What You Need to Know about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

“Israel is an apartheid state.”

It is the mantra of protestors against Israel all over the world.

It is meant to be inflammatory.

It is meant to shut down all other discussion.

It is meant to delegitimize Israel as a nation.

But is it true?

Apartheid was specifically used to describe the racial segregation in South Africa prior to the 1990s. It is a Dutch word meaning “apartness.” In South Africa, it described the rule of a white minority (about 10% of the population) over the black majority (about 90% of the population). Blacks could not vote or participate in the government of their own nation. Intermarriage was prohibited. Segregation was enforced in all phases of life, including work, school, public transportation, restaurants, and swimming pools.

This bears no semblance to the nation of Israel.

Israel is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. It has one of the highest percentage of immigrants (from multiple different ethnicities) of any other nation in the world. Arabs in Israel can vote, participate in government, and participate in all civic activities. There are Arabs serving in the Knesset (Israeli parliament), acting as judges, even on the Supreme Court, leading hospitals, teaching in universities, serving as diplomats, police officers, and army officers. If you ever visit Israel, then you will see mosques and minarets throughout the nation and regularly hear the Muslim call to prayer during the day.

Does Israel have problems?


Are there injustices? Instances of discrimination? Ethnic conflicts?


Israel has issues like any nation that has a mixed ethnic population. But it is not “racist” in its very existence, as stated by so many groups that desire to de-legitimize Israel as a nation. It is actually the freest, most democratic nation in that region of the world.

Does simply being predominantly Jewish make it racist?

No…not any more than a predominantly Arab or Muslim nation could be considered racist.

So when it comes to the word “apartheid,” I can’t help but think of the classic line from The Princess Bride.

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

So how did we get to this point? What is the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

If you truly want to understand what is going on in Israel today, then you have to step back and get the bigger view. This requires a little reading and research into history. Let me give you the most concise summary that I can give you.

The Jews have been connected to the land of Israel since 2000 BC.

Anyone who reads the Bible or studies secular history knows that the Jews have been in the land of Israel since the call of Abraham around 2000 BC.

They have been oppressed, driven out, taken captive, and under subjugation over the course of those four thousand years but it is not a stretch to say that the land of Israel (often called Palestine today) has been tied to the Jewish people from the very beginning of human history.

Two key dates are worth mentioning.

586 BC. The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple and took much of the population into exile. When they were finally allowed to return (under the Persians), many did while others continued living in what would be the modern-day nation of Iraq.

Over time, the Temple was rebuilt in Jerusalem and the Jews enjoyed a brief time of independence. But soon the Romans would take over the land of Israel and put the Jews under their control.

AD 70. The Romans would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple and again scatter many of the Jews around the world.

Israel ceased to be a nation after AD 70.

The land was no longer known as Judea and Samaria but was called “Palestine” to disassociate the Jews from this area of the world.

But the Jews never lost their longing and love to some day return to Jerusalem and to the land of Israel. At the end of every Passover meal, the common saying was “next year in Jerusalem.”

It seemed like a vain hope.

The Jews were systematically persecuted throughout much of history.

Scattered throughout the world, the Jews never could find a true home. And no nation every seemed to welcome them for long.

Both Muslim and Christian nations found reason to persecute and oppress the Jewish people. They were blamed for killing Jesus, for poisoning food and water, for causing the bubonic plague, and for creating any financial crisis that happened to fall on a nation.

This persecution increased substantially in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Many nations talked about having a “Jewish problem,” trying to figure out what to do with the Jews that lived in their territory.

The National Anti-Semitic Party in Hungary (yes, that was their actual name) started a slogan, “Jew, Go Back to Palestine!”

Many nations wanted the Jews to leave and go back to their homeland. Jews took this to heart and began to dream of a day when the majority of Jews could once again live in the land of Israel.

Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) lived in Hungary at the time and heard this slogan many times during his lifetime. In 1896, he wrote a book, The Jewish State, which would lay out his plan for the establishment of a Jewish state either in Palestine or somewhere else like Argentina or Uganda. In Herzl’s mind, a Jewish state would solve the “Jewish problem.” His hope was that it would also end anti-Semitism and bring greater peace into the world.

BUT in the meantime, the persecution of Jews and the rise of anti-Semitism continued.

In Russia, the pogroms began.

A pogram is defined as “an organized massacre of a particular ethnic group, in particular that of Jewish people in Russia or eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.”

When local cities and citizens got tired of the Jews in their area, they would often rise up (with tacit approval from the authorities) and kill many Jews, displace the survivors, and take over their property.

As one Russian Jew wrote during this time:

For the living, the Jew is a dead man. For the natives, an alien and a vagrant. For property holders, a beggar. For the poor, an exploiter and a millionaire. For patriots, a man without a country. For all classes, a hated rival. (Leon Pinsker)

In the end, close to 200,000 Jews would be killed in the Russian pogroms.

The Jews in many ways were the “scapegoats” of the world.

Aliens. Refugees. A people without a nation.

Beginning in the late 19th century, Jews from around the world began to migrate more and more to Palestine. There was already a small, isolated Jewish community in this area but now more and more Jews began to come, looking for freedom, looking for peace, looking for some place to call home.

The land of Palestine was a loosely populated, mostly undeveloped territory of the Ottoman Empire.

What was Palestine like in the 19th century?

It was mostly rural with villages dispersed throughout the region. It was described as “tribal” and “clannish” with no central authority or governance. The Turks ruled over the area but did little to develop it. Though the area was mostly Arab, there were over 25,000 Jews who lived in the area, mostly concentrated in Jerusalem where they were a majority.

As more and more Jews began to arrive, they purchased more and more land and began to form their own communities. Most of the land they purchased was either desert or swamp land (usually sold at a steep price) but they began to develop it as best as they could. In 1909, Tel Aviv was born. During this time, many also began to speak Hebrew and to try to revive this ancient language which had mostly disappeared.

