Guest Blog -Afghanistan Update, August 31, 2021

This guest blog comes after the last US plane left Kabul yesterday, 24 hours ahead of the self-imposed deadline Biden had announced.  Biden’s failed exit from Afghanistan leaves hundreds to thousands of Americans stranded there, along with up to 250,000 Afghans [according the the WSJ] who cooperated with western forces who were preventing the takeover by the Taliban.  This is only a small part of the 4,000,000 (four million) internally displaced Afghans who have tried to flee the country during the Taliban’s resurgence.

Biden’s lie that the Afghan army did not fight denies the reality that 70,000 Afghan army members died since 2015 with tens of thousands more wounded.  Further, 20 years of American, British and NATO forces unofficially “occupying” the country means an entire generation grew up from infancy to young adulthood with anticipation of participation in their own governance.  Now we have deserted them.  A much longer blog than my usual, but well worth reading.

Please continue to pray for my friends in Bamyan, Mazir-e-sharif and Kabul.  A few were able to leave on Sunday, several are still there.

2021-08-31 C17 Globemaster Leaving Kabul International Airport
A C-17 Globemaster takes off from Kabul International Airport

GUEST BLOG:
After the way the Biden administration handled the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the nation’s adversaries “will now be pushing the envelope a little bit more … to see just what they can get away with,” says Luke Coffey, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Foreign Policy.

After 20 years in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said the U.S. military completed its evacuation from Kabul by midnight local time, leaving behind a country under Taliban control.  “It’s a sad geopolitical irony that the Taliban will control more of Afghanistan on Sept. 11, 2021, than it did on Sept. 11, 2001,” Luke Coffey, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Foreign Policy, says. 

The Biden administration’s poor handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan will cause adversaries to push “the envelope a little bit more,” Coffey says, adding that even “America’s friends are questioning U.S. resolve” on the international stage. 

Panjshir is the only one of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces under the control of a resistance movement led by Ahmad Shah Massoud Jr.. Coffey says Shah Massoud Jr. “is probably, right now, the best hope in terms of slowly turning the tide against the Taliban.”

Coffey joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to address concerns over Americans who remain trapped in Afghanistan after the Aug. 31 deadline and to explain the potential ramifications of the withdrawal.  The following is a lightly edited transcript.

Virginia Allen: Today is the deadline for all American troops to be out of Afghanistan. And here with us to break down the latest news and what we know about the progress of the pullout is The Heritage Foundation’s director of the Center for Foreign Policy, Luke Coffey. Today is the pullout deadline. Are all Americans out of Afghanistan?

Luke Coffey: Well, they’re not out right now, but they will be. We probably won’t know when exactly they will be, because that will be kept a secret, of course, for operational security reasons, by the Pentagon. But it’s a very precarious time right now for, not only the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, as we wind up this mission there, but … also [for] our allies and also for the Afghans who have been essentially left behind.

We know that there are probably a couple of hundred U.S. citizens that are left in Kabul, perhaps there are more, and other places around the country. And who knows how many Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants there are, these are the Afghans who helped us over the past two decades during our time in Afghanistan. Who knows how many are still remaining in the country. And for those Afghans who are left inside the airport, after that last U.S. C-17 leaves, it will be a very frightful time for them, I suspect.

Allen: In relation to the American citizens that are on the ground there, that we’re still working to get out, after the deadline, will those be covert operations trying to get them out? Do you think we’ll have some freedom to still send some planes in and pull them out relatively, obviously, to others or will those operations take place in secret?

Coffey: That remains to be seen. And it’s a very good question. There are some private initiatives taking place—the so-called Pineapple Express, which has been doing, by all accounts, a good job at getting U.S. citizens and Afghan interpreters out of the country. But they’re also doing this with the U.S. military presence there in the background.

The Taliban have said that foreigners will be able to leave freely, but they don’t want Afghans to leave, but there’s nothing in the past two decades that has shown us that we can trust the Taliban at their word. In terms of any effort to get U.S. citizens out, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, at least in the short term.

Allen: And what about our Afghan partners? Are there still going to be operations to get some of them out after this deadline? Or are we just kind of saying, “Good luck”?

Coffey: The Biden administration hasn’t been very clear on how they’re going to deal with this. They keep telling the public that the Taliban have told them that none of this will be a problem, but clearly it is going to be a problem. The Taliban will say one thing one day and they’ll say a completely different thing another. So I suspect, however unbelievable it might sound to the listener, after the deadline for American withdrawal, there will be American citizens stranded in Afghanistan, and there will be Afghan [Special Immigrant Visa] applicants who are also stranded.

Allen: Do we know how many of those applicants we successfully got out and how many are still in the country, as far as our Afghan partners?

Coffey: Again, the numbers coming out from the Pentagon are sort of all over the place. In addition to Afghan [Special Immigrant Visas], other Afghans have been taken out of the country. They’ve been brought to a third country — for example, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates—for further security screening before they will eventually move on to the United States or to other places. The exact numbers are unknown publicly, at least right now.

Allen: How are the Afghan people viewing America’s pullout? Is there a sense among them of, you know, “Good riddance. America’s been here for 20 years, it’s time for them to leave”? Is it mixed? Do we know how they view this?

Coffey: I think it depends on where you go and who you speak to in Afghanistan. I think, generally speaking, many are probably disappointed or saddened or shocked or feel betrayed by the U.S. withdrawal, and the way it has taken place.

For example, if you’re an Afghan soldier, you must have been shocked to discover that your No. 1 partner for several years has just left, in some cases, in the middle of the night. President [Joe] Biden had been criticizing the Afghan military for not fighting, but this is false. Since the Afghans have taken over security and combat operations in 2015, they’ve suffered more than 70,000 killed, tens of thousands more, wounded.

We built this Afghan military around a system that relies on civilian contractors providing maintenance and support to helicopters and planes and logistics and our close air support that we would provide the Afghans.

This wasn’t 2009, 2010, 2011, where we had 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan conducting combat operations every single day, taking casualties every day. When President Biden entered office, there were about 2,500 U.S. troops on the ground. And we were also providing our close air support. If the Afghans were getting in trouble, we would provide airstrikes or whatever to help them. And in some cases, all of this was withdrawn without the Afghans knowing and overnight.

It doesn’t surprise me that the Afghan soldier was demoralized by this. I think your average Afghan would not necessarily welcome the Taliban into their village, but what are their choices? The central government has all but dissolved, the U.S. is now gone, and you have an Afghan schoolteacher teaching children and all of a sudden, a couple of pickup trucks filled with fighters with machine gun shows up to your village. What are you supposed to do?

And when President Biden says, “Well, they didn’t fight,” well, how is this person supposed to fight back? I think in the end, this will be a terrible stain on U.S. prestige and honor in history. And it’s probably going to come back to bite us.

Allen: Thinking into the coming days, weeks, months, do you think that there’s hope that we’ll see any resistance from the Afghan people? That some of those soldiers that were trained by the American military will reform and decide to fight against the Taliban?

Coffey: Yes. Well, this is happening, actually, as we speak. There’s one province in Afghanistan called Panjshir that is under the control of the resistance. Panjshir is probably about 60 or 70 miles as the crow flies northeast of Kabul, the capital. This resistance movement is being led by a young man called Ahmad Shah Massoud Jr. Now, Ahmad Shah Massoud Sr., his father, led the resistance against the Soviets and also against the Taliban in the 1990s. He was assassinated on Sept. 9, 2001, two days before 9/11, by al-Qaeda.

His 32-year-old son fled Kabul in some helicopters, went to his homeland in Panjshir Valley, and has set up resistance. He claims that forces are pouring into this region every single day. I suspect they’re trying to hold out until winter. If they can hold out until winter, then we might see some movement on their behalf, taking back some of the provinces in the north of Afghanistan, where the Taliban are going to have a difficult time controlling and managing.

