Tag Archives: North Korea

BRITISH-ISRAEL’S CALL FOR A FAST

The British-Israel World Federation (BIWF) has called a fast for this Saturday for the peoples of “the Covenant Nations.”

The British-Israelites formed their federation in 1919, but their beliefs can be traced back to the previous century.   As the British Empire expanded during Queen Victoria’s reign and America was spreading westward fulfilling its “manifest destiny,” so the number of believers grew.   Their belief is based on God’s promises to Israel in Genesis 48, that the two sons of his son Joseph would grow into a “company of nations” and “a great nation” – the British Empire and the United States of America.

It was a widely-held belief in the trenches of World War I, when men from all over the British Empire fought against Imperial Germany.   The losses were so great that people became disillusioned with both religion and the empire.

As Britons turned increasingly away from their Christian heritage, so BIWF lost some support.   The organization was supported by some prominent members of the British establishment, the most famous of which was Princess Alice, one of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters.   In the 1930’s, as the Countess of Athlone, she was married to the Governor-General of South Africa; from 1940, following the sudden death of John Buchan, the popular Governor-General of Canada, she and her husband moved to Canada in war time, so that he could serve there, replacing John Buchan.   They remained in Canada until 1946.   On two occasions, they hosted President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill at Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor-General.   King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth II, also made supportive statements reflecting a belief in BI.   A former prime minister of New Zealand was also a member.  They have branches in a number of countries, including all the “covenant nations”.

The idea still persists, in spite of Wikipedia’s claim that the theory has been disproved, for which they give no evidence.   Yair Davidy’s Brit-Am organization in Israel supports the theory with archaeological evidence.     An American organization called “Truth in History” publishes a magazine, which also upholds the teaching. Additionally, the Churches of God that came out of Herbert W Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God, continue to believe – their interpretation of prophecy is heavily influenced by British-Israelism.

Some are dogmatic in their support of BI, while others are equally dogmatic in their dismissal of the belief.   There are those who believe the evidence supporting BI is overwhelming, but there are others who don’t consider it conclusive and reject the teaching.

Whether you believe the theory or not is largely irrelevant.   The fact Is that the “covenant nations” are in deep trouble, hence the call for a fast.   Coincidentally, the date chosen for the fast is also the Jewish Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year for Jews.   On this day, believers are expected to fast completely, abstaining from all food and drink.   The idea is for everybody to humble themselves before God, to be “at-one” with God, through prayer and Bible Study, as well as worshipping Him with others of like mind.

It’s also a day for repentance.   Repentance means to change, to overcome sin and return to God with great fervor.   It’s unlikely that the peoples of the “covenant nations” will go that far.

Followers of BI believe that Ephraim is the ancestor of the British peoples and nations that became dominions after independence (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa).   Note what God said to Ephraim in Hosea 7:8-10:

“Ephraim has mixed himself among the peoples; Ephraim is a cake unturned.   Aliens have devoured his strength, but he does not know it, yes, gray hairs are here and there on him, yet he does not know it. And the pride of Israel testifies to his face, but they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek Him for all this.”

A little over seventy years ago, the descendants of Joseph, the peoples of the covenant nations, the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic peoples, dominated the globe.   The British Empire and the United States had emerged victorious after World War II and it seemed as if God had given them supremacy all over the globe.   But things started to go wrong immediately. The British lost their empire in the twenty years after the war; and the United States and Britain now seem unable to win any conflicts.

The Commonwealth has largely unraveled and may not survive the death of the Queen and ascension of her son, Prince Charles.

Certainly, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are not as close as they once were.   They no longer form an effective military force and no longer see themselves as fulfilling a common destiny. They have also taken in millions of people from other cultures who do not share the same values inherited from Britain.  (“Ephraim has mixed himself among the peoples”;  “aliens have devoured his strength.”)

At the present time, the greatest threat comes from Brexit and this is why BIWF has called for a fast.   Brexit negotiations are not going well.   The United Kingdom seems to be intimidated by the European Union, lacking in self-confidence, its stance somewhat reminiscent of Neville Chamberlain prior to World War II.  (“Grey hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knows it not.”)

BIWF’s call for a fast and a day of prayer has this to say about Brexit: “On 29th March 2017, Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty was triggered for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.   We need to pray that the LORD will deliver the United Kingdom completely from the Babylonish EU as the difficult negotiations proceed.”

BIWF publishes a book called “We Have a Guardian” recording historical evidence that shows God’s intervention to help Britain in times of trouble.   “Dunkirk” was one example in 1940.   They are calling for God to intervene again, to save Britain through Brexit and to restore the country to its former self, when many of the people were devout Christians.   They are mindful of the Queen’s Coronation Oath, to maintain the laws of God and the true religion, two promises that all the queen’s governments in each of her dominions have conveniently forgotten.

They are also mindful of the threat to the United States and the rest of the world posed by North Korea, calling upon their members to pray about the situation so that a devastating war can be avoided. Such a war would finish off North Korea, but may also set back the United States, allowing other nations to fill the vacuum.

Remember to pray for your country on this fast day.

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GUAM IN THE HEADLIGHTS

Guam isn’t in the news very often.   But right now it is.   The reason? North Korea has threatened to “nuke” it first.   It seems to have the technology to do it. But will it?   That is the question.

