we say the transcendent God and creator, the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus the Messiah, who was the creative agent who brought the entire Universe into existence, personally visited earth to fashion all life, including the origin of human life, on a young earth. In a limited way, then, creationists can say that life on earth originated from off planet, so to speak, when God invaded his own creation to fashion our first parents from the dust of the earth.

Now as to the implications of flowing water having been discovered on Mars, we’re happy to congratulate NASA: well done, ladies and gentlemen. Do keep up the good work. But keep your science honest. If you do, you’ll doubtlessly discover that the more you study God’s creation, the more your findings square with the writings of the man who wrote, “In the beginning, God created the Universe.” (Genesis 1:1, ISV).

About the Holy Bible: International Standard Version

The ISV, version 2.0, produced by the ISV Foundation, is quoted exclusively herein. It was produced by a team of conservative professional biblical and lay scholars drawn from the international Christian community. It is published in a variety of electronic formats Visit http://isv.org to learn more.

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Historic Agreement of Historic Mistake?

‎06 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:27:09 AM | Steve ElwartGo to full article
(Note: Aviel Schneider is the Chief Editor of Israel Today, a Jerusalem Messianic magazine. This is a reprint of a cover story that first appeared in the August 2015 issue of the magazine.)

From the Israeli perspective, the world powers were outsmarted and duped by Shiite Iran. Sunni Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the Persian Gulf states agree. This deal means “the end of the Arab world as we know it,” said Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.

Arab Affairs expert Ehud Yaari quoted commentators from the Arab world who see the agreement as a disaster. As one Saudi newspaper put it: “Washington behaves toward Iran just as it did toward Nazi Germany before World War II.”

Saudi analyst Jamal Khashoggi warned of an atomic arms race in the Middle East, saying, “This will whet the appetite of Saudi Arabia to develop its own nuclear program.” Others in the Arab press wrote that the West is naïve.

“Israel is not bound by this deal… because Iran continues to seek our destruction,” said Netanyahu. “The world is a much more dangerous place today than it was yesterday.”

Underscoring the deep rift between Jerusalem and Washington, President Barack Obama said the exact opposite at a news conference: “This deal will make America and the world safer and more secure.”

Defense analyst Ron Ben Yishai says the agreement puts the military option back on the table. “Israel must prepare for a potential preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities,” he wrote on the Ynet website.

Others took a more sober approach.

“There is too much hysteria,” said Amos Yadlin, a former general who headed military intelligence. “The nuclear deal is a very bad one, but we should not get into a panic over it.”

Military expert Alex Fishman agreed, saying it is not a catastrophe and that Israel must tread carefully. “If Israel torpedoes the agreement, it will endanger relations between Jerusalem and Washington,” he cautioned.

Netanyahu compared the situation to President Bill Clinton’s agreement with North Korea in 1994, “This agreement will help to achieve… an end to the threat of nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula,” Clinton said at the time. Twelve years later, North Korea exploded a nuclear device in an underground test.

The agreement was useless and the parallel with Iran is clear. “This is a bad deal,” Netanyahu said. “It is not less bad, in my opinion, it is worse than the deal … that led to a nuclear arsenal in North Korea.”

In the end, it was not about Israel’s security, but business deals worth billions of dollars which western companies could not cash in because of the sanctions. Journalist Itamar Eichner quotes an Israeli government source who says that Iran will earn $600–700 billion from oil and other sales in the next 15 years. “It can be said with certainty that
the money will be transferred to support terrorism and proxy states (like Hezbollah
in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza),” said the source.

In fact, “60 percent of the 160 pages in the agreement are about the lifting of sanctions,” Yaari explained on Channel Two TV. “Iran insisted that every specific Iranian company be listed in the agreement, so there won’t be any misconceptions.” He added that sanctions will even be lifted against Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the elite Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Force in Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, which exports terror to the Middle East and worldwide.

“Some 30 percent of the agreement is about curbs on the Iranian nuclear program, which does not stop research and development,” Yaari said. “Only 10 percent clarifies how international monitoring of the Iranian nuclear facilities will work.”

The agreement is also full of contradictions. For instance, it talks about “snapback” sanctions if Iran violates the deal, but it also says that signed business contracts must be honored.

History will be the judge of whether this deal was a historic breakthrough or a historic mistake.


The Dangers of Moral Relativism

‎29 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎03:21:07 AM | Steve ElwartGo to full article

How terrible it will be for those who call evil good and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, who substitute what is bitter for what is sweet and what is sweet for what is bitter!

— Isaiah 5:20, (ISV)

You Have Your Truth, We Have Ours

General Sir Charles James Napier (1782–1853) was a general of the British Empire. For a time in the late 1840s he was commander of all British forces in India.

A story for which Napier is often noted involved Hindu priests complaining to him about the prohibition of Sati by British authorities. This was the custom of burning a widow alive on the funeral pyre of her husband. As first recounted by his brother William, he replied:

“Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.”

Napier practiced a concept of moral absolutism. He believed in a single, triune God — an absolute Lawgiver. If there is an absolute Lawgiver, there must be an absolute law. Hindus, on the other hand, do not have a concept of one God. To them, God is utterly beyond form and definition; he is both unknown and unknowable. Their concept of god is more attune with the forces of nature, therefore there are many gods. If there are many gods, then there are many “truths.” That means “the truth” is relative. Your truth is different from my truth. All truth is valid.

Today, it seems the moral relativism that is insinuating itself into society is making its way into the American armed forces. Recent actions by the United States Army against a decorated soldier have exposed a long-standing stance the military has taken of looking the other way toward atrocities committed by foreign nationals in countries where American troops are stationed.

It has come to the attention of at least one U.S. Congressman that the U.S. Department of Defense is discharging Sergeant First Class (SFC) Charles Martland after a distinguished 11-year career in the Special Forces. His crime? Confronting a man who was sexually assaulting a youth while Martland was serving in Afghanistan.

The incident occurred in 2011 during the sergeant’s second deployment in Afghanistan. After learning an Afghan boy was raped and his mother beaten while attempting to stop the rape, Sgt. Martland and his team leader confronted a local police commander. This was the same man they trained, armed and paid with U.S. taxpayer dollars. When the man laughed off the incident, they physically assaulted him.

They were punished by the Army at the time — but exactly why Martland is now being discharged is a matter of dispute. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) is looking into the case. With regard to the incident, Hunter told Secretary of Defense Ash Carter: “To intervene was a moral decision, and Sargent Martland and his Green Beret team leader felt they had no choice but to respond.” Martland is described by many of his teammates as the finest soldier they have ever served alongside.

Why did Martland believe he had to respond? Apparently, “don’t ask, don’t tell” wasn’t a policy that applied only to homosexuals.

Homosexual abuse of young boys in Afghanistan is a practice called bacha bazi(boy play), and American soldiers and Marines have been instructed not to intervene — in some cases, not even when their Afghan allies have abused boys on military bases, according to interviews and court records. When troops reported such abuse, they were instructed to look the other way.

This was a practice abhorrent to Martland who could not sit idly by and allow it to happen.

A Career Cut Short

Martland was awarded a Bronze Star with Valor for his actions. According to one evaluation, he also was “praised” by Gen. David Petraeus, then commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan. Among his other honors was being named runner-up for 2014 Special Warfare Training Group Instructor of the Year from a pool of 400 senior leaders in the Special Forces.

In part because of his skill in training, he was assigned to train Afghan forces during his deployment. Once there, he realized there was a problem with the men he was training to become local police officers. “We had been hearing for months about raping in our province, not just in Afghanistan,” said Daniel Quinn, a fellow trainer, U.S. Military Academy graduate and the team leader of the detachment sent to Kunduz.

One day in early September 2011 at their remote outpost, a young Afghan boy who was limping and his Afghan-Uzbek mother, visibly bruised, showed up at camp. The 12-year-old showed the Green Berets marks on his hands where he had been tied. The mother explained one of the Afghan police commanders in the area, Abdul Rahman, abducted her son and forced him to become a sex slave, chaining him to a bed. She explained that since “her son was such a good-looking kid, he was a status symbol” coveted by local commanders. When she sought her son’s return, she herself was beaten. Her son eventually had been released, but she was afraid it would happen again.

A medic took him to a back room for an examination with an interpreter and confirmed the mother’s story.

After learning of the meeting, Rahman allegedly beat the boy’s mother for reporting the crime. It was at this point, the Green Berets had enough. Quinn and Martland went to confront Rahman. “He confessed to the crime and laughed about it, and said it wasn’t a big deal. Even when we patiently explained how serious the charge was, he kept laughing,” Quinn said.

According to Quinn, “I picked him up and threw him onto the ground.” Sergeant Martland joined in, he said. “I did this to make sure the message was understood that if he went back to the boy that it was not going to be tolerated,” It was the only way to get their point across, according to Quinn. “As a man, as a father of a young boy myself at the time, I felt obliged to step in to prevent further repeat occurrences.”

Rahman walked away bruised from getting shoved and thrown to the ground, but otherwise OK, according to teammates. But Rahman quickly reported the incident to another Army unit in a nearby village. The next day a U.S. Army helicopter landed and took Quinn and Martland away, ending their work in Kunduz Province.

Both men were relieved from their positions and sent home. Their war was over. Then effective Nov. 1, 2015, the U.S. Army ordered Martland to be involuntarily discharged from service.

According to a Los Angeles Times article, an Army colonel last week was quoted as saying of Martland and Quinn, “They put their team’s life at risk by doing what they did, by risking catastrophic loss of rapport” with local Afghan officials.

Representative Hunter responded: “To say that you’ve got to be nice to the child rapist because otherwise the other child rapists might not like you is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard — totally insane and wrong. … It’s sad to think that a child rapist is put above one of our elite military operators. Sergeant Martland was left with no other choice but to intervene in a bad situation. The Army should stand up for what’s right and should not side with a corrupt Afghan police officer.”

Part of a Reoccurring Theme

This was not the first time this had happened, nor was it the only time the Army was made aware of the problem.

In 2012, Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley Jr. called his father from his bunk in southern Afghanistan. He said he could hear Afghan police officers sexually abusing boys they had brought onto the base.

“At night we can hear them screaming, but we’re not allowed to do anything about it,” the Marine’s father, Gregory Buckley Sr., recalled his son telling him before he was shot to death at the base in 2012. He urged his son to tell his superiors. “My son said that his officers told him to look the other way because it’s their culture.”

This is the logical outcome to moral relativism.

Moral Relativism is Not Moral

Followed to its logical conclusion, relativism will ultimately lead to moral anarchy and the disintegration of civilization. If we were free to decide our own standard of morality, laws would be meaningless and human rights could not exist.

Laws are standards that govern behavior—more accurately, standards that restrict behavior. Laws are byproducts of absolutism. They apply to everyone equally and are not open to private interpretation. They tell people how to act whether they want to or not.

Relativism leads to moral anarchy on a broad, cultural scale just as readily is it does on an individual scale. This is especially clear in the modern world where cultures bump up against one another. In a relativistic world, international peace is impossible. If standards of right and wrong were culturally controlled, one nation could never condemn the actions of another nation.

One nation could never condemn the actions that another nation takes even against its own people. The systematic slaughter of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust of World War II would have been allowed because it was not “against the law” in Nazi Germany. The Nazis believed the Jews were vermin to be exterminated.

Relativism is Illogical

Moral Relativism also fails to correspond to reality because is that it flies in the face of the laws of logic. For example, the law of non-contradiction is foundational to all rational thought and communication. All truth depends on this necessary first principle. But relativism violates the law of non-contradiction. Like pluralism as a whole, it takes blatantly contradictory truth claims and states that both are correct. This is logically impossible.

Christianity and pantheism cannot both reveal the true nature of God because their respective Gods are conspicuously different. Indeed, they are mutually exclusive. Likewise, if a man justifies adultery and his wife condemns it as sin, both opinions can’t be correct. It’s either sin, or it’s acceptable behavior: it can’t be both at the same time. Logically, relativism does not make sense.

Relativism is inconsistent

No one lives the philosophy of relativism consistently. In daily life, all people live and behave according to the same understanding of what makes up reality. One of the clearest examples of this is in the area of ethical behavior.

For example, adultery may be acceptable in some societies, but no society allows a man to just take any woman he wants. Stealing may not be a sin if carried out against another tribe, but you do not steal from your neighbor. Lying may be acceptable in certain situations. Killing may be permitted in warfare. But all people agree that it is wrong to steal from, lie to or murder just anyone. The concepts of stealing, lying, and killing are universally recognized as evil, and such acts are strictly controlled in every culture. People may claim ethics are relative, but all people enforce a universal moral code.

Many people believe that truth is relative and that people should be free to behave as they believe. However, people who preach relativism practice absolutism. The best example this author likes to use when one says “you have your truth and I have mine” is, “Fine, I’d like to have my money that’s in your wallet.” Their reaction demonstrates that relativism is inconsistent with the real world. Relativists simply do not practice what they preach.

If ethics were relative, there would be no moral or philosophical grounds for condemning the thief who believes stealing a car is acceptable or for being upset when one’s spouse commits adultery. As Christian apologist Francis Beckwith wrote:

In order to stay consistent, the ethical relativist cannot criticize intolerable moral practices, believe in real moral progress, or acknowledge the existence of real moral reformers. For these three forms of moral judgment presupposes the existence of real transcultural, nonrelative, objective values [i.e., the kind of absolute moral standards we receive from God]

By appealing to the police, relativists acknowledge a universal code of behavior that applies to both them and the thief (remember, laws point to absolutism, not relativism). By feeling pain, the woman is acknowledging that adultery is wrong even if she accepts moral relativity. In both cases, they are acknowledging a standard of right and wrong that applies to other people. This is absolutism.

People talk the talk of relativism but live the life of absolutism. Relativism is a philosophy, a worldview. To be valid, it must work in any and all situations. Otherwise it cannot represent truth. You can’t pick and choose where relativism applies and where is doesn’t. You either live with it or reject it. If you think stealing and adultery are wrong for all people, you are an absolutist.

An Erosive Worldview

This erosive worldview of moral relativism is becoming an ever-increasing threat to Christianity. Thousands of Christians are unwittingly assimilating this philosophy into their thinking, causing them to compromise their behavior, reject the uniqueness of Christianity by embracing religious pluralism, and dismissing Bible precepts in favor of religious experiences.

No matter what “truth” a person subscribes to, as the saying goes, “Reality always votes last.”

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Fall Feasts: Feast of Tabernacles

‎29 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎03:19:22 AM | Steve ElwartGo to full article

Celebrate the Feast of Tents for seven days after you harvest from your threshing floor and your wine press. Rejoice in your festival—you, your son, your daughter, your male and female slaves, the descendants of Levi, foreigners, orphans, and widows who live in your cities. For seven days you are to celebrate in the presence of the LORD your God at the place where the LORD will choose; for the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in everything you do, and your joy will be complete. “Every male must appear in the presence of the LORD your God three times a year at the place where he will choose: for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Seven Weeks, and the Feast of Tents. He must not appear in the LORD’s presence empty-handed, but each one must appear with his own gift, proportional to the blessing that the LORD your God has given you.

— Deuteronomy 16:13–17 (ISV)

Yesterday, Sunday Evening, Sept. 27 through Monday Evening, Oct. 5 marks the Feast of Tabernacles for this year.

The Meaning Behind the Feast

The Feast of Tabernacles, Feast of Unleavened Bread, was one of the three compulsory feasts that required faithful Jews to travel to the Temple in Jerusalem. Its name, Sukkot, means “booths” and these seven festive days during which the Jews construct temporary shelters make for a very colorful visit to Israel. The temporary family-sized tabernacles are built nearly anywhere — on rooftops and in backyards, on balconies and anywhere one will fit. The huts must have three sides and have a part of the roof open to the sky, and they can be built with a variety of materials. Palm leaves are a popular choice for the requirement that they include something that grew from the earth but is disconnected from it.

From inside these temporary shelters the Jews must be able to see the stars at night and the wind must be able to blow through the walls. This is to remind them of Israel’s long encampment in the wilderness under Moses. For one week the people of Israel are to live out in these structures, rejoicing and enjoying themselves. Sometimes it rains, and many eat and relax in the booths, but go sleep inside at night whether or not that was the original intent of the Law. At the end of Sukkot, they leave those temporary dwellings for their permanent homes. This is all done with great color and celebration.

In the days of the Temple the feast opened and closed with convocations of the people. There were daily sacrifices. The final day of the feast may have had the same rules against working as the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The remembrance of the wilderness wandering was considered an occasion of joy, connected to God’s saving work on Israel’s behalf. A large number of sacrifices were offered during the week’s celebration (Num. 29:12–38).

Other elements of this feast include remembering the pillar of fire that the Jews followed in the wilderness and the water gushing out of the rock at Moses’ command. Typically, participants waved palm branches and recited Psalm 118:26 — “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” This was also a time for celebrants to welcome and expect special guests.

The climax of the Gospel of John occurs at a celebration of Tabernacles (John 7, 8). Jesus identified himself as the light of the world (referring to the pillar of fire) and the giver of living water. We also see elements of this feast take place when Jesus entered Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday, even though it was not the season for this feast. The palm branches, shouting the words of Psalm 118:26, and welcoming a holy visitor to Jerusalem are elements of Tabernacles and identify Jesus as the Messiah.

The Three Chief Features of the Feast

Three things specially marked the Feast of Tabernacles: its joyous festivities, the dwelling in “booths,” and the peculiar sacrifices and rites of the week.

The first characteristic was a “feast of ingathering:”

Celebrate the Feast of Tents for seven days after you harvest from your threshing floor and your wine press. Rejoice in your festival—you, your son, your daughter, your male and female slaves, the descendants of Levi, foreigners, orphans, and widows who live in your cities. For seven days you are to celebrate in the presence of the LORD your God at the place where the LORD will choose; for the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in everything you do, and your joy will be complete. “Every male must appear in the presence of the LORD your God three times a year at the place where he will choose: for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Seven Weeks, and the Feast of Tents. He must not appear in the LORD’s presence empty-handed, but each one must appear with his own gift, proportional to the blessing that the LORD your God has given you.

— Deuteronomy 16:13–17 (ISV)

Votive, freewill, and peace offerings would mark their gratitude to God, and at the meal which ensued the poor, the stranger, the Levite, and the homeless would be welcome guests, for the Lord’s sake. When the people saw the treasury chests opened and emptied at this feast for the last time in the year, they would remember their brethren at a distance, in whose name, as well as their own, the daily and festive sacrifices were offered. so their liberality would not only be stimulated, but all Israel, however widely dispersed, would feel itself renewed before the Lord. There was, besides, something about this feast which would peculiarly remind them, if not of their dispersion, yet of their being “strangers and pilgrims in the earth.”

The second characteristic was that during the seven days of its continuance “every native born of Israel is to live in booths; in order for your future generations to know that the Israelis lived in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 23:43, ISV)

The festival of Sukkot in Israel

The festival of Sukkot in Israel (Yahoo News)

The Booths

As the saying goes, if you have two Jews, you have three opinions. There was a controversy between the Pharisees and the Sadducees over the interpretation of this part of the Law. The Torah said:

On the first day, take branches from impressive fruit trees, branches from palm trees, boughs from thick trees, and poplars from the brooks. Then you are to rejoice in the presence of the LORD your God for seven days.

— Leviticus 23:40 (ISV)

The Sadducees (as do the modern Karaite Jews) took this to mean the materials that made up the booths, while the Pharisees applied it to what the worshipers were to carry in their hands.

The latter interpretation is, in all likelihood, the correct one; it seems borne out by the account of the festival at the time of Nehemiah (cf. Nehemiah 8:15, 18), when the booths were constructed of branches of trees other than those mentioned in Leviticus 23 and it was universally adopted in practice at the time of Christ. The Mishnah gives most minute details as to the height and construction of these “booths”, the main object being to prevent any evasion of the law. Therefore it must be a real booth, and constructed of boughs of living trees and only for the purposes of this festival. Therefore it must be high enough, yet not too high: at least ten handbreadths (about 90 cm or 36 inches.), but not more than 30 feet. Three of its walls must be of boughs; it must be fairly covered with boughs, yet not so shaded as not to admit sunshine, nor yet so open as to have not enough shade, the object in each case being neither sunshine nor shade, but it should be a real booth of tree boughs.

It is needless to enter into further details, except to say that these booths, and not their houses, were to be the regular dwelling of all in Israel during the week, and except in very heavy rain, they were to eat, sleep, pray and study; in short, entirely to live in them. The only exceptions were for those absent on some pious duty, the sick and their attendants, women, slaves and infants who were still depending on their mothers. Finally, the rule was “whatever might contract Levitical defilement (boards, cloth, etc.), or whatever did not grow out of the earth, might not be used” in constructing the booths.

Lulav Æthrog Set

Lulav Æthrog Set (Boulder Jewish News)

The Fruit and Palm Branches

It has already been stated that, according to the view universally prevalent at the time of Christ, the direction on the first day of the feast to “take branches from impressive fruit trees, branches from palm trees, boughs from thick trees, and poplars from the brooks.” was applied to what the worshipers were to carry in their hands. The Rabbis ruled “the fruit of the goodly trees” meant the œthrog, or citron, and “the boughs of thick trees” the myrtle, provided it had “not more berries than leaves.”

The œthrogs must be without blemish or deficiency of any kind; the palm branches at least three handbreadths high, and fit to be shaken; and each branch fresh, entire, unpolluted, and not taken from any idolatrous grove. Every worshiper carried the œthrog in his left hand, and in his right the lulav, or palm, with myrtle and willow branch on either side of it, tied together on the outside with its own kind, though in the inside it might be fastened even with gold thread.

The lulav was intended to remind Israel of the different stages of their wilderness journey as represented by the different vegetation. The willow has no fragrance and bears no fruit. The myrtle is fragrant, but has no fruit. The palm on the other hand has no fragrance but does yield fruit. Finally, there’s a fourth branch called an œthrog. It looks like a lemon but is as large as a grapefruit. The œthrog is very, very fragrant with an intense taste. It was to remind them of the fruits of the good land which the Lord had given them. A variety of sermons might be pulled from the potential symbolism here, and it might even be tied to the four soils of Matthew 13: 18–23 when Jesus explains the Parable of the Sower.

The lulav was used in the Temple on each of the seven festive days, even children, if they were able to shake it, being bound to carry one. If the first day of the feast fell on a Sabbath, the people brought their lulavs on the previous day into the synagogue on the Temple Mount, and fetched them in the morning, so as not needlessly to break the Sabbath rest.

The Offerings

The third characteristic of the Feast of Tabernacles was its offerings. These were altogether peculiar. The sin offering for each of the seven days was “one kid of the goats.” The burnt offerings consisted of bullocks, rams and lambs, with their proper meat and drink offerings. But the number of the rams and lambs remained the same on each day of the festival that of the bullocks decreased every day by one—from 13 on the first to seven bullocks on the last day, “that great day of the feast.” As no special injunctions are given about the drink offering, we infer that it was usually, 1 ¼ of a hin of wine for each lamb, 1/3 for each ram, and 1/2 for each bullock (the hin = 1 gallon, 2 pints). The “meat offering” is fixed at 1/10 of an ephah of flour (about 3/5 of a bushel), mixed with 1/4 of a hin of oil, for each lamb; 2/10 of an ephah, with 1/3 hin of oil, for each ram; and 3/10 of an ephah, with 1/2 hin of oil, for each bullock.

Three things are remarkable about these burnt offerings:

First, they are evidently the characteristic sacrifice of the Feast of Tabernacles. As compared with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the number of the rams and lambs is double, while that of the bullocks is fivefold (14 during the Passover week, 5 × 14 during that of Tabernacles).

Second, the number of the burnt-sacrifices, whether taking each kind by itself or all of them together, is always divisible by the number seven. We have for the week 70 bullocks, 14 rams and 98 lambs or altogether 182 sacrifices (26 × 7), to which must be added 336 (48 × 7) tenths of ephahs of flour for the meat offering. It is interesting to note the number 7 appeared at the Feast of Unleavened Bread only in the number of its days, and at Pentecost in the period of its observance (7 × 7 days after Passover). The Feast of Tabernacles lasted seven days and took place when the seventh month was at its full height and had the number 7 impressed on its characteristic sacrifices.

It is not so easy to account for the third peculiarity of these sacrifices—that of the daily decrease in the number of bullocks offered. The common explanation was that it was intended to show the decreasing sanctity of each successive day of the feast, while the number 7 was still to be reserved for the last day, is not more satisfactory than the view offered in the Talmud that these sacrifices were offered, not for Israel, but for the nations of the world: “There were seventy bullocks, to correspond to the number of the seventy nations in the world.” It is difficult to imagine that the Rabbis would embed the prophetic character of this ritual into this feast. Clearly, there is something inspired going on here.

On the day before the Feast of Tabernacles—the 14th of Tishri—the festive pilgrims had all arrived in Jerusalem. The “booths” on the roofs, in the courtyards, in streets and squares, as well as roads and gardens, within a Sabbath day’s journey, must have given the city and neighborhood an unusually picturesque appearance. The preparation of all that was needed for the festival—purification, the care of the offerings that each would bring, and friendly communications between those who were to be invited to the sacrificial meal—no doubt sufficiently occupied their time. When the early autumn evening set in, the blasts of the priests’ trumpets on the Temple Mount announced to Israel the advent of the feast.

The Feast of Tabernacles in the New Testament

In Mark 9 and Matthew 17 Christ’s transfiguration seems to take place during the Feast of Tabernacles. The Gospels recount that Jesus went up to the Mount of Transfiguration ((which many scholars believe was Mount Hermon) where He was transfigured in front of the three “insiders,” Peter, James and John. Peter wanted to make three booths, which is why some people think this was in the fall: it was around the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. (Peter will allude to this heavily in his second letter.)

Six days later, Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John and led them up a high mountain by themselves. His appearance was changed in front of them, his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus. Then Peter told Jesus, “Lord, it’s good that we’re here! If you want, I’ll set up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when a bright cloud suddenly overshadowed them. A voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love. I am pleased with him. Keep on listening to him!”

— Matthew 17:1–5 (ISV)

After healing a possessed boy, Jesus went back to Capernaum. Jesus went down to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles where He declared Himself to be the Living Water:

On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and shouted, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink! The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have rivers of living water flowing from his heart.”

— John 7:37–38 (ISV)

Later, in John 8, He forgave the woman taken in adultery, and returned to Galilee.

The Fulfillment of the Feast

It’s been suggested that of the three feasts held in the seventh month (Feast of Trumpets, The Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles), this one represents the Millennial Kingdom. There the people of God will live until it is time to leave their temporary shelters and enter into their permanent home. Sukkot suggests a temporary delay before receiving our permanent habitation, as alluded to by Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:2, “For in this one we sigh, since we long to put on our heavenly dwelling.”(ISV)

Most scholars agree the spring feasts — the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Firstfruits — are predictive of the first coming of Christ. All the elements of those first three feasts were fulfilled and not only that, they were fulfilled on the very days they are observed. That fact is both fascinating and potentially enlightening as well. This leads many to expect the Fall Feasts anticipate Christ’s Second Coming. One should study and review the details of the Feast of Trumpets, The Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles on your own and pray for understanding so that you can make your own conclusions accurately.

(With excerpts from Chuck Missler’s and Dan Stolebarger’s book The Feasts of Israel and Alfred Edersheim’s book The Temple, Its Ministry and Services as They Were at the Time of Jesus Christ)

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Syrian Refugee Crisis

‎21 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎11:27:12 PM | Steve ElwartGo to full article

Give us advice; reach a decision! Cast your shadow as if night had come at high noon. Shelter the fugitives, And don’t betray a single refugee.

— Isaiah 16:3 (ISV)

Europe is facing an existential crisis that not only threatens the EU, but the national sovereignty of the member countries themselves. Whatever immigration problems North America faces, it pales in comparison to what is happening in Europe.

Why Now?

A question many are asking is “Why now?”

This is a problem that has been brewing for a while. It came to Europe in four stages:

  1. The first step of the refugee crisis was the persecution that forces refugees to flee their homes in the first place. Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad deliberately targeted Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority, civilian and rebel alike, for slaughter. His goal was to polarize the conflict on religious lines, to turn what began as a broad-based uprising against a dictator into a sectarian war, with religious minorities on his side. Some are fleeing war, some political persecution, and some other kinds of violence.
  2. The second step is what happens to those refugees once they are forced out of their homes: Often, though not always, they end up in camps. Life in the camps is often difficult, cramped and unsafe, with few prospects for work or education. This is a crisis for the refugees as well for as the countries that house them; for instance, host countries like Lebanon and Turkey are struggling to manage their camps for refugees and to absorb the thousands of people who live in them.
  3. The third step is what happens when refugee families, perhaps after seeing that the camps offer them little hope or protection, seek safety from persecution farther afield, often in developed countries, particularly in Europe.
  4. The fourth step is the one that many Western countries are experiencing now: what happens when large numbers of refugees show up. Often, they face systems that are badly broken — the squalid overcrowded camps in Greece, for example — or are overtly hostile to refugees. This is changing, but most European countries are still trying to keep refugees out and refusing to accept even a remotely sufficient number of them for resettlement, which means the families who make it to Europe end up in camps, sleeping in train stations, or living in fear of deportation.

A Problem Has Come Home to Roost

Hungary had been warning its fellow EU members for months that refugees and illegal migrants were crossing its border in increasing numbers. The only response Hungary got back from Brussels was to “shut up and take it.” The Hungarians were criticized and ridiculed by Brussels for even being concerned about this.

In the past weeks, however, the good-sized trickle of humanity crossing their border turned into an absolute flood with thousands of people crossing the border from Serbia into Hungary every day. Even under the most ideal economic conditions could handle such a massive influx of people and Hungary is not a wealthy country. Even Germany, the wealthiest of the EU member countries (Gross domestic product=2.9 trillion euros) will have a difficult time taking in hundreds of thousands of people. This has caused the EU countries to take actions they feel is in their national interest, but is against the EU charter.

Germany, for example has just recently decided to take a go slow approach to immigration and rigidly enforce the EU Dublin Agreement on immigration where refugees are to be fingerprinted in the EU country where they first enter. In the past this rule was not enforced and refugees were fingerprinted in their destination country. Now, refugees are deported back to the first EU country they entered, often Italy or Greece, which have the worst welfare provision for these people. Also, Germany is implementing stricter border control to slow down the flow of immigrants into their country. This has caused a backflow of immigrants in Austria, Hungary and Italy. In turn, the Hungarian government is enforcing their border controls, which is putting more pressure on Serbia.

And so it goes.

European Union

A Look Back

Looking back the vast majority of those who are escaping are coming from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. All of these countries have been ripped apart by warfare and civil strife. The situation in these countries, particularly in Syria, is so dire it seems like now is the time to get out, especially since there is a vehicle for them through the EU to escape.

A Different Kind of Refugee

If one would visit Munich and see the people coming into the train station there, they do not have the look of a stereotypical refugee. They are well dressed; they are in Western clothes; they have smart phones. One trait that does identify them as refugees is a look of dejection.

On the whole, these people come from the middle class. After all, these people are paying smugglers to get to Europe. A lot of them are leaving from Turkey. The family of the little boy whose picture captivated the world was leaving a refugee camp in Turkey.

This boy’s family was leaving a refugee camp in Turkey.

This boy’s family was leaving a refugee camp in Turkey.(CNN)

They’re paying smugglers, up to $2,000 a person to be smuggled into Greece. Many times, the payment gets them passage on a craft that is barely seaworthy and in many cases; these unfortunates don’t even get that. (Because most Westerners don’t even have $1,000 in emergency funds, one can imagine only the well-heeled can afford passage to Europe.) It is the middle class, even the upper middle class that is leaving these countries. These are the very people that are needed to rebuild these countries if any kind of normalcy returns to their homelands.

A Failure of Foreign Policy

Those that believe this is all because of President Assad are missing the point. If this is the case why in 2009 weren’t people streaming out? Why not in 2010?

It was only after the West announced Assad had to go, fomented an uprising, and then pulled out that the problems started. Power abhors a vacuum and when the West left the region without leaving a stable, viable government behind, the Islamic State was able to fill that void and begin their brand of vicious jihad.

The West’s Response

Maybe since they realize they are partly to blame for the current crisis, the West has said they are willing to take in some of the refugees. They have a daunting task on their hands. More than 500,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean so far this year, and about 3,000 of them have died. With 4,000 people arriving on the Greek islands daily, the crisis is growing.

While not an official number, sources say German officials have stated they will take in up to 800,000 refugees into the country, though the German people may have a much lower figure in mind. It won’t take long to reach that figure. The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stated up to 3,000 people a day are coming into Hungary.

Numbers of internally displaced people (in Syria), Syrian refugees (in neighboring countries), and Syrian registered asylum-seekers (in Europe)

Numbers of internally displaced people (in Syria), Syrian refugees (in neighboring countries), and Syrian registered asylum-seekers (in Europe) — Focus on Syria

Hungary, which shares a border with Serbia, is facing a mini-insurrection. It is trying to get these people into refugee centers so they can be documented, which is required by EU law. The refugees are afraid they will be turned back so are breaking out of the centers. Many of the refugees are men of army age, look healthy and are very unruly. These people will be tough to contain.

The people who do make it out of the warzones into Europe are serving as an example to those back home who want to leave. Those who make it to Europe want to get to Germany since those who are arriving would be eligible for state welfare benefits. These benefits are incredible compared to Syria that has nothing to offer but despair.

The Coming Demographic Shift

Some politicians in the destination counties, such as Germany think this an ideal situation for them. While their economy may take a hit in the short term in welfare payments to these people, many politicos believe the influx of refugees will solve their demographic problem. They also think these low-wage refugees are the answer to their skyrocketing labor costs.

