Video: The 3.5 Year Siege of Jerusalem (66 – 70 AD)


I recently became aware of an hour-long video on YouTube, depicting Rome’s 3.5 year advance on Jerusalem resulting in its destruction in 70 AD. This video is part three of a 2006 TV series titled, “Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire” (BBC). It’s based on the writings of the Jewish historian, Josephus. The filmmakers consulted with Martin Goodman, professor of Jewish Studies at Wolfson College, Oxford, who has also written extensively on Jewish history in the Greek/Roman period.

I’m posting this video for its educational value and because of its relation to the study of eschatology, particularly the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) and 1st century history. It does portray fairly graphic violence (ancient warfare) at times, but you can turn your head when it happens and not really miss anything.

Among other fulfillments of Jesus’ words, this film depicts the civil war and famine that plagued Jerusalem from 67 – 70 AD (see Matthew 24:6-8/Mark 13:7-8/Luke 21:9-11 and Revelation 6:3-6). It also depicts the roughly 100 pound stones that the Romans catapulted into the temple complex in Jerusalem (see Revelation 16:21; the film shows the Romans doing this in Jotapata where Josephus was captured, but Josephus records that they also did this against Jerusalem in 70 AD).

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Avocado Banana Smoothie


Despite two posts in a row highlighting food ideas, I assure you that we aren’t turning this into a food and recipe blog site. :-)

It was during my time living in Malaysia (2001-2007) that I first learned avocados are drinkable. I rarely encountered avocado drinks in Malaysia, though. They were far more popular in Indonesia, Malaysia’s neighbor to the south, and I made sure to have one every time I traveled there for a conference. After one try, I was hooked. A typical Indonesian smoothie is made with avocados, sweetened condensed milk, and Hershey’s chocolate syrup drizzled along the sides of the cup.

Indonesian Avocado SmoothiePhoto Source

Back here in America, I haven’t recreated the Indonesian-style smoothie shown above, but I’ve experimented some with avocado-based smoothies. I’ll share one simple recipe that my wife also appreciates. This makes enough to serve two people:

1. Two avocados
2. Two bananas
3. Milk
4. Cinnamon (optional)
5. Nutmeg (optional)
6. Vanilla (optional)
7. Honey (if smoothie is not sweet enough for your personal taste)

Mix in a blender and serve. The total cost should be about $3, assuming you already have any desired spices on hand.

Peanut Butter Curry Meal Idea


About a week ago I cooked a meal that my wife and I both really enjoyed. I love curry dishes, and this one might be considered somewhat “off the beaten path.” When we told my wife’s family about it on Christmas day, they were surprised at the combination of ingredients, and that we were able to pull them all together to make a good meal. If you like peanut butter, and if you don’t mind (fairly) spicy food, I think you would enjoy it too. Here’s a list of the ingredients, but in most cases I didn’t take note of the exact amount I used:

1. Ground Turkey (20 ounce package, 93% fat free)
2. Peanut Butter (a generous amount)
3. Curry Powder (a lot!)
4. Milk (Vanilla Soy Milk, in our case)
5. Cinnamon
6. Nutmeg
7. Basil
8. Parsley
9. Oregano
10. Black Pepper
11. Cayenne Pepper
12. Tomatoes (chopped)
13. Avocados (chopped)
14. Bell Peppers (chopped)

Once I cooked the ground turkey meat, I mixed in everything else and served it with brown rice. We had enough leftovers for two more meals for each of us.

The inspiration for this meal came from this sauce, which I’ve used several times with some kind of meat and a medley of frozen vegetables, and served over rice or noodles:

Bangkok padang peanut sauce

Other ideas for this meal:

1. Substitute boneless chicken breasts (chopped) for ground turkey. Or substitute tofu if you prefer to avoid meats.
2. Use a can of Thai red curry instead of curry powder and milk.
3. Use coconut milk instead of regular milk.
4. Add or substitute other vegetables.
5. Experiment further by adding garlic, ginger, turmeric, fresh cilantro, etc. You might be surprised by what goes well with peanut butter.

The Wolf Has Been Approaching for 29 Years/Good News for the People of Iran


In a recent post, I opened by citing the words of Iranian foreign minister, Javad Zarif, who pointed out that Israel has been claiming for the last 22 years that Iran is mere months away from having a nuclear weapon. It turns out that this rhetoric has actually been going on for at least 29 years – since I was in kindergarten, Ronald Reagan was nearing the end of his first term in office, and seven years before the World Wide Web was introduced.

