Exodus 22:2-3 2 "If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. 3 "If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed."
Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
2 Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say unto them, When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man of their coasts, and set him for their watchman:
3 If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people;
4 Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head.
5 He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul.
6 But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand."
There has been a discussion at church over what the parameters for using lethal force during the commission of a crime by an evil intruder into our quiet lives. Many are of the mind that it is wrong to kill in every instance and that God does not give us the right to use deadly force to stop a would be assassin from taking your life, or the life of those around you, including your own family members. Those who are opposed to using weapons for self-defense are what are called "pacifist" and are against every instance of harming another human being, even to their own demise. I had a member tell me that if an intruder came and broke into her home, she would allow the intruder to do whatever he was there to do, either to steal, rape, or even murder and she called it martyrdom...really?
Now there is a difference between killing someone in self-defense and murder and this has caused a lot of a difference of opinions and strong emotions from various members, but emotions should not drive our convictions, but we look to the handbook for our daily living and our moral compass, our Bible. What does the Bible say about killing someone, even in self-defense? Let us look at several passages that will give us hopefully, a clearer picture of the instructions given to us from a Holy God.
Self-defense is defined as "protecting oneself from injury at the hand of others." Self-defense is not about taking vengeance. Self-defense is not about punishing criminals. Self-defense involves preserving one's own health and life when it is threatened by the actions of others. When we speak about using potentially lethal force in self-defense, we're talking about using weapons to protect ourselves and others, even if the weapons used could kill the attacker. Now some people would wonder, and maybe you are one of them, of why would a Christian even consider the subject of using lethal force to protect one's life? First we have to look, as Christians, what the Bible says about harming another, because in this society we live in, with it's 300 million people who possess in the neighborhood of 250 million guns of different sizes and calibers that law abiding people possess and criminals use in the commission of a crime against other men. We want to know how to apply the Bible to something our society was built upon, and that is the 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms.
"''A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.'' (US Constitution, 2nd Amendment, ratified December 15th, 1791)
Firearms in this country are as much a part of our heritage as baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet. Problem is that there are forces within our country that are attempting to eradicate the common citizen from owning or possessing firearms because of mass killings at the hands of evil men whose only wish is to cause murder, mayhem, and terror at the expense of others. And when your ability to protect yourself and your family is taken away, then the only ones who will have guns are the criminally insane or the terrorist who wishes to destroy this country.
Sadly, many people don't have a clue what the Bible says about use of deadly force and when it is allowed and when it is not...so let's start in the Old Testament and work our way into the New Testament and see what God has to say about the Biblical application of what is known as "self-defense". We live in a time where the aftermath of mass killings such as Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, and Orlando, and current possibilities of economic and societal collapse, with increasing levels of crime have people buying guns and ammunition in large quantities for self-protection. What does the Bible say about that? What does the Bible say about so-called "assault weapons"?
OUR OBLIGATION TO PRESERVE LIFE
The bible is clear that we are to preserve life, the lives of those around us, and our own life as well. Every life is precious to God and God does not take killing another human being lightly, but He makes a distinction when self-defense is warranted. 1st Corinthians 6:19-20
"19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
As a Christian, you were bought with a high price, the price of the blood shed by our Lord Jesus Christ. In essence, God owns your body. Not only are we to take care of our bodies and the life contained, we have an obligation to preserve the body and life of other people. Psalm 82:3-5 even cites an obligation to protect those who are in danger:
"3 Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
4 Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.
5 They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course."
And how do we accomplish delivering those around us from danger, if we stand idly by and allow murder and destruction to happen without taking some type of action? Especially when we have the means of self-protection of those lives around us, and our own.
Note the the verses at the beginning of this message found in Ezekiel chapter 33.
If you know danger is coming to others, and you deliberately fail to warn the others of the danger, you are guilty of harming the victims. This is not to say that you can make people heed your warning. The surrounding verses also say that if the people refuse to heed the warning of the watchmen, the watchman is not guilty if they are harmed. I have warned those in my church and I warn those who read this message, we are in dangerous times and we must take warning to protect those who are defenseless and unable to protect themselves.
We also see in Deuteronomy, that if you fail to protect or guard the lives of others, you are held accountable. The Mosaic law gives examples of failure to put a railing on a flat roof and if someone falls off and kills themselves you are guilty of their death. (Deuteronomy 22:8). It speaks of if an ox gores someone that he is injured, then you are guilty of negligence and if he dies, then you are to be put to death. (Exodus 21:29-31) These passage speak forcefully in no uncertain terms that you must protect your life, and the lives of others. I will go even a little further. If you have the means to prevent an attack by someone determined to take innocent lives and do nothing, then you are guilty of their death. God will hold you accountable, be you a layman or pastor of any church that has people under their charge, even during church services. Again, I am reminded of those poor folks in a black church in North Carolina that were in Bible study when an assailant came in and destroyed 9 innocent lives. What if any one of them had a weapon concealed on their person? Could they have stopped this criminal act? Yes, they could have. What if they had just locked the doors while they were inside? They wouldn't have needed to take lethal action against anybody, but for the simple act of locking and securing an entrance to their church.
