Name That Anti Christ!

A regular feature on the old “Rocky and Bullwinkle Show” went something like this:

Bullwinkle: “Hey Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!”

Rocky: “But that trick never works!”

Bullwinkle: “Nothing up my sleeve! Presto!”

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Bullwinkle: “Looks like I’m gonna need a new hat!”

I couldn’t help but think of Bullwinkle’s unbroken track record of failure to conjure something out of thin air when I happened across the sixth most popular video on You Tube’s  “News and Politics” section.

To sum up, the video states that in Luke 10:18 Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall as lightning from heaven.”

The word translated “lightning” is “baraq” in Hebrew.

O or U is a conjunction used in Hebrew.

Bam-maw means Heavens/heights.

So Jesus in Hebrew would have said “I beheld Satan as Baraq O Bam-Maw.”

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Well, I’m glad we settled that.

But of course I have been a Christian long enough to remember when the rumor was that Henry Kissinger, the great peace maker,  could be the A/C.

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When that didn’t pan out, the scuttlebutt was that Mikhail Gorbachev could be the Beast. He also is a man of peace and  that stain on his head looked a bit suspicious!

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But at that same time, those on the other side of the political fence had their own candidate for Last Days World Dominating Dictator:

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You see,  Ronald has six letters. Wilson has six letters. Reagan has six letters! Get it?

Struck out again.

Like Bullwinkle, these so called experts needed a new hat.

I think you are getting my drift at this point.

The speculation on steroids that leads people to make these kind of statements is both silly and unscriptural.

Oh, there will come a time when the Antichrist does come on the scene.

In fact the Bible gives us an important insight into when this will take place.

For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.  And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. (II Thessalonians 2:7-8)

Notice that the Antichrist won’t be revealed  until He Who restrains is taken out of the way.

There is evidence to suggest that this Restrainer is the Holy Spirit giving God’s people the power to fulfill the job description Jesus gave us in Matthew 5.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16)

Salt in the time of the New Testament was an important preservative. It was used to keep food from spoiling.

Light drives the darkness from a particular place, keeping it at bay.

As long as those of us who know Jesus are here, the Antichrist cannot reveal himself as such.

This doesn’t mean that he isn’t present now or even involved in world politics in some way.

But he will not be revealed as the Beast of Revelation 13 until the church is removed from this world at the event called the Rapture. (See I Thessalonians 4:16-18)

So if the Antichrist won’t be revealed until then, why do we waste our time with tortured twistings of people’s names and analyzing pictures of their birthmarks?

The only thing that comes out of such idle speculations is that those who don’t know the Lord get a good laugh, and the message of Jesus’ imminent return is discredited by the world.

Here’s a good piece of advice to follow the next time someone tells you they have figured out the time of Jesus’ return, or that Michael Jackson was really the archangel Michael, or that the name of some televangelist is found in a super secret computer analysis of the Bible, or that someone whose political perspective they don’t agree with smells of sulphur and brimstone when you get near them.

If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness,  he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. (I Timothy 6:3-5)

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The Pope and the Puzzle of Prayer

Sometimes even the Pope stumbles.

At least physically.

The latest photos of the pontiff show him sporting a sling to support a broken wrist.

When asked about his injury,  Benedict offred this slightly tongue in cheek spiritual assesment of the situation:

LES COMBES, Italy (AP) – Pope Benedict XVI said Wednesday that his “guardian angel” let him down when he fell and broke his wrist earlier this month, but that the angel was clearly acting “on superior orders.” The pope thanked law enforcement officials for being “like angels,” as he prepared to depart Les Combes, the Alpine resort where he tripped and injured his wrist 10 days ago while on vacation.

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The 82-year-old pope fell in his mountain chalet and fractured his right wrist. He had surgery at a local hospital on July 17 and spent the rest of his two-week vacation in a cast.

When asked why his guardian angel was seemingly asleep at the switch, Benedict replied:

“Perhaps the Lord wanted to teach me more patience and humility, give me more time for prayer and meditation.”

Did you catch something significant here?

Pope Benedict’s attempt to bring a little light humor to his undoubtedly painful set of circumstances does raise one of the most deep questions that inevitably arises when a bad thing happens to a seemingly good person.

