On a Scale

We have all been asked that question in some form or another… On a scale from 1 to 10 how would you rate…? In 1978, I received my first collegiate ring. With a stone of deep blue, it was crested on its center with the scales of justice, reflective of my degree in criminal justice. The scale of justice is held high in the one hand of Lady Justice, who is blindfolded and carrying a sword in her other hand. Blind to preference, to position, status, race or creed, wealth or poverty; she remains in our history as a noble representative of what our system of justice should be. I know many noble minded persons who have dedicated their lives to being certain that the scales of justice are, in fact, balanced before the weight of true and tested evidence can be brought before determiners of guilt or innocence. Her shelforiginal name in the Latin is Justitia, the Roman goddess of justice and she is often accompanied by Prudentia the goddess whose name is contracted from providentia the ability to see the future as a sage might discern how best to proceed.  Representing the ideal of governing and disciplining oneself by reason, Prudentia’s accoutrements of a mirror and a snake allude to careful reflection and caution in moving forward. The Greek’s, whose gods and goddesses aligned with most of the Roman’s, called Prudentia ϕρονησιϛ (https://fellowshipoftheminds.com/tag/prudence-latin-prudentia) which is now usually translated as practical wisdom or rational choice. Together the pair would call for a careful weighing of all evidence upon the merits of each, alone and then choosing the best course for discipline.

What brought me to consider Lady Justice was a set of the scales of justice which I own. I was looking over a few items that adorn the library area of my study when it caught my eye. There sits, front and center the scales of justice and above it is the American and Christian flags, two symbols of my heritage, my faith, and my loyalty. Immediately to the left of the American flag is a copy of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Immediately to the right of the Christian flag is a Bible from my father, which was given to him by a military chaplain, as he was recovering from wounds received when his ship was sunk off the coast of Normandy, June 6, 1944. Also there, among a few of the memories of my police and military service, stand three American Eagles from a larger set. These three are titled, “Courage Honor Sacrifice”, “Never Surrender” and “Never Forget”. The trio set the tone for what this small display means to me.

Among the books visible in the photograph are ones from the Ohio Retired Police Chiefs’ Association, a book from my time at the FBI National Academy and a book from my basic training days with the United States Air Force. More than my article or the information about me inside these books, each reminds me of people that reflect the titles carried by the three eagle sculptures.

Two retired chiefs, one who was gone before the Ohio Retired Police Chiefs Association was born and another who has been the heartbeat of the organization and the motivation behind many of my writings on honor within our ranks. They represent well Courage, Honor, Sacrifice. One was Chief George Ziga of the Alliance, Ohio Police Department and the other Chief Marion Taylor of the North Olmsted, Ohio Police Department. Near death, Chief Ziga admonished me, a young chief then, to stay true to my God, my values, my family and my profession. Anyone who ever knew Chief Ziga would tell you he represented the model for each of those objectives. Knowing Chief Taylor, his professionalism is informed by his Christian faith.

From the NA came a man, an FBI Special Agent, that I got to know while he was an instructor at Quantico. Now, a plaque and an annual service award commemorate his service which ended while on special assignment in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the war in the mid-1990’s; less than ten years since I first met Livio A. Beccaccio. He is the epitome of Never Surrender. The award named for him is inscribed as follows: “The Livio A. Beccaccio Award is a living memorial presented to a FBI National Academy Associate member who has demonstrated exemplary character through an act of heroism, outstanding community service, innovation in law enforcement, or leadership reflective of that by which FBI Special Agent Livio A. Beccaccio lived.”

(http://www.fbinaa.org/FBINAA/About_Us/Awards___Scholarships/FBINAA/Members_Only/Awards_and_Scholarships.aspx?hkey=0346bbf8-a0ce-4a5b-87cc-65f5ffb87148)

Finally, from my days at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas, at the tail-end of the Vietnam War, a SSgt who took on a rag-tag flight of trainees, who had been to hell and back with our first TI who suffered severely with PTSD in the days of Vietnam when such a diagnosis was unknown. He was likely tagged as ‘shell shocked sergeant’ who probably never received any help. Our second TI, SSgt Gillam was a man of character and morals who knew his own true north. He took us from not knowing which end of the rifle the bullets exited to men prepared to move on in training and ready to head into harm’s way, if so ordered. He had seen and understood the cost of Vietnam and he stands strong as a model airman to never forget our POWs & MIAs, all our veterans, but particularly those from Vietnam; nor would SSgt. Gillam ever expect us to forget 9-11. Four men who represent the strength of the U.S.A.’s justice.

The bedrock of our criminal justice system, here in America, rests upon the scales of Lady Justice. Our honor is passed as a torch from those chiefs who took their oath with their hand upon the Bible and their hearts indwelt by the God of that Bible. Our freedom comes from the sacrifices like Livio Beccaccio, thousands of other fallen officers and even more men and women who don the shield every day and stand that thin blue line. Our heritage is passed to our next generations when we remember those who fought valiantly on foreign shores and here at home to keep the flag of America flying high.

