Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Another Philistine Atrocity

The war on Israel by the Philistines (known in the press as "Palestinians") continues, and the world either praises the murderers, or ignores them.  This time, the targets are not schoolchildren or housewives (and certainly not soldiers, who have a nasty habit of fighting back), but rabbis. From United with Israel:

Palestinians kill four rabbis in Jerusalem synagogue attack

Four Israelis – Rabbis who were praying – were brutally murdered and eight wounded Tuesday morning in Jerusalem in the worst terror attack Israel has experienced in recent years.

The wave of Arab terror against Israel’s citizens continued Wednesday morning as terrorists murdered four Rabbis praying in Jerusalem synagogue. Hamas praised the attack.

Two Muslim terrorists entered the synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood in western Jerusalem and assaulted the worshipers with knifes and axes while shooting at them. Four died in the attack.

Both terrorists were killed at the scene by Israeli policemen. An Israeli officer was critically injured in a gun fight; another was moderately wounded.

 


Security forces are reportedly searching for a third terrorist.


The terrorists also fired at the first  EMTs and paramedics to arrive at the scene.

Both terrorists are residents of east Jerusalem. IDF Radio reports that they are Israeli citizens with Israeli ID cards.

Combined Knife and Handgun Attack


Aryeh Shavit, one of the first emergency medical responders to arrive at the scene, said that “two terrorists entered a synagogue and slaughtered the worshipers as they were praying, donning their prayer shawls and phylacteries. We provide initial medical treatment to the wounded with various digress of injuries; unfortunately, several of them were severely wounded. A quick response by Israel’s police neutralized the terrorists. It was a combined knife and handgun attack.”

One of the worshipers present during the attack described how two terrorists entered the synagogue while shooting and shouting Allah Akbar. “They continued to try and harm anyone who was in their way or who tried to escape.”

Another eyewitness commented that the scene of the terror attack with bloodied bodies of Jews wearing tallitot and tefillin (prayer shawls and phylacteries) was reminiscent of scenes from the Holocaust.

Hamas Lauds Attack


Hamas embraced the attack, claiming it was in response to the alleged “murder” by Israelis of Hasan Ramouni, an Arab bus driver who committed suicide this week. It was also in retaliation for “Israel’s continued crimes on the Temple Mount,” Hamas added, calling for the continuation of terror attack against Israeli citizens.

There are reports of Palestinian celebrations in Gaza after the attack.

 
Author: Aryeh Savir
Staff Writer, United with Israel





And what was the reaction of "the leader of the free world," Barack Hussein Obama? According to Breitbart News

"In a statement delivered to the White House press pool, President Obama responded to the attack by declaring that 'too many Palestinians have died,' as well as Israelis, in the struggle between the state of Israel and the terrorist group Hamas and its affiliates, including the internationally active Muslim Brotherhood. 'At this difficult time,' the President told reporters, 'I think it's important for both Palestinians and Israelis to try to work together to lower tensions and reject violence.'

Same old false equivalency.  Same old lip service to the Jews, an important voting bloc in the Democratic Party.  And the same old heartfelt allegiance to the Philistines and Mohammedans, whose cause he favors, and has always favored.  President Haman is nothing if not predictable.

In the aftermath of this monstrous tragedy, Christians will take a different tack, remembering God's words:  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee (Psalm 122:6). 



ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Israeli government reaction, coverage of funerals, Philistine celebrations: Daily Mail (UK)

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Pathology of Temptation

Have you ever wondered how sin begins, in your life or mine?  We can be engaged in the most innocent or necessary of pursuits, and suddenly (it seems), we're involved in some sort of sin.  How does that happen?  Unless we've planned it out in advance, with premeditation, it seems that sin sort of slips up on us, and catches us unawares. The Bible refers to sin which doth so easily beset us (Hebrews 12:1).  The question is, "When does a sin become a sin?"

