Monday, November 28, 2005

END TIME CLOCK MOVES FORWARD

End Times Clock Moves Forward With Iranian Events

By Bill Wilson, KIN Senior Analyst - www.watch.org

WASH—KIN—Nov 28—The past ten days has witnessed the end-times clock moving forward as the European Community has uncovered documents that Iran has blueprints for nuclear weapons; Iran has offered oil and natural gas to North Korea in return for help building nuclear missiles; and, President George W. Bush has asked Russia, the linchpin in the Ezekiel 38 Gog/Magog prophecy, to intervene in the Iranian nuclear situation.

President George W. Bush recently said he would rely on Russian President Vladimir Putin to help bring Iran to its senses regarding its nuclear program. But Russia is neck deep with the Iranians in helping them develop nuclear technology. It seems as though superpowers such as the U.S. and Britain are at a loss on how to handle Iran and are blinded by the obvious relationships already in place.

Ezekiel 38 speaks of bringing Gog of the land of MaGog (which is Eastern Russia, Western China), Persia (Iran), Libya and Ethiopia (Both the Northern span of Africa) and other nations against Israel. Those who are named in the Ezekiel 38 Gog/Magog prophecy are deeply involved in helping Iran develop nuclear capabilities, and the West, including America and Europe, is relying on them to resolve the matter. Meantime, Iranian President Mahmoud Amadinejad has said that the Jews should be wiped off the face of the earth. To this end, Iran has given safe haven to Hezbollah, al Qaeda, and other Islamic terrorist groups.

Amadinejad also has said he will use nuclear technology as a means to achieve peace. And peace can only be realized by the elimination of all Jews and their allies. This is the peace of Islam. Amadinejad is so emboldened by his Chinese and Russian allies that he really fears no United Nations Security Council action.

And Amadinejad is using the cover of his allies to taunt the West. He was on the attack over the weekend, saying that the Bush Administration should be put on trial for war crimes. Amadinejad claimed that the United States and other Western nations used nuclear weapons against innocent people in Iraq. This outrageous accusation appears to be based on the "tank busting" artillery shells used by American and British forces which contain depleted uranium. The uranium, which penetrates tank armor, vaporizes and turns to dust after it is fired. Amadinejad played the hypocrite card in asking how the U.S. justifies using nuclear weapons and yet wants to prevent Iran from using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

But earlier in the week, the European Union accused Iran of having documents that show how to make nuclear warheads and joined the U.S. in warning Tehran it could be referred to the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions. In addition, there are now reports out of Germany saying that in October Iran offered North Korea oil and natural gas as payment for help in developing nuclear missiles. Indeed, the two components to a dangerous nuclear program are missiles and warheads. It long has been reported that North Korean, Chinese and Russian scientists are assisting Iran with building a missile that can carry nuclear warheads. And Russia has billions of dollars at stake in building nuclear facilities in Iran.

The end times clock moved forward this past ten days as Iran became more emboldened. In fact, Amadinejad said America and her allies "speak as if they are the Lords of the world." We know that the Prince of Persia is satan and the Prince of Peace is Jesus Christ. In 2 Timothy 3:13, The Apostle Paul wrote of the end times, "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." Don't let men twist what is black into white. Know Christ and know truth, without Christ there is no truth.
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Thursday, November 24, 2005

ARE DEMONS REAL

How Can a Person Become Demonically Possessed in the 21st Century?



“In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, ‘Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are-the Holy One of God!’ ‘Be quiet!’ Jesus said sternly. ‘Come out of him!’ Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.” (Luke 4:33-35)



From time to time, I have received questions about demonic possession and even though I do not fully understand this subject, I thought I would share with you what I have learned. I hope that it will be helpful. I believe this topic warrants attention because I am convinced that demons are increasingly taking possession of people! Human beings need a Savior because we are no match for our supernatural adversary, the devil. His tremendous powers and energies are devoted to ruin and destruction of every human being and he is determined to lead the whole world into open rebellion against the laws of God. Because the Prince of Darkness is steadily strengthening his grip on this planet, we need to understand how he works. Peter wrote, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)



I find it interesting that the term “demonic possession” is not directly mentioned in the Old Testament, but it is mentioned numerous times in the New Testament. Consider this one Old Testament text because some people think it indicates demonic torment: “Saul’s attendants said to him, ‘See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the harp. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes upon you, and you will feel better.’ So Saul said to his attendants, ‘Find someone who plays well and bring him to me….’ Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.” (1 Samuel 16:15-17, 23)



Years ago, this text puzzled me. How could the Lord send an “evil spirit” (that is, a demonic spirit)? Later, I discovered my perplexity was due to a problem with language. The Hebrew word “rah” is translated “evil” in this passage has numerous meanings such as vexing, bad, miserable, heavy or troublesome-thus “rah” is translated evil in these verses. However, once I understood how the Hebrew word was used, it became clear to me that the troublesome spirit sent from the Lord was actually the Holy Spirit doing His best to bring King Saul to repentance. Even though David’s inspiring music would soften the king’s rebellious heart so he felt better, the efforts of the Holy Spirit and David’s music proved to be in vain. King Saul eventually committed the unpardonable sin and the Holy Spirit no longer spoke to him. (1 Samuel 28:6)



I believe the absence of any mention of demonic possession in the Old Testament could be due to two things. First, when the nation of Israel entered the Promised Land, they were a very healthy group of people. They had been eating angel food called Manna (Psalm 78:25) for forty years and illness in Israel was rare.

Second, prior to Israel’s exile in Babylon (605 B.C. – 536 B.C.), the Jews measured prosperity and misfortune with a very simple formula. If a person pleased God, then God blessed that person with health and prosperity. If a person sinned against God, then that person received a curse from God. (See Deuteronomy 28.) This simple formula was presented to Jesus one day. “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’” (John 9:1-3) The point is that prior to the Babylonian exile, the Jews regarded misfortune as a curse from God. They erroneously believed God sent Satan to hurt them or harm those who displeased Him. Ironically, this faulty concept is discussed at great length in the book of Job, which many scholars believe was the first book of the Bible to be written. Scholars generally accept that Moses wrote the book of Job during his forty years of tending sheep. The irony is that Job’s three physician friends slandered God by insisting that Job deserved what he got. At the end of the book, God spoke to Job and told him that He was angry with his friends. (Job 42: 8,9) Given the fact that Job was an early book in the Old Testament, it is baffling why the Jews ultimately adopted a “prosperity theology” anyway.



After the Babylonian captivity ended, the Jewish nation became corrupt, broke their part of the covenant with God and did not receive the prosperity that God had conditionally promised through Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Israel became physically and spiritually weak. The necessity and importance of physicians and medicine became more important and respected within Israel. In fact, the healing ministry of Jesus brought more attention to His presence, His mission and His message than anything else! I believe that illness and birth defeats had become so prevalent during the time of Jesus, that some of the medical problems described in the New Testament are labeled “demonic possession” because the underlying medical problem was not understood. In other words, it is possible that some disorders, such as epileptic seizures, were probably mislabeled “demonic possession” because there was no understanding of the illness. (See Matthew 17:15-18) Since illness and physical defeats were considered to be a curse, the Jews reasoned that demons must be responsible. We see this type of thinking in this passage: “While they were going out, a man who was demon possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.’ But the Pharisees said, ‘It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.’” (Matthew 9:32-34)



Even though ‘demonic possession” may be a misnomer for certain illnesses, I do not want to diminish the fact that there were several genuine instances of demonic possession in the New Testament. Consider these two instances of demonic possession, and notice in both cases that the demon spoke: “Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon possessed. They would say, ‘In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.’ Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’ Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor.” (Acts 19:13-17) In this passage, the demon challenged the seven sons of Sceva and then the demon empowered its host to attack these seven men and rip off their clothes! It is interesting that demons are always after our clothing. Keep this thought in mind as you read this next text.



“When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “what do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me1’ For Jesus commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places. Jesus asked him, “What is your name?’ Legion,’ he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged him repeatedly not to go into the Abyss.” (Luke 8:27-31)



These two passages (and there are several other instances of demon possession in the New Testament) indicate that demons can and will take up residence within people. The all-important question is how do they do it? I believe demon possession can occur several ways. Space limits me to three:



1. If a person repeatedly and willfully violates his conscience, his sense of right and wrong will fade. In a morally confused and darkened condition, the door for demonic possession opens. Over time, the victim will be manipulated and ultimately controlled by demonic impulses. The obvious indication of a possessed person occurs when there is no longer any concern for right and wrong and the person inflicts crimes of passion that are unimaginable.



2. If a person is sexually and/or emotionally abused during childhood, studies indicate a strong possibility that the victim will grow up with thoughts and behaviors that are harmful and destructive. These behaviors can range from self-loathing to bursts of hostility and hatred toward anyone who may innocently hurt their already hurting heart. Whether the rage is directed inwardly or outwardly, rage and frustration left unchecked can open a door for demonic possession. The battlefield is often in the mind and the devil can wield a strong influence over the minds using fantasies and hateful desires that demand a horrible and depraved fulfillment.