A North Korean attack on the US Pacific island would likely kill most of the 160,000 Americans who live there; but, within minutes, most of North Korea’s population would also be dead in a US retaliatory strike.  That figure would include North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un. Even if he has a bunker to retire to through the attack, he would no longer have a kingdom to rule over.   Kim would lose everything in minutes.   The three-generation Kim dynasty would be history!

Logic and common sense say he won’t do it.   But logic and common sense are sadly lacking in North Korea.

The world awaits developments and hopes for a good outcome.

Back to Guam.

The world was much simpler when the US took possession of the island in 1898.   It was one of four territories acquired by the United States as a result of the Spanish-American War.   The others were Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Guam had been a Spanish territory for 230 years, since 1668.

When the USS Charleston arrived in Guam to capture the territory, the ship fired its cannons in the direction of the Spanish fort on the island.   The Spanish garrison took some time to respond.   Eventually, they sent a delegation to apologize to the Americans. They had thought the cannons were a salute and they had no means of reciprocating – they hadn’t realized this was an invasion.   It had been a while since they had received any communication from Spain.

So Guam fell into American hands.

Not without some opposition – at home.   The United States was terribly divided on the issue of foreign adventures.   Pro-interventionists included President McKinley, the future Vice President Theodore Roosevelt and newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst, a man of great influence at the time.   All three felt that America needed overseas possessions, like European nations. Against the acquisition of colonies were Mark Twain, Dale Carnegie and William Jennings Bryan.   These two were often referred to as the “pro-imperialists” and the “anti-imperialists.”   Imperialism was very much in vogue at the end of the nineteenth century.

The great debate around the birth of the American Empire is the subject of a new history book, entitled “The True Flag” by Stephen Kinzer, a foreign correspondent who now writes for the Boston Globe.   The Spanish-American War was a major turning point in American history and, indeed, in world history. It launched the US as a global power.

“Various forces united to push McKinley toward his decision to seize the Philippines.   Navy commanders recognized Manila Bay as a magnificent platform from which to project American strategic power into East Asia.   Business leaders saw millions of new customers for American goods, the prospect of rich resources, and a springboard to the potentially immense China market.   Missionaries and religious groups swooned at the prospect of saving millions of lost souls for Christ.   McKinley himself recognized above all the political value of annexation – and the furor he feared would engulf him if he turned away from empire at this crucial moment.” (“The True Flag,” page 87.)

Later, McKinley, a deeply religious man, recounted a vision he had at this time.

“When McKinley emerged from his trance, he found himself believing that the United States could not grant independence to the Philippines because its people were ‘unfit for self-government,’ and that ‘there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them and by God’s grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow men for whom Christ also died.” (ibid.)

The following paragraph adds:  “McKinley was deeply religious, and his account of this vision was no doubt sincere.  Nevertheless he must have recognized the happy coincidence: what God wanted him to do would also be popular with voters.  This time, God sounded remarkably like Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge.”

These paragraphs show just how much American thinking has changed in the last century.   America’s track record in international affairs has been mixed, at best.   The Spanish-American War was won by the US.   World Wars One and Two, were also won, with allies, but there were many problems after the fighting was over.   Wars since World War Two have largely not been won and the country is now caught up in never ending conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan.   The resultant turmoil has created an unprecedented refugee problem and untold suffering.

Americans are often woefully ignorant of these wars and the mess that is left behind.   President McKinley did not know where the Philippines and Guam were when he ordered US forces to take both.   Somebody once said that “wars are nature’s way of teaching Americans geography” — there is a great deal of truth to that.

History, too.   A review of a new book on President James Buchanan, who was in office immediately before Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, described him as one of the worst ever leaders of the free world.   This remark fails to appreciate that Americans presidents did not lead the Free World until after World War Two.

“The first time the phrase ‘Leader of the free world’ appeared in The New York Times was in a November 1948 essay by the British economist Barbara Ward, which urged Western unity against the communist threat. With its unchallenged economic might, the United States was ‘potentially the political leader of the free world.’“ (‘What does it mean that Trump is “Leader of the Free World,” by Dominic Tierney, The Atlantic, January 2017.)

Dozens of nations have been truly and deeply thankful for the American umbrella, especially the nuclear umbrella, which protected them from communism during the Cold War.   However, the Cold War ended over a quarter of a century ago.   Now, there are other threats and the US is not doing so well.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell speech in 1961 warned:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.  The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

A powerful military-industrial complex will constantly be pushing the country toward war to justify its existence and its cost to the tax-payer.   Each of these wars divides the country as assuredly as the first overseas military adventures in 1898.   The wars in the Islamic world have cost the US billions, in addition to thousands of lives.   The result has been described by historian Geoffrey Wawro (University of North Texas) as “Quicksand,” the title of his 2010 book – the more we struggle to get out, the more we get sucked in!

WILL AMERICAN HEGEMONY BE A CONSTANT?

President Trump has vowed to maintain American hegemony, while at the same time promising to put “America First.”   Ultimately, these two are opposites.   America already suffers from a bad case of “imperial over-reach,” with too many commitments around the globe.  Can the US handle a major conflict on the Korean peninsula, together with unfinished wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan? Can the US afford another major conflict, with a $20 trillion overdraft?   Will American voters support more wars?   President Trump has added another possible military intervention, saying that the US may have to intervene militarily in Venezuela.