Just as the banner of red and white stripes and shining white stars on a field of blue continue to fly and represent the most blessed nation on the face of the Earth, so too must our faith in the One Lord God who made us One in Him, compel us to live by faith and not by sight. We will always know times of trouble in our land and often they come from our own actions or our failure to act. But we, as citizens of America and saints of the Kingdom of God can know that Christ has already won the final victory. He calls us to remain faithful to our calling and to take up our cross and follow Him!

I know that there isn’t some fantasy goddess who holds the scales of justice in her hands. God’s Word informs me that it is Christ who brings justice. Isaiah prophesied and Matthew recorded Jesus quoting the prophet, ““Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will declare justice to the Gentiles.” (Matthew 12:18 NKJV) Speaking of the role of police officers, Jesus also said, “For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Romans 13:4 NKJV)

It should be no wonder to us that, as I thought about those items on my shelf, those men came to mind in such a context. Each one of them were men of faith. They lived out remarkable witnesses because of that faith. Not one would claim any greatness on his own and certainly none would lay any claim to being anything apart from what they are within the Lord.

Law enforcement today is much maligned by the liberal media. Christians are too. Both are in good company since Christ, Himself, was counted among the criminals, scoffed at, beaten and abused. In America, the system may not be perfect, still though, the admonition of John Adams, a founding father and president concerning our legal system is upheld. “Better that ten guilty men go free than one innocent man convicted.” The scales of justice balance out pretty well. Compared to other places I have seen firsthand, I’m proud to live and have served in America’s criminal justice system where restoration is possible for those who choose wisely. Likewise, for those who choose unwisely, there are consequences. On a scale of 1 to 10… I’ll score a ten that I’d rather be tried for something I’ve been alleged to do here in the United States than anywhere else in the world. I praise God that my life and my family are under the protection of American police officers and I thank Him daily for every single one of them and pray for their safety.

 

UNPINNED REVISITED

Sometime back I began a post that I titled, ‘Unpinned’. It was a reference to those of us who have retired from law enforcement. I realized this evening that I never finished that post. Allow me to begin again. Here are the first lines from the long ago post that never posted…

I have been connected, as most of you that have been following my writing for any period of time know, for several decades with law enforcement. It has been very difficult to ever see myself as ever truly separated from it. I have written, in times past, under the blog title of “Unpinned” which carried the picture of a badge with the pin open. My argument is that for those of us who are retired, the badge may be unpinned but it is never gone. You hear, at times, that there is no such thing as an ex-Marine and I think, for those who truly bleed blue as a life-long law enforcement officer, it is as true. That can have positive and negative consequences and it remains always for those who have such a dedication to their given profession, (many of us would use the term calling), to keep in a healthy balance family life and the job.

Even as I write this, my son is on patrol on midnight shift for the department from which I retired as Chief. I see, in him and in the comradery he has with the other cops (as well as some of the frustrations that come) quite a bit of myself so many years ago. However, he is going into the crucible of public police work in a much different era than I. When I began, America was just post-Vietnam. I was one of the last to enter the military during the time designated, the Vietnam Era. There was plenty of social unrest; but, it was mostly name calling and rock throwing. Today, it is assassinations from snipers at multiple locations without mercy.

Most of the retired – unpinned – cops I know still carry their credentials and with thanks to the H.W. Bush Administration, their firearms under the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act. We maintain our regular qualification at the same standards of officers working the streets. The retirees I know would stop to help an officer in trouble without a second thought for their own safety. Some might say that such retirees are not just unpinned, they’re unhinged! That may be more true than we want to admit! The inexplicable bond that comes from such a shared experience of law enforcement cannot be severed by time, age or distance. Many retirees may have angst toward the system which they left; but, never would they permit a brother officer to stand alone if they were in any way capable of standing with them… and when I use the term brother that is neutral to sex and determined only by the blue blood that courses through the veins.

This is a time when such a brotherhood must band together. At the same time, it must not erect a fortress wall against every citizen because there are armies of citizens who support that for which cops stand and are prepared to link arm-in-arm with them to keep the thin blue line resilient and strong. In my upcoming book, I use the term stretching the thin blue line for the way in which supportive citizens and the blue officers can stand as a force against evil and defy those who would seek to terrorize our homes.

Our local church now has a hired off-duty law enforcement officer at each service. Men of the church have dedicated themselves to meet with whichever officer happens to have the duty and before the day begins to pray with him. They pray for his safety, for the church, for his family and the community. Not once has the offer to pray been declined; but, every time it has been appreciated.

A local Christian university has just begun a four-year degree program in criminal justice. There is no better time for men and women studying to enter law enforcement or to improve their knowledge while in the career to receive such training from a faith-based, biblical standpoint. If you have never questioned and studied why you believe what you believe, you will believe anything. A bumper sticker bit of wisdom says that if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything! An unexamined faith will never grow and the days in which police officers are now doing battle with the forces of evil requires a vibrant and burgeoning faith. Such a faith does not recoil for political correctness and as the Apostle Paul admonished, it does not grow weary in doing good.