In 1938, Walter Lowdermilk, an American soil scientist, would visit the land of Israel and remark that what the Jews had done in water reclamation and agriculture was “the most remarkable work he had seen in all the world.” (Even today the nation of Israel remains the most innovative in the world with agricultural strategies and water reclamation that is studied by many other nations. Their process of “drip irrigation,” in which not one drop of water is wasted, is just one example.)

In 1917, something else significant happened. The British government, recognizing the historical ties of the Jews to the land of Israel and the significant developments that they were accomplishing there, made the Balfour Declaration:

His Majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object…

At the time, this was a remarkable statement…but it had no real political weight.

That was until the “Jewish problem” in Europe would give birth to the “final solution” in Germany.

Nazi Germany seeks the complete annihilation of the Jewish people.

Hitler saw the Jews as the ultimate enemy not only of Germany but also of all of humanity.

If…the Jew is victorious over the other peoples of the world, his crown will be the funeral wreath of humanity and this planet will, as it did thousands of years ago, move through the ether devoid of men. …Here he [the Jew] stops at nothing, and in his vileness he becomes so gigantic that no one need be surprised if among our people the personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil assumes the living shape of the Jew. (Adolf Hitler)

Hitler’s solution to the problem of the Jew was their complete annihilation.

By the end of the Holocaust, six million Jews would be massacred. This number represents roughly one-third of the total Jewish population throughout the world.

Most people are familiar with the atrocities committed against the Jews in Germany and Eastern Europe during the Holocaust. But what most people do not realize is that while the Jews were trying to escape the Holocaust, many could find no place to land.

In the years leading up to World War II, thousands and thousands of Jews from Eastern Europe migrated to Palestine. They heard the drumbeats of war and wanted to escape to a place of safety. But as their numbers in Palestine increased, the Arabs in the area revolted. Violence erupted. Riots began. Jewish stores and farmlands were attacked. The British, who were overseeing Palestine at the time, tried to quell the violence but suffered attacks as well. In an effort to appease the Arabs, the British decided to limit Jewish immigration into the land. Eventually, the only way that the Arabs could be appeased was by making all Jewish immigration into Palestine illegal. Thus, when WW II started and many Jews tried to make their way to Palestine, often they were re-routed or sent to containment camps in other parts of the world.

Many Jews traded the barbed wire of Germany for the barbed wire of remote islands and refugee camps.

Even while being slaughtered, the Jew continued to be a person without a home.

Behind the scenes, Haj Amin al-Husayni, the mufti of Jerusalem and an Arab representative, met with Adolf Hitler in Germany. Their goal was the same: the annihilation of the Jews.

Israel finally has a homeland. 

After Germany’s surrender and the end of WW II, the issue of the Jews and the Arabs in the land of Palestine became a burning issue. The British washed their hands of the whole affair. They quickly realized that the Israeli-Arab conflict was beyond their ability or willingness to resolve.

The newly formed United Nations appointed a special committee to try to formulate a solution. In 1947, their conclusion was that Palestine needed to be divided into separate Jewish and Arab states with Jerusalem under international control. With American and Russian support, along with the support of many nations around the world, Resolution 181 was approved on November 29, 1947.

Andrei Gromyko, the Soviet representative at the UN Meeting, stated what most people clearly understood at the time:

The Jewish people had been closely linked with Palestine for a considerable period in history… As a result of the war, the Jews as a people have suffered more than any other people… The Jewish people were therefore striving to create a State of their own, and it would be unjust to deny them that right.

Israel finally had a home!

But it would not be easy to keep.

The day after the UN vote, the Arabs attacked the Jews living in Palestine. In the minds of many Arabs, there could be no “two state solution.” The only solution they would accept would be the complete elimination of the Jews from Palestine.

This was made even more clear on the day after Israel finally declared their independence as a nation on May 14, 1948. Before the celebration could even get started, the new nation of Israel was attacked by Arab armies from Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.

Amazingly, or perhaps you could say miraculously, with a fledging army and little help from the other nations, Israel survived.

Despite fierce opposition from all around…to the north, to the east, and to the south…Israel’s Declaration of Independence offered a hand of peace:

We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. …The State of Israel will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex. And to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel, we invite you to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship.

The hand of peace was extended but unfortunately it was not taken hold of.

The beginning of the Palestinian refugees.

Even before Israel officially became a nation, many Palestinians began to leave. But as the war continued, and as Israel strengthened its borders, the number of Arabs who fled or were forced out of their homes (depending on which historical narratives you read) increased.

It soon became a crisis…and a humanitarian disaster.

There is no easy way around it.

In one sense, you could argue that all of the Arabs should have stayed and welcomed the opportunity to help the Jews build a new nation. But in another sense, it is understandable that many would feel like the change was too great and that they were being forced out of their land.

In the end, 700,000 Palestinians would be displaced.

Ironically, almost exactly the same number of Jews would flee Muslim nations at the same time…not to mention, the millions of Jews who had already been displaced.

The difference would be, while the displaced Jews would find their way to Israel, the Palestinian refugees would be unable to find a home in the other Arab nations. Perhaps they simply did not want another home but it also appears that the Arab nations around Israel did not seek to welcome them in. In many ways, the refugee crisis would be an ongoing issue that the Arab nations would use to attack Israel at the UN and in other negotiations.

Historian Daniel Gordis observes:

From Israel’s perspective, it seemed rather than solving the problem of the refugees, Lebanon, Syria, and (to a lesser extent) Jordan chose to keep the refugees as an ace in their pocket. They would use this “asset” in future negotiations with the Zionist enemy–for even then, they were determined not to end the conflict until Israel no longer existed.