This is very early days, but there is a resistance. There are Afghan commando soldiers that are pouring into this region. … They’re called the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, the NRF. I’m not sure if the NRF thinks, knows if they can trust the United States right now. Can they trust the Biden administration after what the Biden administration had done?

But this young man, Ahmad Shah Massoud Jr., he’s acutely aware of his father’s role and his father’s history. He will act accordingly because of this legacy. He is probably, right now, the best hope in terms of slowly turning the tide against the Taliban. But this takes us back full circle to where we were in the 1990s and regrettably, all of this could have been avoided had President Biden kept the 2,500 troops in the country and the close air support.

Allen: And that really brings us to ask the question of, how has President Biden’s actions affected America’s position on the world stage and other international leaders’ views of America? What are your thoughts on that?

Coffey: Yeah. Well, it’s been horrible, to be honest. America’s adversaries will now be pushing the envelope a little bit more, every single time, to see just what they can get away with with the Biden administration. America’s friends are questioning U.S. resolve and commitment. President Biden was all but censured in the House of Commons last week, this is from America’s No. 1 ally.

Many people are scratching their heads wondering, “Well, what does this mean for our relations with the U.S., for American commitment to security alliances and security agreements?” And our adversaries in Beijing and Moscow and Tehran, they’re all looking at this as an opportunity and they will take advantage of this. How they will take advantage of it remains to be seen, but they will. I can guarantee it.

Allen: Luke, let’s chat a little bit more about the day that’s ahead of us, this pullout deadline. We are having this conversation on Monday. It’s impossible to know what’s going to happen in the next 24 hours, but how likely do you think it is that we’re going to continue to see attack attempts like we saw over the weekend and on Monday on the airport as Americans complete this pullout on Tuesday?

Coffey: Well, we’ll for sure be under threat. The withdrawal of this nature creates a very vulnerable environment for the military. They have to gradually hand over chunks of the airport to Taliban control while they continue to secure a smaller and smaller bit until the last airplane takes off with the last soldiers and the last equipment.

What will they do with the remaining equipment? Will they destroy it? Will they just leave it behind? Or will they find a way to take it out? Who knows. Obviously, the priority will be taking out the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines that are there. When that last C-17 takes off, will you have a situation where desperate Afghans flood the runway again, trying to stop it? How will the Taliban react?

And of course, you have the so-called Islamic State of Khorasan, or ISIS-K, as it’s known—the ISIS branch in Afghanistan, that’s probably the easiest way to describe them. They were responsible for the terrible bombing that killed 13 U.S. service personnel and more than 170 Afghans last week.

They will be trying to take advantage of the situation, … where the Biden administration is now reliant on the Taliban and specifically this terrorist organization called the Haqqani Network to provide security for Kabul and security for the U.S. forces that are leaving. The leader of the Haqqani Network has a $5 million bounty on his head from the FBI. And this is a guy whose terror group is now responsible for the security in Kabul.

You couldn’t make it up if you tried. The situation is so absurd. It is a very dangerous time. Right now we should be praying for our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines that are trained to wrap up this very dangerous mission in Kabul. And we should also have in our minds those Americans who will be left behind, and also the Afghans who deserve to get out, but can’t.

Allen: What is the Taliban doing right now? Have they been cooperating with America? And do we know if they have any responsibility for the attacks that we have seen?

Coffey: Well, for the most part, the Taliban has allowed the bare minimum to occur. So, it looks like the U.S. is withdrawing people from Kabul international airport. But they’ve been doing so while not allowing full and free access for Afghans and American citizens to get to the airport.

Basically, they want the Americans out. They don’t want to do anything too provocative that would somehow change President Biden’s mind. At this point, I have no idea what that might be. But they still don’t want to tempt their fate in this.

And they want to let the world see how incompetent and weak America looks while it does the withdrawal process. That’s why they’re letting it happen. They’re just not letting it happen very smoothly. And so there is some cooperation and coordination between the U.S. military and the Taliban.

Now, ISIS-K and the Taliban are actually adversaries and enemies. Which just shows how complicated Afghanistan is. In the past, the Taliban have fought ISIS in Afghanistan. In fact, there have been reports of the U.S. providing airstrikes in support of Taliban offensives against ISIS-K in eastern Afghanistan.

This will likely become a major headache for the Taliban as ISIS in Afghanistan tries to exert more control and take advantage of what is a very chaotic security situation. It will probably mean that the Taliban will not be able to control and secure and govern much of the land that it currently has in Afghanistan. It took a lot of land and territory over the past two weeks, but can it govern and control? And that’s the big question for the Taliban now.

Allen: We’re really looking at a situation that’s obviously deteriorating quickly. What do you think as far as strength and numbers? Does ISIS-K pose an immediate threat to, let’s say, overtaking the Taliban in Afghanistan? And then what threat do they pose immediately to America?

Coffey: Well, one of good news stories about America’s presence in Afghanistan for two decades was that during the course of 20 years, there wasn’t once a terrorist attack that was planned, coordinated, and launched from Afghanistan that was successful against the United States.

Now, it’s likely that Afghanistan will revert to the chaos we saw in the 1990s, where you have four or five different warlords or power brokers that control certain parts of the country. In this chaos it’s likely that non-state actors and terrorist groups will be able to set up shop, if they wanted to. Already, we have signs of senior al-Qaeda members coming back from Pakistan into rural places of Afghanistan. This is documented on social media for anyone to see.

And ISIS will continue to pose a threat to the U.S., but they will pose a threat to the Taliban’s legitimacy and the Taliban’s ability to control and govern certain areas. They’re not a major power right now in Afghanistan. They were recruiting a lot from disenchanted Taliban fighters who felt like the movement wasn’t going in the direction it should be going.

ISIS-K is very extreme in its views and how it practices Islam, in a way that even the Taliban find abhorrent in many ways. I mean, the Taliban would release statements criticizing ISIS when they did things in Syria. So these two powers will be fighting against each other. This will make the Taliban focus a lot on trying to defeat and counter ISIS.

One thing the Taliban would have going for it is recruitment is improved when you’re successful, and the Taliban has been successful. So a lot of recruits that might’ve gone to ISIS are likely to go to the Taliban. But the Taliban is going to have a problem governing and controlling the whole country, because most of the country, most of the big cities and provinces switched sides to the Taliban without a shot being fired.

Incidentally, and coincidentally, I should say, this is how the Taliban gained most of its power in the 1990s, was through local deals, bribery, convincing people to switch sides. And this happened again. How the Taliban manages this new complex set of relations that it now has with different power brokers across the country will determine how securely and how well they’ll be able to govern and control the country. And this will not be easy for the Taliban.

Allen: Of course, we can’t change the past, we can’t change what’s already happened in Afghanistan, but how does America go about mitigating the damage and trying to prevent any further loss of life moving forward? What does our foreign policy toward Afghanistan need to look like right now in the immediate future?

Coffey: Well, the Biden administration hasn’t left much room for a maneuver here. I suspect this administration will try to pursue a pragmatic relationship with the Taliban, which, ultimately, will let America down.

In terms of America’s options, I think, in the short term, we need to find ways to get the remaining Afghan [Special Immigrant Visa] applicants and U.S. citizens out of that country. I’m not sure how that might take place, but that should be a top priority.

And then we need to double down on our relationship with key partners in the region, such as India, for example, or some of the Central Asian republics, the so-called Stans: Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan. These are countries that are right on the front lines, not in a military sense, but in the literal sense. Tajikistan and Uzbekistan border Afghanistan, they have a lot at stake with how Afghanistan goes. There are huge ethnic minority groups in Afghanistan that [are] ethnic Uzbeks, ethnic Tajiks. So these countries will play a role in the future of Afghanistan one way or the other. So the U.S. needs good relations with these countries.

And then finally, I think, we need to have an honest discussion about how we engage with, or maybe even support, the NRF, the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan. Right now they need bandwidth and connectivity. The Taliban are trying to cut off their internet access. Right now, from my contacts that are involved with the NRF, they tell me that they can’t stream anything. They can barely use Twitter and barely send text messages.