If ever there was a time of vibrant opportunity for seasoned and retired law enforcement officers, who are men and women of faith, to take a hand in helping to nurture and challenge these current officers, it is now. America needs law enforcement officers who understand their work to be more than a calling. It is a ministry, God-given and God-blessed. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9 NKJV) Law enforcement officers walk every day and night along the thin line that touches evil on every point yet also touches goodness at corresponding points. To live within such a tension requires a strong faith in something. Most, who do know have a personal relationship with Christ Jesus, would struggle to define what it is that founds their faith except that they know there is something greater than themselves which is holding that line taut. It is little wonder, though, that when Jesus met a Gentile man of whom He declared had greater faith than any of the nation of Israel, that man was a 1st Century Roman police officer, a Centurion. (Matthew 8:10) Today is a day when America needs New Centurions of Faith. Thankfully, there are multitudes of them on the streets this very night holding strong in the battle against evil. If you have not prayed for them lately, please pray for them now. If you have not spoken to one lately and told them you support them, commit to doing so today and, if you have never asked a police officer if you can pray for him or her, I challenge you to do so. You will be overwhelmed by the response you receive.

On the back of my motorcycle helmet is a shield with a blue line through a field of black. It says, ‘to some this is just a thin blue line… to others it is a family crest.’ I may be unpinned. My family may even tell you that I’m unhinged. One thing I’m certain of and that is my Christ is who saw me through my career, even when I did not acknowledge Him and He stands ready to carry the next generation of cops to the end of their tours of duty, in whatever way that may come. I would ask every retired cop, who has faith in Christ, to join me in a strong commitment to do whatever it takes to uphold these new centurions in prayer each and every day.

 

Murder of the Masses

Chemical warfare whether by mustard gas disseminated by explosive ordnance or small pox virus spread by infected blankets given to unsuspecting Indians are both as deadly.

That ISIS has been confirmed to have used and is continuing to use chemical weapons is not particularly surprising news. That it was just admitted before the Senate Armed Services Committee by the U.S.’s top intelligence official, James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence in his report on the growth of ISIS and that he did not specify when nor where the attacks occurred is also not surprising. Particularly since Syrian forces have used chemical weapons against the opposition on multiple occasions, it is perhaps something we should be expecting. ISIL (another acronym for ISIS only identifying those living within the Levant) has used toxic chemicals in Iraq and Syria, including the blister agent Sulfur mustard, according to Mr. Clapper.

Last summer there was documentation by FoxNews of Kurds in northern Iraq being the test subjects for ISIS experimentation with chemical weapons. They suffered burns and blistering on the skin. The weapon was odorless and colorless while being absorbed through the skin. A silent killer who stalks its prey while remaining totally invisible.

Damascus has been using chemical weapons against the Syrian opposition and on civilians even though it had agreed two years ago to reduce its stockpile.  Below is a photo of Syrian refugees in Damascus. In such an environment, there is no protection from an attack by an invisible weapon.

 

According to Mr. Clapper, the recent use by ISIS of chemical weapons is the worst since the Sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway which killed 12, severely injured 50 and left some 1,000 people with temporary vision impairment in March of 1995.

As horrendous as such reports are, we must remember King Solomon’s instruction that there is nothing new under the sun. Pictured below is an artist’s rendering of a massacre of the Seneca Indians by British forces during the French and Indian Wars (1754-1763). The massacre was ordered by British General Lord Jeffery Amherst. He instructed his Lieutenant Grimble to destroy their huts and plantations, putting to death any of that Nation that may fall into your hands.

Seneca Indian Massacre
Massacre of Seneca Indians by order of General Amherst

General Lord Amherst described the Seneca Indians as “the vilest race of beings that ever infested the earth and whose riddance from it must be esteemed a meritorious act for the good of mankind.” (The Weekly Standard, February 2016)

What was it about the attack that puts it into the realm of chemical weapons, or better described as germ warfare? General Amherst ordered that the troops were to take the smallpox infested blankets from the diseased and dying at Fort Pitt and have them distributed among the Indians. Chemical warfare whether by mustard gas disseminated by explosive ordnance or small pox virus spread by infected blankets given to unsuspecting Indians are both just as deadly.

Regardless of Lord Amherst’s depiction of the Seneca tribe, they have a rich and proud heritage. A confederacy of six nations, the Seneca have a democratic form of government that pre-dates the American U.S. Constitution. Seneca Nation

Incredibly, in the town of Amherst, Massachusetts, named after General Lord Jeffrey Amherst is Amherst College that is a private school, opened in 1821 (although the seal shown below denotes 1825 which may have been when it changed from an Academy to a College) with a goal of an education on par with William and Mary College, focused on Christian ministry. Until recently, a laughable caricature costume of General Lord Jeffrey was the school’s mascot. Delving into his actual history, the board has banned any likeness of Lord Jeffrey on campus.

AmherstLord Jeff

There is no humane war. The death of one’s mortal enemy is not only a requirement for victory if war was not able to be averted.It is the goal of the soldier to, as General Patton put it,  “let the other dumb (expletive) die for his country!” To inflict upon the enemy such a horrific cost in lives, property, and economy is necessary for the successful execution of a war plan. To have rules of engagement does not make war civilized, just civil. The killing by nerve gases, germs or other silent chemicals is outside the bounds of what is acceptable even in war. That also includes the protection of non-combatants whether they be women and children or other refugees. Killing those who are completely defenseless must remain outside the bounds of what is civil.

