Purim is the ancient Jewish holiday that celebrates the remarkable story of how the Lord used two faithful believers — Mordechai and Esther — and a movement of prayer and fasting to save the Jewish people from an evil Persian (Iranian) regime determine to annihilate them. We’ll be celebrating Purim as a family this weekend. I hope you will, too!
Pray– We are to praise the God of Israel that He saved and redeemed the Jewish people….we are also to thank Him that He also saved so many Persian people who turned to the Living God at the end of the story (many people miss this part)….and especially this year we should follow Mordechai and Esther’s example by praying and fasting for the redemption of the Jewish people amidst this current showdown with an evil Persian regime that wants to annihilate them, and praying for the Persian people to be saved and redeemed, as well.
Give — On Purim, the Lord encourages us to give food and other gifts to the poor. As we read in Esther 9:20-22, “Then Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, obliging them to celebrate the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same month, annually, because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies, and it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor.”
Go — If you’d like to give to a ministry that is providing food and other gifts to the poor and needy in the Land of Israel, please go to The Joshua Fund’s website at www.joshuafund.net.
May the Lord bless you, and all of Israel, and all of the Persian people this Purim season.
“Just days before Iran enters its first nuclear talks with the West since the summer [Feb 26 in Almaty, Kazakhstan], international nuclear inspectors said Thursday that the country has begun installing a new generation of equipment that should give it the ability to produce nuclear fuel much faster,” reports the New York Times. “The installation — at Iran’s main plant for uranium enrichment, located in the desert at Natanz — came after a half-decade of delays exacerbated by Western sanctions and sabotage. The new centrifuges are four to five times more powerful than an aging model that Iran has used for years. The advance has worried American, European and Israeli officials because it would make it easier for Iran to race toward making fuel for nuclear weapons, if it decided to do so.”
“Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman, called the installation of the advanced machines ‘yet another provocative step’ and ‘a further escalation’ in Iran’s continuing violation of the United Nations demand that Tehran suspend its program of uranium enrichment,” notes the Times. “But even as Iran installed the more powerful equipment, evidence collected by the International Atomic Energy Agency suggests that the Iranian authorities are deliberately slowing the accumulation of the medium-enriched uranium that could most quickly be converted to bomb fuel. According to a new report by the agency, much of that production has been diverted to make specialized fuel for a research reactor. The new report says Iran has diverted about 40 percent of its growing stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium into an oxide form that can be used to make fuel for a research reactor in Tehran. So far, the report said, Iran used the collected material to produce at least five fuel assemblies.
“The result is that Iran has delayed the day when it could reach what Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, defined as his latest ‘red line’ beyond which Iran would not be allowed to pass: the accumulation of enough medium-enriched fuel to make a single nuclear weapon,” the Times continued. “At the time Mr. Netanyahu spoke at the United Nations last fall, it appeared that Iran would reach that point — about 240 kilograms (or 530 pounds) of uranium, enriched to 20 percent purity — by early this summer. If production remains at roughly the same rate, it appears that date will now slip into the fall, allowing more time for diplomatic progress. Mr. Netanyahu’s office said nothing about that apparent slowing when it released a statement quoting the prime minister as saying the findings were ‘a very grave report which proves that Iran is continuing to make rapid progress toward the red line.’ It added that ‘the first subject’ Mr. Netanyahu will discuss with President Obama during his planned visit to Israel next month is preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear arms.”
Is Israel gearing up for a preemptive strike against Iran’s nuclear sites? Is a countdown running towards war in the epicenter? Would Israel move against Tehran even in the face of intense pressure by the Obama administration not to take action? Would Israel move in the face of potentially lethal blowback by Iran’s allies, including Hezbollah, Hamas, and most worrisome the Assad regime in Damascus, which has stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons?
PM Netanyahu speaking before the UN General Assembly in October 2012.
I realize this sounds a lot like my forthcoming novel, Damascus Countdown. But in this case I’m actually talking about today’s lead story in Israel.
“Iran has begun installing advanced centrifuges at its main uranium enrichment plant, a UN nuclear report said on Thursday,” according to Reuters and the Jerusalem Post. “In response, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that Iran is closer today than ever before to obtaining the necessary enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb. The White House said that the window remains open for diplomacy with Iran but will not stay open indefinitely.”