Not so much, “Where was my guardian angel when I caught my little toe on the leg of the coffee table last night?”

But even more seriously, “Where did God go when we needed Him most?”

You see, one of the most encouraging things we can hear are the stories about God’s amazing interventions in crisis moments.

Physical healings.

Nick of time deliverances from certain death.

Unexpected financial wind falls just at the nick of time.

The list goes on.

But for every satisfied customer rejoicing in how personally God got involved with their life, their is probably someone within earshot wondering,

“Wonderful!”

“So God, what about my situation?”

“Why aren’t you answering me  in a miraculous way?”

“Why did I get robbed or cheated?”

“Why is my child still suffering?”

“Why is this relationship getting worse, instead of better?”

“Where are your miracles now?”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a really tough question.

And here’s the kicker.

We may not know why God chose not to intervene until we see Him face to face.

There is an old, but reliable piece of wisdom that tells us that God answers every prayer.

His answers are “Yes”, “No” and “Not yet.”

I’d like to share with you one of the most supernatural experiences I have had with prayer in my relationship with Jesus.

Interestingly, I have seen all three of these answers to prayer in the same situation.

About 15 years ago my Dad was diagnosed with lymphoma.

He had gone through extensive chemotherapy and had enjoyed a time of remission.

During one of his regular check ups the bad news came in. The lymphoma was back – and with a vengeance.

My Dad called me on a Friday and told me his oncologist had showed him the results of his latest CAT scan.

A lymphoma around two inches long had grown on his adrenal gland.

According to his doctor, my Dad had maybe two months left to live.

They took another CAT scan to measure the progress of the cancer, but things looked very bleak.

At that point I asked my Dad if I could pray for him.

Now, at this point, my Dad was not a Christian.

In fact, my decision to go into the ministry had put significant strain on our relationship down through the years.

There was a silence, and then he said, “Sure. I would appreciate that.”

So I prayed for my Dad.

It wasn’t a long, emotional or theologically dense prayer.

I simply asked the Lord to heal my father, and to please show him how much He loved him.

Amen.

My Dad thanked me, and told me he had a follow up appointment early the next week. He would call me back as soon as he knew anything more.

A few days passed and I got the phone call.

But surprisingly, my Dad was excited – thanking me for my prayer.

He told me that when he went back to see his oncologist, the first question he was asked was, “Mr. Richards, are you a religious man?”

He went on to show my Dad the two CAT scans of his adrenal gland.

One, clearly compromised by cancer – the other completely clear.

My Dad’s doctor said, “Lymphomas simply do not vanish like this. There isn’t even a scar. I have no scientific explanation for this, so I wanted to know, are you a religious man?”

So my Dad said to me, “Thank you so much for praying! Your prayers healed me.”

I was stunned.

But not so much that I failed to remind my Dad, “It wasn’t my prayer that healed you. It was God. He wants you to know how much He loves you.”

As a result of that experience, my Dad prayed and invited Christ into his life.

End of story?

Not quite.

Some five years later the cancer returned.

And although I prayed for a healing again, the answer this time was “No.”

Or perhaps more accurately, “Not yet.”

My Dad passed away at that time.

But the Bible tells us that when we die physically, those who know Christ as their savior are immediately in His presence.

In the book of Revelation we are told what an amazing moment that will be.

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people.

God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.

There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” (Revelation 21:3-5)

My Dad got his healing.

And this time it is permanent.

And if it hadn’t been for that date with the Valley of the Shadow in his doctor’s office, I wonder if he would have come to know the Lord at all?

“Yes”

“No”

“Not yet”

God not only uses this to answer our prayers, but sometimes even give us more than what we asked for.

I have no idea what personal struggles you might be going through right now, but I know that God loves you.

Maybe, as Pope Benedict observed, He has allowed this circumstance to teach you a few lessons you need to learn.

Maybe this situation is your spiritual wake up call.

But whatever is happening in this life, God is working in deeper ways than we can even imagine.

An unknown soldier in the Civil War expressed what we could call the puzzle of prayer in these famous words.

“I asked God for strength that I might achieve. I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health that I might do greater things. I was given infirmity that I might do better things.

I asked for riches that I might be happy. I was given poverty that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men. I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life. I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am, among all men, most richly blessed.”