One thing Western and Central Europe has been suffering is depopulation as the birth rate declines.

Europe is dying.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the last time the countries of the EU were reproducing at replacement levels (that is, slightly more than two children per woman) was the mid–1970s. In 2014, the average number of children per woman was about 1.6. That is up a bit from the nadir in 2001, but has been falling again for more than half a decade. Imagine a world where many people have no sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts or uncles. That is where Europe is heading in the coming decades. There are exceptions. France has risen to exactly two children per woman in 2012, from 1.95 in 1980, an increase largely attributed to a system of government payments to parents, not a change in the culture of family life. Is there anything more dystopian than the notion that population decline can be slowed only when states bribe their citizens to reproduce? (Russia has also resorted to bribing their citizens by declaring a national “Day of Conception” for people to take a day off from work to reproduce.)

The one bright spot seems to be immigration. In 2012, the median age of the national population in the EU was 41.9 years, while the median age of foreigners living in the union was 34.7. So many Europeans are pleased there will be new arrivals to work and pay taxes when the locals retire.

Many, however, are not. Anti-immigrant sentiment is surging across the Continent. Nativist movements performed alarmingly well in European Parliament elections last year and the anti-immigrant movement is growing.


Just as with the illegal immigrants in the United States, the refugees in Europe are there to stay. The problem now becomes not how to deport them, but how to bring these people into the economy. How, for example, do you bring in people that have very, very different religious backgrounds, experiences and perspectives on life into a rural German village of 1,200 people who have lived there for tens of generations? What happens to a local (and national) society when there is an influx of another 1,000 people in a village of 1,000 who share none of the history with these people? It’s difficult to quantify these things, but these are real things people face.

Just like many decisions politicians make, the immigration decisions being made now could well have unintended consequences.

While the large majority of refugees are Christian, an estimated 25 percent of people coming into Europe are Sunni Muslims who were driven out of Syria by Assad. The Muslims who have come to Europe before them have shown little inclination to assimilate into the culture and have been a source of sectarian violence their adoptive countries. They also offer a fertile recruiting ground for extremist Muslim factions already in the country. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution is monitoring 30 mosques and about 1,900 Islamists in the state, according to authorities.

Muslim clerics also realize Europe has a demographic problem. Sheikh Muhammad Ayed gave the speech at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem urging Muslims to have children with westerners so they could “trample them underfoot, Allah willing.”

Throughout Europe, all the hearts are enthused with hatred toward Muslims. They wish that we were dead, but they have lost their fertility, so they look for fertility in our midst. We will give them fertility. We will breed children with them, because we shall conquer their countries.

This tactic did not originate with the mullahs. Stalin wanted to import ethnic Russians into the Baltic States. It wasn’t so the Baltic States could enjoy Russian culture. It was to convert the Baltic countries into Russian states.

Importing Terror

There is another dimension to the refugee crisis. The Islamic State is boasting they are planting terrorists among the refugees coming into Europe. Part of ISIS’s plan is to smuggle in terrorists and create still more turmoil in Western Europe. Whether this is true or merely propaganda will probably not be known until it is too late.

This seems to be more fact than boast.

As we have learned recently, a lot of information can be gleaned from social media. Analysts have seen pictures of jihadists coming into Germany and pictures of those same people have been found carrying rifles fighting for al-Nusra.

The refugee crisis should be seen as the warning signal that the world is seeing a series of compounding crises.

The signs are everywhere.

The Middle East is in flames, refugees are pouring into Europe; countries are straining under the pressure of absorbing them. With the refugees also comes the increased threat of terrorism. The West seems impotent in the face of this threat.

Nations are morally adrift. The peoples of the world are looking for someone who will rescue them from their problems. The past and present presidential races in the United States are examples of people gravitating to candidates on the left and right who offer platitudes without programs and appeal to a brand of populism that has its perils. Some have already been held up potential and elected candidates as modern-day messiahs. Israel is being increasingly isolated. It is truly becoming a millstone around the neck of anyone who supports them.

The prophecies of the Bible are being fulfilled before our eyes.

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Yom Kippur

‎21 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎11:26:07 PM | Steve ElwartGo to full article

The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron’s two sons when they had approached the LORD and died. The LORD told Moses. Remind your brother Aaron that at no time is he to enter the sacred place from the room that contains the curtain into the presence of the Mercy Seat on top of the ark. Otherwise, he’ll die, because I will appear in a cloud at the Mercy Seat. Aaron is to enter the sacred place with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a whole burnt offering… He is to take two male goats for a sin offering and one ram for a whole burnt offering from the assembly of the Israelis. Then Aaron is to bring the bull as a sin offering for himself and make atonement for himself and his household… Aaron is to cast lots over the two male goats—one lot for the LORD and the other one for the scapegoat. Aaron then is to bring the male goat on which the lot fell for the LORD and offer it as a sin offering. The male goat on which the lot fell for the scapegoat is to be brought alive into the LORD’s presence to make atonement for himself. Then he is to send it into the wilderness. Aaron is then to bring the bull for a sin offering for him, thus making atonement for himself and his household… Then he is to make atonement on the sacred place on account of the uncleanness of the Israelis, their transgressions and all their sins… This will be a perpetual statute for you as you make atonement once a year for the Israelis on account of all their sins. So Moses did just as the LORD had commanded him.

— Leviticus 16:1–34, (ISV)

This year Yom Kippur begins in the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 22, and ends in the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 23. Yom Kippur [yôm hakkippurîm “day of the covering over (or propitiation)”] is also known as the Day of Atonement.

From Leviticus 16 it appears that even the high priest could not enter the Holy of Holies at all times and without special ceremonies; he and his household needed reconciliation as did the people of Israel and even the sanctuary itself. The Day of Atonement was proclaimed a fast, reminding the Israelites of Yahweh’s holiness and their own sinfulness (including the most holy persons). A number of sacrifices were offered, 15 altogether (16 counting the goat of Azazel): 12 burnt offerings and three sin offerings (Lev. 16:5–29; Num. 29:7–11). Including the ram (mentioned separately at Num. 28:8), there were 13 burnt offerings and four sin offerings. The Israelite sacrifices of reconciliation were similar in function to the purification ceremonies of the ancient Babylonians, Greeks and Romans.

The Atonement

The Day of Atonement was “a Sabbath of solemn rest” (Lev. 16:31), which included a purification ceremony in the tabernacle as well as a general fast. After the high priest had bathed and had put on his linen clothes (rather than his sacred vestments; v. 4), he chose for himself and his house a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. From the congregation he took two goats as a sin offering and a ram as a burnt offering. He then had the two goats placed at the entrance of the tent of meeting where he cast a lot, assigning one goat for Yahweh and “one for Azazel.” The goat assigned by lot to Yahweh was to be sacrificed as a sin offering, but the other goat was placed before the Lord alive in order to reconcile, i.e., to be dedicated as a scapegoat (vv. 20–22) and subsequently to be driven into the desert, bearing the guilt of Israel’s sins.

After lots were cast between the two goats, Aaron killed the bull of the sin offering for himself and his house. Taking next a pan of glowing coals from the altar of burnt offering, he placed ground up incense on the fire before the face of Yahweh—inside the veil while a cloud of smoke from the incense covered the mercy seat. Then with his finger he sprinkled blood of the bull seven times on the front side of the mercy seat and seven times in front of it, killed the goat of the sin offering, and added the blood of that animal to that of the killed bull, sprinkling the holy place and the horns of the altar of burnt offering.

An indispensable detail of the ceremony was the placing of the live goat before the altar of burnt offering. Leaning with his two hands on the head of the animal, Aaron confessed all the iniquity of the Israelites as well as their transgressions, symbolically placing them on the head of the goat. After this act an appointed person took the animal to the wilderness outside of the camp where he was to free it (cf. Ps. 103:12). (In later years the person customarily threw the goat from the cliffs so that it died.)

Finally, the high priest went to the tent of meeting, took off his linen clothes, bathed himself, put on his regular vestments, and offered the two rams as a burnt offering in the court, thus reconciling himself and the people. The bull and the goat of the sin offering were placed outside the camp, to be burned totally, including skin, flesh and dung (Lev. 16:27; see Heb. 13:11). Like the person who had sent the live goat to the wilderness, the one who burned the animal had to wash his clothes and bathe himself. It may have been that the feast offering prescribed at Num. 29:7–11 was given.

The only fast day prescribed in Mosaic law, the Day of Atonement (cf. Exod. 30:10) gained particular importance in postexilic times (cf. Neh. 9:1). Although the fast retained significance in New Testament times (cf. Acts 27:9), the event came to be reinterpreted among Christians in terms of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the Great High Priest (Heb. 9:11).

The End of the Ritual

Since the loss of the Temple in A.D. 70, the God-centered observances of the Torah have tragically been replaced with a man-centered, good works system of appeasement through prayer, charity and penitence.

The story of Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai and Rabbi Joshua Ben Hananiah illustrates the void left by the destruction:

[T]hey beheld the Temple ruins. “Woe is us!” cried Rabbi Joshua, “that the place where the iniquities of Israel were atoned for is now laid waste!” “My son,” replied Rabbi Yohanan, “do not be grieved. We have another atonement as effective as this. And what is it? Acts of loving-kindness.”

Ritually, the power of atonement was now vested in the Day of Atonement itself. As always, teshuvah (repentance) was required before any sin could be atoned, but for the most severe sins atonement was “suspended until the Day of Atonement which then atones.” But it was now made clear that sins between human beings could only be atoned if “one pacified one’s fellow” first.

It was during this post-destruction period that the liturgy of Yom Kippur was developed, including the recitation of five daily services, something that was done on other fast days and that may reflect practices already in existence before the destruction (Mishnah Taanit 4.1). Rabbinic teaching also spelled out the specific prohibitions of Yom Kippur for each individual. Although fasting remained the basic method of “afflicting one’s soul,” prohibitions were added against washing, anointing with oil, wearing shoes and having sexual relations (Mishnah Yoma 8.1)—prohibitions that are also associated with mourning practices. Thus, the Sages were attempting to eliminate all pleasures on that day, for Yom Kippur, like all fasts, is considered a time of mourning.

Even though the temple has not been used in over 2,000 years for Yom Kippur sacrifices, it appears that a return to the traditional ways is on the horizon with the plans to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. Last March a news report came out of Jerusalem from the Temple Institute that the Altar of the Lord has been reconstructed.

The Institute, based in the Old City of Jerusalem, announced it has finished building an altar that is essentially “ready for use” in sacrificial services. The altar is the most ambitious project to date toward the goal of rebuilding the Jewish Temple. The massive outdoor altar, which took several years to build, can be operational at little more than a moment’s notice, reported the Israeli magazine Matzav Haruach.

Bible scholars say the rebuilding of the ancient temple is predicted throughout Scripture, starting with Daniel’s vision in Daniel 9:27. Jesus echoed Daniel’s warning about an abomination standing in “the holy place” in the last days in Matthew 24:15, followed by the Apostle John’s vision of the Temple in Revelation 11:1–2. Paul mentioned it in 2 Thessalonians 2:3–4.

A Yom Kippur of Great Significance?

There has been a lot of speculation that this year’s Yom Kippur will be one of great significance. Some even claim that the Rapture has to occur this year Wednesday, Sept. 23.

These types of predictions are not new:

  • Harold Camping predicted that the Rapture and devastating earthquakes would occur May 21, 2011, with God taking approximately 3 percent of the world’s population into heaven, and that the end of the world would occur five months later Oct. 21. When his original date failed to come about, Camping revised his prediction and said that May 21, a “Spiritual Judgment” took place, and that both the physical Rapture and the end of the world would occur Oct. 21, 2011.
  • Ronald Weinland stated Jesus Christ would return Sept. 29, 2011. He prophesied nuclear explosions in U.S. port cities by July 2008 as the blowing of the Second Trumpet of Revelation. After his prophecy failed to come true he changed the date for the return of Jesus Christ to May 27, 2012.
  • A writer, using the pen name “Ted,” in Deadline 1981, Mockers Beware, Vol. 1, declared that the rapture was about to arrive in August 1980, or at the latest by June 20, 1981.
  • According to Dr. Charles Taylor, the rapture was to take place Sept. 25, 1975.
  • Oct. 28, 1992, was the predicted date for the rapture, according to an undated tract, not attributed to a named author, titled Mission For The Coming Days, Orange County Division, Orange County, CA.
  • The founder of the Mormons, Joseph Smith, predicted that the second coming of Jesus would take place before the end of 1891.
  • The Seventh Day Adventist, William Miller, predicted that Jesus would finally return between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844.

To our best estimation, these predictions have not come true.

It is easy to be taken in by the enthusiasm of false prophets. Paul once described the misplaced enthusiasm of the Jews: “For I can testify on their behalf that they have a zeal for God, but it is not in keeping with full knowledge.” (Romans 10:2, ISV)

Jesus said, “At that time, if anyone says to you, ‘Look! Here is the Messiah!’ or ‘There he is!’, don’t believe it,” (Matthew 24:23, ISV)

Jesus went on to say and made it very clear, “No one knows when that day or hour will come—not the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father,” (Matthew 24:36, ISV)

We are not to be date setters; we are not to put God in a box. Rather, we should follow Peter’s advice:

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep a clear head, and set your hope completely on the grace to be given you when Jesus, the Messiah, is revealed.

— 1 Peter 1:13, ISV

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No Refuge for Pakistani Christians

‎14 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎11:24:20 PM | Carol LoefflerGo to full article
Note: The author Carol Loeffler is the Executive Producer of Steel on Steel Productions and Editor of Facebook’s “Praying for Persecuted Christians” page. The opinions expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Institute.

Then they will hand you over to suffer and will kill you, and you will be hated by all the nations because of my name.

— Matthew 24:9 (ISV)

Persecution of Christians has finally bubbled to the top of main stream media news, even though it has been steadily growing in frequency and brutality for many decades. While sensational stories like beheadings and kidnappings grab headlines, many serious incidents of persecution are largely ignored. One such case involves the plight of the Pakistani Christians who, when forced to flee their homeland to save their lives, find themselves in countries where they are treated very badly.

The Pakistani blasphemy law, prohibiting speaking or acting against the Prophet Mohammed, the Quran, or any Muslim holy place, was modified in the early 1990s to require the death penalty in blasphemy cases even if the offense was unintentional. While the harshness of this law is extreme, even worse is that the mere accusation of blasphemy brings mobs of angry Muslim extremists down on the accused with violence or threats of violence. Those caught are often brutally killed, while those that escape flee the country, leaving everything behind.

Many Christians who have left Pakistan under these circumstances have fled to Thailand, which as a secular state seems friendlier than Muslim countries or their traditional enemy India. Thailand, instead of being the desired haven, has become a very difficult place to live.

Many Pakistanis there have applied with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), but are told that they must wait from three to five years for a second interview to determine if they are legitimate refugees. Without a refugee stamp on their passports, they cannot travel to more friendly countries to find asylum.

Those that enter Thailand legally as tourists find that they can only stay for three months. After that they have to pay about $1,000 for a visa and cannot work without a work permit. Being unable to work to earn money or not having family or friends to send money for the visas, anyone who stays is considered “illegal.”

These “asylum seekers” then go into hiding, trying to avoid being arrested by the Thai police. They are afraid to leave their small apartments for anything but the most basic necessities, but in many cases they lack food and medicine. Their children cannot go to school or even play outside. This miserable existence is punctuated by Thai police pounding on doors at all times of the day or night looking to arrest illegals.

Thailand’s Black Hole

Pakistani Christian refugees

March 2015: Approximately 100 Pakistani Christian refugees sleep in one room in Thailand’s Immigration Detention Center. (British Pakistani Christian Association)

If arrested, they are taken first to jail and then to the Immigration Detention Center (IDC). There they are packed like sardines into rooms. Sleeping in these rooms is done in shifts because not everyone can lie down at once. Young women have been raped by the guards in this center and there is nothing anyone can do to rescue them.

Until recently it was possible to bail people out from the IDC with about $1,500 and the police would back off for a time. However, in the last couple of weeks, the Thai government has refused to grant bail for Pakistani prisoners. No one knows how long the ban will remain in place, but the police continue to terrorize asylum seekers with constant raids in refugee neighborhoods.

Please pray for the country of Thailand, God’s intervention into this situation, and that these Christians will be able to find a country where asylum will be granted.

(Note: Carol and John Loeffler are leading an effort to get “Pastor X” and his family out of Thailand and to a friendly country. You can hear more about it on YouTube.)

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We’ll Party Like It’s 5776

‎14 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎11:20:52 PM | Steve ElwartGo to full article

You are to hold a sacred assembly on the first day of the seventh month of each year. No servile work is to be done. It’s a day of blowing trumpets for you.

— Numbers 29:1 (ISV)

This year the Jewish feast of Rosh Hashanah (ראֹשׁ הַשָׁנָה) (Feast of Trumpets) began the evening of Sunday, Sept. 13 and ends tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 15. It marks the beginning of the Jewish year 5776.

Rosh Hashanah (literally, “head of the year”) the Hebrew new year, ushered in the Feast of Trumpets with the blowing of the ram’s horn. It was the first of the high holy feast days and looked forward to the solemn Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) which occurred ten days later.

Rosh Hashanah is one of the most eventful days in history. Traditionally, it was the day on which Adam and Eve were created, so it can be thought of as a birthday party for all of mankind.

The Rabbis taught that the world was created on the first day of Tishrei. This is supported by the fact that the letters in the Hebrew word “b’reishit” (when God began to create [the heaven and earth]) can be rearranged to spell alef b’Tishrei (the First of Tishrei). The theme of praying that God will inscribe a person in the Book of Life is featured prominently throughout the Rosh Hashanah liturgy.

Not until late biblical and rabbinic times did Rosh Hashanah take on the character it has today—as the Day of Judgment (Yom ha-Din), when the deeds of each person over the past year are weighed, and his or her fate is decided for the coming year.

Rosh Hashanah was also the day when it was decreed that three different barren women would be allowed to bear children—Sarah, Rachel and Hannah. It was also the traditional day on which Joseph was released from an Egyptian prison. Rosh Hashanah was also the day on which the Israelites were released from slavery and allowed to leave Egypt for the Promised Land. According to the Jewish traditions, Rosh Hashanah will also mark their final redemption as a people.

The term “Rosh Hashanah” occurs only once in the Bible (Ezek. 40:1), where it simply means the start of the year and does not refer to this specific festival. In fact, the Torah counted the months from Nisan, the month of Passover, so that what is now called Rosh Hashanah is called the festival of the seventh month (Num. 29:1), a sacred occasion commemorated with the blast of the shofar. (It is interesting to note that the fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets is going to be the Rapture of the Church.)

Although originally a one-day holiday, in the Diaspora a second day was added to Rosh Hashanah because of the difficulty in determining when the new moon actually appeared. After the calendar was set, Jews in Israel continued to observe only one day until the Middle Ages, when the practice of observing two days became universal.

Sound the Trumpet

The blowing of the shofar, or ram’s horn, occupied a significant place on several occasions, such as the monthly new moon and the Year of Jubilee, but especially so at the beginning of the new year, hence its name—Feast of Trumpets.

When the shofar was blown on Rosh Hashanah, there were three different sounds made. The first was one long continuous blast. The second consisted of a series of three shorter blasts. The third was a set of nine short staccato notes. These two latter sounds were supposed to be the sounds of sorrow—sighs and short piercing cries. In contrast, the long continuous note was a sound of joy and triumph. The trumpets were blown throughout the month before Rosh Hashanah, but not on the last day. The silence was to prevent Satan from noticing the arrival of this day, which was “The Hidden Day” and therefore to be concealed.

The High Holy Days

Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the High Holidays, Awesome Days or Days of Awe, Yamim Noraim. These 10 days begin with Rosh Hashanah and ends with Yom Kippur and are the most important Jewish holy days of the year.

Even many laxly observant Jews attend synagogue for the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services, crowding synagogues to bursting. (The same way many Christians darken church doors only on Christmas and Easter.) People wish one another “a good and sweet year,” and at Rosh Hashanah meals it is customary to dip bread in honey (rather than salt) and to invoke the hope for a good and sweet year. It is believed that “On Rosh Hashanah all the inhabitants of the world pass before God [in judgment] like a flock of sheep.”

All are judged on Rosh Hashanah, and the verdict is sealed on Yom Kippur. The worthy are written into the Book of Life, the unworthy blotted out or entered into a Book of Death (sometimes a third book for undecided cases is mentioned).

Now, if you will, forgive their sin—but if not, blot me out of your book which you have written.” The LORD told Moses, “Whoever sins against me, I’ll blot him out of my book.

— Exodus 32:32–33 (ISV)

During these days worshipers face God in eternity, for He rules past, present and future. Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the seventh month, was the first Sabbath day of creation, the rabbis taught. The blowing of the shofar recalls the horn-blasts at Sinai when the Torah was revealed.

The service is dense with historical references. As a Day of Judgment, Yom Hadin, and Day of Blowing the Shofar, Yom Hateruyah, Rosh Hashanah also prefigures the end of days, the Last Judgment, when all souls shall appear before God. The Amidah liturgies on Rosh Hashanah have added to them prayers given entirely over to the praise of God. These prayers center on Malchuyot, celebrating God as creator and king of the universe, Zichronot, recalling God’s mighty judgments in history, and Shofarot (Shofar verses), which celebrate God as future messianic redeemer. The blasts of the ram’s horn are expressed in the Musaf Amidah service.

The shofar is blown at regular intervals throughout these prayers, as if awakening the soul to and symbolizing in its sounds all the implications of Malchuyot, Zichronot and Shofarot. In the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, or on the second day if the first day falls on a Sabbath, it is a custom, called Tashlikh, “Casting,” from the Middle Ages to go to the banks of a river, lake or ocean, and recite appropriate verses while emptying pockets and symbolically “casting all their sins into the depths of the sea”:

He will again show us compassion; he will subdue our iniquities. You will hurl all their sins into the deepest sea.

— Micah 7:19, (ISV)

The experience of nature at this time adds greater depth to the services and relates them to the cosmos.

In Israel, Rosh Hashanah is celebrated for two days, with the second day spent mostly in the synagogue in a repetition of the first day. Work is then permitted during the days that follow up to Yom Kippur. But on these days, regular synagogue services are longer than usual, with penitential prayers recited every morning before regular morning prayers.

It was once customary to fast on each of the 10 days until the evening, but the day after Rosh Hashanah is the Fast of Gedaliah, mourning the death of the Governor of Judah whose assassination by a fanatical Jew set in motion the final destruction of the First Commonwealth (the reign of King David):

Nevertheless, seven months later Nethaniah’s son Ishmael, the grandson of Elishama from the royal family, came with ten men and attacked Gedaliah. As a result, he died along with the Jews and Chaldeans who were with him at Mizpah.

2 Kings 25:25 (ISV)

This fast therefore presages the coming winter fasts and feasts. However, during the hours just before the evening start of Yom Kippur, the Talmud states, one should eat well, in preparation for the twenty-four-hour fast and the strenuous praying.

The Sabbath that falls during the intermediate days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called Shabbat Shuvah, the Sabbath of Repentance, and the Haftorah begins with the exhortation, Shuvah Yisrael, “Return, O Israel.”

A Call to Repentance

Return, Israel, to the LORD your God,
for you have fallen due to your own iniquity.

Bring a prepared speech with you
as you return to the LORD. Say to him:
Take away all our iniquity,
and accept what is good.
Then we will present the fruit of our lips.

Assyria won’t save us;
we won’t be riding on horses,
Nor will we be saying anymore to the work of our hands,
“You are our God.
Indeed, in you the orphan finds mercy.

I will correct their apostasy,
loving them freely,
since my anger will have turned away from them.

I will be like the dew to Israel;
Israel will blossom like a lily,
growing roots like the cedars of Lebanon.

Israel’s branches will spread out,
and its beauty will be like an olive tree,
with its scent like that of Lebanon.

Those who live under its protection will surely return.
Their grain will flourish;
they will blossom like a vine,
and Israel’s scent will be like wine from Lebanon.

Ephraim, what have I in common with idols?
I have listened and will pay attention to him.
I am like a flourishing cypress;
in me will your fruit be found.

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things.
Whoever is discerning, let him know them.
For the ways of the LORD are right:
the righteous follow his example,
but the rebellious stumble in them.

— Hosea 14:1–9 (ISV)

Clashes on the Temple Mount

Clashes on the Temple Mount (Photo: Israeli Police representative)

No Time for Celebration

While Rosh Hashanah is supposed to be a time for celebration before Yom Kippur, violence is marring this year’s celebration in the Holy Land.

Israeli police stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem Sunday morning to clear Muslim stone throwers who had taken refuge in the compound amid allegations they planned to disrupt Jewish worshipers on the eve of the holiday.

According to the Israeli news site Ynet News, Police had to use tear gas and stun grenades to clear the Palestinian protesters from the mosque. The rioters threw fireworks and stones at the police as they entered the site. Border Police forces then blocked entry to the Temple Mount., the Israeli news site Ynet News reported.

Police entered the mosque compound at about 7 a.m. after receiving reports that protesters were prepared to disrupt visits to the area by Jewish worshipers, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, according to The Associated Press.

The mosque compound overlooks the open pavilion at the Western Wall where Jews gather for prayers.

Radwan Amr, an official at the Al-Aqsa mosque, said 32 of the shrine’s windows were damaged or destroyed, a door was shattered and the carpet burned in 12 places.

Israeli police Maj. Gen. Moshe Edri said the demonstrators intended to disrupt Rosh Hashanah festivities, and his officers’ goal is “to allow the freedom of worship for all religions in Jerusalem.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas term the confrontation an “Israeli attack,” and condemned Israeli police as committing a terrorist act themselves.

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Most Likely Most Dangerous

‎08 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎11:12:22 PM | Jeremy RichardGo to full article
Note: The author Jeremy Richard is a retired U.S. Army Intelligence Analyst. During his last assignment, he was an Intelligence Observer/Coach/Trainer at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, LA. He has 2 combat tours to Baghdad with the 82nd Airborne Division. He worked for the Deputy Chief of Staff, Strategy, Plans, and Assessment (C–5) Multinational Force Iraq HQ and also had one tour to the Sinai, Egypt with the Multinational Force and Observers Peacekeeping mission. Jeremy works as an Intelligence Staff Technical Trainer. He is a member of the Koinonia Institute and is a Bronze Medallion holder. He also operates the website “Most Likely Most Dangerous.”

The opinions expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Institute.

In the Tactical Operations Center

“Attention in the TOC! 60 Taliban just walked through a Red Falcon ambush and are about to contact the rest of Charlie Company!” I yelled out in the 407th Brigade Support Battalion TOC (Tactical Operation Center) which only elicited a slight head raise from the Assistant Operations Officer. About twelve hours earlier I had given a briefing to the command and staff where I had assessed the enemy would attack our TWPS (Tactical Water Purification System) site which I based off of three different indicators my analysts had found during the previous day. The TWPS was a huge target because it was the only source of water for the entire 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division ever since we had jumped onto the small island where we were now operating. We wouldn’t be able to just drive down the street to Walmart and buy some bottled water if the enemy destroyed that piece of equipment.

I had been really excited 45 minutes earlier when a report came in that a collection asset had eyes on 60 military age males with rifles and two trucks. They were standing in a semi-circle around one individual who was pointing around to people. I had yelled out:

Attention in the TOC! 60 military age males with rifles and two trucks spotted 1.5 clicks (kilometers or ~0.9 miles) away from the TWPS site! I assess the individual in the middle is either taking roll or giving instructions.

At that point both the Operations Officer and Intelligence Officer walked over to where I was sitting and scolded me for calling out “attention in the TOC” because that was only to be used when urgent information needed to be broadcast for the entire tent to hear. I didn’t respond to them other than to look at my All American combat patch on my right shoulder and give them a shrug. I had been in the first unit deployed for “The Surge” ordered by President Bush and had already spent 15 months as an intelligence analyst in combat. I considered it urgent. They did not.

And even now, there was no urgency as Charlie Company was about to get slammed. The ambushing platoon didn’t initiate the ambush because you weren’t supposed to if the element walking through your ambush was numerically superior, which I knew from days in the infantry. I also knew the situation was not only bad for the Red Falcons, but for us as well because the TWPS site was about 600 meters (~650 yards) south of that location. In short order, gunfire erupted and the radios started going crazy with the Red Falcons coordinating their defense and asking for support. Not two minutes into the fight, I heard a call that 30 of the bad guys had broken off and were headed south. That was great news for the Red Falcons, but bad news for our dozen people down by the lake at the TWPS site. I called out again that 30 enemy had broken off and were headed down to that position. The Operations Officer calmly picked up the radio, called the TWPS site and said, “Hey, you guys might get contact.”

And that was it. That was all the warning they were to receive. In short order, the shots rang out louder and the entire site was overrun, the TWPS and 2 gun trucks were destroyed, and one of our soldiers was captured. The good news is this was only a training exercise on Sicily Drop Zone at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Observer Controllers (OCs) from the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) out of Hohenfels, Germany were on hand to evaluate the unit to help us be prepared for the upcoming Global Response Force mission. The Task Force OC and the JMRC Commander both presented me with their coins for the Most Likely Most Dangerous courses of action predictive analysis assessments which turned out to be correct.

MLMD Coins

MLMD Coins

Most Likely Most Dangerous

What is Most Likely Most Dangerous (MLMD) and how could this intelligence method be applied to biblical prophecy? I’ve been studying biblical prophecy for about 25 years and I’ve noticed when it comes to our individual views on prophecy, science, theology, or philosophy we tend to get emotionally attached to whatever position we’ve taken on a given subject. Often times, so much so that it can impede our critical thinking when information comes along that may challenge a particular view. We tend to pick our camp, plant our flag, and play king of the emotional mountain while potentially pushing away valuable information that ends up rolling down the hill only to land in the swamp of condemnation-before-investigation.

But maybe there’s a better way.

Before we jump into MLMD, let’s examine courses of action and indicators. Take a look at the example below. There are three different paths in the graphic. For this illustration, the paths represent avenues of approach that must be used by a Russian Tank Brigade to maneuver through the mountains and each path is a “course of action.” We need to confirm or deny tanks are moving on a given path by looking for indicators. One way to do that would be to send an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) out to Path 1 to look for indicators of tanks moving on that path. Each path is very long, so we want to focus our search into a search box, or named area of interest (NAI) because we don’t have the time to examine every mile of the path. So, we send our UAV out to look for Russian tanks, but it doesn’t find anything. There isn’t a trace or indicator that Russian tanks are moving through the area. Have we wasted our time? Certainly not. We know they must come down one of the paths, but we have now “denied” that path one is the course of action being used by the enemy. That takes away an option, and leaves us free to examine paths 2 and 3. Once we start seeing some indicators tanks are moving along path 2, we can confirm path 2 is the course of action being taken.

Named Area of Interest

Example 1 – Named Area of Interest

With our courses of action and indicators established, let’s move on to MLMD. Put simply, the enemy’s Most Likely course of action is the one that he will Most Likely take based on historical patterns, past indicators, analysis, and reporting. This is what we expect the enemy to do. On the other end, Most Dangerous is the course of action the enemy takes that is Most Dangerous to us and the mission. What could the enemy do that would really damage our mission, throw us off our game, and bring things to a grinding halt. An example of this would be a remote Combat Outpost (COP) in Afghanistan. On any given day, the Most Likely course of action would be a couple of Taliban fighters firing mortars from the nearby mountains and maybe taking a couple of pot shots with small arms fire.

The Most Dangerous course of action would be 200 Taliban fighters in a coordinated, complex attack involving multiple maneuver elements, mortar fire from the mountain, all initiated by a suicide bomber at the gate to the COP. Such an attack could overrun the entire COP, and these have happened before, such as the Battle of Wanat, where then Sergeant Ryan Pitts fought and was later was awarded a Medal of Honor for his actions. Sometimes the Most Likely and the Most Dangerous course of action can be the same, such as the case in the JMRC exercise where the enemy overran our position and destroyed our TWPS site.

MLMD is a good method to use because predictive analysis is pretty tricky to get right, especially when predicting human behavior. The intelligence process is half science and half art. And in that aspect, biblical prophecy is like military intelligence. You aren’t making an assessment that an event WILL happen at a certain time or in a certain way, but instead the assessment is about an event that will MOST LIKELY happen in a certain way or at a given time. That leaves you free to accept other indicators and may very well change your assessment if more information is later introduced. The most obvious application of this, in my opinion, is the pre-trib and post-trib views about the Rapture. This event is in a special category because there won’t be any indicators if the pre-trib view turns out to be correct and there will be many, many indicators if the post-trib view ends up being correct.

In the pre-trib view, the Rapture happening before the Tribulation (or Great Tribulation) is Most Likely to happen based on the many indicators given in scripture. Those who believe the post-trib view will not agree with this, of course. But both pre-trib and post-trib believers can agree the Most Dangerous course of action is the post-trib view, because that means Christians are still here when the Antichrist takes power and starts to wage war on the saints. Thus, I assess the pre-trib view is Most Likely, but the post-trib view is Most Dangerous and both pre and post should agree on the latter. It doesn’t hurt to be mentally, spiritually, and physically ready for both. I wouldn’t pull a Harold Camping, set dates, and sell my house; but it would be wise to be prepared for the worst because at the end of the day, we simply don’t know the timing of the Rapture. If you don’t need all of the stuff you’ve prepared because the Rapture happened, then God could use those items for other people’s benefit who will go through the Great Tribulation. So it is a win either way.