On November 27th, Mondoweiss re-posted a Twitter status from Richard Silverstein, the creator of the Tikun Olam blog, showing a Maariv headline from April 25, 1984. The headline read: “Iran In Final Stages of Production of Nuclear Bomb.”

Maariv headline

Maariv is a Hebrew-language daily newspaper, which was founded in 1948, and is the second highest selling newspaper in Israel. To be fair, the above story in Maariv cited Jane’s Defence Weekly,  which quoted West German intelligence sources regarding Iran. For a good perspective on the long-repeated warnings about Iran’s nuclear program, see this timeline at The Christian Science Monitor. The loudest warnings have come from the United States, the world’s nuclear champion and a signatory of the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty), and Israel, a nation believed to have as many as 200 nuclear weapons (undeclared) and a nation which has refused to sign the NPT.

As is now well-known, Iran signed an interim 6-month agreement on November 23rd, after a couple rounds of discussions with the United States and several other nations. The US will provide “limited” and “modest” sanctions relief in exchange for Iran “halting certain levels of enrichment and neutralizing part of its stockpiles,” among other concessions. According to President Obama, America’s toughest sanctions will continue to be applied to Iran. New channels of communication have certainly opened between Iran, the US, and other countries in recent weeks.

Many nations have treated these developments as good news. Saudi Arabia and certain other Gulf States (strongly opposed to the Shiite form of Islam) have not. Israel, predictably, is going nuts. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had these words to say the next day:

“What was achieved last night in Geneva is not an historic agreement; it is an historic mistake. Today the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world… Israel is not bound by this agreement. The Iranian regime is committed to the destruction of Israel and Israel has the right and the obligation to defend itself…”

It’s hard to know if Netanyahu actually believes what he says or not. The government he represents has been crying wolf on Iran for 29 years. Some are suggesting that Israel needs to keep hyping up the Iran issue in order to deflect attention away from its illegal settlements, bulldozing of Palestinian homes, the blockade on Gaza, and other controversial domestic activities.

Just as predictably, Christian Zionist sources (for example, author Joel Rosenberg) have lined up to agree with Netanyahu and continue to demonize Iran.

I’m glad to see these recent developments, though, and I believe they are good steps in the right direction. They are especially good for the people of Iran, who have been suffering the effects of harsh sanctions. As I shared in a post on this subject almost a month ago, the effects of sanctions on the Iranian people have included “a 20% unemployment rate, a 30% – 50% inflation rate, expensive basic goods, the plunging value of Iran’s currency, increasingly unsafe commercial aircraft, an increasing inability to export oil, and other economic ramifications. They are also said to be resulting in half the population struggling to provide food and shelter for themselves, and struggling to maintain emotional health.”

Iranian Muslims, Iranian Jews, and Iranian Christians alike have experienced these things, in part due to a relentless campaign of deceit, politicking, and warmongering that has been vigorously supported by the Christian Zionist movement. Only God knows the extent to which Iranian and Palestinian Christians have suffered needlessly as a result of activities and rhetoric coming from many of their professing brothers and sisters in Christ.

An NBC News article highlights the provisions Iran can expect to see with the new easing of sanctions, concluding that Iran’s people will only see “precious little” relief in the short-term future, but that this deal provides “far more of a psychological benefit than an economic one” for now. Some groups are still investing in efforts to not only reverse these changes, but to bring even harsher sanctions quite soon. Others are watching for the slightest indication that Iran is not holding up its end of this deal, so that such actions can be justified (allegedly). Meanwhile, in plain sight are 2007 intelligence reports and other official statements from the CIA, Mossad, and other agencies agreeing that there is no evidence Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.

While Israeli and Christian Zionist leaders continue to say that Iran is bent on destroying Israel, Iran’s Jewish parliamentary representative, Siamak Moreh Sedgh, praises Iran for allowing Iranian Jews to worship freely. Sedgh states that conditions for Iranian Jews are “better than yesterday, and today, our condition is much better than 10 years or 20 years ago.” Interestingly, he added that Iran’s Jewish community chose not to commemorate Israel’s 60th anniversary in 2008 because they are “in complete disagreement with the behavior of Israel” and its “anti-human behavior.”

