Monday, March 27, 2017

Fake News, Fake Truth, but You Can't Fake Love

60 Minutes did a story on Fake News last night. Our TIVO recording only allowed us to watch a portion of the segment because local weather broadcasts kept interrupting 60 Minutes issuing tornado warnings. If only there were Fake Tornadoes in Oklahoma.

Anyway, of the portion of the 60 Minutes piece I saw, I went slack-jawed when the producers showed that some people and websites actually invent falsehoods and publicize them as "truth" for monetary gain. The more duped people click on their websites, the more money they make from ads. Unbelievable. 

Yet, what is even more tragic than the publication of Fake News are the highly educated, otherwise non-gullible, even Christian people who swallow Fake News as legitimate. And, yes, this occurs on both sides of the aisle, whether conservative or liberal. 

I came across one such Fake News story today about the exhumation of the body of Vince Foster. Some of my Christian friends shared this Fake News in praise of conservative Representative Trey Gowdy, who allegedly petitioned the courts to have the body exhumed to prove Foster's death was actually murder and not suicide; all in an attempt to smear Bill and Hillary Clinton. The story is false, but it doesn't keep the authors of the lie from making money on their websites. We Christians hand gold to the Egyptians (an allegory from Exodus) when we spread Fake News. 

With the advent of intentional untruth spread as "newsworthy fact," it would be an appropriate time to remind us who follow Jesus that we are to be known for our love and truth - in that order. The Royal Commandment is love (see James 2:8).  People will know I am a follower of Christ by my love, not my truth (see John 13:35). The love I show is more important than truth I know, because in reality my Truth is a Person, and He tells me to love you as He loves me.

Here's the good news about love. You can't fake it. You either have it or you don't (see I Corinthians 13:4-8). 

Love is patient.
Love is kind. 
Love does not envy.
Love does not boast.
Love is not proud.  
Love does not dishonor others.
Love is not self-seeking.
Love is not easily angered.
Love keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil.
Love rejoices with the truth. 
Love always protects.
Love always trusts.
Love always hopes.
Love always perseveres.
Love never fails

I may tell you I love you, but if I don't show you I love you, then I'm faking love. The good news about true love is that fact checking it is easy for me. Before I condemn those who pass on Fake News as gospel truth, I ought to examine to see if I am attempting to hoodwink you with my fake love. 

I think the latter is worse because it often involves self-delusion. 

At least the Fake News purveyors know they are liars.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Jew, a Baptist, Oklahoma and the State of Israel

"Before there were position papers, or parlor meetings, or a policy conference, before there was the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), before there was the State of Israel, one man changed the course of history. His name was Eddie Jacobson."    Ron Cohen, President of AIPAC
Eddie Jacobson
Edward Jacobson was Harry Truman's life-long best friend. President Truman would say of Jacobson, "He was one of the finest men I ever had anything to do with."

Though Eddie and Harry grew up in Kansas City, they became friends in 1917 while living in Oklahoma and training with 129th Field Artillery, 60th Brigade, 35th Division, U.S. Army at Fort Sill, preparing to enter World War I.  Private Eddie Jacobson clerked for Lieutenant Harry Truman at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and Harry wrote to his future wife Bess that he had “a Jew clerk” running his canteen and he was a “crackerjack.” The Baptist (Truman) and the Jew (Jacobson), turned their initial $2 investment into a $10,000 windfall. It was also at Fort Sill that Truman met Lieutenant James M. Pendergast, nephew of Thomas Joseph (Tom) Pendergast, a Kansas City political boss. This second friendship would have a profound influence on Truman's later political life when Harry S. Truman decided to enter local politics.

Eddie Jacobson (left) with President Truman
After the war had ended, Jacobson and Truman took their large earnings from the canteen, as well as their winnings from the occasional poker game, and they pooled their money to open a clothing store in downtown Kansas City called Truman & Jacobson Haberdashery (104 West 12th St., Kansas City, Missouri). The store would eventually go bankrupt, precipitating Harry Truman's entrance into politics, but Harry and Eddie remained life long friends. Eddie would be the one person who could walk into President Truman’s office uninvited.