THE BIBLICAL VIEW OF BLOODSHED
"Genesis 9:5-6 5 And surely your blood, the blood of your lives, will I require; At the hand of every beast will I require it. And at the hand of man, even at the hand of every man's brother, will I require the life of man.
6 Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: For in the image of God made he man."
God considers the blood to be precious. In our culture, with all the video games, TV shows, and movies about killing someone else and the blood that is spilled, is no big deal to many, but to God, it is a big deal. Why? Because the life of the man is found in his blood.
If a man was killed, the man or beast who caused the death must pay with his/its own life. God says here, "I will require the life of man." Killing or bloodshed was not always wrong. But when it was wrong, the penalty was ultimate.
We learn here that there is sanctity to spilled blood. Why? Two reasons:
1) Life is precious, and as mentioned, the life is in the blood. When blood is shed, something precious is lost. You might not think blood is precious. We tend to consider blood to be just a "bodily fluid". It is, however, precious to God.
2). An attack on man is an attack on the image of God. At a trivial level, you're messing with sculptures in God's art studio. In God's view of bloodshed, it is not merely a physiological event, but it is an assault on the divine image. Why is murder punishable by death? It says, "For in the image of God made He man.
OLD TESTAMENT PASSAGES OF LETHAL FORCE AND SELF DEFENSE.
We all should be familiar with the Ten Commandments and the command "Thou shalt not kill"...but the Hebrew word here is better translated, "thou shalt not murder". Murder is wrong in a fit a rage, or emotions. Premeditated murder with forethought is wrong in every instance. But not all killing of a man is wrong in certain instances, such as spoken of in Leviticus 24:16-17
Those who blaspheme God, or murders another are condemned. But not all killing is prohibited, as the mentioned verse testifies.
In Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers, there are passages that speak of accidental killings without malice, and that person was to go to "sanctuary cities" to escape the avenger of blood that could take revenge on the life of the one who was killed accidentally. This person was to stay in the city until the high priest died and then could return to his own land, but if caught outside the city walls before this happened, and was caught by the avenger of blood, then his life would be taken from him. (By the way, this is a beautiful picture of Christ's work-Christ, the city of refuge in whom we must remain hidden! And Christ is the high priest whose death takes our guilt and sets us free.)
We should see that killing someone out of 1) hatred, 2) negligence, or 3) sheer accident were subject to capital punishment. In the case of sheer accident without negligence, God established a network of cities of refuge which made merciful provision to spare the life of the killer. This is one side of the coin when speaking of killing another, but let us look at the flip side of this same coin. With that important background, let's look at passages speaking about victims of crime.
Note the first verse that opened this message in Exodus 22. What does the Word of God mean when speaking of striking a thief at night and it is permissible, but if the "sun is risen" it is not permissible? Picture a thief who has broken into your home. It's dark and you're not sure if he's there to steal, or something worse. You don't know if he has a gun, knife, or some other form of deadly weapon and you don't know if he will stop at being a thief, but deal harshly with his victims by imposing kidnapping, rape, or even murder upon those he wishes to violate their sense of security. The Bible says that it is permissible to strike such an intruder, even if he dies and you will not be held accountable. Because it is happening at night. But, .....there's that word....if the intruder attempts to steal during the daytime, you are aware if he has a weapon or not. To kill for the sake of property is not permissible, because he has no weapon. Big difference here is threat to life with deadly force from an intruder is granted to defend yourself with a counter measure of deadly force, but not so with loss of property. But again, if the thief has a weapon that would cause harm, injury or even death to the victims, lethal force and the protection of your family or those around you that are in danger, then self-defense with lethal force is permitted, even in the day time.
Mathew Henry writes "...if it was in the day-time that the thief was killed, he that killed him must be accountable for it, unless it was in the necessary defense of his own life. ... We ought to be tender of the lives even of bad men; the magistrate must afford us redress, and we must not avenge ourselves."
There are more passage that affirm the use of lethal force found in Nehemiah when families, not law enforcement worked on the wall of Jerusalem with tool in one hand and their sword girded about them for self-defense of those around them who hated them and wished to destroy their work and their lives. And again in Esther, when the Jews were allowed by King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) to defend themselves from those who would kill them. Esther chapter 9:
Esther 9:1-2,5 ...the Jews themselves overpowered those who hated them.
2 The Jews gathered together in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm. And no one could withstand them, because fear of them fell upon all people....
5 Thus the Jews defeated all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, with slaughter and destruction"
In this passage, the Jews were given legal sanction to defend their lives, not in war time, or law enforcement scenario, but in daily living by the use of their major weapon, the sword. Today, our sword is a gun as our weapon.
PASSAGE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Lethal force and the use of self-defensive measures is not confined to just the Old Testament, but into the New Testament as well.
"Luke 22:35-39 And He said to them, "When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?" So they said, "Nothing."
36Then He said to them, "But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.
37 "For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: 'And He was numbered with the transgressors.' For the things concerning Me have an end."
38 So they said, "Lord, look, here are two swords." And He said to them, "It is enough."
39 Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him."