My God answer your prayers in that same deep and most wonderful way.

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Greg Laurie: A Grief Observed

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Driving back from Los Angeles yesterday I tuned my radio to K-Wave FM.

“The wave of living water” was a regular source of spiritual refreshment for me back in my Cali native days, so I decided to see if I could find a little encouragement to make the miles pass a little faster.

I wasn’t disappointed.

At 9:30 the morning service from Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside came on the air.

The pastor was one of my favorite Calvary Chapel alums, Greg Laurie.

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Now Greg is well known for messages that infuse serious Bible teaching with an infectious sense of humor, so I flipped on cruise control and prepared to be blessed.

Now Greg presented a message on dealing with temptation from Luke 4 that was great.

Memorable line – “When it comes to temptation, it isn’t the bait that gets you into trouble, but the bite.”

But what really impacted me was something Greg said while giving the announcements before the message.

Announcements?

Aren’t announcements the least spiritual part of any worship service?

Believe me, I know.

Having been the one who has been asked to do announcements throughout my ministry career,  I can tell you that in most cases, the only one who pays any attention to announcements are the people who come up to you before the service and say, “Oh! Could you please announce this activity, event or need our area of ministry is having? Thanks!”

The rest of the crowd?

Not so much.

The forecast for announcements usually calls for light to moderate glassy eyes, giving way to patches of yawning and occasional periods of nodding off before you’re through.

But this time of announcements was different.

Way different.

Greg took a moment to thank those who were there for all the support and encouragement his family had recieved the previous week.

You see it was the first anniversary of the accident that claimed the life of Greg’s son, Christopher.

In fact, Greg brought up his grand daughter Lucy to wave to the crowd.

Lucy was born to Christopher’s wife within a couple of months of his home going.

Even listening in on radio, it was easy to see this was what is known as a “moment”.

And I seriously doubt if anyone slept through that particular episode of announcements.

As my wife, Pam, and I talked about this we agreed that this time of crushing grief had certainly made an impact on Greg and his ministry.

There is a sense of depth and compassion, an even more realized sense of the importance of knowing Jesus, and knowing that our eternal destiny is a certain thing when we personally receive His gift of forgiveness and a living relationship with him, as Greg speaks.

But the other thing that hit me is that watching how Greg, Cathe and their entire family have handled this tragedy has generated an intense interest in listening to what Greg has to say.

During this last year, in a very sincere and honest way, the Laurie family has allowed a very broad group of onlookers to observe how Christians grieve.

This is not grief that runs six inches deep.

This is not so plastic, pull a nose hair so you can summon a tear on cue exercise in theatrics.

It is not a “Now I am happy all the day” plaster of platitudes.

It’s real hurt that comes in waves.

It’s real hope that calms the heart.

It’s a struggle with the wrong place at the wrong time senselessness of how Christopher died.

It’s the undeniable sense of God’s presence and the comfort of His truth.

It’s all these things, sometimes thrown in a blender and set for “puree”.

It’s real.

And it’s the Lord working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

And when I see a man who loves the Lord go through all of this and hang in there – I want to hear what God is teaching Him in His Word.

Maybe that’s what Peter was getting at when he said:

Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly;  nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock;  and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. (I Peter 5:2-4)

There’s an old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words.

But if that’s true, then a living example must be worth 10,000.

Greg Laurie has my ear as a teacher of God’s Word, not just for his skill as a speaker, but also because of the power of his personal example in the valley of the shadow of death.

Please remember to pray for the upcoming Harvest Crusades at Angels Stadium in Southern California!

What did Jesus mean that “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven”

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Why did Jesus say “you are gods” in John 10:34?

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Holy Hoaxsters, Batman!

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“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

The words crackled across the airwaves some 40 years ago.

The seemingly impossible had become reality.

The shadowy images on our televison screens confirmed Neil Armstrong’s message – man had set foot on the moon.

But not everyone is convinced.

In fact, while perusing the local newspaper’s coverage of the upcoming anniversary of the moon landing, I noticed that quite a bit of space had been devoted to a “moon landing truth-er” – a person who believes that the Apollo missions were “a pathetic set up”.

