The next Israeli Prime Minister has an astoundingly difficult job ahead. Iran's
nuclear ambitions and Syria's missiles, the terrorist organization Hamas in the
Gaza Strip, and a flood of pressure from the opinionated world - these are all
treacherous matters to deal with. But, the first challenging task for the new
PM is to form a coalition within Israel's own government - a job for a person
with an iron stomach.
- The Jerusalem Post
Recent events demonstrate the relationship of German political culture today to
anti-Semitism. On the one hand, one is not allowed to deny the Holocaust. If
Arabs, other Muslims and their German friends scream 'Death to the Jews,' or
'Israel - children killer', that's fine. If two lonely guys stick an Israeli
flag in a bedroom window on a street where such anti-Semites pass, the police
react immediately and confiscate the flag.
- The Jerusalem Post
Russia plans to start up a nuclear reactor at Iran's Bushehr plant by the end of
the year, the head of Russia's state nuclear corporation said on Thursday.
Perfect for Pentecost!
Both of these books, filled with all the intrigue, romance, and action of any modern-day screen play, have been heralded for their literary value for centuries. But this is not their most rewarding feature. God's use of these two faithful women brings a new understanding of God's faithfulness and the importance of our faithful participation.
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On February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born in a one-room cabin in Kentucky. On the 200th anniversary of his birth, we remember the lanky self-taught lawyer who hated slavery, who pressed forward until he finally attained the highest office in the country – just in time for the bloodiest war in US history. But, even more, we remember the greatness of that man who loved true liberty, who dreamed in his day "of a place and time where America will once again be seen as the last, best hope on earth."
There are many things that can be said about Abraham Lincoln. He lost his mother when he was nine, and two of his four sons died before he did. He stood at the helm of America while it was torn in two, and he not only protected the Union, but managed to emancipate the slaves in the process. Yet, it was not just his humble beginnings or his ability to overcome personal tragedy that made Lincoln remarkable. Nor did the abolition of slavery or the survival of the United States alone make him a great man. Abraham Lincoln was a great man because of what he believed in and what he stood for. He was not only about the business of preserving a collection of states under one federal government. He was a man determined to protect America to be the haven for true liberty that that Founders intended it to be.
In his 1861 address at Independence Hall, which he described as, "a wholly unprepared speech" Lincoln said the following:
"I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence. I have often pondered over the dangers which were incurred by the men who assembled here, and framed and adopted that Declaration of Independence. I have pondered over the toils that were endured by the officers and soldiers of the army who achieved that Independence. I have often inquired of myself what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together.
"It was not the mere matter of the separation of the Colonies from the motherland; but that sentiment in the Declaration of Independence which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but, I hope, to the world, for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men. This is the sentiment embodied in that Declaration of Independence."
Lincoln loved liberty. He loved true liberty in
its good old-fashioned sense. Today the concept of liberty has been
kidnapped, and the word has become a euphemism for humans to do whatever
they like without legal repercussions. Liberty does not mean a blank check for
immorality. True liberty is lifting "the weight" of tyranny, freeing
men to govern themselves and take responsibility for themselves as men and not
as slaves. The freedom of the black man was representative of the very freedom
that all Americans embraced in the Declaration of Independence. No longer would
they be called "boy" - told what to do and how to do it. They would
henceforth be men, fully responsible for their own lives. That's true liberty.
It is the same with spiritual liberty. By the blood of Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, we are no longer slaves to sin. In fact, we are no longer under the letter of the Law. Yet, our freedom is one in which we serve God in holiness out of love, pushing closer to the heart of God than the Law could ever lead us. It is never a freedom that condones license to sin, but one in which we walk with God as sons and daughters.
"Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." -2 Corinthians 3:17
"For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another." -Galatians 5:13
But liberty is never free. It always comes with a price. In the case of our spiritual liberty, the only begotten Son of God was slaughtered on a Roman cross to win our freedom. In the case of America, our freedom was also bought with the blood of our forefathers. And it is now protected only with vigilance.
