Time to ‘Hand it Over’ [v65]

JULY 2004

IT’S TIME TO ‘HAND IT OVER’—In a few days the United States government will ‘hand over’ sovereignty back to an interim Iraqi government.  And it seems to me that the biggest challenge will be to help the incoming government gain credibility while convincing the Iraqi people that it represents ‘real change’ and a ‘meaningful step’ toward peace and freedom.

While American troops will remain to ensure national security, the new government will begin to rebuild their nation’s infrastructure by establishing their own security measures and reviving the country’s economy. This is a necessary step towards rebuilding Iraq.

The first step is always the hardest one. Handing over of the power to Iraqis is ‘frightening’, but necessary. This may just become the start of new era in the Middle East. Neighboring governments like Iran do not want to see democracy to be exercised by Iraqis, because it will endanger the Mullahs regime—but the ‘common’ people, especially the ones of Iran will be watching their neighbor with rapt attention. The emerging middle class there is becoming increasingly restless and wants democracy. I believe that ‘pressures’ will build for democracy in Iran with every ‘success’ in Iraq.

Though the American media will not tell you this, though there are many ‘unknowns’, the people of Iraq are much more optimistic about their future under democracy than the oppressive dictatorship they were under. Most believe it is a positive move towards the country’s future.

The survey by Oxford Research International is the largest of its kind since the war ended. Asked how things are going in their lives, 7 out of 10 Iraqis said their situation was “very good” or “quite good.” Only 15% said things are “very bad.” Looking ahead though, 71% said they expected conditions in their lives to be “much better” or “somewhat better” a year from now.

Even in the wake of Izzedine Salim’s death on May, 17, 2004, there was further indication that Iraqis are ready for a change. Omar, writing in a web ‘blog’ said, “Are we sad?” Yes of course, but we’re absolutely not discouraged because we know our enemies and we decided to go in this battle to the end. . . . I’ve tasted freedom, my friends, and I’d rather die fighting to preserve my freedom before I find myself trapped in another nightmare of blood and oppression.” This hopeful vision is what the enemies of a new Iraq fear the most.

Though ‘insurgents’ will try to ‘inhibit’ the new Iraqi government from going forward, as Omar said, the people are committed in doing so. There will also probably be an internal ‘power struggle’ in Iraq after the hand over, but the instability will hopefully let the strongest group assert themselves.

The killers and torturers who kept Saddam in power all these years and their terrorist allies—who also fear a free Iraq—will do everything they can, through terror and violence, to block progress. They are experts in sowing death and destruction and they should not be underestimated. But they offer nothing positive for the Iraqi people, and the evil they represent is one that few Iraqis want for themselves or their children. By enabling Iraqis to take the lead in the fight for their future, they will confront the Saddamists and terrorists with the defeat that militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi fears.

I believe that nothing is more important to world security than defeating the forces of evil by nurturing the seeds of freedom—especially in Iraq (not to forget Afghanistan as well). Our enemies understand that these are now the central battlegrounds in the war on terrorism. But the burden is not ours alone. In a remarkably short time, Iraqi leaders, for all their diversity, have shown that they are learning the arts of political compromise—and that they are dedicated to their country’s unity. Now is the moment when Iraqis must rise to the challenge. Now is the time for Iraqis to take the future of Iraq into their own hands.

When day-to-day governing responsibility is transferred on June 30, work will already be under way on the next phase in the process as defined by the Transitional Administrative Law, a kind of interim constitution written by the Iraqis in March. The Interim Government will serve until the end of 2004, when Iraqis will go to the polls to elect representatives for the first freely elected national government in Iraq’s history. Ensuring adequate security for elections will be a major challenge and will require the help of Coalition forces. By the end of 2005, Iraqis are scheduled to vote on a new constitution that protects the rights of all of its citizens, of all religious, and all ethnic groups.

In short, the Iraqi hand over is a huge step in the right direction and hopefully it will lead to a democratic power in the Middle East that will prosper and be at peace with the international community—especially its neighbors.

Last April, President Bush said during his news conference that, “America’s commitment to freedom in Iraq is consistent with our ideals and required by our interests. Iraq will either be a peaceful, democratic country or it will again be a source of violence, a haven for terror and a threat to America and to the world.”

Bush also said then that, “One central commitment of that mission is the transfer of the sovereignty back to the Iraqi people. We have set a deadline of June 30th. It is important that we meet that deadline. As a proud, independent people, Iraqis do not support an indefinite occupation, and neither does America. We’re not an imperial power, as nations such as Japan and Germany can attest. We’re a liberating power, as nations in Europe and Asia can attest as well. America’s objective in Iraq is limited, and it is firm. We seek an independent, free and secure Iraq.”

