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2015: A Year in Review

Welcome to 2015. Where man-buns are a thing and more deaths are caused by taking selfies than shark attacks. Deaths by selfies gone wrong: 12. Death by shark attacks: 8. There have been an estimated 105 billion photos taken by Americans this year and 104.9 billion of them were seflies! We have definitely become a more selfish and self-centered generation this year – with the Kardashians leading the charge on this one! Kim Kardashian (in)famously “broke the internet” this year with her butt. [I cannot believe I just wrote that sentence.] But I guess Ariana Grande wanted a piece of the limelight so she took to donut licking to find it. She may have taken it a bit too far when she said she hated America and Americans because her stunt backfired and people began to realize they’d have one less “Problem” without her so she eventually apologized and now all is right with the world.

Yes, 2015 was indeed a busy year. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest stories from this past year.

Politics and the Fight Against Terror
We started off 2015 with the attacks by two brothers with ties to Al-Qaeda, against Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine in Paris who had published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. They killed 11 people and injured 11 others. A massive manhunt for the two terrorists led to an altercation with police two days later. The terrorists were found hiding in a printworks factory. They emerged from the building firing at police. Both suspects were killed. Meanwhile, two other terrorists with connections to the brothers had taken hostages inside a Jewish supermarket. In total, 17 people were killed in the course of three-days.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress this year in March speaking against the nuclear deal with Iran. President Obama was busy golfing or something and subsequently couldn’t find time to meet with our “strongest ally in the Middle East.”

In May, the U.S. along with several other world leaders struck a nuclear agreement with Iran. Supporters of Israel and common sense all over the world urged their leaders to oppose the deal. In his address to the country, President Obama gave us some information about the really bad deal.

An arms embargo would be in place for 5 years while a ballistic missile embargo would be in place for 8 years. The deal is not contingent on Iran changing its behavior or acting like a civilized nation. We are hoping this deal will lead to future talks in hopes that they will lessen their violence and take a more constructive path — but we’re not betting on it.

It does not give me pause the others in Tehran or Mr. Assad are praising this deal as victory against America. The facts are the facts. I’m not concerned with what others say about it.

We have huge differences with Iran. Israel has significant concerns with regards to its security. Iran has a military, they deny the holocaust, they have called for their destruction and have missiles pointed at [Israel]. For all the objections of Netanyahu and republicans no one has given me an alternative.

24/7 monitoring of the “known” and “declared” facilities. What if they try to develop a covert program? The benefit of sophisticated monitoring throughout the entire process is that it’s hard to create a covert program. But if they are so determined, the IAEA has the authority to declare they want to inspect the suspicious areas. If Iran wants to object to any inspections, we can override that decisions. This is the most vigorous inspection process ever negotiated. The only argument you could make against it is that Iran is no intent that no inspection team would ever be sufficient. At that point, the only alternative is to go to war with Iran.

We didn’t make the release of hostages part of the deal because we didn’t want Iran thinking they could get more out of this deal by using the hostages as leverage. If we had walked away from the negotiating table we’d still be pushing hard to get them out of prison.

There are quite a few sketch details in this nuclear deal with Iran. I’m sure we will hear about this in 2016.

The world was rocked again when terrorists carried out attacks in the capital of France. Terrorists executed at least 158 people in coordinated attacks around Paris. The terrorists were heard shouting “Allahu Akbar” and “this is for Syria” before opening fire. French President Francois Hollande closed the French borders and declared a state of emergency. The terrorists involved were killed.

ISIS took more ground in Syria and Northern Iraq. More people were brutally murdered by the terrorist group which also led to the height of the refugee crisis facing the world. For years, Syrians had been fleeing their country because of the devastating civil war taking place. But now with ISIS being added to the mix, the number of refugees was becoming almost overwhelming. The debate reached its height in America this year after it was discovered that at least one of the terrorists involved in the Paris attacks had snuck in with the Syrian refugees.