It's a very old question ... probably as old as mankind itself, because with one notable Exception, all men and women are sinful creatures by nature.  It's primarily a matter of concern for Christians, who have received Jesus Christ according to John 1:12: because, let's face it, "everyday" sin is not a big issue in the minds of most unbelievers, if they acknowledge the reality of sin at all.  We live in a world in which psychologists and philosophers have been telling us, for at least a century or two, that there's no such thing as "sin" at all; that everything is relative.  But people who think clearly, and independently, usually know better.  You might not like the word "sin" (who does?), preferring "mistake" or "shortcoming," but there's a difference .... and most people understand that, even if they don't like to think about it.


Fortunately, the question "When does a sin become a sin" has an answer.  After all, Christian thinkers have been studying this sort of thing for a long, long time.  In Christian theology, the study of sin is called "hamartiology," from the Greek ἁμαρτία, meaning "sin."  The subject of temptation is called peccability. Those are words that you're not likely to hear in everyday conversation, but the study of these things, as human phenomena, can be very helpful on a practical level.

We've discussed formal theology very little in this blog, for two reasons: In the first place, "theology" is frequently a substitute for the study of God's word itself, which is the source of all truth.  In the second place, theologians, from Augustine to Bonhoeffer, are human beings, with human limitations, and they very often get it wrong.  However, they've occasionally made some positive contributions, and the study of sin is one of them.

And, as we said, it's quite practical.  This little snippet of theology has been very helpful to me, in my own life, and it might be helpful to you, as well.  The classic theologians broke down what we've called "the pathology of temptation" into four stages .... and anybody who's aware of them can observe them, and recognize them, very easily.

The first stage in temptation is called presentation.  This is when you're confronted with an object or a circumstance that could become sinful.  It could be a bottle of whiskey, an "off-limits" member of the opposite sex, a sudden financial windfall that you could hide on your taxes, or a thousand other things.  You see it: you're presented with it.  But merely being presented with it doesn't involve sin.  If it did, we'd all be sinning 24/7.


The second stage is called illumination.  This is when you understand what you're seeing, and the possibilities at hand .... and the moral aspects involved.  A woman in an office sees a co-worker smiling at her in a certain way (that's the presentation), and she thinks, "Hmmm ... you know, he's really interesting.  Not like my husband, at all!  And from the look on his face, I'll bet we could get together, and nobody would be the wiser."  Or the man in the store sees the open cash drawer, and thinks, "I'll bet they wouldn't miss a few twenties or so .... and I probably wouldn't get caught...."  Or you're looking for something on Google, and suddenly you're at one of "those" websites.  It's right there in front of you, and nobody would know if you spent some time there. That's illumination: realizing the possibilities involved in the object or situation.  But even this isn't sinful; it's just the way our minds work.

The third stage is called debate.  This is where it gets tricky, and more than tricky: this is when you actually consider getting involved with the object or situation that's potentially sinful.  You're no longer saying that you could "drown your sorrows" with the booze, or steal the money, or check out the pornography; at this stage, you're actually trying to decide whether or not to do it.  "Is it worth the risk?  It wouldn't really hurt anybody, would it?  And surely God understands, doesn't He?  After all, it's not like I'm killing anybody ... and if I don't get caught ... But no, it's wrong.  I shouldn't do it.  I know better.  And yet....."  That's debate: you're trying to decide whether or not to do the thing.


The fourth and final stage is decision. That's when you give in to the temptation, and say, "Damn the consequences, I'm going to do it!  It's my life, and I have a right to do what I want!"  And you do it, whatever "it" is.  The Holy Spirit tells you "No," and/or your conscience tells you "No," but you do it anyway.

But decision is not where "sin becomes sin."  That happened during the third stage, debate, when you were actually trying to decide whether or not to do it.  Up until that time, you hadn't sinned; you'd merely been tempted.  And temptation, obviously, isn't sin: even Jesus was tempted, by Satan in the desert.  But He didn't debate about it, or say, "Maybe Satan's got a point!"  Debate is where sin enters in.

I say it very carefully, and very reverently: God isn't so much interested in what we do .... as what we want to do. That's why Jesus said, whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart (Matthew 5:28). That's why John, writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said, Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him (1 John 3:15). Regardless of whether we ever reach the point of decision, and commit the actual act, the sin begins with the debate: for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). And the Lord - - - not your pastor, your Pope, or your mother - - - is the One Who decides what sin is.