Whether one agrees with Gordis’ assessment or not, the reality is that the Palestinian refugee crisis still exists today 75 years later. And for the most part, the only solution to this problem in the minds of several Arab nations, along with many terrorist groups who have formed against Israel, is the complete removal of the Jewish people from the land or at least their total subjugation.

Since 1948, Israel has faced ongoing wars and failed attempts at peace.

The story of Israel from 1948 until today is one of frequent conflict and failed attempts at peace.

In every instance, Israel has been the nation that has been threatened or attacked first. The rationale behind these attacks is that Israel should not exist in the first place.

In 1967, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan formed an alliance together to attack Israel. Their objective was simple: To destroy Israel. In Arab nations around the world, the chant began to go up: “Death to the Jews!” and “Drive the Jews into the sea!”

Unfortunately, the rest of the world, including the U.S., France, and Great Britain, decided to stay on the sidelines. As the western world became more dependent on Arab oil and as the US found itself embroiled in the Vietnam War, there was simply no interest in helping Israel defend itself.

Israel was on its own.

After exhausting every diplomatic effort it could and seeking every avenue to peace, Israel went to war.

The war was over in six days. Israel was victorious and gained control of the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank (including Jerusalem), and the Golan Heights.

Though it was a victory on the battlefield, it was the beginning of even more problems for the Israeli government. Now they had control over territory that was almost entirely populated with Muslim Arabs. Finding a way to govern these territories while maintaining peace became an increasingly impossible task.

Meanwhile, the Arab world was now even more unified in their opposition to Israel.

On September 1, 1967, the Arab League (a council of 22 Arab nations) met in Khartoum, Sudan and passed the Khartoum Resolution.

The Arab Heads of State have agreed to unite their political efforts at the international and diplomatic level to eliminate the effects of the aggression and to ensure the withdrawal of the aggressive Israeli forces from the Arab lands which have been occupied since the aggression of June 5. This will be done within the framework of the main principles by which the Arab States abide, namely, no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it, and insistence on the rights of the Palestinian people in their own country.

The Resolution has shaped the Arab nations’ approach to Israel even to this day. The Three No’s of the Resolution have served as a mantra in many Arab nations:

  1. No peace.
  2. No recognition.
  3. No negotiations.

Within the West Bank (the area from Jerusalem to the Jordan River), the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) rose in power. The PLO’s leader, Yassar Arafat, began using terrorist tactics to attack the Jews, not only in Israel but around the world. His stated goal was “to uproot the Zionist entity from our land and liberate it.”

PLO terrorists made covert raids into Israel to kill civilians. They hijacked planes which carried Israeli passengers. They attacked a Jewish senior center in Germany. And they played a role in the taking of hostages at the 1972 Olympics where 12 Israeli athletes were tortured, castrated, and killed.

Other terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas also began with the same stated goal: the destruction of Israel.

The very charter of Hamas makes this goal clear:

Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it…

Palestine is an Islamic land… Since this is the case, the Liberation of Palestine is an individual duty for every Moslem wherever he may be…

[Peace] initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement… Those conferences are no more than a means to appoint the infidels as arbitrators in the lands of Islam…

There is no solution for the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility.

Despite these stated goals, Israel continued to work toward peace.

Israel relinquished the Sinai Peninsula back to Egypt in order to make peace. Anwar Sadat and Menachim Begin signed this agreement at Camp David in 1978. The Arab League would withdraw Egypt’s membership in response to this agreement. A few years later, Sadat would be assassinated.

In 1993, Israel would enter into an agreement with the Palestinian Authority in the Oslo Accords. Israel withdrew from the West Bank and relinquished control to the Palestinian Authority. Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat would shake hands together in front of Bill Clinton at the White House.

After this agreement, terrorist attacks in Israel increased rapidly. More Israelis died between 1994-1996 from terrorist attacks than at any other time in their history (until the most recent attacks from Hamas).

Arafat said the right things in the news but did nothing to stem the attacks behind the scenes.

Clinton would later say that believing Yasser Arafat was “the biggest mistake I made in my presidency.”

Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, accused the Jews of starting both world wars and fabricating the Holocaust. He called the death of six million Jews “a fantastic lie.”

Israel seemed to face a “no win situation.” Every time they gave up land or control of a territory in exchange for peace, they faced more and more terrorist attacks.

As former Prime Minister Shimon Peres said: “Instead of thanks, we got bombs.”

Turning the court of public opinion against Israel.

Unable to win on the battlefield, the PLO and the Arab nations began to take their case to the UN and to the court of public opinion.

In 1975, with a strong alliance of 19 Arab nations and 16 Communist nations, along with many African nations, the UN passed Resolution 3379 which stated that “zionism is a form of racism.” In other resolutions, Israel was equated with zionism which meant that Israel, by its very existence, was a racist nation.

Daniel Moynihan, the US ambassador to the UN at that time, was unequivocal in his opposition to these resolutions.

The UN has become the locus of a general assault by the majority of the nations of the world on the principles of liberal democracy which are now only found in a minority of nations… This resolution is the very quintessence of the totalitarian mode. A total inversion of meaning…a total distortion of truth…a reckless act…one of the most grievous errors of the thirty year life of the United Nations.

The general consensus among Arab and Communist nations was that Israel as a nation was wrong from the very beginning. In the first decade of the new millennium, the UN would go on to issue 314 resolutions concerning Israel, nearly 40% of their total resolutions passed at that time. Almost all of them condemned Israel in some form or fashion. At the same time, the UN did not pass a single resolution against China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, or Sudan which had egregious human rights violations.

Other “human rights” groups and organizations soon took up the mantle of the UN condemnation of Israel. Amnesty International. Human Rights Watch. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement. All found reasons to condemn Israel, even while Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad boldly declared, “The Iranian nation is committed to the full annihilation of Israel.” 