The secular nation of Israel will do as it will do. As for God’s people, may we reflect and work toward God’s desire to see the nations, including Iran and Israel, healed by the river of life that flows from His throne (Revelation 22:1-2).

US Congress Ignores Drone Attack Survivors in Washington DC


I don’t use this blog to wade into partisan politics, but I do pay attention to certain components of American politics, and in particular I care about our foreign policy. If you were to ask me right now, as an American, how many nations America is at war with, I’m not sure I could give you an accurate response. There are the official wars, and then there are the unofficial wars. I find all of them to be disturbing.

Launching drone missiles into other nations and killing their citizens – these are acts of war. If any other nation sent drone strikes into Austin, Boston, or Tuscon, killing residents there, it’s not hard to imagine how the US would react and how we would label such acts. However, there’s apparently a world of difference if we’re the perpetrators rather than the victims. The US may not officially be at war with Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, but our government under both George Bush and Barack Obama (and any hidden hands that order their steps) has been carrying out acts of war against these nations, and the American public is mostly silent.

Hundreds of civilians, including women and children, have been killed by American drone strikes. Others have lost body limbs. Even more people are afraid to step outside, walk to school, go to the neighborhood convenience store, etc. I’ve bookmarked a number of articles on this phenomenon, with eye-opening statistics and more, and I’ll probably include most of them in a future post.

In this post I’d like to share an article about a Congressional hearing on this issue that took place in Washington, DC at the end of October. I had read about this upcoming hearing, where US lawmakers could hear from drone attack survivors for the first time. I had read about the Pakistani lawyer representing these survivors being repeatedly harrassed by manufactured visa issues. And I had hoped that this hearing would be well attended, well publicized, and effective in turning the tide toward justice and compassion. Out of America’s 535 lawmakers (435 Congress representatives and 100 Senators), only five had the decency to attend:

In “historic” briefing, Rehman family gives heartbreaking account of drone killing of 65-year-old grandmother… to five lawmakers.

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer: October 29, 2013

The Rehman family waits to testify at the Congressional Briefing on drone strikes Tuesday, October 29. (Photo: @akneerudh/ Twitter)

Despite being heralded as the first time in history that U.S. lawmakers would hear directly from the survivors of a U.S. drone strike, only five elected officials chose to attend the congressional briefing that took place Tuesday.

Nabila Rehman, 9, holds up a picture she drew depicting the US drone strike on her Pakistan village which killed her grandmother. (Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters)

Pakistani schoolteacher Rafiq ur Rehman and his two children—9 year-old daughter Nabila and 13 year-old son Zubair—came to Washington, DC to give their account of a U.S. drone attack that killed Rafiq’s mother, Momina Bibi, and injured the two children in the remote tribal region of North Waziristan last October.

According to journalist Anjali Kamat, who was present and tweeting live during the hearing, the only lawmakers to attend the briefing organized by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), were Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.).

Before the handful of reporters and scant lawmakers, however, Rafiq and his children gave dramatic testimony which reportedly caused the translator to break down into tears.

In her testimony, Nabila shared that she was picking okra with her grandmother when the U.S. missile struck and both children described how they used to play outside but are now too afraid.

“I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer grey skies. Drones don’t fly when sky is grey,” said [13 year old] Zubair, whose leg was injured by shrapnel during the strike.

“My grandmother was nobody’s enemy,” he added.

“Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day,” Rafiq wrote in an open letter to President Barack Obama last week. “The media reported that the attack was on a car, but there is no road alongside my mother’s house. Several reported the attack was on a house. But the missiles hit a nearby field, not a house. All reported that five militants were killed. Only one person was killed – a 65-year-old grandmother of nine.”

“But the United States and its citizens probably do not know this,” Rafiq continued. “No one ever asked us who was killed or injured that day. Not the United States or my own government. Nobody has come to investigate nor has anyone been held accountable.”

He concluded, “Quite simply, nobody seems to care.”

You can watch a recording of the briefing below and here:

The purpose of the briefing, Grayson told the Guardian, is “simply to get people to start to think through the implications of killing hundreds of people ordered by the president, or worse, unelected and unidentifiable bureaucrats within the Department of Defense without any declaration of war.”