Three million plus Syrian refugees are flooding Europe and are coming to the U.S. too. On top of those numbers, one can add the Cuban refugees which are hitting US shores in record numbers. Annually, America takes in over 70,000 refugees from around the world and that number is going to increase exponentially. Our system is soon to be overwhelmed and security officials say that the threat of terrorists being among those allowed to enter. Such events place the onus even more firmly upon local governments, communities, businesses and industry and even neighborhoods to combat terrorists and to find them and stop them before they wreak any more havoc upon our nation.

There is nothing new under the sun and we must be students of history to know what all those things are and how best to combat them. Please be on the watch for my soon to be published book: Stretching the Thin Blue Line: Policing America in Times of Heightened Threat by Motivational Press

East Jerusalem Attacks Intensifies Shadow Wars Within the Country

The attacks during the fall of 2014 by ISIS or The Islamic State against Christians is unparalleled since the Romans lay siege against the few remaining Jews atop Engedi after slaughtering Jews across Palestine and throughout Jerusalem in the latter half of the first century

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By considering the most recent attacks, there are two primary concerns that can shed light on the dark places where the shadow warriors plan. There is darkness in the hatred fueled by lies. There is darkness in the vicious attacks that turns hatred into violence. Expats who are called to battle the shadow wars do so by bringing light to the dark places within the parameters of calculated risk.
The recent attacks in East Jerusalem bring into focus the problem that Benjamin Netanyahu has in the battle that Israel faces against lone-wolf terrorists whether they are homicide bombers or murderers out for a spree killing. The most recent attack was the brutal murder of two Orthodox Rabbis by two Arab cousins, Uday and Ghassan Abul Jamal who appear to have been neighbors of the Synagogue in the predominantly Arab southern East Jerusalem area of Jabel Mukaber. The media has picked up on the term grass-roots terrorist attacks. Such attacks have become the core of the shadow wars.
Recent reports have focused on a two-pronged problem for the Israeli government. The first is the random nature of the events carried out without what seems to be any serious pre-planning but are spontaneous attacks of opportunity fueled by systemic hatred agitated by virulent propaganda. If it were possible to stop the flow of the propaganda, it may be possible to reduce the number of attacks. The apparent lack of planning or at least any sophistication in planning is evidenced by the use of weapons at hand and targets of opportunity. It also signals something deeper. There must be a source of fuel for the fire of anti-Israeli hatred. That fuel is being supplied in large degree by known sources of anti-Israel propaganda. The most obvious means for Israel’s President to deal with them is to shut them down unequivocally. Hunting down the source of the propaganda would intensify the media driven strong-arm reputation of Israel’s security forces. As effective as such a hunt might be, the focus will be negative particularly because it will be centered on those exercising their ‘rights’ to express an opinion. The hunt for the propaganda purveyors would result as well in two other concerns:
1) The international community would have one more reason to ostracize the nation (assuming they need a reason at this point)
2) If the government shuts down one source of the propaganda another crops up. As with the Hydra, cutting off one of the many heads not only allows the others to continue to operate but it immediately springs two new ones who might take weeks for the intelligence to re-locate.
Shadow wars thrive on lies.
Re-Tooling a Previously Successful Response to the Shadow Wars
Beginning in the 1970s and through the 1980s Israel was dealing frequently with homicide bombers usually from the propagandized militant loners who sought to take a stand or make their mark against what they saw as an Israeli occupation.
It took some time and a great number of lives for Israel and the IDF and others to determine the only course of action that would effectively stop the onslaught quickly and reduce the number of civilian casualties. An automatic green light was built into the op-plan; immediately upon gaining target acquisition on the homicide bomber the first unit to engage would take him out. There was to be no discussion, no negotiation simply target acquired/threat neutralized. There are two striking differences between the two types of attacks.
1. The current attacks seem to be a blitz type assault. The assailant(s) arrive on–scene, enter and begin the attack whereas the homicide

bomber (that could be neutralized) arrived on-scene, made his presence known and then waited for a response from someone.

2. The targets of the homicide bombers appear to have been planned. That pre-planning sometimes gave the slimmest chance for the IDF to

intercept their  targets. These new assaults appear to not to be pre-planned. In the most recent attacks there was no information that would have given