History shows that every great power eventually burns out.  Before the US, the British Empire was the world’s number one superpower. After World War Two, the British had to deal with three major international problems all at the same time – in India, Palestine and Greece.   Imperial over-reach led to a withdrawal from Greece and the US was well on the way to replacing the United Kingdom as the world’s policeman.   Americans should not fall into the trap of thinking the same cannot happen to them.   The country has a bad case of imperial hubris, just as Britain did before the US.

History shows the inevitability of America’s demise.

So does the Bible.

Bible scholars have long known that the US plays no role in the final prophesied events, which center on Europe and the Middle East.

This implies that something big is going to happen to America, which returns the country to its pre-1898 status, isolated from the rest of the world.   However, it won’t be the same as pre-1898 – then, the US was secure in its isolation; now, there’s too much bitterness and resentment around the world toward the United States.   Additionally, the United States is more divided now than it was then.

Daniel 2:21 reminds us that God is behind the rise and fall of nations.

“And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.”

In the sixth century BC, while living in the Babylonian Empire, Daniel had a vision that revealed to him that Babylon would soon fall and be replaced by Persia; in turn, Persia would give way to Greece and Greece to Rome.   This is exactly what happened over the next few centuries.   Each of those superpowers, in turn, thought it was invincible; yet, each one fell.   Both history and the Bible show the inevitability of this continuing.

Already, there are voices declaring the 21st century China’s century, just as the twentieth was America’s and the nineteenth Great Britain’s. Certainly,   China is a rising power.   It’s the main reason North Korea can threaten the US at this time and seemingly get away with it.

But the Bible shows that the final superpower is a power that has not yet formed; that ten nations will come together and threaten the peace and security of the world.

Revelation 17:12-13 says the following:

“The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.   These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.”

The term “for one hour” means that this superpower will not last very long.   America’s supremacy has lasted 70 years, Britain’s was much longer; the next one will be a lot shorter.

Which brings us back to Guam.

When the USS Charleston took possession of Guam en route to the Philippines, America became a major power in Asia.   A successful attack on Guam from North Korea would signal the end of the American Empire.   It happened once before in 1942 when the Japanese took the island, but the US returned after defeating Japan.     A nuclear attack on the island would mean there’s nothing to return to.

It’s likely that something will be worked out and we will return to peace – this time.   But at some point American hegemony will end and it could end on an island thousands of miles away or somewhere closer to home.   It’s worth remembering that the British Empire suffered two major defeats, in Singapore (1942) and Suez (1956).

Stephen Kinzer, who wrote “The True Flag,” has an accompanying article in the latest issue of American History magazine.   He ends with an observation by Mark Twain, who opposed America’s international expansion.

The last two paragraphs make for sobering reading:  “Despondent, Twain wrote a bitter lament. His observations, trenchant then, sound eerily appropriate today.  (italics mine)

“It was impossible to save the Great Republic,”  Twain wrote.  “She was rotten to the heart.   Lust of conquest had long ago done it’s work.   Trampling upon the helpless abroad had taught her, by natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home; multitudes who had applauded the crushing of other people’s liberties, lived to suffer for their mistake in their own persons.   The government was irrevocably in the hands of the prodigiously rich and their hangers-on, the suffrage was become a mere machine, which they used as they chose.   There was no principle but commercialism, no patriotism but of the pocket.”

(This blog is a fully independent blog that has no connection to any church or secular organization. It was started to keep people informed on international affairs in light of the scriptures.   Financial support comes from myself and readers who generously donate to help cover costs.)

GOVERNMENT FOR THE PEOPLE

Margaret Thatcher defined socialism as “equal shares of misery for all,” the best definition I’ve ever read of the economic theory and subsequent reality.

The following is a more matter-of-fact explanation that I got when I googled “socialism,” looking for the exact definition.

“a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole;……

  • (in Marxist theory) a transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism  and the realization of communism.”

Basically, what it’s saying is that government controls everything and it’s a stepping-stone to communism.  Keep in mind that Marxists believe that, when communism is achieved, everybody lives in paradise – although, of course, they don’t actually believe in paradise, heaven or any other nirvana.

The reality, of course, is that people actually live in hell.

The best example of communism today is North Korea, where everything is controlled by the government, even thoughts.

Another example is Cuba, where almost everything is controlled by the government.

China is not a very good example.  Not any more.  Whereas the government still controls every thought, the economy is more of a free for all.   So long as you keep your mouth shut, you can be a millionaire!

Until the latest British election, many people thought socialism was dead.   Mrs. Thatcher herself had rolled back socialism in the UK and helped the nations of Eastern Europe send the communists packing. But the latest election in the United Kingdom showed that socialism is alive and kicking – and may even be the next government.

Why the appeal?  Because when people feel the inequities of capitalism, they naturally favor the opposite, thinking everything will be put right by the firm hand of government.

Somebody once said that “conservatives believe in the exploitation of man by man; while socialists believe the exact opposite!” Think about it before moving on!

Venezuela has been in the news a great deal over the last few days. There, an incompetent socialist government has destroyed the nation’s economy.  An attempt was made by a member of the country’s military to overthrow the government.  The sight of the helicopter flying over the capital city of Caracas brought back memories of a similar situation in Ghana almost 40 years ago.

Ghana is a case study in the failings of socialism, well-meant but a disaster.