And we need to provide them cold weather gear. The winter’s coming in Afghanistan. If they can survive the winter, it gives them more options in the spring time—they can consolidate more, get more supporters into the secure region. And also, you never know, … if they can expand this region, the National Resistance Front, then maybe that becomes a safe area where those who are stranded in Afghanistan can somehow make their way to.

We need to figure out how we support this new group. I’m not sure if they even need weapons right now—I mean, there’s so many weapons floating around Afghanistan—but they do need secure communications, they do need bandwidth, and they do need winter weather equipment for this coming winter.

Allen: That’s a practical need, certainly is.

Coffey: That’s very achievable.

Allen: Well, the anniversary of 9/11 is less than two weeks away. Do you think that America is at legitimate risk of facing another terrorist attack, whether it be from the Taliban, ISIS-K, al-Qaeda?

Coffey: Of course. I always start at the assumption that we are at risk and that we have to take steps to mitigate that risk. But certainly the way the Taliban has been able to sweep across Afghanistan, it will embolden Islamist fundamentalists around the world to be even more daring or to be more aggressive toward the United States.

It’s a sad geopolitical irony that the Taliban will control more of Afghanistan on Sept. 11, 2021, than it did on Sept. 11, 2001. And all of this was avoidable had the Biden administration pursued a different policy, but this is where we are.

Hopefully, the U.S., I’m sure the professionals in the Department of Homeland Security and our law enforcement professionals and our military professionals and those in the intelligence community are working tirelessly with our allies and partners to ensure that we remain safe here in the homeland.

Allen: Luke Coffey, Heritage Foundation’s director for the Center for Foreign Policy. Luke, thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate you coming on.
Coffey:
My pleasure. Thank you.

Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email letters@DailySignal.com and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature.
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Jesus IS Coming Soon. Who Will You Tell Today?

Returning to a theme of Prophecy, it is important for Christ-followers to not take a laissez-faire view of the rapture.  “I’m saved and ready, so I can relax.”  Father will hold us accountable for what we know and do not share with those who need to know.  “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4:17) 

2021-08-28 Four Lepers

Consider the four lepers of 2 Kings 7.  The Syrian army was besieging northern Israel such that there was a famine, possibly because the enormous Syrian army was taking all the grain and animals that would normally be food for the Jews of Samaria, possibly inflicted by God for the sinfulness of the northern tribes of Israel, led by Ahab’s second son, Jehoram (aka Joram).  Miraculously, God had chased the Syrian army away in a night of confusion and they had left everything in their camp, fleeing on foot.

Since “lepers” were considered unclean and could not go into the city, the four decided to go into the Syrian camp and settle their fate by letting the Syrians kill them rather than die of hunger outside a city that was also famished.  When they found the camp deserted they started taking spoils of war from various tents and hiding their new-found wealth somewhere nearby.  

Realizing that they were blessed and the city was still assuming it was under siege, they went to the gate of the city and reported that the Syrians were gone and everyone could come out and plunder the camp.  Suspiciously at first, the Israelites came into the camp, but when it was confirmed that the Syrians were not laying a trap, the whole city rushed out to grab food, drink and all the goods left behind.

But our focus is on the four lepers.  They realized that they had stumbled onto something wonderful and fearing Yahweh, the God of Israel, they recognized that to enjoy God’s blessing and not share it would result in punishment.  “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household.” (2 Kings 7:9)

2021-08-28 Saved By GraceFellow Christ-follower, learn a lesson from the lepers!  If we are saved by the grace of God and our faith in Him, we do not have to fear judgement.  However, when Jesus returns to take us who believe in Him to be with Him forever, we need to be busy about our Father’s business.  We have this good news: freedom from punishment for our sins, deliverance from demons of oppression and fear, knowing that we will live forever whatever suffering we may endure here on earth; and to NOT share it would be like those four lepers if they had continued living in the luxury of the abandoned Syrian camp while people in the city continued to starve!

Jesus IS coming back, probably sooner than later.  Certainly, the Second Coming of Jesus to take His Church to be with Him is closer than when Paul, Peter and John wrote about it in the first century after Jesus’ resurrection.  Bible translation into almost every language on earth, global activities of politics and armaments, social structures of developing nations catching up to developed ones, conflicts for which there appear no solutions – all are setting the stage for the “man of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:3) who will attempt to establish a world-wide government, and only allow people with a “Mark” to buy and sell.

All he needs is a global event that will cause so much confusion, chaos and fear that the leaders of the nations of this world will be happy for anyone who seems to know what to do.  This event could easily be the “rapture of the Church,” resulting in billions of people leaving the world in “a twinkling of an eye.” (1 Corinthians 15:52)

“For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-6)

You have the best news the world has ever heard.  You have an anointing of God’s Holy Spirit.  You have the guardianship of angels.  Do you dare to NOT share such good news with a friend who does not know there are provisions that can feed the hungry soul, quench the desperate thirst for Truth, and satisfy the heart with knowledge of the Holy?  “This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us.” 

Who will you tell today that Jesus is coming back and they can come along?  Be ready.

Planting Bushes as Planned ;-) – Wordless Wednesday’s Intermezzo Blog

Like I told my bride, “I WILL get the hedge planted.  You do not have to nag me every two or three years.” 😂  Well, walking in Lowe’s to stay out of the heat, we noticed some Burning Bushes (Euonymus alatus) on sale as well as some Dwarf Alberta Spruces (Picea glauca Conica), all priced for out-of-season as the planting time in Kentucky is about over.  So we bought twelve bushes and four trees to spread across a side fence in the back yard.  The little more than three hours work would have been less if we did not have so many limestone rocks and the neighbor’s tree roots.

But the pots were small, so the digging went fairly quickly.  Placed a rock in the bottom of each hole to stabilize the plant and make the roots grow around it, not that the westerly winds will blow through the fence, anyway.
The Burning Bushes were planted with just a little of the root ball above ground and the Spruces just even with the grade.  I plan to mulch pretty soon . . . “Honey, you don’t need to nag me every eight or nine months to add the mulch!” 😁

I have marked the date in my smartphone for the next few years and will give an annual report here on Wordless Wednesday each year. 👌
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Okay, I DID do the mulching today. 😊

Intermezzo Guest Blog: Update on Afghanistan

As Biden’s humanitarian and military crisis in Afghanistan proceeds, friends in Afghanistan are trying desperately to find a way out of the country, mostly over land into neighboring countries.  Imagine thinking “escaping to Iran” would be an attractive option!

In spite of the small number of Afghani Christians, missions agencies report that for several years Afghanistan has had the fastest growing population of Christ-followers, second only to Iran.  This story is from the son of an imam who hated Christians when he was 17, but found out that Christians were offering peace and life while the Muslims of whom he was part were threatening him with death for simply reading the Bible.  The following is a transcript from a Christianity Today podcast called Quick To Listen.  Good reading and information in Christianity Today.
__________________________________________

‘My Heart Is Broken’: An Afghan Pastor Grapples with the US Withdrawal
America’s departure and the Taliban’s ascent is forcing Christians out of the country.
Morgan Lee, August 20, 2021

2021-08-23 Taliban in KabulTaliban patrolling Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021.

Earlier this year, President Joe Biden announced that after close to 20 years, the United States would be withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan. Last week, as the military began its exit, the Taliban was ready and within days had seized control of the country. The ascent sparked widespread fear and led to thousands arriving at the airport only to find their flights out of the country had been canceled. Some even grabbed hold of an aircraft in desperation.

Biden defended the decision, arguing that Afghanistan’s leaders “gave up and fled the country.” He also said: “The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight. If anything, the developments in the past week reinforced ending that US military involvement Afghanistan now was the right decision.”