Jesus had his disciples arm themselves against robbers and bad men who might attack them as they walked to their missions to reach others for the Kingdom of God. Some make the error that Jesus was a "pacifist". The Bible speaks of many instances when Jesus railed against the religious authorities for the "traditions of men". Jesus challenged them at every turn about their hypocrisy and failure to follow the spiritual intent of the law. Remember, this was a Jewish man, fully man, and fully God that used a whip to drive the money changers out of the temple in righteous indignation. No, Jesus was not a pacifist, but a realist that knew His enemy, but when it came time, Jesus submitted Himself to unlawful accusation and crucifixion, because that was His mission. It was a mission that the apostles did NOT understand, until Jesus was resurrected. Remember what Peter did to the servant of the High Priest, by cutting off his ear? Luke 22,
49 "When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword?
50 And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear.
51 And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him."
In another Gospel account of this same event, Peter is rebuked by Jesus when He told Peter to put away his sword by saying in Matthew 26:
51 "And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear.
52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?
54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?"
Peter was not being rebuked for self-defense, but for not realizing that this was the Divine mission that Jesus was on. Peter did not understand, or any of the disciples until Jesus had been risen from the dead and appeared to them. To use this passage as a means of Jesus being against self-defense, is to ignore the other passages where He had them arm themselves, for whatever reason for their own self-defense. Jesus didn't need Peter to interfere, even as our Lord was rebuked by Peter for Jesus saying that He would be killed by the Jewish authorities and Jesus turned and spoke to Peter, "Get thee behind me Satan, thou are an offense to me." Because even here, Peter did not understand the Divine mission Jesus was going to complete for the salvation of mankind.
In these passages, you get a sense that Jesus is saying, "Though we have a right to employ our swords in defense of this unrighteous arrest, we are intentionally putting aside our lawful right, and I am allowing myself to be taken without resistance." See how this is expressed: "Lord shall we strike with the sword?" "No more of this." "This is your hour, and the power of darkness." "Put up your sword... or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father... all this was done that the Scriptures...might be fulfilled." "Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup...?"
Why Christ tells Peter to put up the sword:
1. Christ is willingly laying down His life, though He has the right to use sword and angelic legions to deliver Himself from this unjust arrest (Luke 22:51, John 18:11).
2. Those who are quick to resort to violence will die by violence (Matt 26:52). The Lord hates the one who "loves violence" (Psalm 11:5).
The sword is not always the appropriate response, especially in persecution for Christ. But in the case to prevent murder, lethal force and self-defense are warranted.
But let me be frank, my brethren, there is a difference between martyrdom and murder. If one is asked to deny Christ upon pain of death, then their death would be martyrdom. But to die at the hands of evil men for no other reason that for terror or the sick idea of causing death and destruction to helpless victims, is MURDER and those who are entrusted to our care, whether they be the parents of the children, the kinsman of those being in danger of their lives, the life of your neighbor, or being entrusted with the safety of your own congregation as the shepherd of the local flock, it is your duty, it is your right under God's Word to preserve life in whatever you can do. I am reminded of several instances in recent days of innocent men and women in a theater, or a madman in San Bernardino that killed fellow workers, or even killing of students at Sandy Hook. If by chance anyone of them had a CCW permit and had a weapon to stop the gunman in his tracks, I wonder, how many lives could have been saved? What about the evil man the entered the Orlando nightclub and took his time to murder 50 people who cowered under furniture while the gunman calmly reloaded. During those times, what if someone had wounded the man who had the semi-auto rifle or pistols and put him out of commission? Would it have been right in God's eyes? Yes, no one wants to think about taking another one's life, or inflicting harm, and if forced to make that decision, I would want to injure the perpetrator to stop his evil deed and spare their life, if at all possible.
The world grows darker and more evil as the days of the coming Tribulation will plunge mankind into being completely sold out to evil in every second of their lives. As we approach that hour, men will grow worse and worse and many will die because of evil men and their Satanic influence to commit heinous crimes. NO where in the Bible are we to take punitive measures against another person, without exhausting every measure to defuse a situation and prevent harm to any living soul. Possession of weapons is never discouraged in Scripture, but let's look at two verses from the Psalms:
Psalm 144:1 Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight:
Psalm 18:34 He teaches my hands to make war, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze
Skill and ability to use weapons here, whether literal and/or metaphorical, is positively portrayed in these verses.
Understand my brethren, that there is coming a day when those who wish to impose tyranny over men, will attempt to disarm them, so that they can conquer them. It has happened many times in the past during Hitler's reign of terror, communist Russia and China did likewise. But as we approach the return of Jesus Christ for His Bride, the Church, we may have to face situations where self defense is our only choice, and a wise man or woman takes precautions and ask for God's protection from the evil as it grows. I'm a firm believer in claiming Psalm 91 and God's protection, but I am also a firm believer that God uses men to protect other men from evil in the land. We are not to harm another person, if at all possible and to preserve life if it can be done. Random violence is never condoned in scripture and God hates a violent man who spills blood needlessly. May we look to the Rock of our Salvation for guidance and know when to take action for self-defense, as clearly the Bible supports such action...