Ghana got its independence from Great Britain in 1957.  It was the first black African country to receive independence, first because it was the most promising, with the greatest number of highly educated citizens and the most money in the bank.   Within four years, it was bankrupt and a dictatorship.   Eventually, the military had to take over to save the country.

A second attempt was made at democracy, which also failed; the military then took over again.   Whereas the politicians were generally well educated, military men were not well-versed in running an economy.   Soon, there was a high rate of inflation and serious shortages.   These led to a coup on June 4th, 1979, a coup my wife and I experienced first-hand.

The helicopter flying overhead, filmed by somebody on a balcony, reminded me of how Diane watched a similar scene during Ghana’s coup.   In Ghana, the helicopter opened fire and she quickly went indoors.   At the time, I was trying to get back to the house using side roads to avoid the fighting.   At one point, I was held up at gunpoint by rebel soldiers who wanted to take my car.

The coup was successful.   A new government came to power led by Flight Lt. J.J. Rawlings, an avowed socialist who was enamored by the way things were done in Eastern Europe.   The people said the “J.J.” stood for “Junior Jesus.”

He immediately started setting things right, freezing the price of eggs at 8 cedis a dozen and controlling the price of beer, two priorities!   The problem was that farmers could not produce eggs to sell at that price as chicken feed was too expensive; with beer, there was a shortage of hops.   I thought that a national shortage of beer would lead to revolution fairly quickly, but I was wrong.   Ghana remains the only African nation I know of that did not experience civil unrest when the beer ran out!

Serious shortages became a major problem.   Supermarkets had next to nothing on their shelves.   Basic commodities could only be obtained through barter – I remember bartering shirts for gasoline and toilet paper for rice!

As the economy went into freefall, so the government was made more oppressive.   Foreigners were blamed for just about everything – in August, we were told to leave the country.

Elections had been scheduled before Rawlings took over.   Under pressure, he allowed them to go ahead and a new, still socialist, government came to power, led by a nice man who was also an alcoholic.   At least beer was now available!

Eventually, he was overthrown and J.J. was back, followed by even greater economic disaster.   It wasn’t until Rawlings started to reverse socialism and encourage free enterprise that things started to improve.

Government control of the economy = disaster.   Mrs. T got it right!

So why is socialism “in vogue” again?   The rising gap between rich and poor is one answer; another is the youth vote – most young people have no memory of when Europe was largely socialist.   As Winston Churchill once said:   “If you’re not a socialist at 20, you’ve got no heart; if you’re still a socialist at 30, you’ve got no head”.

In I Samuel 8 we read an account of how Israel wanted a human leader like all the other nations around them.   God warned the people that it would mean greater financial hardship, as government would constantly expand and the people would have to pay for it.  The warning was of 10% taxation.  Today, taxes run much higher.

10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who asked him for a king. 11 And he said, “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. 12 He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. 14 And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. 16 And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men,[a] and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. 18 And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.”

Don’t just assume that this only applies to kings and kingdoms.   In the last century, new nations have come into existence, most of them with a president rather than a king.   It turns out the kings were cheaper.   Note the following from Ecclesiastes 10:16-17:

“Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child,
And your princes feast in the morning!
17 Blessed are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobles,
And your princes feast at the proper time—
For strength and not for drunkenness!”

Elected politicians think they have an automatic right to take everybody else’s money and spend it how they want.   Again, Margaret Thatcher put it well when she observed:  “the trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money!”

That’s exactly what Jeremy Corbyn of Britain’s Labour (socialist) party is promising the people – more taxes to help government expand.

That’s what Venezuela got with Hugo Chavez, the socialist president who presided over the collapse of the country’s economy.   His successor, Nicolas Maduro, has not been able to improve things.

The great lesson here is: there’s a lot of evils in capitalism, but don’t think government will make things better!

Just ask the Venezuelans….!

 

 

 

SPRING BREAK

Last week was Spring Break.   We had all nine grandchildren in the house for almost a week.   Sickness struck halfway through and two of them came down with the flu.   So did Grandma.

On the last day, Sunday, our eldest daughter took her four children home to Indianapolis, to be ready for school Monday morning.   For the remainder of the day I was the only functioning adult in the house, with a sick wife (Grandma) and three young children, one of whom is only ten months old.

It was quite a day!

I’m thankful to say that the two oldest boys, 5 and 4, were perfectly well behaved and the baby was no trouble at all.

On the Friday I was able to take my wife to Urgent Care, where they confirmed a diagnosis of influenza.   Hers was a particularly bad strain.   The doctor tactlessly added that it could be very serious “at her age.”   She also added that she would be contagious for five days and should remain in bed.   Just as well – she did not have the strength to move.

Each day of Spring Break, I made it a point to take our four granddaughters out for some fun.   The girls are all 10-12 and are generally happy doing things together.   The first day the local library had a free session called “Game On” where children of their age could come together and play electronic games.

On the Wednesday morning, another library offered a free magic show which was, apparently, very good.   I was there, but I made the mistake of taking one of the 4-year-old boys with me – and he had difficulty sitting still, which meant that I could not sit still, either.   From there, we had to rush back to go to another library for their Spring Carnival, games for children of all ages.

Thursday, the same library offered a Lego afternoon.   I used to play Lego with our children 30+ years ago, but now I find it extremely challenging as all the Lego pieces seem to get under my feet and cause me grievous bodily harm.   So our two daughters took the boys, while I took the girls bowling, followed by milkshakes at Steak and Shake (half price shakes from 2-5).   We had a lot of fun.