This is particularly troublesome in the light of the fact North Korea recently conducted another nuclear warhead test. Guess who was present at the test? The head of Iran’s nuclear program. Did Pyongyang just help Iran test an A-bomb? As I’ve written on my blog, there is growing evidence that Iran and North Korea are working hand in glove in developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Netanyahu warns that the North Korea nuclear bomb test proves that economic sanctions are not enough to stop Iran.
In recent weeks, most of the news in Israel has concerned Prime Minister Netanyahu’s efforts to cobble together a new government. He’s having serious problems. It is possible that Israel will have to hold new elections. It’s also possible that someone else could emerge as Israel’s leader other than Netanyahu. [UPDATE:A new poll suggests Yair Lapid and his party would win 30 seats in new elections, up from their current 19; and that Netanyahu’s Likud-Beitenu party would drop from 31 seats to 22.] But Netanyahu and his team are working around the clock to make sure they do stay in power and build a functioning, stable government before President Obama’s expected visit in March. There has been plenty of other domestic news to keep Israelis busy, too, including a controversial suicide involving a possible Mossad operative. But today the story of Iran approaching the nuclear “red line” is the major story Thursday afternoon on various Israeli news sites, including Haaretz, Ynet News, and the Times of Israel.
Netanyahu termed the report “very grave,” and said it proved that Iran is moving swiftly toward the red line he set out at the UN in September. He said during that address that Iran must be stopped before it crosses that line, something he said at the time could happen as early as the spring.
The Prime Minister’s Office said that preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons will be the first issue on the agenda when US President Barack Obama comes to visit in less than a month’s time.
In a confidential report, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said 180 so-called IR-2m centrifuges and empty centrifuge casings had been hooked up at the plant near the central town of Natanz.
If operated successfully, such machines could enable Iran to significantly speed up its accumulation of material that the West fears could be used to devise a nuclear weapon. Iran says it is refining uranium only for peaceful energy purposes.
The report also said Iran had increased to 167 kg (367 pounds) its stockpile of uranium refined to a fissile purity of 20 percent – a level it says it needs for conversion into reactor fuel. About 240-250 kg of 20 percent enriched uranium is needed for one atomic bomb if refined to a high degree.
The questions, of course, are these:
What will President Obama do to neutralize the Iranian nuclear threat before it is too late?
What will Prime Minister Netanyahu do if the U.S. does not take decisive action soon?
How will Iran and her allies retaliate if an Israeli first strike occurs?
Is it possible that Netanyahu will be unable to put a government together by mid-March, and if he can’t, will Israel have to go to elections again, or will someone else become Prime Minister?
How would a different Prime Minister handle the Iran threat?
Former Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s choice for defense secretary, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 31 (photo credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
UPDATE:A group of 15 U.S. Senators has written a letter to the President, urging him to withdraw Hagel’s nomination. They include: Marco Rubio, John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, James Inhofe, Lindsey Graham, Roger Wicker, David Vitter, Mike Lee, Pat Toomey, Dan Coats, Ron Johnson, James Risch, John Barrasso, Tom Coburn and Tim Scott. Outside groups, include Rick Santorum’s Patriot Voices, are also working to stall the nomination.
“Secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel said Israel is on its way to becoming an apartheid state during an April 9, 2010, appearance at Rutgers University, according to a contemporaneous account by an attendee,” reports the Washington Free Beacon. “Hagel also accused Israel of violating U.N. resolutions, called for U.S.-designated terrorist organization Hamas to be included in any peace negotiations, and described Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a ‘radical,’ according to the source.”
The Israeli media has picked up the story, and several major American Jewish organizations are asking Hagel for explanations of his comments before the Senate proceeds with a vote. Here are other disturbing quotes by Hagel on Israel, Iran and U.S. defense matters.
I continue to believe that Hagel, the former Republican Senator from Nebraska, is a terrible choice to be the SecDef. His confirmation would send the wrong message at precisely the wrong time to Iran, Hamas and Radical Islamic enemies of the U.S. and Israel in the Middle East. Thus far, the Hagel confirmation vote has been held up. Sen. John McCain has come out against Hagel’s confirmation. Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward saysseveral Senate Democrats have called the White House to ask if Hagel’s nomination will be withdrawn. There is concern among Democrats that Hagel is not truly qualified to be the SecDef, that he is to the left of the President on key issues like Iran. There is also concern among many in Washington that with his lackluster performance during the hearings, Hagel has undermined his own credibility at a time when there will be a critical need for close cooperation between Congress and the Pentagon on budget issues and on international matters, including the Iran nuclear threat. The latest report of Hagel’s imflammatory comments on Israel and her Prime Minister certainly isn’t helping matters.