WE LIVE IN A FALLEN WORLD
This world is becoming more evil as the hour of God's wrath approaches. Paul the apostle warned us that it would be so in 2nd Timothy 3:2-5
"For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, braggarts, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3, Without natural affection, implacable, slanderers, without self-control, savage, despisers of those who are good,
4, Betrayers, reckless, egotistical, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God;
5, Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."
Paul is describing a time where evil abounds. We are living in that time where men will do unspeakable unholy, cruel, and sinful acts against other men and women AND their children. As Christians, we have a promise from God that when things get really bad, and I mean really bad, leading up to the time of the coming Tribulation, God will protect those that are His. Psalm 91:
"A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
8, Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
9, Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;
10, There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling."
Now some will use this passage to say that we can sit on our laurels and God will protect us, in all cases. Yes, God is able to do just that, but if that is what we must do to just sit on our laurels, then why do we go to a doctor when we're sick? God gave us the tools to act on our behalf with His guidance and faith in His ability to do so. We go to a doctor out of self defense against diseases and medications to promote the bodies ability to heal, but God does the work using these tools.
Knowing that God is with us during this dark days that lie ahead of us, He also gave us the tools to stand in the gap for others, be it our family, or our neighbor. He also gave us the common sense to act upon those instances where we can make a difference in another person's life, either to protect it, or to save it. To do otherwise in both examples is to tempt the Lord they God, in my personal opinion.
ARE YOU PROTECTED?
In all cases, protect life with all that you possess and God will provide the means to escape and survive, being a child of His. But my question to those who read this message, can you say that God is your protection? Could the people that were slaughtered in Orlando's Gay Bar say the same thing? No, because they had no protection except themselves and were in a gun free zone. Sadly, many died because of the lack of that protection from God, or the ability to protect themselves. With evil all around us, if you are caught in such a predicament and you are faced with an assailant that takes your life, where will you spend eternity?
Have you thought about becoming a victim by chance and circumstance? Nobody likes to think that they could be murdered by an insane individual or a terrorist, but friend in an unsaved condition where you rely on only yourself and you can't call on God, because you have cast Him out of your life, what will become of you after you die? Will you spend eternity in the Glory of God found in our Savior, Jesus Christ, or will you spend eternity separated from God and all it's glory of hope, love, joy, happiness and anything good? Will you become a statistic of the barbarism that will overtake this world when people who proclaimed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior suddenly vanish from this earth? It is coming, my friend.
Again, this world will only get more evil as time passes, and when a newsflash comes across your TV screen about a disappearance of millions of people without explanation that makes any sense, you will know that the danger to your life just got exponentially greater than you can even perceive. Until that time, my friend, take God at His Word and know that whether in life or in death, you will be found in Jesus Christ and will live forever!!..How you say?
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.
God sent not His Son to condemn the world, but the world through Him might be saved." (John 3:16-17)
This is Pastor Mike Taylor, praying you stay safe in the face of any danger. If you need counseling, prayer, or just a listening ear, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org , or visit me online at www.churchofgod-usa.org for more biblical instruction in these end of days. God bless you all.
A flurry of false Hezbollah claims amid rising military tension this week was designed to cover up a direct Israeli hit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards HQ in South Syria, debkafile military and intelligence sources disclose.
Whereas Hezbollah reported on July 5 that Israeli helicopters had attacked Syrian army positions near the Golan town of Quneitra, in fact, one of the two Israeli "Tamuz" IDF rockets fired on July 4, in response to stray cross-border Syrian army mortar shells, struck the Syrian Ministry of Finance building near Quneitra, which housed Iranian Guards and Hezbollah regional headquarters. An unknown number of Iranian officers were killed as a result.
On July 6, Hezbollah sources reported a high level of tension at its east Lebanese outposts in Hasbaya, al-Qarqoub and Mount Hermon, indicating possible preparations to retaliate for the Iranian casualties.
The mortar shells that occasionally stray into Israel are aimed by the Syrian forces in Quneitra at Syrian rebel engineering units, which are digging an anti-tank trench on the town's southern edge to prevent Syrian tanks from mounting an all-out assault against them. These skirmishes are put in the shade by the dangerous gains by Islamist terrorists in southern Syria.
Both ISIS and al-Qaeda's Nusra Front have overrun the entire Syrian strip bordering on Israel and Jordan - a distance of 106km from Daraa up to the Druze villages of Mount Hermon.
The Islamists have seized control of this strategic borderland by taking advantage of the fighting between Syrian army and Syrian rebel forces in southern Syria.
Israel and Jordan were also remiss. The IDF and the Jordanian Army were so busy trying to prevent the Syrian army, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah from encroaching on their northern defense lines in northern Jordan and the Golan that they failed to notice the Islamic terrorists creeping up on their borders.
The terrorist presence which Israel finds most alarming is that of the "Khaled Bin Al-Walid Army" - a militia linked to both ISIS and al-Qaeda, which now controls a 36km band bordering on central and southern Golan from south Quneitra to the Jordan-Israel-Syria tri-border area - opposite Hamat Gader and Shaar HaGolan.