The family was joined by their legal representative Jennifer Gibson of the UK human rights organization Reprieve. Their Islamabad-based lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, was also supposed to be present but was denied a visa by the US authorities—”a recurring problem,” according to Reprieve, “since he began representing civilian victims of drone strikes in 2011.”

“The onus is now on President Obama and his Administration to bring this war out of the shadows and to give answers,” said Gibson.

Also present was U.S. filmmaker Robert Greenwald, who first met Rafiq when he traveled to Pakistan to interview the drone strike victims for his documentary Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars.  Before the briefing, Greenwald told the Guardian that he hoped the briefing “will begin the process of demanding investigation. Innocent people are being killed.”

The following clip from Unmanned was shown at Tuesday’s hearing:

My Wife’s Singing Gift


One of the many blessings I’m able to enjoy in my marriage (of 15 months and counting) is my wife’s beautiful singing voice. Back in April of this year, she posted five videos of herself singing on YouTube. Perhaps later she’ll add more songs, and even eventually some of the original songs she’s written which have never been shared publicly. With her permission, here are those five songs from seven months ago:

1. “Can’t Give Up Now” by Mary Mary (Cover)

2. “Shackles” by Mary Mary (Cover):

3. “Miss Celie’s Blues” (Cover):

4. “The Lord’s Prayer”:

5. “You Can See With Your Heart”:

For anyone who notices that most of these songs follow a theme of hopes and dreams, it might be good to point out that they were posted at a time when we were forced to give up on St. Paul Cultural Village, the multicultural marketplace and community center we were developing. By April 30th, less than a month after they were posted, we had vacated the building we were renting for that purpose. Once I update the St. Paul Cultural Village website, I plan to share in more detail what happened with that project. For my wife and I, January – April 2013 was a period marked by a lot of pain and shattered dreams, but God kept and sustained us then, and He continues to do so now.

-Adam

“The Stones Cry Out”: New Documentary Challenges Evangelical Bonds With Israel


I’m interested in seeing this documentary when/if the opportunity arises. In the meantime, if anyone who comes across this post has seen it, I’d be glad to know what you think about it.

Graham Liddell has written an article for Ma’an News Agency highlighting a new documentary called “The Stones Cry Out.” The documentary is directed by Yasmine Perni, an Italian-born journalist who has lived in various places in the Middle East, including Israel. I’ll share an observation that jumped out at me after viewing one of the links in Graham’s article, but first here’s the article itself:

A new documentary about Palestinian Christians is challenging mainstream evangelical assumptions about the Holy Land in the United States.

As evangelical organizations hold events across the US presenting an unbreakable bond between Christians and Israel, first-time director Yasmine Perni tours American churches with a film that instead documents the plight of Palestinian Christians at the hands of Israel.

“The (Palestinian) Christians have never been covered like this before,” Perni told Ma’an Saturday.

“The Stones Cry Out” starts by documenting the history of Kifr Biram, a predominantly Christian Palestinian village that was destroyed by Israel after the Nakba.

Former residents of Kifr Biram tell the story of being expelled from their homes by Jewish militants in 1948 and becoming refugees in neighboring Jordan and Lebanon. Many attempted to return, but in 1953, they watched as their village was demolished on orders from the Israeli government. Israel has since converted the village lands into a national park.

Perni wants Western audiences to hear the story of Kifr Biram firsthand while they still can. Many of the original residents have already died, including three elderly men who passed away during filming.

“And so I feel that telling their story is a way of keeping their memory alive and their struggle to find peace,” Perni said.

The film moves to an overview of the Six Day War and Israel’s ongoing military occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Footage of the events overlaps with Palestinian Christians’ accounts of their experiences throughout the First Intifada – during which Israeli forces killed over 1,000 Palestinians – and throughout Israel’s 2002 siege on Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity during the Second Intifada.

“Most of the Christians abroad were silent (during the siege),” Bethlehem pastor Rev. Mitri Raheb says in the film.

He says Christians “like to sing about the little town of Bethlehem in the churches on Christmas Eve, but I felt at that time that actually Bethlehem was abandoned.”

Featured prominently in the film, Raheb told Ma’an Friday that the story of Palestinian Christians is little known in the West, and even less “among Evangelical Christians.”

He said he hopes the documentary reaches as many people as possible.