He did concede: “The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.” As the government fell, it was not clear if the US had done anything to protect those who had worked with the military as translators. Plans to resettle Afghans as refugees seemed to be formulated in real time. The rights of women and girls, which were suppressed under the Taliban’s previous time in power, also appeared in jeopardy. And the lives of Christians, who according to official numbers only make up a minuscule number of the country’s nearly 40 million people, seem in peril as well.

David Paiman is an Afghan pastor and evangelist. You can follow his ministry herePaiman joined global media manager Morgan Lee and news editor Daniel Silliman to discuss how he converted from Islam to Christianity, the withdrawal’s consequences for the church in Afghanistan, and how we can best support the country and people during this time.

The transcript is edited by Faith Ndlovu

Highlights from Quick to Listen: Episode #277

David Paiman: Thank you for your concern about Afghanistan. We are grieving and our hearts are heavy. We see the news that Afghanistan is blaring and everywhere in the street, we can see hopeless people are left behind. But we see the reality more when we talk to people inside Afghanistan.

I’ve been talking to many believers inside Afghanistan. They are crying out for help, and they are crying out for the American army, and some of them sent me a video of many women and girls.

They have been to the airport and they’re crying out to American soldiers to help them. They have been there to serve them and help them but that is over. What we are seeing is too much and my heart is broken.

We are here in America, we see what we see on Twitter or television, but generally speaking, what do you find that Americans don’t know about Afghanistan that you really want them to know? What do they maybe misunderstand about what they do know?

David Paiman: Americans should know about Afghan believers, those who have converted to Christianity. Their lives are in danger, especially for people who are registered as Christians in Afghanistan. There are about many families there and they already got their identity. Many other Afghan believers only registered but they don’t have their identity cards yet; it’s still being processed. Suddenly everything has turned in a different way and they are in desperate need of help. Many people just heard the Taliban say very good news using soft words to say, “we forgive everyone, and we will do our best to build the country.” That’s not the truth. The truth we heard from inside is that they are going from house to house to search for people. They have been to many Afghan believers’ houses, and they took their Bibles. Praise God that the Afghan believers were not at their home. But they’re still searching for them.

Did President Ghani’s government require Christians to register?

David Paiman: They were not required to register, but they registered for the next generation. They don’t want their children to be called Muslims, they want their identity to be Christian.

Is your religion something that is printed on your ID cards?

David Paiman: Yes. But what the system did, because they don’t like Christians, when they printed out the cards for Christians they print out “other.” If they print out “Christian,” they face trouble with their own family, they cannot go to the bank, they cannot get a license, they cannot get anything. In reality they are Christian but they print out “other,” not Christian.

So, this was a big step historically for people to start declaring themselves in this official way, that they’re Christian and making public their faith, sometimes at great risk.

Afghanistan is a big country. Was this happening in Kabul? Was this happening in the villages? Where were these Christians deciding to take the stand?

David Paiman: All the Christians that registered are in Kabul. Today I heard the news, which I hope is false news. But I heard that three Christian families were taken by the Taliban and their houses were burned. We don’t know where they are, but I’m not sure yet that that is exactly what’s going on there.

There are very few Christians that live in this country. How did people end up hearing the gospel?

David Paiman: There are a lot of Christians during these two, three years. I am in media and get many calls every day, at least 10 calls from Afghanistan.

They want to receive Christ. Many house churches inside Afghanistan have started sharing the gospel with each other. Some families have been openly sharing the gospel with people and others heard from media, from Facebook, YouTube, and TV. But whenever they receive Christ, we try to connect them with them to get discipled and to grow in Christ, inside Afghanistan.

Take us back to 2001 when America invaded, what was that like for you? What was that like for Christians in the country?

David Paiman: Yeah, that’s what I call false hope. I will never forget in 2001 when the American army came and took over, everyone was celebrating, everyone got freedom and people were praising and thankful to America. Exactly 20 years later we see what’s happening now.

Where were you living at that time?

David Paiman: I was in Saudi Arabia.

With the hope that you experienced, what did you think might happen?

David Paiman: The real hope is Jesus Christ. Afghanistan has been trying many ways to get hope, to get peace inside Afghanistan, but they did not try Jesus Christ. They did not try God. They did not try His love and His mercy. My prayer and zeal are to share Christ with them. They can receive Christ and they can get the real hope, the living hope that never ends.

How old were you back in 2001?

David Paiman: I was about 17 years old.

What did you hear about the American military during that time?

David Paiman: I was very excited because I was a Muslim from Hazara tribes. My tribe experienced the pressure of the Taliban, because mostly Hazara from Shiá Muslim and all Taliban from Sunni Muslim. I saw many Hazara killed by the Taliban in those times and when America came in 2001, I was so excited that we got freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of everything that we could practice in Afghanistan.

Did that happen when the US first showed up in the first year or two?

David Paiman: From 2001 to 2006 it was good. From 2006 to 2010 it changed a little. From 2010 to 2021 it was not a good situation in Afghanistan as well because the government was corrupt. However, America helped the Afghanistan government, the Afghanistan government did not do what they were supposed to do. I don’t want to go into politics. I’m angry with Joe Biden because he said Afghanistan was not willing to take care of their country, yet billions of dollars have been used to help them.

It’s painful that many Afghanistans leave it behind and now we see that Afghanistan is bleeding and people are crying out for help, but it’s because they don’t take care of their own country.

Talking about the issue of women and girls, how did you notice how they were treated before the Americans arrived?

David Paiman: The girls could not go to school and the women could not go out without any man and there was trouble. Now Taliban is a little bit different, but this morning I heard the news that the girls and the women cannot go out without any men. I don’t know what to say about the Taliban 20 years ago and now, I don’t think they have changed. It’s still the same, the Sharia never changes.

But under the past 20 years though, you saw girls going to school, which was not happening under the Taliban. And you saw way more women working?

David Paiman: Yeah exactly.

Did you have any women who were leading churches or doing evangelism, or did they show up in church leadership too?

David Paiman: Yes, my sister-in-law, who is leading a house church there under the men’s leadership. She tries to help other women, does Bible study with them, and leads them woman to woman and men to men; under the men’s leadership which is what the Bible says.

Now the fear is that the schools that were open to girls are going to be closed and as you said, women may not be able to leave the house without men?

David Paiman: Yes. They cannot leave the house without the men. A few schools are open, but only girls under 14 years can go to school. We don’t know yet about college. In Herat city last week, the girls were supposed to go to college, but the Taliban stopped them.

You mentioned that in 2001 you were a Muslim. How did Jesus find you?

David Paiman: I didn’t want to come to the faith. I hated Christians and didn’t want to be one because I’m from a very religious Muslim background.

My father was an imam. They taught me how to be a good Muslim. I have been to Mecca six times, and I practiced my religion very well because I thought the Muslim religion is the only religion, the only way to God. But after my sixth pilgrimage to Mecca, a stranger came to me from Syria and he shared his testimony, how he received Christ inside the Mecca, how he saw the vision of Christ during his pilgrimage in Mecca. That made me get angry with him. I tried to fight with him. I wanted to kill him. But after 45 minutes of our conversation, he asked me, “Would you please let me pray for you?”

I was very proud. I said, “Okay, you pray for me. I will pray for you.” When he started to pray, I closed my eyes to listen to him and it seemed that he knew my problem. He knew my heart. He knew that I’m searching for real peace and that prayer led me to Christ. After he finished his prayer, the big questions came to my mind.

I said, “If he is an infidel, how could he know my heart?” He then gave me a New Testament Bible. I read but I didn’t accept it because my father taught me that the Bible is corrupt.

Six months later I went to Afghanistan, and I shared this experience with my best friend. He then gave me a Bible in my language. He said not to worry about the New Testament I should just start from Genesis. When I started reading from Genesis, I knew inside my heart that something is true here because God Himself is reaching humans, to bring them back to Him. It was so clear to me that this is God Himself wanting human beings to come to Him. I then took the Bible from him.