The Khaled Bin Al-Walid Army was spawned by a union between the Islamist Liwa Shouada Yarmouk and Mouthana Islamic Movement militias. Its commander is Abu Abdullah al-Madani, a Palestinian from Damascus, who is one of al-Qaeda's veteran fighters. Close to Osama Bin-Laden, he fought with him against the Americans when they invaded Afghanistan 15 years ago. Ten years ago, he moved to Iraq, still fighting Americans, now alongside the al-Qaeda commander Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
When al-Qaeda was defeated in Iraq, al-Madani moved to Syria.
debkafile counter terror sources report that this veteran of Islamist terrorism, who is believed to be in touch wit Bin Laden's successor Ayman al Zawahri, is active in three areas:
1. He is purchasing and stockpiling chemical weapons - a high priced commodity frequently traded among various Syrian rebel organizations.
2. Abu Abdullah al-Madani is recruiting from his militia suicide units for which he is personally training for operations inside Israel. debkafile sources say that his plan is being taken very seriously by Israel security chiefs.
3. He is maintaining operational ties with Al Nusra commanders in the border region, possibly seeking access to the Israeli border through their turf for his chemical weapons and suicide units.
European capitals are busy with the organization of an international conference on the two-state solution, which would elaborate on the French Middle East Peace Initiative. Israel and the Palestinians were not invited to the preparative conference in Paris June 3. European leaders, including more Israel-leaning countries, such as Germany and the United Kingdom, agree that the next phase would include both. According to a senior European Union official who spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, all EU foreign ministers decided to support the French initiative in order to challenge the parties and bolster the position of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
EU officials believe that not much can come out of such a conference without the United States playing an active role. Therefore, if the United States remains passive, the conference can be only of preliminary nature, to set a policy platform for future negotiations. And so if the conference eventually takes place before a new US president is sworn in (with a lame-duck administration in Washington) - with the United States effectively playing a passive role - Brussels will probably take the lead, to avoid a diplomatic vacuum.
The EU official told Al-Monitor, "Europe has decided to play a more independent role regarding the two-state solution process, especially given the transition in Washington and the uncertainty about the next president. Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution is a key strategic interest of most European countries, as it affects the fight against fundamentalist terror and the security of the Mediterranean. Hence we would like to formulate the terms of reference and the structure for future negotiations."
According to the source, EU headquarters' officials - under the guidance of High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini - are coordinating content and moderation of such a conference mainly vis-a-vis French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is fully in the know.
The conference is planned to take place in Paris toward the end of the year, possibly after the US presidential election Nov. 8. The Quartet (United States, EU, United Nations and Russia) would be the one inviting the parties to the international peace conference, which would be based on the Quartet report published July 1. All participants of the Paris conference of June 3 will be invited, including the Arab League, in addition to Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). The terms of reference of the conference will be the Quartet report. The parties will not be asked to adopt the report, but to negotiate on its basis.
The structure of the conference is already taking shape: Quartet representatives at the level of foreign ministers and the UN secretary-general will chair it; the opening plenary session will include speeches by all parties. It will also delineate a structure of negotiations, according to the following guidelines: a plenary session for reporting about and monitoring the negotiations; a bilateral committee of Israel and the PA only, to negotiate on the basis of the Quartet report all permanent status issues; and a multilateral track with Israel, the PA, the Arab League, Egypt, Jordan and Quartet representatives.
Concerning the bilateral Israel-Palestinian committee, it will work on core issues, starting with borders between the two states and security measures, including anti-terror cooperation. The two parties will establish subcommittees of negotiations on the following issues: settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, water and other infrastructure issues, future bilateral relations between the two states and mutual recognition.
With these issues to be discussed bilaterally, the multilateral track will negotiate the normalization of relations between the Arab states and Israel based on the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative; the construction of economic regional cooperation in the fields of tourism, trade, the environment and water (resembling the multilateral negotiations started by the Madrid conference of 1992; and the launch of regional security cooperation, mainly in the fields of anti-terror and curbing the dissemination of nonconventional arms.
The EU seems determined to go ahead with such plans, despite US hesitance and Israeli opposition. Given the alternative of a policy vacuum in the region - which will most probably lead to a violent outburst between the Palestinians and Israel and to greater difficulties in assembling an Arab-West coalition against the Islamic State - it would be important for the United States and Israel to reconsider their positions on such a conference.
US President Barack Obama would not want to leave behind him a region plagued by an armed intifada.
As for Israel, even the right-wing Netanyahu government must comprehend that a viable peace process based on a global consensus is in Israel's interest. It can always express its different position within the negotiations' framework. Israel's identity, security, morality and position in the world stand only to gain from an internationally monitored two-state solution process.
Any student of Bible Prophecy is cognizant of the fact that the War of Gog/Magog as prophesied in Ezekiel Chapters 38-39 is indeed on the horizon. As we speak, a huge land bridge from Russia to the border of Israel has been established and a strong Russian presence remains in Syria, and which also include their ally: Iran or Persia.