Iran, which is the strongest supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah, continues to use its power and resources to seek the destruction of Israel…and continues to rule their own people with a totalitarian fist.

A nation bent on Israel’s annihilation funds terrorist organizations bent on Israel’s annihilation and yet many young people and college campuses in America see Israel as the problem.

This is the propaganda campaign of anti-Semitism. And unfortunately, it can be very effective.

Israel’s battle with Hamas today.

This brings us to our present day.

On October 7th, Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel and raped, kidnapped, injured, and killed thousands of Israelis, mostly civilians, including babies, children, women, and aged Holocaust survivors.

It was the deadliest terrorist attack in Israel’s history.

And the babies, children, and teenagers (at a music festival focused on peace no less) killed were not collateral damage. They were specifically targeted.

Israel will respond militarily.

In fact, Israel has to respond for their own future security.

The situation in the Gaza Strip is tragic. It is deplorable in many regards. But Israel is in another “no win” situation. To open the doors to Gaza is to open the doors to terrorism. To withdraw and to blockade it is to earn the condemnation of many “human rights” organizations around the world.

To appease Hamas will lead to more deaths.

To attack Hamas will also lead to more deaths.

Hamas is not interested in peace.

They are not even interested in their own people.

They will use their own civilians as “human shields” and blame Israel for any human loss.

Their objective is not peace…but destruction.

They are not interested in a “two state solution.” They only want one solution: the complete annihilation of Israel.

When one party is only committed to your destruction, then peace is simply not possible.

This does not mean that we don’t pray for peace…that we don’t pray for the protection of innocent lives in the Gaza Strip…that we don’t pray for wisdom and discretion for the leaders of Israel.

All people are made in the image of God.

All are valuable in God’s eyes.

This also does not mean that we see all of Israel’s actions as absolutely right. Israeli soldiers and citizens have committed atrocities in the past. They have, at times, abused their power, acted unjustly, been guilty of discrimination.

Just as all of us are valuable in God’s eyes, all of us are also sinners.

We are all capable of the worst of sins.

So is there moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas?

Absolutely not.

When injustice is committed by Israel, their free press will point it out. Citizens will call it out. The government will condemn it and seek to rectify it.

On the other hand when injustice is committed by Hamas, there is no free press to point it out. Their citizens have no voice. Their government will celebrate it and seek to multiply it.

In any nation in the world, sins will be committed.

Injustice will happen.

Evil will occur.

But the question is whether those evil actions are in contradiction to your stated values and constitution or are they in line with them.

Israel is not an apartheid state.

It is an attacked state.

Israel is not a perfect state.

But it is a democratic state.

Israel is not always right.

But they are a rightful ally.

That is why we should stand with them and seek their good.

Pray for peace in Jerusalem: May those who love her be safe. (Psalm 122:6)

Posted in Government/Politics | 10 Comments

Why We Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity. (Psalm 122:6-9)

What is going on in Israel is hard to fathom. Civilians murdered. Women and children taken hostage. Babies slaughtered.

It is hatred. It is brutality. It is evil.

It is demonic.

Satan hates the nation of Israel.

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. (Revelation 12:1-4)

The woman in Revelation 12 is not Mary. It is Israel.

Israel is the nation that gave birth to the Messiah (Micah 5:2).

Israel is at the heart of God’s redemptive story (Romans 11:1-32).

Israel is the apple of God’s eye (Zechariah 2:8).

And the dragon (Satan), the serpent of old, hates them.

When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. (Revelation 12:13)

Satan has always sought the destruction of Israel. There is a reason that Israel has been hated throughout human history. There is a reason that the Babylonians sought to destroy them, that the Seleucids defiled and massacred them, that the Romans subjugated them and tried to wipe Jerusalem off the map, that nations around the world have persecuted them, that the Germans dehumanized them and tried to annihilate them.

There is a reason that the Jews are hated today…by the nations around them…by anti-Semites around the world…by deceived students on American college campuses.

Yet the nation of Israel still stands.

A testimony of God’s faithfulness.

A testament to fulfilled prophecy.

A timetable for Christ’ return.

Frederick the Great (1712-86), the King of Prussia, once asked his physician, “Can you name me a single proof of the existence of God?”

His physician replied, “Your majesty, the Jews.”

Mark Twain (1835-1910) once commented, in amazement and wonder:

The Egyptian, Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away. The Greek and Roman followed, made a vast noise and they are gone. Other peoples have sprung up, and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out and they sit in twilight now or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal, but the Jew. All other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?

British historian, Martin Gilbert (1936-2015), noted:

As my research into Jewish history progressed, I was surprised, depressed, and to some extent overwhelmed by the perpetual and irrational violence which pursued the Jews in every country and to almost every corner of the globe. If, therefore, persecution, expulsion, torture, humiliation, and mass murder haunt these pages, it is because they also haunt the Jewish story.

The nation of Israel was destroyed and scattered around the world in AD 70.

The nation was dead. The language was dead. The hope of any kind of national regathering seemed impossible.

Yet, in 1948, the miraculous happened.

The nation of Israel was reborn.

The language of Hebrew was relearned.

The hope of a people was restored.

If you need proof of God, look to Israel.

Israel today, slightly bigger than New Jersey, surrounded by nations that want to drive them into the sea, is still the centerpiece of history.

Does that mean that everything that the nation of Israel does is absolutely right?

Absolutely not.

Just read the Bible and you will see that God has not always been pleased with His people, the Jews.

But God still loves them…and He has not cast them aside.

One day a national revival will come to Israel.

One day they will turn to their Messiah, Jesus, the One whom they have pierced.

And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. (Zechariah 12:10)

And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.” (Romans 11:26-27)

So we pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Their peace is our peace.