MLMD and Ezekiel 38/39

Now let’s examine the Ezekiel 38/39 Magog Invasion of Israel since it is one of my favorite topics and there are many indicators in the news on this subject every day. With regard to the identity of Magog, there are really only two options considered by most scholars. Either Magog is Russia or Turkey. In essence, we only have two paths we need to examine for indicators since nobody is out there advocating that Swaziland or Paraguay is Magog, which makes our job easier. The advantage and brilliance of biblical prophecy is we already know the course of action. We know what will happen. In the case of The Magog Invasion, we know the what, the where, and the why. The only questions left are who and when.

The What – The invasion of Israel by 5 countries ends with the utter destruction of those countries’ armies by God in a supernatural event.

The Where – In or near the current state of Israel.

The Why – The “hook in the jaw.” To take spoil and plunder.

The Who

Now to address the who. Most scholars believe Magog is either Russia or Turkey. Since I believe it is Russia, I will cite examples that are indicators Russia fits the description better than Turkey does. For example, I opine in one of my commentaries on a story from Fox News titled, “Why US must keep a close eye on Russia’s plans for the Arctic” with the following analysis.

But the key indicator I want to highlight is Ezekiel 39:2 and I’ll use several Bible versions to compare the texts.

I will turn you around and drag you along. I will bring you from the far north and send you against the mountains of Israel. — NIV

I will turn you around and drive you toward the mountains of Israel, bringing you from the distant north. — NLT

And I will turn you about and drive you forward, and bring you up from the uttermost parts of the north, and lead you against the mountains of Israel. — ESV

and I will turn you around, drive you on, take you up from the remotest parts of the north and bring you against the mountains of Israel. — NAS

Here we have several descriptions of where Gog, the Prince of Magog, will originate from at the time of the invasion. The descriptions are the far north, the distant north, the uttermost parts of the north, and the remotest parts of the north. Since I believe every phrase, every word, and every letter in the bible is there by deliberate design, then I can’t ignore the text here as it relates to the Turkey/Russia debate. Back in Ezekiel’s day, Turkey would indeed be a long way north of Israel. But Russia matches the description here better than Turkey does, which leads me to the story below. It doesn’t get any more north or uttermost parts of the north than the Arctic Circle. In fact, Magnetic North, not to be confused with Grid North or True North, is slowly migrating to Siberia. That, in my opinion, is certainly a fantastic indicator that helps confirm Russia as Magog.”

This is just one example from one news article. There are hundreds to choose from, and that isn’t an exaggeration. Consider the following two products that list the highlighted news articles for these two days:

Daily Highlights Summary, September 2

Daily Highlights Summary, September 2

Daily Highlights Summary, September 3

Daily Highlights Summary, September 3

What has shocked me the most when making these products is these are not weekly summaries, but each of these news stories in their respective slides all happened the same day! I’d like to highlight one more indicator that identifies Russia as a better candidate for Magog over Turkey. Here is a story from the Jerusalem Post titled, “Cheney: Iran Deal Likely to Lead to First Use of Nuclear Weapon Since WWII.

From my commentary:

Ezekiel 39 describes NBC (Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological) weapons and their use so accurately that the details could be taken out of a modern military NBC handbook. This is a solid indicator that confirms the coming Magog Invasion.

In verse 11 they bury the dead in the Valley of Hamon Gog. (Downwind)

NBC 3 Warning of Predicted Contamination Report.

The NBCC uses NBC 1 reports and wind information to predict downwind hazard areas” (FM 3–7 p1–14)

In verse 14 they have to bury them and they hire professionals to do it, i.e. Hazmat crews.

After 7 months verse 15 says anyone who sees a bone will have to place a marker beside it so the professionals can come clean it.

NBC 5 Actual Contaminated Areas Report – Once the NBC 4 reports are posted on the situation map, an NBC 5 report is prepared showing the contaminated area.

NBC 5 reports usually are prepared by division. The preferred method of dissemination is by map overlay (FM 3–7 p1–14)

Derive the location of the attack from NBC:

  1. Chemical report and plot the location on a map or template.
  2. Draw a 1-km radius circle around the point of attack.
  3. Determine the maximum downwind hazard. (FM 3–7 p5–2)

Actual NBC Markers to be used:

NBC Markers

NBC Markers (GlobalSecurity.org)

In this example we see Israel will burn the weapons for their fuel. I will suggest this is describing nuclear weapons as I don’t think burning smallpox will run anyone’s iPad. With this opinion in mind, which country better fits the identity of Magog? Certainly Russia has nukes. Turkey does not, although it does host U.S. nukes so there is a window of opportunity there, in theory at least (but not “Most Likely”).

I could go on with several more sub-topics, but you get the idea and there are even more questions to ask and products to make to help lift the fog. What are the political relations like between Russia/Turkey and Persia (Iran), Gomer (Germany), Phut (Libya), and Sudan (Cush)? Does Turkey or Russia supply arms to the other 4? Does Russia or Turkey exert more political influence? Are there business ventures links?

Be an Intelligence Berean

The point is if you think Turkey is Magog, then search for indicators that help confirm your suspicion. But be critical in your research and also use the same context of your search to find out if Russia is meeting or exceeding the requirements for which you are searching.

What do I mean by confirm?

Look at the example below. On the right you will see a small box called “Index of Civil Conflict” with a green to red bar and a few arrows highlighting points on the line.

Iraq: I&W of Civil Conflict

Example 2 (Intellectual Capital Group)

This graph is just to illustrate the fact that finding one indicator does not make for a complete assessment. The more indicators you confirm, the more solid your conclusion. Using the green to red bar I can tell you Russia positively identified as Magog is almost to the green, if not there yet. Now, if indicators start rolling in that confirm Turkey as Magog, then I will have to reassess the total picture.

The Sum of the Matter

In conclusion, my goal with the MLMD method and the website is not necessarily to present my views on a given eschatological subject. My goal is empower you with some “best practices” and a database of news articles so you can look for indicators to help confirm or deny your views. The problem with information and intelligence is there’s way too much out there for any one individual to handle. The point of all of this is to show to the world that the bible tells history in advance, and every detail is there by deliberate design. When we do this accurately, we might get stares or rejections, much like the Operations Officer in the opening story, but we just might have people watching in the background who admire our work and might force themselves to challenge their own worldviews. Each interested observer is a possible soul saved.

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Questions to Ask About the “State of Palestine”, Part Two

‎08 ‎September ‎2015, ‏‎11:07:16 PM | William Welty, Ph.D.Go to full article
Ed. Note: This is part two of a two part article originally titled, “Eighteen Questions to Ask the Next Secretary of State.” The author Dr. William Welty is the Executive Director of the ISV foundation and also serves as research analyst in Advanced Communication Technologies and Adjunct Professor of Middle Eastern Studies on the faculty of Koinonia Institute. The opinions expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Institute.
* * *

10. Was Palestine ever recognized by any country whose existence, at that time or now, leaves no room for interpretation?

The short answer is “No.” Okay, we’ll acknowledge the Vatican endorsed “Palestine,” and The New York Times claimed it had done so in late June 2015 to serve as “a development the church hopes will lead to improved relations between Israel and the Palestinians.” One can view the Vatican’s motives with deep suspicion, given its provably anti-Semitic behavior over the centuries and its history of anti-Zionist policies and actions since the early days of the Zionist movement in general and the formation of Israel in 1948 in particular. On 30 October 2014, The New York Times noted Sweden had recognized Palestine, an action which drew harsh criticism from Israel because Sweden’s actions could be interpreted as a green light for more anti-Israel activity by the U.N. and by other members of the EU.

11. What was the language of Palestine?

Modern Israelis speak Hebrew, the language of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, with a few modern refinements helped along by Eliezer ben Yehuda a 19th century rabbi who singlehandedly was responsible for the resurrection of biblical Hebrew from the academic graveyard of forgotten scholarship into its modern status as a living language. The language of Palestine? There isn’t a native language. Non-Israelis speak Hebrew, English, Arabic, and sometimes a little French thrown in to confuse things a bit. The Arabic dialects used to be distinctively Egyptian and/or Jordanian, but today the language reflects the syncretistic nature of the diverse cultures that have invaded Israel since 1948.

12. What is the name of Palestine’s currency?

This one’s really a trick question. That’s because there isn’t one. Never has been. (Ed. The currency generally used in both Israel and Palestine is the New Israeli Shekel.)

13. Pick any date in history, what was the approximate exchange rate of the Palestinian monetary unit against the U.S. dollar, the European euro, the British pound, the Japanese yen, the Chinese yuan?

OK. This is a trick question, too. Since “Palestine” has no currency today, and never has had a currency, there has never been an exchange rate against which to compare the relative values of the currencies.

14. Since there is no country of “Palestine” today, when did its demise occur?

The closest one can get to crafting an answer to this question is to assume the term “Palestine” was defined from the ancient Romans, who invaded and destroyed Israel in 70 A.D., renamed the area Palestinia, and renamed Jerusalem as Aeolia Capitolina. But then again, the only thing left in the land by that time was destruction.

15. Since there is no country of “Palestine” today, what caused its demise?

Palestine never had a cause for its demise because it never got started as a country. The closest one can get to defining the cause of its demise, as noted above, is the destruction of the land in 70 A.D. by the Romans.

16. If “Palestinians” are only generic Arabs collected from all over — or thrown out of — the Arab world, and

17. If “Palestinians” really have a genuine ethnic identity that gives them the right for self-determination, then …

18. Why did the “Palestinians” never try to become independent until Arabs suffered their devastating defeat in the 1967 Six-Day War?

These final three questions have a single basic root answer common to each question. Jordan was created under the Hashemite kings following World War I, when a country full of Arab Muslims was created from the remains of the Ottoman Empire. Today, they are deemed not to be Palestinians, but Jordan is full of “Palestinians.” In the decades after the end of World War I, Jordan seized parts of Israel and annexed them. Today, this incontrovertible fact of history has to be denied because otherwise the mandate for a “Palestinian State” collapses. However, sometimes the truth slips out. For example:

  • Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has described Jordanian and Palestinian Arabs as “one people living in two states,” during a meeting with the head of the Jordan Football Association.
  • Bethlehem-based Maan News cited the Jordanian al-Ghad newspaper as saying Abbas arrived in Jordan from Doha, along with several other senior PA officials, including its intelligence chief Majid Faraj.
  • The Arabic-language Al-Quds (Ed. The Arabic name for Jerusalem) news outlet directly quoted Abbas, who “stressed that the relationship between Jordan and Palestine is the relationship of ‘one people living in two states.’”
  • Abbas added, “This relationship will not be affected by anything.”

Hamas Foreign Minister Fathi Hammad has been quoted as observing:

Personally, half my family is Egyptian. We are all like that. More than 30 families in the Gaza Strip are called Al-Masri [‘Egyptian’]. Brothers, half of the Palestinians are Egyptians and the other half are Saudis. Who are the Palestinians? We have many families called Al-Masri, whose roots are Egyptian. Egyptian! They may be from Alexandria, from Cairo, from Dumietta, from the North, from Aswan, from Upper Egypt. We are Egyptians. We are Arabs. We are Muslims. We are a part of you.

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Hurricane Katrina: Ten Years Later

‎31 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎07:47:58 PM | Steve ElwartGo to full article
(Please note: this article deals with adult themes and may not be suitable for young children.)

Once a year, during the month of August, this author and his bride take a trip to New Orleans. The trip has been an annual tradition for over three decades. This year marks the 35th anniversary in the city, staying at the same lodging that served as a honeymoon hotel.

This year was special for another reason. This year is the 10th anniversary of when Hurricane Katrina made landfall near the city and ravaged the American Gulf Coast. It was the nation’s costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States. The hurricane took at least 1,833 lives and caused $108 billion (2005 dollars) in damage. We left the city only hours ahead of the storm.

Aerial view of the flooding in part of the Central Business District. (Wikipedia Commons)


Aerial view of the flooding in part of the Central Business District. (Wikipedia Commons)

While not personally experiencing the hurricane, this writer had a part in evaluating the effects of the storm to gain some lessons learned about how to prepare, endure, and come back from such a disaster.

Do not Place Your Trust in Governments

One of the lessons learned can be summed up in a few verses from the Bible:

It is better to take shelter[a] in the Lord
than to trust in people.
It is better to take shelter[b] in the Lord
than to trust in princes.

Psalm 118:8–9 ISV


Do not look to nobles, nor to mere human beings who cannot save.

Psalm 146:3 ISV

In short, people who place their trust in government will always be disappointed, but those who place their trust in God will never be ashamed (Romans 10:11).

Photo collage of aftermath

A Hard Lesson

Many people in New Orleans learned this lesson the hard way. Pictures flooded the airwaves showing people on top of their houses with their rooftops painted with the words, “Save Us!” Some crawled up the attic of their homes to escape the floodwaters only to drown there. (To this day, people in New Orleans keep axes in their attics in case the city floods again and they have to chop their way out to the roof.)

Many of the people trapped in the Superdome were stranded there because they had no money to buy transportation out of town. Many more were waiting for the city or state governments to come and get them out. Those that made it to the Superdome risked being robbed, raped, and assaulted there. Some felt safer out in the storm rather than confront the horrors inside.

In one nursing home, the elderly and infirmed drowned in their beds because there was no way to get them all to higher ground. Some patients were euthanized in a city hospital with rescue helicopters just minutes away. The exhausted staff had lost hope that help would come and sought to relieve the suffering of their sickest patients.

These people found out that when there is a disaster of such size, the government was of little help.

Once the “thin veneer of civilization” was scraped away, man’s true nature came out. Looting was rampant. People used that opportunity to rob local stores of such things as televisions, clothes, computers, and beer. Rescue helicopters were fired on by those they came to rescue for reasons known only to the perpetrators and to God.

Man’s “better angels” also became clear.

There was the case of Jabbar Gibson, an 18-year-old who commandeered an abandoned bus and drove 70 people to the Houston Astrodome to seek refuge.

In one particularly ridiculous story a group of four families carpooled to a relief center to get ice for home medicines that required refrigeration. When they arrived, they were told they could only receive one bag of ice since the rule was “one car, one bag.” When they returned from their run, the local sheriff deputized an armed group of men. The group then returned to the center and explained the situation to the army reservist “a little more clearly.” After the storm, the sheriff was indicted for interfering with a Federal Officer (the reservist). The jury was out about 10 minutes and returned a not guilty verdict. One local paper said the only thing the Federal Government accomplished was to “assure the sheriff a position for life.”

The most poignant story this author found was of yet another looter. This man was so brazen that he took a shopping cart and looted local stores of everything he could find. He took his haul back to the Superdome and went back out many times and stole even more. What did he steal? He looted stores of such things as baby formula, diapers, and first aid supplies. What made this story moving was that this man was a 75-year-old Christian and knew no one in the Superdome. He did it out of pure love for his fellow man. His actions exemplified showing love not only in “words and manner of speech, but in action and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)

Ten Years Later

Now, ten years later, the city is recovering, but not completely healed. How well the city has healed depends on your point of view. According to a survey conducted by the Public Policy Research Lab, nearly 80% of white New Orleans residents believe that the city has mostly recovered while only 40% of the black residents think the city has come back. Either way, the city has had a daunting task in rebuilding their communities.

To this author, what the inhabitants experienced was the closest thing to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since the Vietnam War. Residents fighting to save the city were caught in a three-way trauma. Many were trying to find temporary lodging since losing their homes. They also were trying to rebuild their places of employment while also working to repair their flood-damaged homes. A typical day would comprise of driving into the city, sometimes a 90 mile one-way trip, and go to their full-time job. At the end of their day, usually entailing overtime, they would then head to their home and try to clean there. Afterwards, the residents would head back to their temporary housing, only to do the same thing the next day.

Everyone had a story to tell. One of the victims said the only thing they wanted was to talk to someone who would “listen and give a d__m”. He said everyone they talked to would say, “Yeah, but do you know what I had to deal with?”

Some Things Never Change.

While parts of the city are still facing new challenges, some areas are combating long standing problems.

In the heart of the city is the French Quarter, known as the “Vieux Carré” (Old Quarter). A drive through The Quarter will reveal things the way they have been for decades. There are the ubiquitous tourists, the “locals”, and the homeless. The different hours of the day will bring out each of these groups and they do not mix well. In the morning come the locals, out to their places of business and to run their errands. Starting in the late afternoon come the tourists. Most of them are on vacation and have saved up the entire year to come. In the early morning hours, as the tourists head back to their hotels, come the homeless. Few of them are seen during the day. The police sweep them from the streets — they are bad for business.

Many of the homeless are there by choice. They care not to work, but would rather drift through the day panhandling to make enough money to get by. There are others, the addicts and prostitutes, making money by plying their trade, begging or robbing. Still others are the mentally and emotionally handicapped. The city cannot jail them and the state has no place to put them. Their families either don’t know where they are or have dumped them in The Quarter to fend for themselves, much like an unwanted pet.

Vieux Carré Baptist Church

One way or another they make their way to the Vieux Carré Baptist Church. Tom Bilderback and his wife Sonja are there to meet them. Tom is the pastor of the Church and has been there since 2007. He was the youth pastor of a church who came to New Orleans to help with the post-Katrina rebuilding and was called back later to serve.

In the seven years Tom and Sonja have been here, they have seen it all. Theirs is an example of true “shoe leather faith.” They feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and clothe the naked. (This last fact is not hyperbole. Tom said that at one service, a man wandered in clad only in his underwear. One member thought it would be a good idea to give him some pants. Tom thought so too.)

Above all, Tom and his flock witness to them through the Word and with love.

This is Christianity at its most basic and best form. Tom said that all these people know about the Bilderbacks is that they Christians. “They wouldn’t know the difference between a Baptist and Episcopalian,” according to Tom.

The members of the Vieux Carré church are firm believers in prayer. Prayer teams walk The Quarter. Every Tuesday night is prayer night. “We never miss prayer night,” says Tom, “we will miss Sunday services before we miss prayer night.”

One night part of the ceiling of the church fell in. We had no money to repair it. I told the church we needed to get an estimate. They said, “Why get an estimate if we have no money?” I told them at least we ought to know how much money we don’t have. We prayed hard for guidance that night. When the estimate was done, it came to $4,000. The day before the next prayer meeting, I got a letter in the mail from a couple in Texas. The letter read, “We don’t know what’s going on there, but the Lord told us to send you this.” Inside was a check for $5,000.

— Tom Bilderback

Tom related several cases where the Word and much love changed people’s lives. One young man strode into the church and yelled “Hail Satan!” Rather than tossing him out of the church, they loved him. The man turned out to be a preacher’s son, but was completely turned off of religion. Tom said he didn’t hail Satan, he felt he wasn’t loved and was looking for something.

Tom said that they have their share of prostitutes, but they don’t look like most would think. Most of the prostitutes he encounters are young men, mostly runaways. They are taken in by homosexual men and then are turned out when they are no longer wanted. These men then prostitute themselves outside the clubs that permeate The Quarter. They begin to hate themselves for what they have become and look for ways to ease their pain. The heroin dealers can take care of that too. Now these young men (and kids) face another type of pain — drug addiction.

They then come to Vieux Carré Baptist Church, for a meal and healing.

Every Friday is Shower Day from 10:30 am until 1:30pm. The church opens its doors to the homeless to give them some respite. The homeless are brought in twenty-five at a time to have a meal, clothes if needed, and a shower. The church used to be a laundromat so people can also have a clean set of clothes during the week. The church services about 175 people each Friday and the homeless will line up beginning at 5:30 AM to get one of the highly prized tickets.

The lucky ones who are trying to turn their lives around have the chance to be an intern at a diary. The owner takes these people in for a year. At the dairy, they work the farm, do chores, and regularly attend Bible Study. While they are there they get paid a stipend and have their room and board provided. At the end of a year, they will have accumulated $15,000, enough to get a fresh start in life.

In the Middle of Good and Evil

New Orleans has a reputation of being an evil city, a den of iniquity. That is entirely true. It has its share of bars, strip joints, and Voodoo shops. It also has museums, shops, and a history that is found nowhere else in North America.

America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans.

— Tennessee Williams

While the evil is very real in this city, as can be found in many cities, there are also islands of good as well.

Just as God made His presence known in Nebuchadnezzar’s court though Daniel, the Lord’s power shines through the evil in a magnificent and majestic way.

Shadow of Christ behind the Saint Louis Cathedral


Shadow of Christ behind the Saint Louis Cathedral

The Vieux Carré Baptist Church is one of those places where Christ makes His presence known.

Note: The interview with Tom Bilderback that forms the basis of this article can be heard on YouTube.

If you would like to contact Tom and Sonja Bilderback they can be reached at:

Vieux Carré Baptist Church
711 Dauphine St.
New Orleans, Louisiana, 70116
Website: http://www.thevieux.com/

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Questions to Ask About the “State of Palestine”

‎31 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎07:45:38 PM | William Welty, Ph.D.Go to full article
Ed. Note: This is part one of a two-part article originally titled “Eighteen Questions to Ask the Next Secretary of State. The author, Dr. William Welty, is the Executive Director of the ISV foundation and also serves as Research Analyst in Advanced Communication Technologies and Adjunct Professor of Middle Eastern Studies on the faculty of Koinonia Institute. The opinions expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Koinonia Institute.
* * *

Ever since President Jimmy Carter left the White House, the conservative, evangelical Christian community in the United States has experienced one frustration after another about the so-called Two State Solution being proposed as a misguided means to solve the Israeli-Arab conflict in the Middle East. “The Palestinians need their own home!” say the pro-Palestinian factions, who also just happen to be virulently anti-Zionist (read that “anti-Israel”, or more accurately, “anti-Semitic”) in their true nature.

All of the discussions about a so-called “Two State Solution” for the “Palestinian Problem”—all of them!—are founded on a single presuppositional error. That error concerns the very definition of the term “Palestinian” with respect to the people and the term “Palestine” with respect to the land. So let’s try to shed some light on both of these terms by asking some fundamental questions that could have been asked and should have been answered decades ago by just about any entry-level Department of State bureaucrat who fancied himself on a career track to diplomatic stardom. The way America’s foreign policy has degraded since President Carter left office makes me wonder if anybody has ever bothered to ask the questions that we’ve posited below.

For example, if the term for the people called “Palestinians,” and if the term being used to describe the piece of real estate now being called “Palestine”, have any existential validity on any level of discussion at all, then…

1. When Was Palestine Founded?

By way of contrast, anybody who has completed even just an entry-level education in all things related to the Middle East knows that Israel came into existence on 14 May 1948. Muslims throughout the area celebrated this happy event by invading the nascent country in a heartbeat. But God intervened and Israel’s defense forces beat the tar out of the invaders. But can anyone name the date on the calendar on which Palestine came into existence? America has its July 4, 1776. Israel has its May 14, 1948. Nobody can point to a specific date when Palestine was founded. That’s because it never was.

2. By Whom Was Palestine Founded?

America has its Founding Fathers. So does Israel in its modern status. But can anyone tell us who the founding fathers of Palestine were?

3. What Were Ancient Palestine’s Borders?

Some modern states come into existence as a result of military alliances or treaties following international conflicts. America’s northern border was largely determined by a parallel of latitude a couple hundred years ago. Its southern border largely follows the Rio Grande for part of its length. North and South Korea are separated at a specific parallel of latitude, as will be Israel’s territorial borders during the future Millennial Reign of Christ. (You can read about the future borders of Israel in chapters 40–47 of the book of Ezekiel in the Bible.) But can you name the borders of Palestine? The most common answer you’ll hear is the duplicitous response, “Palestine consists of the territories illegally occupied by Israel.”

4. Where was the Capital of Palestine?

The anti-Semitic press has reported for years that the Arabs claim Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. Trouble is, no Arabs living there before Israel got control of the city after the six-day war in 1967 ever bothered to make that claim. Now Jerusalem is claimed as the Palestinian capital as a means to create a bargaining position to solicit concessions from the Israeli and American governments.

5. What Are Palestine’s Major Cities?

Name a single major city of Palestine…just one! I can name several Israeli major cities. Like Tel Aviv and the port at Haifa. Caesarea and Tiberius come to mind, too. But I challenge you to name even two major Palestine cities.

6. Upon What Was Palestine’s Economy Based?

Israel’s economy is broad-based. For one thing, it’s the bread basket of the Middle East. Its technology sector is second only to Silicon Valley for being state-of-the-art. In fact, as a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment of this rivalry, Israel’s technology sectors are concentrated in an area of Israel its residents have labeled “Silicon Wadi,” a sly reference to the seasonal rivers or brooks that are scattered throughout the land. But on what industry (other than fomenting rebellion and murder) is Palestine based?

7. What Is Palestine’s Form of Government?

Does Palestine have a constitution such as America has? Or even a set of Common Laws such as characterized England of years past? Other than imitating western-style governments by creating the appearance of democracy while incubating graft and corruption to make these crimes involve from petty larceny into an elegant art form, I defy to you write me a cogent description of Palestinian governmental authority other than that the guy with the most guns and suicide vests wins the election debate.

8. Antecedent to Yasser Arafat, Can You Name Even One Palestinian Leader?

The closest you can come to naming even a post-Arafat Palestinian leader is to name the mayor of a “Palestinian”-controlled enclave within Israel, if you don’t count that sham of a Parliament that passes for Muslim-style democracy in “Palestinian”-controlled areas of Israel.

9. What was the prevalent religion of the country of Palestine?

Israel’s is Judaism, in its multi-faceted complexity. But the rest of “Palestine” is an uneasy symbiotic relationship between Catholic traditions, Eastern and Greek Orthodox traditions, with not a few Christian groups, along with various sects of Islam.

(This article will be continued next week in its second and final part.)

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A Coming Sino-Philippine War?

‎24 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎07:44:11 PM | Steve ElwartGo to full article
When people in the West think about China, they think about China — United States relations. The possibility of China being one of the Kings of the East mentioned in Revelation 16 also comes to mind in terms of eschatology. There is an additional concern, a real fear, coming from another quarter.

One needs to look to the southeast — to the Philippines.

A recent conversation on the KI Manila Issachar Facebook group brought this fear into sharp focus. One thread centered on disaster planning. As several scenarios were discussed, it became clear an eventual conflict with China was on their minds.

They have good reason to worry.

China’s recent moves to expand its territorial ambitions have encroached into the Philippine backyard.

The Nine-Dashed Line


The Nine-Dashed Line

According to a 2013 Reuters report, China’s state media warned a “counterstrike” against the Philippines was inevitable if it continues to provoke Beijing in the South China Sea, potentially Asia’s biggest military trouble spot.

China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, believed to be rich in oil and gas reserves. The countries of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan all lay claim to parts of the sea where about $5 trillion of ship-borne trade passes every year.

Territorial Disputes

During one meeting of regional countries held in March 2015 in Manila, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario accused China of accelerating its expansionist agenda by changing the size, structure and physical attributes of land features in the South China Sea. (China had been expanding the size of some of the disputed islands by dredging soil from the sea bottom and building up the islands with the soil. (In early August Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced China has stopped construction work in disputed waters in the South China Sea at a meeting of foreign ministers of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

China and the Philippines have been in a territorial dispute in the South China Sea for decades, but tensions have reached a new level with China’s recent international ambitions. China is reaching out beyond its boundaries, seeking to find its place in the world. Besides the South China Sea, China has developed a significant presence in Africa, South America and the Middle East. They are also building a blue water navy and are sailing to places they have not visited in 500 years.

One milestone in the conflict between the two nations came in January 2013 when the Philippines sued China saying that country violated Philippine sovereign rights. The Philippines claimed those rights were violated through China’s claims of a “9-dashed line.” The Philippines took its case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, which was established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 1982.

The Philippines provided the Court with 3,500 satellite images and aerial photos along with a 1,700-page document charging China with violations of the international law.

Manila requested a Court ruling on five issues:

  • That China does not have the right to do what they call “historical rights” over the waters, seabed and subsoil beyond the limits of their rights under the Convention.
  • That the so-called “9-dashed line” China is using to decide its territorial limit as an “historic right” has no basis under international law.
  • That the large-scale reclamation of some of the islands by China cannot change the legal character and original nature of these entities.
  • That China has violated the UN Convention by preventing the Philippines the free-exercise of its right of sovereignty and jurisdiction.
  • That China has caused irreparable damage to the marine environment around the disputed islands, through the destruction of the coral reefs in the South China Sea including areas within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Philippines, by the fishing in a reckless and destructive way, as well as the hunting various endangered species.

Del Rosario has also claimed Chinese vessels have rammed Philippine vessels in the West Philippine Sea, endangering the lives of fishermen. Earlier this year, Chinese Coast Guard forces allegedly rammed three Philippine boats navigating close to the Scarborough Shoal. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei tried to deflect criticism by accusing the Philippine fishermen of aggressive maneuvers while indirectly placing the blame on the Philippine government by urging it to “enhance supervision and allocation of its own fishermen to prevent such an incident from happening again.”

Along a parallel track, China has demanded the Philippines withdraw their complaint as a precondition to resuming bilateral talks regarding the sovereignty issue. Del Rosario has called these terms presented by China as unjustified and illegal, terms Manila will never accept.

Paul S. Reichler, a partner at Foley Hoag LLP and co-chair of their International Litigation and Arbitration Department in Washington, DC is representing the Philippines. Reichler said he expects the court will issue a decision on whether they have jurisdiction in the case within 90 days, but a final ruling could take several years.

Senior Chinese officials have identified protecting China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as a “core interest,” and PRC (People’s Republic of China) officials have repeatedly stated China’s opposition to actions they perceive as a challenge to this core interest.

With this dispute comes the risk it could spiral out of control and result in conflict as these countries stake their claims.

A Caricature of the confrontation between the Philippines and China


A Caricature of the confrontation between the Philippines and China comparing it to a fight between David and Goliath. (Petrotimes)

Should a Conflict Arise

Should a conflict in the South China Sea erupt, China would quickly win such a conflict, at least on the sea.

China has been building a navy that would quickly vanquish any neighbor that would choose to confront them.

In early August, China caused an uproar when it released a recruitment video for its navy on YouTube, which is said to be “flaunting” its naval capabilities and modernization. In the four minute twenty-three second video, the Chinese had featured an aircraft carrier, a new generation of submarine, as well as hospital ships and fighter jets.

The video seems to be meant to signal how serious they are about their military ambitions.

In May, Beijing unveiled plans to expand its navy’s ability to project power from coastal waters into open seas. The video looks as though it is to reinforce those plans, presenting a potent picture of a 21st century fighting force.

The video ends with images of Chinese armed forces saluting the Chinese flag and dozens of jets flying over more than 30 warships, including China’s only aircraft carrier the Liaoning. (This is the former Soviet carrier Varyag).

The video also prominently features the disputed islands in the South China Sea at the end of the video.

The tagline at the end of the video is translated “In whichever corner of the globe, where there is azure [blue water], we will stand guard,” the video declares, vowing a staunch defense for the three million square kilometers of ocean Beijing claims.

But what of the United States? Would the United States choose to confront a modern, technologically sophisticated navy?

A Permanent Aircraft Carrier

China’s moves have touched a nerve in Washington. Former ABC News Beijing bureau chief and China expert Chito Sta. Romana best summed up the U.S. attitude toward China’s activities:

The Americans saw it as the building of an unsinkable aircraft carrier in the middle of the South China Sea …

It has affected their strategic interest…intensifying the geopolitical rivalry between the two on whom will control the South China Sea… which the U.S. has almost controlled since the Second World War.

The United States have given a diplomatic response to China’s forays beyond that country’s shores, but it has yet to present an overt response.

Some in the Philippines wonder if they will.

One member of the KI Manila Issachar Group, Phillip Pastoral, stated it best:

The problem with Filipino policy-makers/politicians is that many still have a fixated view that Washington is always right (vis-à-vis China or Russia) and the U.S. is invincible and ready to take on another war. It’s a perception embraced by most of media and the public. …

[The question is] can the U.S. enforce its mutual defense treaty with the PH (the Philippines) and other countries? Pragmatically, the health of these alliances rest on that question. U.S. projects its naval power to assure its members and preserve the U.S. dollar as reserve currency. China seems bent on demonstrating U.S. weakness by picking on the weakest link of the alliance (The PH). The U.N. influence stands to gain most as countries look to it for resolving the regional conflict.

Since the Korean War, the U.S. has conducted a confusing foreign policy at best. Some would argue the U.S. has had little or no foreign policy. On many, the U.S. has promised support for an ally, then turned and left that country to fend for itself. Vietnam, Iran. Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Ukraine are just a few of the countries to experience this.

Many countries are now wondering if the U.S. will stand by commitments. Saudi Arabia is one of them, the Philippines is another.

For its part, the United States has to think long and hard before committing substantial resources to a conflict with China.

Will We Return?

Douglas MacArthur landing on Leyte


Douglas MacArthur landing on Leyte (Wikipedia Commons)

One can look to the past for advice in this matter. In the last years of his life, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur would be asked by many U.S. officials what he thought about a United States involvement in the South China Sea, specifically Indochina. Addressing the newly inaugurated President John Kennedy, the man who was called, “Protector of Australia, Liberator of the Philippines, Conqueror of Japan and Defender of Korea” said anyone who committed American forces to a land war in Asia “ought to have his head examined.”

By sea, the United States could contain China, at least for a while. While China has an aircraft carrier to project power, it is not yet very effective. China has an aircraft carrier, but they don’t have a full complement of trained pilots nor sailors to operate it. They also do not have enough ships to service a carrier. It really is no more than a training ship for the new aircraft carriers and crews China is developing now.