There are a few established teachers that foresee the AntiChrist as being of Islamic descent (i.e. Perry Stone, Walid Shoebat, Joel Richardson, etc.). With that in mind, I want to present a very interesting viewpoint that if anything could be worth a look....
Currently, Russia's Muslim population is estimated at 12% to 15%, and its demographic situation is worse than that of France, so that Russian Islam is expected to grow rapidly. If present trends continue, Muslims will comprise a majority of the Russian military within a couple of decades. Demographically speaking, there are more Muslims living in Russia than any other country in Europe. Russia's fastest-growing religious group is its Muslims.
Let's take a look at Tatarstan for example: The Republic of Tatarstan is a constituent republic of the Russian Federation. Tatarstan" derives from the name of the ethnic group-the Tatars-and the Persian suffix -stan (meaning "place of" or "country", an ending common to many Eurasian countries).
Tatarstan is one of the most economically developed regions of Russia. The republic is highly industrialized, and the region's main source of wealth is oil.
In just a quarter of a century, the number of mosques in Tatarstan has increased from 20 to 1,300. That's a 6400% increase - more than 18% per year. In general Islam's resurgence in Tatarstan's capital, Kazan, has been peaceful.
What we now are discovering is that Russian Muslim jihadists are at the forefront of international jihadist attacks. For example, the Tsarnaev brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon and terrorized the city were actually Russian jihadists from Chechnya. Just this past week, it was Russian and former-Soviet Muslim jihadists that led the attack on Turkey's Ataturk Istanbul airport. Furthermore, we cannot overlook the role Chechen and other former-Soviet jihadists have played in Al Qaeda or the Islamic State Caliphate? Although they are Muslim jihadists, their language of communication with each other in the thick of battle is Russian.
In Russia itself these jihadists are no longer confined to their ancestral homelands found in the Caucasus, Crimea and Tatarstan. Now, a minimum of an estimated 8 million are firmly established in Russia's European heartland.
A second concentration of Muslims in Russia is in Moscow. Led by labor migration, the estimated population may be near 2 million.
The head of the Council of muftis of Russia, Ravil Gainutdin, is currently collaborating to establish what may be a unified Islam throughout the Russian Federation. Chechens, Tatars, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, and all the others, in it together for the good of the Ummah.
Of all the world's religions, fundamental Islam is the most intolerant. It simply will not tolerate the existence of other religions in areas that it controls. It is inconceivable to imagine any European leader associated with the Catholic Church being able to secure the allegiance of Muslims.
Ultimately, will the Muslim world revolt against any attempt of the Antichrist to bring them within his domain if he is of European descent as many other Bible prophecy teachers imply?
This may result in a war that will ultimately escalate into an all-out nuclear conflagration. These wars result in the death of half of humanity during the first three and a half years of the Tribulation period.
Again, I want to make it clear that this is simply a viewpoint that is being examined through the lense of Scriptures. Is it possible that Vladimir Putin might not be the future "Gog" of a Muslim-led Russia, but the Grand Mufti of Russia, Sheikh Ravil Gaynutdin (born 1959 Rawil Ismagliovich Gaynutdinov) of Tatarstan? Will Russia itself ultimately fall to Islam?
Will this ultimately be the hook in the jaw of Magog? Whether it is or isn't is sheer speculation. Nonetheless, what cannot be ignored is that the prophetic pieces are all falling into place. It won't be long before we find out.
The West is entrenched in a love affair with Islam.
Islam isn't the official religion of western nations - at least not yet. Arguably, Christianity isn't either. Nevertheless, there's a default mechanism in the hearts of many westerners for Islam which overrides any criticism of the faith.
This mechanism functions on the fashionable assumption that Islam is fundamentally a peaceful and tolerant faith. Supporters of this popular narrative include Christians and political leaders. Pope Francis and assorted evangelicals have affirmed that the God of Islam and Christianity are one and the same, even though Muslims reject Christ's divinity.
The premise following on from these suppositions is that terrorism perpetrated by Islamists and organizations such as ISIS cannot possibly represent authentic Islam. Atrocities committed in the name of Allah are therefore a distortion of the Islamic faith.
After the Pulse Nightclub tragedy in Orlando, apologists and activists quickly acted to exonerate Islam. They pointed to homophobia and guns as culprits. There was even speculation that Omar Mateen was a gay man who acted out frustrations associated with living in a homophobic world.
This was despite Mateen's admission that he acted for Allah:
"In the name of Allah, the merciful, praise be to Allah, and prayers as well as peace upon the prophet of Allah. I let you know, I'm in Orlando and I did the shootings."
Note that homosexuality isn't tolerated in the Qur'an or Hadiths (see Surah 70:80-84 etc). Many respond by highlighting the Old Testament's punishment of homosexual activity in Israel. In other words, Christians shouldn't point the finger. An in-depth reply is beyond the scope of this article.
However, while the New Testament doesn't abrogate homosexual activity, Christians aren't called to punish sinners. We're all sinners needing redemption (John 3:16; Rom 3:10). Instead, we are to make disciples (Matt 28:19). Moreover, we're called to love and pray for our enemies (Matt 5:44; Luke 6:27, 35; Rom 13:8). These are important distinctions.