Hopes for impact on Western audiences

Christian Zionism – the belief that the modern State of Israel is a manifestation of God’s biblical promise to the Jews – is a significant force in US politics. One Christian Zionist organization, Christians United for Israel, is the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States. In addition to lobbying Congress and contributing financially to pro-Israel causes including illegal settlements, CUFI holds regular “Nights to Honor Israel” in US churches using scripture to back up pro-Israel political action. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee spoke at one such event last Sunday.

“I think that is using the Bible as a weapon,” Perni told Ma’an.

Though she hopes Christian Zionists will see the film, they are not necessarily her intended audience.

“The film is for everyone. … I’m not a theologian. I’m a journalist. I report the stories that I see,” Perni said.

Without dwelling on theology, “The Stones Cry Out” simply tells “the Palestinian story, but through the eyes of the Christians.”

Despite widespread Christian support for Israel in the US, Raheb told Ma’an that he was optimistic about changing evangelical mindsets on Palestine.

“It’s not a hopeless case,” Raheb said. “The first time I went to the States in 1991, most of the people I met knew nothing about Palestine. That has changed a lot.”

“I see among the evangelical Christian community more openness towards the Palestinians.”

Christians under Israeli occupation

In 2012, former Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal in which he blamed Christian emigration from Palestine on Muslims.

Raheb says in the film that Israel “would love” Palestine to be free of Christians, “because then they can sell this conflict as a Jewish-Muslim conflict, as a religious conflict.”

“Oren at the end of the day really is interested in fueling Islamophobia because this sells well with certain groups,” Raheb told Ma’an, “as if Israel actually is the one defending the Western value.”

He said that in an academic study he conducted, less than 1 percent of emigrating Christians said they were leaving because of tensions with Muslims, and most actually left due to political and economic situations imposed by the occupation.

The documentary, Perni told Ma’an, “reveals my own discovery of what it really means to live under occupation.”

Though she lived in the Arab world throughout much of her life, she said that the reality of the occupation only set in when she moved to Jerusalem and visited Bethlehem. A major hub of Christianity in the West Bank, Bethlehem is surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements. A wall constructed by Israel beginning in 2002 separates Palestinians not only from Israel, but in many cases from their own property.

One Palestinian Christian from Bethlehem shows in the film how the wall encases her house on three sides, rendering access to her backyard impossible and turning her home “into a tomb.”

“Christians are hit by the occupation the same way Muslims are,” Raheb told Ma’an.

Unfortunately, Perni said, many in the West are unaware of the very existence of Palestinian Christians. When they meet Christians from Palestine, “people in America ask them when they converted.” 

“The Stones Cry Out” premieres in cities across the US in late October and early November.

In this article, Liddell pointed to a link describing how the former village of Kafr Bir’im had been turned into a national park by Israel. I was struck by the revelation that Kafr Bir’im “was located in an area which IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] wanted, for security reasons, populated only with Jews.” So in November 1948 “most of the inhabitants were evacuated by the IDF ‘temporarily’ to the town of Jish further south ‘until the military operations are over.’”

The reason this struck me is because in numerous conversations I’ve had with Christian Zionist individuals, I’ve been told that the Palestinians were advised by Arab outsiders (e.g. from Jordan, Egypt, etc.) to temporarily take refuge in Arab lands until an Arab alliance could wipe out all the Jews. Therefore, I’ve been told, these Palestinians relinquished their right to the land, and only the Arabs are to blame for leaving them in limbo. This (Israeli) source, on the other hand, indicates that at least Kafr Bir’im was largely cleared of Palestinians by the IDF.

Removing one people group from an area in order to replace them with another people group is not only racist, but this fits the definition of ethnic cleansing. Elias Chacour, another Palestinian Christian, shares similar first-hand stories in his book, “Blood Brothers.” In some of the stories he shares, it wasn’t just ethnic cleansing that took place, but genocide as well.

In any case, I’m glad to see that more Palestinian Christians are being given a chance for their voices to be heard.

The Christian Zionist Movement Is in Panic Mode


“A smile attack is much better than a lie attack. Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues have been saying since 1991 – and you can refer to your records – that Iran is six months away from a nuclear weapon. And we are how many years, 22 years after that? And they are still saying we are six months away from nuclear weapons. We are not seeking nuclear weapons, so we’re not six months, six years, or 60 years away from nuclear weapons.”

