Iranian Forces Booted from Syrian Air Bases

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Iranian bases in Syria (Damascus is less than 60 miles from Israel’s border.)

In what some consider a surprising move, the Syrian air force has suddenly banned Iranian and Shi’ite forces from operating on Syrian air bases.  After many blistering attacks by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on Iranian positions, Syria has apparently decided they have had enough.  Despite constant bombings by the Syrian regime (at the command of President Bashar al-Assad) on its own people, fear of additional Israeli precision strikes have caused Syria to re-think the partnership with Iran on its military bases.

Other reports are claiming that Russia is also active in efforts to remove Iranian forces from the southern part of Syria.

Meanwhile, Iran continues to deny even having military activity in Syria, claiming that only military advisers are deployed there.  In fact, on Sunday an Iranian official even stated that recent strikes did not hit Iranian targets:

“Zionist regime’s claims that it ‎hit Iranian assets in Syria are false because ‎Iran only sent military advisers to Syria. It does ‎not take an active part in the fighting.”

Not sure where reality comes into play for the Iranians!

Meanwhile, Israel has drawn new “red lines” regarding Iran’s aggression and the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah, warning Russia that Syrian military bases are subject to attack if Iranian or Hezbollah forces threaten Israel.

So, what does all this mean?  We have established from Scripture that Ezekiel 38 prophesies a coming invasion of Israel, led by a Russian czar and accompanied by Iran, Turkey, Libya and Sudan.  Those parties are in alliance like never before, yet Russia seems to be pushing back against Iran’s aggression at this point.

Image result for why israel mattersHow do we make sense of it all in light of Scripture?  Well, that will be part of the subject I discuss this coming Sunday at 11:00 at CalvaryPHX, Central campus, Room 209!  It’s the first class of a study called Why Israel Matters, and we’ll spend 12 weeks trying to address the issue of why Israel matters.  Info and directions are found here.

I know of some who are “on the fence” about coming.  Perhaps you live in Phoenix, but you have never attended an event or service at CalvaryPHX.  (“It’s too far! I don’t know anyone there! I’m not really a church-goer!”)  Or, maybe the time slot overlaps with something else and you are trying to decide between the two.  Perhaps a friend has told you about the class, but you’re not really sure why a class about Israel is so important.

May I encourage you?  I have never been more excited and passionate about what the Lord has in store.  The nuggets He is bringing to the surface are rich and satisfying!  I just don’t want you to miss what He is putting before us!  If you are a Christian, understanding why Israel matters is critical to understanding your salvation, and how we should live out our remaining days on earth.  If you are not a Christian, you are WELCOME…please come!  This is a safe environment to learn about current events taking place in our world, and why they are important to everyone.

Finally, this class is “family-friendly!”  If you have students 12 and older, please bring them with you!  There will be specially prepared materials that will appropriately draw your students into the class without “ruining it” for the adults!  Children’s Ministry is available for children under 12, and there is no cost for either the class or Children’s Ministry.

See you Sunday!


Israel Living Securely in the Land

…and they are living securely…land of unwalled villages…those who are at rest, that live securely, all of them living without walls and having no bars or gates…My people Israel are living securely…
~Ezekiel 38:8, 11, 14

Notice how the prophet Ezekiel describes Israel in the days leading up to the invasion from the north, known as the War of Gog and Magog.  Clearly, Israel will be living in safety and security.

Long-time friends of mine have just arrived in Israel, but not before we talked over dinner a few nights ago.  I was asked the most common question about Israel: “Is it safe?”   I answered as I always do, with a resounding “yes,” then got the typical, “Are you sure?” look! (Of course I’m sure!)

It is true that Israel has a low crime rate, and I feel as  safe (if not more so) walking the streets of Jerusalem as I do walking the streets of American cities.  While some accept that fact, many can’t get beyond the thought that Israel is being targeted (and at times fired upon) by enemies who desire to destroy her.  That was the concern of my friends who were undoubtedly excited about going to Israel, but somewhat anxious about their safety.

So, is it safe?

That question goes beyond simply our limited view through human eyes.  One must understand God’s promises both to Israel and to us as believers.  There is a spiritual element that is best explained in a recent report by Amir Tsarfati from the Golan Heights.  Just a mere stone’s throw from the Israeli-Syrian border, one might think the Golan Heights would be particularly dangerous.  Yet, there is Amir, safely leading a tour group in that very place!