However, the Pentagon’s Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) released an unclassified assessment of the Chinese navy’s new capabilities and missions in the years ahead. China’s Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) can boast 300 ships and has rolled out a new class of guided missile destroyers, the LUYANG III, with China’s most advanced supersonic anti-ship missile, the YJ–18 ASCM, the so called “Carrier Killer.” These vertically launched missiles could take out a carrier group with a single shot. The U.S. has extremely good defensive measures, but the hard reality is the U.S. would have to successfully defend itself against attack 100 percent of the time. China would have to be successful only once.

PLAN plans to commission 10 more such vessels by 2017 and also plans to deploy the missile on Type–093G and Type–095 submarines.

According to the report, “In 2013 and 2014, China launched more naval ships than any other country and is expected to continue this trend through 2015–16,” according to the study. In 2013, the PLAN laid down, launched and commissioned more than 60 ships, although the emphasis overall is on quality rather than size. Looking at just numbers, Beijing already fields a formidable naval force:

As of this publishing, the PLA(N) consists of approximately 26 destroyers (21 of which are considered modern), 52 frigates (35 modern), 20 new corvettes, 85 modern missile armed patrol craft, 56 amphibious ships, 42 mine warfare ships (30 modern), more than 50 major auxiliary ships, and more than 400 minor auxiliary ships and service/support craft.

The PLAN’s submarine fleet now deploys 66 boats — five nuclear attack submarines, four nuclear ballistic missile submarines, and 57 diesel attack submarines, although the report does not suggest how many of the vessels are operational. Additionally, “by 2020 the submarine force will likely grow to over 70 submarines,” ONI assesses.

Furthermore the paper notes “[m]ajor qualitative improvements are occurring within the naval aviation and submarine forces, which are increasingly capable of striking targets hundreds of miles from the Chinese mainland.”

A sea war against China today is seen as problematic at best. What about a land war? Putting aside the logistical problems of trying to execute a land war and supplying troops from bases thousands of miles away, the key is the local population.

More Advice from the General

It might seem odd the man who was ready to expand the Korean War into China would counsel against fighting a land war in Asia, but his advice came with a caveat. It should be remembered he well understood the problems an invading army in Asia experiences when the local population is against it.

Harkening back to World War II, one reason the United States successfully executed the war in the Pacific Theater was because Filipino guerrilla forces were a major reason in the fight against Japan in the 1940s. In Vietnam in the 1960s, the United States would be in the same position as Japan and it would be termed “Ugly Americans.”

The Philippine alliance is a key to America’s view of Geopolitics.

A Strong Ally

Today the Philippines has been the United States’ strongest ally in the region. However, many officials in the Philippines view their country as a pawn in a larger game between the United States and China, and are wondering how to secure their own interests in the contested Scarborough Shoal and across the South China Sea.

While the mutual defense accord says the United States or the Philippines would support the other if one came under attack, it doesn’t necessarily apply to the Philippines’ ongoing troubles with the Chinese in the South China Sea. As a result, government officials in Manila have been patiently waiting for the United States to bring diplomatic and military pressure on Beijing to solve the problem. But time may be running out.

The increasing belligerence between Beijing and Washington suggests what was once a conflict between China and a host of smaller countries is now transforming into a standoff between two superpowers and Manila may find itself caught in the crossfire.

Roilo Golez is a former naval officer and chair of the committee on national defense in the Philippines’ House of Representatives. The U.S. Naval Academy graduate has said he expects Washington to do more than it has. He also said the United States has contributed a mere “scrap” to the Philippines’ military that is “almost incongruous to what we need,” a reference to the two Vietnam War-era Coast Guard cutter ships the United States sold to Manila for about $10 million each, under the Defense Security Cooperation Agency’s Excess Defense Articles program. This allows the United States to transfer arms and equipment to partner nations for a reduced price. Though these ships have been converted by the Philippines to perform as frigates, they have no missile-firing capacity.

They’d be sitting ducks in an actual shooting encounter in the South China Sea. In spite of our supposed “closeness” to the U.S., we have the weakest navy and air force in the region. There are secondhand mothballed fast frigates and multirole fighters the U.S., if it wants to, can turn over to the Philippines and give us a modest defense upgrade overnight.

These comments aside, the United States has begun to re-engage militarily with the Philippines, most notably through 2014’s Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the Philippines, a 10-year accord allows U.S. ships to rotate through Philippine naval bases. Washington also allocated $50 million in military aid to Manila for fiscal year 2014, and $40 million for 2015, up from $25.5 million in 2013.

Ups and Downs in Relations

It is in the strategic interest of the United States to support the Philippines. The country has some very valuable military bases, namely the naval base at Subic Bay, and Clark air base. These bases, when they were still owned by the United States, proved to be of enormous use in the Cold War, supporting operations in the Korean War, then in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. They could prove again to be valuable in any conflict involving China.

These bases grew enormously in size, with millions of Americans passing through or flying missions from there. In fact, the bases became small American towns, with schools, movie theaters and ballparks. But anticolonial feelings remained strong in the Philippines. Protests broke out from time to time, and a lot of negative publicity surrounded the red-light districts that flourished outside the U.S. bases.

In 1991, the U.S. bases were devastated by the eruption of the Mount Pinatubo volcano, just as a typhoon hit. At the same time, the Philippine Senate voted to block the renewal of a lease agreement for the bases. Within a year, the wrecked bases were abandoned. U.S. forces relocated to Guam and elsewhere. These events were a source of national pride for the Filipino people, but were considered damaging to America’s ability to project power in the western Pacific.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, US-Philippines relations entered a new phase, with U.S. forces being sent to help the Philippine military combat a Muslim insurgency in the South with ties to al-Qaida.

In the most recent phase, Manila became increasingly alarmed by the newly resurgent China and its territorial claims. This coincided with President Barack Obama’s “pivot to Asia” policy, and in April 2014, the United States and the Philippines signed a 10-year defense agreement. It was one of the clearest signs of renewed American engagement in the region.

So the U.S. is back in the Philippines, but this time as an ally and guest rather than as a colonial power.

The Right Thing to Do

While smaller than the United States, the Philippines has won the respect of the United States.

While the Philippines were once looked on by the United States as a weak nation that could not survive on its own; that attitude has changed. The real turning point in the relationship between the two countries was World War II, when Americans and Filipinos fought side-by-side against the Japanese, who attacked the Philippines immediately after Pearl Harbor. Japan conquered the island, but General MacArthur vowed to return. He came ashore with four U.S. Army divisions on the island of Leyte in late 1944, not far from where Typhoon Haiyan came ashore on 2013.

The common effort against the Japanese greatly increased the American level of respect for the Philippine people, and led to independence for the Philippines in 1946.

The U.S. admiration at the time was reciprocated by the Philippine people and it can be summarized by one incident.

Present in Spirit

World War II ended with the Allied Powers accepting the surrender of Japan aboard the USS Missouri on Sept. 2 1945. General MacArthur represented the allied forces and countersigned Japan’s surrender document.

Letters of congratulations and honors were bestowed on the General after the war, but two letters from the Philippine Congress were especially prized. The first letter granted him honorary citizenship to the Philippines, and the second informed him that:

… his name [will] be carried in perpetuity on the company roll calls of the Philippine Army, and at parade roll calls, when his name is called, the senior noncommissioned officer shall answer ‘Present in spirit,’ and during the lifetime of the General he shall be accredited with a guard of honor composed of 12 men of the Philippine Army…

MacArthur noted in his memoir “[i]t made me weep, something I had not done since my earliest childhood.”

The ties that bind the Philippines and United States together have cycled between attachment and distance. In today’s world, when a close ally and friend of the United States is threatened, these ties need to be strengthened.

The prayer of many on both sides of the Pacific that:

I [pray] that a merciful God will preserve and protect each and every one of you and will bring this land peace and tranquility always.

— Douglas MacArthur

A Matter of Loyalty

The Bible has a lot to say about loyalty. In personal relationship, we are called to steadfast loyalty. Paul speaks of his “my true partner” in Philippians 4:3. This unknown person is possibly Titus or Silas, but whoever it was, he was one who labored faithfully with Paul. Ruth is another example. She showed absolute loyalty to her mother-in-law as is written in Ruth 1:16:

Stop urging me to abandon you and to turn back from following you. Because wherever you go, I’ll go. Wherever you live, I’ll live. Your people will be my people, and your God, my God.

— Ruth 1:16 ISV

For all the military, diplomatic and political implications, relations between countries are reduced to relationships between friends and foes.

Loyalty between nations should echo the loyalty we, as Christians, are to have with others. As Peter has said:

Whoever speaks must speak God’s words.[a] Whoever serves must serve with the strength[b] that God supplies, so that in every way God may be glorified through Jesus, the Messiah.[c] Glory and power belong to him forever and ever! Amen.

— 1 Peter 4:11

It makes good geopolitical sense to support the Philippines and the other countries in the South China Sea. It not only makes good sense, it’s the right thing to do.

(Note: while this article presented a geopolitical background on the precariousness of the Philippines situation vis-à-vis China, a follow-up article will concentrate more on the prophetic aspects of events in the South China Sea Region.)

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Homegrown Terror

‎17 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎07:41:02 PM | Steve ElwartGo to full article
On Aug. 8, a Starkville, Mississippi couple were arrested over the weekend for conspiring and attempting to give material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – ISIL (now being called the Islamic State).

Jaelyn Delshaun Young, 20 and Muhammad Oda Dakhlalla, 22, were charged with the crimes.

They are being held without bond and are considered a flight risk.

How Could This Happen?

While many file this kind of report away as just another news item, this particular one hit close to home.

When this report was reported by the media, the people in Vicksburg, Mississippi, were shocked. For Jaelyn Delshaun Young had been a student at Warren Central High School, our local high school. She was on the honor roll, a senior homecoming maid and a member of the local robotics team. She seemed more a candidate for the Young Republicans Club than an ISIS sympathizer.

One Vicksburg resident gave voice to what many of us were thinking about the pair:

Someone please explain to me how obviously intelligent, educated, well brought up, socially graced, people cannot be horrified at what those savages (ISIS) do, and desire to join that pack of barbarians — to leave all the good things they have here in the U.S. behind, including their familes (sic) … their families who would otherwise be slaughtered if ISIS could get their hands on them … how are these young adults so immune to the atrocities committed by ISIS that they risk their futures and their lives, to join such butchery. Have they no conscience?

Indeed, how can this happen?

According to the federal complaint against the couple, the investigation began in May 2015, when Jaelyn Young (who changed her name to Amira al-Amriki) expressed a desire to travel to Syria to support ISIL. She spoke openly about her sympathies with the terrorist group. The complaint alleged she may have developed these sympathies through her association with Muhammad Dakhlalla whose father, Oda Dakhlalla, is the imam of the Islamic Center of Mississippi in Starkville.

The father’s involvement in their radicalization is in question since a professor at MSU regularly took students to the Islamic Center and described Oda Dakhlalla as a gracious host. She also told investigators that the imam told the students all about how much Islam and Christianity have in common. The imam even “served refreshment.” Another item of note is after the 9/11 attacks, Christians in Starkville rallied around the Muslim community which contributed to a seeming air of goodwill between the two communities.

The Complaint

According to the criminal complaint filed in this case, the defendants obtained passports and made arrangements to fly to Istanbul via Amsterdam. On or about Aug. 8, 2015, Young and Dakhlalla traveled to the Golden Triangle Regional Airport in Columbus, Mississippi, for their international flight. The defendants were arrested and, according to the complaint, were interviewed and both confessed to attempting to travel to Turkey to join ISIL in Syria.

According to Twitter tweets, the couple seemed enthusiastic, but also concerned about how training would work once they arrived. “Salaam again,” Dakhlalla wrote in a message to the FBI agent. “I wanted to ask about the military experience there. Would I be with people who speak English as well or do they put me with everyone at basic training? I am excited about coming … but I feel I won’t know what all I will be doing.”

Young also allegedly praised the July 16 attacks at military centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in which four Marines and a sailor were killed. “The numbers of supporters are growing.”

Reactions in Vicksburg

Another item of note is when word of the arrests came to Vicksburg, people thought Dakhlalla had convinced Young to make the trip and because they were “in love” she went along with it. However, an undercover FBI agent said it was Young who was pushing for the couple to go to Syria.

Also, Young wrote on her Twitter feed of her plans to marry Dakhlalla so the two could travel to Syria together. She confirmed the wedding took place in June and said the couple’s cover story would be that they were flying to Europe on their honeymoon. (It was interesting in their request for free legal counsel, they both listed their marital status as “single.” According to those familiar with the couple, they claimed to be married in the eyes of Allah, but did not have a civil ceremony.)

To avoid suspicion, “We won’t be flying to Istanbul. We will fly to a different country and take a bus.” Young also said that rather than fly from the Jackson, Mississippi, or Memphis Tennessee, airports, they would leave via the Columbus, Mississippi, airport, since it was well-known smaller, regional airports were underfunded, understaffed, and did not have the security larger airports had.

Young and Dakhlalla also described their skills and asked how they could help the terror group’s efforts. “I am good with computers, education and media,” Dakhlalla wrote in one message to an FBI agent. “What could I contribute?”

Young also told an undercover FBI agent her skills would be useful:

I am skilled in math and chemistry and worked at an analytical lab here on my college campus. My partner is very good with things like computer science/media. We learn very fast and would love to help with giving medical aid.

Young attended Mississippi State University and wanted to become a doctor.

The couple faces charges that carry a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Other Concerns

While this seems to be an open and shut case, there are other issues that have been exposed that merit concern. Most of them strike directly at the heart of our privacy and civil liberties:

  • When the story first appeared, the local newspaper ran a photograph of Young as a member of the Warren Central High School homecoming court. The paper did not practice basic journalism ethics and at least blur out the faces of the other girls in the picture. Some of the girls are concerned about their guilt by association. While the paper later changed the picture on its website, it was too late. The picture was already “out in the wild.” The picture had already been posted on other websites. As Raymond James “Ray” Donovan, President Reagan’s Secretary of Labor, famously said, “Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?”
  • Several people on Young’s robotic team were interviewed by the FBI. After the interview, one of the persons went to her smartphone to delete Young’s name from her contact list. She found Young’s contact information was already missing from her contact list. Someone had gone into her phone and erased the entry.

These incidents, as well as others, beg the question, “Who is under suspicion?” “Who is being surveilled by intelligence agencies?”

In the future, who else will be placed under suspicion by the State? Who is/will be considered a terrorist? Will someone who opposes same-sex marriage be considered a threat to their country? What about the “intolerant” person who opposes extreme Islam? Or the person who takes the Bible seriously? Will they be placed under suspicion?

It all depends on how terms are defined. What will tomorrow’s definition of “terrorism” or “terrorist” be?

That answer remains to be determined.

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Evolution from a Jewish Perspective, Part 3

‎17 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎07:39:11 PM | Asher NormanGo to full article
Note: Asher (Roland) Norman is an author, attorney and Orthodox Jew, living in California. He also lectures on the subject of “The Scientific Case Against Random Macro Evolution (and for Intelligent Design).” He also lectures on the subject of Jewish holiness, explaining the organizing principle of Jewish holiness in separating between life and death regarding food, (kosher laws) intimacy (family purity laws) and time (Shabbat).

This is Part Three of a three-part series on evolution from a Jewish perspective.

The Pre-Biotic Soup

Neo-Darwinists propose first life began from a hypothetical “pre-biotic soup” that contained the necessary raw materials for first life to spontaneously begin its existence from inanimate matter. The pre-biotic soup theory is Darwinist’s primary theory for the origin of life.

There is a problem with this hypothesis. There is no physical evidence for its existence. Such “soup,” according to researchers, would require an oxygen-free environment, since oxygen would react with and destroy the mixture’s essential chemicals. But the absence of oxygen and therefore ozone, a heavy form of oxygen that coats the Earth’s atmosphere in a protective layer, would leave the earth’s surface unshielded from deadly ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

Therefore, any ‘new’ life would be instantly and mortally irradiated. Nucleic acid compounds, which form all genetic material, are strong absorbers of ultraviolet light, and are sensitive to damage and mutation. A lethal dose would occur without oxygen in 0.3 seconds to today’s organisms. This helps explain why there is no life on Mars. Also, such a mixture would need many complex organic compounds. But these are unstable and quickly dissolve into solution, so this mixture would not last long enough to breed new molecules.

Finally, there is no evidence this soup ever existed.

Dr. Chandra Wickramasinghe stated in 1984:

It does not follow logically that one can start from an organic soup and end up with a living system. There’s no logic that drives you to that conclusion at all. And when we looked at the probabilities of the assembly of organic materials into a living system, it turns out that the improbabilities are really horrendous, horrific in extent, and I concluded along with my colleague (Sir Fred Hoyle) that this could not have happened spontaneously on the earth. In accepting the “primordial soup theory” of the origin of life, scientists have replaced the religious mysteries which shrouded this question with equally mysterious scientific dogmas. (“Lifecloud,” Hoyle and Wickramasighe)

In 1991, the Scientific American summed up the current state of origin of life research quoting Crick,”The origin of life appears to be almost a miracle.”

The Darwinist’s Explanation for the Soup

Darwinists explain the existence of a pre-biotic soup by citing the Harold Urey and Stanley Miller Experiments at the University of Chicago in 1953.

Miller simulated the supposed early earth atmosphere of methane and ammonia in a glass flask. He then introduced electricity into the flask. The intent of the experiment was to prove life wasn’t a miracle, it was bound to happen.

The result was two amino acids. Other experiments produced other amino acids and compounds needed for life. But scientists were never able to get beyond the simplest amino acids in their simulated primordial environment, and the creation of proteins began to seem not a small step or couple of steps, but a great, perhaps impassable, divide.

The Program of Volcanoes

In the 1970’s scientists concluded the earth’s early atmosphere was nothing like the mixture of gasses used by Miller and Urey. Instead of being what scientists call a “reducing” or hydrogen-rich environment, the earth’s early atmosphere probably consisted of gasses released by volcanoes. There is now a near consensus among geochemists on the point: but put those volcanic gasses in the Miller-Urey apparatus, and the experiment doesn’t work. No building blocks of life. But the textbooks ignore this inconvenient fact and continue to use the Miller-Urey experiment to convince students scientists have showed an important first step in the origin of life. (“Molecular Biology of the Cell” by Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences)

Miller-Urey Apparatus


Miller-Urey Apparatus (Creative Commons)

Even if the Urey and Miller experiments did produce the touted results, the conceptual problem with their experiments would remain: they are the result of intelligent design and are not random or the result of chance as would be required by nature. If they prove anything, they prove a designer is necessary. (Note: With the discovery of DNA, there was an additional realization—for more complex structures to appear there must also be an exchange of information that is lacking from this experiment.)

Finally, amino acids are a vast distance from life that can replicate itself. The first living being would need DNA, a biological information system of unbelievable complexity, or there would not be a second living being.

Neo-Darwinist Arguments for Macro-Evolution

The Phylogenetic Tree

Darwinists claim describing animals based upon similarity of their limbs, digestive systems or their blood circulatory systems shows Darwinian descent. They use hypothetical phylogenic tree diagrams to demonstrate this approach. However, organ similarities are not “proof” because the same evidence would also be consistent with intelligent design. It neither “proves” evolution nor design because it is consistent with both. However, the ability to construct a unique tree is required to show macro evolution. Has a “unique tree” been demonstrated by Darwinists? Absolutely not.

Phylogenetic Tree of Life


Phylogenetic Tree of Life (Creative Commons)

Convergent Evolution

There are many instances where the same trait or character appears in independent lineages. For example:

  • The auditory system of mammals and insects has the same elements.
  • Whales, dolphins and bats all have echolocation systems enabling them to “see” by means of sound waves, like naval sonar systems.
  • The taste cells in the tongues of insects and mammals detect the same basic sensations (sweet, bitter, etc.)
  • The eye is said to have evolved independently at least 40 times and as many as 65 times.

Darwinists argue somehow these similarities are “proof” for evolution. However, for evolution to work there must be an enormous number of potentially beneficial mutations. Therefore, the possible evolutionary paths from any stage would be extremely large, making a repetition of a previous macro-mutation rather highly unlikely. If there are enough adaptive mutations at each stage to allow evolution to work, convergent evolution must be impossible. Darwinists haven’t explained convergent evolution, they have only labeled their ignorance.

Geographical Distribution

Darwinists point out that different versions of the same animals or plants can be found in various places on earth. Darwinists claim “a Creator would not do it that way.” Ironically, they make a theological argument:

  • If animals were specially created, why would the creator produce on different continents fundamentally different animals that nevertheless look and act so much alike?
  • Why would an all-powerful creator decide to plant his carefully crafted species on islands and continents in exactly the appropriate pattern to suggest, irresistibly they had evolved and dispersed from the site of their evolution?

This is a weak “theological” argument and is not a scientific argument. Secular scientists are hardly in a position to know what God would or would not do. Further, Lee M Spetner has provided an answer: he has showed independent populations of animals and plants can change and adapt to new environments in response to environmental input.

Vestigal Organs

Darwinists make another “theological” argument that “a Creator would not put useless organs into His Creatures.” Once again, theological arguments are not science. This argument is also flawed because it is not possible to tell an organ has no use because its use may not have yet been discovered. 120 years ago, a list was published with 86 human organs believed to be vestigial. One by one, they were found to have be functional. The appendix is still touted as “the most famous” vestigial. It turns out it is not only functional but lit plays a critical role. It is a storage place for gut bacteria that repopulate the gut after diarrheal illness. When gut bacteria are depleted during a diarrheal illness, pathogens present would have free reign and could cause serious illness. This catastrophe is prevented by the bacteria stored in the appendix and it could save your life.

No Time for Evolution: The Burgess Shale Fossil Discovery

Charles Doolittle Wolcott was a Paleontologist and the Director of the Smithsonian, Washington DC. He discovered in the Burgess Pass, 8000 feet high in the Canadian Rockies, shale rocks that reveal the origin of life. (Cover Story, Time magazine Dec. 4, 1995)



Marrella, the most abundant Burgess Shale organism (CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons)

Walcott shipped 60–80,000 fossils to the Smithsonian in Washington DC which proves the significance of this discovery to him. He made the discovery in 1909. He suppressed the significance of the discovery until he died. Finally, 80 years later, graduate students released the news of the discovery. In 1989 it was published in a book by Jay Gould, “The Wonderful Life.” In November 1992, it was published in the Scientific American and in Dec. 4, 1995, as the cover story in Time magazine (Evolution’s Big Bang):

Life has occupied the planet for nearly four billion of its 4.5 billion years. But until about 600 million years ago, there were no organisms more complex than bacteria, multicelled algae and single-celled plankton. The first hint of biological ferment was a plethora of mysterious palm-shape, frond-like creatures (Ediacaran fauna) that vanished as inexplicably as they appeared.

Then, 543 million years ago, in the early Cambrian, within the span of no more than 10 million years, creatures with teeth and tentacles and claws and jaws materialized with the suddenness of apparitions. In a burst of creativity like nothing before or since, nature appears to have sketched out the blueprints for virtually the whole of the animal kingdom. This explosion of biological diversity is described by scientists as biology’s Big Bang.

Since 1987, discoveries in China, in Greenland, Sweden, Siberia and in Namibia have shown this period of biological innovation occurred at virtually the same instant in geologic time all-around the world.

These discoveries have shown it was during the Cambrian Era “nature” invented the animal body plans that define the broad biological groupings known as phyla, which encompass everything from classes and orders to families, genera and species. For example, the chordate phylum includes mammals, birds and fish. The class Mammilla, in turn, covers the primate order, the hominid family, the genus Homo and our own species Homo sapiens.

There is no fossil record of life above the single cell and the brief appearance of the Ediacaran Fauna before the Cambrian explosion. There is no record of new phyla emerging later on, not even in the wake of mass extinction that occurred 250 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period.

This explains the absence of transitional fossils. There was not a transition, in geological terms, all the body types were created “at once,” which is profound evidence of design.

Evidence for Design in the Universe

The Anthropic Principle

According to a growing numbers of scientists, the laws and constants of nature are so “finely-tuned,” and so many “coincidences” have occurred to allow for the possibility of life, the universe must have come into existence through intentional planning and intelligence. In fact, this “fine-tuning” is so pronounced, and the “coincidences” are so numerous, many scientists have come to espouse The Anthropic Principle, which contends the universe was brought into existence intentionally for the sake of producing mankind.

Planetary Habitable Zone


Planetary Habitable Zone (HowStuffWorks.com)

In his best-selling book, “A Brief History of Time,” Stephen Hawking (perhaps the world’s most famous cosmologist) refers to the phenomenon as “remarkable.”

The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers (i.e., the constants of physics) seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life. For example, if the electric charge of the electron had been only slightly different, stars would have been unable to burn hydrogen and helium, or else they would not have exploded. It seems clear that there are relatively few ranges of values for the numbers (for the constants) that would allow for development of any form of intelligent life. Most sets of values would give rise to universes that, although they might be very beautiful, would contain no one able to wonder at that beauty.

Hawking then goes on to say he can appreciate taking this as possible evidence of “a divine purpose in Creation and the choice of the laws of science (by God)”

Professor Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in high energy physics (a field of science that deals with the very early universe), writing in the journal “Scientific American,” reflects on how surprising it is the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the universe should allow for the existence of beings who could observe it. Life as we know it would be impossible if any one of several physical quantities had slightly different values.

Although Weinberg is a self-described agnostic, he cannot but be astounded by the extent of the fine-tuning. He goes on to describe how a beryllium isotope having the minuscule half-life of 0.0000000000000001 seconds must find and absorb a helium nucleus in that split of time before decaying. This occurs only because of an unexpected, exquisitely precise, energy match between the two nuclei. If this did not occur there would be none of the heavier elements. No carbon, no nitrogen, no life. Our universe would be composed of hydrogen and helium. But this is not the end of professor Weinberg’s wonder at our well-tuned universe.

He continues:

One constant does seem to require an incredible fine-tuning — The existence of life of any kind seems to require a cancellation between different contributions to the vacuum energy, accurate to about 120 decimal places. This means if the energies of the Big Bang were, in arbitrary units, not:

0000000000000000000000000000000000000000, but instead:


there would be no life of any sort in the entire universe because as Weinberg states: ‘the universe either would go through a complete cycle of expansion and contraction before life could arise, or would expand so rapidly that no galaxies or stars could form.

Michael Turner, the widely quoted astrophysicist at the University of Chicago and
Fermilab, describes the fine-tuning of the universe with a simile: “The precision is as if one
could throw a dart across the entire universe and hit a bull’s-eye one millimeter in diameter on the other side.”

Roger Penrose, the Rouse Ball professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, stated:

“The likelihood of the universe having usable energy (low entropy) at the creation is even more astounding, namely, an accuracy of one part out of ten to the power of ten to the power of 123. This is an extraordinary figure. One could not possibly even write the number down in full, in our ordinary denary (power of ten) notation: it would be one followed by ten to the power of 123 successive zeros.” (That is a million billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion zeros.) (That’s a million followed by 13 billion zeros.)

Professor John Wheeler was most eloquent in his summation of this issue:

To my mind, there must be at the bottom of it all, not an utterly simple equation, but an utterly simple idea. And to me that idea, when we finally discover it, will be so compelling, and so inevitable, so beautiful, we will all say to each other, “How could it have ever been otherwise?

Final Conclusion

The overriding supremacy of the myth of Neo-Darwinism has created a widespread illusion the theory of (macro) evolution was all but proved one hundred years ago and all subsequent biological research — paleontological, zoological and in the newer branches of genetics and molecular biology — has provided ever increasing evidence for Darwinian ideas. Nothing could be further from the truth. (“Darwin on Trial”, Phillip E. Johnson 2010)

The fact is the evidence was so patchy 100 years ago that even Darwin himself had increasing doubts as to the validity of his views, and the only aspect of his theory which has received any support over the past century is where it applies to micro-evolutionary phenomena. All the evidence for macro-evolution which is required to produce a new species is based upon micro-evolution, but micro-evolution cannot produce a new species.

Charles Darwin’s General Theory of Evolution that all life on earth had originated and evolved by a gradual successive accumulation of fortuitous mutations, is still, as it was in Darwin’s time, a highly speculative hypothesis. It is still entirely without direct factual support and very far from that self-evident axiom some of its more aggressive advocates would have us believe.

Darwin believed in “macro-evolution” but that GOD was the designer behind it. He stated in Origin of Species, (sixth ed.) page 408 1862 in the final sentence in his book:

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one, and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Stephen Jay Gould, in his book, “Eight Little Piggies: Reflections in Natural History,” The Harvard professor (and a follower of Darwin) falsified the final sentence of Darwin’s book:

  • Gould purported to “quote” Darwin saying, “There is grandeur in this view of life…whilst this planet has gone cycling…” (“Eight Little Piggies,” Norton, 1993)
  • On pages 179 and 217 of Gould’s book he twice deleted “having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one…” from Darwin’s conclusion in order to eliminate Darwin’s reference to GOD.

This falsified “quote” by Gould perfectly captures what Darwinists have done. They have turned evolution into a materialist, secular religion.

Macro-evolution is faith based and is not based upon evidence or provable facts. In other words, Neo-Darwinism is religion pretending to be science.

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China: Projection of Power

‎10 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎07:34:09 PM | Steve ElwartGo to full article
China made history in the last few months. In April, the Lin Yi, a guided missile frigate, spent a little over an hour in Yemen’s war-torn port of Aden before setting sail for Djibouti with 225 evacuees from 10 countries. The evacuees were greeted at the harbor by Djiboutian officials, the Chinese ambassador to Djibouti and other diplomats. Djiboutian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mahamoud Ali Youssouf expressed his thanks for China’s help in evacuating foreign nationals, saying the move is very touching.

Billed by Beijing as the navy’s first international maritime rescue evacuation, the mission helps show the rising ambitions of the People’s Liberation Army.

A few days earlier, state television showed a satellite photo of three Shang-Class submarines anchored at a top-secret base on China’s southern island of Hainan. The report identified them as the navy’s most advanced Type-093G nuclear powered attack submarines, which experts say will start China’s first patrol by nuclear powered subs later this year. The Chinese Navy now has more diesel and nuclear attack submarines than America does according to one US Navy admiral. Some of them are “fairly amazing” and Beijing is exploring new ways of projecting its power on the seas.

Shang-Class SSNs at Hainan Island

Also, Pakistan has agreed “in principle” to buy eight Chinese submarines in a deal that could be worth up to $5 billion — the most lucrative Chinese arms contract ever.

In March, China also announced it is building a second aircraft carrier. It is estimated China’s defense spending would increase by 10.1 per cent this year alone. This means China has increased its defense spending by over 10% every year for the last 27 years. Even more disturbing, China’s arms exports have grown by 143 per cent, making it the world’s third-largest arms trader, according to a new study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri).

The questions military analysts are asking is whether China has gone down the road of militarization or is it simply building up its military? There is a distinction between the two terms. Militarizing is what countries do when they intend to use their military, and is measured not just in ships and tanks, but also in behavior. China’s neighbors, such as Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines, are becoming skittish about Beijing beefing up its hold over disputed islands. Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, had likened this to the creation of “a Great Wall of sand”, referring to a large-scale dredging operation to create land on isolated reefs for ports, barracks and even air strips. One source of comfort to these countries is the fact China recently announced it is halting land creation efforts on these islands.

Beijing’s rapid spending increases and defense of its maritime claims, including an area of ocean sticking out into the South China Sea called the “nine dash line” threaten to set off an arms race across all of Asia. Because of the Chinese build-up, Japan has begun to debate the merits of its pacifist postwar constitution. (China’s defense budget is 3.6 times larger than the defense budget of Japan.)

International focus

As has been reported here previously, Beijing has been taking on international commitments, starting with a naval mission in 2008 off the east coast of Africa to combat piracy, marking the first time in 600 years China has deployed its navy beyond its shores. China also sent out a frigate in an international effort to escort a convoy of ships carrying Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile out of the country. China has also deployed some of its submarines into the Indian Ocean, with one sub visiting Sri Lanka two times.

With this new found power, China has recently flexed its military muscle. Before a visit to India last September by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Chinese forces moved closer to India along a disputed border in the Himalayas. Then in November 2013, Beijing’s defense ministry announced an “air defense identification zone”, which requires all aircraft travelling through it to identify themselves and covers islands in the East China Sea claimed by Japan.

Global Defense Spending

Few would deny China’s role in the world is increasing, but how much defense does a country need? The way countries spend money tells a lot about their intentions. If Beijing’s strategy is judged just on the numbers, China’s 10-fold increase in annual defense spending from 1989 would seem exceptional. But measured another way, as a part of the overall economy, China’s military spending looks more normal. For all the talk of trophy armaments and aggressive rhetoric from Beijing, military expenditures are small by international standards if measured as a percentage of GDP. When looking at defense spending in this way, China’s military spending is actually less than many of its neighbors as a percentage of GDP.

Something else defense analysts will point out is even though China is spending large amounts of money on defense spending, much of the money is going toward internal security, rather than foreign defense. A large middle class is growing dissatisfied with conditions as they are and rural areas are envious of their richer urban cousins. Beijing is increasing their defense forces also to counter an internal uprising in the provinces.

Just as in the United States, defense spending is a part of China’s overall economic development. As Dr. Sam Perlo-Freeman, Senior Researcher and Head of the Sipri Project on Military Expenditure puts it, “There is more of everything in China now, there are more cellphones, there’s more air pollution, there are more babies [and] there are also more tanks and one more aircraft carrier.”

China’s arms exports can also be counted in different ways. The Chinese foreign ministry took issue with the Sipri study of arms exports, claiming the study measured volumes of arms rather than price, which is not usually made publicly available. Measuring by volume, it says, understates the exports of the US, which are more expensive.