-Javad Zarif, Foreign Minister of Iran, late September 2013

The installation of Iran’s newest president, Hassan Rouhani, has been met with some rather fascinating (and, to me, disgusting) reactions from the Christian Zionist movement. As President Rouhani and other Iranian leaders speak of Iran’s desire for peace and a world free of nuclear weapons, numerous Christian Zionist leaders have locked arms tightly with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in loudly and repeatedly denouncing President Rouhani as a wolf in sheep’s clothing who can’t be trusted.

It’s clear that a moderate Iranian president simply won’t serve the interests of either Zionism or Christian Zionism. These movements, which are nearly joined at the hip, need a rabid, fire-breathing, foaming-at-the-mouth, anti-semitic, holocaust-denying maniac at Iran’s helm in order to effectively push their cause. (For that matter, they also need barbaric Palestinian leaders in order to advance other elements of their cause.) Iran’s failure to elect such an individual this year has apparently been a major cause for panic.

It’s one thing if this behavior characterizes Zionism. It’s another thing when it characterizes “Christian Zionism.” By the name of this movement, one could be forgiven for believing that it aims to follow the teachings of Christ, the One who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

When’s the last time a Christian Zionist leader highlighted the peacemaking efforts of a Palestinian individual toward the Jewish community? (Such efforts do exist.) How about the peacemaking efforts of Jewish individuals toward the Palestinian community? (These also exist.) When’s the last time a Christian Zionist leader pronounced blessings upon the Iranian people and their leaders, wishing for their peace and well-being?

 Hassan_Rouhani_official_portrait

Photo Source

Hassan Rouhani was elected president of Iran on June 15th of this year, and took office on August 3rd. Rouhani has been described as a moderate and diplomatic leader, and one of his campaign pledges was to repair relations with the West. It wasn’t long at all before Christian Zionist organizations published a flurry of statements seeking to discredit him, to call for increasingly tough actions against Iran, and to highlight Iran’s alleged “relentless development” of nuclear weapons (which, of course, they must be just itching to use against Israel).

A Chorus of Christian Zionist Voices United Against Iran

Israel Today is an organization whose mission “is to be the definitive source for a truthful and balanced perspective on Israel.” They have subscribers in more than 80 countries and believe that “the existence of the State of Israel is a fulfillment of prophecy and a plumb line for the purposes of God for these times.”

The month of September saw Israel Today publish articles featuring [1] Israeli PM Netanyahu responding to Rouhani’s Rosh Hashanah greetings with calls for tighter sanctions against Iran [2] Israeli warnings that Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing [3] Netanyahu’s warnings against Rouhani’s “charm offensive” [4] another mocking and desperate article seeking to discredit Rouhani and Iran [5] panic and frustration over President Obama’s and John Kerry’s failure to fall in line with Netanyahu’s hardline rhetoric toward Iran. The comment sections under these articles feature plenty of un-Christlike and warmongering pronunciations against Iran which are far worse than anything former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ever publicly said regarding Israel.

The month of October saw Israel Today publish articles featuring [1] an admission that Israel has possessed nuclear weapons since at least the early 1970’s, and has almost used them [2] claims that Netanyahu was prophetically correct when he quoted Scripture during his UN address in “a brilliant admonition of Iran’s anti-Israel madness,” that Iran is an “ancient enemy of Israel,” and that Rouhani is a murderous wolf [3] claims that CNN is inept and biased toward Iran by showing Rouhani in a favorable light [4] strong doubts that Iran’s new offer to downgrade “the nuclear crisis” means anything at all [5] Israel’s stress and fears over the possibility that sanctions against Iran could be lifted or lessened [6] how serious Netanyahu is about striking Iran [7] how Israel is wary of American promises and diplomacy toward Iran.

Breaking Christian News, an Albany, Oregon-based news outlet associated with Steve Shultz and The Elijah List, also routinely publishes articles in support of harsh action against Iran. Recent examples include an article (originally from Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network) featuring Netanyahu’s urgent cries to the world that crippling sanctions must continue to be levied against Iran. Another example is an article (originally at Israel Today) rejoicing that various Arab nations are secretly aligning with Israel behind the scenes, bonded by “a strong desire to eliminate the influence of Iran.”