Harry S. Truman became the unlikely President of the United States on April 12, 1945, following the death of President Franklin Roosevelt. President Truman faced many important decisions while President, including the dropping of the atomic bomb. But no decision would have as profound of an influence on current world geopolitical concerns as the United States recognition of the new state of Israel.

That would have never happened without the fateful friendship and partnership that developed between Eddie Jacobson and Harry Truman while in Oklahoma.

In 1917, the British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour expressed on behalf of the British government the belief that the Jews should have a homeland in Palestine. This public statement, which came to be known as The Balfour Declaration, opened the door officially to the modern Zionist Movement.

After World War II and the discovery that Nazi Germany tortured and killed over 6,000,000 Jews, the United Nations, on November 29, 1947, adopted Resolution 181 (also known as the Partition Resolution), which would create both a Jewish State and a Palestinian State in the land of Palestine still under British control. The Brits agreed to pull their army out on May 14, 1948, and the new Jewish State and the new Palestinian State would be formed.

The Jews were ecstatic! The Arabs were furious. 

Everyone knew that war was on the horizon. Whom would the United States back Israel or the Arabs?

In 1948. Dr. Chaim Weizmann, president of the World Zionist Organization, arrived in New York from London to meet with U.S. President Harry S. Truman. But Truman canceled the meeting. He was in no mood to discuss the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

Truman was backing away from support of Israel.

The President was offended by the Zionists. Earlier in the year, an American Zionist delegation had met with him in the White House and demanded immediate action on behalf of the thousands of homeless Holocaust victims seeking refuge in a Jewish state.

When Truman's response fell short of their expectations, the visitors became adamant. Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver of Cleveland, OH literally pounded on the president's desk. Truman was outraged. "No one, but no one, comes into the office of the President of the United States and shouts at him, or pounds on his desk. If anyone is going to do any shouting or pounding in here, it will be me," and with that, Truman had them ushered out of the Oval Office. "I've had it with those hotheads," he told his staff. "Don't ever admit them again, and what's more, I also never want to hear the word Palestine mentioned again."

When Weizmann learned about the incident, he was devastated. "Who," he kept asking, "who could get the president to change his mind?" One name came up repeatedly: Truman's lifelong friend, Eddie Jacobson.

Because Jewish leaders in the U.S. knew Jacobson was a friend of the President, they approached him to lobby Truman on behalf of the new Jewish state. This request was difficult for Jacobson because he had never once asked his lifelong friend for anything, even when he became President of the United States. But because he was a Jew, and because he believed in a Jewish state for his people, Eddie Jacobson decided to leave his home in the middle of the night and travel to the White House. 

According to Truman's biographer David McCullough, Jacobson arrived at the White House and was escorted into the Oval Office through a private entrance to avoid the media. The president welcomed him warmly and pointed to a chair. Jacobson sat down. Truman asked about Eddie's family. (Truman had visited the Jacobson home frequently and, on occasion, had played piano duets with Eddie's daughter, Gloria.) Jacobson responded in kind, inquiring about Mrs. Truman and Margaret.'

"They're all fine. What brings you to Washington this time?"

"Harry, you know me. I'm no diplomat. I don't know how to beat around the bush. Please. I want you to talk to Dr. Weizmann."

"You what! I can't believe this. Despite my objection, you dare ask that I see Weizmann?"

"Well, Mr. President, at least I honored your request. I didn't mention Palestine."

Truman interrupted harshly. "Eddie, I'm fed up. I'm sick and tired of Zionists who think they can tell me what to do. They will eventually prejudice everyone trying to help them. They came in here and shouted at me, and made threats concerning the future political support of American Jews."

Placing both hands on his desk, Truman leaned forward and exclaimed, "If Jesus couldn't please them when he was on earth, how can you or anyone else expect me to have any luck?"