Excerpts from the Washington Free Beacon story:
Kenneth Wagner, who attended the 2010 speech while a Rutgers University law student, provided the Washington Free Beacon with an email he sent during the event to a contact at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The email is time-stamped April 9, 2010, at 11:37 AM….
The Free BeaconreportedThursday on a contemporaneous account of another speech then-Senator Hagel gave at Rutgers in 2007. The report, written by Hagel supporter and political consultant George Ajjan, claimed Hagel had described the U.S. Department of State as an extension of the Israeli government.
Sens. Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte on Friday sent a letterto Hagel requesting an explanation of the alleged comments. The Anti-Defamation League also called on Hagel to explain, and the American Jewish Committee said, “Further Senate deliberation is called for before any final vote is taken.”
Hagel has disavowed the remarks and says he does not recall making them….
The Free Beacon is working to obtain transcript and video of Hagel’s comments during the question and answer sessions at Rutgers in both 2007 and 2010, and is continuing to speak to others who attended both events.
His fifth grade teacher said he was “most likely to end up in prison.” Humanly speaking, it was probably true. But Christ had a plan for a young boy named “Howie.” He saved him by His grace. He gave him a hunger for His Word. He gave him the gift of teaching that Word that was truly remarkable. And now the Lord has called him home to glory.
Hendricks was an absolute treasure. I first discovered him — a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) for 60-plus years — when I was a teenager growing up in the little town of Fairport, New York. My father gave me a set of audio cassette tapes of messages by Hendricks. He was teaching about the importance of following Christ wholeheartedly, the centrality of making disciples, and the critical distinctives of Biblical leadership. The messages — “How To Lead, Parts I & II,” “The Characteristics of a Leader, Parts I & II,” and “How To Motivate, Parts I & II” — were given to a management conference held for the staff of Campus Crusade For Christ back in the early 1970s. But when I discovered them in the early 80s, I was captivated. I had never heard someone teach the Bible so clearly, so powerfully, and with such authority in my life. Honestly, I listened to those tapes dozens and dozens of times. For years, they were the six best sermons I had ever heard. I took notes from them. I lent them to friends. I could recite much of the material, and often quoted it.
He used to say, “Show me your men!” It didn’t matter what else a person was doing in ministry, he argued, if a person wasn’t making disciples then he wasn’t obeying the Great Commission. If he couldn’t show you the men into whose lives he was investing — personally, individually, intentionally, not just from the pulpit, not just in the abstract — then he wasn’t being faithful to “making disciples of all nations” as Christ commanded in Matthew 28:18-20.
He used to say, “A leader is a man who knows where he is going, and is going to the right place, and can persuade others to follow.” A real leader isn’t a leader because he has a title, Hendricks argued. He has to have actually people following him. He has to be a man of vision, but also a man of heart. He has to be a man infected by a great and worthy and Biblical idea, but also one who loves people and cares for people and can help people see the value of following Christ with all that they are.
Indeed, those tapes so inspired me eventually that I took a young guy I was discipling down to DTS for a conference Hendricks was leading on disciple-making just to finally meet the man and hear him in person. I’ll never regret that decision. Hendricks wasn’t just theologically solid. He was funny! He was a great story-teller! He could really captivate an audience. But it wasn’t because he was smooth or charismatic. It was because he understood the power of the Word to transform lives, and he had seen the Word transform him, and he was compelled to teach faithful, reliable men who would be able to teach others also, just as Paul commanded us in 2 Timothy 2:2. The young guy that went with me to that DTS conference was so impacted that he left working for me, enrolled in DTS, studied under Hendricks, and graduated a few years ago with a passion to preach the Word and make disciples, too.
I can’t say I had the privilege of knowing Dr. Hendricks personally. We met once. We chatted briefly. I learned from his secretary that he had read and enjoyed several of my novels. But that was it. Regardless, he had an enormous influence on my life and personal ministry. I thank God for him, and I look forward to spending more time with him when we meet in glory (though I know there will be a long line of people ahead of me who will want to chat with him and thank him for his faithful service to Christ).
Dr. Chuck Swindoll — who graduated from DTS, eventually became the school’s chancellor, and has reached millions upon millions of people with God’s Word through his books and his radio program, Insight For Living — says Hendricks “is the one man who has had the greatest impact on my entire life. And there is no doubt in my mind that since the late 1950s to the present day, no other teacher at DTS has been more influential to more of our graduates, or more magnetic to more potential students than Dr. Hendricks.”