3. There is a subtle form of demonic possession that is not easily discernable. We tend to think that demonic possession means that someone is out of control, irrational, out of their mind, or convulsing from a seizure. The devil is clever and highly sophisticated and he also has many very brilliant demons working with him. They know that we have been given the power of choice, and in order to possess us, all they need to do is gain control of that power. Demons have a wide range of tools to break down our power of choice and they prey upon our inherent rebellion against God’s laws. For example, demons have convinced a large number of young people that substance abuse is no big deal. Met amphetamines may offer an “ecstatic experience” for the moment, but the consequences of that first incident can (and often does) turn into addition. Thus, substance abuse can be an entry point for demonic possession. Demons have also led millions of people to believe there is nothing wrong with sexual immorality. This too, can be a door to addition and ultimately, demonic possession. However, what about those of us who shun drugs and sexual immorality? Does the devil have a plan for us? Very few people understand the addition that comes from materialism. When we are not able to say “no” to gratification, we have an addition. This is a growing problem that leads many people into bankruptcy. To avoid bankruptcy, many people make their jobs more important than God, family and health. Sadly, some people are driving themselves beyond exhaustion to get more money so they can buy more things. In this materialistic era, the love of money is an open door for demonic possession. Anything that has power over us can be used to pry open the door of our heart to Satan’s demons.



We live in an age of over stimulation. We are constantly busy and our brains are constantly processing some kind of data. Consequently, our brains are imploding because of over stimulation. Billions of dollars are spent each year on psychotropic drugs because people are unable to deal with the demands of living. Harmful behaviors are causing us to lose control of ourselves. We cannot focus, we cannot tolerate silence and we cannot rest. If the devil is a formidable adversary when we are at our best, what does he become when we are at our weakest? Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Friday, November 18, 2005

ON THE FAST TRACK TO THE RAPTURE

On the Fast Track to 'The Rapture'

Increasing natural disasters are raising the rapture index, leading some Christians to believe the Second Coming is near.

By Nancy Haught - Religion News Service

Whether you see earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis as natural disasters or acts of God, this has been a bad year for the world and a good one for the rapture index.

The index, a feature on the Web site www.raptureready.com, is a measure of how quickly the world is careening toward the Second Coming of Christ. On a good day, it claims 15,000 hits.

"Rapture" is a word that some Christians use to describe the moment when, they believe, Jesus will call them home to heaven and the rest of the population will struggle on with only the Antichrist and the apocalypse to look forward to. The time between the rapture and the Second Coming is called the tribulation.

Interest in all of this is peaking these days, spurred on by the apparent frequency and intensity of earthly disasters, last month's release of the third "Left Behind" movie and the prospect of a bird-flu pandemic.

Keepers of the Rapture Ready Web site are Terry James of Benton, Ark., and Todd Strandberg of Bellevue, Neb., two biblical prophecy devotees who have been polishing their concept since 1987.

James and Strandberg have come up with a list of 45 categories, from false Christs to inflation, famine and floods. Every few days, they assign each category a number from 1 to 6 to reflect its "intensity," according to recent news stories. They tally the numbers to come up with the rapture index, a number James calls "a speedometer that says how fast we're heading toward the tribulation."

On a recent day, the rapture index was at 159, well over what James and Strandberg call the "fasten your seat belt" mark of 145.

"It's been up around 159 for some time now," says James, who has written 15 books on biblical prophecy and fully expects the rapture to occur in his lifetime. So far, he's waited 63 years.

James knows that not all Christians see Scripture and the signs the same way he and Strandberg and the whole "Left Behind" crowd do. The Web site gets a lot of critical mail, and some of it is posted online.

"Some people get really hostile over anything on the site," James says. "To me, that shows the truth of what we're doing. ...We don't condemn anybody; we only point out what God says about sin in general."

Not all Christians have jumped on the rapture bandwagon. Many see it as a modern twisting of what they believe biblical prophecy really is--not so much predictive, as in telling what will happen in the future, as prescriptive, describing what happened in the past.

Barbara Rossing, a New Testament professor at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, is familiar with the Web site but doesn't think it holds much appeal for Christians like her who have condemned the "Left Behind" series and argue that the rapture is not a biblical concept. She wrote "The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in The Book of Revelation" (Westview Press, $15, 222 pages).

"World events should be a wakeup call to us," Rossing says. "We should be thinking about what our calling is, as people of faith in the world today. We need to be thinking about how to connect the dots--not in an Antichrist-end-times kind of way--but in terms of how God is at work in the world for healing, for justice and for love."

James is familiar with the criticism and it doesn't shake his confidence in the rapture.

"I'm of the opinion that every Christian will go (in the rapture), regardless of the state of their walk with Jesus," he says. "We're all in God's family."
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Thursday, November 17, 2005

PROFESSOR THINKS BOMBS,NOT PLANES,TOPPLED WTC

Y. professor thinks bombs, not planes, toppled WTC

By Elaine Jarvik
Deseret Morning News

The physics of 9/11 — including how fast and symmetrically one of the World Trade Center buildings fell — prove that official explanations of the collapses are wrong, says a Brigham Young University physics professor.

In fact, it's likely that there were "pre-positioned explosives" in all three buildings at ground zero, says Steven E. Jones.

In a paper posted online Tuesday and accepted for peer-reviewed publication next year, Jones adds his voice to those of previous skeptics, including the authors of the Web site www.wtc7.net, whose research Jones quotes. Jones' article can be found at www.physics.byu.edu/research/energy/htm7.html.

"It is quite plausible that explosives were pre-planted in all three (WTC) buildings," BYU physics professor Steven E. Jones says.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News

Jones, who conducts research in fusion and solar energy at BYU, is calling for an independent, international scientific investigation "guided not by politicized notions and constraints but rather by observations and calculations.

"It is quite plausible that explosives were pre-planted in all three buildings and set off after the two plane crashes — which were actually a diversion tactic," he writes. "Muslims are (probably) not to blame for bringing down the WTC buildings after all," Jones writes.

As for speculation about who might have planted the explosives, Jones said, "I don't usually go there. There's no point in doing that until we do the scientific investigation."

Previous investigations, including those of FEMA, the 9/11 Commission and NIST (the National Institutes of Standards and Technology), ignore the physics and chemistry of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, to the Twin Towers and the 47-story building known as WTC 7, he says. The official explanation — that fires caused structural damage that caused the buildings to collapse — can't be backed up by either testing or history, he says.

Jones acknowledges that there have been "junk science" conspiracy theories about what happened on 9/11, but "the explosive demolition hypothesis better satisfies tests of repeatability and parsimony and therefore is not 'junk science.' "

In a 9,000-word article that Jones says will be published in the book "The Hidden History of 9/11," by Elsevier, Jones offers these arguments:

• The three buildings collapsed nearly symmetrically, falling down into their footprints, a phenomenon associated with "controlled demolition" — and even then it's very difficult, he says. "Why would terrorists undertake straight-down collapses of WTC-7 and the Towers when 'toppling over' falls would require much less work and would do much more damage in downtown Manhattan?" Jones asks. "And where would they obtain the necessary skills and access to the buildings for a symmetrical implosion anyway? The 'symmetry data' emphasized here, along with other data, provide strong evidence for an 'inside' job."

• No steel-frame building, before or after the WTC buildings, has ever collapsed due to fire. But explosives can effectively sever steel columns, he says.

• WTC 7, which was not hit by hijacked planes, collapsed in 6.6 seconds, just .6 of a second longer than it would take an object dropped from the roof to hit the ground. "Where is the delay that must be expected due to conservation of momentum, one of the foundational laws of physics?" he asks. "That is, as upper-falling floors strike lower floors — and intact steel support columns — the fall must be significantly impeded by the impacted mass. . . . How do the upper floors fall so quickly, then, and still conserve momentum in the collapsing buildings?" The paradox, he says, "is easily resolved by the explosive demolition hypothesis, whereby explosives quickly removed lower-floor material, including steel support columns, and allow near free-fall-speed collapses." These observations were not analyzed by FEMA, NIST nor the 9/11 Commission, he says.

• With non-explosive-caused collapse there would typically be a piling up of shattering concrete. But most of the material in the towers was converted to flour-like powder while the buildings were falling, he says. "How can we understand this strange behavior, without explosives? Remarkable, amazing — and demanding scrutiny since the U.S. government-funded reports failed to analyze this phenomenon."

• Horizontal puffs of smoke, known as squibs, were observed proceeding up the side the building, a phenomenon common when pre-positioned explosives are used to demolish buildings, he says.

• Steel supports were "partly evaporated," but it would require temperatures near 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit to evaporate steel — and neither office materials nor diesel fuel can generate temperatures that hot. Fires caused by jet fuel from the hijacked planes lasted at most a few minutes, and office material fires would burn out within about 20 minutes in any given location, he says.

• Molten metal found in the debris of the World Trade Center may have been the result of a high-temperature reaction of a commonly used explosive such as thermite, he says. Buildings not felled by explosives "have insufficient directed energy to result in melting of large quantities of metal," Jones says.

• Multiple loud explosions in rapid sequence were reported by numerous observers in and near the towers, and these explosions occurred far below the region where the planes struck, he says.