I started to read the Bible in my city Ghazni, which is about 250 kilometers from Kabul, and I started comparing the Bible and Quran. With two of my friends, every day we started comparing the Bible and the Koran to try to find which part of the Bible is corrupt.

While I was still reading the Bible, I was still a Muslim practicing Muslim, and I got caught by the police because somebody reported that I was reading the Bible. They took the Bible from me. I found myself in the mosque and there were about 60 or 70 people there and they started asking me why I was reading the Bible. I argued with the imam and started asking him a question from the Quran himself, he could not answer me. He started a claim that he proved that I was a Christian. I was not a Christian. I was Muslim. I did not want to become a Christian.

They started beating me until I became unconscious. I then found myself in a police station. I gave them a lot of money and then I ran away from the police station. I went to Kabul. I was hiding in a safety house, which had a lot of Americans.

A lady from Canada who was a missionary helped me to escape from my country to India. I didn’t know she was a missionary at that time. In India, I met Afghan Christians and I was very angry with them. I started to fight with them. One of the guys I fought with is now inside Afghanistan and is sharing the gospel there.

Three months later, one of my friends had epilepsy. I called the pastor and his friend, and they came and prayed for my friend who had epilepsy. At that moment he got healed and I saw the power, actually, I felt the power. I knew then there was power in the name of Jesus. I went to the bathroom, and I received Christ and asked Him to come into my life and I received Him. I gave my life to Christ in 2008.

Why did you go to the bathroom?

David Paiman: Because I didn’t want to receive Christ in front of them because I didn’t want to become a Christian.

I didn’t want them to know that I am receiving Christ. I wanted to receive Christ very secretly.

How did that practically change your life in 2008?

David Paiman: On that night after I came out from the bathroom and had washed my face as I had been crying, I proceeded to make tea for my guests and the pastor knew something had happened to me. After the tea service, the pastor came to me and asked if he could pray for me.

I said, “of course.” He put his hand on my shoulder and started to pray. I started to cry and confess my sin. The next day everything changed. I felt different. I talked differently and everything changed in my life. I saw things differently. I could see people differently and I started sharing the gospel the next day, right away.

I started sharing the gospel with people. I told them only Jesus could save their lives. Only Jesus can give you peace only Jesus can give you hope.

When you started telling people did anyone believe you? Did anyone decide to learn more about Christianity?

David Paiman: At first believers didn’t believe me because I had been persecuting them.

They thought maybe I had come from the Afghan government because I had a very close friendship with the embassy. They thought maybe I was a spy from them. But later on, they believed me.

But yeah. I saw many people come to Christ in India. I received Christ in India in 2008.

And then you started telling people in India for many years?

David Paiman: Yes. I was in India for five and a half years, and then I moved to Indonesia. I was in Indonesia for three years.

We started house churches there and then we baptized about 72 Iranian people. During those three years, 17 Afghan Muslims converted to Christ, and we baptized them. In 2015, I moved to Australia. I started an Afghan church in Sydney, Australia till 2019.

In 2019, I moved here and now we have a ministry. We are helping refugees and we started our house church here in Memphis, Tennessee.

What do you find about God or Jesus resonates with Afghans? What do they love about Christianity?

David Paiman: I heard many people like my friends, especially here saying they see the reality of love in Christian life.

They love you unconditionally. They don’t expect you to do something. They love you just as you are. In Afghan culture when you love some people you expect them to love you back but many of them say they see true love here in American people and Christian people.

That love has now opened the door for us. We can share the gospel with our Afghan friends here.

What’s your sense of what American Christians should be doing out of love right now?

David Paiman: For me, all Christians should practice at least two things, go, and give. If you cannot go, you should give. If you’re a believer, you have to share the gospel, go, or give, giving and supporting it’s all the one part. Christians in America can also pray and help financially. Send them food to eat. This morning I talked to one leader and he’s ready to go to Christ and what he asked me was, “after I go will you please take care of my family.”

He shared Philippians 1:20 (Phil 2:20) which says, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He said, “to die, I get my life. I start my life with Christ” and that encouraged me. The only thing for me is the burden of his family. He has given his life to Christ.

I have a burden in my heart to take care of his family and it’s the burden for all Christians in America and to cry out to God and pray for them. If you know people in Afghanistan help them out of Afghanistan. That’s the greatest help.

So, you would say American Christians should also support welcoming thousands of refugees here.

David Paiman: Exactly.

What type of long-term impact do you think that the withdrawal will have on the mission field in Afghanistan?

David Paiman: To help Afghan believers inside of Afghanistan. The missionary can easily come out of Afghanistan, but Afghanistans are left behind.

If they are discipled well, they can share the gospel inside Afghanistan. That for me is long-term, helping Afghan Christians inside Afghanistan. It should start from inside of Afghanistan not from outside Afghanistan, that’s my opinion.

Because now Afghans will be leading these churches, not foreigners?

David Paiman: No, Afghans should start leading the church. They should start discipling people and that’s all Afghans are doing now.

How do the Christians that you meet find Christianity? Who tells them about it?

David Paiman: It’s mostly from media, from Facebook, YouTube, radio, TV, those are the four sources that we have inside Afghanistan. Now it’s not too difficult we can give them the bible. When they’re sleeping in the bed, they can hear the gospel, and no one can stop that.

This past week has been demoralizing. How has it affected your faith in God?

David Paiman: Whenever I talk to believers inside Afghanistan, I find that their faith is very big and mine is very low, and they give their life to Christ. Jesus said, “if you don’t take your cross, you are not worthy to follow Me, if you don’t confess Me in front of people, I will not confess you in front of My Father. That’s exactly what they are doing now. They took their cross willingly and they tried to come under the grace of God, joyfully give their life to Jesus.

Daniel Silliman: Yeah. That’s compelling, that’s what we all believe as Christians and that’s our call daily to take up our cross and the challenges that they’re facing are serious. Thanks for sharing that with us.

David Paiman: The other thing that American believers and Americans should know is this word about the church. In Afghanistan, people know they are the church, and they understand that. But here, mostly most of America, they say the building is a church. There is a building with a cross on it that’s what they call church but, in Afghanistan, the real church is going on.

I’m so encouraged by their ministry.

What are you praying for as you speak to people back in Afghanistan and Afghans here?

David Paiman: To be honest in the first two, three days, I didn’t know how to pray, and I could not pray because my heart was so heavy and when I saw the news, I was so upset with Americans, I was so upset with the missionaries. I was so angry and that’s my human nature. I could not pray but praise God when I talked to them, they encouraged me. They said, “Jesus is with us now.” Now my prayer for Afghanistans, especially for believers is for the grace of God to be always over them because they cannot do anything out of the grace of God. With the grace of God, they can do all things. That’s my prayer.

As we close our conversation, is there anything else that you would like our listeners to know, any information you’ve heard from your friends and family back in Afghanistan that you want to share, or anything we didn’t ask you about?

David Paiman: Yeah, please pray for believers. They are leaving the country, especially pray for two families who just arrived in Pakistan, three families that are in Iran now, and four families that are in Tajikistan. Please pray for them and specifically pray for four families inside Afghanistan. I think I already mentioned their life is seriously in danger.

In their new countries, what should we pray for them, that they get connected to a church community and build their lives someplace new?

David Paiman: Yes, we are praying for them to make contact with other believers at churches and their second countries. Pray for us here that we can make decisions wisely and that we don’t give them false hope or false promises.

Would you be willing to end our show in a word of prayer?

David Paiman: Sure.
Dear Father. You are a good father. I know you know everything about my country. You love my people. You love the Taliban. You love even the people persecuting us. Lord. You command us to love them back. Please help Afghan Christians, especially those inside the country to love them and share your words with them. Lord, I pray for your protection over believers inside Afghanistan I pray for my people, they’re hopeless. They just see the darkness. Lord, I pray that your light will shine on them. Open their minds and their hearts to see you and to see that you love them to see that You died for them. Lord, open their eyes so that they can taste and see that you are a good God.