While most American were having Turkey for Thanksgiving, so was Russian President Vladmir Putin. After ISIS claimed responsibility for attacks against Russians and around the world, Putin ordered attacks against the terrorist groups and many Americans day-dreamed about impeaching Barack Mom-Jeans Obama and replacing him with Vladmir I-Wrestle-Bears-With-My-Bare-Hands Putin to be our next President.

And just when we all thought the Greek economy couldn’t get any worse, it did. Throughout the year, we’ve watched as the Greek economy collapsed – again…again.

2015 was also the year of Ben Carson and Donald Trump. Both entered the Presidential race this year and both have lead the ratings as the two front-runners in the GOP party. I think this shows that people are ready for some real change – not more politicians promising the world and then delivering none of it. Although, I still think Ted Cruz is the best candidate. Anyhow, this should make for an interesting election this coming year!

Race Issues
After the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, two weeks of protests erupted in downtown Baltimore. The incident reignited the debate about police brutality and brought the Black Lives Matter movement back to the forefront of American’s minds.

On June 17, a gunman opened fire at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and killed nine people. In the subsequent investigation, photos of the gunman posing with a Confederate flag emerged which sparked a debate on the Confederate flag. South Carolina representatives voted to remove the Confederate flag.

Rachel Dolezal came under fire this year after city officials investigated her claim that she was African-American only to find out she was actually white. She claimed that she “identified as African-American” because apparently in 2015 we became a society that made it ok to just “feel” whoever we wanted to be. Which leads us to one of the top social stories of the year.

Social Issues
Bruce “Call Me Caitlyn” Jenner made waves in April 2015 when he announced he identified as a woman and would be making the official change from Bruce to Caitlyn.

In a 5-4 decision this June, the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was legal in all 50 states. However, many questioned the validity of the ruling and whether or not the Supreme Court, who cannot make laws but only enforce existing laws, had the authority to make such a decision.

Pope Francis made headlines this year when he visited the United States. He also addressed Congress on his September visit – becoming the first Pope ever to do so. In his speech, he advocated on behalf of the poor and Mother Earth and lambasted greed.

On April 25, the world jumped into action after an 8.1 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal and destroyed thousands of homes. The earthquake triggered a massive landslide on Mount Everest and killed approximately 9,000 people.

But the earthquake in Nepal wasn’t the only reason thousands of people died this year. Planned Parenthood earned themselves national criticism when undercover videos revealed the horrifying truth behind Planned Parenthood. While most of us already knew that Planned Parenthood doesn’t actually care for women or children, it seemed their depravation goes even further than any of us thought possible. Planned Parenthood officials were caught on video selling aborted baby parts for thousands of dollars. It seems that their procedures even took special precautions to ensure the parts were as intact as possible to ensure the highest price. Little was done in response to prevent this from happening again and many even bolstered their support for Planned Parenthood in spite of national criticism. Meanwhile, the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion in a small African village drew public outcry and even received death threats while the villagers in Africa went on with their lives as normal.

Meanwhile, college students across America whined that they needed “safe-spaces” on campuses so that no one would feel marginalized or have their feelings hurt. Because 2015 was the year of the cry-baby. In generations before us, young adults fought wars and built a life for themselves and their families but today, they cry for their blankies and safe-spaces. What is America coming to?!

Mass Shootings
Charleston, Oregon, San Bernardino. This year, it seemed as if there were too many mass shootings. It seemed like every day there were alerts of gunmen on a college campus, or walking down the street, or at their job. While the liberal left were crying for their blankies and more gun control (which is obviously the solution), common-sense thinkers recognized that it won’t take more gun control, it will actually take less government intervention to help keep America safe. Bad guys will find a way to murder and kill. The delay in time it takes a police officer to respond to a 911 call could mean the difference between life and death. And that means that if the bad guys are the only ones with guns, there will be no one to protect innocent civilians – especially with the wave of distrust arising against police officers.