Jones says he became interested in the physics of the WTC collapse after attending a talk last spring given by a woman who had had a near-death experience. The woman mentioned in passing that "if you think the World Trade Center buildings came down just due to fire, you have a lot of surprises ahead of you," Jones remembers, at which point "everyone around me started applauding."

Following several months of study, he presented his findings at a talk at BYU in September.

Jones says he would like the government to release 6,899 photographs and 6,977 segments of video footage for "independent scrutiny." He would also like to analyze a small sample of the molten metal found at Ground Zero.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

UNHOLY WAR

Unholy War - By Ron Cantrell - www.bridgesforpeace.com

A new kind of battle is raging around the world. It is unlike any war in the past. It is hard to define. It is being waged without clear borders. It is staffed with soldiers that are unscrupulous and operate in underground cells which are nearly impossible to identify

Almost every news broadcast details another incident in the battle and a depressing by-product is that the world economy is taking a beating due to consumer fear.

Because this current war involves a religion, i.e., Islam, modern warfare methods are handicapped by the overly cautious. They are convinced, and perhaps rightly so, that it would be catastrophic to be guilty of attacking a world religion.

Westerners search introspectively to see if they have acted in some way to justify conventional terror attacks (if there is such a thing), but, the pivotal question is, "Might some of these groups loose upon the world a biological attack that would be almost impossible to contain before it killed hundreds of thousands of people?" Western leaders wage a war in their hearts over whether to act preemptively or to mercifully restrain themselves.

A tool of this unscrupulous and stealthy enemy, aimed to captivate world attention, is suicide bombing. Perhaps not the most powerful in waging war physically, but psychologically it is devastating. It existed only in the far-away and foreign Middle East until September 11. The power of this tool, its unpredictability, and its simplicity has the world by the throat. It is odd, but it has its genesis in a romantic Persian story of a.d. 1050.

Omar Khayaam, the famous Persian author of "The Rubiat of Omar Khayaam" made a youthful pact with two of his close childhood friends. Omar and his friends, Hasan-i Sabah, and Nizam al-Mulk vowed that whichever of them succeeded in life first would use his money and power to aid the careers of the other two.

Nizam found fortune and fame first when he became Vizier to the Sultan of Persia. He fulfilled his vow by offering government positions to Omar and Hasan. Hasan accepted, but Omar pleaded to be supported in his heart's desire of being a poet. Hasan joined Nizam in the courts of the Sultan. Too soon, it became obvious to Nizam that Hasan was a threat in his new position. Nizam set him up and disgraced him in the eyes of the Sultan. Shamed and enraged, Hasan fled to Cairo where he plotted revenge. There, Hasan fell into the hands of the missionaries of a radical sect of Islam known as Ismailis. Hasan was attracted to this secret sect, peopled by those with higher esoteric knowledge that liberated them from all laws, including those of Islam. In 1080, Hasan returned to Persia and sought a place to teach "The New Propaganda," as it was known.

Dogged by agents of the Sultan, Hasan located a remote and inaccessible castle fortress in Alamut. Alamut Castle stood high on a rocky outcrop guarding a 6,000 ft (1828.80 m), fertile plain stretching behind for 30 miles (48 km). With his new devotees, Hasan became the world-renowned "Old Man of the Mountain." The famous adventurer, Marco Polo, in The Adventures of Marco Polo, wrote this of him:

"The Old Man kept at his court such boys of twelve years old as seemed to him destined to become courageous men. When the Old Man sent them into the garden in groups of four, ten, or twenty, he gave them hashish to drink. They slept for three days, then they were carried sleeping into the garden where he had them awakened. When these young men awoke and found themselves in the garden with all these marvelous things, they truly believed themselves to be in paradise. And these damsels were always with them in songs and great entertainments; they received everything they asked for, so that they would never have left that garden of their own will. And when the Old Man wished to kill someone, he would take him and say: 'Go and do this thing. I do this because I want to make you return to paradise.' And the assassins go and perform the deed willingly."

Assassin is a title derived from hashashin, the Arabic word for hashish. In Persia assassins and their deadly deeds were born. Assassins were greatly feared and the institution caught on and spread. Literature is filled with tales of murder by the Assassins.

The good news is that Assassins as an institutionalized political force no longer exist. They were never defeated as such, but their usefulness and successfulness faded and they were simply incorporated into the fabric of Islamic society. The myth that the Assassins sprang out of a need to retaliate against the Crusaders is just that, a myth. The Assassins were an internal Islamic struggle predating the Crusades.

This leads us to ask more about Islam and hopefully to clarify its purposes today.

Islam Versus Islamist

It is necessary to separate Islam from the violence of Islamist movements. During many time periods, nations considered Islamic have coexisted with surrounding nations peacefully. The exception is when extremist elements gain enough power to began operations considered Islamist.

An Islamist is a follower of Muhammed who sees it necessary to subjugate the entire world to Islam through violence called "jihad" or holy war. An emerging worldwide Islamist movement advocates that the world's fifty-plus Muslim nations unite into a single khalifah, e.g., pan-lslamic state. Certain nations fall into the category of Islamist and not just Islamic. Iran is a good example.

Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini was the first to declare the existence of an Islamic Revolution that should be exported worldwide. He stated, "We must strive to export our revolution throughout the world, and must abandon all idea of not doing so, for not only does Islam refuse to recognize any difference between Muslim countries, it is the champion of all oppressed people. Moreover, all the powers are intent on destroying us, and if we remain surrounded in a closed circle, we shall certainly be defeated. We must make plain our stance toward the powers and the super powers and demonstrate to them that, despite the arduous problems that burden us, our attitude to the world is dictated by our beliefs."

But, Islam is not a homogenous whole. There are serious schisms within Islam. Two branches of Islam evolved, Sunni and Sha'ai - They could be thought of as the Friendship camp and the Kinship camp. The Ismailis, named for Ismail son of Ja'far al-Sadiq, appear about a.d. 800.

Recognizing the Threat

Many Westerners do not like to discuss religion or politics. This is a secular way of escaping confrontational topics. Many secular people also imagine themselves to be in the majority. The truth is that the secular population of the world is only 850 million people as opposed to 2.2 billion Christians, 1.3 billion Muslims, 900 million Hindus, and 360 million Buddists. In the majority of these religions, faith is their politics. We can no longer hide our heads in the sand and avoid discussing religion or politics.

The demographics of many nations changed in the 1970s, suspiciously linked to the Ayatollah Khoemini's call to export the Islamic Revolution. It was then that universities worldwide received an influx of Islamic students, and new Islamic communities began to crop up. Up until September 11, 2001, tolerance was the world's by-word regarding growing Islamic populations in Western nations. Then attitudes changed.

PBS (Public Broadcasting System) in the USA aired a program entitled Jihad in America. The program documented growing radical Islamist groups on American soil teaching violence against their host nations. Others followed with documentaries that ranged from panic to simple whitewashing of the very serious problem. World news agencies have sent confusing signals as on one hand they paint a peaceful face on violent Islamists but on the other they present horrific documentaries on life in places like Afghanistan under the Taliban.

There is indeed a very credible threat to non-Muslim nations. But, we are beyond the point of containing the threat, neatly, on the other side of any given border. Besides, democratic nations are based upon the rights of everyone to live where they choose, and to practice the religion of their choice.

Yet, there is a key to understanding what is happening all around us–it is Jerusalem!

The Lord Rebuke You Satan!

The book of Zechariah needs to be reread in our troublesome times. So many encouraging things jump off the pages of his book. A young man running to measure Jerusalem in chapter two is stopped by an angel and instructed that Jerusalem would be too large to be contained by a city wall. That brings the book right up to our time period since Jerusalem was contained inside the city walls until the late 1800s. It goes on to say, "And I Myself will be a wall of fire around it, declares the Lord, 'and I will be its glory within'" (Zech. 2:4,5).

When Ehud Barak was Prime Minister of Israel in 2000, 96% of the West Bank, five villages which constitute East Jerusalem, and a large chunk of the Old City of Jerusalem was being offered to Arafat. Arafat's resounding answer "NO!" only makes sense in light of God's announcement that He Himself would become a wall of fire around the city.

Yes, Jerusalem is central in our present distress. Simplistic as it seems, Jerusalem is the keyhole in the door of the future. The world's attention is constantly drawn to this "bull's eye" in the Middle East. And the bright red spot directly in the center is Jerusalem. Israel has served as the petre dish of terror. It has been the testing site for methods that will be exported to the rest of the world.

Zechariah records another astounding scene in chapter three. The scene appears to be Israel being restored as a priestly nation. Joshua, the high priest comes before the Lord and who comes to accuse him? Satan! Undoubtedly Satan's accusation had to do with Joshua's filthy clothes. Satan's accusations are built on generalized guilt rather than God's gentle revelation of a problem and its immediate solution. What makes this revelation astounding is God's rebuke of Satan.

In a time period when multiple gods were worshiped by all nations that surrounded Israel, God clearly delineates who is speaking when He rebukes the evil one.

"The Lord said to Satan, "The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you!" (Zech. 3:2).

The drama of planet earth has always been, and will always be anchored to Jerusalem.

What is Our Mandate?

". . . You who call upon the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give Him no rest till He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth" (Isa. 62:6b,7).

