As millions of Americans prepare to celebrate the holiday season, retail stores across America are gearing up for their traditional Black Friday sales extravaganza’s. Shoppers have already begun lining up for sales in some locations like Best Buy nearly two weeks ahead of the somewhat infamous day. Traditionally, Black Friday has been held the day after Thanksgiving, but in recent years it has been creeping farther and farther into the Thanksgiving holiday with some stores open nearly all day on Thanksgiving.
The retail stores claim that their decision to open on Thanksgiving is due in large part to consumer demand, but there is an obvious “behind the scenes” competition between the Big-Box retailer’s to attract the most customers and gain the most profit during the sales events. Still, many are concerned about the fact that retailer’s seem to show very little or no concern for their employee’s or their families. In fact, in many cases, employee’s who are scheduled to work on Thanksgiving are being told that if they refuse, they face disciplinary action and may even risk losing their jobs as a result.
Thanksgiving is a National holiday. It has traditionally been a day set aside for families and friends to gather and spend time with one another, being thankful for all of the good things that they were blessed with throughout the year, and is capped off with a feast of turkey and dressing. However, as greedy merchants continue to encroach further and further into the holiday, some wonder if it will continue to exist within a few short years. There is also a great deal of concern about the Christmas holiday falling victim to that same greed-filled encroachment.
Stores like Wal-mart, Macy’s and Target, who claim to care about their employees and think of them as family, certainly do not display that caring nature by forcing them to work on a day of the year that has been set aside for family. Many consumers have chosen to boycott those stores who are open on holidays that, in a large majority of opinions, should be closed. Radio Shack was one of the stores that decided this year to join the small group of Thursday sales stores, but after receiving much negative feedback from their employees they decided against their original plans and chose to open much later in the day, allowing their employees the opportunity to spend the morning and afternoon with their families. Although I applaud Radio Shack’s decision to give their employees that time with their families, I still believe that they should remain closed throughout the entire day.
Employees work throughout the year for the employers of these giant retailers, making them tons of money, and in return they are forced to give up even more time with their families. Because many workers are scheduled to either work on Thanksgiving, or the very next morning, travel to a relatives house is almost certainly out of the question if that relative lives any real distance away. No longer is is customary to venture off to grandma’s house for her fabulous stuffing, or to an auntie’s for the mouthwatering pumpkin pie. No, now it appears to be far more important to make certain that the equally greedy and unthoughtful consumers who fight tooth and nail to get the best deals first are served with a halfhearted smile on behalf of the retailers.
As for the employees who would rather be at home with their families, they are not given such a choice in most cases. Many of the stores use what could only be construed as black mail to force their employees into submission. If an employee does not work their scheduled holiday hours, regardless of the reason why, they lose their holiday pay. For many families who are already barely getting by on the wages these employers pay, that holiday pay could mean the difference between Christmas gifts or doing without. A day that was originally intended to promote a feeling of thankfulness and goodwill has been twisted by these money-hungry merchants into a realistic nightmare before Christmas.
A solution to this problem might be found in allowing employees to choose whether or not they want to work on Thanksgiving rather than forcing them into working. Many of the employees who may not have plans for the holiday, or do not consider the Thanksgiving holiday important to them personally, might not mind working and making some extra cash. Companies could even offer extra incentives to entice those who may be on the fence about working the Black Thursday events in their stores. The point is, give those who would rather be at home with their families on Thanksgiving the option. It’s the right thing to do.
Those who were witness to the catastrophic events that unfolded on the fateful Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001 in New York City, Washington DC, and in a rural field in western Pennsylvania, share some unsettling things in common with one another; memories, feelings, and knowledge. The memories we share are of horrific sights of destruction and death, and those of inspirational acts of courage and bravery. The feelings are those of unfathomable terror and profound compassion. Perhaps most important of all is the uneasy knowledge we share that America is not immune to attacks from abroad on a massive scale. These elements have been forever engrained into our hearts and minds.