On the Friday, our son took all four girls to a bouncy place, while I took Grandma to Urgent Care.   (This was due to the flu, not the grandchildren!)

Why do I mention all this?

Because almost everything was free the entire week.   When you check out the library, there are so many “events” on over Spring Break, none of which cost anything.   Before leaving “Game On” on the Tuesday, I asked two of the girls to check out the DVDs and see what we could take home to watch.   They chose all four “Home Alone” movies.   You didn’t know there were four?   Neither did I, but I spent each evening watching them with the girls and quite enjoyed them. 8-year-old Kevin reminded me of 4-year-old Leeson – Leeson would definitely give any intruders a hard time!   All five boys together are a more effective deterrent than the most vicious Rottweiler.     Again, as with the activities, the movies were free.

So if you are a grandmother about to host nine grandchildren for a week, remember the library.   Even if it’s a place of refuge while you leave the grandkids at home with Grandpa.

I love these weeks when we are all together.   They don’t happen very often.   Which is just as well – with all the “kids” here, I did not find time to write my blog, or even to keep up on the news.   One thing I’ve learned, though, as a grandparent, is to give the grandchildren 100% of my time when they are with us.   Nothing is more important than building good relationships within the family.

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BABY FIRST

Our ten-month-old grandson Hayden is not up to joining in any of the activities his older siblings and cousins are into, but he has taken a decided liking to the “Baby First” channel while he bounces up and down in his bouncer.   The channel is produced with babies in mind – and their parents, who are ready to spend lots of money on that first baby!   They have lots of singing of familiar nursery rhymes, cute little lambs running around on a farm in Wales and endless reruns of “Harry, the Bunny.”   The channel will certainly entertain your baby, but how many grandparents have been driven nuts watching it is what I want to know???

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WARS AND RUMORS OF WARS   (Matthew 24:6)

A more serious matter is the never-ending wars we see each night on television.

Syria and Iraq continue to dominate the news.   It’s difficult to understand the full complexity of the fighting that goes on and on, year after year, in both countries.

The West is appalled that President Assad has dropped chemical weapons on “his own people.”   I should mention that he denies doing anything of the kind and has even asked “where are the dead?” when TV viewers everywhere have witnessed dozens of children convulsing, struggling to breathe and even dying on camera.   Secondly, westerners need to learn that, to Assad, these are not his own people.   His own people are Alawites, who number 11% of Syria’s population.   The chemical weapon attack was on a village in Idlib province, which is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim, with a significant percentage of Christians.

Assad’s wife is from a Sunni background, but she seems to be in denial of everything that’s going on.

We should remember, too, that what’s going on is the direct result of our meddling in the Middle East.   We don’t need Mideast oil any more and Israel can take care of itself.   Why are we there?

The origins of the disaster that is the current Middle East go back a century to the Great War, otherwise known as World War One.  The war led to the collapse of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire, the last Caliphate.   It gave independence, freedom (supposedly) to new nations like Syria and Iraq.   Artificially created and not fully taking into account sectarian boundaries, the result has been a disaster.

Interestingly, a hundred years after the fall of the Ottomans, the present Turkish president seems to want to restore the old empire and is projecting Turkish power into neighboring countries.   He is also seeking more power for himself with a referendum on Sunday.

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VIMY RIDGE

A few days ago, on April 8th, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in France for the centenary commemoration of the battle that was Canada’s coming of age, the Battle of Vimy Ridge, in which thousands of Canadians died and many more suffered serious injury. The PM had this to say:

“One hundred years ago, on a gentle slope in France, the four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought for the first time as one. They were ordinary – yet extraordinary – men, from all corners of the country: Francophone, Anglophone, new Canadians, Indigenous Peoples.

“On Easter Monday, April 1917, battling through snow, sleet, and constant machine gun fire, they broke through an impregnable fortress and achieved a historic victory.   They succeeded where other armies had failed – but at a great cost.   Nearly 3,600 Canadians lost their lives.   Over 7,000 more were wounded. The Battle of Vimy Ridge remains one of the bloodiest battles in Canada’s history.

“Despite these losses, Canadian bravery and ingenuity won the day and led to one of the most decisive victories in the First World War. The innovative fighting techniques used so effectively by our soldiers at Vimy Ridge would contribute to the final Allied victory a year and a half later.”

Mr. Trudeau continued:   “Many of the soldiers wearing the Canadian uniform that day were immigrants to this country.   People of many languages and backgrounds, representing every region in Canada, fought for the values we hold so dear:   freedom, democracy, and peace.   In the words of one veteran:   ‘We went up Vimy Ridge as Albertans and Nova Scotians.   We came down as Canadians.’

“Today, as we gather to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, we remember the thousands of Canadians who gave their lives far from Canada’s shores.   We pay tribute to the 100th anniversary of a pivotal battle that has left an indelible mark on our history.   And we thank every Canadian who has answered the call to serve for their selflessness and sacrifice.”

On the surface, these two paragraphs seem well motivated, but they overlook a simple fact.   Amidst all the talk of people from many languages and backgrounds fighting for Canada is the simple fact that Canada has radically changed.   A century ago Canada was very much a Dominion of the British Empire, sharing the ideals of Great Britain and its other dominions, Australia, New Zealand and, at the time, South Africa.   These nations were committed to freedom and all fought together from Day One of what, at the time, was the greatest war in history.