But it doesn't have to get as far as the actual act, or even debate.  If a man or woman has been born again, according to John 3:3-7, he or she has been given exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust (2 Peter 1:4). Chief among these, in this matter of sin and temptation, is 1 Corinthians 10:13: There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. 

Never mind the theological terms; just remember the four stages in the pathology of temptation.  Presentation, simply seeing an object of temptation, isn't a sin.  Neither is illumination, when you realize what's available.  Sin begins with debate: when you start figuring the odds, wondering whether you can or should do it.  That's what leads to the actual decision, and the act of sin.

But even if we blow it, even if we ignore the warnings and walk headlong into sin, forgiveness is available.  Because we're not alone. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).  Although He never sinned, our God was once a Man, walking in the world, and He knew temptation.  He understands.  And, although we will always have to reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7), we can acquire forgiveness as soon as we sincerely ask for it: 1 John 1:9.

But how much better to avoid it in the first place!


Thursday, November 13, 2014

LUSH Cosmetics: the stylish way to support terror

Now comes the word that the LUSH Cosmetics company, headquartered in Great Britain, is actively and aggressively supporting some of Israel's most bitter enemies.  Specifically, LUSH is graciously contributing a percentage of its profits to the Palestinian terrorists' propaganda operations.

LUSH isn't sending money directly to Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood, of course.  That wouldn't be in keeping with the company's image of stylish, sexy sophistication: after all, when a lady goes to buy her bath salts and perfume, she doesn't want to get the blood of Jewish children on her hands. It would be déclassé. So, like "limousine liberals" everywhere, LUSH is merely funding the terrorists' propagandists: in this case, a gaggle of wannabe musicians and full-time malcontents called "OneWorld," who have produced a single record, "Freedom for Palestine." This silly, ill-conceived song is, one imagines, supposed to be in the tradition of "Give Peace a Chance" or "We Are the World." (Comparisons to other songs are difficult: "Freedom for Palestine" makes "Give Peace a Chance" sound like Stravinsky's Sacre du Printemps.  The song has been endorsed, with proper liberal self-righteousness, by such notable moral titans as Coldplay, Julie Christie, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, and the insufferable gasbag Desmond Tutu.)  This time, instead of ending the Vietnam War or supposedly feeding the children of Africa, the objective is to destroy Israel.

 
A cosmetics firm might seem to be an unlikely ally for the murderers of Jewish women and children, but, when one is engaged in the costly business of genocide, one will accept help from any quarter.  So, rather than rely on sales of its record (which is not exactly a chart-topper), "OneWorld" solicits blood money from trendy, "socially conscious" companies like LUSH.  Jesse Jackson or Yasir Arafat would be able to explain such shakedowns better than I can.

According to the manager of LUSH Cosmetics in Brent Cross, London, LUSH supports the PLO since “Israel is the stronger party” (in LUSH's perception), and therefore the actions of the Palestinian terrorists are justified.  No doubt the LUSH spokesman, and the "OneWorld" musicians, would applaud the murder of the Fogel family, described in a previous post. Of course, the mother, Ruth Fogel, who was murdered in her bed at age 35, won't have any use for LUSH products, and her infant daughter Hadas, having been beheaded by the Palestinians, will never need them.  But such is the struggle for "liberation of Palestine:" you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, right?


LUSH Cosmetics isn't the only group supporting "OneWorld," of course.  Among its other associates is an organization called "Friends of al-Aqsa," the so-called "Martyr's Brigade."  Indeed, one expects that Palestinian terrorists of every stripe cheer "OneWorld," even as they snicker at the gullibility and perfidy of capitalist infidels like LUSH.

Interestingly, LUSH brags of its support for "OneWorld" on its British website, but doesn't mention it on its American site.  Such hypocrisy reveals a knowledge that Jew hatred and anti-Israel sentiments are not as likely to be "selling points" in the United States.  LUSH is no mom-and-pop operation: they maintain over 600 stores in 43 countries.