The Islamic terror attacks that took place on U. S. soil in 2001 has claimed the lives of over 3,000 men, women, and children; including 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 New York City police officers and 37 Port Authority police officers who responded to evacuate the World Trade Center Towers and save office workers trapped on higher floors. In all, only six people in the twin buildings of the World Trade Center survived at the time of their collapse. Nearly 10,000 more were treated for injuries sustained as a result of those attacks, with many of the injuries severe. To date, nearly 30,000 people have been diagnosed with health problems related to that infamous day in our history.
The attacks on the World Trade Center Towers, The Pentagon, and the thwarted attack planned using United Flight 93 were orchestrated by Islamic terrorists from Saudi Arabia and several other Arab nations, and chiefly financed by Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist organization, were in retaliation for America’s support of Israel, its involvement in the Persian Gulf War and its continued military presence in the Middle East. Although the attacks on September 2001 were not the first attacks by terrorists on an American target, they did serve as an example of how committed, calculating, and brazen our enemies had become. No longer were they seen as being simply a threat from afar.
Three weeks after the 2001 attacks, Qatar-based Al-Jazeera aired an 18-minute taped recording in which Osama bin laden claimed responsibility and threatened new attacks if the policies of the U.S. government did not change. Then President, George W. Bush reacted to the tape by saying, “Americans will not be intimidated or influenced by an enemy of our country,” he said. “We’re at war with these terrorists and I am confident that we will prevail.”
The September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, directed by al-Qaeda, prompted retaliation by U.S. and allied forces, which swiftly ousted the Afghan based Taliban regime from its stronghold in Afghanistan for harboring the al-Qaeda terrorist group’s leadership. The Taliban regrouped in Pakistan and returned as an insurgency, targeting Western troops and the newly developing Afghan state. Finally, on May 1, 2011, ten long years after our nation was attacked by al-Qaeda, their leader, Osama bin Laden is killed by U.S. Navy Seals in Pakistan. In May 2014, the United States announced its combat operations would end in 2014, leaving just a small residual force in the country until the end of 2016.
The acts of terror committed on September 11th, 2001 were not simply against the United States of America, but rather they were an open declaration of war against humanity. The evil mindset of those responsible for the atrocities committed on that day still exists in the Middle East, South Africa, and other regions of the world. Terror organizations go by many different names (al-Qaeda, HAMAS, al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), just to name a few), but they all share one very important aspect – they have no respect for humanity. From assassinations and kidnapping, to rape and beheadings, these groups have shown a disregard and detachment from the basic fundamental laws and moral behavior of a civilized society. They have also proven that they will resort to whatever diabolical means necessary to achieve their goals, and they will not stop until they are eradicated.
STATE SPONSORS OF TERRORISM
a State Sponsor of Terrorism is a country that has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism. Once a country is designated, it remains a State Sponsor of Terrorism until the designation is rescinded in accordance with statutory criteria.
Today marks the thirteenth anniversary of the September 2001 terror attacks on our great nation. All across this country, and indeed around the world, we will pause for a moment of silence, put forth a prayer, or simply take a moment to remember and honor those who died on that clear Tuesday morning so long ago. We should honor their memory, but perhaps more importantly we should remember their courage.
“The passengers of Flight 93 knew that the aircraft they were in was not going to reach its planned destination”
Most were caught off guard that day. They did not know what was coming. However, the passengers of the hijacked United Flight 93 had learned of events in New York and Washington via cell phone and Airfone calls to the ground. The passengers of Flight 93 knew that the aircraft they were in was not going to reach its planned destination, but rather the hijackers had something far more sinister in mind. A group of those passengers, along with flight attendants, decided that they would not permit the terrorists to prevail and they planned an insurrection. The passengers fought the four hijackers, attacking the cockpit with a fire extinguisher. The plane then flipped over and sped toward the ground at upwards of 500 miles per hour, crashing in a rural field in western Pennsylvania. All 45 people aboard were killed. The terrorists intended target is not known, but theories include the White House, the U.S. Capitol, Camp David or one of several nuclear power plants along the eastern seaboard. Whatever the target may have been, it was because of the courage and self-sacrifice of those passengers that the plot failed.