investigators any direction to send them for a pre-emptive strike.
The Israel population has been an effective part of the stemming the tide of homicide bomber operations by immediately reporting anything suspicious. On more than one occasion, a local citizen seeing something even remotely suspicious warned those in the area and notified authorities. Those precious seconds were the difference between an effective intervention and a deadly attack. The question becomes, “Is it possible to help citizens identify this new threat quickly enough to make an educated report to authorities?”
The Arab-Israeli citizens have lived within a conundrum. They live freely and openly in a society that they are told they should hate. They live in a country from whom they hold a passport, a citizenship, and see as a homeland that has provided all of their basic needs including healthcare throughout their lives. As an Arab they are told they must hate these people who are their neighbors, co-workers, and friends. The people who are telling them these things have never provided for them any of the necessities just described. They have never provided even a modicum of such stability to their kinsmen who live outside of Israel but within the Palestinian controlled regions.
In 2013, there were an estimated 1,658,000 Arab Israeli citizens (also called Palestinian Arabs in Israel) which is almost 21% of the total Israel population. For the most part they peacefully co-exist. This, we are certain, drives the Palestinian leaders crazy; hence, the continual on-slaught of Israel hate propaganda. What the Arabs, who are not Israeli citizens, need more than a propaganda pushing proletariat are real leaders who genuinely care about their people. Perhaps then the grass-roots events will be more productive than destructive. Until that happens, the President of Israel will always be battling a shadow war.
AN EXPAT RESPONSE to THE SHADOW WARS
The Apostle Paul makes the case for the work that he does and the effort that he puts forth. He does not waste his time nor his effort with things that are futile. He gives his full strength and devotion to the work. The analogy is from his first letter to the Corinthians. Paul writes, “Therefore, I run thus; not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” He also explains that when a soldier prepares for war he must be free of those things that would distract him from the battle. A distracted soldier puts himself, his squad and the objective at risk.
Expats that are missionaries are residing within a country where they have chosen to live for the purpose of serving Christ and His church. Their objective is cause enough to willingly risk their safety and perhaps that of their family. Dr. Riggs makes it very clear in his work: “In Times of Crisis” the biblical principles and countless examples by giants of the faith which show that when risk taking is necessary, they are calculated risks. Knowing that God has called you to a particular people and He has asked you to serve in areas of unrest during times of increased trouble; His promises to be with you always are very clear. The Bible never guarantees physical safety but rather informs His followers that they should not fear what man can do to them. True Christians can know that their eternal safety is secure. There remains two primary considerations with which every expat living in troubled circumstances must wrestle.

1. How does my staying when times are explosively unsteady balance against my first responsibility to my family? (This does not specifically

require that the expat have children with them on the field but there are extended family members as well to be considered.)
2. How does my staying or my leaving impact the national believers with whom I work?
a. Am I putting them in more danger, being a westerner affiliated with them? Am I painting a target on them, so to speak, if I stay?
b. If there is no risk of added danger, does my leaving negatively affect the Gospel message?

The attacks during the fall of 2014 by ISIS or The Islāmic State against Christians is unparalleled since the Romans lay siege against the few remaining Jews atop Engedi after slaughtering Jews across Palestine and throughout Jerusalem in the latter half of the first century. More Christians have been murdered for their faith in the Twentieth Century than in all the 19 previous centuries combined. The 21st Century is setting a trend that will cause it to far out-distance even the 20th Century for violence against Christians. At the same time, when Christians become targets of terrorists, it is important to remember that terrorists kill indiscriminately.
It matters not to them whether Islāmic children are killed or Jewish as well as Christian women and children. Their desire to control by striking such intense, paralyzing fear into the hearts and minds of the public precludes them having any heart for those who are dying.
There is but one complete solution to the Shadow Wars. Never will the Israeli President be able to stem the flow of the lies being spoken and printed about Israel. No matter how well trained, how fast the response or how actively the citizens of Israel become in aiding the authorities to stop the homicide attacks; they will continue – though hopefully at a reduced number. The only possible source of peace from the Shadow Wars is from the One who is the light of the world, the Prince of Peace. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Shoes

It was, however, the shoes left behind the spoke their message so quietly that it was deafening

We have heard the analogies perhaps dozens of times growing up. We should never think of judging anyone until we have walked a mile in their shoes. An ‘Americanized’ version of that is from what is known as ‘an American Indian proverb.’ Never criticize a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins. I imagine it is the use of the moccasins that makes it an American Indian proverb. Still, the thought is there.
The Bible also placed some tradition upon shoes. It was customary in a Jewish home and perhaps, too, in homes of Arabs of similar times in history; that a guest in the home was to have his shoes removed so that his feet could be washed by the host or the host’s designee. It was not a light issue but one of great importance. To fail to treat someone in this way was to show them disrespect. Jesus instructed His disciples that when they came to a town and were well received, they were to allow their blessing to remain on that town. But, if they were mistreated, they were to remove their sandals and shake the dust off of their feet, symbolizing the removal of blessing. Jesus said it was better for Sodom and Gomorrah than it will be for that town’s people upon the Day of Judgment. Paul and Barnabas, when the irreverent people of the Antioch stirred up the populace against them, took leave of the city. Following the direction Christ gave to his apostles during His earthly ministry, they stopped at the city gate to shake the dust from their feet and then they continued then on their way.
Shoes, in many cultures may define their wearer. My own propensity is to almost always wear a western style “cowboy” boot even when donning a tuxedo for some special occasion. My boots have defined me to some folks. The business man or the sports enthusiast each may be defined by their shoes; as too, the child who cannot get a new pair of shoes before school starts because mother and father are simply too poor. All of these things help to define the wearer. There are, too, the ‘baby’s first shoes.’ Shoes that are bronzed and kept often with a photo of the baby who first toddled about in those clumsily formed shoes that looked like they were more of a prison for those tiny feet than a comforting wrap against the elements.
Twice, I had the inner-peace shattering occasion to view such baby shoes, not bronzed, but still immortalized in a macabre fashion that cried out against the evil that had stolen that small life from this world. Perhaps nothing can speak such a message about a person more than shoes that they have worn in a time or in a way that tells such a horrifying tale. A pitiful message across the years. It is a message that is given to those who happen upon those shoes, either by chance or choice; but in either way, the recipient, not being prepared for the impact those shoes would have upon them will most certainly be taken aback for some time to come.
The first encounter that I had with such shoes was in a stark building, darkened by dust encrusted windows and the absence of any produced light made it even darker. It was darker, still, in the evil that enveloped the building. The long center of the main room was roped off and within it, was a pile of shoes ten feet high at the crest of the pile and more than thirty feet long at this farthest edges. The building was in Stuthof Camp. It was one of the few buildings left in this, the first Nazi ‘relocation’ camp for Jews during WWII built on Polish soil, just about 21 miles NE of Gdansk Poland and less than 2 miles from the Baltic coast. Stuthof had as few as 250 prisoners and grew to a maximum of 52,000 with over 1,000 SS guards by January of 1945. It began not just for Jews but for the undesirable Polish elements. It was, however the shoes left behind that spoke their message so quietly that it was deafening.
Poland Stuthof Shoes