“Hendricks, known simply as ‘Prof,’ directly or indirectly touched millions of lives in the evangelical community and beyond,” reports DTS Magazine, in a wonderful tribute that I commend to your attention. “For more than sixty years Prof served on the faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), where he taught more than ten thousand students. He also ministered in person in more than eighty countries. Through speaking engagements, radio, tapes, films, the sixteen books he authored and coauthored, countless journal and popular-market articles, his service on numerous boards, and his work as a chaplain to the Dallas Cowboys (1976–1984), his reach was and is worldwide. His legacy, in partnership with Jeanne, his wife of more than sixty-six years, includes four children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Holding large audiences enthralled at venues such as Billy Graham’s conference center or Promise Keepers’ stadium rallies, Prof would confide, ‘It’s wonderful to be here with you, but I have a group of delicious students waiting for me back at the seminary.'”
I hope you’ll take some time to learn more about this remarkable man. He truly lived the invested life. Are you?
A study in contrasts? Senator Marco Rubio, possibly a presidential contender in 2016, is in Israel today. Yet former Senator John Kerry — once a presidential candidate, and now the Secretary of State — is heading to the Middle East next week but has decied to skip visiting Israel.
“Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday thanked US Senator (R-FL) Marco Rubio for American ‘bipartisan support for our security and our quest for peace,'” reports the Jerusalem Post. “Rubio responded [by] saying that Israel ‘lives in a challenging neighborhood but the Israeli-American relationship is one of the most important ones we have.’ He stated that he was ‘pleased’ that US President Barack Obama was visiting Israel in March, adding ‘certainly our commitment to that partnership is bipartisan and it should remain that way.'”
“Rubio met Monday with King Abdullah II in Jordan along with other members of the Jordanian government to talk about the Syrian war and the economic and security cooperation between the United States and Jordan,” reports ABC News. “Rubio also met with former Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab, who defected to Jordan last year. This marked Rubio’s first ever trip to Jordan.”
“Secretary of State John Kerry will make his first official trip overseas next week, a jam-packed travel agenda that includes meetings in nine nations across Europe and the Middle East — but there will be no stops in Israel or the Palestinian territories,” reports the Times of Israel. “State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says Kerry is bypassing Jerusalem and Ramallah while Israeli political parties continue to form a government after recent elections. Kerry departs February 24. He will visit close US allies and partners: Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar. His diplomacy will focus on the conflicts in Mali, Syria and Afghanistan.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hatnua party leader Tzipi Livni during a joint press conference announcing their coalition deal, Jerusalem, Tuesday, February 19, 2013 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
“I am hoping for a peace deal based on two states for two people, as per the parameters I outlined during my speech at Bar Ilan University,” said Netanyahu during the press conference. “Today Israel extends its hand once more for peace. We want a peace process, and we hope that it will yield results.”
“We must set aside our disagreements and join forces for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “The State of Israel now needs a large national unity government. Today we’re making the first step towards this end.”
“Speaking after him, Livni echoed the prime minister’s sentiments, focusing largely on her role as a future peace negotiator,” noted the Post. “‘Two-and-a-half months ago we established Hatnua with the intention of fighting for a peace deal,’ she said. Though she also mentioned the issues of burden of service and commodity prices, Livni said ‘Iran, Syria, the Palestinians are not less pressing than these domestic issues.'”
The Times of Israel reported that “at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, amid stalled coalition discussions, Livni signed an agreement with Likud-Beytenu under which her party will join the coalition, where she will serve as justice minister. Livni will also head the Israeli government’s negotiation team with the Palestinians, an area in which she will be subordinate only to the prime minister….Livni has been harshly critical of Netanyahu’s policies over the years, particularly on the international diplomacy front. She led the opposition as Kadima head for much of Netanyahu’s previous term as prime minister and sought to establish a joint front with other center-left parties before the elections to thwart his reelection….Reports surfaced Tuesday indicating that Livni, whose Hatnua party won six seats in January’s elections, had accepted the proposal from Netanyahu.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in Nazareth, May 14, 2009. Photo: REUTERS/Osservatore Roman
“Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu thanked outgoing Pope Benedict on Monday for his efforts to shore up often troubled relations between the Roman Catholic Church and Jews, including with his 2009 visit to the Holy Land,” reports Reuters and The Jerusalem Post. “That trip, in which the German-born Benedict paid respects at Israel’s main Holocaust memorial, was seen by many Jews as atoning for his lifting of the excommunication of a bishop who questioned the scale of the Nazi genocide.
