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eNews For The Week Of February 09, 2010

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1500 Year Old Road Revealed in Jerusalem

February 10, 2010

The Israel Antiquities Authority and Jerusalem Development Authority on Wednesday unveiled archaeological findings from the Byzantine era that confirm an ancient map of Jerusalem. The Madaba map, which is made of ancient mosaic, was found in a Jordanian church in Madaba, and depicts the land of Israel during the Byzantine period. The Madaba map is the oldest surviving depiction of Jerusalem dating back to the 6th-7th centuries CE.


PA Open To Indirect Talks With Israel

February 09, 2010

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he's open to a US proposal for indirect negotiations with Israel conducted by George Mitchell, US special envoy to the Middle East. Repeating his call for Israel to halt construction of housing on land claimed by Palestinians, Abbas said such a building freeze was essential to reaching an agreement on peaceful coexistence of a Palestinian state and Israel.


Iran Continues To Enrich Uranium

February 08, 2010

Iran's President ordered his nuclear chief Sunday to start producing higher-grade fuel, raising the stakes in a dispute with the West days after claiming to have accepted a UN-drafted deal. Mr Ahmadinejad appeared to accept the deal last Tuesday. However, a draft of the agreement seen by British MPs showed Iran still refusing to accept UN conditions, and yesterday Mr Ahmadinejad told Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation to start producing higher-grade reactor fuel.

The Times


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Articles And Commentary

Israel and Syria's War Banter

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Despite the recent snow, things have been heating up between Israel and Syria. Friction over the stockpile of Hezbollah missiles in southern Lebanon has sparked off volleys of threats between Israel and its northern neighbors. Amid fears that a war between Israel and Syria is imminent, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered to restart peace talks.

Israel and Syria have been glaring at each other and occasionally going at it tooth and missile for more than sixty years. Even though Syria and Israel have not fought directly in decades, Syria is Iran's strategic ally and both countries supply the terror groups Hezbollah and Hamas with weapons. The situation got tense last week when Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak told a group of IDF officers that without a peace agreement Israel and Syria could easily go to war. Israel has also accused Syrian-backed Hezbollah of stockpiling 40,000 rockets along the Lebanese border with Israel.

Warnings have been exchanged on both sides. Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Moallem told Israel not to test Syria. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad insisted that Syria would support Lebanon if Israel attacked. Israel's foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman warned that if Israel and Syria went to war, Syria would be beaten and the Assad family would lose their regime.

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an effort to calm the escalation by telling his cabinet that Israel was open to direct peace talks with Syria. "We did it with Egypt and Jordan, and we want to achieve similar agreements with the Palestinians and the Syrians," he said. "I hope that we are on the brink of renewing negotiations with the Palestinians, and we are open to renewing the process with the Syrians as well."

Israel certainly could win a war with its northern neighbors; Israel's technology is superior to Syria's outdated artillery and armored corps. Israel has a superb air force while Syria's is weak at best, and Syria's air defense system proved fairly useless when Israel hit a nuclear reactor inside Syria in September 2007. Little would stop Israel from taking out Syria's military, government and infrastructure.

That's not to say a war wouldn't be messy. It would mount up a huge cost in the destruction of lives and property for both sides. Syria's ground forces would still take their toll, as would rockets shot into Israel. The war would also not be limited to just Syria and Lebanon, but would likely involve Iran in some form or another, and Israel does not want to get into a regional, multi-front war.

Peace with Syria would benefit Israel in several ways. It would help to stabilize Lebanon and relax the constant threat and hostility from the north. It could stem the flow of weapons to terror groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. Arguably the most important result would be the isolation of Iran. With its strategic ally Syria at peace with Israel, Iran would be under more pressure to find a diplomatic solution to its controversial nuclear aspirations.

Netanyahu has made it clear that Israel is interested in peace with Syria, but noted that Israel will accept no preconditions to negotiations. That is, there would be no up front agreement to withdraw from the Golan Heights. Any agreement with Syria would also have to guarantee Israel's security, Netanyahu said.