The nations were bound by a common loyalty to the Crown. Indeed, Prince Charles, the future King of Canada, was present at the same ceremony.   So were both of his sons, who have served in the British military.

What has changed is this:   Canada is now much more multicultural. The very word originated in Canada, coined by a royal commission back in 1971.   Today, immigrants are more likely to come from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, than from Europe.

In the event of another conflict like World War One (or Two), would all these people be so willing to die for the values Canada has traditionally held?

The prime minister’s speech ended with the traditional words used at events commemorating wars:   “Lest we forget.”   Sadly, the contribution made by Britain and the British dominions has been forgotten.

This is also the centenary of America’s entry into world affairs.   The country declared war on Germany on April 6th, 1917.   After the war the US withdrew from further international involvement until 1941.

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DEFINITION OF INSANITY

Stefan Lofven is the Prime Minister of Sweden, the country that witnessed its worst-ever terrorist attack a few days ago when a migrant from Uzbekistan in central Asia drove a truck into a big department store.   Sweden has had the most generous open-door policy in Europe during the migrant crisis.   The prime minister has now said that will change.

But nothing has changed, either in Sweden or anywhere else.   It seems that western politicians are incapable of changing immigration policies.

According to the late Albert Einstein (died 1955), this means that our politicians are mostly mad.   Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Western nations endure one terrorist attack after another, yet they continue to allow Muslim immigration!

It’s the same on the American side of the Atlantic.   Mark Twain once said:   “Suppose you are an idiot and suppose you are a Member of Congress; but I repeat myself.”

Neither of these two men was addressing Islamic immigration, but what they said is certainly applicable.

So, what should a Christian do?

I Peter 2:17 instructed Christians to “honor the king.”   Today, most countries have presidents, not kings, but the principle still applies.   The Apostle Peter wrote while under the yoke of Rome, an empire that produced the occasional emperor of unsound mind.   In 64 AD, following the Great Fire, which he himself started, an intense persecution of Christians was started by Nero, who blamed the new sect for the destruction of 70% of the imperial city.   Yet Christians were still told to “honor the king.”

Western leaders are certainly guilty of upholding erroneous ideas.   They can even be said to be of unsound mind.   It’s doubtful either Einstein or Twain would alter their famous statements.

In theory they should be voted out of office.   But even when that happens (as with Brexit and Trump), it’s clear that very little is likely to change.

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MORE WARS AND RUMORS OF WAR

>It’s 50 years since the Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors, a war which ended in a decisive Israeli victory and the fall of Jerusalem to the Israelis.   Russia has now recognized West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, at the same time recognizing East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent Palestine.    Will the US follow?

>>AFGHANISTAN continues in the news, as the US has dropped its most powerful non-nuclear bomb on an area of the country with a very active ISIS presence.   Three dozen were killed.   Will ISIS be defeated with this more aggressive approach?   If they are, will that be the end of Islamic fundamentalism?   Doubtful.

>>Another war may be brewing in the Far East, as North Korea pursues its nuclear program and threatens the South, Japan and the United States.   Some voices in the US want war with the North.   It should be remembered that, after three years of war from 1950-53, North Korea was not defeated and the US was forced into a stalemate.

>>Libya continues to be engaged in a civil war, which has had a major impact on its economy.   Reports this week are of African migrants being sold in the market-place as slaves, one way for locals to make money.   In an appalling twist, those being sold are giving slave traders their cell phones so that captives can call home to ask for money.   Relatives must listen while their sons and daughters are being tortured.

>>Torture is the best way to describe a recent incident in Detroit, which will undoubtedly become more common with the numbers of Muslims increasing.   A female Muslim Detroit doctor has been charged with performing GFM (Genital Female Mutilation) on two 7-year-old girls, a custom common in some Islamic nations.   No feminists have yet raised their voice to condemn the incident in Detroit.

One person who had this surgery performed on her when she was a child was Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somalian who now lives in the Washington DC area and is constantly warning of the dangers from Islam.   Her latest book is “The Challenge of Diwa.”   Note the following extracted from her book by Giulio Meotti, published by the Gatestone Institute, 4/10:   “According to one estimate, 10−15 percent of the world’s Muslims are Islamists.   Out of well over 1.6 billion, or 23 percent of the globe’s population, that implies more than 160 million individuals.”

>> Headline in today’s MEMRI:   “Women Arrested In Iran For Dressing As Men In Order To Attend Soccer Game; Khamenei Issues Fatwa Against Women Riding Bicycles In Public.”

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GOOD FRIDAY

Today is Good Friday, the day most Christians believe is the day on which Jesus Christ was crucified.   When I was growing up, nothing was open on this day.   We certainly had no school and I remember a discussion with one of my teachers a day or two before in which I asked why  it’s called “Good” Friday.   It was certainly a somber day and we all knew it.

I’ve just returned from the bank and a store.   Both were crowded.

Times have certainly changed.  The only god worshipped in today’s western world is the god of materialism.  Nothing else seems to matter any more.

We would do well to remember Acts 4:12:  “. . . there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”   Having forgotten this, the western world fails to see clearly the threat from Islam, thinking that all religions are equally valid or equally ridiculous, depending on your point of view.