Fortunately, the pro-terrorist activities of this wretched company are not going unnoticed.  In this video, demonstrators at the LUSH outlet in Beverly Hills, California, protest the company's actions.  The sound is intermittent in the video, but you get the idea: these are not reactionaries or hayseeds, but troubled residents of one of the most fashion-conscious, upscale communities on earth:

video

It's a long way from Beverly Hills to the bloodied nursery of little Hadas Fogel, but these people are standing up against the terrorists' propaganda.  If you care to join them, you might send an e-mail to the main office of LUSH, protesting the company's moral and financial support for those who would destroy Israel and kill every Jew on earth if it were in their power.  The address is customercare@lush.co.uk.  And, by all means, don't buy their products.  Finer and more fashionable cosmetics are not hard to find.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Asking God's Forgiveness

Well, you've done it again.  You were doing so well, living your life in the way it's supposed to be lived, avoiding the old sins and stupidities and mistakes .... but now you've slipped up again. You've sinned: maybe a big, dramatic sin, maybe just a fleeting, improper thought: but you've sinned, and you know you've sinned.  What do you say about it .... especially to God?  How do you makes things right?    

There are, at the most basic level, two indispensable, essential activities in the Christian life: reading and studying God's word, the Holy Bible; and prayer.  They call these things "spiritual disciplines," which is a word we don't like very much, but it's a good word to use: because sometimes, prayer and Bible study are hard work, and require real effort.  It's impossible to say which of the two is more important: in prayer, you're talking to God, and in reading the Bible, God is talking to you. That two-way communication is essential to any and every Christian.   
   ,

(By the way, if you're not a Christian - - - if you've never received Jesus Christ by an act of the will, according to John 1:12 - - - then this post really isn't terribly relevant to you.  For you, the issue is not "spiritual disciplines:" the issue is, "What will you do with Jesus Christ?"  He wants you to be born again, according to John 3:3-6. That's the starting point.  He's waiting to receive you with open arms, as soon as you're willing to receive Him.)

In this post, we're talking about prayer.  And any real praying begins with confessing our sins: clearing the decks, settling the accounts, clearing the channels of communication. (That's not a mixed metaphor, by the way: that's a series of metaphors!)  We need to get rid of the dead rats and the dust balls that are cluttering our conscience.

 
The first thing to realize is that God, in His mercy, meets us where we are. You don't have to be a theologian, or a lifelong Christian, to pray, or to confess your sins.  A child can do it - - - and, very often, children are more aware of the need to do it, and are more willing to do it, than adults! Maybe you just need to say,"God, I blew it when I did that, and I know it. Please forgive me!"
 

Every Christian, of course, is God's child: and we're approaching a loving, compassionate Father Who wants to forgive us.  Anyone who thinks that he or she is an "expert" on prayer has a lot to learn.  But, although God delights in the simple, heartfelt prayer of a child, He doesn't expect us to remain children, spiritually speaking, forever. He wants us to grow, to mature: and as we grow in our knowledge of Him, and our experience with Him, He expects us to learn more and more about communicating with Him.  A little boy or girl communicates in a certain way with his or her parents; but as they grow, they will communicate in far different ways with their friends, their business associates, and their own families.  "Baby talk" is perfectly appropriate for babies; but it doesn't work so well with a teacher or a business associate! 

The Bible is full of prayers, and instructions in prayer.  But it's not a "prayer book" or a missal: God doesn't want to hear us merely repeating the words of men and women who have gone before us.  We can often "quote" the Bible, in our prayers, if we're doing it sincerely; in fact, God loves hearing His word offered back to Him in prayer. But it has to be from the heart.  There's more to prayer than merely "Today's Reading" in the prayer book, or the twenty "Our Fathers" the priest prescribes.  Jesus spoke very clearly about that kind of "prayer:" But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking (Matthew 6:7). Anybody who tells you to repeat a certain prayer, a certain number of times, is, according to Jesus Christ, a heathen and an imposter.  When you communicate with your Father, you don't need a middleman, except for the One God Himself has provided: For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). You don't need Mary or a "saint" or a "priest" to approach God on your behalf: you only need Jesus - - - and you only need yourself, prompted by the Holy Spirit.