“We must take the fight to our enemies and defeat them.”
The wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan have been declared by our leadership to have ended. However, as our nation and the rest of the civilized world faces the increasingly obvious threat of yet another attack by terrorists set on our destruction, let us be mindful of the fact that those who have relentlessly pursued the annihilation of our civilized cultures and beliefs have not ended their efforts. They continue to wage war every minute of every day. We must follow the example of those men and women on Flight 93 and be brave in the face of our enemy. We must take the fight to our enemies and defeat them. We must be both steadfast and determined not to give up our freedoms, our cultures, or our beliefs no matter what.
May God bless those whose lives were forever changed by the events that took place on that tragic day in our nation’s history. May God guide our nation and its leaders, and may we never forget.
“Jesus loves the little children…
All the children of the world…
Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight…
Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
This little song; or nursery rhyme as some believe it to be, was written by a preacher named Clare Herbert Woolston (1856–1927). I can recall singing it along with the other children in Sunday school. It may be the very first song I ever learned by heart, probably because it is very short and repetitive, but also because of its simplistic phrases and terms, which makes it easily understandable for young minds. Its message is clear; Jesus loves us all! He is not concerned with what color our skin is or what part of the world we may inhabit. In His sight, we are all equal, and equally precious. His love for us is unconditional. What that means is that there is nothing that we must do, or say, or change to get Him to love us. Children seem to grasp this fact far easier than some adults. It is as though we, as adults, often cannot accept that something like the freely given, unconditional love Jesus has toward us could really be real. After all, we learn very quickly that very little in this world is truly free. There are almost always strings attached, or fine print at the bottom of the page, or prerequisites’ that must be met, but such is not the case when it comes to Jesus’ love.
“For thou art my hope, O Lord God: thou art my trust from my youth. By thee have I been holden up from the womb: thou art he that took me out of my mother’s bowels: my praise shall be continually of thee.”
When I was very young and attended church with my parents, it never occurred to me that there might be people in the world who had no interest in Jesus or the love He had for them. I had no idea that there were some who either simply chose not to believe in anything beyond themselves and their own existence, or who knew and believed in the existence of Jesus but rejected His love for whatever reason. I mean, in my young mind, if Jesus loves you no matter what, why wouldn’t you love Him back? It would be like rejecting the love of your own mother or father – sadly, I have since realized that this too happens in our world far too often.
There is a benefit to being young in my opinion, one of unconditional trust. A newborn trusts its mother to nurture and to protect it, to teach it and help it grow. That trust is not something necessarily earned, which is evident when we see a child neglected or even abused by a parent and yet that same child continues for a great deal of time to trust their parent regardless of how they are being treated. Distrust is something that is earned. Over time, the neglected or abused child’s trust in the parent committing the offense begins to break down, eventually becoming non-existent. So then, how is it that Jesus could be so despised by those whom He loves? Why, if He has done nothing to earn or merit their distrust, do so many reject Him?
One answer may revolve around the concept of resentment. Often we have heard that all things are possible with God. Jesus is capable of answering anyone’s prayer; even those things for which we are unaware that we have need of, and yet His answer to some prayer is not what is expected or desired. Just as a parent who does not give a child whatever they ask for, Jesus is sometimes held in contempt for not giving a person what they want when they want it. What they fail to understand, or in some cases accept, is that Jesus knows the heart and mind of every individual. He knows what we need, as opposed to what we may want. If a child asks to have a bottle of poison to drink not knowing that it could potentially harm or even kill them, would a loving parent grant them that desire? What of those prayers which seem to go unanswered for a new job, or for happiness, or even for a dying loved one? Surely these things, being good and being requested for the most well intentioned reasons are prayers which should be answered in the affirmative. What we must recognize again is that Jesus does answer those prayers, but in His own time and in a way that meets our needs and the needs of others as opposed to our wants.