 

 

 

 

 

THE PASSAGE OF TIME

Aubren watching the clock strike.
Aubren watching the clock strike.

We’re still moving.

Although the move has gone smoothly, we’re still adjusting to a new home and can’t seem to find anything when we need it.   Or it’s still at the old house!

One little thing has made quite a difference.

In 2002, our youngest daughter bought an “antique grandfather clock” from England that was a limited edition clock to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.   The clock bears a commemorative plate on the front.   Of course, it’s not really an antique as it’s only 14 years old, but it looks like an antique.   Finally, we have a good place for it and it’s now chiming every 15 minutes from 7am to 10pm.

Our eldest grandson loves it.

Wherever he is in his “new house” he runs to the clock when it starts chiming and is fascinated by it.   He then comes running back to me pointing in the direction of the clock and repeating enthusiastically “Hickory Dickory Dock.”   (Long-time readers will remember his love of the old nursery rhyme.)   I’m taking the opportunity to teach him time using the clock.   Every hour you hear the number of strokes denoting the passage of time.   The chimes are “Westminster” chimes, just like Big Ben.

Although, to be exact, not like Big Ben, which, after 150 years, has now been silenced for extensive repairs.  I don’t know what the BBC will do.  When we lived in Ghana, we heard the chimes of Big Ben every day on the BBC World Service, the most listened to radio service in the world.   In a period of turmoil, it conveyed a sense of stability, normalcy and even sanity.  But it’s now too old to continue – until it’s fully repaired.

Our clock and London’s famous clock are reminders of the passage of time.

No two days are exactly alike in this world.   Every fifteen minutes, there’s likely to be some change.   I wonder what the world of our grandchildren will be like when they are 65?

This year we are seeing some changes that may turn out to be very significant.

On Sunday, Austrians gave the right-wing Freedom Party the most votes in the first round of the Austrian presidential election. Now, the president of Austria does not have executive powers.   His responsibilities are more ceremonial, similar to what the Queen has in the United Kingdom.   However, he can dissolve parliament and call an election.   If he does, we may find his party wins and controls parliament.   Europe is moving to the right as the people reject the traditional centrist parties that have governed for seven decades. It’s similar to the 1930’s with a rising nationalism, xenophobia and economic stagnation all contributory factors.

Arguably, the same phenomenon is taking place in the United States with Donald Trump.

We see it in a number of different countries.  In the United Kingdom, a referendum is to take place in a few weeks on the country’s continued membership of the European Union.   We should not confuse this with the euro-zone – Britain has an exemption on this issue regardless of the outcome of the vote.   The EU itself is the issue in June. The EU has a great deal of support, but many want to put “Britain First,” the name of one of the anti-EU parties on the political right.

In hindsight, it was a big mistake for Britain to enter the Union in 1973.  But after more than 40 years of marriage, divorce is not going to be easy.   In the short-term the outcome may not make much of a difference.  The EU is evolving into something more akin to the Holy Roman Empire than the United States, with no two members seemingly alike.  Whatever the outcome of the June 23rd vote, the UK will have to come to terms with a German-dominated potential superpower on its doorstep.

So will the US.   Donald Trump gave a major speech yesterday calling for a radical reappraisal of US foreign policy.   He promised to put “America First,” the name of a movement in the 1930’s to keep America out of Europe’s rising conflict.

It’s been 25 years since the fall of communism but the US continues to spend billions each year defending long-time allies against Russia, China and North Korea.   There is growing resentment amongst American voters who feel that the US has to spend more than its fair share, at a time when Americans are experiencing a fall in their standard of living.

There could be significant changes if Trump wins the election in November.

At the same time, there could be significant changes in Europe regardless of who wins the US election.

King Solomon wrote 3,000 years ago:

“That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.”  (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Future historians may label this period in time as “the rise of nationalism.”   But it’s nothing new.   We’ve been there before.   The post-World War II international set-up is increasingly falling apart.   Within the next few months we could see some real changes.

In Daniel 2:21 the ancient prophet says of God:

“And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.”

God is behind the rise and fall of nations.   America, like Britain before it, has had its period of pre-eminence.   A withdrawal from much of the world would inevitably diminish America’s international standing – the president would no longer be “the Leader of the Free World.”

It would be time for another superpower to fill the vacuum.

Like our grandfather clock, our grandchildren are likely to see these changes and feel the impact as their world dramatically changes.   They will need to remember the words of Jesus Christ to pray fervently for the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:10).

SECOND REPUBLICAN DEBATE

2nd rpublican debate

Senator Marco Rubio summed up current threats facing the United States during the Republican Presidential Debate on Wednesday evening.   These are not just threats to the US – the same threats are facing the entire Western world, whether you live in North America, Europe or Australasia.

“There is a lunatic in North Korea with dozens of nuclear weapons, with long-range rockets that can hit the very place where we are standing tonight; the Chinese are rapidly expanding their military and are hacking into our security systems; they are also building artificial islands in the South China Sea, the most important shipping lane in the world; a gangster in Moscow is not just threatening Europe – he’s been threatening to destroy and divide NATO; you have radical jihadists in dozens of countries across multiple continents and they even recruit Americans using social media to try to attack us here at home; and now we have this horrible deal with Iran where a radical Shia cleric with an apocalyptic vision of the future is also guaranteed to one day possess nuclear weapons and also long range rockets that can hit the United States.”