Snopes is a popular myth-debunking website which also defends Islam. It uses internet search engines to fact-check news stories. In many cases, it does this reasonably well. It's frustrating when Christians occasionally link to a sensational article on Facebook which can be debunked with simple checking. When there's a Snopes article of that same link added by Facebook, it makes us look silly.
But Snopes isn't always objective with fact-checking its own opinions, especially regarding Christianity and Islam. For example, it has debunked news item about the implementation of Sharia Law and no go zones in particular regions. Yet it will ignore legitimate problems present elsewhere. See Daniel Pipes' column highlighting these issues.
A mix of truth and error is found in a Snopes article by David Mikkelson. It refutes the story about General John J. Pershing's strategy against Muslim terrorists in the Philippines. Along the way, Mikkelson correctly states that not all devout Muslims are terrorists. Then he takes a walk into speculative territory by suggesting that the perpetrators of 9/11 may have been Muslims in-name-only.
He comes to this conclusion by pointing out that the men indulged in carnal sins prior to 9/11, contrary to Qur'anic guidelines. Mikkelson testifies that the Qur'an forbids suicide and links to a Wiki article as proof. In fact "suicide" may be a "false terminology" for what occurs during acts of terrorism in the name of Islam. Suicide is killing oneself in personal despair.
On the other hand, as James Arlandson notes:
"Interpreting Sura 61:10-12 reveals three unpleasant themes. First, the divine 'bargain' has death as the currency behind it. What do Allah and his followers get in the exchange? The martyrs receive the forgiveness of sins and heaven, and Allah receives complete devotion to him in establishing his community and religion."
This is why the 9/11 terrorists indulged themselves prior to flying their planes into the buildings. Their sins were forgiven them because they died for Islam. This is justified in the Qur'an. Read also Robert Spencer's 9/11 and the Fog of Denial.
The vast majority of Muslims who live peacefully in the West do not always do so because they interpret the Qur'an differently to ISIS. Many likely don't fully understand what it teaches. Others are nominal Muslims, just like the Christians-in-name-only who don't know their Bibles. Former Muslim Nabeel Qureshi's instructive testimony admits his prior scant knowledge of the Qur'an and Hadiths, even though he was devout.
Sometimes attempts to whitewash Islam border on the absurd. David Wood produced a video highlighting 20 errors circulated in an ABC News documentary designed to defend Islam. One point (error 11) was that the 72 virgins (houris) allegedly promised to martyrs was a "mistranslation." The correct rendering was stated to be "72 raisins."
Wood notes (12 minute mark) that there are two errors there. One is that the number 72 isn't taken from the Qur'an - it is found in the Hadiths. Secondly, the Qur'an states that Muslims will marry these same houris and that they will be chaste, with beautiful eyes and large breasts. Strange raisins indeed!
We're told by apologists that there is no compulsion in religion in Islam. Or that jihad is really an internal spiritual struggle. If these assertions were the case, then how do we respond to its violent history beginning with Muhammad? Once again, David Wood addresses these questions in Three Stages of Jihad.
The media, political and religious leaders want a unified world where all faiths harmoniously coexist. No one wants to admit an intrinsic problem in a major system which may provide dynamics for terrorism. What do you do with the millions of Muslims who happily coexist in the West? Whether or not they really believe the peaceful nature of Islam, they are bound to stick to the narrative.
It is prudent for us to recognize what we're dealing with. We don't have a love affair with Islam. Yet understanding Islam's true character doesn't mean we hate Muslims. On the contrary, we must love them.
What should we do about the Muslims in our community? We pray for them and pray for opportunities to share the glory of the gospel with them. This is what we are commanded to do.
It's one of the most memorable verses from probably the most beloved Psalm. Perhaps you can recite the words from memory.
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil...." (Psalm 23:4 KJV)
As a writer, I look at those words with astonishment. In just a few phrases, they convey some of the most compelling imagery ever put on paper. They project the sense of a dark valley, and the claustrophobia of knowing you have no escape. Shadows are ethereal, but they represent something solid, real, and close. The shadow's shape replicates the thing that obscures the light. And when the shadow moves, it gives a sense of danger in the darkness. Some shapes can be especially scary - a man, a hand, a knife in a hand.
In this case, the shadow's shape is that of death itself.
Death casts its shadow into all parts of our lives. From the moment you first realize you will one day die - a moment too early in life for most of us to remember - death casts its shadow over you. In that sense, we all walk in the valley of the shadow of death, and we walk there our entire lives.
Sometimes the shadow of death looms larger and darker than usual. The doctor gives you bad news, or a loved one dies. We grieve for the one who is gone and for everyone who will miss that person. But our grieving often carries with it a sad remembrance of our own mortality.
Death is normal, and we know it. Hebrews 2:15 says that the fear of death can be a lifelong form of slavery. Hebrews 9:27 calls death an appointment for every human being; an appointment to be followed by judgment. It begins to look as if the valley of the shadow of death is a box canyon.
But at this point, the scripture tells us something amazing. Not everyone dies.