First of all, what is a mandate? A mandate bonds three parties: the creator of the mandate, the executor, and the lesser party whom the mandate is designed to protect. It is a commission from a higher authority to carry out an injunction on behalf of a lesser nation.

As the swirling dust of WWI settled and nations brought their soldiers home from foreign lands a new Middle East emerged. Far away and very different from the West, the romantic sands of the deserts of the Middle East were the stage for drama. Lawrence of Arabia and others like him were popular new movie material. Classics rose from the sun-baked land. From as far away as Australia, proud horsemen, known as the "Lighthorsemen," aided the British against the German-backed Turkish forces in photogenic settings, such as the oasis of Be'er Sheva, which sits astride the southern Negev Desert in the Holy Land.

The Middle East was not content to remain a peripheral issue. The war shook many foundations, and solutions for repairing those foundations laid the groundwork for the implementation of mandates for the Middle East. The war drove back the once flourishing Islamic Turkish Ottoman Empire and left huge areas of the borderless desert sands wiped clean like a slate. The powers that were suddenly in command after the war unrolled their maps on the tables and began to draw new boundary lines. On the one hand, the lines drawn in the settling sands of the Middle East by Western powers were simply arbitrary guess work. The accusation of many Arab nations in recent days is that those Western powers had no right to "draw the lines."

On the other hand, some of the lines were not man-made, but decrees from heaven. They lay just beneath the sand and needed simply to be brushed off and reinstated from ancient times. The nation of Israel lay veiled in Islamic dust, awaiting God's perfect timing. A new chapter of spiritual history opened as the breath of His Spirit blew away the covering.

With that unveiling, many biblical references demanded rethinking, fresh interpretation, and resolution. From those biblical references, Isaiah's ancient mandate had come to fruition. It could not have been written for any other time period—it is for us, it is for now!

Christian history boasts a long list of godly men and women who understood the mandate to act in behalf of Jerusalem. The list is too long to print here but is available in The Israel Teaching Letter called, The Risk and the Reward or in Ron Cantrell's Unholy War for an Islamic Empire. It is all too true that Christianity persecuted Jewish people over the centuries, but throughout Christian history there were some who clearly saw this mandate. Some saw Israel's rebirth even before the Jews themselves were interested.

These Christian men and women, and their acts of valor on behalf of Israel, punctuate history books with selfless stories of aid to an oppressed people, desperately searching for a haven they could call home. Their involvement spans several centuries.

The question is, "Are you on that list?"

At the dedication of the first Temple in Jerusalem, King Solomon looked down through the centuries and saw you and I! In his glorious prayer recorded in II Chronicles he said,

". . . hear from heaven, Your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of You, so that all the people of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your own people, Israel" (II Chron. 6:33).

That seems to constitute a blank check drawn on the account of heaven. It is drawn upon with purpose, and that purpose is, "so that all the people of the earth may know Your name and fear You." If King Solomon looked down through the ages and saw us, let us boldly step into that prophetic picture and play out the role that was set for us from the heavenlies so long ago.

How Then Do We Live?

Certainly we now live in the time described by Matthew. "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved" (Matthew 24:12,13).

We must be among those who stand firm to the end. It is vitally important to expertly interpret the Scriptures for our time. Things that never needed detailed clarification will now have to be reexamined with microscopic focus to receive clarity. For instance when Jesus commanded us to turn the other cheek, I believe this is speaking of interpersonal relationships. For international terrorism, turning the other cheek is not applicable. I believe we need to pray that leaders of terrorist and terrorist harboring nations will be tried as war criminals in an international court of justice. This falls under Paul's exhortation to the Romans regarding obedience of government authorities.

"For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer" (Rom. 13:4).

Saleh Abdal Jawwad, head of the Political Science and History Departments at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, said about suicide bombings, "Sharon's policies are pushing the Palestinians to this!" If this is true, why does Israel's long list of victims show an ongoing reign of terror from the PLO's inception in the 1960s? Why did Arafat decline ninety-six percent of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and a large portion of the Old City when it was offered by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak? Arafat should be among those tried for his crimes against humanity.

There must be an international court with power to try and prosecute terrorist criminals wherever they surface in the world.

We must stop promising Arafat and the Palestinians a State. If statehood is awarded to the Palestinians now, the world will be rewarding bloody violence. How will the Palestinians handle the myriad of other important matters like water rights, municipality division, electricity (now provided by Israel) health care and on and on? Will they continue to blow up busses and send suicide bombers until their state is perfect?

There is no dirth of documented evidence indicting most of the PA's head leadership. Israel's incursions into Ramallah, and Jenin last year yielded hoards of boxes of manuscripts with hard cold evidence of criminal activities.

I realize that terrorism is no longer just aimed at the Middle East. But, the accusation seems to come back time and again that Islam would not act badly if the Palestinian issue were solved. Don't believe it. However, for all intents and purposes, I believe God is focusing our attention on the Middle East generally and Israel specifically.

This is not a time to draw back, it is an opportunity to see God's hand at work in the Middle East specifically and in the rest of the world as well. It is a time, especially if you never have before, to participate in what God is doing, to run alongside Him as He ministers to His people and sets the stage for the return of the Messiah.

I love Rees Howell's prayer journal entry of September 12, 1940 when Hitler's blitzkreg was ravaging Europe and England.

"We prayed last night that London would be defended and that the enemy would fail to break through, and God answered prayer. Unless God can get hold of this devil and bind him, no man is safe. If we have protection for our properties, why not get protection for the country? What wonderful days these are!"

Wonderful days? Yes! We must rejoice knowing that the time Yeshua (Jesus) has longed for, when God will say "It is time to go redeem Your bride!" is ever closer. The signs that are a harbinger of that moment are all around us. Whatever you are called to do in God's kingdom, resolve do it better and with more gusto. We can surely agree with John the Revelator when he said, "Even so, come Lord Jesus!"

"He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:20).
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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

STANDING WITH ISRAEL IS STANDING WITH GOD

Standing with Israel Is Standing with God - Rev. Rebecca J. Brimmer International Executive Director - Bridges for Peace International

Israel is in the news every day. You can pick up any newspaper or newsmagazine or watch the television news, and there will usually be something about Israel. You will hear about many of the problems, issues, and conflicts Israel faces, both on an individual and a corporate level. You will hear about suicide bombers, terror attacks, and war. But, as strange as it may sound, these are only symptoms of a bigger problem. That problem is spiritual.

The world is at war against God. You can see evidence of the spiritual struggle from Genesis to Revelation. The evils of earthly war, violence, and hatred are all by-products of the war raging in the spiritual realm. The first time we read of this conflict is in Genesis when the serpent comes to Eve and tells her that God is a liar and not to be trusted: "Then the serpent said to the woman, 'You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil'" (Genesis 3:4–5).

Since that time of beginnings in the garden, Satan has been trying to supplant God in the hearts and minds of human beings. He has a deep desire to be like God: "I will make myself like the Most High," he says in Isaiah 14:14 (NIV). In this ultimate conflict between God and Satan, God is in the process of proving Himself to the people of the earth, and Satan is doing everything he can to disprove God, even His very existence. Satan has used many schemes, including mind games, to convince mankind that God is dead, isn't interested, or is a cruel taskmaster. He tries to convince us that God is too busy with the universe to worry about individuals. According to Satan, God doesn't want us to enjoy life; He only wants us to keep a lot of rules. This deception permeates every area of education and society. My father, Dr. David Allen Lewis, says it is the conflict of the ages.

Israel—a Focal Point of Spiritual Activity

When God made an eternal covenant with Abraham, Satan took notice. I am sure he sat up and said to himself, "Aha, now I have Him. All I have to do is destroy Abraham and his family, and I will prove that God cannot be trusted to keep His word." Since that day, he has been trying to destroy the Jewish people. His reasoning is simple: If he can eliminate the Jewish people, then God will never be able to fulfill His covenantal promises and thus will be proved to be a liar, powerless, or perhaps a myth.

The Jewish people have been a target in the crosshairs ever since. Did you ever stop to wonder why they are the most persecuted people on the earth? Don't you think it is a bit odd that Israel, with only one-thousandth of the world's population, should be the subject of one-third of all United Nations resolutions? Why is tiny Israel, the size of the State of New Jersey in the United States (or in South Africa, the size of Kruger Park; or in Australia, one-third the size of Tasmania), in the news nearly every day? It is because this small place is the center of the conflict.

What if God had chosen someone other than Abraham? Let's just imagine that God made a covenant with a guy named Oleg from Sweden. Then, I believe, Satan would have been trying to destroy the Swedish people for centuries; the attention of the UN would be on Sweden; and Sweden would have more foreign journalists stationed in her capital city than most other places in the world. But God didn't choose Sweden or the Swedish people. He chose Abraham and his descendants, the Jewish people.

The psalmist Asaph wrote about the unceasing attacks against the children of Israel: "Do not keep silent, O God! Do not hold Your peace, and do not be still, O God! For behold, Your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate You have lifted up their head. They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, and consulted together against Your sheltered ones. They have said, 'Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.' For they have consulted together with one consent; they form a confederacy against You" (Psalm 83:1–5).