Israel won the Golan Heights in the Six Day War in 1967 and has hung onto the area as a vital part of its self-protection.  The area is also an important source of water for Israel and is home to thousands of Israeli settlers.

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Egypt Restores World's Oldest Christian Monastery

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After eight years of work, Egypt has finished restoring a Christian monastery, considered the world's oldest. The Egyptian government is using the popular Coptic Christian pilgrimage site as a symbol of the country's willingness to peacefully coexist with its Christian minority, but after facing sectarian violence in January, Coptic Christians are even more wary of extremism and discrimination.

In January, on the eve of the Orthodox celebration of Christmas, six Coptic Christians were gunned down outside a church in the Egyptian town of Nag Hamadi. In response, protests erupted in Coptic Christian communities from New York to Sydney. An increase in Islamic conservatism in Egypt in recent decades has resulted in greater discrimination and persecution of Egypt's Copts.

The Egyptian government is presenting the restoration of St. Anthony's, believed to be 1600 years old, as a symbol of Egypt's respect for the variety of religions practiced within its borders. Egypt's chief archaeologist Zahi Hawass spoke at the monastery site, making it clear that Muslims did the restoration work on the ancient building. "The announcement we are making today shows to the world how we are keen to restore the monuments of our past, whether Coptic, Jewish or Muslim," Hawass said. The government-sponsored project took eight years and cost more than $14 million.

St. Anthony's is a popular Coptic pilgrimage destination. Mark is credited with bringing Christianity to Egypt in the First Century, and the Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 82 million people. The Muslim majority, however, has control of the government, and religious freedom is not equal in Egypt. Children of all religions are taught the Koran in schools. Legally converting from Christianity to Islam is easy, but it can be close to impossible for a Muslim to change his religion to Christian on his national identification card.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak came out after the Nag Hammadi attacks and insisted the violence against Christians did not represent the attitude of the government or of the country as a whole. According to the state-owned newspaper Al Ahram, Mubarak said, "We are one people. We are not fanatics because we are all children of this land, and there is no difference between Egyptian Muslims, Christians and Jews." At the least, Egypt doesn't want any excuse for foreign governments to come intervene in Egyptian affairs.

Mohamed Shabba does blame the government. He wrote in the independent Nahdet Masr newspaper that Nag Hammadi "was not an individual act. It is a political, religious, social and above all a governmental crime…caused by the backwardness of education that is teeming with racism, extremism and contempt for the other. It is also an economic crime because it took place in Upper Egypt, the area that has suffered from government neglect for years."

Father Metyas Mankarios in Cairo, who runs a newspaper for Coptic Christians, commented on the change in attitudes toward Christians in Egypt since he was a boy. "It's dangerous today. Egypt is going in new directions that are starting to affect the harmony between religions. This attitude is evident not only among ordinary Muslims but among top government and Islamic officials," he said.

"When I was young, I didn't see all this tension coming," he said. "We got along with Muslims just fine. That's all changed."

Awny Mikhail, a Copt jewelry store owner in Cairo, told The LA Times, "I don't want to see a chain reaction from the Nag Hammadi incident," he said. "The media will try to turn this into something more. Things aren't that bad. Muslims have become more conservative, yes, but I support the government in trying to stop Islamic extremism."

Christians in Egypt may not be slaughtered every day, but Father Metyas Mankarios expressed the vulnerable situation the Copts face, saying,"The Egyptian government is not worried about Coptic unrest. We don't have militias or a political party. Copts are no threat to the government. All we can do is shout."

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The Breastplate of Righteousness: Don't Hammer Your Own

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"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God... Having put on the breastplate of righteousness..." - Eph 6:10, 11, 14

Most of us don't wear battle armor today. Yet here is a command in God's Word to appropriate for ourselves the weaponry to protect ourselves, or else we are sitting ducks in conflicts which we cannot avoid. What is the "breastplate of righteousness?"