Listening to the president's outburst, Jacobson was dumbfounded. In all their years of friendship, no sharp words had ever passed between them; yet here was Harry Truman bellowing at him. At that moment Eddie Jacobson felt for the first time that his dear old friend was close to becoming anti-Semitic. He sat frozen in his chair, tears in his eyes.

Then Jacobson caught sight of a table with a miniature statue of General Andrew Jackson mounted on a horse, one of Truman's most prized possessions. Walking over to the statue, Jacobson placed one hand on Jackson's shoulder and reached out with the other to the president. In an almost inaudible voice he made a final plea.

"Harry! All your life you've had a hero. You probably know more about Andrew Jackson than anyone in America. I remember you were always reading about him. Then when you were county judge you had a new Jackson County Court House built in Kansas City, and you had a life-size statue of this very model cast and placed on the lawn in front of the courthouse. "Well, Harry, I too have a hero. A man I've never met, but a real gentleman and a great statesman. I'm talking about Chaim Weizmann. He is a very sick man. Yet he traveled thousands of miles just to see you and plead the cause of his people. Now you refuse to see him because you were insulted by some impudent American Zionists, even though you know that Weizmann had absolutely nothing to do with them. It doesn't sound like you, Harry. I thought you could take this stuff. I wouldn't be here if I didn't know that you would see him so you can be properly and accurately informed about the situation as it exists in Palestine."

When Jacobson finished, Truman didn't say a word; he turned and looked out over the Rose Garden. All Jacobson could see was the back of his friend's chair.

As they sat there in silence, Jacobson remembered Truman telling him about the time he spent two days alone, looking out another window, before making up his mind to drop the bomb on Hiroshima. "The longer we sat," Jacobson later recalled, "the more I prayed he wouldn't drop one on me!"

Then the stillness in the room was broken by the sound of Truman's fingers drumming on the arm of his chair. Slowly he turned around, stopped, looked directly into the eyes of his old friend, and said, "Okay. You baldheaded son of a bitch.... I'll see him."

Keeping his word, Truman invited Weizmann to the White House on March 18, 1948. During the
meeting the president assured Weizmann that he wished to see justice done in Palestine without bloodshed. If a Jewish state is declared, with or without United Nations affirmation, the United States would recognize it without delay, he promised.

On that same day, the United Nations Special Commission on Palestine reported its failure to arrange any compromise between Jews and Arabs. It recommended that the UN undertake a temporary trusteeship of Palestine.

Truman had promised both Jacobson and Weizmann that the U.S. would recognize a Jewish state if it were proclaimed. Yet, on March 19, 1948, Warren Austin, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, without the president's knowledge or White House clearance, announced on national radio that the American government opposed the partition of Palestine.

Truman quickly contacted Jacobson and Weizmann to reassure them that Austin had misrepresented the U.S. position. He wrote in his diary: "This morning I find that the State Department has reversed my Palestine policy. The first I know about it is what I see in the papers! Now, I am placed in a position of a liar and double-crosser. I never felt so low in my life. What is not generally understood is that the Zionists are not the only ones to be considered in the Palestine question. There are other interests that come into play, each with its own agenda. The military is concerned with the problems of defending a newly created small country from attacks by much larger and better trained Arab nations. Others have selfish interests concerning the flow of Arab oil to the U.S. Since they all cannot have their way, it is a perfect example of why I had to remember that 'The Buck Stops Here.'"

On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, read a "Declaration of
Independence" proclaiming the establishment of the State of Israel. Ben-Gurion was in a bunker in Tel-Aviv because he knew that five Arab nations would attack the moment Israel declared itself a state. Eleven minutes after reading the Declaration of Independence, the United States issued the following statement, signed by President Truman: "This government has been informed that a Jewish state has been proclaimed in Palestine, and recognition has been requested by the provisional government thereof. The United States recognizes the provisional government as the de facto authority of the new State of Israel." The United States and Russia became the first two nations to officially recognize the new State of Israel. 

The 1948 War of Independence began at midnight, May 15, 1948 when five Arab nations - Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon - attacked Israel. With only one tank and no airplanes, it is truly a modern miracle that Israel won the war.