One Christian Zionist ministry, which I’ll refrain from naming, is based in Israel. I’ve been receiving their email updates for several years ever since a relative signed me up for them. Back in September, when it looked like President Obama was going to lead the US into war strikes on Syria, this ministry sent almost daily updates passionately setting out a case for why America absolutely needed to strike Syria hard for the sake of Israel. This ministry has also used the same reasoning for why America needs to take tough action against Iran, including military strikes: “for the sake of Israel.”

Since when has the mission of the Christian Zionist movement been to rival AIPAC as the biggest war lobby entity on the planet? Why do both entities behave as if they’re agents of the Israeli government?

Not to be outdone, John Hagee’s organization, CUFI (Christians United for Israel), has an article, among others, highlighting a movement of Republican Senators who want to increase sanctions against Iran, targeting “all Iranian government revenue and reserves.” The effects of the present sanctions on the Iranian people include a 20% unemployment rate, a 30% – 50% inflation rate, expensive basic goods, the plunging value of its currency, increasingly unsafe commercial aircraft, an increasing inability to export oil, and other economic ramifications. They are also said to be resulting in half the population struggling to provide food and shelter for themselves, and struggling to maintain emotional health. The sanctions and their effects on millions of Iranian citizens apparently aren’t crippling enough for CUFI’s liking, however. In an email alert sent out on October 30th, John Hagee and David Brog urged their supporters to sign a letter to be sent to all US Senators, including these words:

“I’ve read that the White House is urging you to delay action on legislation to tighten the economic sanctions on Iran. I think the White House is making a serious mistake. So long as Iran continues to add to its uranium enrichment capabilities, we must – at the very least – continue to add to our sanctions.”

A People Movement to Christ in Iran

These sanctions aren’t so much hurting the government of Iran as much as they are hurting the common people. Among them are a growing number of believers – our brothers and sisters in Christ. Elam Ministries, founded by Iranian believers in 1988, reports on the present phenomenal growth of the church in Iran:

Tell me about Jesus! Do you have Bibles?” This is the continuous cry of Muslim-Iranians, especially the youth, who literally flock around you in the street, like moths to the only light in the night… A quiet revival is sweeping through the country… Christians have sent in hundreds of thousands of New Testaments into Iran, but the demand dwarfs the supply. According to the church of Iran, if more than 10 million Persian New Testaments were available, it would still not be enough.

Reza Safa, a former Shiite Muslim whose television program broadcasts into Iran, shares a similar testimony. J. Lee Grady, a Charisma editor, also highlighted the spiritual breakthroughs in Iran in a 2010 report titled “God’s Strategic Plan for Iran,” calling for believers to look upon Iran with compassion instead of wishing for Iran to be bombed.

Hypocritical Powers Crying Wolf

As mentioned earlier, Israeli officials have been crying wolf now for more than two decades, always urging immediate action because Iran is allegedly just a few months away from having a nuclear bomb (but it’s OK for Israel and trigger-happy America to have hundreds of them). The warmongers imply that Iran’s scientists are so utterly incompetent that they still haven’t developed even one nuke after “being on the brink of having them” for more than two decades. What if, just perhaps, they’re not even trying to develop any?

A year ago, Nima Shirazi of the Mondoweiss news site crafted a list of public statements by Iranian leaders from 1991 – 2012 that they are not pursuing nuclear weapons and that they don’t believe in the principle of doing so. It’s a profound list, and worth checking out.

The Ahmadinejad Objection

“But, but, but Mahmoud Ahmedinejad said he intended to wipe Israel off the map!”

Did he really? Even though this was spread widely around the internet as truth, multiple sources, including native speakers of Persian, insist that Ahmadinejad’s 2006 statement was severely mistranslated. Wikipedia is not necessarily the most authoritative source, but the “wiped off the map” controversy is discussed somewhat at length there, and one can follow the footnotes to various articles (some scholarly) which discuss the matter further. A better translation of his words is said to reflect the following statement:

“This Zionist regime that is occupying Jerusalem must be eliminated from the pages of history.”

A BBC report less than two years later allowed Ahmadinejad to clarify his earlier statement:

“Asked if he objected to the government of Israel or Jewish people, he said that ‘creating an objection against the Zionists doesn’t mean that there are objections against the Jewish.’ He added that Jews lived in Iran and were represented in the country’s parliament.”