He continued to remind his audience that the most important responsibility of any president is to ensure the peace and safety of the American people, but what we have now is a president who is eviscerating the US military.   He added, that “we have a president who is more respectful to the ayatollah of Iran than to the Prime Minister of Israel.”

Senator Rubio was correct on every point.   He might have added the current invasion of Europe, which also threatens national and international security, though this has not unduly affected the United States yet.

The issues he mentioned are, of course, not the ones being discussed on television talk shows, where celebrity gossip and sensational revelations remain the staple of the day and night.   As syndicated conservative writer Mark Steyn put in a recent article:  “We will still be discussing transgendered bathrooms when the mullahs send their first nukes this way!”

I should add that a few of Wednesday night’s candidates had clearly taken an “International Relations 101” class since the last debate. That’s good, because they are going to need it, assuming one of them actually becomes an occupant of the White House.

Some final comments on CNN, the channel that hosted this debate (Fox hosted the first one).   Whereas Fox News is clearly more conservative, CNN is quite liberal, though not as liberal as MSNBC, which is avowedly liberal.   USA Today stated yesterday, the morning after the debate, that CNN had its highest ratings ever for the Republican debate – perhaps that should tell them something!

CNN may also want to vet its commentators better – a female journalist from the Chicago Sun-Times was asked to comment Thursday morning on one issue that came up in the debate: who should be on the $10 bill?   Right now, it’s Alexander Hamilton.   It is being suggested that the man who founded the US financial system should be replaced by a more recent female.  Carly Fiorina, the only woman candidate for the Republicans, felt this was an empty gesture during an Administration that has seen the numbers of women living below the poverty line increase by 3.5 million.   The journalist’s response was critical – that it makes no sense to keep a long since dead president on the currency.

For the record, Alexander Hamilton was never president.

Her comment is symbolic of a wider problem amongst journalists – ignorance of history, without which there can be no understanding of the present!

 

 

THE WORLD’S OLDEST DEMOCRACY

Indian artist Harwinder Singh Gill shows off his creation, an image of US president Barack Obama carved on a duck's egg shell with the national flags of India and the United States, on January 24, 2015. Mr Obama is due to arrive in India on January 25, 2015.  Munish Sharma/Reuters
Indian artist Harwinder Singh Gill shows off his creation, an image of US president Barack Obama carved on a duck’s egg shell with the national flags of India and the United States, on January 24, 2015. Mr Obama is due to arrive in India on January 25, 2015.
Munish Sharma/Reuters

All nations have an inflated view of themselves and their place in the world.

The Times of London famously carried a front-page headline over a century ago that read:   “Fog in Channel.   Europe cut off.”   The reality, of course, was that Britain itself was cut off from the much bigger continent of Europe.

This morning (Monday) I heard something similar on CBS.   It was a news item on President Obama’s visit to India.   It went something like this:   “The leader of the world’s oldest democracy is meeting the leader of the world’s largest.”

Now, I’ve heard this before . . . but this time I want to comment.

How can the United States, barely 200 years old, possibly be the world’s oldest anything?

It certainly isn’t the world’s oldest democracy.

I googled this, asking where the idea comes from.   The answer, it seems, is the politicians.   In recent years, they have been claiming this is the case, when it isn’t.   Ignorance of history never stopped anybody from attaining office.

For the record, one of the first things the original colonists did when they landed in Jamestown, was hold an election.   Elections were regularly held in the colonial period.   The turnout averaged 90%.   On this basis alone, you could say that colonial America was more democratic than what we have now, when participation is usually less than 50%.

When the colonists held that first election, they were not inventing democracy.   Their country of origin, Great Britain, already had a democratic system in place.   Not since 1215 had English kings held absolute power.   For centuries after that date, parliament was gradually becoming more powerful at the expense of the crown.

The first parliament was summoned in 1264.

Part of the problem is that “democracy” can mean different things in different countries.

The North Koreans call themselves “The Democratic Peoples Republic” of Korea but they are neither democratic nor a republic.

When I googled the word “democracy,” this is the definition it came up with.   Democracy is “a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.”   “All the eligible members of a state” does not necessarily mean that every person has the vote.

Today, in the year 2015, we in the West think of a democracy as a country where every adult has the vote.   But this has not always been the case.   It wasn’t in ancient Greece, the birthplace of democracy, where women and slaves were not allowed to vote.   A universal franchise, where everyone has the vote, is a fairly recent thing.   It did not exist in the United States until at least 1964 when the Voting Rights Act guaranteed the right of all adults to vote.   Even then, there were some who missed out until more recently.   In England, women got the vote in 1918, but they had to be 30, whereas men could vote at 21.   Ten years later, the law was changed to make women fully equal with men.

Forty years ago, we lived in Rhodesia, which had a qualified franchise, similar to what the United States had in its infancy.   Actually, Rhodesia was more generous as women had the vote equally with men, something America didn’t have until 1920.   Rhodesia had five qualifications for voting.   Diane and I did not meet all five, whereas many Africans we knew did.   Once everybody got the vote, a dictatorship came to power and has remained there for 35 years.   Rhodesia was far more democratic than its successor state.

Anyway, forget England and America.   Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and the Isle of Man all have a parliamentary system that goes back to the ninth or tenth centuries.

There is no basis for claiming the US is the world’s oldest democracy. But what would you expect from a bunch of lawyers in Congress? After all, they are wrong on most things!