You are a merciful, God. Lord, I pray for the American army in Afghanistan. I pray that you protect them from evil. Help them, give them the wisdom to choose the right people, and bring them out. Lord, I also pray for my brothers and sisters outside Afghanistan. I pray for the churches. Thank you for my spiritual family here, Lord, they encourage us. Lord. I pray that you give them wisdom and knowledge to help us in Your way, not in their way. Thank you, Lord, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

HaHa! Death, So What!?

Again, a diversion from my blogs on prophecy and end times (i.e. eschatology; ); next week.  This came up from a recent discussion with a couple dear friends about death.

2021-08-21 The Resurrection and the Life

Are You Afraid of Death?
Why are we Americans, in particular, so terribly concerned with NOT dying?  Granted I do not look forward to the process of death; disease, disability, reduced physical and mental capacities.  However, death itself will be a welcome relief from the cares of this world. 

Please, do not take this too far.  Christians are opposed to euthanasia and suicide.  These are not in our playbook!  We are the people who follow the Lord of LIFE!  He is the One who has created us, and He made us for His own pleasure. 

However, if following Jesus calls for suffering in this world, James has laid down for Christ-followers this mandate: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2-3)  Or if you prefer the KJV, My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.”

Do not complain when things are difficult or do not go according to our plans.  Look instead for Father’s hand in how our suffering will lead us to understand the suffering of Jesus more clearly.  Look for the opportunity to represent Jesus to a watching world, differently than the reactions of people who do not know Him.  Look for “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7) to guard your mind against fleshly or demonic influences that will rage against our inconveniences.

And if death is on the horizon for a Christ-follower, we who know the Lord of Life, should be the last to moan and groan, “Why me!?”

2021-08-21 Grim ReaperHow much better to recognize the Spectre with his scythe to collect souls, and laugh at him!?  “O death, where is your victory? O grave, where is your sting?”  This is the victory of LIFE OVER DEATH!  Do we believe Jesus or not when He says, Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.”? (Luke 17:33)  Or in John 12:25,  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”?

Dying in the Lord
Christ-followers, we have become far too attached to this world when we resist the idea of dying in the Lord.  The apostle Paul noted to a young church,It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.  Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.  I am hard pressed between the two.  My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better! (Philippians 1:20-23)  Of course, Paul left the timing of his departure up to the Lord, but his point here was that death held no fear.  He was laughing at the Spectre’s face!

The fictional demon, Screwtape, when instructing his young protégé, Wormwood, taught,  “Prosperity knits a man to the World.  He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it’, while really it is finding its place in him.  His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home on earth… You will notice that the young are generally [more willing] to die than the middle-aged and the old.”  (Lewis, The Screwtape Letters)

Have we been fooled into thinking THIS is the life that matters?  Do we really feel “at home on earth”!?  Who would want to spend eternity watching “I Love Lucy” or “Friends” reruns on television, or seeing what Hollywood will come up with next to entertain us?  Do we really want to continue playing video games or working for companies that minimize our contributions in order to maximize profits?  What is THIS life for?  Francis Chan asked, “Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter, unless it is about loving God and loving the people He has made?”

So friend, if you love life, you will love what Jesus offers: eternal life, perfect health, a Home in Heaven more astounding than any beauty this world can show, friends who will never desert you, no more cruelty or death.  Most of all HE will be there, seated on His throne, ever available to hold us in His arms and reveal all that He has planned for us for eternity!  It almost makes one want to die to begin that wonderful LIFE and “be with Christ which is far better.”

But Father has set the times for each of us, and we need not rush it.  But neither should we fear it.  He will call our names and we will rise when He is ready for us.  Laugh at Death and tell him, “Come and get me if my Lord allows!”  Because when we “die in the Lord,” we will live forever with Jesus (Revelation 14:13).

Bee-4 You Bee-gin, Bee Careful

Rupali posted a bee about the time I took these pics and I scolded her (😄) for spoiling my Wordless Wednesday, but I guess since “my bee” is on a pink flower, I can get away with it without bee-ing accused of plagiarizing her bee-utiful blog (https://mazeepuran.wordpress.com/2021/08/16/bee-a-lady-well-laden-with-pollen/) .  I believe this 10 year old plant is a pink geranium I planted, but open to correction if someone recognizes it as something different? 😏

Intermezzo Guest Blog: Keep Praying for Afghanistan

President Biden has abjectly abandoned our Afghan ally, leaving the tragic nation to the whims of demonic Islamist radicals.  In spite of Zabihullah Mujahid’s, (the Taliban spokesman) assertion that no one is to be harmed and private property is to be respected, the history of the Taliban’s brutal force of a perverted form of Sharia law suggests a bloodbath is coming, especially to groups like the Hazara who have longed for freedom and cooperated with the West.  The Taliban has a record of public torture and hangings, and other forms of execution, and subjugation of women to assure no popular uprising against them.

I will not be covering this unfolding tragedy on my blog, but encourage you to subscribe to All Arab News and All Israel News, outlets of Joel Rosenberg, to keep informed of what will happen.  If these events begin to clearly intersect with Biblical prophecy, we may return to this theme in this blog.  Even so, Lord Jesus, come.

All Arab News
August 16, 2021 02:52 AM

 


SURRENDER

Biden abandons Afghanistan, Taliban seizes control of country, Afghan President flees, all as 20th anniversary of 9/11 approaches.
by Joel C. Rosenberg | August 15, 2021

2021-08-16 Taliban Takeover

Less than one month before the 20th anniversary of the al Qaeda attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 — which led the U.S. and NATO forces to invade Afghanistan, topple the Taliban, and decimate Osama bin Laden’s terrorist empire — a nightmare is unfolding in that mountainous, tragedy-stricken country.

President Joe Biden has surrendered Afghanistan.
The Taliban has seized control of most of the country.
On Sunday, Taliban forces entered the capital of Kabul.
The Taliban is set to declare the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” in the coming hours.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country.

2021-08-16 NYT Headline

Most of the Afghan army is surrendering.
The U.S. embassy in Kabul has been evacuated.
American military equipment is falling into the hands of the Taliban.

Many Congressional leaders are furious by Biden’s decision to pull out all U.S. military forces from Afghanistan and to abandon the theater to the very radical Islamist terrorist regime the U.S. and her allies have been fighting for two full decades.

That’s the story at this hour.
We will have more coverage tomorrow and throughout the week as this major story unfolds.

2021-08-16 The Last Days of the TalibanTime Magazine cover from December 2001

 

“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Matthew 24:3

2021-08-14 When Will These Things Be

Jesus was intentionally vague about when He would appear for the purpose of taking His bride, the Church, away from the world, and when He would return to establish His kingdom on earth.  What He was very clear about was that we should not set dates or think He was appearing in some secret place or time.  Both His appearing and return will be global phenomena that no one will be able to avoid.

Some definitions are in order:

  1. The Church is not an organization. It is composed of everyone who has put their faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross, repented of their sins, and participate in His rulership in their lives (Colossians 1:18).
  2. The “last days” or “end times” are synonyms and refer to the Church age following the first coming of Jesus, His crucifixion, resurrection and ascension into Heaven. In our day, we use these terms to refer to the end of the Church age.
  3. The Church age began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), after Jesus ascension and 50 days after the Passover which coincided with His resurrection.
  4. The “rapture” is when Jesus will take the Church out of he world, described in Matthew 24:32-50, 1 Corinthians 15:35-58 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. He will appear in the sky in the same way as the disciples saw Him leave in Mark 18:19, Luke 24:51 and Acts 1:6-11. The term “rapture” comes from from rapio (“Latin: “to snatch away”), which is found in the Latin Vulgate Bible in 1 Thessalonian 4:17 (translated “caught up” in English translations).
  5. The Second Coming is when Jesus will return to set up an earthly kingdom described in Matthew 24:15-31, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-5, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 and Revelation 20:1-6. Sometimes this term is used to refer to all the events from the rapture to the end of the Tribulation.
  6. The Great Tribulation is the last half of seven years of tribulation while the Anti-Christ is ruling the earth. It will be a time of judgments poured out that will be worse than anything mankind has ever experienced (Matthew 24:21-22; Revelation 15-16)

In Acts 2:17, Peter told the assembled crowd,And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,” quoting Joel 2:28.  And Peter said, “This is it!”  I.e., these are the last days, beginning in Acts 2, about 2000 years ago!  This is what Joel prophesied 800 years earlier, and NOW, Peter said we were entering the last days of which Joel spoke.  But some of what Joel prophesied did not begin to happen that day.