But the State of Israel might never have been declared were it not for a Jew and a Baptist who formed their friendship in Oklahoma three decades earlier. 

Eddie Jacobson's grandson, Tulsa oilman Charles Shusterman, and Charles' wife, Lynn, established the Charles and Lynn Shusterman Family Foundation. The proceeds from this $5 billion dollar foundation goes to support Jewish (75%) and Oklahoma (25%) causes. 

The legacy of Eddie Jacobson lives on.

Courtesy of

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Stone the Builders Rejected Is the Cornerstone

This is my seventh time to Israel, but the first time I've walked through the Western Wall tunnel underneath the entire length of the Western Wall of the ancient Jewish Temple Mount. After the 1967 Six-Day War between Israel and Jordan, the Israelis took control of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. Though they handed back to the Palestinians their Dome of the Rock, the Israelis began secretly excavating an underground tunnel along the Western Wall. In 1997 the Palestinians rioted when the Israelis opened the northern end of their excavations to allow those who walk the tunnel an exit in the Muslim quarter of old Jerusalem.

When Jesus was alive, the northern end of the Temple mountain (Mount Moriah) was the location of Antonio's Fortress, the place where Roman soldiers headquartered and where Pontius Pilate resided when he visited Jerusalem from his headquarters in Caesarea by the Sea. Antonio's Fortress, built by Herod, was dedicated to the deceased Roman Caesar, Mark Antony. Herod had thousands of quarrymen cut out stones from the bedrock of Mount Moriah to build the Temple, the Temple platform, Antonio's Fortress, and the massive Colonnade on the southern end of the Temple Mount.

Antonio's Fortress, standing on the northern end of the Temple courtyard, had four towers. One tower was on the southwest, one on the northwest, one on the southeast, and one on the northeast (see picture of the four towers). It was in the southwest tower that Jesus was brought before the people by Pilate. Jesus stood in a place where people in the Temple courtyard as well as people outside the Temple courtyard on the sidewalk (the sidewalk we now walk underground along the Western Wall). It was as Jesus was standing at this very spot, in Antonio's Fortress, above the people, that all the Jewish people cried "Crucify Him, Crucify Him." They demanded that Barabbas be released and that Jesus die.

Underneath the southwestern tower of Antonio's Fortress, along the bottom of the western wall, was a sidewalk that all the people of Jerusalem walked. Because of recent excavations, we now can walk this sidewalk as well during our Western Tunnel tour.  When one walks the excavated Western Wall sidewalk in the tunnel, the sidewalk comes to an end directly underneath the southwest tower of Antonio's Fortress. Where the sidewalk ends, a massive rock stands. The Jews in Jesus day would have been very familiar with this rock. They would have seen it every time they walked the sidewalk. The quarry workers in the days of King Herod (37-4 B.C.) had started to cut the rock out of the bedrock of Mount Moriah (you can see the chiseling), but for some reason, the builders of the Temple rejected the rock and stopped their work to pull it out. So, in the day of Jesus, anyone walking south to north along the sidewalk outside the Western Wall would have come to the rock "rejected by the builders."

Above that very familiar rock, Jesus Christ was condemned by the Jews. He was...

"The stone the builders rejected." (Psalm 118:22).

Jesus knew the significance of the rock underneath the tower on which He would be rejected and condemned by His own people, and He said, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: 'The Stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.'" (Matthew 21:42).