Indeed, the Jewish community in Iran is the largest in the Middle East outside of Israel.

In other interviews Ahmadinejad has advocated for Palestinian refugees to be allowed to return to their homes, and for a democratic government to be elected by them and everyone else presently in the land. For example, in a September 2006 interview with Time Magazine, he said:

“Our position toward the Palestinian question is clear: we say that a nation has been displaced from its own land… Our suggestion is that the 5 million Palestinian refugees come back to their homes, and then the entire people on those lands hold a referendum and choose their own system of government.”

In that same interview, Ahmadinejad said that Iran does not oppose the Jews having their own state, but that Iran is, in fact, opposed to nuclear weapons.

I won’t deny that Ahmadinejad made some inflammatory statements during his political career. Some of his own government colleagues and others in Iran also rebuked him for it. From the Zionist camps especially, however, he was also demonized, and some of his statements were either misrepresented or blown far out of proportion. This has been done, obviously at times, by those who seek a pretext for war. Now that a more mild-mannered leader has taken his place, those who are still seeking that pretext are scrambling for reasons to demonize him too. Rouhani’s publicly stated desire for peace and reconciliation simply doesn’t serve the interests of those who are seeking Iran’s downfall and demise.

Most unfortunately, the world of Christian Zionism is as vocal as any camp in playing this spite-filled game. Only it’s not a game. It affects the lives of people. It sows seeds of destruction. It’s irrational warmongering. It literally affects the foreign policy of the United States. It also affects the reputation of those who say they belong to Christ. It makes it seem to the world that we don’t believe Jesus or take Him seriously when He said things like “Blessed are the peacemakers” and “love your enemies.”

But Jesus was serious. He really does call His followers to make peace and to love all people, and there is no exception when it comes to the Iranians and the Palestinians.

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All posts on the subject of Christian Zionism can be found here.

As The Deer (IHOP) and Like An Avalanche (Hillsong United)


Today, as I’ve been enjoying a much-needed day off from work, I’ve been listening to a number of worship songs. I’d like to share a couple of them here.

The first one is “As the Deer,” sung by Matt Gilman at IHOP (International House of Prayer)’s Fascinate Conference in Kansas City, Missouri in July 2011. This version of “As the Deer” is different than the song written by Marty Nystrom in 1981. That version, I’ve learned, was composed and arranged spontaneously by Marty at Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas (where I attended their 2-year Associate Degree program and the Third Year School of Missions from 1997-2000). Matt Gilman’s version is sung to an entirely different melody, but is also based on Psalm 42:1-2 in addition to Psalm 84:5-7. This recording is over 14 minutes long:

The second song I’d like to share is “Like An Avalanche” by Hillsong United. This is from a live worship event in Miami, Florida in 2012. I believe that Hayley Law is the lead singer here, and the lyrics are included in the video:

St. Paul, Minnesota’s Downtown Skyway


I had never experienced downtown living until August 2012, when Jasmine and I got married and moved into an apartment in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota. We found it to be a beautiful city, and really enjoyed living there. (A month ago we moved to Bowling Green, Ohio.)

Downtown St. Paul 02 - Copy

           View of downtown St. Paul from just south of the Mississippi River  (Credit: Personal photo)

Mississippi River

View of the Mississippi River and the Smith Avenue high bridge from downtown St. Paul (Credit: Personal photo)

One of the things we liked most about downtown St. Paul was its skyway system. Downtown St. Paul is relatively small, but it has five miles of skyway, all of it elevated one story above street level. It’s like a city within a city, linking 47 city blocks. Inside are two food courts, various shops, additional eating places, access to apartments and buildings, etc. (Minneapolis, by the way, has eight miles of skyway.) This map of downtown St. Paul shows the skyway routes in red:

St. Paul Skyway Map-page-0

Map Source

Winters are excessively cold in St. Paul, so having a skyway system is a great idea and a very welcome addition to the city. Please enjoy a series of photos from inside the skyway:

Skyway 01

Skyway 02

Skyway 03

Skyway 04

Skyway 05

Skyway 06

Skyway 07

In future posts, I plan to include more photos and videos from our time in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. I have plenty of organizing to do first.

**The photos above can also be viewed in a slideshow on Youtube.