“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”
As for the death of a loved one: My wife and I lost our eldest son to a drowning accident a year and a half ago. It was the hardest thing we have ever endured in our lives. We prayed daily for protection over our children as many parents do, and yet we still lost him. There is not a single day that goes by that we do not think of him or wish he were still here with us. For awhile, after the accident, we both were upset and angry with God for allowing it to happen, and we went through struggles trying to reason with and understand a seemingly unreasonable and confusing event. We have since come to the conclusion that it was something that, at least for now, we simply must trust that God had good reason for allowing. There is no way for us to know what that reason is as we are not able to see things the same way that God sees them. What we do know is that it is not God’s desire that anyone should have to die, but it is the result of sin having entered into the world through disobedience. It is a fact; living in this world means that, at some point unknown to us, we have an appointment with death as a result of sin. However, knowing Jesus Christ as our personal savior, accepting His love and showing love back by seeking to trust and obey Him, grants us the assurance that death will only touch us once.
1st Corinthians 1:18-19
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
Another reason some have chosen to reject Jesus has to do with human intellect. As the years have passed and our world has become more advanced and technological, some hold to the premise that if they can’t see something it doesn’t exist. That, even if it did exist at some point in time, its absence in the here and now means that it is no longer relevant. Much like the old manual typewriters or 8-track tapes, which were popular decades ago, they are no longer wanted much or needed in a world where I-pods, I-phones, and I-pads exist. They have had their moment in the spotlight and have since been retired. Many people today have never even seen a manual typewriter or an 8-track tape. To them, they do not exist. However, Jesus Christ is not an object that can be dismissed; he is the one, true Savior of a lost and dying world. Without Jesus, there is no hope of Salvation. This is as truthful a statement as stating that the Holy Bible is not something that can be replaced by technology. The Bible is the Holy Word of God. It has been tested by time, trial, and fire. It has survived those tests and it continues to be the most inspiring, controversial, best selling, and life changing book ever written. Those who believe that they are far too wise to believe or to have faith in a creator simply because they cannot see Him are perhaps far too wise for their own good.
“And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
There are also those who choose not to believe in Jesus because it interferes with their concept of having fun and enjoying life. Following the Bible and showing obedience to God means having to put aside many of the things that are popular in today’s world. It means having to strive to obey the laws, rules, and desires of God. The Bible is abundantly clear when it comes to what is forbidden by God, and yet in our society there are so many who either misinterpret, attempt to change, or flat out choose to ignore those things in the name of pleasure or political correctness.
The Ten Commandments are the very foundation of many American laws and have also served as a moral compass for centuries, and yet there are those who protest the very idea of having them displayed in a public place, why? They would have us to believe that it is all about constitutional law; separation of church and state, but the truth is that those who take issue with these types of things do so because they do not want to be reminded of the fact that they have rejected Jesus Christ. There are many groups in this Christian founded nation – a nation that accepts all types of religious and spiritual beliefs, or even the lack thereof – who seek to remove God and Jesus Christ or any reference of them from every aspect of our public lives. They do not object to other spiritual or religious groups, but rather seem to have set their sights on the Christian community alone. The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), and the American Humanist Association (AHA), two of the most widely known secular organizations, consistently take up battles and file suits in court over Christian based issues such as seeking to remove the words “under God” from our nation’s Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust” from our nation’s currency. Those individuals who oppose reference to God or Jesus Christ in our courts, our schools, our motto’s and oath’s, are not doing so because they are being harmed in any way by them, but rather because they do not like to see or hear about God and Jesus. They have even filed suits against the public display of Nativity scenes at Christmas – and many have even attempted to have the word “Christmas” itself struck from our vocabulary because they find it offensive and not “politically correct”. Most recently, atheists protested to remove a cross on a war memorial located in an Indiana state park. These individuals are at war with a God that they claim not to recognize. It is a war that they cannot win!