The Roman Model:
The Roman breastplate was typically made of bronze, backed with leather. It was designed to protect the vital area. A blow through this was usually fatal.

What is your most dangerous vulnerability? Or, alternatively, What is your most important stewardship? There are many good answers: your family, etc. However, I suggest that your most critical area is your heart. The breastplate covered the heart. (A concordance search on "heart" can be very instructive.)

"Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are (all) the issues of life."  -Proverbs 4:23

National Righteousness:
Alexis de Tocqueville, in his famed analysis of America, summarized, "America is great because she is good. If she ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great."

"Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people." - Proverbs 14:34

During Israel's conquest of the Land of Canaan, personal sins resulted in national defeats. Joshua's tragic defeat at Ai is but one example (Josh 7).

When asked, "What is the biggest problem in America?" General Norman Schwarzkopf replied, "Lack of integrity." When asked the same question, author Larry Abraham answered, "Lack of justice." And he subsequently relocated himself outside the United States.

The increasing evidence of corruption in government, in business, and in personal lives continues to propel us toward God's judgment on our land.

Personal Uprightness:
It is easy to point the blame at other people, but the truth is we need to start with ourselves. Walking in righteousness means that we actively tell the truth and do what is right. David was heavily concerned with integrity and uprightness in his personal life (Psalms 7:3-5). 

Our own commitment to personal integrity needs to extend to a fiduciary loyalty to our employer (1 Cor 4:2; Eph 6:5,6; Col 3:22), staying current on our payables, and maintaining the sanctity of all of our commitments. But rather than dwell on our own inept pursuit of personal righteousness, I believe that there is an even larger issue involved here.

True Righteousness:
People have different ideas about righteousness. We must understand that righteousness is something we are, not something we do. Righteousness within us affects what we do, but what we do does not make us righteous.

In Matthew 5:20, Jesus said, "For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."

What a blow for the Jew! They looked up to their professional law-keepers-men who dedicated themselves to keeping every yot and tittle of the law! And even that wasn't good enough! [They have been much maligned in modern NT viewpoints, but they were, indeed, a dedicated lot. They fasted at least one day a week and gave their savings to the poor, etc.]

"Pharisee" means "separated." Separation from the world does not mean salvation as far as God is concerned (John 8:44). Jesus called them liars, vipers, and hypocrites.

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead [men's] bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." - Matthew 23:27, 28. 

What a stinging rebuke to the religiously righteous individuals of that day. (Jesus, whenever encountering sinners of almost every kind, was kind, caring, and forgiving. There was only one group that invariably encountered His ire: the religionists pandering their own ritualistic righteousness.)

These were not the last group of individuals to develop a destructive system of self-righteousness in the name of God. There are many "very righteous" religions. They always include steps to entering the kingdom. There are sacraments to be kept. Certain prayers prescribed to be offered regularly. Special forms of communion and confession which are mandatory. There often is a specific dress code and other expectations of social and dietetic performance.

This all started when Adam and Eve attempted to cover themselves with aprons of fig leaves(Gen 3:7).  God replaced them with coats of animal skins (Gen 3:21), teaching them that by the shedding of innocent blood they would be covered. This was, of course, already pointing to the Cross.

Religious righteousness can save no one. God says that this type of righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). External forms of righteousness have always competed with the true faith in Christ as the means of salvation and security.

[This article was excerpted from Chuck Missler's study, Armor for the Age of Deceit. ]

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The views and opinions expressed in these articles, enews and linked websites are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views held by Koinonia House. Koinonia House is providing this information as a resource to individuals who are interested in current news and events that may have an impact on Christian Life and Biblical trends. Koinonia House is not responsible for any information contained in these articles that may be inaccurate, or does not present an unbiased or complete perspective. Koinonia House disavows any obligation to correct or update the information contained in these articles.

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