Entertainment
Undefeated UFC champion Ronda Rousey was defeated by New Mexico native Holly Holm and Americans across the nation engaged in a throwdown of their own when that stupid dress came on the scene. You know which one I’m talking about. The gold and white one. Or was it the blue and black one? Either way, people almost died over that controversy.

We also saw, or at least learned, about the Gilmore Girls reunion! Fans all over the world pulled out their “Babette Ate Oatmeal” shirts, drank gallons of coffee, and practiced saying “Oy with the poodles” hundreds of times fast in preparation for the big day. We also saw Star Wars make a HUGE comeback this year. In what is the eighth highest-grossing film of all time, Disney takes us to a galaxy set 30 years after Return of the Jedi. I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t seen it yet, but, seriously, SO. MANY. QUESTIONS.

And then there was the sad news that oldest Duggar son Josh, had not only molested some of his younger sisters and family friends growing up but that he had been unfaithful to his wife, Anna, as well.

New Year, New Start
As 2015 comes to a close, its easy to look back at this last year and see only the negative. But in the midst of the bad there are stories of good. Stories of people helping others. Stories of lives being changed forever. Stories that restore our faith in humanity.

I don’t normally make New Year’s resolutions, but just think what would happen in 2016 if we all resolved to be a force for good this year. If we stopped and helped someone in need. If we thought of others first and gave of ourselves. We could be the light in a very dark world. We could give others hope in a world of despair. So let’s charge into 2016 ready to face all the challenges that lay ahead knowing that God is the Light that goes before us!

Be blessed and be a blessing in 2016!

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Love Wins With Liberty and Justice for All

By now we’ve all heard about the decision from the Supreme Court on Friday that gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states – or all 52 states if you’re Obama. This decision was a huge overreach of the Supreme Court because it deprives the people of their right to representation in policy-making by denying states their ability to self-govern. Made up of 9 unelected lawyers, SCOTUS was designed to be a neutral arbiter, not a committee of policy makers.

This decision was intended to uphold the 14th Amendment which addresses citizenship rights and equal protection laws in response to issues related to former slaves following the American Civil War. However, in the process, the 10th Amendment which says that the federal government possesses only those powers delegated to it by the Constitution and that all remaining powers are reserved for the states (i.e. “we the people”) has been completely disregarded.

As we prepare to celebrate our Independence Day, I am increasingly concerned for the religious liberties of those who do not agree with a homosexual lifestyle. I have not yet seen any precedent set or any actions taken by SCOTUS to simultaneously protect the religious liberties of citizens while they are trying to protect civil liberties.

When SCOTUS mandated to the states that they would now comply with their ruling that same-sex marriage was legal, why didn’t they have some sort of protection for religious business owners who do not wish to participate or render services for these newly legalized same-sex marriages? I can’t walk into a Catholic Church and demand to be married there – because I’m not Catholic. The same goes for a Muslim mosque or a Jewish synagogue. So what would happen if a same-sex couple demands to be married in one of these places to simply prove a point? Who will win?

Or what of the bakers, photographers, dress designers, flower shops, and the countless other small business owners that are also religiously-minded? Will they be forced to participate in something that violates their religious beliefs? Will they be sued and taken to court only to have their hard work and business destroyed by legal proceedings and fines and red tape? The precedent set by SCOTUS says “yes.”

We have already seen bakers and photographers taken to court only to lose everything they worked so hard to build. And for what? To prove a point? Wal-Mart refused to make a cake depicting the Confederate flag this week but the same worker agreed to make an ISIS flag cake. Why do some businesses get to determine what work they will take and which jobs they will decline? Does it all depend on public opinion and political correctness? If you were only concerned about marrying the love of your life, you would have no problem finding one of the millions of other bakers or photographers that would be more than happy to work at your wedding. But it seems that’s not enough. They are looking to prove a point and are willing to fight in order to prove it. But I see many Christians and Believers who are not willing to do the same.