I don't know about you, or what parts of the Bible you've read the most, or which are the most important to you.  But I know the single verse that I've repeated more often than any other in my Christian life.  It's 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I learned very early about the importance of that verse: not because I'm a "quick study" (I'm just the opposite), but because God gave me some excellent teachers.


You see, we're usually aware of when we've blown it, when we've committed some obvious sin. But there are plenty of sins that we don't even realize we've committed. (I'm not trying to make you feel guilty; I'm trying to show you how to get rid of the guilt.)  God is far more aware of this than we are, of course, and He's unimaginably compassionate.  If we confess our sins - - - the ones we know about, the ones that are making us miserable and ashamed - - -  he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  We confess the sins we're aware of - - - losing our temper, mistreating our spouse, lying or stealing or lust - - - and, if we confess them sincerely, God forgives even the sins we haven't noticed: like not reading His word enough, or not being sensitive to someone's needs, or just acting like a fool. Think of that. How much more loving and forgiving could He be?  It has been aptly said, "If you take one step toward God, He'll take two steps toward you" - - - and this is a perfect example.

1 John 1:9 is a promise.  It's a categorical, propositional statement. Either it's true, or it's a lie.  We're going to proceed on the assumption that it's true, because if God has ever lied, nobody's ever caught Him.

In your prayers, try rephrasing that verse as a prayer.  (That's why I've repeated the verse so often, for forty-five years: I've been praying it, because I screw things up a lot.)  Let's say that you have a problem (i.e., a tendency to sin) with gambling.  You stay away from it for awhile, but then you blow your paycheck at a casino, or buy the lottery ticket.  You've sinned, and you know it.  So, instead of rationalizing and feeling guilty, you say "Father, please forgive my sin of gambling, and cleanse me from all unrighteousness."  If you're anything like me, you'll have more than one thing to confess!  But by praying that prayer, you've done at least two things: acknowledged your sin, and taken it to God, speaking to Him in His own words. And it works.  The verse isn't a lie. God forgives you!

It's also helpful to know that, whatever you've done, your prayers of confession are not going to take God by surprise, or "shock" Him. He's more aware of what you've done than you are, whether you confess it or not. The chronic adulterer, the brutal murderer, the most depraved pervert, hasn't done anything that God hasn't seen before.  (Sometimes, He's seen it in His own servants, such as the murderer Moses or the adulterer David or the Christ-denying Peter.) You can shock people, but you won't shock God.  Sadden Him, yes; but not surprise Him. O LORD, David prayed, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether (Psalm 139:1-4).  You grieved God when you sinned; but you won't grieve Him when you come to Him in contrition, asking His forgiveness.

There are far more principles of prayer than can be treated in a single post, of course. In this one, we're dealing with the specific issue of asking God's forgiveness.  Two things should be mentioned: first of all, we should keep "short accounts" with God. Don't let your sins pile up, so that you're weighted down with shame and hopelessness; don't wait until the next church service to confess your prayers.  Do it as soon as you become aware of them. If someone cuts you off in traffic, and you curse at them, you should ask God's forgiveness with your next breath: why wait? Get rid of the guilt right away!  The second thing to remember is that we don't need to confess the same sin twice - - - at least, not if we were sincere the first time. This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more (Hebrews 10:16-17).

The skeptics and scoffers love to ask, "Is there anything God can't do?" Yes, there is. Once we've placed our sins under the Blood of Jesus Christ, He can't see them, or remember them.  If you've sincerely confessed a sin, and asked God's forgiveness, you don't need to confess it again.  You may still feel guilty, and you may be tempted to confess it again: after all, the Enemy, Satan, will hold it over your head as long as you let him. But (I say it reverently), if I've confessed a sin sincerely, and then I go back and confess it a second time, God says, "What are you talking about?"  He's forgotten it!


The more you pray, and the more you study God's word, the more you learn about prayer. We've hardly scratched the surface, and will have to continue this in another post.  Because there's a great and deep truth that most Christians never realize: God isn't terribly interested in hearing us recite our sins.  (As we've seen, He already knows about them.)  He doesn't want us to ask forgiveness for what we've done, so much as He wants to hear us confess what we are.

That's where it gets deep!  And that's where we'll pick it up another time!