An early photo before the building was used to memorialize the shoes left behind

As difficult as this site was to view, particularly the small children’s and infants’ shoes, it did not prepare me for my next encounter with another such site; shoes whose souls are still speaking their silent message across the miles, the years and into the hearts of all who will stop long enough to listen.
The City of Budapest is one of the most beautiful in all of Central and Eastern Europe; perhaps even further. From Hero’s Square to the Opera House, to the casual promenade along the banks of the Danube River all the way to the base of the Chain Bridge which is known for its majestic lions and massive expanse across the river the cities of Buda and Pest have joined to make an amazing cultural venue. There is one site, though, along the shores of the Danube in the shadow of those majestic lions that bespeaks a horror so intense it will take away one’s breath. I found that it left me spell-bound in the mystery of what the last words, the last thoughts and the last looks between loved ones might have been as they were lined upon the bank of the river and murdered. Their bodies – from the smallest of children in their mothers’ arms to the old and infirm stood, awaiting the sting of the bullets that would dispatch them to their certain death and a watery grave marked only on this earth by the shoes the left behind. Immortalized by the townspeople of Budapest as a defiant call to never allow such a horror to happen again – the shoes are lined up along the banks as if their owner’s next steps would be into eternity.

Budapest WWII Memorial to those murdered on the banks of the Danube River 1944-1945 by ArrowCross Militia
Budapest WWII Memorial to those murdered on the banks of the Danube River 1944-1945 by the   Arrow Cross Militia

On the night of January 8, 1945, an Arrow Cross execution brigade forced all of the inhabitants of the building on Vadasz Street to the banks of the Danube. Arrow Cross was an extremist socialist party holding power in Hungary’s government in collusion with the Nazis. At midnight, Karoly Szabo and 20 policemen with drawn bayonets broke into the Arrow Cross house and rescued everyone there. Among those saved were Lars Ernster, who fled to Sweden and became a member of the board of the Nobel Foundation from 1977 to 1988, and Jacob Steiner, who fled to Israel and became a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Steiner’s father had been shot dead by Arrow Cross militiamen on December 25, 1944, falling into the Danube. His father had been an officer in World War I and spent four years as a prisoner of war in Russia. The Arrow Cross had usurped the symbol from the ancient Magyar for themselves and was then used it to symbolize their fascist movement known later as Hungarists. They oversaw between ten and fifteen thousand people murdered outright and another 80,000 deported to Auschwitz.