It’s true that I am a Believer who believes in the Bible and that I do not agree with homosexuality. And, yes, it’s true that my one and only King is YHVH; that the Law that holds the highest authority in my life is His Torah. But does that mean that I should bury my head in the sand and not stand up for my beliefs, rights, or what I know to be true?

This would not be the first time homosexuality has been an issue; there’s a reason YHVH had to put a prohibition against it in the Bible. However, it’s your life and your choice. No one is forcing me to engage in a homosexual relationship. Similarly, a few chapters away from God’s prohibition on homosexuality is the prohibition against pork. I do not eat pork and as long as no one is forcing me to eat pork or serve pork we won’t have a problem. But that’s where I have a problem with the SCOTUS ruling.

I have seen comments from fellow believers who say that “we live in Babylon” and that “this world is not our home” so we should just accept this ruling and not get worked up over it. However, I am a citizen of this country too. I pay my taxes. I abide by the law. I vote. I am an active participant in our country’s economy. And I serve my nation as best I can. So why should my rights and liberties be any less important? Why should I be expected to just take whatever my government decided for me – without legal representation?

By that same reasoning, when the anti-Christ takes power, should we simply submit to his authority because we know that one day YHVH will vanquish him? No. We would fight back. We would stand for what we know to be right. We fight for truth every, single day when we fight to overcome the flesh in our own lives. We do not simply give in to the fleshly desires of our hearts simply because we know that one day YHVH will return and take care of everything.

We still have to do our part. We still have to be responsible. It’s true that we are not of this world – but that doesn’t mean that we stop living in reality or forgo our responsibilities.

I’m not saying push back and physically fight or riot as we’ve seen others do around the country. But I am saying to never give up doing your part to make sure that your religious and civil liberties are not stripped from you. I know it’s easier to simply accept whatever is done to you and to bury your head in the sand. But is that really the best way?

We are on this earth for a purpose – not to simply hide and wait till it’s all over. We have a responsibility to do what is right and to stand for what we believe to be true. Maybe you think that it’s all too far away or that it won’t really affect your life. But you’re wrong.

This life, this world, is our life. And it’s this life that YHVH has given to us and made us responsible for. What will you do with it? Will you hide or will you stand for what you believe to be true?

The law of this land is liberty and justice for all – including those with religious beliefs. The mantra of same-sex supporters has been “Love Wins.” Both are true.

When love wins, there is liberty and justice for all.

Love doesn’t mean agreeing with every decision. My friends and family certainly don’t agree with every decision I make, but I never doubt their love for me. If you’re looking for someone to agree with you all the time then you’re not really looking for love – you’re looking for compliance. And they are not the same thing.

We know that one day Yeshua – Jesus Christ – will return to earth and His love will conquer all and win. There will be judgment for all of us – believers and those who did not believe in Him alike. At that point, nothing else will matter except you and Him. He will not care what your political affiliation was, what church or denomination you belonged to or if you were perfect in everything you did.

He will ask what you did with the life you had been given.

Whether you agreed or disagreed with same-sex marriage won’t be the issue. It isn’t the issue. It’s just a surface level symptom of a greater problem. It’s not that I hate homosexuals or am condemning them to hell because I disagree with them. Only God has the power to judge and He will examine each of our lives, including my own. But when I stand before Him, I want to know that I’ve done everything in my power and within reason to stand for His truth. To know that I haven’t wasted my life or spent my life hiding from the battle between good and evil. That when the storm has passed through and when the clouds have lifted, I am still standing. That’s how love wins.

Love wins when we can love each other enough to respect our differing opinions and let each person make their own decisions for their own life.

Love wins when YHVH’s truth penetrates deep within our souls and changes us. Having something to fight for is a sure sign of love. When you love something enough, you will fight for it.

I love YHVH. I love His Torah. And in the end, I truly believe that His love wins.