We pray for God’s protection of His people.

We pray for their repentance and faith.

We pray for the people around them…that they would not believe the lies of the evil one, that they would see the truth of God’s Word, that they would know the grace of God’s Son.

And we pray with believers throughout the ages.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)

Posted in Random Thoughts | 1 Comment

What Would I Say to Donald Trump?

TrumpAfter a recent Bible study, I was asked by someone, “What would you say if you had a chance to talk with Donald Trump?”

It was an interesting question.

It caught me off guard.

I had to pause to think.

For one thing, Donald Trump would never ask me what I thought and I can’t imagine any scenario in which I would get a personal audience with him. So, to be quite frank, the question had never entered my mind.

For another, I knew that the person asking really liked Trump. She asked sincerely and respectfully but I could sense that the answer she was looking for was something positive and encouraging…something like “Stay strong, Mr. Trump! All this legal stuff is just a politically motivated attack on you because they are scared of you. Despite everything that is happening, you will be the president of the United States again.”

Maybe that wasn’t the answer she was looking for but I am pretty sure that many Trump supporters would want to tell the former president something similar…probably with a lot more fervor, passion, and hope.

Not knowing exactly what to say, I stumbled with my words.

“Wow, that is a great question. I haven’t thought about it before. I would probably tell him that it is time to step aside and let someone else lead. But, to be honest, I don’t know.”

And I still don’t know.

One thing I have learned over the past seven years is that there seems to be no middle ground with Donald Trump. You either love him or you hate him. You either see him as some divinely gifted leader or as some devilish narcissist.

Bring up Donald Trump in a mixed social gathering and be prepared for the party to break up into distinct factions…with a punch bowl turned over and a few punches thrown in between.

Calm rationality goes out the window.

Passionate emotions fill the room.

It is not a pretty scene.

So I tread carefully.

I have family members and close friends on both sides of the equation. I have interacted with people who love Trump and with those who hate him…and I have even been caught in between at times.

So my goal is not to stir up more dissension and arguments. We certainly don’t need more of that in our politically polarized culture. My goal is to offer a few calm, rational, biblically-informed thoughts which I pray could be helpful to someone out there.

Let me start with something basic.

Donald Trump is merely a man.

He is not the Messiah and he is not the Antichrist.

If you tend to think that he is one or the other, then all I can say is that there is no reason to keep reading what I have to say. It will only make you more angry. So here is a page on the internet that you can click on to make everything okay.

Donald Trump is a flawed man (like us all). He is weak. He is fallible. He is mortal. He is subject to physical tiredness, sickness, and aging. He can be swayed by his moods and his emotions. He is limited in his understanding and perspective. He is prone to slips, lapses, mistakes, and sins.

He is, quite simply, human.

You may think he is a great leader, above par from everyone else out there, or you may think he is a charlatan building his success off his name and eccentricity. But whatever the case, he is merely a man and not worthy of any kind of special veneration or vilification.

Sever yourselves from such a man,
Whose breath is in his nostrils;
For of what account is he? (Isaiah 2:22, NKJV)

Or as another Bible translation put it:

Stop trusting in mere humans,
Who have but a breath in their nostrils.
Why hold them in esteem? (Isaiah 2:22, NIV)

Donald Trump is not worth the emotional outrage or adoration that he seems to generate.

He is a man.

He lives by breathing out his nostrils.

His life is limited and his strength is weak.

Put your trust or your focus elsewhere.

Donald Trump has supported policies and made decisions that align with Judeo-Christian values and principles.

Some people wonder how any Christian could have voted for Donald Trump.

It’s really not that hard to figure out.

For one, the options were limited. When the other major presidential candidate was Hillary Clinton (2016) or Joe Biden (2020), then every voter had to make a decision to vote for the Republican candidate, vote for the Democratic candidate, vote for a third party candidate (with no statistical chance of winning), or not vote at all.

Maybe in an ideal world a lot of us would have chosen different candidates. But we have to vote in the real world not a virtual one and that requires choosing the best option, or the least disagreeable option, available to you.

When I go to a particular Mexican restaurant with my wife (which is her favorite and probably my least favorite), I have to find something on the menu that I don’t mind eating. I may wish that there was a Chick Fila sandwich or a Five Guys cheeseburger on the menu, but there isn’t. So I have to make the best choice with the limited options that I am presented.

That’s what the last two presidential elections have been like for me.

When I read the Republican and the Democratic platforms, then, as a Christian, I choose to vote for the party that, at least on paper, advocates for the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage, the priority of the family, the value of religious liberty, and the importance of individual responsibility and work. Other Christians may have different values or priorities but I don’t see how they can ignore the importance of these issues from a biblical standpoint.

Again, we make the best choice on the menu we are presented.

I can appreciate anyone who looks at the issues, looks at the available candidates, and then makes the best choice that they can according to their own conscience and convictions.

That’s the best that any of us can do.

For all of Donald Trump’s flaws, he did support several key issues and policies that a great number of Christians hold dear. And he didn’t seem ashamed to talk about them. That made him a favorable candidate to many Christians and a “best of the available options” choice for many others.

Donald Trump has not exhibited a character that aligns with Judeo-Christian values and principles. 

I don’t think many Christians would dispute this…though many might excuse it.

“We are voting for a president not a Sunday School teacher!”

Valid point.

The qualifications to be president are much different than a volunteer Sunday School teacher…or even a full-time pastor.

But one thing should still be a constant.


This used to be a given in Christian circles, even when talking about political leaders.

No, they didn’t need to be perfect. No, they didn’t need to be a church-going Christian. No, they didn’t even need to have the best marriage or family life. But they at least needed to have a character that exhibited the traits of integrity, honesty, civility, and leadership.

Character matters.