Hungarist flag
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Dr. Erwin K. Koranyi, a psychiatrist in Ottawa, wrote about the night of January 8, 1945 in his Dreams and Tears: Chronicle of a Life (2006), “in our group, I saw Lajos Stoeckler” and “The police holding their guns at the Arrowcross cutthroats. One of the high-ranking police officers was Pal Szalai, with whom Raoul Wallenberg used to deal. Another police officer in his leather coat was Karoly Szabo.
The memorial along the Danube almost always has flowers or candles laid within the shoes. No one particular pair is identified with an individual victim, rather the sixty pairs that are made from iron are fashioned and welded in place as a lifetime remembrance of the evil which can overtake mankind when he fails to stand for the laws which protect humanity and to stand for the biblical principles that demand one brother look after another regardless of nationality or genetics. Such evil happens when people forget that under the depth of skin lies a heart that beats every single beat only by the permission of God the Creator. The shoes serve as a reminder not only of the brave heroics of the policemen that night who took a stand for what is right and what is fair; for justice and for humanity as a whole but also as a call to all future generations to not allow this to happen again. By Christmas of 1944 when Jacob Steiner’s father was murdered on the banks of the Danube, millions had already died at the hand of demonic forces masquerading as military officers and enlisted soldiers, as well as government officials and ordinary people who simply did nothing.
This short monograph, Shoes was not meant to be light-hearted or lightly up-lifting. However, it is, if the reader allows it to be, a source of encouragement. Our world again faces demonic extremists that have only one desire: to rule and reign by terror and violence, murder and mayhem at the edge of a sword, inflicting the name of Allah upon those they call infidels, as well as, on those who might consider themselves of the faithful.
The encouragement lies within a simple maxim: The darker the room the more luminescent even the feeblest light. The brightness of that light is proportional to the depth of the darkness within which it burns. When the light is that which burns within a believer in Jesus Christ, even though the strength of that believer’s faith may provide only a modicum of power for the light to glow, the darkness that envelopes it enables that light to have an effect far beyond its means. Scientists tell us that under ideal conditions our unaided vision can detect a light as dim as a candle flame or a lit match 30 miles away on a dark clear night. You can perhaps imagine the strength of the light which has the full power of Jesus. In Him there is no darkness. God is truth, life and light. In these darkest of times, may the power of the light of Christ light your life, embolden your witness and may it never be said of this generation of Christians that we stood by while others collected shoes.

Congress Shall Make No Law…

How should the congregants react toward their pastoral leaders when they find out that those leaders have been instructed by at best irreligious politicos on what they are to say from their pulpits?

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” but what if the Vice President wants to convene many religious leaders on the White House grounds and their use the bully pulpit to direct them what they should tell their congregants? What if that same Vice President uses that same venue  to pray with them at the same time apparently inflicting God’s Name on the administration’s fight to limit the Constitutional Right of U.S. Citizens to “keep and bear arms” which the 2nd Amendment holds is necessary for the “security of a free state”, could that be somewhat in conflict with the purpose of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution itself?

VP Biden Is there no realm into which this administration will not reach to forward its socialistic and liberal agenda? What is the purpose of religious leaders in the United States? Is it to teach what the Bible teaches? Is it to lead their flocks to become more like Christ? Is it to be an arm of a liberal government to promote the socialist agenda pushing it onto their congregants? When religious leaders are summoned to the White House should they arrive expecting that they are chosen to be pawns in the administrations international politics to advance the agenda of the United Nations? Should they accept such an assignment from men who hold authority regardless of how that authority is misused?

How should the congregants react toward their pastoral leaders when they find out that those leaders have been instructed by at best irreligious politicos on what they are to say from their pulpits? Is that something that a congregant should accept? Where should the congregant place their trust? Do they come to a church service to worship and to receive instruction from God’s Word or to receive a ‘paid political programming’ from those same people they have given authority to lead their church with spiritual doctrine?

Should we applaud Joe Biden for being ecumenical? According to “The Blaze AP” VP Biden met with more than a dozen religious leaders that included “Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh” with both Evangelicals and Catholics.

What we should do, certainly, is adopt as persons who are sitting in various church pews across the nation to adopt the motto of ancient Rome, ‘caveat emptor’ – let the buyer beware. Just because the message is coming to you from a pulpit doesn’t particularly mean it originated from Holy doctrine or spiritual study. It may be noting more than a paid political advertisement.

Serbia ~ Kosovo: Oh What a Tangled Web

Dr. Ross L. Riggs                Riggs Ministry Minute     http://www.docriggs.com

The following article/posting is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of First Baptist Church of Louisville, the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism or the American Association of Christian Counselors.

Serbian President Boris Tadic

Intelligence sources indicate that current posturing by Serbia’s president, Boris Tadic concerning Serbia’s application for EU status may be more than a political folk dance. With much of the EU in a serious economic recession, including some in or teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, the wisdom of bringing in another financially fluctuating and politically challenging country is questioned. Perhaps the biggest question on each side of the equation is ‘Why?’

Why would the EU powers want to bring in a country that is divided racially (religiously) into two countries. The one being Kosovo, a country that Belgrade refuses to acknowledge its existence and is already a trouble spot for NATO Peacekeepers along the Kosovo northern border. Northern Kosovo is 90+ percent Muslim. Ethnic Serbs living in this area have clashed with NATO peacekeepers in and around the small city of Mitrovica. It was never expected that the Kosovo battle for independence would be easy. Although the handwriting is on the wall (or perhaps the bridge) in northern Kosovo, Serbs with an emboldened perseverance refuse to relinquish control even in the face of international directives to the opposite. It is, however, Tadic’s desire to join the EU that may be the carrot needed to pull those Serbs north across the river and help them put down roots there.

Experts believe that the EU is more concerned with two objectives regarding Serbia; more so than whether or not they actually get membership status. The first is to eliminate the threat of Serbia coming under Russian control. It is my consideration that they must tighten the EU’s southeastern control, particularly with Greece in default. Turkey is becoming more and more anti-western and the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits are extremely critical. Even landlocked Serbia will play a crucial role if she becomes aligned with Russia rather than the EU. Bulgaria may be considered pro-democracy now, but if Serbia and Turkey put the squeeze on, the pressure may be too much. Access from the Black Sea, the Marmara Sea and the Aegean will become an extremely valuable chess piece and with Iran’s pressure at the Strait of Hormuz between the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea the access to Russia’s underbelly will become a queen capturing move for whoever has it.