The next verses contain a list of all who had tried to destroy the Jewish people. If Asaph were writing today, I am sure that psalm would be much longer, in reciting all the attempts to annihilate the Jewish people. At the end of the psalm, he calls out to God, "Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek Your name, O Lord. Let them be confounded and dismayed forever; yes, let them be put to shame and perish, that they may know that You, whose name alone is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth" (Psalm 83:16–18). Throughout history, we can trace event after event where the Jewish people have been targeted, hunted, pursued, persecuted, and murdered. The worst part about the systematic plan to destroy the Jewish people and discredit God is that Satan didn't fight fair! In many instances, he used God's other people, the Christians, as a weapon against the Jewish people. Christian persecution of the Jews is well documented. The Holocaust, rising out of Christian Europe, was the culmination of this effort. Satan must have been jumping for joy as he witnessed the murder of six million Jews. He must have thought he finally had God beat.

God Proves to the World That He Is God

But God wasn't beat. Today, we see God fulfilling His promises to Israel, almost on a daily basis. In 1948, He reestablished the nation of Israel. Never in the annals of history has a people been dispersed for nearly 2,000 years and then come back to their ancient homeland. God has been calling the Jewish people to come home to Israel. Of the 5.5 million Jews living in Israel, 3 million came as immigrants. Since 1990, over one million have come, mostly from the former Soviet Union (FSU). Why is He doing it? Is it because the Jewish people are so wonderful? So spiritual? No, though God loves Israel, He is doing it for the sake of His name. Whenever you see the phrase "for the sake of My name" in the Bible, it means for the sake of His character. God is bringing the people home to prove His good character. He made promises, and if He doesn't keep them, then the world will know that He can't be trusted.

The prophet Ezekiel told of the day that the people would return: "'"But you, O mountains of Israel, you shall shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel, for they are about to come. For indeed I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you shall be tilled and sown. I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, all of it; and the cities shall be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt"'" (Ezekiel 36:8–10).

Later in the same passage, the prophet tells us about God's motivation. "'When they [the Jewish people] came to the nations, wherever they went, they profaned My holy name—when they said of them, "These are the people of the Lord, and yet they have gone out of His land." But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations wherever they went. Therefore say to the house of Israel, "Thus says the Lord God: 'I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name's sake, which you have profaned among the nation wherever you went. And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord,' says the Lord God, 'when I am hallowed in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you'"'" (Ezekiel 36:20–26a).

Join God in This Conflict of the Ages

The prophet Daniel may be best remembered for his end-time prophecies, but there is much more to him. Daniel was a man whom God looked on with favor. In Ezekiel 14:14, a passage of judgment, Daniel is spoken of as righteous: "'Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it [a country], they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,' says the Lord God." Daniel was a man of the Word. He studied and understood the prophecies of Jeremiah the prophet. In Daniel 9, we read the account of one such study session. Daniel read that the days of captivity in Babylon were almost over. What joy he must have felt! Just imagine, you and your nation have been taken captive to another land as slaves. You have lost one of the most precious things—freedom. For 70 long years, you have been away from home, subject to a king who forced his subjects to bow down to images or face death. This was not a pleasant situation. I imagine that if I were in that situation, after reading Jeremiah, I would have had a whooping and shouting victory dance. I would have been calling all my friends and inviting them to a big party celebrating God's goodness: "We are going to be free!" But that wasn't Daniel's response.

Daniel's reaction was different: "In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans—in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes" (Daniel 9:1–3).

Read the whole account in Daniel 9 and you will see that the next 16 verses are a prayer of repentance and intercession. I see from this passage that Daniel was a man of study and prayer. But there is still more to Daniel.

Daniel was a pragmatic politician. He understood the importance of working within the world he lived in: "Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon. And Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king" (Daniel 2:48–49). We can see from these verses that Daniel didn't just sit in a study hall or kneel in a prayer chapel; he became actively involved in the affairs of state. See also Daniel 1:19–20, 6:1–3, 6:25–28, and 8:26–27.

In Leon Wood's book A Commentary on Daniel, he said, "Apparently God wanted him in a place of influence to encourage and assist in the Jews' return to Judah, just as he had been in a position earlier to contribute to their welfare while in Babylonia" (page 154).

What Does This Mean to Us?

I believe we can sum Daniel's example up in three points:

First, we should devote ourselves to study God's Word and receive instruction from Him. In other words, we should use our heads! The Bible says, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). The Word of God is our manual, and we should devote ourselves to studying it as a good soldier studies his commanding officer. We need to understand our commander, the Lord. Let's find out what He has to say, learn His strategies, find out what He cares about, and discover His way of way of thinking. It doesn't take long to see that Israel is near to God's heart. At Bridges for Peace, we are committed to supplying you with the tools you need to study and understand God's Word concerning Israel. This Israel Teaching Letter is only one of the tools.

So we need to devote ourselves to study, but if we only concentrate on study, we will become unbalanced. I know some Christians like that. They can discuss minute details about the Scriptures, but they don't seem to have a lot of heart. In fact, I have been in some academic circles where intense arguments over points of eschatology have threatened fellowship between believers. How sad!

The second thing we need is to get our heart involved through prayer. Why did Daniel feel that it was necessary to pray when he discovered their captivity was almost over? After all, God had said it would happen, so it would happen…right? I believe that the end result was predetermined by God, but the path to get there was variable. My father used to say, "It is predestined that Jesus will return, but our prayers and good works will determine many details of the future from now until the trumpet sounds."

There are many "if" clauses in the Bible. For example: "'If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land'" (2 Chronicles 7:14). God is willing to act, but there are conditions signified by that all important little word—"if."

We need to find out what God's will is and cooperate with Him. Daniel understood that. He knew what God's plan was and set himself in a place of intercession to cooperate with God in prayer. As Christian believers, we talk about prayer, but we don't always find time to do it. Prayer is powerful. It is our awesome privilege to have a direct line of communication with God. When we pray, spiritual power is released, which continues to have influence. "How much power?" you may ask. Let's look at Revelation 8:1–5: "When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets. Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel's hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake."

When the Lord called my husband, Tom, and I to Israel, one of the things He called us to do was to be intercessors for the house of Israel. "I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent, and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth" (Isaiah 62:6–7).

Bridges for Peace is committed to giving you tools to help you pray. We have the "For Zion's Sake I Will Not Be Silent" Scripture Guide to Praying for Israel, our "Israel Current News Update with Prayer Focus" (sign up on our Web site, www.bridgesforpeace.com, to get this e-mail every Friday), Chai (Life) prayer groups (check with your national office for locations), and the opportunity to be an online watchman for Israel on our "24 Hour Prayer Chain" (sign up at www.bridgesforpeace.com). So now we have our heads involved with study and our hearts involved with prayer. The final thing we need is action. Let's get our hands involved. I believe God is calling His body to be active in His kingdom purposes.

Unfortunately, we see much apathy in the Church today. Edward Rowe, an expert on effective Christian citizenship, said in his book Save America!: "There is a noticeable trend toward Christianity without application. Millions of sincere Christians have been caught up in a certain pietistic withdrawal from reality. For them, Christianity is pretty much an individual and personal matter. The Bible is studied for the personal enjoyment which it brings, rather than for the purpose of discovering its applicability and doing something about it. Apathy prevails where action is needed" (page 39).

George Otis, author of several books, wrote in The Blueprint: "If God wanted His children isolated from the government aspects of society, then why did He have Joseph man Pharaoh's government? Why would He have installed David as King? Why would God have prepared Daniel and Mordecai to be thrust into roles as politicians? Why would the parents of Jesus have responded to the government census process? Why would Jesus have said, 'Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's'? Because Jesus has sent us into the world just as the Father sent Him. The natural and spiritual are to work in harmony for a good society. We are to vote, work, and become involved with the affairs of our nation as well as to pray for it. We must be willing to act as 'God's watchmen on the walls,' and be a clear voice for righteousness" (page 122).

God and Satan are involved in this incredible spiritual struggle, which puts Israel in no-man's-land. We see the evidence of this struggle all around us in the world. What is our response? We can stand on the sidelines and watch, or we can choose to become actively involved with God. At Bridges for Peace, we give you many opportunities, by your actions, to participate in God's plans for Israel. This is the battleground, and this is the place where God is showing the world that He keeps His word. Why don't you consider getting involved through one of our projects (see the enclosed list)? Perhaps you can come to Israel and volunteer (see our Web-site section "Opportunities"), or maybe you would like to be active in your own country through our representative program (see your national office for details).

Stand with God and Israel

Remember the title of this Israel Teaching Letter: "Standing with Israel Is Standing with God." As God proves Himself faithful to keep His promises to Israel, the nations will see that He is God.

There was a poem I heard many times while growing up, because my dad loved it; it was entitled "The Conflict of the Ages." Here are the words:

Have your eyes caught the vision? Has your heart felt the thrill? To the call of the master Do you answer "I will"? For the conflict of the ages Told by prophets and by sages In its fury is upon us Is upon us today!

Will you join me to help vindicate His name? Get involved with God's plans. Let's use our heads (study), our hearts (pray), and our hands (act).
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Friday, November 11, 2005

WHY DO YOU WORSHIP GOD

Why Do You Worship God?
Chip Ingram

Why is your God better than all the other gods in the world? I was asked that question on an international flight by a Chinese woman who had grown up under communism. For the first 20 or so years of her life, she had been taught there was no God, but for the last 10 years, she had been reading about various religions and beliefs, and she honestly wanted to know why I worshipped God.