“On other occasions he visited the Auschwitz death camp and the Cologne synagogue,” reports Reuters. “The pontiff, who will abdicate on February 28, also changed a Latin prayer for Good Friday services by traditionalist Catholics in 2008, deleting a reference to Jews and their ‘blindness’ but still calling for them to accept Jesus.”
On behalf of the people of Israel, I want to thank you for all you have done as Pope to strengthen relations between Christians and Jews and between the Vatican and the Jewish State. I thank you also for courageously defending Judeo-Christian values and the roots of our common civilization during your time as pontiff. I have no doubt that these values, which were so essential to building the modern world, are no less critical to securing a future of security, prosperity and peace.
Your historic visit to Israel in 2009 offered a rare opportunity to give expression to the new relations between our faiths. I remember fondly our meeting, in which you referred to Judaism as Christianity’s elder brother and in which you reaffirmed your commitment to a cooperative future between Christians and Jews.
I thank you for your leadership during these very turbulent times, and wish you long life, health and happiness.”
“The nuclear test carried out by North Korea last week proves that economic sanctions alone cannot stop a rogue regime from acquiring nuclear weapons, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday, warning that leaders should apply the lessons of Pyongang to Tehran,” reports the Times of Israel. “Netanyahu told the Board of Governors of The Jewish Agency for Israel in Jerusalem that sanctions would only work on Iran’s nuclear program if they were coupled with a robust military threat, repeating a popular refrain and perhaps offering a preview of what he will tell US President Barack Obama during a visit next month.”
“Only sanctions combined with a robust, credible military threat might stop Iran,” Netanyahu said, according to the Times, warning that “an Iranian nuclear weapon would transform the Middle East into a tinderbox, changing the world as we know it.”
“We need to seek a realistic peace process with the Palestinians, one which guarantees peace and security,” Netanyahu also said. “I don’t want to waste another four years negotiating about the negotiations. I place no preconditions for negotiations. I wish this were true for the Palestinians. The visit of President Obama is an opportunity to reset this.”
“The Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency comprises organizations from around the world,” notes the Times. “It meets three times a year to hold strategic discussions about issues affecting the Jewish world and Israeli society and to formulate Jewish Agency policy.”
Iran continues to strenuously deny it wants nuclear weapons or is actively pursuing them. Yet the evidence continues to say the exact opposite. Now there are new and credible reports that Iran is working closely with North Korea to join develop The Bomb, and that the recent North Korean nuclear weapons test was done in close coordination with Iran, even with Iranian nuclear officials present to observe the test.
“Iran’s leading nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh Mahabadi, is believed to have travelled to North Korea to observe its third nuclear test last week, according to western intelligence sources,” reports the Sunday Times of London.
“Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi has ventured outside Iran rarely, if at all, since several Iranian nuclear scientists were assassinated in attacks blamed by Tehran on the Israeli intelligence service Mossad,” reports the Times. “He is in charge of developing a warhead small enough to fit on to one of the ballistic missiles developed by Iran from North Korean prototypes, the sources said. His trip may have been worth the risk because North Korea’s triumphant announcement of the blast hinted that it was a compact, powerful device.”
In my novels, The Twelfth Imamand The Tehran Initiative, I paint a fictional account of Iran buying missiles and nuke plans from North Korea, and poring over data from North Korean nuclear bomb tests to assist and accelerate their own development of The Bomb. However, there is a growing streamof hard reporting and expert analysis that this is not fiction, that Iran and North Korea are, in fact, working very closely on ballistic missile development and on the development of nuclear weapons.
“No country is more interested in the results of the North’s nuclear program, or the Western reaction, than Iran, which is pursuing its own uranium enrichment program,” the New York Times reported on February 11. “The two countries have long cooperated on missile technology, and many intelligence officials believe they share nuclear knowledge as well, though so far there is no hard evidence. The Iranians are also pursuing uranium enrichment, and one senior American official said two weeks ago that ‘it’s very possible that the North Koreans are testing for two countries.’ Some believe that the country may have been planning two simultaneous tests, but it could take time to sort out the data.”
Iranians in North Korea? (Jeffrey Lewis, Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Dr. Lewis also founded and maintains the leading blog on nuclear arms control and nonproliferation, ArmsControlWonk.com.)