“But wait!” you say.  “Isn’t the Israeli Air Force engaged in conflict with Iranian forces in Syria right now?”  Ahhhh…yes!  Indeed there is conflict in Syria, but that is specifically the point!  Israel is safe and secure because Israel has drawn “red lines” regarding what they will allow at their borders.  Currently, Iran is no match for the IDF, thus Israel is well able to deflect conflict to Syrian territory rather than Israeli territory.

Would I go against the instructions of the IDF?  No.  If they say it isn’t safe to travel to the Golan Heights, I would not go there.  However, Israel is calm and life continues as normal today because the IDF is doing its job.  Moreover, as believers in Christ Jesus, we have nothing to fear!  We, too, can live securely as our Savior and Protector is doing His job!

Settle in and tune in to Amir’s report!  Then, decide for yourself if Israel is indeed living in safety and security…just as Ezekiel prophesied.  You will be blessed!

PS: We’re heading into exciting days, so stay tuned!  I hope to report from Washington DC in a few days, where I will attend a ceremony at the Israeli Embassy, linked by satellite to the festivities surrounding the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem!


Netanyahu, Putin to Meet in Moscow Tomorrow

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, January 29, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Netanyahu and Putin in Moscow, January 2018 (Photo credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO)

In what is believed to be their eighth official meeting in two years, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will travel to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin tomorrow.

Why so many visits in so few years?  Are the two allies or enemies?

I hear those questions at times and, while I don’t pretend to know all there is to know about these two men and their motives and agendas, I certainly have thoughts about those things.  First, the two are far from allies, but I believe each recognizes the potential challenges to their own agendas if they do not find a way to cooperate on a few things.

For example, I don’t believe either nation wants to enter war with the other.  Yet, they have very conflicting interests in Syria, where a significant portion of the action is taking place.  While Russia is backing the Assad regime in Syria, alongside Iran, Putin has seemingly turned a blind eye when Israel has needed to do business in Syria militarily, to keep Iran from transferring weapons to Hezbollah and to keep Iran from establishing a threatening presence just the other side of Israel’s border.

Over the course of the 7-year-long Syrian civil war, Russia has become increasingly involved and, more recently, entrenched in Syria.  With significant military presence there, it has become increasingly important that Israel coordinate military efforts with the Russians in order to avoid inadvertently drawing fire from them.  Thus, frequent visits between the two leaders.

Tomorrow’s visit, however, is said to be focused on regional developments.  Following Netanyahu’s bold unmasking of Iranian nuclear plans, he has lobbied world leaders, particularly those who signed off on the nuclear deal in 2015, to fix the deal.  Russia was a party to that agreement, and has been very resistant to modifying it, but I suspect it is safe to surmise that will be a large part of the conversation.

Biblically speaking, what should we make of this?  We know that Ezekiel 38 refers to an invasion from the north, led almost assuredly by a power-hungry Russian leader.  Putin fits the description, and the “players” named in Ezekiel 38 are fairly clearly identified as Iran and Turkey (among others), who are very active in Syria.

So, is the War of Gog and Magog (referenced in Ezekiel 38) upon us, or could it be delayed diplomatically? Is it possible, though an attack from a Russian-led coalition is ultimately inevitable, it could be delayed via peaceful negotiations between Netanyahu and Putin?

We don’t know…but we can pray.

Blessed are the peacemakers…
~Matthew 5:9

Afterthoughts: The US-led Attack on Syrian Chemical Weapons Facilities

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Questions about the US-led attacks in Syria are swirling, so let’s approach them the appropriate way: by viewing them through the lens of Scripture.

What led up to the American-led attack?

In brief, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is opposed by rebel groups who have suffered under his tyrannical reign.  Thus, to rid himself of the rebels, Assad has repeatedly attacked them with chemical weapons.  Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, America (and the rest of the world) stood on the sidelines, despite “red lines” that were crossed by the Assad regime.  Once elected, President Trump vowed to take action if chemical weapons were used, and he followed through on that promise about a year ago when Assad unleashed a chemical attack on his own people.  Again, on Saturday, April 7, Assad used chemical weapons to decimate citizen (including children) in the city of Homs (just outside Damascus).  President Trump openly declared that missiles were forthcoming, though they were not launched until April 14.