Moreover, other analysts say despite the impressive rollout of high-tech equipment, China’s army still has little operational ability for the most advanced systems.

“The military appears to run on slogans,” says one western diplomat in Beijing with extensive knowledge of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA). “But operationally they have a long way to go.” The lack of transport aircraft, for example, makes it increasingly common to see hordes of PLA soldiers boarding Chinese commercial airlines flights bound for duty.

While much of the spending is on prestige projects such as the Liaoning, a Soviet aircraft carrier China commissioned in 2012 after refitting it, experts say without huge improvements in combat readiness, training and doctrine — not to mention smaller support vessels — such trophy platforms will be sitting ducks in a conflict.

“There are individual US pilots who have had more carrier landings than the whole of the Chinese military,” according to Gary Li, an independent defense analyst on China, adding that having an aircraft carrier “does not equate to knowing how to use it. They are years away from being able to conduct carrier operations.”

Shifts in command

One thing has changed for China is that it is moving away from its former strategic priorities, such as fighting a land war against the Soviet Union, towards projecting power into the western Pacific region. This will cause the United States and its ANZUS (Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty) allies to rethink its strategy.

Analyzing budgets and the number of troops tells only half the story of China’s military strategy. More important is the intrusion into the public sphere of military and security issues, which were previously not a priority in the post-Mao era when economic development was key. China seems to be adjusting from being a developmental state, to becoming more of a national security state in which security priorities are becoming the most important considerations for the Chinese leadership.

While both the United States and China face epochal budgetary and economic crises — which in both countries bleed over into the political realm — an economic crisis is brewing in China, one that is far more profound than in the United States.

Any internal crisis, be it the stack market continuing to fall, India trying to move eastward into disputed territory, or internal dissent, these realities will stay the overriding geopolitical facts for that country.

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Evolution from a Jewish Perspective, Part 2

‎10 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎07:31:21 PM | Asher NormanGo to full article
This is Part Two of a three-part series on evolution from a Jewish perspective.

Note: Asher (Roland) Norman is an author, attorney, and Orthodox Jew, living in California. He also lectures on the subject of “The Scientific Case against Random Macro Evolution (and for Intelligent Design).” He also lectures on the subject of Jewish holiness, explaining the organizing principle of Jewish holiness in separating between life and death regarding food, (kosher laws) intimacy (family purity laws) and time (Shabbat).

Neo-Darwinism and Natural Selection

The second part of Neo-Darwinism is Natural Selection. Darwinists assert because a useful mutation improves a species, that improved species will become part of the population of the entire species through the process of Natural Selection.

Natural selection means animals and plants best fitted to their environment are most successful. This concept is commonly known as “Survival of the Fittest.” How do Darwinists measure success? They measure success by the animal’s ability to survive. How do Darwinists measure survival? By the number of offspring are left. Therefore, fitness means survival and survival means success at breeding. What does “survival of the fittest mean? To a geneticist “fitness’ has nothing to do with health, strength or good looks. Once again, it only means effectiveness in breeding. Natural selection is therefore so nebulous a concept it can fit a huge range of mutually contradictory outcomes. Fitness predicts nothing. It only works after the fact, looking backwards.

The theory of Natural Selection states the fittest individuals in a population (defined as those who leave the most offspring) will leave the most offspring. (Tom Bethell, “Darwin’s Mistake.”) Is this science? No. It is a circular argument.

To explain this extraordinary “good luck”, Darwinists are fond of using cute phrases like “selection pressure” to back-door the idea luck isn’t blind. But this is another example of of scientific fraud because luck is blind and their “good luck” is impossible statistically, as demonstrated above.

Normally, species are tenacious. They thrive perfectly well and once entrenched are unlikely either to change or be displaced by newly arrived beings unless a mass extinction knocks ecosystems off their tracks. Recent evidence seems to show mass extinction (perhaps caused by meteors striking the earth) have been responsible for the massive loss of species on earth, not natural selection. No organisms are adapted to survive such calamities.

According to Professor Steven M. Stanley, writing in Scientific American, January, 1982 (page 48–55):

Seven mass extinctions have occurred. These extinctions seem to account for the loss of species, not natural selection. If natural selection has not occurred, a key part in the theory of evolution is disproved!

It wasn’t competing mammals that finally pushed dinosaurs over the brink of extinction.

Professor Ernst Chain, Nobel Laureate from the University of Oxford and author of a book about mass extinction stated: “survival of the fittest seems to me a hypothesis based on no evidence and irreconcilable with the facts.” (“The Great Dying” 1986 p.88)


The Theory of Competition is the interaction between organisms or species in which the fitness of one is lowered by the presence of another. The problem with the theory of competition is it is rarely found in nature where it determines which individuals will leave the most offspring.

  • Where male animals fight for the privilege of mating, the female will usually also mate with the loser later. The fighting in most species rarely causes fatal injury and is mostly ritual in nature.
  • There are over 1 million insect species. Most of these species do not aggressively compete.

Usually luck, not “fitness” determines the outcome of survival issues. Fire, draught, flood or no food may determine which individuals will leave the most offspring. Very often cooperation increases the chances of survival much more than struggle, in which case the Theory of Competition falls apart…

Natural selection is also problematic because it assumes useful mutation in one offspring eventually become part of the entire population. This is highly dubious because there is no basis for assuming the offspring will not be killed by predators, by disease or it will leave any offspring. Even if it does, there is no reasonable probability the useful mutation will become part of an entire population.

The Problem of the Lack of Statistical Possibility for First Life and for Darwinian Evolution

Darwinists assert life began spontaneously by natural processes. They claim time is a central feature in the drama of first life. Darwinists insist given enough time, an unknown process may bring first life into existence. They are therefore characterized by an unquenchable optimism that given enough time anything is possible. Darwinists make sweeping statements about probability without any statistical mathematical support. I will demonstrate below the necessary time was not available because the fossil evidence now shows single celled life began almost immediately and all the phyla were “created” in a 5 to 10 million year period during the Cambrian Explosion. According to Darwinism, change this fast is impossible because the extreme rarity of useful mutations would require a massive amount of time.

It is a mathematical precept that if the odds against an event occurring are greater than one in 10/50th, it cannot be proposed as a scientific theory because it is statistically impossible. According to mathematician Lee M Spetner, writing in his book “Not by Chance! Shattering the Modern Theory of Evolution”:

  • Typical bacterium has 2000 different enzymes. To compute the odds of randomly assembling a Bacterium from all the right enzymes, you take the probability of assembling one-enzyme times itself 2000 times.
  • The result: there is a 1 in a 1/4,000th chance a single bacterium ever evolved on earth after a billion years of trials and assuming the available enzyme stew (for which there is no evidence.)

In 1981, Nobel laureate Sir Fred Hoyle and his associate Dr. Chandra Wickramasinghe calculated that these odds made up such an outrageously small probability it could not be faced even if the whole universe consisted of organic soup. “Evolution from Space” (1981)

Hoyle added, “… it was more likely (for just one bacterium to self-generate) that a tornado sweeping through a junkyard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein.” To get a cell by chance would require at least 100 functional proteins to appear simultaneously in one place. That is 100 simultaneous events each with an independent probability of one in 10/20th. 10/20 X 100 equals an overall probability of one in 10/2000th.

The Human Condition

There are 25,000 operative enzymes in a human being (vs. 2000 for a bacterium). The probability of 25,000 enzymes forming spontaneously once in a billion years is about 1 in 10/600,000th (Just the enzymes in a human, ignoring the profoundly complex structures and processes that are required.)

The odds of these enzymes of a human evolving randomly in earth’s history are equal to the chance of pulling one red marble out of a mound of black marbles trillions and trillions and trillions times larger than the entire universe in one try. Not to mention how these enzymes could have assembled into skin, bones, muscles, eyes, nucleotides and DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid).

Professor Shaperio considers even this probability far too optimistic. “Things are much worse. A tidy set of twenty amino acids, all in the L-form wasn’t likely to even have been available on early earth.” He believes Dr. Harold Morowitz, a Yale Physicist is more correct in his calculation of the odds of evolving a bacterium on earth, at 10/100,000,000,000th (hundred billion). This is equal to rolling 199 trillion consecutive double sixes of dice.

In 1978, Sir Fred Hoyle and Dr. Chandra Wickramasinghe favored abandoning evolution in favor of seeding by intelligent beings from distant corners of the Universe. They stated in 1981, “No matter how large the environment one considers, life cannot have had a random beginning.”


Darwinists are fond of using the “monkeys at the typewriter analogy” to “prove” evolution is possible. They claim given enough time and enough monkeys typing randomly on typewriters, they would eventually produce one of Shakespeare’s sonnets by luck and chance. They get away with this nonsense because they never show the actual statistical probabilities. They just make the case with rhetoric. The actual likelihood of producing an average length sonnet of Shakespeare (containing only 23 words) by random typing is one in 10/690th. Remember, an event occurring with the odds against it more than one in 10/50th is statistically impossible.

Troops of monkeys thundering away at random on typewriters could not produce the works of Shakespeare, for the practical reason that the whole observable universe is not large enough to contain the necessary monkey hordes, the necessary typewriters and certainly the waste paper baskets required for the deposition of the wrong attempts. The same is true for living material.

L. M. Spetner, Journal of Theoretical Biology, 1964

Albert Einstein and the Paradigm

One reason evolution is still accepted although contradicted by the scientific evidence is the power of the paradigm. A paradigm is defined as a frame of reference comprising interlocking scientific, social or political ideas. A paradigm is so powerful scientists will continue to believe in it even in the face of contradictory evidence.

Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity proved the universe was expanding. But the existing paradigm accepted by almost all scientists at the time was the universe was static. Einstein actually inserted a “cosmological constant” into his mathematical equation to agree with the paradigm. After he received criticism from other scientists, he finally removed this “fudge factor” to show an expanding universe. He later admitted this was the greatest mistake of his career. A scientist of his stature succumbed to the power of the paradigm. Contemporary scientists are making the same mistake regarding evolution.

Darwinists Big Problem – Explaining the Origin of Life

  • By definition, all information has an intelligent source because information is data organized by intelligence.
  • DNA is the most profound information imaginable since it is the only information that designates and creates self-replicating life.
  • The first life was probably bacteria. A bacterium had to have had DNA or there could not have been second bacteria. Before life on earth there was only inorganic matter. Is there any scientific evidence inorganic matter can be the source of DNA? Absolutely not.

The most difficult problem Darwinists face relates to first life. It is necessary for them to explain how the wall of cells, extremely complex interdependent cell structures, processes, and biological information in DNA came into existence without a designer.

DNA is a biological information system of unbelievable complexity. The first living being had to have had DNA or there would not have been a second living being. The DNA for a human being contains 3000 million instructions.

The capacity of DNA to store information vastly exceeds that of any other known system. It is so efficient that all the information needed to specify an organism like man weighs less than as few thousand millionths of a gram. The information necessary to specify the design of all the organisms which have ever existed on the planet could be held in a teaspoon and there would still be room left for all the information in every book ever written.

Michael Denton, “Evolution, A Theory in Crisis” p, 336, (1986)

Darwinists assert DNA came into existence by “luck and chance” then accuse religious believers of having “religious faith.” The problem with this assertion is Darwin NEVER claimed inorganic matter could become living creatures. He believed GOD was the origin of first life.

Darwin never said evolution was Godless or directionless. In fact, a reading of the sixth edition of Origin proves both assertions are factually incorrect. The second page of the Origin prominently displays this quote:

To conclude, therefore, let no man out of a weak conceit of sobriety, or an ill-applied moderation, think or maintain, that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God’s word, or in the book of God’s works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavour an endless progress or proficience in both.

— Bacon: Advancement of Learning

It should be noted that “Origin” is called “The Origin of Species”, not “The Origin of Life”.

In the next article Asher Norman will continue his study of evolution from a Jewish perspective by examining the “pre-biotic soup.”

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The Daniel Protocol

‎04 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎01:15:23 AM | Steve ElwartGo to full article

Many claim “I’m a loyal person!” but who can find someone who truly is?

— Proverbs 20:6, ISV

With all the worldview changes occurring today, what is a Christian to do? Does one hunker down and withdraw from the world or does one stand and fight? The answer may lie in The Daniel Protocol.

Issues for Today

Over the past few years, world events have brought new meaning to the Biblical prophecy of a time where good is called evil and evil is called good. Some of the issues we face today are:

  1. Sanctity of Life: There has been a steady encroachment on the sanctity of life by abortion, euthanasia, cloning and embryonic stem cell research.
  2. Religious Liberty: Every day religious liberties are being attacked. Christians are ostracized, fined, and imprisoned for following Biblical dictates. People are being told to “keep their religion to themselves.” Moral virtue is being decried as intolerance. It is acceptable to condemn Christianity, but nothing bad can be said about Islam. What a few years ago was called “mainstream religion” is now being called “extremist religion.”
  3. Marriage: The recognized concept of marriage that has been in place for millennia has been redefined. All kinds of sexual proclivities are not only considered acceptable, but are now deemed natural. The family, the foundation of any nation, is being eroded in the name of Progressivism.
  4. Terrorism: There is a war being waged where the enemy is not acknowledged. Shootings in the name of Allah are termed “workplace violence.” Jihadists who murder Christians, burn villages, and enslave women and children are called “warring tribes.” The violence being perpetrated on innocents is being termed “war in the name of fundamentalist religion,” placing many Christians in the same category as ISIS and Boko Haram. It is a clash of civilizations that is being put in terms of mere criminal activity.
  5. Judicial Roles: Judges are usurping the role of legislatures and creating law out of thin air.
  6. Faith-based solutions: Churches and faith-based organizations are being told they cannot operate unless they repudiate their religious mandates. Many Christian services are closing rather than bending to pressure from the State, leaving many people without help or hope.
  7. Education: Education is becoming less about learning and more about becoming “good citizens.” Those that choose to educate their own children along religious precepts are being put under great pressure to turn over their children to the State. Sometimes this means imprisonment.
  8. Media: All this under the watchful gaze of a Progressive media that is only reporting the news that fits their worldview.

A Survey of Religious Hostility in America is a collection of more than 1,200 cases, detailing religious bigotry throughout America — most of which have occurred within the past 10 years. It offers stunning insight into the attacks against people of faith across the United States.

Many Christians are having a crisis of conscience. They are looking for ways to deal with the world around them. In June, this author wrote of an option many are taking called The Benedict Option.

According to the author Eric Dean:

The political and social disorder that accompanied the end of the Roman Empire induced many people to turn away from society. The idea of an isolated ascetic life had developed in the East, particularly in Egypt, where St. Anthony inspired many. Some individual hermits began to form monastic communities, but for the most part the emphasis was still upon the private war between the spirit and the world.

People who hold to the Benedict Option are separating themselves from the world to form isolated Christian communities. These people believe they will be able to live their lives without enduring the pressures of the outside world.

There is a basic flaw in this assumption. Those that are choosing the Benedict Option think they will be left alone. They will not. One lesson of history is Evil will not leave Good in peace. Evil will follow them. It is not enough for today’s Progressives to have their views considered “mainstream”; they are bent in making others conform to their way of thinking. They will follow those who try to isolate themselves into their communities and impose their values on them.

The Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto found this out the hard way. They isolated themselves from the Nazis. They woke up one morning with a fence around them and their community became their prison. The next step was a train ride and a one way trip to the ovens.

The Bible had something to say about retreating to enclaves. It talks about people putting their trust in walled cities instead of God. In every case, those cities were destroyed:

City walls and buildings outside Hazor

City walls and buildings outside Hazor, one of Israel’s most heavily fortified cities.

There is an alternative to retreating from the World this author calls The Daniel Protocol.

Daniel: An Example for Today.

Daniel was an exceptional individual. Throughout his life, he was a powerful and influential individual, unusually close to mighty rulers. Daniel remained a humble believer whose honesty and integrity were unalloyed with greed or a lust for personal power. The intensity of Daniel’s relationship with the Lord enabled him to live uncorrupted at the very center of worldly power.

Daniel was a man with essential lessons to teach us.

  • Daniel teaches us to put God first, both privately and publicly. His commitment to the Lord and to nurturing a healthy relationship with Him was indispensable to the role he played in the government of world empires.
  • Daniel reminds us to view every person as an individual rather than being in awe of the position he or she might have. Much of Daniel’s influence resulted from the fact that rulers knew Daniel cared about them rather than what they could do for him.
  • Daniel inspires us to stay faithful to the Lord whatever the difficulty. If our relationship with God is the only basis on which others can attack us, let them do so. But we are to stay faithful to the Lord in deed and in word.
  • Daniel encourages us to be involved in government. True believers can have a role in politics without compromising their convictions. Such a person may impact an entire nation as well as influence many who need to know the Lord.
  • Daniel encourages us to give prayer a central role in our lives. Daniel did not pray only in emergencies. He prayed daily. Daniel not only brought his requests to the Lord; he brought praise. When we see the impact Daniel had on those of his own time, we can hardly discount the role of prayer in his life or in ours.

Daniel was dragged to Babylon and eventually found himself in Nebuchadnezzar’s court. Rather than try to appease the king, he always spoke the truth. He risked his life for decades by speaking truth to Babylon’s kings—but never gave up.

Daniel’s overall message has special relevance to us today as well. It is really a textbook of instruction and an example of how God’s people can live in difficult conditions and come through victoriously. Even as the Jewish people were living in Babylonian captivity, so Christians today are pilgrims and sojourners in a foreign culture. We, like Daniel and his friends, must exercise our implicit faith in God’s purposes and leading for our lives. We too must resolve in advance that we will not be defiled by the world. And whether our God delivers us or not from the fiery furnace, we will stay faithful to Him.

Your majesty, if it be his will, our God whom we serve can deliver us from the blazing fire furnace, and he will deliver us from you. But if not, rest assured, your majesty, that we won’t serve your gods, and we won’t worship the golden statue that you have set up.

— Daniel 3:17–18, ISV

The courage and faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace and the steadfast faithfulness of Daniel in the lions’ den still stand as models for us today. All these men refused to waver in their commitment to God. They remained obedient to God, despite the unpleasant and seemingly overpowering circumstances that engulfed them. These stories encourage us to stand firm for our Lord regardless of the pressure exerted on us by our culture or by unfortunate circumstances. These men did not compromise their faith, even at the risk of losing their lives. They challenge us to do likewise.

Daniel reminds us God is sovereign and his kingdom will finally triumph over all hostile world powers, a triumph that includes our resurrection from the dead.

D.L. Moody often preached on Daniel:

Daniel thought more of his principles than he did of earthly honor or the esteem of men. Right was right with him. He was going to do right today and let the morrows take care of themselves. That firmness of purpose, in the strength of God, was the secret of his success.

Daniel and his friends personify for us Christian courage at its best—not merely a desperate courage for some emergency situation, but a quiet steadfast courage that enables us to live in a Christ-like manner each day. It takes courage to be an unpopular minority when truth and right are involved. It takes courage to defend God’s name when everyone else is using it in blasphemy. It takes courage to be another Daniel in a godless society.

Daniel calls Christians to live out their faith in a hostile world whatever the cost. No longer can Christians sit on the fence. No longer can we try to stay below the fray.

As John Loeffler, a friend of the ministry and host of the program “Steel on Steel” says:

I will not sit down. I will not shut up. I will speak the truth with love.

Be a Daniel.


Evolution from a Jewish Perspective

‎04 ‎August ‎2015, ‏‎12:17:04 AM | Asher NormanGo to full article
Note: Asher (Roland) Norman is an author, attorney and Orthodox Jew, living in California. He also lectures on the subject of “The Scientific Case Against Random Macro Evolution (and for Intelligent Design).” Norman also lectures on the subject of Jewish holiness, explaining the organizing principle of Jewish holiness in separating between life and death regarding food, (kosher laws) intimacy (family purity laws) and time (Shabbat). The following is a paraphrase from a lecture Norman gave on evolution.

This is Part One of a three-part series on evolution from a Jewish perspective.


Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution requires beneficial mutations and survival of the fittest/natural selection and adaptation into a new population. The original theory has been synthesized with modern genetics and population biology. (This concept is known as the synthetic theory or Neo-Darwinism)

Darwinism does not conflict with the Torah as long as one posits GOD is the foundation of the Scripture. The conflict arises when one holds the Creation happened by itself. Secular and Reform Jews are using evolution as an alternative to GOD. This is the reason the scientific veracity of evolution becomes important. If evolution is not true, we must remove the theory as an alternative to GOD.

To make matters more clear, it is important to explain the two kinds of evolution being discussed: microevolution and macroevolution.

Microevolution is mutation within the genetic potential of an existing species. This mutation can occur naturally or can also be realized through selective breeding. It is minor change within the constraints and existing boundaries of an existing species and represents nothing new like a new organ. For example skin color is micro evolution, representing a minor variation within a species. Microevolution is an uncontroversial, well-documented, naturally occurring biological phenomenon.

Macroevolution is the somewhat more contentious, theoretical extrapolation of microevolution that requires the introduction of new genetic information. This requires a birth with a beneficial genetic mutation beyond the normal genetic potential of an existing species, something truly new. This is what Darwinism’s evolutionary theory requires, making it possible for the creation of an entirely new species rather than merely a variation of an existing species.

The criteria for a scientific theory

To prove evolutionary theory scientifically, the proposed cause for an evolutionary change must be observed to exist. It must be possible to show quantitatively the proposed cause explains the observed outcome through the use of the accepted theory. Observation of the cause and effect must confirm the theory. If the proposed cause is unobservable, then it is imperative the cause should quantitatively predict the effect through use of the theory.

Does Neo-Darwinism satisfy the criteria? No. Why? Four reasons:

  1. A mutation creating new genetic information has never been observed;
  2. A new species has NEVER been observed descending from another;
  3. A beneficial mutation has NEVER been observed in an existing species;
  4. Therefore, the theory must at least prove beneficial mutations outside species limits could have occurred during the geological time available. Darwinists have not showed this could have occurred because it is statistically impossible in the time available.

This series of articles will reveal Darwinists distort the evidence for macroevolution using the following deceptions:

  • They fudge the difference between microevolution (variation within a species) and macroevolution (variation outside the species limits) pretending they are the same thing.
  • They pretend beneficial mutations (versus genetic defects) have occurred outside species parameters. Such beneficial mutations have never been observed. They pretend many more mutations occur than actually do by including fatal genetic defects. 99 percent of all mutations cause disease, death or nothing at all.
  • They pretend there was sufficient time for beneficial mutations to occur although new fossil discoveries show the absence of time.
  • They pretend the necessary transitional forms have appeared in the fossil record although the record is characterized by their absence.
  • They pretend statistical probability supports evolutionary theory when the theory itself contradicts that probability. They pretend splitting up the overall “evolutionary process” of a complex organ (like the eye) somehow reduces the improbability of those separate steps occurring in the correct sequence.
  • They use endearing phrases like “selection pressure” to back door the idea chance isn’t really blind. But chance is blind. (The vast number of animals don’t need a mutation but are statistically much more likely to have a mutation).
  • Almost all individual mutations are recessive. (Orr 1991) This means a mutation in a gene will not have an effect on the phenotype unless the mutation appears in both copies of the gene. This dramatically reduces the chance macroevolution will ever occur.
  • Almost all mutations are harmful. About 11 percent of mutations are lethal and will lead to the death of an organism that has it in both its copies of the gene. (Dobzhansky 1940)
  • Finally, random mutations do not add genetic information to the DNA. Without new genetic information, it is not possible for mutations to create new organ systems, new body parts or a new organism. In short, random mutations cannot be the source of a new species because this would need new genetic information.

The only evidence for “macroevolution” lies in the unquenchable optimism among Darwinists that, given enough time, anything can happen.

Circumstantial evidence is a very tricky thing answered Holmes thoughtfully: it may seem to point very straight to one thing, but if you shift your own point of view a little, you may find it pointing in an equally uncompromising manner to something entirely different. There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.

— Sherlock Holmes (The Boscombe Valley Mystery, the Complete Holmes, Conan Doyle, 1928)

Most secular scientists have defined evolution as a “random forces theory” (creation happened by itself) although Darwin was religious and believed GOD was behind it. GOD is the supernatural alternative to random forces. As Phillip Johnson states in his book, “Reason in the Balance,” “if GOD is real, then a naturalistic science insists on explaining everything is out of touch with reality; if GOD is imaginary, then theologians have no subject matter.” We will see Darwinists have created a secular, materialist religion posing as science. In essence it is religion (faith based) pretending to be science.

Evidence of Design in Living Things

Rabbi Avrohom Katz wrote a book called “Designer World” which describes life processes present profound evidence of design. Darwinists try to reinterpret these processes by arguing they only appear to be designed. An examination of examples will be very helpful in making that determination. It is important to note 99 percent of all mutations cause disease, death or nothing at all. We are expected to believe the phenomenal structures and interdependent, irreducibly complex systems described below happened by the remaining one percent of random mutations by “luck and chance” and are not evidence of intelligent design. Consider the following two examples:

A mended finger

When a finger is cut there is an immediate reaction from the body’s emergency services occurs:

  • Tiny platelets, produced by bone marrow, are the first line of defense. They rush to the breach and within seconds they make a temporary patch. There are between 250,000 to 500,000 of them in each cubic millimeter of blood.
  • The heavier defenses, fibrin, then come into play. Fibrin is a protein, released by the blood plasma. It creates a meshwork of fibers across the wound, plugging the hole, stopping any more blood loss and preventing the entry of bacteria into the body. But why doesn’t this process clog our bodies causing damage or death? Since fibrin is so effective in coagulating the blood, it cannot be kept in the blood in that form.
  • Instead, a chemical enzyme called thrombin acts on a protein called fibrinogen and the resulting chemical reaction converts the fibrinogen into fibrin only when it is needed.
  • Once the blood has clotted, it begins to shrink and hardens into a scab which protects the damaged area while new tissue is forming. The clot shrinks more, pulling the tissues together and new cells at the margins begin to spread over the surface of the scab. This forms a new layer of skin at the rate of 0.5mm per day.
  • New capillary branches grow and cut nerves grow into the tissues. This is effectuated by a chemical message sent by hormones to the healthy cells to reduplicate, producing skin cells as a result of genetic coding.

Which requires more faith that “lucky” random mutations “happened” to produce this ultra-sophisticated irreducibly complex interdependent system (irreducible complexity requires multiple components to be present at once) or that such a system was produced by intelligent design?

Let’s look at a second example:

Bat Radar

Bats are blind. They use radar instead of eyes to work. The sophistication of this system is staggering.

  • Bats send out bursts of short duration at a very high frequency of ultrasonic sound pulses that constitute a hyper-sophisticated radar system. Special muscles in their inner ears reduce sensitivity to make sure the bat doesn’t deafen itself.
  • The efficiency of its radar system is demonstrated by the fact bats can feed upon flying insects at night and can capture them while flying. It detects them and tracks them with their brilliant echo-location.
  • They can differentiate between a caterpillar and the leaf on which it rests in total darkness. A bat can fly through a fence of vertical wires spaced 20 centimeters apart in complete darkness without touching any of the wires. The wingspan of the bat is not much less than 24 centimeters.
  • A bat has a special larynx, special ears, special muscles, all brilliantly coordinated, which rival or exceed the most advanced system of modern radar technology.

Which requires more faith that “lucky” random mutations “happened” to produce this ultra-sophisticated, irreducibly complex, interdependent system or that the creature was produced by intelligent design?

Why Isn’t Macroevolution observed today?

There are millions of species (including insects) on the planet. If macro evolution is a random occurrence to account for the enormous numbers of species it must be occurring constantly. Darwinists claim all genetic information was built up through “lucky” random mutations and then spread into a species by natural selection. If so, the same process must be going on continuously and at least some random macro-mutations should be observable today. Only micro-mutations have been observed. In human history, there has never been a reported birth by an offspring with a mutation that is both beneficial and outside the limits of the existing species. Longer beaks of the finches on the Galapagos Islands, the melanism in peppered moths, antibiotic resistance in bacteria or different skin colors in humans are all micro, not macro evolution. These changes cannot result in a new species.

Does the Fossil Record Support Neo-Darwinism or is it Characterized by the Absence of Transitional Forms?

Lucky, random, beneficial mutations could not have resulted in a new species in a single birth because it is mathematically impossible to be that “lucky.” It would take many thousands of mutations to create a new species. Logically, random mutations had to occur one mutation per birth at a time.

If lucky, random, beneficial mutations led to millions of new species, the proof should be in the fossil record. The record should be filled with a massive amount of these fossils showing macro-transitions which led to new species.

Darwin’s theory was incompatible with the fossil record both when he published his theory and even more so now. This is a massive problem for Darwinists so they pretend it does not exist. Darwin was very aware of this potentially fatal problem with the evidence and acknowledged this problem in “Origin of Species” on page 287:

Geological research, though it has added numerous species to existing and extinct genera, and has made the intervals between some few groups less wide than they otherwise would have been, yet has done scarcely anything in breaking down the distinction between species, by connecting them together by numerous, fine, intermediate varieties; and this not having been effected, is probably the gravest and most obvious of all the many objections which may be urged against my views.

Darwin concluded: “He who rejects this view of the imperfection of the geological record, will rightly reject the whole theory.”

Professor Stephen Gould of Harvard University observed: “the extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology …The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks are not the evidence of fossils … are never seen in the rocks.”

Professor Niles Eldridge, Curator of the Department of Invertebrates of the American Museum of Natural History agreed:

No wonder paleontologists shied away from evolution for so long. It seems never to happen … evolution cannot forever be going on someplace else. Yet that’s how the fossil record has struck many a forlorn paleontologist looking to learn something about evolution.

Reinventing Darwin, 1995 page 95.

Other scientists have weighed on the debate:

The fossil material is now so complete that the lack of transitional series cannot be explained by the scarcity of the material. It is not even possible to make a caricature of evolution out of paleo-biological facts … The deficiencies are real, they will never be filled.

Professor Heribert-Nilsson Lund from the University of Sweden

Despite the tremendous increase in geological activity in every corner of the globe and despite the discovery of many strange and hitherto unknown forms, the infinitude of connecting links has still not been discovered and the fossil record is about as discontinuous as it was when Darwin was writing the Origin.

Microbiologist Michael Denton (“Evolution: A Theory in Crisis” – 1985)

Instead of finding the gradual unfolding of life, what geologists of Darwin’s time and geologists of the present day actually find is a highly uneven or jerky record: that is, species appear in the sequence very suddenly, show little or no change during their existence in the (fossil) record, then abruptly go out of the record.

G. David Raup, Curator of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History

(In the next article, Asher Norman will continue his study of evolution from a Jewish perspective by examining the fossil record.)

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Tisha b’Av

‎27 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎08:52:04 PM | Steve ElwartGo to full article
This weekend, Jews around the world commemorated Tisha b’Av (תִּשְׁעָה בְּאָב) or the ninth day of the month of Av (July–August). It is the saddest day in the Jewish calendar. It is a fast day that marks the anniversary of the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BC and the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 AD. Tisha b’Av eventually became a symbol for all the catastrophes that have befallen the Jewish people throughout its history.

Current events have fallen near this holiday that many Jews believe spell another catastrophe for their People. They would put another name alongside ancient Babylon and Rome: Iran.

One thing on Israel’s horizon is the danger of nuclear weapons being built for the purpose of destroying Israel. Iranian leaders before, during and after consummating the new Iranian nuclear deal have said that destroying Israel is their top priority. For the mullahs it surpasses both their economy and the war in Iraq. The one constant in their rhetoric is the desire to destroy Israel. They have dedicated an annual holiday (Quds Day) just to call for Israel’s destruction. Even while they were under international sanction, Iran made sure they continued their payments to Hezbollah, Israel’s mortal enemy.

Tisha b’Av

According to the Mishnah, Tisha b’Av was the date of several other disasters for the Jewish people.

Five events befell the Jews on the Ninth of Av. “On the Ninth of Av, it was decreed upon our ancestors that they would not be allowed to enter the Land of Israel, the First and Second temples were destroyed, Beitar was captured, The city of Jerusalem was plowed over.” (Taan. 4:6) According to tradition, Tisha b’Av was also the date of the expulsions of the Jews from England (1290) and Spain (1492).

Tisha b’Av in the Talmud

The importance of Tisha b’Av as a fast day was emphasized in the Talmud, which observes: “He who eats or drinks on the Ninth of Av must be considered as guilty as one who has eaten on Yom Kippur” (Taan. 30b). The final meal before the fast often consists of hard-boiled eggs and lentils, which are customarily prepared for mourners, and some people used to even put ashes in their food

Religious Practices

In addition to fasting, Tisha b’Av (known as the Black Fast), like Yom Kippur (which is termed the White Fast), is observed by refraining from wearing leather shoes, anointing with perfume, bathing, and sexual intercourse. If the ninth day falls on the observance of the Sabbeth, Tisha b’Av is moved to the next day, because no mourning is permitted on the Sabbath. From sunset to sunset, the general rule in the Talmud is that a person is obliged to observe all the mourning rites that apply in the case of the death of a next of kin (Taan. 30a). It is the only day when even the study of Torah is forbidden, since this would be a source of joy. All one is permitted to study is the Book of Job and the sections of Jeremiah and the Talmud that relate to destruction, especially of Jerusalem.

In synagogue, the congregation sits on the floor, footstools, or low benches (as would private mourners in their homes), reading by the light of candles or dim lights as a symbol of the darkness that has befallen Israel on that day. The curtain covering the ark is removed; in some Sephardic synagogues in which the ark normally has no curtain, a black curtain is hung and the Torah scrolls themselves are draped in black mantles. Certain congregations even place the Torah scroll on the floor and strew ashes over it, while those in attendance recite the words “the crown has fallen from our head” (Lam. 5:16).