I spent the next two hours telling her everything I could think of to help her understand the uniqueness and character of the God of the Bible, and to explain why the God of Christianity is, in fact, the one true God. At the time, I hoped and prayed that I gave her some pretty solid answers, but if I had it to do over again, I would simply focus on the sovereignty of God.

Why? Because it is the sovereignty of God that sets Him apart from all other gods. So what does the phrase "God is sovereign" really mean?

If you were to look up the word "sovereign" in the dictionary, you would find words and phrases like "superior," "greatest," "supreme in power and authority," "ruler," and "independent of all others" in its definition. But the way I like to explain God's sovereignty best is simply to say, "God is in control."

There is absolutely nothing that happens in the universe that is outside of God's influence and authority. As King of kings and Lord of lords, God has no limitations. Consider just a few of the claims the Bible makes about God:

* God is above all things and before all things. He is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. He is immortal, and He is present everywhere so that everyone can know Him (Revelation 21:6).

* God created all things and holds all things together, both in heaven and on earth, both visible and invisible (Colossians 1:16).

* God knows all things past, present, and future. There is no limit to His knowledge, for God knows everything completely before it even happens (Romans 11:33).

* God can do all things and accomplish all things. Nothing is too difficult for Him, and He orchestrates and determines everything that is going to happen in your life, in my life, in America, and throughout the world. Whatever He wants to do in the universe, He does, for nothing is impossible with Him (Jeremiah 32:17).

* God is in control of all things and rules over all things. He has power and authority over nature, earthly kings, history, angels, and demons. Even Satan himself has to ask God's permission before he can act (Psalm 103:19).

That's what being sovereign means. It means being the ultimate source of all power, authority, and everything that exists. Only God can make those claims; therefore, it's God's sovereignty that makes Him superior to all other gods and makes Him, and Him alone, worthy of worship.

Just as peasants always bowed before their king for fear of offending the one who had the authority to take their life, God's sovereignty compels us to bow before Him. But unlike corrupt earthly kings who abuse their authority to terrorize their subjects, God rules in love. He loves you and wants the best for you.

Romans 8:28 promises that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

That's an amazing promise not only because it demonstrates that an all-powerful God cares about you and me, but because it cannot be fulfilled unless the One Who gives it is all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful, and all-loving. The promise itself is a testimony to God's sovereignty.

But God makes that promise, and millions throughout history have testified to its truth because God has proven His ability to back it up time and time again.

Think about the implications of that promise. Because God is sovereign and He loves you, nothing will ever come into your life that He does not either decree or allow.

Consequently, no matter what you face in life, you can take comfort in the fact that God is sovereign.

Whether a loved one lies in a hospital bed, your child is living in rebellion, you lose your source of income, or the nation is at war, God is in control. And He is constantly working all things together for good. Somehow, He takes all the events, all the situations, all the people, the prayers, the relationships-everything involved in whatever pleasant or difficult situation you're in-and works them together for good.

So the next time you bow your head to pray - when you're in a jam or need to ask God for something - remember that you're talking to the One Who has power over the entire universe. He controls everything from the tiniest atom to the largest galaxy.

Approach Him with the respect, awe, and wonder that He deserves, but also approach Him with confidence knowing that He can answer your prayer. And know also that because He loves you, He will answer your prayer - in the way He knows is best.
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Thursday, November 10, 2005

FAITH UNDER FIRE

FAITH UNDER FIRE
Christmas in America
becomes battleground
As holiday traditions draw national controversy, believers, pagans grapple over Jesus' inclusion
Posted: December 14, 2002
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Joe Kovacs
© 2002 WorldNetDaily.com

Every December, a call goes out from the nation's pulpits to "put Christ back into Christmas," but growing numbers of Americans – including fundamentalist Christians – are claiming Jesus Christ had nothing to do with the holiday, and news items from across the country this week indicate that the U.S. has become the new battleground for Christmas.

Cases in point:

* A first-grade teacher in Sacramento Co., Calif., says her principal has prohibited instructors from uttering the word "Christmas" in class or in written materials;

* A school superintendent in Yonkers, N.Y., banned, then unbanned, holiday decorations that contained religious themes more than the generic "season's greetings";

* New York City schools are being sued for alleged discrimination against Christians;

* and atheists reposted their vandalized winter solstice sign in the Wisconsin Capitol, as they declare "Christians stole Christmas" from ancient pagans.

All this comes on the heels of a national survey indicating just over a tenth of Americans today believe Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the focus of Christmas, with almost nine out of ten people saying the holiday has become less religious.

Are atheists correct that the very day set aside by hundreds of millions across the world to honor the birth of their Savior is merely a relic of sun worship? And if it is, why would some schools ban it? And even if today's holiday traditions have their roots in heathen practices, should Christians who wish to be true to their faith take part?

Sign of the times

"The real reason for the season is winter solstice," proclaims Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder of the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation which re-erected its atheistic message Monday in the rotunda of the state seat of government.

After six years on display, her placard had been damaged last December by an unknown assailant, and has since been repaired.


Atheists' winter solstice sign at Wisconsin Capitol

The front of the sign states: "At this season of the winter solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

The back reads: "State/Church: Keep them separate," and carries a little caveat, advising "Thou shalt not steal."

The 23-by-30-inch billboard was OK'd as part of Wisconsin's seasonal display which also features menorahs, angels, and what appears to be a giant Christmas tree more than two stories tall.

"We call it a 'holiday' tree," said Brian Hayes, deputy secretary for Wisconsin's department of administration. "We're trying to be sensitive to [the public]."

That politically correct terminology comes despite the dismissal of a lawsuit last year where the message content of items adorning the state tree had been challenged, yet it's indicative of the thought-conscious age of the 21st century.

Banned in the USA

The fact that atheists view Christmas with disdain is not astonishing, since they've attempted to remove the phrase "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance and "In God we trust" from U.S. currency, as well as Ten Commandments displays from numerous publicly owned places.

What may be surprising, though, is that some devout Christians, many dating all the way back to the days of Jesus, never celebrated the birth of Christ, nor sought to. America's early colonists banned observance of Christmas, and still today, there are many Christians abstaining from what millions more of their brethren joyfully celebrate as God's coming in human form.

The Catholic Encyclopedia states, '"the word for Christmas in late Old English is Cristes Maesse, the Mass of Christ, first found in 1038, and Cristes-messe, in 1131."

It explains "Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church," pointing out "first evidence of the feast is from Egypt" around A.D. 200 with attempts by theologians to assign not only the year of Christ's birth, but also the precise date.

Historians agree that through the subsequent centuries, traditions from ancient pagan (non-Christian) religions became intertwined with those of Christianity, and depending upon one's point of view, either paganism became Christianized, or Christianity became paganized.

In 1644, the English Parliament outlawed the holiday, compelling shops to be open that day, and condemning plum puddings and mince pies as "heathen."

In his Pulitzer Prize finalist, "The Battle for Christmas," historian Stephen Nissenbaum at the University of Massachusetts documents the American development of the holiday now ensconced in popular culture.

"In New England, for the first two centuries of white settlement," writes Nissenbaum, "most people did not celebrate Christmas. In fact, the holiday was systematically suppressed by Puritans during the colonial period and largely ignored by their descendants. It was actually illegal to celebrate Christmas in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681 (the fine was five shillings). Only in the middle of the nineteenth century did Christmas gain legal recognition as an official public holiday in New England."

Nissenbaum agrees with other historians that the first recorded observance since the New Testament recounted Christ's birth took place hundreds of years after Jesus' resurrection.

"It was only in the fourth century that the Church officially decided to observe Christmas on Dec. 25. And this date was not chosen for religious reasons but simply because it happened to mark the approximate arrival of the winter solstice, an event that was celebrated long before the advent of Christianity. The Puritans were correct when they pointed out – and they pointed it out often – that Christmas was nothing but a pagan festival covered with a Christian veneer."

Christmas in America saw huge growth during the 19th century, starting with Washington Irving's 1820 book "The Keeping of Christmas at Bracebridge Hall." A week before Christmas in 1834, Charles Dickens published "A Christmas Carol," and in 1860, American illustrator Thomas Nast created Father Christmas, also known as Santa Claus, based on European stories of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children.

Spirit of the rising sun

Today, followers of ancient paganism strive to remind the public about the heathen origins of traditions that many may never have questioned. They've published books, given speeches, and created websites proffering a heathen history of modern customs.

CircleSanctuary.org is among the Internet addresses run by nature-worshipping pagans. Author Selena Fox discusses the state of being pagan and celebrating the lengthening of days during the Northern Hemisphere's darkest time of year.

"Yule, the winter solstice, is a festival of peace and a celebration of waxing solar light. I honor the new sun child by burning a[n] oaken yule log in a sacred fire. I honor the great goddess in her many great mother aspects, and the father god as Santa in his old sky god, father time, and holly king forms. I decorate my home with lights and with holly, ivy, mistletoe, evergreens and other herbs sacred to this season. I ring in the new solar year with bells."