The passages we often call "the begets" in the Bible, have a redundancy that causes most people to begin to scan for more interesting material. But that redundancy tells us something important. They usually follow this pattern. "Seth lived one hundred and five years, and begot Enosh. After he begot Enosh, Seth lived eight hundred and seven years, and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years; and he died." (Genesis 5:6-8 NKJV)
That's how they end. "And he died." The people of early Genesis lived amazingly long lives. But it didn't matter in the end, because almost every beget ends with, "and he died."
That's right. I said, "Almost." They don't all end that way. Hidden in the "the begets" is a man who broke the pattern. His name was Enoch. "So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him." (Genesis 5:23-24 NASB)
He didn't die. God just took him away. It was an anomaly, but a telling one. Something like it happened again later in the Old Testament. Instead of dying, the prophet Elijah "went up by a whirlwind to heaven.'" (2 Kings 2:11 NASB)
Could these two biblical precedents hold any meaning for us? 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 in the New Living Translation says, "But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies."
This is a beautiful description of the Rapture of the Church. What wonderful news! "We will not all die!" Those who are in Christ at the time of the rapture will be snatched away with Him.
But as we wait for that event, Christian believers die. In the words of King David, they "go the way of all the earth." (1 Kings 2:2) Death looms before us. So how do we escape the fear of it? Go back to the 23rd Psalm. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me." There is a reason we should "fear no evil." It's because He is with us. He promises never to leave us nor forsake us.
The LORD promises us that there is no reason to fear death and here is why, "For we know if this earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan earnestly desiring our habitation from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by (eternal) life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the (Holy) Spirit as a guarantee. Therefore we are always confident that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the LORD. We are confident, yes, to be well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the LORD." (1 Corinthians 5:1-8 NKJ)
God is waiting to bring us home with Him. So let us have the same expectation as the Apostle Paul, "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21 NKJ
If we die before the Rapture, God gives us temporary clothing so we can be present with Him. He then raises us in the Rapture and gives us our immortal body. Praise the LORD ! Who's afraid now? We have God's eternal promise. And the Holy Spirit is His guarantee !
Jesus said in Matthew 24:12, "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." Some interpretations use lawlessness, wickedness, abundance of evil, and sin in substitution for the word iniquity. The actual Greek word is anomian, transliterated as anomia, meaning without law, lawlessness; the utter disregard for God's law; the impact of lawlessness on one's soul. Chapter 24 is about the end times. Jesus is saying that because the laws of God are not followed, the love of many grows cold. We are seeing, in the very least, a type and shadow of this very profound proverb taking place in our nation on a daily basis.
Bold in the headlines this week was the "acquittal" of Hillary Clinton without the benefit of a public trial. Her crooked and lawless dealings have resulted in decades of scandals that follow her like the stench that follows a garbage truck on a hot day. Yet, she is celebrated as the first serious female candidate for President, a woman right's activist, and a champion of progressive (communist) government. Her lawlessness is not only the disregard of the laws of our nation, but also the disregard for the laws of God. She is an example of what is wrong with our nation, its leaders and the people who elect them. There are even those who call themselves Christians who would vote for this soulless, evil person.
Clinton is not without company. From breaking his oath to uphold the Constitution by choosing which laws he will enforce and those he will not to supporting Islamic terrorist groups, the occupant of the Oval Office has contributed to a growing lawless society. He has imported lawlessness willingly and dutifully through allowing hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants into the US, who commit violent crime after crime, are arrested and then allowed to go free. He has revered criminals as heroes and has contributed to the waxing cold of the love that Americans should have for one another. Congress, as a whole, is no better. It has allowed the lawlessness, as has the Supreme Court.
Now we have a powder keg of violence, the fuse once again lit by police officers who killed the black men they were arresting. This gave the Islamic- and Marxist-inspired Black Lives Matter an excuse to hold demonstrations, which lured police into an ambush, leaving five policemen dead. Lawlessness upon lawlessness, violence upon violence, terror upon terror all because not only the rule of law in our nation has broken down, but also because God's laws are not followed. One precipitates the other. When there is a total disregard for God's law, the love that humanity should naturally have one for another waxes cold. As Christians, we need to reach out, not withdraw. A kind word turns away wrath. It's a start. We have to start somewhere as we are charged to be light in this dark and dying world.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. -2 Corinthians 10:4-5
I've been known to fill up the storage space on my hard drive. I take lots of pictures, and I keep them all on my computer. I've been advised to put them on a separate hard drive, but I prefer to keep them on my computer. A lot of them, if not most of them, are of my family, and I enjoy looking at them. But just the other day I was trying to save a document, and my hard drive was full.
Wouldn't it be great if, when the devil comes knocking at the door of our minds with an illicit thought, a message pops up that reads, This hard drive is full with the Word of God. There's no room for your stuff. Don't even bother? Far too often we have a lot of storage available, and we're willing to entertain those thoughts.
Temptation, in most cases, comes through the doorway of our minds. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, "But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:3).
When our guard is down and those flaming arrows of ungodly thoughts come our way, we are to "[cast] down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Paul also said, "Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-meditate on these things" (Philippians 4:8).
Let's think about things that will build us up-not things that will tear us down.
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