The megillah of Lamentations (Eikhah) is recited in a haunting melody, with the next-to-last verse repeated by everyone so that the book ends on the hopeful note of “Take us back, O Lord, to Yourself, and let us come back; renew our days as of old” (Lam. 5:21). (This same verse is the final line sung as the ark is closed after the scroll has been returned to it following the Torah reading.) The chanting of Lamentations is followed by the recitation of a series of special piyyutim called kinot, medieval dirges that recount the destruction of the Temple and the sins of the Jewish people. The prayer leader recites the service in a monotonal and melancholy tune. Tallit and tefillin are not worn, since the community is considered to be as mourners, who do not wear them between the time of death of a loved one and the funeral; some sprinkle ashes on their heads as a symbol of mourning. Congregants do not exchange greetings upon entering or leaving the synagogue.

Work is not forbidden, though traditionally it is minimized as much as possible in accordance with the observation of Rabbi Akiva that “anyone who does work on the Ninth of Av will never see in his work any sign of blessing” (Taan. 30b).

Figure 1: Excavated stones from the Western Wall


Figure 1: Excavated stones from the Western Wall of the Temple Mount (Jerusalem), knocked onto the street below by Roman battering rams in 70 AD

Jewish Tradition

There is a Jewish tradition that the Messiah will be born on Tisha b’Av, reversing the centuries of travail and suffering that have been the lot of the Jewish people. Like the mystical phoenix rising from the ashes, ultimate redemption will result from the depths of destruction and despair. An expression of this surprisingly hopeful mood as the day progresses is the custom of sweeping the house on the afternoon of Tisha b’Av in case the Messiah should come. For a similar reason, women in some communities don fine clothes and put on perfume. At the afternoon service, tallit and tefillin are worn (both are usually worn during the morning service, with the exception that the tallit is worn on Kol Nidre night), a sign that the mourning practices of Tisha b’Av will end at sundown. The ark curtain and Torah mantles are restored, the Torah is read again, and the full Kaddish is recited (including the line requesting that God accept their pleas [titkabeil]). There is an additional paragraph stressing comfort and looking hopefully to the future redemption. After sundown and the breaking of the fast, some go outside for the joyful service of Kiddush Levanah (Sanctification of the Moon).

The Sabbath immediately following Tisha b’Av is called Shabbat Nachamu (Sabbath of Comfort). It takes its name from the opening Hebrew word of the haftarah, “Comfort! Yes, comfort my people,” says your God. (Isaiah 40:1, ISV). This is the first of the seven “haftarot of consolation” (leading up to the observance of Rosh Hashanah), which prophesy the redemption of Israel, its restoration to the land, and the coming of the messianic days of peace and justice.

Israel’s Bigger Crisis

Israel’s newest crisis in not its biggest one. It is the redefining of the relationship between the United States and Israel.

The basic tenets in the U.S.–Israel relationship were two-fold.

  1. There would be no surprises. Neither country would do or say something regarding the Middle East without the other country knowing about it ahead of time.
  2. There would not be daylight between the two countries. Israel and America could disagree—but never publicly.

There was a reason for this close cooperation.

Israel needs America’s support. Israel has been called a “one-bomb country”. A single nuclear bomb would level the place. It needs the protection of the United States to hold its enemies in check.

America also needs Israel’s support as well. Israel has been the only constant ally the United States has had in the region, and it is the region’s only democracy.

Since the beginning of the Obama Administration, the United States seems to be trying to position itself as the Arab world’s best friend. The current administration has allowed daylight to filter in between the two countries by publicly disagreeing with Israel’s policies.

In 2009, during a meeting with Jewish leaders, President Obama said:

Look at the past eight years. During those eight years, there was no space between us and Israel, and what did we get from that? When there is no daylight, Israel just sits on the sidelines, and that erodes our credibility with the Arab states.

Even more daylight has come between the two erstwhile close allies with the Iran deal. The U.S. allowed this situation to happen. It was not just naivete in negotiating skills, although that played a part. If the White House truly wanted to minimize the possibility of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon, it would not have given up concessions the way it did. It would not have communicated its message that the military option is impossible. It would not have publicly defended Iran’s cheating on its existing promises.

Israel Alone

Israel is now between a diplomatic rock and a hard place. Israel is in an alliance with a country that does not seem to have Israel in its list of priorities. Also, the next generation of U.S. leaders being groomed do not seem to have Israel as a priority either. They do not seem to recognize the cognitive disconnect involved with accusing Israel of genocide while praising the actions of Iran and Hamas.

As the United States looks more like Europe, Israel looks more alone. Many believe that a prayer on Tisha B’Av is the most logical response to current events.

The only thing missing from this analysis is the fact that Israel will never be alone. Israel was fulfilling prophecy when it was regathered in the land in 1948 as a state for the first time in 2,000 years. Ultimately, Israel will recognize Jesus as their Messiah and true protector:

I will pour out on the house of David and on the residents of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and of supplications, and they will look to me—the one whom they pierced.” Then they will mourn for him, as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him, as for a firstborn son.

— Zechariah 12:10, ISV

The Endgame

Conflict in Israel has been a reality whenever Israel has existed as a nation. It has always been persecuted by its neighbors. According to the Bible, it is because God has a special plan for the nation of Israel, and Satan wants to defeat that plan. Satanically influenced hatred of Israel—and especially Israel’s God—is the reason Israel’s neighbors have always wanted to see Israel destroyed. Whether it is Sennacherib, king of Assyria; Haman, official of Persia; Hitler, leader of Nazi Germany; or the leadership of Iran, attempts to completely destroy Israel will always fail.

The persecutors of Israel will come and go, but the persecution will remain until the second coming of Christ.

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The Internet of Lies

‎27 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎08:50:17 PM | Steve ElwartGo to full article

Without wood, the fire goes out. Without a gossip, contention stops. Charcoal is to hot coals as wood is to fire; so also a quarrelsome man fuels strife. The words of a gossip are like delicate morsels; they sink down deep within. A clay vessel plated with a thin veneer of silver — that’s what smooth lips with a wicked heart are.

— Proverbs 26:20–23, ISV

A new information technology term coming into vogue is the “Internet of Things.” Another term that could be used to describe current Internet activity is the “Internet of Lies.”

Imagine trying to put out a forest fire with a squirt gun. Gerber Products could identify with the analogy. The baby-food company felt they were doing just that in 1997. Someone somewhere started a false rumor about the company that spread like wildfire.

In a 1997 article written by John Schmeltzer in the Chicago Tribune, there was a rumor Gerber had been involved in a class-action lawsuit and would give a $500 gift certificate to families with children to settle the suit. According to the rumor, all the parents had to do to get the money was to send a claim form along with copies of their children’s birth certificate and Social Security number to a post office box in Minneapolis.

Once the rumor caught fire, it began to spread along channels that gave it an air of legitimacy. Notices were posted in hospitals and sent home with children by schoolteachers. One corporation even put the false notification in the envelope with their employees’ paychecks.

Gerber Products tried to stamp out the bogus story, putting an announcement on several Internet websites, tracking down sources of the rumor, and informing the media. Even so, they received over 18,000 phone calls to their toll-free telephone number in the three-week period before October 1 from people requesting the bogus claim form.

According to Schmeltzer, the cost to Gerber Products of fighting this rumor amounted to millions of dollars.

Rumors are not Harmless

Passing along a rumor may seem harmless, but the victim of the tale pays an undeserved price if we are not careful about the truth. Never underestimate the power of the tongue to do others harm.

Facebook has been a great facilitator for spreading false rumors. Someone will read an article on a blog or a satire site and pass the link on as true. The post gets picked up by their Facebook “friends” and before long the post is perceived as being true and goes viral.

Abraham Lincoln fake quote

Examples of false rumors on the Internet abound:

Anyone Can Fall Victim to Internet Rumors

This author, who should know better, has even fallen victim to spreading a false Internet rumor.

Feinstein fake quote

A recent picture was floating around the Internet attributing a quote to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that was not true. Given the senator’s position on certain issues, it seemed to fall within the realm of possibility.

This was a good example of confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.

Consider the Source

One needs to be careful about their sources of information. The story about pastors being arrested for turning down a same-sex “wedding” came from a website designed to look like NBC.com, but was actually NBC.com.co which is a satire site.

And the homosexual couple suing Zondervan to remove verses about homosexuality from the Bible? While the story is true, the case was not the result of President Obama’s policies or the Supreme Court’s ruling. This happened while President Bush was in office and before the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage.

What about the woman who wants to marry her cats? There’s no way it’s happening legally, at least not anytime soon. It falls into the same category as the stories of women who “married” a dolphin, a dog, or herself. (The last story was the source of a story arc for several prime-time American TV shows.)

The rash of fake news stories prompted commentator Ed Stetzer to write, “There are real issues about religious liberty right now (and more coming). Posting links to fake ones just makes all of us look (rightly) gullible.” Stetzer is an author, pastor and the Executive Director of LifeWay Research. He has spent so much time debunking these Christian fish stories that he half-jokingly started a series titled “Faux Christian Controversy of the Week”. The debunking business has kept him busy.

Given the seismic changes that have occurred in recent months, it is easy to believe almost anything the enemies of Christ would do. We have been blasted with headlines about sex-changes, the Supreme Court’s (SCOTUS) spinning new law out of thin air, and Planned Parenthood selling aborted baby body parts. Ideas that used to be seen as ridiculous, are now being declared “mainstream.” The SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage has opened the flood gates for people suing in courts for a raft of new “rights.” The court will now have to take up the issue of polygamy, polyamory, incest and even pedophilia in cases that are sure to be filed.

However, as followers of a Savior Who called Himself “the Truth,” we need to stop spreading rumors. The real news is outrageous and heartbreaking enough without needing exaggeration.

We should be careful with reports about people we do not like, for our tendency is to believe the worst about such people and to enjoy reporting anything that puts them in a bad light. Even when there is no malice, there is danger in taking so much delight in “telling the news” that we hurt people, sometimes even strangers. This is one of the reasons this ministry goes to great lengths not to speak ill of other ministries.

Our Responsibility

What responsibility do we as Christians have in promoting the truth of the news permeating social media?

The first thing we need to do is check the facts. Is a fact being promoted on just one site? Is it on several sites but all with exactly the same wording? Have you checked the sites to see if they are reputable, or are they satire sites?

Don’t Post What You Can’t Confirm

Posting an incorrect story not only can lead others astray, but also hurts your credibility. Inaccuracies provide fodder for those who want to cast Christians as uneducated automatons who will blindly follow whatever path they are told to take. It plays into the stereotype of a “typical” Christian.

Transgression is at work where people talk too much, but anyone who holds his tongue is prudent.

— Proverbs 10:19, ISV

What should we do if we inadvertently spread a false story?

Ed Stetzer has this advice:

  • Post a retraction. Just something like this would suffice: “Hey friends, I posted a story about _______ this weekend, and it turns out it wasn’t true! Be on guard and don’t believe everything you read out there! I’ll be more careful next time.”
  • Don’t excuse yourself by saying, “Well, it might be true.” Or, “Well, there is something like that.” “Or, well, it will be true soon.” No, you were wrong. You fell for a hoax. Say so and move on.
  • Be less gullible next time. “But,” you may think, “I’m not wise. I get fooled by this stuff all the time.” That’s OK, Scripture accounts for people like us. James 1:5 says: “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to everyone generously without a rebuke, and it will be given to him.” (ISV)

If our friends and families cannot trust us with this type of news, many will not listen when we seek to share the good news of the Gospel.

“As Christians,” concludes Stetzer, “we have a higher standard than even the journalist. We aren’t protecting the reputation of an organization or a website; we bear the name of our King.”

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Inside the Iran Nuclear Deal

‎20 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎11:27:48 PM | Steve ElwartGo to full article
The Islamic takeover in Iran was one of the most significant non-communist mass uprisings of the last century. It is now threatening vital economic and political interests of the Western world and the region. The Iranian Revolution also marked Islam’s revival as a force to be reckoned with in regional and international politics. They are a country with an agenda for regional, even global Islamic homogony. Since they are also seeking nuclear capability, the rest of the world has been forced to curtail their ambitions.

After months of negotiations, the West, led by the United States, got what they were looking for, a deal with Iran on its nuclear development program. The results of the negotiation leaves one to think that Iran got a very good deal and the West got … a deal.

For those who believe the U.S. got a bad deal, they are right, but that never was the point. Limiting Iran’s nuclear program was never the primary aim of the United States in these negotiations. The P5+1 was brow-beaten by the U.S. into the agreement for different aims:

  1. Preventing an Israeli attack on Iran
  2. Transforming the United States into a more forgiving, less imposing power
  3. Establishing diplomacy as a great American good;
  4. Turning Iran into a great regional power to maintain a balance of power in the region; and
  5. Enhancing the world’s perception of the United States as a nation of vision and peace.

Concerns with the Agreement

Since the deal is an agreement and not a treaty, the United States Senate will not have to ratify it for the arrangement to go into effect. That is a good thing for the Obama administration. The agreement stood a good chance of not even getting twenty votes in the Senate since critics on both ends of the political spectrum have reservations about the terms of the arrangement. Some of those concerns are:

  • The deal leaves Iran’s nuclear infrastructure intact. Its original negotiating position for the P5+1 countries (except for Russia) was that Iran would have its nuclear facilities open for inspection anytime, anywhere. The deal as finalized allows for inspections at some times and only in some places. (Secretary of State John Kerry stated after negotiations were completed that “anytime, anywhere” inspections were never on the table.) In return the West agreed to give up its sanctions and Iran agreed to partially give up its uranium enrichment program. However, research on its uranium enrichment and ballistic missile program will continue at its pre-agreement pace.
  • The easing of sanctions on Iran could further destabilize the Middle East. Anywhere from $300 to $400 million will now flow into the Iranian economy. The money turned over to Iran will probably not go toward improving the lot of the Iranian people. Rather, it will flow into the coffers of the Iranian leadership. That means more money for groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Houthi insurgency in Yemen. The extra money being spread around those countries will decrease the West’s influence in the region and increase Iran’s likelihood of becoming the regional hegemon.
  • Arab countries in the region, plus Turkey, believe they need nuclear programs of their own. In May, the “Sunday Times” of London reported the Saudis had “taken the ‘strategic decision’ to acquire off-the-shelf atomic weapons from Pakistan,” citing unnamed senior American officials. While a Saudi defense official Tuesday dismissed this as “speculation,” he did not deny the report. With the United States disengaging from the region, countries such as Saudi Arabia feel they are being left unprotected and will have to fend for themselves. A nuclear-capable Iran will make a dangerous part of the world even more dangerous.
  • The deal is temporary. It will only last 10 years. The deal will the expire. In the intervening decade between the signing of the agreement and its expiration, Iran will continue its work on a research and development program to develop a nuclear weapon. When one looks at the details of the agreement, one can see there isn’t even a slowdown in R&D for their nuclear program.

There is a reason why Iran demanded a 10 year agreement. This period is the limit to which Islam allows its followers to enter into a contract.


Prominent Muslims have one face they show to the West and another to the folks back home; they are practicing one of the prime principles of their religion: Taqiyya. According to Cyrus H. Gordon “this is a distinctively Iranian institution, which survives into modern times.”

Taqiyya (or kitman) is “concealing or disguising one’s beliefs, convictions, ideas, feelings, opinions, and/or strategies at a time of imminent danger, whether now or later in time, to save oneself from physical and/or mental injury.”

A one-word translation for this would be “dissimulation”. It could also be termed a religious lie. Taqiyya is one of the main tools of “stealth jihad”. The principle of Taqiyya extends into agreements and treaties as well.

In the concept of Taqiyya, an individual may lie or deny his or her own religion while posing as a member of some other faith if confronted with acute personal danger. Professor Gordon illustrated this from modern Iranian life by showing how Shiites of Iran are permitted to pose with impunity as Sunnites when going on the pilgrimage to Mecca, which is in the hands of the Arab Sunnites who have had a decades old rivalry with Shiites.

According to all four recognized schools of Sunni jurisprudence, called the Madhhab, war against the infidel goes on in perpetuity, until “all chaos ceases, and all religion belongs to Allah” (Quran 8:39). The Encyclopedia of Islam states:

“The duty of the jihad exists as long as the universal domination of Islam has not been attained. Peace with non-Muslim nations is, therefore, a provisional state of affairs only; the chance of circumstances alone can justify it temporarily. Furthermore there can be no question of genuine peace treaties with these nations; only truces, whose duration ought not, in principle, to exceed ten years, are authorized. But even such truces are precarious, inasmuch as they can, before they expire, be repudiated unilaterally should it appear more profitable for Islam to resume the conflict.”

Dire Consequences

Even with the generous terms of the agreement toward Iran that country would have no compunction in violating the terms of the pact. Combined with the principle of Taqiyya, what is left is an agreement that is not worth the time nor effort put into it. The agreement will destabilize the region further, put Israel into even greater danger, and embolden Iran to be even more blatant in its support of terrorism.

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‎20 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎11:26:13 PM | Steve ElwartGo to full article

How blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake because the kingdom from heaven belongs to them! How blessed are you whenever people insult you, persecute you, and say all sorts of evil things against you falsely because of me! Rejoice and be extremely glad, because your reward in heaven is great! That’s how they persecuted the prophets who came before you.

— Matthew 5:10–12, ISV

Types of Persecution

Persecution comes in many forms. There is the persecution that affects the body: the beatings, the shootings, the drownings, the crucifixions we have all read about brings into focus the price some pay to follow Christ.

There is also another kind of persecution, a soft persecution many more Christians endure. People who are Christians are being marginalized. With ever increasing frequency those who express a deeply held Christian view, are looked at as an impediment to progress.

Michael Lind, a progressive writer for “Politico” magazine suggests the American South, the “buckle of the Bible Belt”, is an “outlier” to modern norms. He believes:

The United States would be much less exceptional in general, and in particular more like other English-speaking democracies such as Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were it not for the effects on U.S. politics and culture of the American South.

Lind feels one of the attitudes holding America back is its “religiosity”.

The American government is also showing increasing signs of hostility toward Christians. In February 2013, the Obama administration announced the rights of religious conscience for individuals will not be protected under the Affordable Care Act. The United States Supreme Court has rejected the definition of marriage which has existed for millennia and now recognizes an un-Biblical view of marriage as being between two people instead of between a man and a woman. This ruling will open a floodgate of new definitions of what is a marriage.

Not only are Christians forced to accept this new paradigm in worldview, they are also being pressured to forgo their religious convictions. They are being coerced into doing things against their deeply held beliefs.

George Yancey and book

George Yancey is a tenured professor at the University of North Texas (UNT) in the Sociology Department. He has a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Texas at Austin, with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Economics. Dr. Yancey has spoken on racial issues over 25 times in different churches, conferences and retreats and has been a consultant on racial diversity in churches.

Yancey also has a blog site titled, “Black, White and Gray” part of the Pantheos blog series. He has also written a number of books, among them: “Compromising Scholarship,” “Dehumanizing Christians,” “Beyond Racial Gridlock” and “So Many Christians, So Few Lions.”

His newest book is “Hostile Environment: Understanding and Responding to Anti-Christian Bias.” In the introduction of the book Dr. Yancey writes:

I remember vividly a disturbing conversation that I once had with a good Christian friend who taught in a high school. He told me that he mentioned one day in class that some Christians around the world were being killed for their faith. To his amazement, some students approved of these murders. In their minds, it was time for Christians to face the same death that Christians had inflicted on others. I was struck by the ahistorical nature of this line of thought. Although Christians in the United States do not face jail or death for their faith, there is a long history of Christians around the world being punished for their faith. I also wondered how so much hatred had developed against Christians. This conversation took place almost two decades ago, and I see little evidence that this type of hatred has abated.

As part of his research on the topic of Christianophobia, he and his associate, Dr. David Williamson (UNT), conducted a survey that elicited a variety of hostile statements aimed at conservative Christians. One statement in particular from a 36–45-year old male was striking: “The only good Christian is a dead Christian.” Dr. Yancey thinks the respondent saw themselves in a cultural war, one that has a take-no-prisoner mentality.

The thrust of Dr. Yancey’s book is what should the response to such attitudes be? How does one respond to such an attitude? Does one turn the other cheek? Should one back away from such confrontations, or does one stand and confront it. The book is Yancey’s attempt to share his insights on how best to respond to those who dislike or fear Christians.

Christianophobia is a vexing problem. When a person calls themselves Christian, the word conjures up a series of preconceptions about that person. Words like Bible-thumper, Holy Roller, intolerant, backward and uneducated come to mind. People use derogatory terms about Christians without fear of reprisal. If terms with the same degree of prejudice are uttered about other groups, societal wrath would pour down upon them. If fact, few readers of this article have even heard of the term Christianophobia, while the terms Islamophobia and homophobe have made their way into popular lexicon.

Just as racism is a real phenomenon in the world, bigotry toward Christians is very real as well. Dr. Yancey believes:

There is no one thing we can do, or cause we can fight for, to address Christianophobia. We must initiate a sophisticated discussion of possible remedies and struggle with a nuanced approach in order to reach compromise.

Toward the close of his book, George Yancey writes that we can fight religious intolerance as we fight racial prejudice:

We should follow in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr., who, even as he sought to fight for the civil rights of blacks, did not forget the humanness of the whites who opposed him. He fought to provide civil rights to African Americans but also to allow whites to redeem themselves from the ugly racism they had supported.

I call on my fellow Christian brothers and sisters to use their social power to aid other Christians but, as much as it is possible, to do so in a way that maintains relationships with potential social or political enemies instead of pushing them away.

The root of Christianophobia can be found in Man’s sin nature. Man is in constant rebellion against God in ways large and small and seeks to deny God’s power over mankind.

In the words of George Tillotson:

The true ground of most men’s prejudice against the Christian doctrine is because they have no mind to obey it.

A Koinonia Institute (KI) Intelligence interview with Dr. Yancey was broadcast July 6, 2015, and can be heard at the KI website.

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A Life or Death Choice

‎14 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎12:45:04 AM | Steve ElwartGo to full article
Some of the news coming out of the Middle East carries the same thread; Christians have to renounce their faith or die.

One article in this newsletter titled “Peace vs. Terrorism” demonstrates this choice clearly. One of the twenty-one Egyptian men beheaded on a Libyan beach last February, Mathew Ayairga, was asked the question, “Do you reject Christ?” In that brief moment, Ayairga had to make a choice, the result of which could have meant the difference between life and death. In this case, Ayairga chose death. Ayairga, who was not even a Christian up until then, saw the peace and tranquility of the others in his group and sought that same peace. His reply to his captors was, “Their God is my God!” As was the thief on the cross, so too that man was saved in the last hour by the example of others.

Not everyone has made the same decision.

In this month’s issue of Christianity Today there is an article titled When Christians Say the Shahada.

The question the magazine article asks is, What is a person’s status as a Christian, if they do recant? Can they be recognized as Christian again once they renounce their faith? Many Christians are trying to answer that same question.

One case the article mentions involved Christians in Kenya where al Shabaaba gunmen attacked a mall in Nairobi and said all the Muslims could leave. One man, an Indian, tried to leave and was asked, “What is the name of Muhammad’s mother?” When he couldn’t answer, they shot him.

As a result, some Kenyan Christians have been exchanging information on how to “pass” as Muslims. Some have gone so far as to recite the Shahada in Arabic.

Reciting the Shahada, or testimony, is all one needs to enter Islam. It is the most important of all the Five Pillars of Islam.

The Shahada


Figure 1: The Shahada

In English, the Shahada is:

“There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”

All it takes for a person to convert to Islam is for them to recite the Shahada. Most Islamic sources say this statement needs to be freely given with conviction, but many groups, such as ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood, do not bother with such niceties. They think a person just has to say the words and they become a Muslim, even with a gun (or knife) to their head. Once they say those words, they are also subject to death as an apostate if they recant their profession of the Muslim faith.

Besides the view of many Muslims that just saying the Shahada makes one a Muslim, there is a deeper issue. Is saying, “There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”, make one a Christian apostate, even if it is said under duress?

What Makes an Apostate?

Leaders in Kenya and elsewhere are divided on the issue. One group believes saying the Shahada does separate oneself from Christianity. As David Oginde, head of Christ is the Answer Ministries, one of Kenya’s largest Christian organizations said, “A true Christian must be ready to live and to die for the faith.”

However, Samuel Githinji, a theology lecturer at St. Paul’s University, a conservative Anglican institution in Nairobi, says this is not the case. Githinji makes his case saying:

Christians are obligated to save their lives and others’ lives as much as possible. Denying the faith is more subtle than the mere voicing of certain words.

Some are quick to point out that renouncing your faith is not an unforgivable sin. They note that even Peter denied Christ not once, but three times.

It is easy to consider the matter in hypotheticals, but when it happens to you, one may reconsider.

This author knew Harold Rigney, a Roman Catholic priest and the rector of Fu Jen Catholic University in Peiping (later Peking, then Beijing) when Mao Zedong’s Communist guerrillas took over mainland China.

Rigney spent over four years imprisoned in Beijing and was subject to constant torture. He was forced to squat for hours at a time, starved, beaten, exposed to frigid temperatures with only a thin cotton blanket, and made to wear cast iron shackles for weeks at a time. (He suffered constant pain from the restraints after his release, requiring a cane to walk. Eventually he was confined to a wheelchair due to the pain.) He was also forced to endure mock executions, all in an effort to get him to renounce his faith.

Under duress, Fr. Rigney made numerous confessions and renunciations only to recant them later. Rigney once confided:

It is strange how one can be tortured for a long time and lose the sense of the duration of time.

He also confessed to being a Nazi spy during World War II (his religious order was founded by a German national named Arnold Janssen). Rigney also confessed at various times to being both an FBI and a CIA agent.

However, it was his multiple renunciations of Christ that was his worst torture. It would haunt him the rest of his life.

What does the Bible have to say about this?

In the book of Hebrews, there are repeated warnings against spiritual unbelief. The readers of this epistle were on the verge of renouncing the Christian faith and returning to their Jewish ways. Paul urged his readers not to retreat from persecution (10:32–39), but to hasten to the front lines. He tells them not to “draw back” (10:39), but to “… go to him outside the camp and endure the insults he endured.” (13:13).

In Laos, if someone became an evangelical Christian, they would be “asked” to fill out and sign a form, which says, in part:

I, [name], who live in [location], believe in a foreign religion, which the imperialists have used for their own benefit to divide the united front and to build power for themselves against the local authorities. Now I and my family clearly see the intentions of the enemy and regret the deeds which we have committed. We have clearly seen the goodness of the Party and the Government. Therefore, I and my family voluntarily and unequivocally resign from believing in this foreign religion.

If one would sign the form, there is an implied promise not to participate in Christianity under punishment of law. If the form was not signed, one could expect humiliation, harassment, and persecution, including probable imprisonment and torture.

Hundreds of rural Christians had been forced to sign the form in public, then compelled to participate in animistic sacrifices.

This pattern of persecution is occurring all over the world.

Worldwide Persecution

According to Open Doors, 2014 saw a huge increase in violence against Christians. Researchers for the group found that 4,344 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons between Dec. 1, 2013 and Nov. 30, 2014 — more than twice the number killed during the same period the previous year. Those numbers are a low estimate, as the group only counts incidents in which the victim can be identified by name and an exact cause has been attributed.

In its annual “World Watch” report, which ranks the 50 countries where persecution of Christians is most severe, the group said the past year “will go down in history for having the highest level of global persecution of Christians in the modern era” and suggested that “the worst is yet to come.”

Given the current trend, Christians of today are suffering under more persecution than at any time in modern history. Whether one believes they need to stand up for their faith in the face of persecution or “live to fight another day”, may be a point of contention, but the Bible is clear as to what a Christian should do.

In the book of Timothy the following passage is found:

Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in union with the Messiah Jesus will be persecuted.

2 Timothy 3:12, ISV

The author of Hebrews also admonishes:

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. … Bless those who persecute you. Keep on blessing them, and never curse them.

Romans 12:4, 14, ISV

Jesus spoke several times of persecution. The book of Matthew records Jesus saying the following:

How blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, because the kingdom from heaven belongs to them! “How blessed are you whenever people insult you, persecute you, and say all sorts of evil things against you falsely because of me!

Matthew 5:10–11, ISV

One thing that is clear is that the notion that one can compromise their Christian values in little things, but can stand for them when it becomes a life or death choice is operating under a delusion. If one compromises their beliefs under “soft persecution” (government fines, isolation, ridicule), they will compromise them when that soft persecution turns hard.

Where will you draw the line and defend your faith in Jesus Christ?

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The Moral Case for Capitalism

‎14 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎12:42:11 AM | Steve ElwartGo to full article

Stop storing up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But keep on storing up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal, because where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness. Therefore, if the light within you has turned into darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters, because either he will hate one and love the other, or be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and riches!

— Matthew 6:19–24 ISV

In his recent trip to South America, Pope Francis urged the downtrodden of the world to change the world economic order, denouncing a “new colonialism” by agencies that impose austerity programs, and calling for the poor to have the “sacred rights” of labor, lodging and land.

He went on to say that unbridled capitalism was destroying the planet: “Today, the scientific community realizes what the poor have long told us: harm, perhaps irreversible harm, is being done to the ecosystem.”

He quoted what Basil of Caesarea said of the relentless pursuit of money, calling it “the dung of the devil.” Francis said poor countries should not be reduced to being providers of raw material and cheap labor for developed countries.

During the speech in the city of Santa Cruz, Bolivia he said:

Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home, sister and mother earth.

(Translated from the original Spanish)

He called for the poor to be given the “sacred rights” of work, housing and land. “Let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change,” he said.

The 78-year-old Pope criticized an economic system that “has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature” and singled out for criticism “corporations, loan agencies, certain ’free trade’ treaties, and the imposition of measures of ’austerity’ which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor.”

Many commentators think the Roman Pontiff was specifically referring to the global economic crisis, which has gripped much of Europe and South America. Others took Francis’ comments as a general attack against capitalism.

Apparently the Bolivian President thought Francis was referring to capitalism when he heard the speech as well.

A Confusing Gift and a Confusing Doctrine

In a meeting with Francis, President Evo Morales presented the Pope a crucifix styled in the form of a hammer and sickle.

Figure 1: A “Communist Crucifix”

Figure 1: A “Communist Crucifix”

The reaction of Pope is palpable. It looks as if Francis is not happy with the crucifix being superimposed on a communist symbol. Because of the background noise in the room, it is not clear what he said, but initial reports showed he muttered “eso no está bien” (That is not right).

The Guardian reports: “The gift from the leftwing leader [Evo Morales] caused an immediate stir among conservative Catholics who said the Pontiff was being manipulated for ideological reasons.”

Later the Vatican issued a different interpretation of what the Pope said. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said Morales told Francis the “Communist Crucifix” was modeled on a design created by the Rev. Luis Espinal, a politically active priest murdered by right-wing paramilitaries in Bolivia in 1980. The Pope stopped and prayed at the site of the shooting on the Wednesday of his visit.

Lombardi is quoted by the Guardian as saying the Pope “is more likely to have uttered ‘eso no sabía bien’ (‘I didn’t know that’) in bemusement at the origins of the present.”

Confusion and concern seemed to be the order of the day.

Catholic executives struggled with the Pope’s comments in the light of their responsibilities to their stockholders. Catholics make up about 17% of the world’s population and a greater proportion in Latin America and swaths of Europe, so the church’s teachings on business can affect commerce world-wide.

“It is a critical moment now for the unity within the church about how to evaluate capitalism,” says Luigino Bruni, a professor of economics at Lumsa University in Rome. Professor Bruni helped organize a church conference last week intended to promote the church’s social doctrine.

A Moral Case for Capitalism

There is, however, a good case to be made for capitalism as the best way for the poor to improve their material lot in life.

The basic argument for a market economy in moral terms is that with all its weaknesses it is a system which pays respect to human dignity because it allows human freedom. Capitalism permits individuals the freedom to buy and sell, save and invest, choose their preferred form of employment, and develop the skills which they feel appropriate. It allows minorities these same rights too.

Socialism does not.

Socialism pays scant respect to human dignity because it denies human freedom. It forever restricts economic freedoms. Both systems have been put to the test and one can examine the record. When comparing the two systems it is vital to compare fact with fact, and ideal with ideal. It is wrong to judge the facts of capitalism with the ideals of socialism, much as it is wrong to judge the facts of socialism with the ideals of capitalism. When we look at the facts, what we see in one country after another is that when politicians believe (with Rousseau) people are born free but are everywhere in chains because of circumstances—and correct this by creating a socialist utopia—the vesting of property rights in the state leads to a loss of personal freedoms, the direction of investment, the direction of labor and a totalitarian state.

Figure 2: Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Figure 2: Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a 20th-century German scholar who urged Christians to follow Christ whatever the cost. Returning to his native Germany from Union Seminary in New York, Bonhoeffer (1906–1945) dared to oppose Adolf Hitler. He was arrested, imprisoned, and executed for his association with a plot to murder Hitler. What follows is a section of a commentary on Matthew 6:19–24; it comes from his most famous work, “The Cost of Discipleship”.

Jesus does not forbid the possession of property in itself. He was man; he ate and drank like his disciples, and thereby sanctified the good things of life. These necessities, which are consumed in use and which meet the legitimate requirements of the body, are to be used by the disciples with thankfulness. Earthly goods are given to be used, not to be collected. In the wilderness God gave Israel the manna every day, and they had no need to worry about food and drink. Indeed, if they kept any of the manna over until the next day, it went bad. In the same way, the disciple must receive his portion from God every day. If he stores it up as a permanent possession, he spoils not only the gift, but himself as well, for he sets his heart on accumulated wealth, and makes it a barrier between himself and God. Where our treasure is, there is our trust, our security, our consolation and our God. Hoarding is idolatry.