Fox even provides a list of suggestions on how 21st century citizens can take part in the ancient rituals, to "re-paganize" Christmastime:

* Have gift exchanges and feasts over the course of several days and nights as was done of old

* Adorn the home with sacred herbs and colors; decorate in druidic holiday colors of red, green and white

* Hang a sprig of mistletoe above a major threshold and leave it there until next yule as a charm for good luck throughout the year

* Have family/household members join together to make or purchase an evergreen wreath

* If you choose to have a living or a harvested evergreen tree as part of your holiday decorations, call it a solstice tree and decorate it with pagan symbols

* Reclaim Santa Claus as a pagan godform by decorating him with images that reflect his various heritages ranging from the Greek god Cronos (father time) to Odin, the Scandinavian all-father riding the sky on an eight-legged horse

* Place pagan mother-goddess images around your home, possibly including one with a sun child, such as Isis with Horus

* Honor the new solar year with light – light candles, burn a yule log and save a portion for the following year, put colored lights outside your home, and with the popularity of five-pointed stars, consider displaying a blue or white pentagram.

The greatest story never told?

The pagan connections to Christmas are not news to the likes of Garner Ted Armstrong, a Christian evangelist and political commentator based in Tyler, Texas. Armstrong has been proclaiming such information for the past 46 years on a peak of 135 television and 360 radio stations, stating "it is impossible to 'put Christ back in Christmas,' since He was never in Christmas in the first place!"

"None of the apostles of Christ ever heard of the term; not one of them ever celebrated Christ's birthday," writes Armstrong in his booklet "Christmas ... The Untold Story." "The words Christmas, holly wreath, mistletoe, Rudolph, Santa Claus and Christmas tree do not appear anywhere in the Bible."

Armstrong is among Christians who believe God's plan of salvation for mankind is more accurately depicted through holidays which are frequently mentioned in Scripture, such as Passover and the Day of Atonement. If anything, he thinks Dec. 25 would most likely be Jesus' conception day, thus placing his birth in the autumn, possibly during the Feast of Tabernacles, symbolizing God's "tabernacling" – that is to say, dwelling – with mankind.

Like-minded preachers say the Bible warns extensively about adopting pagan customs, pointing to the 10th chapter of Jeremiah to specifically cite the practice of tree decoration, which some historians date back to ancient Egypt and Babylon:

"Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not." (Jer 10:2-4)

Armstrong says the pagan celebrations, including winter's Saturnalia, or feast of Saturn in ancient Rome, crept into ostensible Christianity over many years, and some writers began urging a celebration at the same time as the secular events "for the simple reason that so many pagans were already accustomed to 'joyous,' sometimes 'riotous' orgies of feasting at the time of the winter solstice."

"It would be a sin for me [to celebrate Christmas], but it doesn't mean it's the unpardonable sin," Armstrong told WorldNetDaily, stressing he doesn't feel at all threatened by the holiday.

"I have no more difficulty walking through Beijing at the Chinese New Year and seeing the dragons and fireworks. It doesn't affect me. ... [the Apostle] Paul says the idol is nothing."

While Armstrong teaches against the observance of Christmas, he adds that most people who celebrate it are doing so with good intentions, simply unaware of the facts regarding its origins, and they should neither be judged nor condemned by fellow believers in Jesus. He encourages people to type words like "origins of Christmas" into Internet search engines to find out for themselves the background on the customs.

Angels in the outfield

For millions of Christians, the story of Christmas in the Bible is among the most beloved, and is one of their foundations of faith – that God came to dwell as a man and offer eternal life to mankind. It is both simple enough to be understood by young children, and has majestic meaning to provide adults with inspiration and awe.

The events surrounding the birth of Christ are recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, which give an almost play-by-play description:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:8-14)

The shepherds subsequently found the child in the manger, but unlike depictions on many modern holiday cards and Nativity scenes, there were no wise men present at the birth. The Gospel of Matthew says the Magi arrived at a house, not the manger. And as for the tradition of three wise men, the Bible never mentions their number – only the three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Those gifts were presented to Jesus, not exchanged with other people.

The accounts don't mention a tree – evergreen or otherwise – nor do they specify the time of year. Some analysts theorize that since the shepherds were still out in the fields by night watching their flocks, the event could not have been in winter, due to plunging temperatures. Still others think Dec. 25 has a valid claim on the actual event.

Spirit of the rising Son

"I believe the celebration of Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to honor Christ and share the gospel," says Rev. Jerry Falwell, chancellor of Liberty University in Virginia and one of America's best known ministers. Falwell is a staunch defender of the holiday he's celebrated for every one of the 69 years he's been alive.

"And I plan to celebrate it on the 'other side,'" he tells WorldNetDaily.

Falwell acknowledges that many of the customs associated with the observance are not found in the Bible, but he doesn't have a problem with that.

"The Christmas tree and Santa Claus don't bother me," he said. "If we can use anything to get people under the sound of the gospel, without violating Scripture, it's a good thing."

While there are some unknowns such as the exact date of birth, Falwell stresses "we do know He was born – virgin-born as the Son of God."

Yet over 2,000 years after that history-changing event, most Americans think Christ is fading from the Christmas picture, at least according to a recent poll.

When the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University asked if "most people focus on the birth of Jesus at Christmas time, or has the holiday become less religious than it used to be?" only 11 percent said they believed Christmas was still about Jesus, with 87 percent responding "less religious."

Close to half of adults – 45 percent – say they personally know someone who doesn't believe in God, but still will celebrate the holiday this year; 62 percent say they'll attend a religious service on Christmas Eve or Day; and 81 percent plan to put a decorated tree in their home this year.

"Do I put up a tree? I have in the past; this year I won't," says Jose Negron, a 34-year-old Christian minister at the Stonehouse Church to the Nations in Toano, Va. Even without the tree, he still plans to celebrate Christmas.

"I grew up in America. It's an historical constant," Negron said.


President Franklin Roosevelt dedicated the National Christmas Tree in 1940

Indeed, trees and their decoration have played a role in American history, even in the nation's darkest hours. In 1942, just a year after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill came to Washington to join President Franklin Roosevelt in lighting the National Christmas Tree, a tradition started by Calvin Coolidge in 1923.

"Against enemies who preach the principles of hate and practice them, we set our faith in human love and in God's care for us all men everywhere," said Roosevelt.

Thousands of citizens turned out for the event, which was broadcast nationwide on radio in the grips of World War II.

"Let the children have their night of fun and laughter," proclaimed Churchill. "Let the gifts of Father Christmas delight their play. Let us grown-ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures before we turn again to the stern task and formidable years that lie before us, resolved that, by our sacrifice and daring, these same children shall not be robbed of their inheritance or denied the right to live in a free and decent world."

The tree-lighting ceremonies continue to this day, with President George W. Bush having two dedications under his belt.

The history of mankind's fascination with trees long antedates World War II, the founding of America, and even the Middle Ages. Historians have found evidence of tree decoration and tree worship in places such as ancient Rome and Egypt. The Old Testament also records God's displeasure with his own people for following pagan practices involving trees:

* "And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgat the Lord their God, and served Baalim and the groves." (Judges 3:7)

* "For the Lord shall smite Israel ... because they have made their groves, provoking the Lord to anger." (1 Kings 14:15)

* "For they also built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree." (1 Kings 14:23)

In the 1800s, Alexander Hislop, a noted historian of antiquity, examined the origins of customs such as the Christmas tree and date of celebration. Writing in "The Two Babylons," Hislop maintains the practice derives from the worship of pagan deities.

The Christmas tree, now so common among us, was equally common in pagan Rome and pagan Egypt. In Egypt that tree was the palm tree; in Rome it was the fir; the palm tree denoting the pagan Messiah. ... The mother of Adonis, the sun god and great mediatorial divinity, was mystically said to have been changed into a tree, and when in that state to have brought forth her divine son. If the mother was a tree, the son must have been [recognized] as the "Man the branch." And this entirely accounts for the putting of the yule log into the fire on Christmas Eve, and the appearance of the Christmas tree the next morning. ...

Therefore, the 25th of December, the day that was observed at Rome as the day when the victorious god reappeared on earth, was held at the Natalis invicti solis, "The birthday of the unconquered sun." Now the yule log is the dead stock of Nimrod, deified as the sun god, but cut down by his enemies; the Christmas tree is Nimrod redivivus – the slain god come to life again.


The 2001 National Christmas Tree took on patriotic colors in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks

"I can count about a hundred trees, wreaths, poinsettia displays, lights, everywhere I look [in my office] complex," says Bob Sipsky, of Stuart, Fla. "Christmas gorge-as-much-food-as-you-can eat-a-ramas every day for two weeks. Enough already."

Sipsky is a Bible believer not affiliated with any organized church. He celebrated Christmas for 35 years before abandoning it, now thinking it an insult to God.

"There are clearly explained festivals that God tells us to observe, which teach how to have peace on earth, and what the true Savior requires of us," Sipsky says, "yet mankind ignores these, and prefers to make up his own festivals and traditions. Christmas is based in deception: its origins; lying to small children about Santa Claus; talking about having peace on earth while ignoring God's instructions on how to achieve it; saying it is biblical, while 99 percent of it is all about commerce and other selfish objectives. Myths and traditions do not please the God of the Bible, a right way of living does. Deception is at the top of the list of what He hates."