Character in many ways is everything in leadership. It is made up of many things, but I would say character is really integrity. (Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower)

Leadership is a combination of strategy and character. If you must be without one, be without the strategy. (Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf)

The conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh hammered this point as well:

Character matters; leadership descends from character.

Of course, Limbaugh said this during the Clinton years. He echoed the voices of many Christian leaders at that time too.

I remember those days well.

I even wrote a letter to the editor of my local newspaper on why character matters, even in secular, political leaders. I used Proverbs 25:19 as the basis of my comments.

Putting confidence in an unreliable man is like chewing with a sore tooth or trying to run on a broken foot.

The Hebrew word for “unreliable” refers particularly to a person who is not faithful in his marriage, in his relationships, in his words, or in his general conduct. He tends to use people for his own ends.

Relying on such a person is like having a tooth that hurts every time you chew or trying to run when your foot is broken. It is painful and you ultimately don’t get very far without causing further damage.

Like Limbaugh said, “Leadership descends from character.”

You lead out of the person you are.

You have no other choice.

So let’s be honest. Almost all of us can agree that Donald Trump is not a paragon of virtue.

His mouth is caustic.

His sexual past is notorious.

His self-promotion is usually on full display.

And his personal relationships are either non-existent or frayed at best.

There have been few presidents with as much turnover in his Cabinet as Donald Trump and perhaps none who have turned so vehemently and viciously against some of his closest political allies and friends. Jeff Sessions. Gen. James Mattis. Rex Tillerson. John Kelly. John Bolton. Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. Bill Stepien. Chris Christie. Nikki Haley. Betsy DeVos. Elaine Chao. Stephanie Grisham. Tom Bosssert. Alyssa Farrah Griffin. Eric Herschmann. Anthony Scaramucci. Ty Cobb. Michael Cohen. Richard Spencer. Gary Cohn. Mick Mulvaney. Mark Esper. Ann Coulter. Bill Barr. And even his former vice-president, Mike Pence.

Now his legal troubles are about to engulf him.

Perhaps all his indictments could be labeled “politically motivated.” But isn’t just about everything politically motivated in today’s world? The question isn’t if it is politically motivated but whether there is any validity to the claims. And most avid supporters, even if they think Trump is being unfairly prosecuted and persecuted, would probably acknowledge that he has acted unethically and flouted the law to some degree.

If there is no fire, he certainly has produced an awful lot of smoke.

In the end, you may still see Trump as the “best of the whole corrupt bunch,” the strongest candidate out there, and the only one who speaks for you. That’s fine. But whatever you do, don’t put all your hope in Donald Trump or see him as some kind of prophesied political messiah. That’s not “fighting the Deep State” but rather flirting with heresy.

There’s only one Messiah. There’s only one Savior. There’s only one blessed hope.

And his name is not Trump.

On the other side of the coin, if you can’t stand Donald Trump and think he was one of the worst presidents to ever sit in the White House, it does no good to keep talking about him incessantly or demeaning anyone who may support him. It is actually counter-productive. Part of Trump’s appeal is that he is hated by the liberal elite and all those who think everyone in rural America is a redneck hick. So every time you insult him, you actually inflate him. The best thing you can do is ignore him, support the candidate you think stands for your values, and spend your time on better things.

So back to my original question.

What would I say to Donald Trump?

I still don’t know.

But if by some strange convergence of unlikely events the opportunity presented itself, then I think I would go with the words of Daniel.

The prophet Daniel worked with the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful leader known for his harsh mouth, hasty decisions, and hardened heart. Daniel both loved him and disagreed with him.

When Nebuchadnezzar’s pride reached a boiling point, God gave him a dream that unsettled him. When Nebuchadnezzar asked Daniel for the interpretation, Daniel did not hesitate to tell Nebuchadnezzar the truth. He did not try to flatter him or coddle him. He spoke with urgency and compassion to this powerful leader.

What was the message that Nebuchadnezzar needed to hear?

The Most High rules over the kingdom of mankind
And He bestows it on whomever He desires
And sets over it the humblest and lowliest of men. (Daniel 4:17b)

So this is what I would respectfully say to the former president.

God is God.

God is sovereign.

And you are not.

Humble yourself. Love others. And exalt Him alone.

And if you truly love this country and want to make it great again, then remember that America is only great when America is good.

So step away, stop talking, take personal inventory, and do what is best for this country not what is best for yourself.

This is the heart of a servant.

This is the character of a leader.

Posted in Government/Politics | 5 Comments

Jesus & Transgenderism

Male and female.

Those two words used to be easy to define.

Expressions of masculinity or femininity may have varied but the definitions were as solid as a rock.

It was assumed. It was a given. It was apparent.

But now the terms “male and female” are considered fluid, arbitrary, even dangerous.

What is a man? 

What is a woman?

Some hesitate to even define these words any more. Basic checkboxes on a form:

  • Male
  • Female

Have been replaced with expanded options, such as:

  • Male
  • Female
  • Intersex
  • Transgender Female
  • Transgender Male
  • Non-binary
  • Prefer not to say

How do we live in such radically changing times? How do we respond?

There is the ol’ adage: What Would Jesus Do?

It’s simplistic, and perhaps a little overworn, but still helpful.

The apostle John uses two words to capture the character of Jesus.

Grace and truth.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

In the OT world, these two words are chesed and emet. 

Chesed: Lovingkindness, steadfast love, abundant grace.

Emet: Faithfulness, truthfulness, stability, reliability.

Jesus is the perfect balance, the perfect display, the perfect fullness of grace and truth.

He is the Good Shepherd and the Solid Rock.

The tender one and the truthful one.

So how does this apply to our culture’s current struggle with transgenderism?

Jesus responds with grace.

There are many aspects to gender dysphoria that I cannot fathom, that I cannot understand. But I can identify with the struggle to know who you are, to fight your own body, to not feel comfortable in your own skin.