Friday, March 10, 2017

Relationships Are the Essence of the Christian Faith

Rachelle and I are part of a 28-member group touring Israel. Most of those with us belong to Emmanuel Enid, but a couple from Texas, Rex and Judy Ray, have joined us for this trip. I only knew of Rex through his online presence. He has commented on blogs I've written for the past decade, and we have corresponded periodically via email. Today, our group toured Caesarea by the Sea, Mount Carmel, Megiddo, and Cana. Rex is 85-years-young and he kept us with us from beginning to the end. Today also happens to be Rex's 85th birthday. At Cana, I remarked that as wine ages it can either become better or bitter. So too, when a human being ages, the prospects are either betterment or bitterness. In wishing Rex a "Happy Birthday" at the place Jesus performed His first public miracle, I told the group that Rex is definitely getting better as he ages. Though I'd never met Rex or his wife Judy until we gathered at the OKC airport on Wednesday. After three days in Israel, I feel he's been a friend for life. I'm reminded through people like Rex and Judy, our friend Jan Pointner in New Hamphsire, and a host of other people Rachelle and I have known and loved from a distance, that the essence of Christianity is relationships. Happy Birthday, Rex Ray. We trust the Lord will grace you with many more to come.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Changing Feelings Without Changing Appearance

A 22-year-old man named Vinny Ohh has spent $50,000 and undergone at least 100 procedures in his desire to transition into a “genderless” alien (see photo to the left). Vinny works as a make-up artist and part-time model in California. He says he felt like an outcast during his teenage years, so he grew motivated to pursue various facial surgeries to look extra-terrestrial. "Over the years, I’ve realized I’m not gay, bi, trans or any of these things. I just want to be me. I want to be a sexless alien being. I want my outside to reflect how I feel on the inside.”

This post is not aimed at ridiculing Vinny. I would ask that anyone who comments be respectful and kind to Vinny. In fact, I hope Vinny reads this article. I compliment Vinny Ohh for saying something that has helped turned the light bulb in my mind over something with which I've been wrestling. Vinny said:

"I want my outside to reflect how I feel on the inside."

Vinny feels like a sexless alien from another planet. One can't fault Vinny for feeling. Feelings are amoral. Not all feelings, however, are pleasant. And feeling like "an alien" on your own planet can't be a pleasant feeling at all.

Twenty-five years ago science would have been unable to change "the outside" of Vinny to reflect what Vinny feels "on the inside." But now it's both surgically possible and affordable for many people to do like Vinny. Thus, we have transgendered surgeries, alien surgeries, plastic surgeries for each part of human anatomy, and a host of medicines and procedures "to change the outside" to reflect what is felt "on the inside."

Is this wrong? I'm not sure I'd put it in terms of right or wrong. I think we should consider these things in more pragmatic ways.

Someone once said, "Unless there is a change in the atmosphere, what thaws in the sun will once again freeze in the shade." Every plastic surgery, whether it be Bruce Jenner's, Michael Jackson's, or Vinny Ohhs, will bring a temporary "thawing of the cold feelings." The exuberance and excitement of change  - and the affirmation of a world that affirms changing the outside to reflect what one feels on the inside - will definitely give a temporary warmth to internal feelings. But unless there is a change in the way one thinks (atmosphere), those warm feelings will once again freeze.

The gospel of Jesus Christ changes what one feels on the inside, regardless of the way things are on the outside. To be consumed with the knowledge that God loves you so much that He cmgave His Life for you, that you might find real life in Him, led Paul to write:

"I have learned to be content with whatever I have or I don't have" (Philippians 4:11).

"For by the grace of God I am who I am" (I Corinthians 15:10).

It seems each of us has an option. We can either change our outside to reflect how we feel on the inside, or we can ask God - by His grace - to give us new feelings on the inside.

I'd rather find contentment in the love of God for me in Jesus Christ, and grow old or sick physically, and eventually dying with inner contentment, than spending a fortune trying to control or manipulate my environment for the outside to reflect what I feel on the inside.

Before any of us followers of Jesus condemn Vinny Ohh, we need to take a hard look at ourselves. It's easy to condemn a transgender, lesbian, or alien who changes their body to reflect what they feel on the inside; but sometimes we Christians can't see our own desire for food, or another person, or sports, or things going our way in church, or other desires to change or control our environment as doing the very same thing Vinny is doing.

I want to learn to be content on the inside with who I am by the grace of God. I want to learn to trust God that everything that comes my way outside of or around me is part of His plan to keep me dependent on Christ and His grace.