Peter continued quoting Joel:
And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below,
    blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (2:19-20; see Joel 2:28-32)

These are things that have not yet happened but are waiting for “the Day of the Lord.”  That specific day, referred to also in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 will be when Jesus returns to set up His kingdom on earth, seven years after He has taken the Church out of the world.  This is not the same as His “appearing” referenced in 1 Timothy 6:14, 2 Timothy 4:1 and Titus 2:13. 

In these references, Jesus appears in the sky to catch away His Church, those who have put their faith in Him, repented of their sins and are living for Him.  The rapture (or “being caught up”) is described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and will occur “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). Note also, the “last trumpet” mentioned in Corinthians is not one of the trumpets of judgment listed in Revelation 8, but a reference to the last trumpet the Church will hear on earth.

We should not confuse The Day of the Lord in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3 with the rapture.  The rapture is described by Jesus in Matthew 24:32-50, after He had answered the disciples’ questions about  “the coming of the Son of Man,” the time at which Jesus will come to earth to set up His rulership.

“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessnes is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5)  

This “coming” is distinguished from “our being gathered,” but is referenced here together because of false teaching that claimed Jesus had already come to establish His kingdom “in men’s hearts.  (On a side note, this heresy was also promulgated in the 20th century and continues in some fringe religions.)  As I have described, the “gathering” is a reference to the rapture.

A final note: Whatever we believe about the timing of the rapture, there are two realities all Christ-followers must keep in mind.

  1. First, no difference of opinion among Christians justifies unkindness toward those who hold different views.  Jesus commands us to love one another, just as He loved us.  He also said that our love for one another would be the evidence to all people that we are His disciples (John 13:34-35).  Wrangling over issues such as the timing of the rapture does not exhibit Christ’s love (Titus 3:10).
  2. Second, the most important aspect of the end times is not the timing of the rapture but the absolute certainty of the return of Jesus Christ to the world in these last days (Acts 1:11; Revelation 19:11-16).  The timing does not alter the fact that those who belong to Him will enjoy eternal life and those who do not will be separated from Him for eternity (John 3:18).  Only faith in Jesus as the our savior will distinguish the saved from the unsaved, regardless of our views on the rapture.  So pray earnestly for those who do not know Him yet!  They need Jesus.

We shall behold HIM!!  Maranatha, even so, Lord Jesus, come.

Unmasking Masks – Intermezzo Guest Blog by Dr. Peter Weiss

“Don’t wear masks, now wear masks. Wear two masks, since two is better than one. Vaccines will set you free, until they don’t. Therapeutics that can treat COVID-19 are frowned upon, and you must be evil if you even suggest the possibility.”

2021-08-12 Unmasking Masks

Surgical masks mainly protect patients from droplets from the surgeon and the surgeon from blood splatter from the patient. They were not designed to protect against viruses. We upended our world with ineffective policies that have unintended consequences.
by Peter Weiss, August 11, 2021

I admit, I was nervous. I had about 30 minutes before I was needed in the operating room. My patient had active COVID-19, but needed emergency surgery. This was back in August 2020, pre-vaccine and mid-hysteria. I pushed the button for the basement. I hate basements.

As I walked in, the nurse was ready for me. I had to be form-fitted for my N95 mask. Form-fitting is critical for preventing any viral particles from sneaking in from the sides of the mask. I put the first one on. She then had me put a plastic hood over my head and upper body. She hooked up a tube and asked me to let her know if I sensed any bad smell or had any sour taste in my mouth [testing the mask]. Within five seconds, I was sick from the sour taste in the back of my throat. She quickly stopped and we repeated the same test with another N95. This time, it took 30 seconds. Luckily the third N95 fit, with no sour taste or smell even after three full minutes.

I was ready. I donned a form-fitted N95 mask, a bubble suit, double gloves, and goggles. It felt like I was in a bad movie, but this was really happening.

It’s now a year later and what have we learned about masks? Everything and yet nothing.

I was a co-author of a paper on N95 masks that was published in 2007 in the American Journal of Public Health. It was written by my brothers and niece, as well as myself. Yes, we’re all physicians. Dr. Martin Weiss was the lead author. It was titled “Disrupting the Transmission of Influenza A: Face Masks and Ultraviolet Light as Control Measures.”

One takeaway message from that article, which was written during the H1N1 scare, was that N95 masks can block 95 percent of particulate aerosols from penetrating into the mask, and we need to manufacture them now. They can block particles as small as 300 nanometers in size, which could block the COVID-19 virus.

Even though COVID is small enough to slide through the N95, the mask still has dense nanofibers that can catch droplets. In the operating room, it’s the best we have unless we have a full N100 respirator. Still, the N95 can capture the virus when expelled from an infected person, according to an article published in Nature Medicine in April, 2020.

The sad part is that our call for mass production of these masks back in 2007 went unheeded. We also stated that the goal is vaccines and therapeutics. While we have vaccines, therapeutics are lagging far behind. Even discussing therapeutics is frowned upon now.

Today, we’re constantly bombarded by recommendations and even orders to wear masks when outdoors. Los Angeles County, New York, and St. Louis all are implementing indoor mask mandates — again.

There was a time when we were told to wear them outside, even if alone. The problem with the best of intentions is that they can often lead to poor judgment. What constitutes a mask in the setting of COVID-19 restrictions? It’s worth unmasking masks.

Let’s start with N95, as I described above. To be effective, it has to be form-fitted. Not all N95’s fit properly, and they can leak viral particles. They’re actually called respirators, not masks. A mask mainly keeps the wearer from ejecting droplets or spray that affect others. A respirator provides two-way protection and can keep the wearer from catching aerosol particles from others.

There is even a N100, which does what it implies. N100 can block out the COVID, but good luck wearing it for any length of time. N95 respirators aren’t comfortable, and I have trouble wearing them for long periods of time. You really don’t want your surgeon uncomfortable. A number of colleagues and I have had to stop surgery to wipe our faces and readjust our masks.

Surgical masks are made of three plied layers of synthetic microfibers and extra-fine synthetic fibers, which block out much larger particles, but do a poor job of blocking the much smaller particles associated with COVID-19 viral transmission. The COVID-19 virus is extremely small, 60-140 nanometers, which is 1/1000th of a micron. A paper, “Filtration Performance of FDA-Cleared Surgical Masks,” stated that “The results suggest that not all FDA-cleared surgical masks will provide similar levels of protection to wearers against infectious aerosols in the size range of many viruses.” It was published in the Journal of International Society of Respiratory Protection in 2009.

Surgeons wear surgical masks for two reasons. First, we don’t want any blood or bodily fluid to hit us in the mouth, and second, we don’t want our saliva or drool to spill into the wound. We don’t wear them for viral protection. To be fair, there are a few articles that claim some surgical masks reduce viral transmission, from the person wearing the mask, but that’s assuming that droplets are the main cause of transmission when they may not be. Some believe aerosol spray is the major factor.

Those studies also assume that there’s no leakage from ill-fitting masks, since those were controlled environment studies. Aerosol spray is the extremely small viral particles that an infected person would give off when breathing. Droplets would be slightly larger, but still minuscule, and found in the kind of spray you see in a sneeze or when someone is speaking or coughing. (A side note: Masks with ties are more effective than masks with loops since they give a better seal.)