But where are we to draw the line between legitimate use and unlawful accumulation? Let us reverse the word of Jesus and our question is answered: “Where thy heart is, there shall thy treasure be also.” Our treasure may of course be small and inconspicuous, but its size is immaterial; it all depends on the heart, on ourselves. And if we ask how we are to know where our hearts are, the answer is just as simple—everything which hinders us from loving God above all things and acts as a barrier between ourselves and our obedience to Jesus is our treasure, and the place where our heart is.

If our hearts are entirely given to God, it is clear that we cannot serve two masters; it is simply impossible—at any rate all the time we are following Christ. It would of course be tempting to show how far we had advanced in the Christian life by endeavoring to serve two masters and giving each his due, both God and Mammon. Why should we not be happy children of the world just because we are the children of God? After all, do we not rejoice in his good gifts, and do we not receive our treasures as a blessing from him? No, God and the world, God and its goods are incompatible, because the world and its goods make a bid for our hearts, and only when they have won them do they become what they really are. That is how they thrive, and that is why they are incompatible with allegiance to God.

Our hearts have room only for one all-embracing devotion, and we can only cleave to one Lord. Every competitor to that devotion must be hated.

As Jesus says, there is no alternative either we love God or we hate him.

There are those capitalists who hoard their money. They use the gifts God has given them for their own pleasure while ignoring the needs of others. There are also those who have been blessed with business success. These people understand their wealth is a gift from God and they are to be good stewards of that gift.

Through the Eye of a Needle

Those with wealth can many times carry a special burden because they have been given this blessing. As Jesus said:

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into the kingdom of God.

— Matthew 19:24, ISV

A question for all of us is “Can we fit through that eye?”

Related Readings


Savior of Worlds

‎06 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎08:15:41 PM | Steve ElwartGo to full article

Learn to practice what is good; seek justice, alleviate oppression, defend orphans in court, and plead the widow’s case.

Isaiah 1:17 ISV

On Thursday, July 2, the world lost a great man. He was a common man, not well known. Just as Mordecai received no rewards until late in his life, so too this man was given acclimation only in the sunset of his.

The man was Nicholas Winton, also known as “The British Schindler”. His work was part of what became known as the “Kindertransport”, a cavalcade that saved almost 700 Jewish children from certain death in Nazi death camps. He kept his role a secret for nearly fifty years.

The story of the Kindertransport reads like a Grimm’s Fairy Tale:

Once upon a time there was a country ruled by a wicked tyrant. He was filled with hatred for anything and anyone he considered to be non-Aryan.

Most of all he hated the Jews. Their right to exist was in peril. He passed laws against them that took away every right all of us today take for granted.

Even their choice of names was denied them: Jews were forced to change their names to Sara or Israel, another way the Nazis singled them out for humiliation and punishment.

Jewish means of livelihood were taken away. Their children became outcasts; they were expelled from school and forbidden to take part in normal activities, such as walking in the park, playing games, and seeing a movie. Adults were imprisoned arbitrarily — their every moment was lived overshadowed by danger.

Deborah Hodge – Rescuing the Children

One Child’s Story

One of those outcasts was Irene Kirstein (Watts). She told her story that began early in the morning of December 10, 1938. Little Irene boarded a train in Berlin, Germany bound for England and a holiday. The thought of the trip thrilled Kirstein, but she didn’t understand why so many other youngsters were on-board. She also didn’t understand why there were tears in the grown-ups’ eyes.

Reality did not sink in until she got off at her last stop in London. There she looked for her mother on the platform, but Irene never found her. Only then did she realize her mother had lied to get her on the train alone.

Her mother stayed behind and Irene never saw her again.

Figure 2: Members of the Kindertransport


Figure 2: Members of the Kindertransport

This scene was repeated for others who were part of a mass exodus between March and August 1939 from Germany to the safety of England, fleeing certain death. Over 10,000 Jewish children left their homes and families in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and the Free City of Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland). They journeyed across Europe to Britain on trains, boats, and planes without their parents. They traveled to a new country and a new life. Although they didn’t know it, many of them would be orphaned by Auschwitz. Irene Kirstein’s mother would be gassed at that concentration camp.

“Nicky’s Children” were part of the migration known as “The Winton Train”.

I’m in Prague… Don’t bother bringing your skis.

In December 1938 a friend, Martin Blake, asked Winton to forego his planned ski vacation and visit him in Czechoslovakia. There Blake had traveled in his capacity as an associate of the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia. Convinced that a European war was imminent, Winton went to Prague and viewed the situation for himself. There he was shocked to see refugee camps filled with Jews and political opponents from the Sudetenland. A British relief organization was set up to save the adults, but the children had no one.

Evil Triumphs When Good Men Do Nothing

When Winton became aware of the children’s dilemma, he could not turn away and do nothing. He set up a makeshift office and in three weeks he interviewed thousands of parents willing to part with their loved ones to give them a chance at life. Armed with their details and photographs, he returned to London to convince the British Government of the need to do something.

He spent the next nine months raising funds, organizing transport, and finding foster families. Alarmed at the slow processes, he began creating fake papers:

“We didn’t bring anyone in illegally. We just speeded up the process.”

The result was a caravan of eight trains carrying 669 Jewish children to London. Their journey took them through Germany to Holland, then by ship to England, and then once again by train to London, where they joined their new families. The last train out, however, brought Nicholas his greatest heartbreak. The train carried the most children, over 251. Those children were not as fortunate as the others.

On Sept. 1, 1939, the day Germany and the Soviet Union occupied Czechoslovakia, all borders were closed. After waiting two hours, the Gestapo ordered the train to leave the station. All the passengers on board disappeared. Without question, they were murdered along with 1.1 million other Czech Jews at Auschwitz. The thought of losing those children tormented Nicholas Winton for his entire life.

After the war, wishing to be involved with the rehabilitation of Europe’s refugees, he worked for several international organizations. He retired early, settled in Maidenhead, England and dedicated the rest of his life to others.

As for Nicky’s Children, some of them grew up to be notable individuals. Their names are familiar to a few people, but most are not. An Emmy Award-winning documentary describing the Kindertransport and what became of the children was produced in 2002 by the Prague-based filmmaker Joe Schlesinger titled Nicholas Winton: The Power of Good. The film was narrated by one of Nicky’s Children.

For almost fifty years, Winton did not speak of his actions. The man thought of work he did merely as a job. His wife Grete knew little of his sojourn until 1988. When cleaning out the attic of their home, she found his scrapbook, a list of names, old photographs, and journals documenting his rescue operation. She passed the documents on to Elisabeth Maxwell, a Holocaust researcher and wife of newspaper manager Robert Maxwell. The latter got wind of it and an article about Winton appeared in the “Sunday People” newspaper.

The story then took on a life of its own.

Secret Work, Public Rewards

For his efforts, Winton was honored in 1983 with the Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2003, and recognized for his work by the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 538). In 1999, he was also awarded the Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk Order by Czech President Václav Havel in a ceremony at Hradčany Castle. Five years later, Winton returned to Prague to be admitted to the Czech Order of The White Lion. The Czech government also nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize several times.

But the greatest honor given to this quiet man came in February 1988. It came in the form of a talk show.

A Long Awaited Reunion

The producers of a television show, “That’s Life!” contacted Winton and informed him that they were going to do a story about him. The producers asked him to come to the studio to critique the accuracy of that story. Unbeknownst to Winton, the producers had found over 80 survivors of the Winton Train, all of them now in their sixties. Those children, their children, and their grandchildren all came to do homage to the man. Together, hundreds of people were at the studio, representing the estimated five-thousand people who are alive in the world because of Nicholas Winton.

Figure 3: Nicky’s Children


Figure 3: Nicky’s Children

Save one Man, Save the Entire World

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013, called Sir Nicholas a “giant of moral courage” and “one of the heroes of our time.”

He went on to say:

“Our sages said that saving a life is like saving a universe [Sanhedrin 37a]. Sir Nicholas saved hundreds of universes. He was a giant of moral courage and determination, and he will be mourned by Jewish people around the world.”

Sir Nicholas died in his sleep on June 30 at Wexham Hospital in Slough, with his daughter Barbara and two grandchildren at his side. He was 106.

Well done, good and trustworthy servant… Come and share your master’s joy!

Matthew 25:21, ISV

“He Who Saves a Man, Saves the World Entire”


“He Who Saves a Man, Saves the World Entire”

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The Benedict Option

‎06 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎08:13:41 PM | Steve ElwartGo to full article
“Have we been transported back to ancient Rome?” That is the question Christians of all stripes are asking. The world today is descending into an “anything goes” culture. Throughout the world we are seeing signs of decay. Within Western Culture we are seeing signs of bureaucratic decay, massive public debt and political systems incapable of responding to challenges. Many countries are pouring money into a military seemingly incapable of fulfilling its basic role of defense. We have a culture where the most dangerous place for a child is inside their mother’s womb.

Europe is seeing all these issues. Its tentative Union is falling apart. Its common defense (i.e. NATO) seems impotent against recent Russian aggression in the region. The European Union is also failing economically with Greece’s unwillingness to stop its profligate spending. Recent elections in Spain also point to a populace tired of “austerity” and is considering only honoring its “legitimate debts”, loans made in good faith by others that politicians in Spain consider “unfair”.

Southeast Asia is facing growing Chinese expansionism and is helpless against the coming onslaught. Radical Islam is advancing across the Middle East, making to secret of killing Christians and selling their women and children into sexual slavery.

The United States and Canada are also seeing all these problems. They are seeing all the problems mentioned above plus a plethora of laws being disseminated that are restricting people’s freedoms.

World news outlets have focused on the United States and the sea change that nation is experiencing. The two U.S. Supreme Court cases, one on Obamacare and one on Same-Sex marriages, have given many people pause. While some are celebrating the decisions, other are decrying them. It is not only the descent into hedonism and socialism that they disparage, but also the blatant rewriting of law, contrary to the country’s founding documents.

The world is experiencing structural collapse and rising decadence, declining religious observance, the redefinition and the resulting break-up of the family, and a general loss of cultural cohesion.

No wonder Rod Dreher, writing in Time Magazine, said we Christians must consider ourselves exiles in our own land:

Christians must understand that things are going to get much more difficult for us. We are going to have to learn how to live with at least a mild form of persecution. And we are going to have to change the way we practice our faith and teach it to our children, to build resilient communities.

Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George put the danger of creeping secularism of society succinctly:

I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.

A State of Decay

Damon Linker is a senior correspondent at TheWeek.com and the author of The Theocons and The Religious Test.

Linker points out the religious conservatives in America are divided and demoralized as they see their former “moral majority” becoming a “moral minority”. He analyzes the political impact as right wing cultural warrior’s surrender and head to the hills to hunker down.

The mood among social conservatives has been darkening for years, as a liberal Democrat has taken and held the White House, as the Republican Party has placed greater emphasis on economic concerns than culture-war issues, and (most of all) as same-sex marriage has come to be accepted by more than half of the country and Democrats have begun to embrace it without apology.

But nothing compares to the gloom that’s set in during the weeks since the passage of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act sparked a rapid and widespread condemnation of religious traditionalists, not only by gay activists and liberal Democrats, but also by a number of Republicans with national stature and high-profile members of the business community. Suddenly social conservatives began to think the unthinkable: Is it possible that we’re now in the minority, with our freedoms subject to the whims of a hostile majority that will use the power of the modern liberal state (especially anti-discrimination laws) to enforce public conformity to secular, anti-Christian norms?

Has the moral decline gone too far to reverse?

Many Christians believe it is not too late and take comfort in the words in 2nd Chronicles:

… when my people humble themselves—the ones who are called by my name—and pray, seek me, and turn away from their evil practices, I myself will listen from heaven, I will pardon their sins, and I will restore their land.

— 2 Chronicles 7:14, ISV

They believe if a there is revival in their country, like the one Israel experienced under King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18), their country will be saved. Others think we are too late, we will experience God’s abandonment wrath as foretold in Hosea:

My people are destroyed because they lack knowledge of me. Because you rejected that knowledge, I will reject you as a priest for me. Since you forget the Law of your God, I will also forget your children.

— Hosea 4:6, ISV

For both groups there is an idea being thrown around which used to be thought of as a fringe notion, but is now being considered in a more serious light.

That concept is the “Benedict Option”.

The Benedict Option

Around the year 500, twenty-five years after barbarians deposed the last Roman emperor, Romulus Augustus, a young man from central Italy known to history as Benedict was sent to Rome by his wealthy parents to finish his education.

Disgusted by the dissolute and licentious life in the city, Benedict fled to the forest to pray as a hermit. From that experience, he decided he had to separate himself from the World. This was not an uncommon act. According to the author Eric Dean:

The political and social disorder that accompanied the end of the Roman Empire induced many people to turn away from society. The idea of an isolated ascetic life had developed in the East, particularly in Egypt, where St. Anthony inspired many. Some individual hermits began to form monastic communities, but for the most part the emphasis was still upon the private war between the spirit and the world.

Benedict formed a monastic society, dedicated to prayer and fasting away from the distractions and evil influences of society. This society is known today as the Benedictines. Some people think Benedict’s experience applies to today. The Scottish philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre believes Benedict showed it is possible to build “new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained” in a Dark Age—including, perhaps, an age like our own.

For MacIntyre, Western Civilization is entering a period like the Fall of Rome. The decline is not being felt acutely as the Romans did because it is being masked by the illusion liberty and prosperity. Once liberty and prosperity are irrevocably eroded will the true nature of the fall will be felt.

In his 1981 book After Virtue, MacIntyre argued the Enlightenment’s failure to replace a dying Christianity caused Western Civilization to lose its moral coherence. Like the early medievals, we have also been cut off from our roots, and a shadow of cultural amnesia is falling across the country.

A disease in what can be called The Great Forgetting is taking a particular toll on American Christianity, losing its members in dramatic numbers. Those who stay within churches often succumb to a theological relativism where moral precepts will change over time and worship is characterized with a feel-good message during a service rather than the Word of God. They are forgetting the moral principles that lie at the heart of our faith.

Sociologists call this “moralistic therapeutic deism,” which is destroying historic Christian moral and theological orthodoxy.

A recent Pew survey found Jews in America are being drawn into the secular progressive narrative even faster than Christians. Orthodox Jews are resisting the trend and many are doing this by living in separate communities that adhere to practices and traditions distinct from the World.

Hence the Benedict Option.

Fight or Flight

Christians are considering whether they should stay engaged with the world or withdraw from the mainstream. These people believe they need to be modern day Benedicts. They are certain the Culture War is lost. They consider their only salvation is to unplug themselves from the culture to protect their faith and their family from the corrosive effects of modernity and taking a more orthodox approach to life. They think the only way out is to build their own communities in an atmosphere of internal exile.

This is a false premise and has been tried before. For centuries Jews lived in isolated communities (ghettos) and separated themselves from society at large. That plan did not work out well for them. Consider the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto. They tried to withdraw into themselves and felt they were beyond the reach of the outside world. It was only too late they found out they were wrong. The Nazis first enforced the self-isolation, then they built barricades to keep them in, then they stormed the enclave and took them to the ovens.

If Christians do this they may face the same fate.

The first mistake we made was entering the Culture War too late. We believed if we practiced a modified Benedict Option by hiding in our churches, we would be safe. We did not confront evil, we accommodated it. We practiced “tolerance”. Once a non-Scriptural idea took hold and was at our doorstep, then we wanted to take action.

By then it was too late. The new narrative was “woven into the fabric” of society.

Just as the Jews of Warsaw operated under the delusion of separation equaling safety, so to Christians who think they can wall themselves in with their beliefs and be safe are delusional.

The Battle Lines are Being Drawn

The key is to engage. Not only engage with those who share our beliefs, but also engage with those who disagree. For as the Holy Spirit through Paul writes, we need to be strong in the Lord and rely on his strength. As one person put it, “The battle lines are being drawn.” God is placing us in a position to take a stand. People are taking a stand. In the latest assault on Christ’s teaching, same-sex marriage, Christians are walking away from their jobs and their livelihood. In one case, the entire County Clerk’s office of Decatur County, Tennessee has resigned, rather than issue homosexual marriage.

Each one of us may have to make the same decision the Decatur County Clerk’s Office did. Do we aid in the moral decline through our actions (or our silence) or do we take a stand like Martin Luther did when he faced the Diet of Worms to defend his writings:

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason-for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves-I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.

We need to put on the Whole Armor of God because our opponents are not of this world. We need to protect ourselves with truth, righteousness, faith, the assurance of our salvation, and the Word of God. Most of all, we need to pray. Prayer of all sorts. Prayers for wisdom, guidance and prayers for your fellow saints — saints that are suffering both the hard persecution of the body and the soft persecution of the soul.

Then, as written, will we be ready to go, as one chained to the Lord and boldly preach the Gospel in both our words and our actions?

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Security in Churches

‎06 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎08:12:15 PM | Steve ElwartGo to full article
The shootings in a Christian Church in Charleston brought into sharp focus the need to be more aware of security during church activities. This incident was not a rare occurrence.

On June 11, 2014, Phoenix police responded to a burglary call at the Mater Misericordiae (Mother of Mercy) Mission around 9 PM. Inside the church, they found two injured priests in the rectory, according to police. The Rev. Kenneth Walker later died at the hospital.

This was not an isolated incident.

On Sunday, May 21, 2006, a gunman walked into a church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, near the end of Sunday morning services. After entering the building the shooter killed five people before abducting his estranged wife and three children. While the gunman freed the children, the woman was held hostage and later found dead at another location. The church’s pastor was also shot during the incident.

A common factor in all of these and other incidents is the threat of violence to houses of worship.

Violent incidents of the above nature happen several times each year at churches across the country. Because places of worship are open to the public and often inviting, churches have become more vulnerable to these senseless acts of violence.

While much is written about violence in Mideast Churches, violence in U.S. Churches is also increasing. The church, a place where tradition used to hold as a place of sanctuary, is feeling the viciousness of the outside world spilling inside its doors. They are no longer safe havens and church leaders of all denominations are being challenged with providing an inviting and loving environment without being mistaken for an easy target. Some churches now have armed security guards walking the perimeter of the church during services while others have church leaders carrying concealed weapons.

Today we also see churches and other Faith Based Organizations (FBO) also being subjected to arson. The most ominous potential threat is that of terrorists using primitive weapon systems. These may take the form of explosives and other individual explosive devices (IED) purchased on the open market.

Churches can no longer afford to ignore security. These facilities are considered “soft targets”, places that are an easy mark by terrorists, disaffected spouses, and common criminals. Today’s challenge is to harden the building while maintaining the peaceful and welcoming atmosphere one expects at a house of worship. Those concerned with security issues need to consider both external and internal threats. These threats can come from street criminals, white collar criminals, hate groups, terrorists, ideology groups, and others.

Most congregations are under prepared or not prepared at all for these risks.

A 2009 report published by the Christian Security Network outlines 1,237 crimes against Christian churches. The offenses include 12 homicides, 38 other violent incidents including, 3 sexual assaults, 3 kidnappings, 98 arsons, and over 700 burglaries resulting in more than $24 million in property loss.

”It is disheartening to see all these incidents and loss of life in churches in 2009 and even sadder because we know 2010 isn’t going to be any different unless the status-quo changes,” stated Jeff Hawkins, executive director of the Christian Security Network. “People want to be protected, especially at church, and as we have seen from incidents in 2009, criminals don’t care that they are targeting a church – they are seen as soft targets.”

Most church leaders are unaware of vulnerabilities and basic crime prevention methods. As a result, churches, temples, and synagogues are more vulnerable to attack than other facilities.

Many churches are reluctant to talk about whether they know they have been targeted and what security preparations are in place. Security measures are often limited to internal losses and property crime. Much like shopping malls and other retail establishments, worship facilities do not offer the protection given by places with rigorous security screening procedures, such as airports or government offices.

What Should be the Response to a Security Threat?

How does an FBO respond to violent or destructive threats? How do security measures mesh with faith based organizations?

Most world religions are taught to welcome their brothers & sisters, to turn the other cheek, and to forgive and forget. Can this ideology can still exist while leaders “protect the flock”. While no FBO can be expected to become an armed fortress, a house of worship should have evacuation plans, emergency contacts, and a security awareness policy. Worship facilities are places of refuge and peace where all should be welcome, but basic behavioral detection techniques may uncover a violent episode before it happens. There are many examples where violence took parishioners by surprise.

In October 2006, a man spilled fuel on pews and parishioners during a church service and started a fire intending to kill everyone in the building. Two women were seriously injured when their clothing caught fire. Fortunately for church members, the staff subdued the suspect until law enforcement officials arrived at the scene. The police report later stated that the suspect admitted that he took gas cans and a knife to the People’s Church in Salem, Oregon intending to kill all the people in the church. Trial testimony showed the man thought he was acting on God’s orders. Mental health experts testified he had paranoid schizophrenia.

Using explosive devices is not just a foreign phenomenon any more. The modern practice goes back to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) bombing incidents in Great Britain.

In Louisiana, four men allegedly used explosive materials, stolen from a fireworks stand to make three bombs. One bomb was detonated on a roadway in Vernon Parish and one was set off outside the Champions Center at Grace Church. One was placed, but not detonated, in Three Pines Apostolic Church.

In December 1986 in Long Beach, California, the Morningland Church was the victim of a strategic bomb attack. The lone suspect was disturbed by the church’s teachings and the “harassment” of a sister. The suspect placed the concealed bomb in the church building and part of a 10-stick dynamite bomb exploded. Thomas T. McCoy, 26 was arrested on suspicion of ignition of a destructive device, possession of a destructive device, and carrying a concealed weapon.

While houses of worship may have medical guidelines and evacuation procedures, few would know what to do if a person with a gun walked into the church, temple or synagogue. Unfortunately, the religious community is subject to many of the same hazards that any other organization faces.

Some of the nation’s estimated 1,200 mega-churches (places where more than 2,000 worshippers gather each week) have been beefing up security in recent years. Even without a security department, faith leaders can train volunteers to keep watch for suspicious behavior. For example, they should be on the lookout for visitors dressed in a long coat during the summer or not making eye contact with fellow congregants.

Security professionals must understand that the faith based community differs from the business or government setting. Because of the challenges identified above, emphasis should be placed on:

  • Setting up crash barriers to the entrance of the building and directing traffic flow though landscape designs, natural surveillance, and using structures to divert or influence flow;
  • Physical security monitoring (alarms, cameras, access control);
  • Security/terrorism awareness training for faith leaders;
  • Establishing a security committee that produces preparedness plans; and
  • Fostering positive relationships with local law enforcement

Embracing a fortress mentality with armed guards and requiring all congregants to pass through metal detectors is against the basic premise of a church, and a case of overkill. However, sticking one’s head in the sand and going about business as usual without addressing security concerns would do a disservice to those people who come to services there.

How Should One Prepare for a Security Threat?

So how should a church and its staff prepare and respond to a future security threat?

The first step in addressing security is to form security committee dedicated to studying the topic and recommending options for the facility. Many church members have either law enforcement or other security training. They should do a risk, threat and vulnerability assessment for the property.

Once the assessment is completed, the next step is to draft a security plan for the leadership’s consideration. Local law enforcement agencies should be consulted as they will give feedback and intelligence to faith organizations that may be classified “for law enforcement use only”. Houses of worship should carry out a layered security approach using a defense in depth strategy.

For example, parking lots offer the opportunity to suggest that the facility is a “hard target”. The lot should be well lit, appropriately marked, and offer protection to foot traffic. Next, multiple layers of greeters or volunteers should be clearly visible. These people should be able to communicate with each other. The goal is to find threats early and respond quickly.

Other considerations in the plan may include:

  • The roles and responsibilities of the various layers of staff
  • Dealing with disruptive or impaired individuals
  • Contending with violent people with or without a weapon
  • Pastoral protection
  • Lock down and/or evacuation procedures
  • Equipment needs
  • Communication to each other and the congregation

Faith leaders should not accept the risk but rather consider the consequences of having no plan at all. They need to prepare an overall security strategy to protect attendees. A wide variety of resources are available to both security professionals and religious leaders.

The U.S. Department of Justice offers many resources to houses of worship. The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also provides a no-cost training presentation targeted at churches, temples, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship. This training, titled Soft Target Awareness Course (STAC), strives to bring awareness to faith leaders by education (highlighting the risk) and targeted awareness of anti-terrorism directives. Also, this presentation advises about the effectiveness of signs, lighting, guards, perimeter security, and surveillance detection.

Today domestic terrorism is often overlooked due to Middle Eastern events being touted by the media. However, when domestic terrorists or lone-wolfs are looking for an easy target with unsuspecting prey, they need not look further than their local neighborhood house of worship.

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The Power of Forgiveness

‎30 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎03:01:27 AM | Steve ElwartGo to full article
A subscriber to Facebook posed a question. The writer is a member of the Koinonia Institute page who asked:

“Can anyone tell me why there are no riots in South Carolina over the recent murders?”

The incident the member referred to was the slaughter of nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

On Wednesday June 17, a man described as “clean-shaven young white male, about 5 feet 9 inches tall, of slender build and with sandy blond hair” entered the church. At 9 PM the gunman, later identified as Dylann Roof, open fired on the class. His shots killed nine people, including the church’s pastor Clementa C. Pinckney. (The a 41-year-old minister, also served his community as a member of the South Carolina State Legislature.)

With the smell of gun powder still in the air, people took to their blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter Feeds, and websites to promote their cause. The causes ranged from gun control, to removing the Confederate Flag, to touting this as another example of racism. Louis Farrakhan weighed in on the subject by saying:

“We need to put the American flag down. Because we’ve caught as much hell under that as the Confederate flag” in remarks before the Metropolitan AME Church in Washington, DC on Wednesday first reported by DC’s WMAL.

A Crime Based on Hate

With emotions running so high over the incident, why didn’t Charleston explode in violence as did Ferguson, Missouri or Baltimore, Maryland? While this was not an officer involved shooting, it soon became obvious that this was a crime based on hate.

Roof, the man accused of the killings, was charged with nine counts of homicide and possession of a firearm during commission of a violent crime.

Dalton Tyler, Roof’s roommate, told ABC News he’d known the alleged killer for at least seven months. Tyler said that Roof did not commit this crime on impulse.

“[He had been] planning something like that for six months. He was big into segregation and other stuff. He said he wanted to start a civil war. He said he was going to do something like that and then kill himself.”

The Justice Department is expected to file federal hate crime charges against Roof. Analysts at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have concluded “with a high degree of certainty” that Roof posted a racist manifesto on a website registered under his name.

The Difference in Charleston

The biggest difference between Charleston and the other cities lie in how the congregation responded to persecution — they responded with love and forgiveness.

In an interview with the BBC, the children of one of the victims said, “We already forgive [Dylann Roof] and there’s nothing but love from our side of the family.”

They were not alone. Stephen Singleton, Emanuel’s former pastor, told NPR:

We’re people of faith, and people of faith know that we heal. God helps us to heal. This doesn’t drive us away from God. This drives us to God, and that’s why I’m here now.

There are a lot of broken hearts, a lot of sorrow and a lot of healing to be done. And that’s what we’re going to work on, and that’s what we’re going to focus on because if we get bitter and angry, we just make a bad situation worse.

A relative of another victim, Myra Thompson said, “I forgive him and my family forgives him. But we would like him to take this opportunity to repent and give your [sic] life to the one who matters most: Christ.”

Senator Tim Scott, appearing on “Face the Nation” stated that while Roof may have intended to ignite a war between the races, he brought the people of Charleston closer together.

The Power of Forgiveness

The shootings in Charleston are reminiscent of a horrific event from years ago: the murder of five Amish girls in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. As in Charleston, the Nickel Mines community responded with forgiveness. Members of the Amish community in the area responded by offering immediate forgiveness to the killer and by embracing his family. They even attended the shooter’s funeral.

The mother of the murderer, Terri Roberts, responded by caring for one of her son’s victims. Once a week, she spends time with 13-year-old Rosanna, who sits in a wheelchair and eats through a tube. Roberts bathes her, sings to her, and reads her stories.

The victim never utters a “thank you” because she cannot speak.

Roberts’ weekly visits force her to face the results of the carnage her son instigated. It also gives her a sense of peace. She has forgiven her son and is spending part of her life trying to atone for his actions.

“I realized if I didn’t forgive him, I would have the same hole in my heart that he had. And a root of bitterness never brings peace to anyone. We are called to forgive.”

In this way the community healed.

The actions in Charleston should remind us how we too should foster a culture of forgiveness. We should ask the questions:

  • Are we fostering grace and forgiveness in our community?
  • Are we teaching our children to forgive?
  • Are we reaching out in aid and restoration to both victims and offenders?
  • Are we prepared to respond in love and forgiveness to offense and tragedy in the way Jesus taught us?

Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant that follows after His “seventy times seven” lesson, drives home the point that we are forgiven an enormous debt. If we can be forgiven a debt of sin against God, how much more should we be eager to forgive those who sin against us? Paul parallels this example in Ephesians 4:32 where he admonishes us to forgive one another “just as God has forgiven you in the Messiah.” Forgiveness is not to be given out in a limited fashion, but is to be abundant and available to everyone, as is grace of God.

The people of Emanuel Church understand that.

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Last Gasp for the Last Court?

‎30 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎03:00:02 AM | Steve ElwartGo to full article
The Supreme Court of the United States was “ordained and established” by the Judiciary Act of Congress in 1789. The Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C., designed by Cass Gilbert, was completed in 1935. Engraved in stone above the head of the Chief Justice are the Ten Commandments with the American eagle protecting them. Moses is included among the great lawgivers in Herman A. MacNeil’s marble sculpture relief on the East Portico (see above).

Before each session of the Court, the Justices stand before their desks and the crier opens with the invocation:

God save the United States and this Honorable Court.

A series of decisions handed down by the Court during this session makes one wonder if God will save the United States and that “Honorable Court”. The United States is living under conditions which Thomas Jefferson both expected and feared:

“It has long been my opinion, and I have never shrunk from its expression,… that the germ of dissolution of our Federal Government is in the constitution of the Federal Judiciary—an irresponsible body (for impeachment is scarcely a scare-crow), working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief over the field of jurisdiction until all shall be usurped from the States and the government be consolidated into one. To this I am opposed.” — Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Charles Hammond, 1821

Throughout its history, the Supreme Court, the “Court of Last Resort”, has made a series of bad rulings. One of the most infamous rulings handed down was the Dred Scott Decision. The case (known as Dred Scott v. Sandford), involved a slave (Scott) who was taken by his master, U.S. Army Surgeon Dr. John Emerson, from their home in Missouri, a slave-holding state, to Illinois which prohibited slavery. Scott was returned to Missouri. The physician later died and his wife Eliza “inherited” Scott.

After failing to buy freedom for his family and himself, Scott sued Emerson for his freedom in 1847, pleading that because he lived in a free state, he was free and could not be enslaved again. After a series of appeals, he took his case against his new owner John Sanford (Eliza Emerson’s brother) to the Supreme Court in 1857.

The Court’s subsequent decision delivered a double-blow to Scott and the entire Abolitionist Movement. In writing the Majority Opinion, Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney opined that Dred Scott had no standing to in the court.

Furthermore, Taney wrote that:

  • Free Negroes are not citizens.
  • The Constitution treats them as property.
  • Every citizen has a right to take with him, into any territory of the United States, any property the Constitution recognizes.
  • The Constitution recognizes slaves as property and pledges the government to protect it, and Congress cannot interfere with such property.

Only the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolished slavery, erased this blot on the nation’s history.

Major Supreme Court Cases in 2015

The rulings handed down from this session of the court are of such impact they may also take a constitutional amendment to rectify the damage that has been done.

A summary of the well-known and not-so-well known rulings from the Court follow:

White House rainbow-colored

Same-Sex Marriage

The court decided in Obergefell v. Hodges and three related cases that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage.

In this case, the states of Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Fourteen same-sex couples and two men whose same-sex partners are deceased, sued in the Federal District Courts in their home states, claiming the respondent state officials violated the Fourteenth Amendment). The plaintiffs claimed that by denying them the right to marry or to have marriages performed in another state given full recognition. Each District Court ruled in the petitioners’ favor, but the Sixth Circuit combined and reversed the cases.

The main questions before the Court were:

  1. Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?
  2. Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was licensed and performed out-of-state?

In a 5–4 decision the Supreme Court upheld all the lower court rulings and found in favor of the plaintiffs.

Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Kennedy wrote the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was licensed and performed out-of-state.

This ruling caused a firestorm of emotions on both sides of the issue. The first salvo came from Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. (The Justices in the minority were so adamant in their dissent that they all wrote opinions.)

Scalia’s dissent read, in part:

When the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868, every state limited marriage to one man and one woman, and no one doubted the constitutionality of doing so. … We have no basis for striking down a practice that is not expressly prohibited by the Fourteenth Amendment’s text. … [It] is an opinion lacking even a thin veneer of law.

In his most stinging rebuke in the opinion, Scalia wrote:

This is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed, super-legislative—power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government. Except as limited by a constitutional prohibition agreed to by the People, the States are free to adopt whatever laws they like, even those that offend the esteemed Justices’ “reasoned judgment.” A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.