Why did President Trump wait so long to strike?

That is a  complicated question and I may not have the correct answer, but here is my take.  In early April (before Assad’s latest assault with chemical weapons), Trump announced that he wants to pull troops out of Syria.  Following Assad’s attack, Trump then had a dilemma: pull out (as recently promised) or attack (to fulfill a previous promise)?  To remain true to his campaign promise to respond to chemical weapon attacks, he had to do something.  But he wanted the assistance of others, and he did not want to be dragged into a long conflict.  Thus, I believe it took time to draw the UK and France into commitment to strike alongside the Americans.  (Which they did.)

Meanwhile (in the span of that week), rhetoric from the White House, the State Department and the Department of Defense had grown fairly course toward Russia and Iran, holding them responsible for aiding and abetting Assad in his monstrous attacks on his people.  In fact, in the aftermath of Assad’s attack, President Trump very specifically aimed tweets at Russian President Vladimir Putin, stating smart missiles were coming.

So, if Russia and Iran were being held responsible, why didn’t the US target Russian and Iranian facilities?

Reports from trustworthy sources indicate that there may have been considerable disagreement among Trump’s advisors regarding attacks on Russian and Iranian positions.  Also, the timing was interesting.  It was several days after Trump promised action that he actually ordered the attack.  By that time, virtually all Russian and Iranian military assets were evacuated, leaving very little for the Americans and their allies to attack.  In fact, reports indicate that Assad very likely evacuated the Syrian chemical weapon stashes from the two storage facilities that were hit.  Therefore, while I see the destruction of the research facility as a major “hit,” I’m not convinced the attack was very successful in terms of setting back Assad’s capabilities in using chemical weapons again.

Will the US and its allies carry out further attacks?

It appears this round of attacks is over.  Things are “returning to normal,” meaning Syrian jets are back in the air, bombing rebel positions.  (Though no chemical weapons are believed to have been used since April 7.)  Though the US has said they will levy additional sanctions on Russia, Russian and Iranian military assets are returning to their bases in Syria, and I suspect it will soon be “as you were.”

Now….through the lens of Scripture.  We’ve talked at length in previous posts about the Isaiah 17:1 prophecy, foretelling the destruction of Damascus.  That is coming, and I believe, could be the spark that lights the fuse for the Ezekiel 38 prophecy.  (War of Gog and Magog – attack on Israel by a coalition led by Russia and including Iran, Turkey and others.)

Now, the elephant in the room: is the US truly standing with Israel or not?  By not taking more decisive and determined action against the thugs in Syria whose target is ultimately Israel, is the US as strong a partner as Israel needs?

Dear friends, Scripture tells us that, in the end, Israel will stand alone.  Of course I want the US to take the strongest stand possible for Israel.  Of course I don’t want America to let Israel down.  But God’s Word is God’s Word.

The US is not specifically mentioned in Scripture, so that should be our first clue that the US will not likely be a key player in the end.  If there is any possible mention (indirectly) of the US, perhaps it is part of the “…merchants of Tarshish with all its villages…” in Ezekiel 38:13.  However, if that is the case, those “merchants” and “villages” do nothing to assist Israel.  They simply stand on the sidelines asking questions!

Furthermore, Joel 3:2 indicates a time in which God will gather ALL nations to be judged for how they treated Israel.  Unfortunately, America is part of “ALL nations.”

But here is my favorite view of these current events through the lens of Scripture:

Some boast [trust] in chariots and some in horses,
But we will boast [trust] in the name of the Lord, our God.
~Psalm 20:7 NASB (“trust” used in other translations)

It will NOT be the strength of the military (US or otherwise) that will protect and save Israel.  It will be the Lord Himself!  Should we, as individuals, be faithful to stand with Israel, regardless of the cost?  Absolutely yes!  Should we pray that our nation remains faithful to stand with Israel?  Absolutely yes!  But at some point, will Israel ultimately stand alone?  Yes…and Israel will see the power of her God!  Trust in the name of the Lord our God…He reigns over all!