That anti-Christmas view is echoed by Tom Moniz of Hobe Sound, Fla. "Being a God-fearing man, I cannot honor a lie, nor do I think adopting a pagan holiday and calling it his birthday does any honor to him."

"Most of these people are killjoys," says Rev. Falwell regarding those who attack the celebration of Christmas. "Most of these tightwads just don't want to [spend] cash. ... I don't take my children or grandchildren near them."

To many Christians, Christmastime is among the most sacred times of the year, and they look to keep it that way.

"It's the reason for being a Christian, because we believe Jesus is God," says Louis Giovino, director of communications for the New York-based Catholic League, the nation's largest Catholic civil-rights organization.

With recent controversies surrounding Christmas in the public arena, the league has issued a list of guidelines to help people understand what kind of religious expression is permissible at this time of year.

Giovino admits the observance has picked up some pagan customs over the years, but says they've been "baptized" by the Church. He notes by the time of Dickens in England, the holiday took on a more raucous tone, with drinking parties and violence, and says the Protestant legislation to outlaw Christmas was in direct response to the riotous revelry.

"The Puritans weren't into celebrating anything," he said.

Giovino stresses the important part of Christmas is the larger picture of the Christian message, the belief that "the Word became flesh."

"It's not like saying 'Happy birthday, Jesus!'" he exclaimed. "I think personally Christmas is ridiculous without Christ. Otherwise, we might as well celebrate the winter solstice as pagans."

The baby with the bathwater?

With the extremes on Christmas observance ranging from total holiday indulgence to complete abstention, there are plenty of people who seek middle ground. Pastor Richard Bucher of the Trinity Lutheran Church in Clinton, Mass., is one of them, asserting celebrating Christmas is not pagan.

"It's laudable that certain Christians care so much about pleasing God to ask the question if it's right," Bucher told WorldNetDaily, "but a lot of arguments they're making are just not sound. They end up placing guilt on Christians celebrating Christmas and do a real disservice."

On his church website, Bucher addresses examples such as the tree decorated with silver and gold in Jeremiah's 10th chapter, and explains upon close examination, it does not refer to anything like a Christmas tree.

"The very next verse, 10:5, goes on to say, 'Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.' This passage and the passages that follow make it crystal clear that the 'decorated tree' that Jeremiah was talking about in 10:3-4, was a tree that was cut down and made into an idol, a very common custom in the ancient world."

"Just because heathens took something God has created for good," he asks, "does that mean such things are off limits [to Christians] permanently?"

He says many have invented sin where God has not said that something is sinful, and adds the issue boils down to what exactly is meant by "Christmas."

"Is it thanking God for the birth of the Savior, or everything that people do associated with it? People just lump everything together."

Despite all the conflict, some believers have little problem with the controversies over Christmas; in fact, they rejoice in them.

"Those who would attempt to take Christ out of Christmas are fighting a losing battle," says Joan Driscoll of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. "The harder they try, the stronger the holy message and meaning of Jesus' birth becomes. The heavenly voices of the angels singing 'Alleluia' will easily drown out the guttural tones of the dissenters."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

BEHOLD A PALE HORSE

Behold a Pale Horse Avian Flu - by Chuck Missler - www.khouse.org

We tend to presume linearity in our environment: we assume that tomorrow will be like yesterday; next month like last month, etc. It's understandable and it makes a workable hypothesis for most of the practical priorities we face in life. However, it is also clear that our reality is often disturbed by "non-linearities," which can come in many forms. Certainly Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the Gulf Coast and the recent earthquake in Pakistan are traumatic examples. But earthquakes and hurricanes are not the only "non-linearities" we face in our reality - pestilences have also been promised as a sign of the end times:

For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of birthpangs.

Matthew 24:7-8

The fourth of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse also suggests the same:

And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

Revelation 6:7-8

(The "beasts of the earth" may not necessarily be the four-footed kind: they may require a microscope!) This is the reason that biotechnology and global pestilence are among the "Strategic Trends" that we attempt to monitor regularly on our website and in our study materials.

Reemergent Diseases

With the advent of antibiotics 50 years ago, scientists predicted the end of death and suffering from infectious diseases. During the past 25 years, however, we have witnessed the reemergence and geographical spread of well-known diseases. And in recent years, new new pathogens have emerged, some of which carry antibiotic-resistant genes or mutations enabling them to move across different species.

The Spanish Flu of 1918

The Spanish Flu (so called since it was first reported in Spain) emerged just after the end of World War I. It was perhaps the most deadly pandemic in human history. In 18 months it killed between 20 and 50 million people, more than the Black Plague or AIDS. In the United States it accounted for half of all deaths in 1918 - about 6% of the population.

Most strains of the flu do not kill people directly; rather, death is caused by bacteria, which surge into the embattled lungs of the victim. But the Spanish flu that circulated in 1918-19 was a direct killer. Victims suffered from acute cyanosis, a blue discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes. They vomited and coughed up blood, which also poured uncontrollably from their noses, and millions experienced acute respiratory distress syndrome, an immunological condition in which disease-fighting cells so overwhelm the lungs in their battle against the invaders that the lung cells themselves become collateral damage, and the victims suffocate.

Two teams of scientists recently announced that they had reproduced the 1918 Spanish flu virus. They discovered that the 1918 virus was a bird flu that jumped directly to humans. It has taken scientists 10 years to reconstruct the virus, and they did so using lung tissue from two soldiers and an Alaskan woman who died in the 1918 pandemic. According to the New York Times:

The findings, published in the journals Nature and Science, show a small number of genetic changes that may explain why this virus was so lethal. It is significantly different from flu viruses that caused the pandemics of 1957 and 1968. Those viruses were not bird flu viruses but were human flu viruses that picked up a few genetic elements of bird flu.

Avian Flu

A new strain of the avian flu, H5N1, may be far more dangerous than the dreaded Spanish Flu. It kills 100% of the domestic chickens it infects, and among humans the disease may be just as fatal. It has already infected over 100 people with an over 54% fatality rate. The medical histories of those who have died from H5N1 influenza are disturbingly similar to accounts of sufferers of the Spanish Flu in 1918-19: otherwise healthy people are completely overcome by the virus, developing all of the classic flu symptoms - coughing, headache, muscle pain, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, high fever, depression, and loss of appetite. Victims also suffer from pneumonia, encephalitis, meningitis, acute respiratory distress, and internal bleeding and hemorrhaging.

New Pandemic Concerns

There have been four pandemics during the last century, which emerge, on average, every 30 years. Between one and four million people died during the last flu pandemic, which hit Hong Kong in 1968. Health experts at the World Health Organization have indicated that we are long overdue for an outbreak: "As with an earthquake or any other natural occurring phenomena, we cannot give an exact time, but the situation now is particularly concerning in that we are so long after the last pandemic. We are living perhaps on borrowed time."

There is a vaccine for the bird flu; however, officials do not currently have an ability to mass produce it or get it to people quickly. The manufacturing process is uniquely complex: pharmaceutical companies must grow viral samples on life chicken eggs, which must be reared under rigorous hygienic conditions. Research is under way on reverse genetics and cellular-level production techniques that might prove cheaper, faster, and less contamination-prone than using eggs, but for the foreseeable future manufacturers are stuck with the current laborious method. After cultivation, samples of the viruses must be harvested, and antibodies must be produced in test animals and human volunteers, and tests must prove that the vaccine is not contaminated. Only then can mass production commence.

The H5N1 strain poses an additional problem: the virus is 100% lethal to chickens - and that includes chicken eggs. It took researchers five years of hard work to devise a way to grow the 1997 version of H5N1 virus on eggs without killing them; although there have been technological improvements since then, there is no guarantee that an emerging pandemic strain would be cultivated fast enough. If there is an outbreak of avian flu, health officials estimate that it would spread rapidly and could infect nearly one-third of the world's population. (It's interesting that the series of "Trumpet Judgments" in Revelation 8 are known as the "Judgment of the Thirds.")

Even routine flu vaccine supplies can be problematical, complicated by the fact that very little vaccine is actually made in the United States. Last year, when the United Kingdom suspended the license for the Chiron Corporation's U.K. production facility for flu vaccine due to contamination problems, Canada and Germany bailed out the United States, supplying additional doses until the French company Sanofi Pasteur could manufacture more. Even with this assistance, however, the United States' vaccine needs were not fully met until February 2005 - the tail end of the flu season. The Bush Administration has recognized the weaknesses of our public health systems following the anthrax scare of 2001, and Congress has approved $3.7 billion to improve the nation's public health infrastructure. But the greatest weakness in the case of a pandemic would be the inability of hospitals to cope with a sudden surge of new patients, etc.

Protection against "Non-Linearities"

Worry is assuming a responsibility that God did not intend for you to have. While we need to be diligent in preparing for whatever contingencies may confront us, let us not forget the Lord's exhortations:

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

2 Timothy 1:7

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from...the pestilence that walketh in darkness...A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee...neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

excerpts from Psalm 91:1-10
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