We hear a lot about “droplets.” Droplets aren’t some raindrop-size spit coming out of a person. Scientists usually mean something less than five microns (1/5,000 of an inch). The vast majority of COVID-19 is spread in much much smaller aerosol spray of 1/1,000 of a micron.

Dr. Kevin Fennely published a paper in The Lancet in 2020, stating that most viral pathogens are found in small particles. This conflicts with the view that larger droplets are responsible for most viral transmission. There have been other studies showing that very small particles (under 5 microns in size) may contain as much as nine times as much virus as larger particles (droplets). It’s also postulated that these smaller particles may be more dangerous, since they can penetrate deeper into the lungs. As a side note, when a droplet falls to the ground, it becomes aerosolized and is still a problem.

Those who believe that droplets are the main source for COVID-19 infections should also then support social distancing, but not the six feet we’re told. To be accurate, it should be anywhere from 18 to 27 feet. No one really knows where this six-foot social distancing “rule” came from. It most likely arose from the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends social distancing at one meter (39 inches). This was based on work by a researcher from 1930 who studied the spread of tuberculosis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently changed the social distance requirements in schools from 6 feet to 3 feet (slightly less than 1 meter).

So, in effect, we’ve upended our entire world to enact policies with limited impact, meaning that the cost associated with implementing them isn’t offset by the proposed gains.

COVID-19 is bad. It’s absolutely horrible, especially if you’re older and have underlying medical conditions that make you more vulnerable. The good news is that, for most of us, it will only be a mild infection, such as the flu. The chance for a young person under 40 to die from COVID-19 can be as low as 0.01 percent and even lower if vaccinated.

The unintended consequences of the draconian measures from this pandemic are tragic. A recent report by The Well Being Trust says there could be 75,000 more deaths by what is called “death by despair” (suicide, drugs) because of COVID-19. Those 75,000 will be young people, not the elderly. In other words, people who aren’t really at risk from COVID-19.

We’re beset by misinformation and confusing recommendations from our government. Vaccines are amazing, I’m a believer, yet some politicians, such as President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, publicly stated that they wouldn’t trust any vaccine coming out under former President Donald Trump, until they were in charge. Don’t wear masks, now wear masks. Wear two masks, since two is better than one. Vaccines will set you free, until they don’t. Therapeutics that can treat COVID-19 are frowned upon, and you must be evil if you even suggest the possibility. This isn’t a reliable information environment.

How we tell a medical story is critical for success. It’s the way we tell a cancer patient or a surgical patient how we’ll treat them that sets up a plan for success.

And that plan should be based on a rational balance of cost, reward, and freedom. We don’t force a cancer patient to get a treatment that will make them suffer and a similar argument could be made for the vaccine.

Even though I’m a believer in the vaccine, I understand those who aren’t and respect the right of a healthy 18-year-old woman to decline receiving it. For the 36 million people who have had COVID, there’s no need for them to get the vaccine, since they have natural immunity. For how long, we don’t know, but research suggests durable immunity. It’s simple to test and find out if you still have antibodies against COVID-19.

Back in 2007, we suggested that the nation stockpile N95 masks. No one listened. We’re now incapable of manufacturing those masks. They’re all made in China. So now, we can wear a cheesecloth mask, and we’re told that we’re saving our nation.

I personally have no problem with wearing a mask if and when it’s truly needed. It just has to be the right mask, an N95 or greater. And yet, these masks are distinctly uncomfortable and add an additional strain on your system. They make it harder to breathe, or in research terms, impede gaseous exchange. I often have to stop surgery to adjust my mask and “catch my breath,” I’ve been wearing masks for all of my professional life, so it’s easier for me. I’m not everyone, though.

The issue we have is defining when is mask-wearing warranted? Forcing vaccinated people, or those who have recovered from COVID-19 to wear a mask, makes little sense, other than making some people feel more secure. Forcing a 2-year-old to wear a mask is asinine, to say the least.

On top of that, mandates don’t work. The implied new goal of reducing the COVID-19 death rate to zero is unrealistic and will never happen. This is now endemic. If we mandate mask-wearing to “save” lives, then we might as well mandate prohibition, since there are an estimated 95,000 deaths per year from alcohol-related incidents. Many of those are from drunk drivers killing innocent bystanders or passengers. The same argument can be made here. Solutions need to be realistic, not ridiculous.

Our nation should be able to mass-produce something as simple as N95 respirators and distribute them to the nation when and if needed for some future catastrophe. There will surely be more pandemics coming. My point is, if we need a mask, make it something that works.

Cloth masks, or even surgical masks, are like tying a rope around your waist while driving and claiming it’s a seat belt.

It also isn’t too much of an exaggeration to say wearing a Gucci style face-covering, such as Nancy Pelosi has, is like asking an X-ray technician to wear their grandmother’s kitchen apron when taking X-rays.

Dr. Peter Weiss has been a frequent guest on local and national TV, newspapers, and radio. He was an assistant clinical professor of OB/GYN at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA for 30 years, stepping down so he could provide his clinical services to those in need when the COVID pandemic hit. He was also a national health care adviser for Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

God Help Us All – Wordless Wednesday

Five Times August is the name of a solo music project by Dallas, Texas independent singer/songwriter/guitarist Brad Skistimas.  Another one on this same theme entitled Jesus, What Happened To US?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPzc8ROZEjU.

Lock down all towns
Everybody slow down
Give ’em everything you have
Mask up, vax up
Get your body trashed up
Better do what they ask

It’s alright, okay
Sorry, but ya can’t pray
Gotta keep the church doors closed
No superstitions
A saint politician
Will tell ya what you need to know

Citizen fools
And brand new rules
Make everyone a hero now
So keep your distance
No resistance
Only do what you’re allowed

Cash that check
Go dance in the wreck
But just don’t speak your mind
Get your facts from the paid contracts
‘Cause never would they tell a lie

They don’t know me
And they don’t own me

Oh God help us all
Look what we’ve become
Oh God help us all
And fix what we have done

See no evil
Bow to the needle
Didn’t we turn out great?
Sick is the new health
Poor is the new wealth
Truth is whatever they say

Expert lectures
Media protectors
Tell me who to love and hate
Jail in the network
Hail to the Zuck-burg
Head down, just behave

Liberty, freedom, angels, demons
Someone’s in control
(Well) no way, no how
I wouldn’t say it too loud
Don’t you know they’re on patrol?

Need more likes
Post up, let’s fight
There’s no way that you’re wrong
Gott listen to the science
‘Cause it’s all about compliance
You agree or you’re gone

They don’t know me
And they don’t own me

Oh God help us all
Look what we’ve become
Oh God help us all
And fix what we have done

Sell my info
Hacked in, don’t know
Show me what I need to buy
Sex consumption, no corruption
Just as advertised

You’ve been labeled
And I’ve enabled
Better apologize
Propaganda
Racist slander
Time to organize

Shot, bang, who’s next?
Brain dead, useless
Show it on the TV screen
Tell me who to vote for
Gotta to start a new war
Wouldn’t want to live in peace

Divide and Conquer
Weak, not stronger
Everybody know your place
Do it now, won’t hurt
Dig into your own dirt
Virtue found it’s grave

They don’t know me
And they don’t own me

Oh God help us all
Look what we’ve become
Oh God help us all
And fix what we have done

Incite violence
Enforce silence
Mainstream message
Won’t you guide us?
You know what is best
For our own good

Anti-this and anti-that
Cancel this and cancel that
Take it to the streets
And the neighborhoods

Worship actors
Food and drugs
Brand yourself
Give them your blood
Don’t believe your eyes
Don’t look around

Fake news, rumors,
Ok boomer
Ignorance will stain our future
Will ya make it through
Or burn it down?

Oh God! Oh God! Help us all! Oh God! Help us all!

~ Five Times August ~