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Tucsonan: Apollo was a cosmic hoax

Misty-eyed moon nostalgia makes Tucson security officer Hank Wilson smirk.
He doesn’t believe Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon in 1969 and doubts other Apollo missions accomplished the feat.
“It looked phony to me,” said Wilson. “It was a pathetic setup of a sound stage.”

Wilson says NASA faked the landing to upstage the Soviets in the space race.

Only the astronauts and a small control team knew the landing was a fake. Even mission control thought the journey was legit, he said. The live radio communication among the astronauts was genuine but came from orbit, he said.

Wilson thinks Armstrong and Aldrin starred in a staged scene in the Nevada desert, then launched into orbit while the rest of the world thought they were en route to the moon before splashing down and living a 40-year-hoax.

Even Richard Nixon wasn’t aware it was faked, Wilson said, and the conspirators were paid to stay silent by NASA’s budget. Wilson said he doesn’t know why the Soviets didn’t suspect the fraud or try to expose it.
Wilson’s reasons for doubting the authenticity of the moon landing include the clarity of the images and the way the moon dust settled in the pictures.
From his point of view, this page of history is nothing more than a massive government sponsored hoax.
A heavy duty accusation? No doubt.
If the moon landings were faked, it would make Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and every single Apollo crew after them first ballot inductees in the Liar’s Hall of Fame.
But Wilson doesn’t seem to want to go that far with his theory.

“I do not want to refer to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as liars — they were brave men that contributed vastly to the exploration of space during an era in history they are so well-known for,” he said.

“Where the moon landing, so-called, is concerned, I’d prefer to consider the possibility that perhaps these gifted and highly educated scientists may have been placed in an unexpected situation that presented only one option to them: Play ball and get along.”
Wilson admits that his theory has a hard time gaining traction.
By his own estimate only about 5% of those he shares with believe him.
Why?
Probably because it runs into two key obstacles – The eye witness testimony of those who participated in the moon landing effort and the personal credibility of people like Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.
Not to mention the fact that an entire world both watched and was changed by these events.
Yet less than 40 years later, a newspaper devotes a large space to covering such skepticism as part of the story.
Skepticism, no matter how far fetched, seems to sell.
Now does this all sound vaguely familiar?
If you are a Christian, it undoubtedly does.
You see there was an even more profound  history changing event that took place nearly 2,000 years ago – the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And yet we are surrounded by “resurrection truth-ers” who tell us that the notion of Jesus rising from the dead is a hoax.
So is the resurrection of Jesus historical?
The Bible claims that the Jesus death and resurrection was a real event that could be verified by eyewitness testimony.

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.  After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.  After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.  Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. (I Corinthians 15:3-8)

Does this claim stand up under expert examination?

Professor Thomas Arnold, author of History of Rome and appointed to the chair of modern history at Oxford: “I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God bath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.”

Brooke Foss Wescott (a famed scholar of the 19th century): “There is no historic incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection of Christ.”

Dr. Paul L. Maier (a prominent professor of ancient history): “No shred of evidence has yet been discovered in literary sources, epigraphy or archaeology that would disprove that the tomb in which Jesus was buried was actually empty on the morning of the 1st Easter.”

Dr. Simon Greenleaf (a very famous Harvard University professor of Law): “According to the laws of legal evidence used in courts of law, there is more evidence for the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ than for just about any other event in history.”

But as you know, there are those who will say that Jesus resurrection was faked, or was a case of mistaken identity.

Much like our moon landing skeptic, the weight of this evidence doesn’t seem to convince them.

And also like our moon landing skeptic, they seem to want to deny the resurrection without facing the obvious conclusion – Since Jesus repeatedly predicted His resurrection He was wrong, and hence a false prophet.

In the same way, since Jesus’ followers told people that He rose from the dead, they were guilty of foisting on the world the greatest lie known to man.

Funny how few I find really willing to go there.

Even those who deny that Jesus is God have no problem including Him among the greatest human teachers.

They even refer to the apostles as brave men who changed the world for the good.

But in the same way as in our moon landing debate, you can’t have it both ways.

Great and brave people aren’t cover up artists.

Great movements aren’t built on hoaxes.

Great teachers don’t teach lies.

Great truths aren’t found to have a foundation of conspiracy.

And that’s the thing about Jesus.

He forces us to face facts.

And to make choices.

As CS Lewis so aptly put it:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.