The second objective is to show strength. With the faltering economies of certain EU countries, the Union needs to send a message to the membership and the world that it has not died but continues to live on. Tadic has tried to stay with a plan of modernization through the parliamentary democracy system but he has received an outcry of complaints from his own party for seemingly too light a hand on Kosovo and letting it slip away.  However, a growing economy, a blossoming middle class standard of living, and a much improved GDP have helped Tadic maintain control even when there are Kosovo concerns.

There are plans for Serbian parliamentary elections to be held in districts within Kosovo which will absolutely create more havoc between the two countries. It will also lessen Serbia’s chance of being able to enter the EU by 2020. The EU has made it clear that relations with the new country must be settled before the EU application process can go forward. As early as just a couple of months ago, Serbian delegates were boycotting meetings that included their Kosovar peers. There are some who believe that this will be the impasse that will forever keep Serbia from the EU. The scars are fresh and the underlying wounds remain tender.

In May of 2006, Tadic signed a law on religion that relegated evangelical churches to a position in which they were no longer understood to be Christian churches but rather “factions” which was a p.c. way to say cult. Forced to pay property taxes and no longer able to receive any recognition from the state; evangelical churches were beginning to be pushed toward illegal status. All of the movement toward a Serbian Orthodox state church will continue unless there is a definitive push toward a more broadly accepted definition of Christianity. In the last six years, the fundamental church has grown as individual believers share their faith. Recent large scale evangelical events have gone on unhindered by the state but not promoted or encouraged by the state, such as in a reduction in property taxes etc.

Tadic has been very reluctant to aggressively go after war criminals from the genocidal assaults on Muslims in the mid-1990’s in Bosnia-Herzegovina and under the rule of the dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic. Some speculate that there are those high in the political body that prefer those in power spend less time seeking out the war criminals and more time increasing space between ethnic groups. The EU however will require that there be more than lip service given to locating and prosecuting those responsible for war time atrocities.

The western church must seek out and come alongside those evangelicals involved in church planting to help in whatever ways are currently possible. The only way in which such a partnership can expect to last long, beyond whatever the length of the current political regime, is to have an indigenous church planting movement not dependent on foreign funding or personnel. Regardless of the outreach that might be accomplished by some foreign ministry group with lots of personnel supported by plenty of funding; the post-event follow-up, the day to day church planting and personal evangelism and discipleship must be able to continue long after the foreigners have gone on to another land that needs to be conquered for Christ. Sadly, local ministries held together through prayer and the grit of an indigenous pastor who began the work with probably just his own family often sees these groups as a panacea to the hard fought daily battles for survival of the gospel story.

Then comes the western money, perhaps some notoriety, a feeling of doing something important and there he is… more funds than ever, churches in the west and elsewhere wait for word from him to how they can help next. Both, most likely, began with good intentions and a real desire to see someone saved, a church planted. But growing an indigenous church, particularly in places like the Balkans, requires individual relationships that are very slow to build. Sometimes relationship building can go on for years and even then no fruit. Sometimes there is a blossom and circumstances, perhaps the convert’s family puts on the pressure; the next thing you know, your new believer is gone. Even worse, he stays and hurls accusations against you and you are heartbroken. It is so much easier to put in a lot of money, do an “event” then spread the word to the west at how magnificent it was and go on to the next event. Maybe even circle back again in a few months or so and do another event.

Slow and steady, one heart at a time, one relationship at a time building trust and depending on the Holy Spirit to give the increase. Creating a ministry that, should the missionary or indigenous pastor die, be jailed, or be deported the work continues. You didn’t prop the whole work up with money from the west that if it goes, so does the ministry. Sure, you’re probably just meeting in a believer’s home, maybe even rotating so you don’t get caught and someone else jailed. No fancy robes are used and it is probably by bus or walking that you get from here to there. You cannot travel as fast or as far but somehow, in that circle that you can reach; the Holy Spirit begins to move among the people and they reach out, the circle gets bigger and bigger.

What a tangled mess, huh? The politicians and the trouble makers, the Christians in the East and in the West it all gets so tangled. What we really need is one person who really loves Christ who finds someone near them that needs to know Jesus. The Christian builds a friendship and the Holy Spirit intervenes, soon a new believer is born. Then, the cycle repeats itself. No use of NATO forces or huge outreach events. There are no pleas for more and more money but those in the difficult circumstances who have a little extra, start giving to those who need it. The little group of Christians finds that they are really blessed when they help each other out. No major funding drives or political intrigue. Simple, indigenous and Holy Spirit led. Just like the commercial for the little girl’s hair spray… ‘No More Tangles. ’ Does that mean we don’t plan and missionaries don’t go out, across cultures to help and learn, love and share? No, of course not, but it does mean we depend on the Spirit not the bank account. We tangle less and touch more. We share more and we sponsor less. We continue to love, pray, and trust.