Our precious liberty is in danger of being taken away. Men (and women) who have abused their freedoms have brought financial destruction on the nation and the entire world. Men (and women) who have abused their social freedoms have torn apart the family, brought children into single family homes, and have spread disease, violence, substance abuse and crime. As we have replaced liberty with license, proving ourselves children instead of adults, our government has stepped in to hold our hands; we're in serious danger of losing the very freedoms we love.
We are in the midst of another great civil war. This time it's a war of ideas and of values. It's a war that threatens to destroy us just as certainly as the war Lincoln faced nearly 150 years ago. His words from the Gettysburg Address seem just as fitting now as they were then:
"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live…The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
"It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
That says it.
Happy 200th Birthday Abraham Lincoln. We're grateful to God for your tremendous service to America. May we not fail those who bled for us by treating their sacrifices as little in value. May we treat our freedoms with great regard, walking not as spoiled children but as righteous men and women. And may we fight so that this nation can have a new birth of freedom; one in which we truly behave as one nation under God.
A woman in California just gave birth to octuplets, an amazing and wonderful accomplishment. The problem? There's no father, not for these eight nor the six children the woman already has. When Gloria Steinem said that a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle, she voiced a feminist sentiment that would successfully unhinge the family in America and sentence millions of children to fatherlessness.
Now that the power has shifted in the White House, the feminists are filled with vim and vigor, working hard to get their goals accomplished in Congress. The National Organization for Women (NOW) has a long wish list of items to undo all the conservative pro-family work that has been done during the past 15 years. For instance, NOW wants ten billion tax dollars dedicated to public daycare, to make sure the kids grow up without Mommy too. They also want to stop funding pro-marriage and fatherhood programs, halt abstinence education in schools, and get Congress to pass the Freedom Of Choice Act, which would undo all pro-life legislation, from parental notification to the partial-birth abortion ban, in one single massive whack. The list goes on and on.
The Feminists are not alone in their efforts to destroy the Family in America. Normal Americans, who still like the idea of Mom Dad and Kids, have allowed destructive ideas into their world views, and have been digging their own marital graves without really meaning to.
Some call it "living together" or "cohabitating", others call it "shacking up." Yet no matter what terminology is used the fact remains that a rising number of couples are choosing not to get married. According to the US Census, the number of cohabiting couples in 2000 was ten times that in 1960. "In some sense, cohabitation is replacing dating," says Pamela Smock, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Michigan.
In recent years societal trends have moved away from traditional marriage. In
2005, the number of married couple households in America dropped below 50
percent for the first time. Correspondingly, the number of unmarried women
bearing children rose to its highest level ever. Compare that to 1930, when
about 84 percent of households were married couples.
Many young adults think it's a good idea to live together to "test drive" a potential spouse in order to insure that they are "compatible." While such logic may seem practical to some, statistics show that such relationships usually end in tears and heartache. While some of these couples intend to eventually get married, the reality is that cohabiting couples break up far more than married couples, and couples who cohabit before marriage are more likely to get divorced after marriage. Research conducted by Rutgers University's National Marriage Project indicates that couples who live together before marriage are 46 percent more likely to divorce and significantly more likely to experience domestic violence within their relationships.
The Word of God is clear: "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge (Hebrews 13:4)." The Bible expressly condemns fornication (1Cor 6:9,18) and there are great reasons why. Sex is a physical, emotional and spiritual act of two people becoming one (Matt 19:5-6, 1 Cor 6:15-16). Any relationship will have a better start if both spouses are free of vast amounts of baggage from previous broken relationships. Besides the risk of disease, of children born out of wedlock, and other complications, it is simply spiritually and emotionally damaging to engage in a series (long or short) of sexual relationships. Waiting until marriage also involves practicing self-control, which is just as useful a virtue in the years after the wedding as it is before. Couples who have proven self-control also tend to trust and respect one another more than those who were sexually active before the wedding date.