None of us fully understands what it means to be male or female.

We all can struggle with stereotypes, cultural expectations, and media portrayals.

We all can battle our own thoughts, feelings, and sense of who we are.

We all are dysfunctional to some degree.

We all grow up in dysfunctional families.

We all live in a dysfunctional world.

The struggle is not unusual.

The struggle is the norm.

The Bible often describes our current condition in our present bodies with one word: groaning. 

We also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23b).

For in this earthly house we groan, because we desire to put on our heavenly dwelling (2 Corinthians 5:2).

It is a Greek word, stenazo, from which we get our English word, stenosis, a narrowing in the spinal cord that often brings pain.

Stenazo describes a state of being stuck in a narrow place. Trapped. Caught in a strait jacket. It is an inward groaning. An unexpressed grief that abides in our soul.

We all groan.

None of us feel “at home” in these ol’ bodies of ours. And if you do now, then you probably won’t feel that way at some point in the near future.

I often think of my sister who died of cancer almost 30 years ago. She often described her cancer as an invader in her own body, as something inside her that was killing her and she couldn’t do anything to stop it.

She longed to be free, to be completely healed from her body of death.

I think of myself as a young kid who was always the smallest in my class, who felt vastly different from my two older brothers, who struggled to prove myself, to fit in.

I didn’t feel at peace in my own body.

I didn’t know what it meant to be a man.

I didn’t know who I was…or who I was supposed to be.

This is a common human experience.

Thus, for anyone struggling with their “gender identity” or wondering what it means to be a man or a woman, we all can identify to some degree.

We can show grace.

We can show love.

We can seek to understand.

This is being like Jesus.

But Jesus also responds with truth.

Jesus does not paint a false reality.

He does not leave a lie unconfronted.

He tells the truth…even if it hurts.

He says “truly, truly” over and over throughout the gospels.

Amen. Amen. 

Jesus wants us to live in the truth. It is the truth that sets us free.

To live in an illusion may provide temporary comfort but it ultimately leads to disappointment, disillusionment, deception, and destruction.

We can deny reality but we cannot escape it.

God created us as male and female. It is written in our DNA. It is encoded in our chromosomes. Every cell has a sex. The thirty trillion cells in our body are all stamped with either XX or XY. Medical science and biology all testify to this binary reality.

Yes, genetic anomalies can exist.

Jesus seems to acknowledge as much in Matthew 19. After declaring that God created us “male and female” from the beginning (19:4), Jesus also stated that “there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (19:12).

Jesus acknowledged two basic realities.

  1. God designed us to be male or female.
  2. We live in a world where our bodies may not always function the way they were designed.

Thus, compassion is always needed.

But it is never dishonest.

To perpetuate an illusion…to reinforce wrong perception…to try to change cosmetically what is biologically real…is not compassion.

It is not love.

And it will never solve a person’s deeper struggle to know who they are.

Here’s the truth.

We are created by God.

We are impacted by sin.

We are loved by a Savior.

We are saved by grace.

We are transformed by truth.

Grace and truth.

They must always go together.

This is how Jesus lived.

He showed grace.

He spoke the truth.

May we follow in His steps.

Posted in Sex and Marriage | Leave a comment

I Am a Spoiled American

I confess. I am spoiled.

It isn’t a secret with my family. I am the youngest of six children and I am pretty sure that all of my older brothers and sisters would say that I am spoiled.

What can I say? I was a late-in-life pregnancy for my mom and she loved me with just about every ounce of her being. I couldn’t ask for a better mom. And I have to say (over the protests of my siblings) that I was the most obedient of them all.

They can call it being spoiled. I call it being rewarded for being good 🙂

As a young teenager, it was often just my mom and me for dinner and she would make whatever I wanted. I was a picky eater and so my typical weekly menu was hamburgers, pizza, eggs, bacon, hamburgers, fried chicken, pancakes, and hamburgers.

Did I mention that I love hamburgers?

Actually cheeseburgers. Ketchup only.

Unfortunately I never grew out of my picky-eatiness. I did add a few vegetables along the way. Thanks to my wife. And I learned to eat fruit by blending them to oblivion until they make a nice fruit smoothie. No chunks please.

But meat is still my menu item of choice. Especially hamburgers.

That poses a problem when I go overseas.

Meat is not a staple in many parts of the world. It is a luxury item. I found this out on my recent mission trip to Uganda.

Our church has supported a national pastor in Uganda for many years. He and his wife have become good friends with us. We are so impressed and blessed by their ministry. And he has always invited me to come to Uganda.

Finally we decided to go. We took a team of nine people with us.

While the rest of the team was concerned about vaccines, Ebola, malaria, long flights, and things like that. I only had one concern.

What would I eat?

I packed my bag with plenty of protein bars, breakfast bars, and beef sticks, expecting that I might need to eat a few of them each day. Little did I realize that I would actually depend on them for sustenance during my entire two-week trip.

I tried to eat the Ugandan food but my appetite just wasn’t there. Their diet consists mostly of matoke (cooked plantains), rice mixed with all kinds of spices and vegetables, and lots of fruit.

Lots of fruit!

Mango. Pineapple. Watermelon. Papaya. Bananas. Jackfruit.

For fruit lovers…it is a culinary paradise.

For meat lovers…it is a little more sparse.

They do have meats. Usually freshly killed chicken and pork. But it is cooked differently and usually not very plentiful. Beef is sometimes available but usually very chewy and hard to eat. Whenever meat is around, it is typically mixed in with everything else. It is more like a garnish than a centerpiece on the plate.

I don’t say all this to garner any kind of sympathy.

The Ugandans love their food and every one else on our team loved it as well.

I was the odd ball.

The picky one.

The spoiled one.