Many American’s look at the shape of our nation and the world right now, and they wonder how it ever became so chaotic, dangerous, and seemingly irreparable. They have lost hope in things ever becoming better. Washington seems to only care about special interests and power. Church leaders seem to argue with one another over the meaning of doctrine and what is acceptable in God’s eyes. Our enemies are more emboldened and set on our destruction. Our economy seems to be getting worse all of the time, meanwhile our deficit soars out of control and good jobs are hard to come by. Even we, our friends, and our neighbors seem so busy trying to keep up in this increasingly fast-paced world that they have very little time to take a deep breath let alone visit with one another or help each other. It is true. The things in this world are moving more rapidly than they ever have before, but some things are not as irreparable as they may seem.
2nd Corinthians 3:17
“Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
Our freedoms may appear to be eroding, but they are not. They still exist, provided by a loving God, and the sacrifice of so many brave men and women who have fought and died throughout history to secure and to protect them. There still remains hope regardless of how dire things may appear. That hope cannot be found in any person in Washington, nor can it be found within one’s self. It is a hope that can only be found in Christ Jesus.
2nd Corinthians 7:14
“…if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”
So long as we; the Christian community, continue to accept Jesus Christ, do not turn away from God, and refuse to allow a small percentage of individuals who are at war with Christ destroy our right to believe in Him and share His message with others, there is still hope. Even so, there is the knowledge that this world is but temporary, and that ultimately we are nothing more than travelers on a journey – as the song goes: this world is not our home.
There is one simple truth that rings clear for each and every person in this world, including those who choose to reject the Lord Jesus Christ or deny His existence – He loves them. He will continue to love them until the day that they stand in judgment, and even then it will break His heart that they chose to rebel against the love He has for them. Until that day comes, and no one knows when that will be as it is different for each individual, they are still being given the opportunity to change their hearts and minds and accept the free gift they have been given. It is my humble prayer that they seek the truth before it is too late.
If you do not know Jesus Christ as your personal savior and would like to know how you can change that, please click here to discover more about how to become a Christian. The Romans Road to Salvation explains how you can receive the free gift of salvation through the acceptance of Jesus Christ. After accepting Christ into your life and beginning your relationship with Him, I highly encourage you to locate a Biblical Based Church in your local area and speak to them about your knew found faith in Christ. There, you can receive baptism and begin to grow more as a Christian, learning more about the wonderful promises of God and fulfilling God’s intended purpose for your life! God bless.
Christian Pastor Behnam Irani was sentenced to six years imprisonment in 2011 for his Christian activities. He led a 300-member evangelical congregation in Karaj. He is now suffering from serious health problems, including internal bleeding, according to the advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
Pastor Irani now faces the death penalty after having been charged with “spreading corruption on earth”.
Iranian President Hasan Rouhani has led a brutal crackdown on Iran’s Christian community, he and the religious mullahs are concerned about the spread of Christianity and the numbers of its Muslim community that have been converting to the Christian faith. The oppressed people of Iran seek hope, and the message of hope offered by the Christian faith is something that the Iranian government fears.
The treatment of Pastor Irani is nothing new by the Iranian government. Pastor Saeed Abedini, who is actually a U. S. citizen, and whose wife and two young children remain here in the states, has been imprisoned in Iran since 2012 – sentenced to eight years in prison, reportedly on charges of undermining national security through his Christian evangelistic activities in Iran. He too has suffered at the hands of his captors, most recently having been beaten unconscious by Iranian guards when they came to a hospital where Pastor Abedini was being treated to return him to prison.
Hundreds of thousands of Christians around the world continue to pray for those being held in Iran’s prisons because of their faith. Pastor Abedini’s wife has spoken openly about her husband’s imprisonment, and has asked the federal government for help in attaining his release, even going so far as to meet with State Department officials personally. So far, Iran has indicated that they have no intention of releasing either Irani or Abedini from custody.
I hope that the Christian community here in the United States, as well as around the world, will continue in their prayers for these brave men and all of those who face persecution and death while standing firmly on their faith in Jesus Christ. Please, remember there families as well.
In Iran, a part of the world where Islam is recognized as the main religious belief, apostasy – or turning from Islam and converting to Christianity is considered a crime punishable by death.