Iran Isn’t Close To Having a Nuke – Unless It Is

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Have you ever seen one of those ads that promises an astounding product at an unbelievable price, only to be followed up by an announcer listing exceptions, conditions and contradictions so fast it makes a auctioneer sound like Forrest Gump?

Void where prohibited.

Your mileage may vary.

No shirt, no shoes, no service.

You get the drift.

With all these qualifications and uncertainties, it almost makes one wonder why they ran the ad in the first place.

That same back tracking tendency isn’t just the territory of infomercial pitchmen these days.

It seems as if national intelligence agencies are now getting into the act.

German agency says Iran years away from atom bomb

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency said on Wednesday that Iran was probably years away from being able to produce and test an atomic bomb.

Earlier, German weekly Stern reported that BND experts believed Iran had mastered the enrichment technology necessary to make a bomb and had enough centrifuges to make weaponized uranium.

The magazine quoted one unnamed expert at the agency as saying: “If they wanted to, they could detonate an atomic bomb in half a year’s time.”

Ahmadinejhad with a nuclear bomb by next January?

Batten down the hatches, sailors! We are in for a rough ride.

Or maybe not.

Once Stern magazine went with the story, the wheels of political expediency began turning rather quickly, resulting in this modified and qualified assessment published today.

A BND spokesman said the agency’s forecast was that it would take Iran several years to reach that point, although there was much uncertainty surrounding that view and that a shorter time period was also possible.

“The BND assumes that under ideal conditions, Iran would be capable of producing an atomic bomb in a laboratory setting in under five years,” the spokesman said.

He made clear, however, that it would take Iran far longer to get to the point where it was in a position to produce a deliverable atomic warhead.

Mark Fitzpatrick, senior non-proliferation fellow at London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, said six months was an “absolutely a worst-case analysis.”

He said that while it might be plausible in theory that Iran could further enrich uranium in a large enough quantity for a bomb as well as restarting the weapon design work it halted in 2003, these actions would not go unnoticed.

He said there was also disagreement as to how advanced the weapons design work was.

“If Iran were to go for broke and produce a nuclear weapon in this manner, it would have to expel International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and the world would know,” he said.

Until now there have been no indications of any such covert diversion, a point made by the IAEA’s incoming director-general shortly after his election earlier this month.

If you are keeping score at home, the German foreign intelligence agency let slip that Iran could have a nuke within six months.

Then it back tracked, saying that it would actually take a number of years for that to happen.

Unless of course it happens sooner than that, which in a “worst case” scenario could be six months.

But we don’t have to worry about that because UN Inspectors are on the case and we all know you just can’t fool them.

Unless of course you are North Korea, in which case the presence of inspectors didn’t slow down their march to having a working Hiroshima style bomb.

Or if you are India and Pakistan which surprised even our vaunted CIA in not only developing but successfully test firing nukes of their own.

The German BND gives the world this simple straight forward guarantee – Iran isn’t close to having a nuke, unless it is.

Your mileage may vary.

As the world observed in the run up to the Iraq war, intelligence agencies are not infallible.

But when you are dealing with a mad man with genocidal aspirations against the Jewish people on a Hitlerian level, the margin for error becomes razor thin.

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And when you are a nation like Israel, literally born out of the ashes of the Holocaust, you take these kind of threats very seriously.

So seriously that baring serious political upheaval, we may well see a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities within the year.

Because when a world leader with nuclear ambitions has openly made statements like:

  • “Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation’s fury.”
  • “Remove Israel before it is too late and save yourself from the fury of regional nations.”
  • “The skirmishes in the occupied land are part of a war of destiny. The outcome of hundreds of years of war will be defined in Palestinian land. As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map.”
  • “If the West does not support Israel, this regime will be toppled. As it has lost its raison d’ tre, Israel will be annihilated.”
  • “Israel is a tyrannical regime that will one day will be destroyed.”
  • Israel is a rotten, dried tree that will be annihilated in one storm.
  • – it would require a complete lack of intelligence to not take such threats seriously.

    And as history has shown, when Israel takes a threat seriously, serious actions usually follow.
    Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
    “May they prosper who love you.
    Peace be within your walls,
    Prosperity within your palaces.” (Psalm 122:5-7)