I realized just how spoiled I am on this trip. I love food options. I love to be able to get what I want when I want it. I love having a Chick Fila down the road or a Dominos that can deliver right to my door.

Our refrigerator has plenty of food. Plenty of options. I can make just about anything I want at any time of the day.

It is the kind of life that I am used to.

But it is not normal in other parts of the world.

I have been to Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico, Honduras, Argentina, Moldova, and Romania on mission trips. In almost every case I struggled with the local food but I could find some kind of American food nearby.

That wasn’t the case in Uganda.

There wasn’t a McDonalds to be seen anywhere. I think the only American fast food restaurant is a KFC in Kampala. That’s it.

So I felt my limited food pallate much more on this trip.

And I lost ten pounds in the process.

My own personal Ugandan Diet.

But I survived and I learned a lot in the process.

I am so blessed to live in the United States and I take so much for granted.

Running water. Clean water. Electricity. A refrigerator. A freezer. Food in the refrigerator. Food in the freezer. Food in the pantry. A toilet. A shower. Water supply. Water pressure. Hot water. A sewage system. Trash service. Mail service. Paved roads. Sidewalks. Traffic laws. Traffic lights. Green lawns. Comfortable homes. Multiple rooms in our home. Floors in our home. Beds. A kitchen. Appliances. A TV. A computer. Multiple sets of clothes. Closets. Drawers. Air conditioning. Multiple places to shop and to eat. Reliable transportation. Drainage. Police services (without bribes). Educational opportunities. Job opportunities. Medical services. Good doctors. Good hospitals. Good healthcare.  Financial abundance. Food abundance. Comfort abundance. Leisure abundance.

I often just assume that these things are normal. Automatic. Standard options on the road of life.

But they are not.

They are gifts. Blessings. Rich blessings.

They are the fruit of the labor and sacrifices of previous generations.

They are things to be thankful for each day.

Yes, our nation has its share of blemishes, problems, injustices, failures, and sins.

But it is also one of the best places that any person could ever live at any point in human history.

To miss this…or to take this for granted…is the ultimate sign of blind ingratitude.

Those who have the least often give the most.

Before going to Uganda, I would assume that if you took me to a place where the people lived in small grass huts with cow dung floors, no electricity, no running water, and limited food, that they would be the most miserable people on earth.

I know I would be.

But instead I discovered that these people were the most joyful and generous people that I have ever met.

They were also so hungry for God’s Word that they kept begging me to teach them more.

And when I was done teaching, they served our entire team a sumptuous lunch (probably costing them almost everything they had) and gave me a live turkey as a gift.

A live turkey!

They had practically nothing but gave almost everything.

Meanwhile we have practically everything but give almost nothing.

There are a lot of people in the world…and they are all unique, different, and made in the glorious image of God.

Try to wrap your mind around the fact that there are eight billion people in the world.

Eight billion!

It is just a number in most of our minds. But as we traveled the countryside of Uganda, we saw thousands and thousands of people. Everyone in Uganda seems to be outside on the roads. Kids. Women. Men. Pedestrians. People on bicycles or motorcycles or stuffed into taxi vans or on the back of trucks.

Everywhere you looked, there were people.

There are 46 million people in Uganda and it seemed like we saw them all in our two weeks there.

And it struck me that every one of them is made in the image of God. Every one of them is important. Valuable. Unique. Right down to their finger prints.

Every one of them has a purpose in God’s eyes.

Every one of them is a person for whom Christ died.

Whether rich or poor…black or white…clean or unclean…they were each designed to reflect a particular aspect of the multi-faceted glory of God.

My heart was both overwhelmed and overjoyed.

Overwhelmed because there is no way that I can reach each of these people.

Overjoyed because I know that God can.

The best way to impact the world is through the gospel of Jesus Christ…one person at a time.

Uganda is a nation rich in resources. The Nile River. Lake Victoria. Lake Albert. Rich soil. Abundant crops. Coffee. Tea. Mangos. Pineapple. Rice. Bananas. Jackfruit.

Yet it is a nation that also has lots of poverty.

When you ask why, so much of it stems from long-entrenched corruption in the government. Uganda endured many years of Idi Amin. Since then, they have had many years of politicians who line their pockets with foreign relief aid. Uganda is considered one of the most corrupt nations in the world.

Because of governmental corruption, you can pour all the money you want into Uganda and all it will do is make the corrupt more corrupt, the powerful more powerful, and the rich richer.

That’s why the hope of nations like Uganda really is the local church.

The ministry we support in Uganda takes in orphans and abandoned children. They provide a first-rate education to all that come their way. They offer skills training and a microloan program to help people emerge out of poverty. They provide free medical services. They bless the community with food distribution and social services. And they teach people the good news of Jesus Christ.

Every person is loved by God.

Every person has a purpose.

Every person can be transformed.

Every person is offered eternal life as a free gift in Jesus Christ.

It was humbling to see their work.

Every shilling goes to where it is needed.

Accountability is emphasized.

Responsibility is taught.

Charity is practiced.

Eternity is impacted.

No one can reach everyone but everyone can reach someone.

That is the Christian mission.

That is the way of Jesus.

That is the beauty of the body of Christ.


So, yes, I am spoiled.

Spoiled by my momma.

Spoiled by the American way of life.

Spoiled by the many options that I have each and every day.

But I am also spoiled by my heavenly Father who has richly lavished on me all spiritual blessings in Jesus Christ.

In that case, it is not bad to be “spoiled.”

Unless being spoiled makes you, well, spoiled.

But there is another way you can respond.

Humble appreciation.

Daily gratitude.

Simple “thank yous.”

Joyful praise.

And abundantly giving what you have abundantly received.

The generous soul will be made rich,
And he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:25)

Posted in Confessions | 6 Comments