In the scriptures husbands are exhorted to love their wives "even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it." In other words, a Biblical marriage is one rooted in God's love rather than human love. C.S. Lewis calls this kind of love a "gift of love." Whereas, human love is a "need love." God's love is a gift because there are "no strings attached" to it. There are no conditions to fill, nothing to earn, nothing to do, and nothing to be. It just loves unconditionally, spontaneously, and continually.
Marriage is one of God's greatest inventions, offering us partners in the battle through life, to encourage us in times of discouragement, to help us up when we fall. Marriage offers us a constant friend and companion, a second head in trying to solve problems and a second set of hands in doing the work that needs to be done. Marriage is the foundational structure of a whole, happy family, where children can be raised in security and love.
If all marriages looked the way that God intended them to look, the Gloria Steinems of the world would never have been given a megaphone. To save marriage, we need to give the world something better, something desirable. We need to show the world that God's way is what we all dreamed marriage could be.
Saturday, February 14 is St. Valentine's Day. This day has come to mean flowers and candle light for lovebirds, crunchy little hearts and cards for gradeschoolers, and bitterness for those left behind.
However, the name behind the mushy cards and flower sales belonged to one or more legendary Christian men who were executed under Roman Emperor Claudius II (AD 268 - 270).
Claudius II is best known for his sound beating of the Goths. The majority of his reign was spent at war and fighting rebellion and opposition. His devotion to conquest led the Emperor to declare that no young men of fighting age could be married; they needed to focus on being soldiers. Yet according to tradition, a Christian priest named Valentine opposed Claudius' decree and secretly married young Roman soldiers to their brides. When this illegal activity was discovered, Valentine was killed.
Another tradition tells of a young man named Valentine who was imprisoned when Claudius II outlawed Christianity. The Emperor declared Christianity treasonous by definition, since no Christians would worship Caesar as Lord. Valentine was imprisoned for his faith, but while in prison, he continued to minister the Gospel of Christ even to his jailors. He befriended one jailor, who asked him to pray for his blind adopted daughter. Valentine prayed for the girl and she gained her eyesight. Valentine had the opportunity to witness to the jailor and his whole family, and a large number of them believed in Jesus. When the news reached the Emperor that Valentine was making converts even while in prison, he had Valentine beheaded on February 14, AD 269.
According to the story, young Valentine sent a note to the healed girl just before his execution. They may or may not have been in love, but he signed it, "from your Valentine" forever changing February 14th for Christianity.
St. Valentine's Day originally fell during the Roman holiday of Festival of Lupercalia. In some traditions, men went around hitting women with bloody strips of goat skin during this festival, and in other traditions girls and boys were paired up for a week. Take your pick. The holiday in Christian tradition, however, did not start out with any romance involved; it was reserved as a day honoring martyrs. In Chaucer's "Parliament of Fouls" composed around 1380, we get the first hint of Valentine's Day having a romantic connotation. In it Chaucer stated:
For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne's day Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.
Today St. Valentine's Day creates as much irritation as it does rejoicing. The less romantic among husbands and boyfriends cringe at the chocolate-and-flowers or dinner requirements they are forced to perform each year. Women grumble at the neglect they face from those who refuse to go through the motions. And single people mourn that they have nobody to feel neglected by. Yet, as sweethearts exchange cards and gifts, may we be encouraged. First, the truly unselfish love of Christ is there for us faithfully, day by day, year by year. Second, there were men and women throughout history who stood as witnesses to their Savior despite facing brutal executions. Because of their faithfulness, the Gospel continued and was passed on to us. Let's take a moment this St. Valentine's Day to remember those precious martyrs in history, to thank God for them, and to pray that we can serve Him as faithfully in our daily lives as His great love deserves.
And for those who think the roses and candle-lit dinners are great, happy romancing to you all!
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Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground:
for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.
- Hosea 10:12 KJV
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