There are many things wrong with this ruling, among them:

  • The court created a new right they “found” in the Constitution. One day this “right” will come in conflict with other, more established rights, such are the Right to Religious Freedom (Can a pastor refrain from performing same-sex marriages?) and Freedom of Speech (Can someone speak against homosexual marriages without being sanctioned for “Hate Speech”?)
  • The court, once again, usurped legislative prerogatives belonging to the Congress, another move toward making representative government irrelevant.
  • How will this affect people wanting other types of “marriages”? Will this open the door to polygamous marriages or marriages between close family relatives? What will be its effect on laws prohibiting marriage to underage people?

The ruling opens a Pandora’s Box of problems the Court and Congress will have to address.

After the ruling there have been joyous celebrations among those who wanted homosexual marriages recognized. Even other countries celebrated the ruling. There were rallies outside the Supreme Court Building, parades in cites around the world and celebrations into the night. There is even a Facebook page that will apply a “rainbow filter” to your profile picture with the colors of the homosexual movement. Displays celebrating the ruling were erected in many cities across the country.

The most abhorrent display came from the White House where President Obama ordered that the “People’s House” be bathed in the rainbow colors.

The spectacle is reminiscent of Isaiah 5:18:

How terrible it will be for those who parade iniquity with cords of falsehood, who draw sin along as with a cart rope (ISV)

Such a display makes one wonder if it is not too late. Perhaps the United States is entering a period of God’s abandonment of the country.

Romans 1:18–32 provides a good description of what happens when God gives people over to their own desires and basic instincts:

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him. Instead, their thoughts turned to worthless things, and their senseless hearts were darkened. … For this reason, God delivered them to sexual impurity as they followed the lusts of their hearts and dishonored their bodies with one another. They exchanged God’s truth for a lie and worshipped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. … Furthermore, because they did not think it worthwhile to keep knowing God fully, God delivered them to degraded minds to perform acts that should not be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. … Although they know God’s just requirement—that those who practice such things deserve to die—they not only do these things but even applaud others who practice them.” (ISV)

Health Care Subsidies

In the case of insurance subsidies for “Obamacare”, the issue concerned Section 36B of the Internal Revenue Code, which was enacted as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), which authorizes federal tax credit subsidies for health insurance coverage purchased through an “Exchange established by the State under section 1311” of the ACA.

The question presented was whether the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) may issue regulations to extend tax-credit subsidies to coverage purchased through exchanges established by the federal government under section 1321 of the ACA.

The court decided in King v. Burwell that tax subsidies are lawfully being provided in the three dozen states which chose not to run the marketplaces for insurance coverage.

The six justices in the majority concluded the disputed phrase in the Affordable Care Act — “an exchange established by the state” — is ambiguous when read in context, and so can be interpreted in different ways. It does not have to be interpreted literally as meaning no subsidies are available to people in states that have not set up their own exchanges.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote the majority opinion stating:

In a democracy, the power to make the law rests with those chosen by the people. Our role is more confined— “to say what the law is.” (Marbury v. Madison, 1803) That is easier in some cases than in others. But in every case we must respect the role of the Legislature, and take care not to undo what it has done. A fair reading of legislation demands a fair understanding of the legislative plan. Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter. Section 36B can fairly be read consistent with what we see as Congress’s plan, and that is the reading we adopt.

The Court ruled the Congress intended for everyone to be covered by the ACA. By taking away the subsidies it would destroy the act, which was against the intent of the law. Therefore, the law did not mean what was in the clear reading of the text. The majority interpreted the ambiguous phrase in a way that allows the law to work rather than cause an upheaval in the law.

Again, writing the dissenting opinion was Justice Scalia. Scalia and two dissenting justices maintained the disputed phrase in the Affordable Care Act should be interpreted literally. The dissent also accuses the majority of having a political motive, harkening back to the 2012 ruling upholding the insurance mandate provision of the health care law:

Words no longer have meaning if an exchange that is not established by a state is “established by the State.” It is hard to come up with a clearer way to limit tax credits to state exchanges than to use the words “established by the State.” And it is hard to come up with a reason to include the words “by the State” other than the purpose of limiting credits to state Exchanges. … Under all the usual rules of interpretation, in short, the Government should lose this case. But normal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present Court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved.

He also wrote:

Having transformed two major parts of the law [the act’s mandate that everyone maintain health insurance or pay a penalty was constitutional as a “tax,” and states were free to reject the act’s Medicaid expansion without losing all of their existing Medicare funding, as the act said they must.], the Court today has turned its attention to a third. The Act that Congress passed makes tax credits available only on an “Exchange established by the State.” This Court, however, concludes that this limitation would prevent the rest of the Act from working as well as hoped. So it rewrites the law to make tax credits available everywhere. We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.

Justice Scalia and the two other dissenting justices argued the Supreme Court should have left it to Congress to decide what to do about the problem.

President Obama wrote in The Audacity of Hope, “I have to side with Justice Breyer’s view of the Constitution — that it is not a static but rather a living document, and must be read in the context of an ever-changing world.”

It is a tempting mindset to embrace and the Supreme Court now seems to have the concept fully in its grip. There is so much about today’s world the Framers could never have expected. They had no inkling the Constitution would be changed to allow for direct election of senators, the unfunded mandates eroding state sovereignty, the size and scope of the federal government, and growth interstate commerce made possible by rapid advances in transportation and telecommunications technology, and subsequent expansion of federal government using that pretext.

Applying the Constitution “in the context of an ever-changing world,” has led this country where it is today. The executive branch has asserted sweeping powers — the prerogative to wage war without Congressional approval, to spy on and imprison Americans without a warrant, to engage in extrajudicial assassinations carried out by remote-controlled drones. James Madison, the author of The Federalist Papers could not have expected any of it. Nor could he have imagined the unprecedented degree to which the federal government would fall into the arms of powerful corporate interests as exemplified by the Wall Street bailouts and the ongoing lobbying culture pervading Washington. The health-care industry is a very potent moneyed interest and the rise of modern medicine gives those who control it more power over our lives than ever before.

Given recent abrogations of civil liberties, the erosion of restraints on federal power, is it prudent or consistent with American ideals of liberty to allow the federal government to exert even more influence over private decisions about health care made by less powerful, decentralized entities?

The United States is a nation founded on the rule of law through representative government. It has morphed into a combination of oligarchy and fascism. The economy and private property are coming more and more under the control of the State, with special interests (business, labor, and special interest lobbyists) playing a commanding part in it.

We are living in a time described in Ecclesiastes:

“I also examined on earth: where the halls of justice were supposed to be, there was lawlessness; and where the righteous were supposed to be, there was lawlessness.” (Ecclesiastes 3:16, ISV)

Many Greek and Hebrew words are used in the Bible to describe sin, but the one that best summarizes the essence of all sin is anomia, “lawlessness”. As 1 John 3:4 says, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.” (ESV) Jesus uses this term when he pronounces eternal condemnation upon the “workers of lawlessness” (Matt 7:23 ESV).

This concept not only applies to Man’s relationship to God, but also his relationship to each other through a system of laws.

Separation of Powers in Foreign Affairs

In another telling decision, the Court decided in Zivotofsky v. Kerry that Congress is not entitled to order the State Department to “record the place of birth as Israel” in the passports of American children born in Jerusalem if their parents requested.

The question before the court:

Whether a federal statute that directs the Secretary of State, on request, to record the birthplace of an American citizen born in Jerusalem as born in “Israel” on a Consular Report of Birth Abroad and on a United States passport is unconstitutional on the ground that the statute “impermissibly infringes on the President’s exercise of the recognition power reposing exclusively in him.

In this case, the parents of 13-year old Menachem B. Zivotofsky applied for a passport for him and listed his birthplace as “Jerusalem, Israel”. The application was denied since the State Department does not recognize Jerusalem as part of Israel.

On June 8, in a 6–3 vote, the Court ruled the President has the exclusive power to grant formal recognition to a foreign sovereign. This means as long as President does not recognize Jerusalem as part of Israel, the U.S. Government cannot recognize that designation.

This continues a trend throughout U.S. administrations going back to Harry Truman, where it is the official policy of the United States not to acknowledge Israel’s right to claim Jerusalem as its capital.

The United States does not seem to acknowledge God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants:

“I’ll make a great nation of your descendants, I’ll bless you, and I’ll make your reputation great, so that you will be a blessing. I’ll bless those who bless you, but I’ll curse the one who curses you, and through you all the people of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:2–3, ISV)

The Confederate Flag and Free Speech

The court decided in Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans Texas had not discriminated against the view of the group that claimed “the Confederate flag is a symbol of sacrifice, independence and Southern heritage” when refusing to allow its license plate bearing the Confederate flag.

In this case:

  • Nine states let drivers choose specialty license plates featuring the Confederate flag and honoring the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which says it seeks to celebrate Southern heritage. But Texas refused to allow the group’s plates, saying the flag was offensive.
  • In 2011, not long before the motor vehicles department rejected the plates, Gov. Rick Perry indicated he supported such a move. “We don’t need to be scraping old wounds,” he said. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a brief against the state while an N.A.A.C.P. spokesperson has expressed support for the state.

The questions before the court were:

  1. Do the messages and symbols on state-issued specialty license plates qualify as government speech immune from any requirement of viewpoint neutrality?
  2. Has Texas engaged in “viewpoint discrimination” by rejecting the license-plate design proposed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, when Texas has not issued any license plate that portrays the confederacy or the confederate battle flag in a negative or critical light?

In a 5–4 decision, the Court decided that Texas’s specialty license plate designs constitute government speech, and therefore Texas may refuse to issue plates featuring Sons of Confederate Veterans’ (SCV’s) proposed design.

This ruling will resonate through the states as a move to ban the Confederate Flag continues to gain momentum.

There were other rulings from the court, too numerous to cover here. More references are shown below.

These rulings, along with events over the past few weeks stress the peril the United States suffers if it continues to ignore God and His law – a law greater than one any legislature can devise. The judge who will rule on the transgressions of these laws is also greater than any nine people who may sit in judgment of them.

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The Kurds Fight for a Home

‎23 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎12:11:46 AM | Steve ElwartGo to full article
One little-known fighting force in the war against ISIS has been at war for hundreds of years — The Kurds.

In a recent action, Kurdish militias and rebel fighters on Tuesday took full control of the strategic Syrian town of Tal Abyad on Turkey’s border, striking a blow against the Islamic State and expanding their realm of control.

Kurdish Commanders said that their forces have taken full control of the town after ISIS militia evacuated the area. The Kurds celebrated their victory by tearing down the jihadist’s black flag and replacing it with their own. The Kurds also expressed the hope that they would be able to now use that town and border crossing to supply their communities.

That won’t happen if Turkey has anything to say about it.

Turkey has grave concerns about a Kurdish-dominated militia taking the town. The Kurdish group belongs to the Democratic Union Party (PYD) which is an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has waged a 30-year insurgency against Turkey.

Who are the Kurds? That is a name many have heard, but may not understand.

Their Name

The Kurds claim as their ancestral home, Kurdistan, originally a term for “steppe country” and later for the land of the Kurds. It was the term given by the Seljuk government of Iran (1092–1194) to a region that must have stretched from between Lakes Van (in present-day western Turkey) and Urmia (in eastern Iran) south to the Zagros Mountains (extending along the Iran-Iraq border). The basic word came to be used, as in Arabic, as a collective and denoted “tiller of the field” or “shepherd.”

Kurdish Areas in the Middle East and the Soviet Union

Kurdish Areas in the Middle East and the Soviet Union

Today some scholars identify the Kurds as the Karduchoi of Xenophon’s Anabasis, a group living east of the Upper Tigris, those whom the Greek geographer Strabo called the Gordyaioi. They have come to be known as the descendants of the Medes who had moved westward beginning in the fifth century. One of the tribes of Medes was known as the Magi.

Their Identity

The cultural identity of the Kurds continued to evolve until 637 AD or 651 AD, when they were fighting marauding Arab tribes. From this point on, the identity of the Kurds is clearly established by the fact that their language, folklore (legends, style of clothing), social structure, and moral code are all of Northwest Iranian origin.

Their History

The Kurds were conquered by the Arabs in the 7th century AD. The region was held by the Seljuk Turks in the 11th century, by the Mongols from the 13th to the 15th centuries, and then by the Safavid and Ottoman Empires. Having been decimated by the Turks in the years between 1915 and 1918 and then having struggled to free themselves from Ottoman rule, the Kurds were encouraged by the Turkish defeat in World War I and by subsequent pleas for self-determination for non-Turkish nationalities in the empire. The Treaty of Sèvres (1920), which ended the Ottoman Empire, provided for the creation of an independent Kurdish state. After Turkey’s military revival under Kemal Atatürk, however, the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), which superseded Sèvres, failed to mention the creation of a Kurdish state.

These basic ethnic realities have repeatedly given rise to historical movements, including the founding of independent principalities and of dynasties outside Kurdistan (both up to the 16th century). In modern times the Kurds have sought by revolt to move on from being a displaced people with no country to call their own to an independent nation.

The Kurds have never been able to achieve the intended result of maintaining their own state.

In the 1980s the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein conducted genocide on the Kurdish People. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were executed during a systematic attempt to exterminate the Kurdish population in Iraq in the Anfal operations in the late 1980s. According to Kurdish representatives in the United Kingdom:

Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were executed during a systematic attempt to exterminate the Kurdish population in Iraq in the Anfal operations in the late 1980s. They were tied together and shot so they fell into mass graves. Their towns and villages were attacked by chemical weapons, and many women and children were sent to camps where they lived in appalling conditions. Men and boys of ‘battle age’ were targeted and executed en masse. The campaign takes its name from Suratal-Anfal in the Qur’an. Al Anfal literally means the spoils (of war) and was used to describe the military campaign of extermination and looting commanded by Ali Hassan al-Majid (Chemical Ali). The Ba’athists misused what the Qur’an says. Anfal in the Qur’an does not refer to genocide, but the word was used as a code name by the former Iraqi Ba’athist regime for the systematic attacks against the Kurdish population. The campaign also targeted the villages of minority communities including Christians.

With the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, another Kurdish uprising against Iraq was crushed and nearly 500,000 Kurds fled to the Iraq-Turkey border with one million more fleeing to Iran. Thousands subsequently returned to their homes under U.N. protection. In 1992 the Kurds established an “autonomous region” in northern Iraq and held a general election. Their community was badly divided, however, into two opposing groups that engaged in sporadic warfare with each other. In 1999 the two groups of Iraqi Kurds ceased hostilities. In 2005, elections were again held to unify the two major Kurdish parties — the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK): both parties having fought a civil war in the mid–1990s over territorial disputes and control of the Kurdistan Region.

Their Religion

Reconstructing their original religion has stymied scholars over the years. From their origins, the Kurds have incorporated many different elements of religions, cultures, and worldviews. The need to overcome this Balkanization of culture diversity, however, led a few to become Islamic Shiites. However, more than two-thirds of the Kurds became Sunnis. Christians who live in the Kurdish territory belong to a variety of sects (Syrian Orthodox Church, the Assyrian or Nestorian Church, or the Armenian Apostolic Church), but they are not seen as Kurdish, even though in some cases they have adopted the language and customs of the Kurds. Many Christians in the area have found, though, that they can find safe refuge by living among the Kurds.

Present-Day Problems

Since World War I the Kurds have suffered discrimination at the hands of newly created states. The disintegration of the Ottoman Empire in the early part of the twentieth century had laid the seeds for Kurdish statehood.

At the end of World War I, the Kurds were encouraged by Woodrow Wilson’s “Fourteen Points” of 1918, and were optimistic about the prospects for the establishment of an independent state. The twelfth of Wilson’s points declares, “The nationalities now under Turkish rule should … be assured … an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development.” The principle of self-determination states, “any people, simply because it considers itself to be a separate national group, is uniquely and exclusively qualified to determine its own political status, including, should it so desire, the right to its own state”

Saddam Hussein’s atrocities against the Kurds amounted to the de facto state of Kurdistan in northern Iraq. Despite considerable progress, polarized debates over the reconstruction of Iraq post 2003 have generated concerns over the probable emergence of an independent Kurdistan. They have been denied the rights promised them by the Iranian revolution of 1979, and have been exposed to open genocide by Iraq during its war with Iran (1980–88).

Nevertheless, the Kurdish leaders have insisted upon autonomy within a federal Iraq and have rejected partition as a solution to Iraq’s ethno-sectarian conflict. They believe autonomy serves their nationalist aspirations further by preserving regional self-governance.

Attempts at a Kurdish federation, even in light of the great freedom movements of 1989, have made no headway against prevailing political orders, despite the large number of Kurds (estimates range from a conservative 11 million, through 14 million posited by sociologists, to a figure of 18–20 million used by nationalists), the wide extent of their language (three main groups, with two dialects), and the scope of the territory in which they live, in all, 410,000 sq. km. / 158,000 sq. mi., an area between the size of France and Germany. Several political parties in countries of the region, Kurdish academies and academics, and various friendly exile groups and organizations have been at work on behalf of the Kurds, but thus far in uncoordinated fashion.

Their Future

Any long-term plans for a national Kurdistan must consider a strategic national vision, as well as a regional one. An independent state is not viable at present and will not happen as long as it does not conform to outside international interests. More importantly, the regions the Kurds now inhabit (i.e. Turkey, Iran, and Iraq) would not agree to a re-drawing of boundaries that could lead to destabilizing their own nations. There is also international concern that the creation of an independent Kurdistan would give impetus to other separatist groups around the world.

It can be seen, though, that the future establishment of real autonomy depends on a strong Western interest in the Kurdish region. Without outside support, the Kurds will remain vulnerable to the caprices of their less-than-friendly neighbors, as well, to jihadist forces in Iraq and Syria.

In the meantime, the Kurdish leadership will bide their time, comfortable with relative autonomy, until the moment is right to declare independence.

Perhaps, through their fighting against jihadist troops, the Kurds may believe that they can gain the international respect and greater recognition they so strongly desire. (Currently, the Kurds have some recognition, at least enough to enjoy diplomatic relations with other nations and to further ventures in international trade and investment.

They hope that, eventually, they will gain true independence. With independence, there may also come a refuge for Christians — at least, for a while.

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China’s Hack Attack

‎23 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎12:10:33 AM | Steve ElwartGo to full article
Photo: The Chinese are recruiting hundreds of thousands of people to wage cyber-warfare with other countries.

This author was in a briefing in Washington where the topic was cybersecurity. As the most recent attacks were reviewed and analyzed, one analyst said, “Just think, in Beijing, they are saying about us what we are saying about them.” It is said that “Great powers spy on each other.” This is true.

China’s attacks on other country’s infrastructures are not a new phenomenon. All major industrial countries hack each other. Other non-industrialized countries get hacked, but the damage from it is not as great. Spying to get information on another country is certainly not new. In 1929 U.S. Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson shut down the State Department’s cryptanalytic office saying, “Gentlemen don’t read each other’s mail.” (He later reversed this attitude.)

Information has been gained pointing to another serious breach by China against Pentagon contractors. (China denies any involvement in hacking U.S. databases.)

This is not the first time China has been accused of stealing U.S. secrets. Some internal Pentagon documents allege that the design of China’s J–31 fighter jet, which has similarities to the F–35 stealth jet, was purloined from military contractor’s computers. Chinese officials denied the allegations.

Cyberattacks are different than physical ones. A cyberattack can be launched and many times there is a “plausible deniability” as to who was the culprit. There is a saying that a massive cyberattack, unlike a devastating nuclear attack, will not leave a return address.

As with most truisms, there is an exception to every rule.

In one of the biggest hacking events in cyberwarfare, personnel records of over 4 million federal employees were stolen after the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) computer network was breached. Among other things, applicants must list their Social Security Numbers; information on close family; where they have lived; contacts with foreign citizens and travel abroad; the names and personal details of relatives; illegal drug use and mental health counseling except in limited circumstances.

Almost as soon as the breach was discovered, China was blamed for the intrusion. It’s the latest salvo in the tit-for-tat cyber-war between the United and China. This recent hack, however, is a clear sign that their cyberwarfare capabilities are becoming more sophisticated and effective.

This is also part of the China “Salami Slicing” Plan (to make incursions, or “slice off territory” against one country; large enough to be significant, but small enough not to warrant a conventional response from another power.

Chinese hackers stole personal data on 4 million government employees from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. They sneaked past a sophisticated counter-hacking system called Einstein 3 (E3), a mostly secret, very expensive piece of programming designed to stop cyberattacks in their tracks.

When the government began rolling out Einstein 3 in 2012, it was cutting-edge. It’s designed to stop attacks before they reach government computers. The five major Internet service providers — Verizon Communications Inc., AT&T Inc., Sprint Corp., Level 3 Communications Inc. and CenturyLink Inc. — use it to sniff the huge volume of data moving to and from sensitive networks, and then use digital signatures to spot and delete hackers’ tools.

It cost $234 million in fiscal 2012, $406 million in 2014 and $378 million in 2015 to roll out Einstein 3, according to DHS budget documents. Costs for 2013 weren’t broken out.

Deployment of the Einstein 3 System is currently behind schedule, a result of bureaucratic snarls, privacy, control of the software, and budget constraints. Only half of the OPM Offices’ computer systems scheduled for the program were protected when the hack occurred last December.

Not that the software would have done much good. By the government’s own admission the anti-virus software is already obsolete.

Einstein 3 was state of the art two years ago,” according to James Lewis, senior fellow in cybersecurity at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “It’s good, but it’s not enough, and we know that because the commercial security industry is already moving away from that kind of defense.”

The data breach, which exposed the personal information of almost every Federal Government employee by hackers, has focused attention on the substandard protection of computer networks from sophisticated adversaries such as China and Russia.

Most protection systems are modeled after M&M candies: hard and crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. These types of protection models, like almost any computer protection system, even those backed by the National Security Agency’s own corps of hackers, can never completely prevent break-ins. Years of experience has shown that the biggest problems in computer breaches often stem from the fact that once something gets through the outer defenses, it’s often a cakewalk to move around the internal network unimpeded.

Government computer systems, like most of the other computer systems in use today, need to move to a model that assumes hackers will always get in. They need to utilize what is termed a “multi-layered” defense. In addition to the current software in use, computer systems need to be able to detect intruders once they are inside the network and kick it out before any data is lost.

Snail’s Pace

Given the slow pace of government acquisition, the inter-agency rivalries and budget fights, though, the initiative may take several years or more to implement, leaving the possibility that the new technology will be old by the time it’s installed.

Congress has yet to act on the OPM’s February 2 request for a $32 million budget increase for fiscal 2016, according to Senator Angus King, a Maine independent, in an interview.

“Most of the funds,” the OPM said, “will be directed towards investments in IT network infrastructure and security.”

The latest intrusion points to the need for Congress to pass a cybersecurity bill, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. He would not say if any of the measures now being considered by the Congress would have prevented the OPM breach.

Accelerating Installation

“It’s too early to determine at this point what precisely would have prevented this particular cyber-intrusion,” Earnest said at a press briefing. “What is beyond argument is that these three pieces of legislation that the president sent to Congress five months ago would significantly improve the cybersecurity of the United States, not just the federal government’s cybersecurity, but even our ability to protect private computer networks.”

Republican Argument

Obviously, House and Senate Republicans, the President’s opposition, are furious about the breach and are taking full advantage of the Administration’s embarrassment. House Republican, Kevin McCarthy of California, the second-ranking representative in that chamber had this to say in a statement:

This Administration is notorious for not working with Congress, but they could at least read the news. Congress has, in fact, passed cyber legislation, and the House has been leading on this issue for years.

Serious Warnings

Senator King called the OPM hack, and an earlier one on Sony Corporation. that was attributed to North Korea, “serious warnings, but not catastrophic, which attacks on the financial system, gas pipelines or the electric grid would be.”

He and others have called for more drastic measures, including developing offensive cyberweapons to retaliate against nations that attack the critical infrastructure of the U.S. or its allies, somewhat analogous to the nuclear threat of “mutual assured destruction” during the Cold War.

In the interview, King also suggested “air-gapping” financial, transportation, energy and other critical computer networks — cutting their links to the Internet as has been done with some defense computer systems. (It should be noted here that the concept of “air-gapping” is a false premise for all but the most sensitive systems. A system that is truly cut off from the outside world also is cut off from the very users it was designed to help.)

Looking Inside

Much of the commercial security industry is already moving to the defense-in-depth technology designed to detect hackers as they move or alter data inside networks. This technology tracks flows of data inside networks, not just to and from the Internet.

Internal Battles

At the same time, the system was plagued by fights over who would run it — the Defense Department or DHS. This is true in many areas of the government’s cybersecurity program. Every government department and congressional district is looking to carve out a piece of the pie for themselves and the result is a confusing array of programs, models, and regulations that often work at cross purposes. Also, quarrels with privacy advocates over whether it was too intrusive; and negotiations over the implementation with Internet providers also plague cyber countermeasures…

All these problems slowed the installation of the system. As of June 6, 2015, the system is protecting just 13 federal agencies and departments: less than half of all Federal civilian personnel, according to DHS.

One of the differences between Einstein 3 and the predecessor it is replacing, Einstein 2, is that E3 uses highly classified data. Hackers working for the National Security Agency infiltrate the computers of rival nations and study their spies’ tools. That classified information is then fed into the Einstein system, supposedly allowing the technology to intercept those attacks.

It’s difficult to tell whether Einstein 3 failed to do the job or whether the hackers found holes in the system.

Spotting Hackers

Officials say it did not detect the initial intrusion in December, but once it was discovered in April, digital signatures from the attack were fed into the system and helped spot the hackers in the networks of the Interior Department.

The hackers also might have entered OPM’s computers by first infiltrating federal contractors, but that data should have been scanned by E3 and stopped.

The slow deployment of Einstein 3 and the shift in the security landscape underscore why the Pentagon and others have been trying to forge new alliances with entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter spoke to technology leaders in Palo Alto, California, in April, tossing around ideas for recruiting engineers for temporary missions in government and meeting with Facebook Inc.’s Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, among others.

“Last year, venture capitalists put $1 billion into cyber security and the government is trying to figure out how to tap into the technologies coming out of that,” said the CSIS’s Lewis. “Despite all of its advantages, the government is now trying to catch up to where the private sector is.”

In cyberwarfare, the defenders can never catch up to the attackers. That is the very definition of asymmetric warfare.

Further Reading


Salami Slicing

‎15 ‎June ‎2015, ‏‎04:54:08 PM | Steve ElwartGo to full article
A little-known term is gaining prominence in diplomatic parlance — Salami Slicing. This term is being used concerning China and its foreign policy.

Salami Slicing is what China is being accused of as it slowly diminishes the territory and power of other nations as it tries to increase its influence in the South China Sea. It is a slow, patient response toward a goal of gaining dominance in Asia. It is making moves against other countries, not in big enough chunks to cause a forceful reaction from other countries, but, slowly but surely, it is positioning China to be the undisputed hegemon in the region.

While the United States has focused on China’s military capability, specifically its anti-access / area-denial (A2/AD) strategy and is formulating a response, China has taken territory in the region one piece at a time. It’s version of “salami-slicing” is the slow accumulation of small actions, none of which is a cause for war, known as a casus belli, but which add up over time to a major strategic change.

United States Military Strategy

Since Washington has considered China’s territorial tactics of little consequence, it has been concentrating on an Air Sea Battle (ASB) concept to contain the nation. ASB is a strategy that needs to be formulated, but it is only good for a response to substantial, overt aggression. What China has been doing is deviously clever. It has taken small, aggressive moves against its neighbors that do not seem to warrant a massive response (i.e. ASB), but over time, result is a substantial shift in the balance of power in the Eastern Hemisphere.

The Nine-Dash Line

The first salvo in the strategy can be seen in Appendix 4 of the Pentagon’s 2012 annual report on China’s military power. It shows China’s South China Sea claim, the so-called “nine-dash line,” along with the smaller claims made by other countries surrounding the sea. The South China Sea encompasses several hundred small islands, reefs, and atolls, almost all uninhabited and uninhabitable, within a 1.4 million square mile area. The PRC inherited from the former Kuomintang government of China the nine-dash line, which draws a line around all of these islands, asserts sovereignty over all of them, and makes ambiguous claims about rights to waters within the line. Under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), negotiated in the 1970s and 1980s, countries can claim exclusive rights to the fish and mineral resources within Exclusive Economic Zones, which can extend 200 nautical miles from a continental shore line or around islands that can support habitation.

Nine Dash Line


Figure 1: Nine Dash Line

In February of this year, Daniel R. Russel, the Assistant Secretary of the Pentagon’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, in testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs said:

“Under international law, maritime claims in the South China Sea must be derived from land features. Any use of the ‘nine-dash line’ by China to claim maritime rights not based on claimed land features would be inconsistent with international law.”

While in diplomatic-speak, these are strong words, they may have come too late. China has already made the claim and has placed air and naval forces in that area to back it up.

China vs. the Philippines

In 2012, there was a naval standoff between China and the Philippines which occurred when Chinese fishing vessels were caught inside the Philippines EEZ (exclusive economic zone) near Scarborough Shoal. The standoff broke up after several weeks without a resolution of the underlying legal issues. Also, Chinese warships threatened to ram a Philippine survey ship near Reed Bank, which is internationally recognized as part of the Philippine EEZ.

… and Vietnam

Across the sea, and on the eve of the ill-fated Phnom Penh summit, the China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), a state-owned oil developer, put out a list of offshore blocks for bidding by foreign oil exploration companies. In this case, the blocks were within Vietnam’s EEZ — in fact, parts of some of these blocks had already been leased by Vietnam for exploration and development. Few analysts expect a foreign developer such as Exxon Mobil to legitimize China’s annexation of Vietnam’s economic rights. But CNOOC’s leasing gambit is another assertion of China’s South China Sea claims, in opposition to UNCLOS EEZ boundaries most observers thought were settled.

In the latter part of 2012, the Chinese government established “Sansha City” on Woody Island in the Paracel chain, which China seized from South Vietnam in 1974. Sansha will be the administrative center for China’s claims in the South China Sea, to include the Spratly Islands near Reed Bank and Palawan, and Scarborough Shoal. China also announced plans to send a military garrison to the area.

… and Japan

Since then, China has poured billions of dollars into reclamation work and military structures on three reefs in the contested Spratly Islands, implying that it is there to stay.

Now that it has firmly established a foothold in the farther regions of the South China Sea, China has warned the United States not to attempt to stop the construction, or “there will be war”. China needs oil badly. Without it, a slowdown of its economic growth may trigger a mammoth recession. It knows there is oil in the Spratlys, otherwise it would not risk billions of dollars for the island chain. To extract oil, China needs military security. Without militarization in a volatile place claimed by other nations, extraction can be disrupted.

The U.S. Response

The United States has responded with, given what has been witnessed with other “red line” ultimatums, what is viewed as bluster. This is a dangerous situation. World Wars I and II both started with diplomatic and military moves made by one side that the other did not take seriously, given the previous positions taken by its adversary. If domestic pressures in the United States forces the Obama Administration’s hand and a military response is dealt by the USA, China may have to escalate its moves in the area and an armed conflict may result.

A US Poseidon P8 surveillance plane (a “submarine hunter”) recently ignored eight warnings from China in order to report about dredging that has reclaimed three square miles from the sea at the Fiery Cross Reef, as well as military barracks and piers rising 1000 feet from the seabed, and search radars. A commercial plane was also warned by Chinese authorities to move away.

China has attempted to gradually and systematically establish legitimacy for its claims in the region. It is asserting its economic claims by leasing oil and fishing blocks inside other countries’ EEZs, and is sending its navy to thwart development approved by other countries in the area. At the end of this road lie two prizes: potentially enough oil under the South China Sea to supply China for 60 years, and the possible neutering of the U.S. military alliance system in the region.

China can now use its power advantage to dominate disputes with its smaller neighbors.

Meanwhile, The Pentagon intends to send military reinforcements to the region and is establishing new tactical doctrines for their employment against China’s growing military power. But policymakers in Washington will be caught in a bind attempting to apply this military power against an accomplished salami-slicer. If sliced thinly enough, no one action will be dramatic enough to justify starting a war. How will policymakers in Washington justify drawing a red line in front of a CNOOC oil rig anchoring inside Vietnam’s EEZ, or a Chinese frigate chasing off a Philippines survey ship over Reed Bank, or a Chinese infantry platoon appearing on a pile of rocks near the Spratly Islands?

When contemplating a grievously costly war with a major power, such minor events will appear ridiculous as casus belli. Yet when accumulated over time and space, they could add up to a fundamental change in the region.

The Stakes

Although seemingly a distant player in the drama, the stakes for the United States are high. Both the global and U.S. economies depend on freedom of navigation through the sea; $5.3 trillion of global trade passes through the South China Sea each year, $1.2 trillion of which passes through U.S. ports.

The United States also has a strong interest in preventing any power from unilaterally rewriting well-established international maritime law to its liking. Finally, the credibility of the U.S. alliance system and its reliability as a security partner will be at stake.

A Geopolitical Quandary

A salami-slicer puts the burden of disruptive action on his adversary. That adversary will be in the uncomfortable position of drawing seemingly unjustifiable red lines and engaging in indefensible brinkmanship. For China, that would mean simply ignoring America’s Pacific fleet and carrying on with its slicing, under the reasonable assumption that it will be unthinkable for the United States to threaten major-power war over a trivial incident in a distant sea.

Déjà Vu All Over Again

Up to now, the United States has stayed neutral because it doesn’t want to pre-commit itself to a sequence of events over which it may have no control. It had previously extricated itself from Iraq and now finds itself in the uncomfortable position of sending troops back into the country to push back ISIS. Some in the administration has likened it to May 1961 when President Kennedy sent advisers into Vietnam and fear similar consequences from that decision.

Policymakers and strategists in Washington will have to ponder what, if anything, they can do as a next step against such a sharp salami-slicer as China.

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