No one needs to be reminded that these are significant challenges. But it is also important to remember that Iraq has a number of critical assets. Its tremendous oil wealth is sufficient to fund a rapid rehabilitation—an advantage no previous nation-building effort has enjoyed. The Iraqi population is among the best educated in the Arab world. Although impoverished during the past decade, Iraq still possesses a large, capable middle class. Radical Islam is not a major draw in the country. Removing Saddam is likely to unleash a more positive dynamic: the Iraqi people’s native ‘entrepreneurialism’. A democratic and prosperous Iraq can be a model for the rest of the Middle East and ultimately bring hope and progress into the lives of millions. But can democracy ‘stick’ in Iraq, a Muslim country numbed by decades of tyranny?

Former Iraqi General Fawzi Al-Shammari emphatically says, “Yes!” In the 80’s, Gen. Shammari commanded nine divisions of Iraqi troops against Iran. Today, he’s leading a much-smaller movement with a much-bigger aim; to transform Iraqi tyranny into democracy. He says that regime change is a must: “Saddam is just a criminal worse than Hitler and Stalin.” To aid in doing this, he is heading the Iraqi Officers Movement, a coalition of Iraqi exiles dedicated to new leadership in Iraq.

Another former Iraqi general, Najeeb al-Salhi, says the current opportunity should not be missed. “I think U.S. has the opportunity to change the region to peaceful one. This is a golden opportunity for U.S. to promote peace, democracy, and regain the trust of Iraqis. Promoting democracy in Iraq is a right step.”

But, for democracy to be sustainable, the U.S. must assist Iraq in the development of civil society over the long term and help the different groups in Iraqi society to overcome ethnic, religious, and other differences. Even though an American presence is likely to be needed for many years—and the price will be high—the goal is worth the cost. So, as soon as is feasible, they should have free and fair elections—though not to ‘rush’ prematurely into those elections, because doing so just might return Iraq’s old ‘elites’ to power. Building democracy in Iraq will not be easy, but our experiences in post-war Japan and Germany prove that democracies can be achieved in previously ‘tyrannical’ countries.

For a hint of what might be achieved (and how to go about it) we need not look far afield. In the decade since the Persian Gulf War, the Kurds of northern Iraq have lived in quasi independence with competitive elections, a free press, a growing economy, and basic civil liberties. Their example bolsters our optimism that the reconstruction of Iraq will be hard, but not impossible.

Drawing on lessons from other recent reconstruction efforts—Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Somalia, Cambodia and East Timor, as well as Japan and Germany after World War II—some useful steps can be extracted:

– Go slow, but steady, on democracy—Saddam’s 35 years of totalitarian rule has left Iraq nearly devoid of independent civil organizations
– Encourage free speech, the ability to express and debate priorities, participation in civic and political organizations, and the popular accountability of government officials—all indispensable to democracy.
– Create the norms and institutions of civil society; though this will take time and require massive efforts by international non-governmental organizations (NGO’s)
– Build from the ‘grass roots’—devolving centralized authority to local leaders will give ordinary Iraqis a greater say on issues affecting their lives
– Mind the neighbors; conflicts in other countries can sometimes ‘spill’ across borders
– Successful elections; a gradual process where self-government is delegated to municipal authorities

While it is tempting to equate regime change in Iraq with simply getting rid of Saddam, the reality is more complex. U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said it well when he likened Iraq’s ‘chaos’ to the United States’ struggle to gain democracy over 200 years ago. “Just as it took time and patience, trial and error and years of hard work before the founders got it right, so, too, it will take time and patience and trial and error and hard work for the Iraqi people to try to overcome the challenges that they face.”

In the book, “Human Accomplishment,” social scientist Charles Murray came to a conclusion which, as a non-religious man, surprised even him. After years of historical study, he discovered that the key to the flowering of science, art, enlightened governance, and many other good things in Europe, was the Christian religion’s influence on individuals and societies.

“Christianity’s revolutionary potential begins with its core teachings that all human beings are invited into a personal relationship with God, that all individuals are equal in God’s sight regardless of their earthly station, and that salvation is available to all who believe and act accordingly. It is a theology that empowers and energizes individuals as no other philosophy or religion had ever done before,” Murray summarized recently in “The American Enterprise” magazine.

The emphasis on individual righteousness, personal character, and accountability before God doesn’t just give Christians ways to draw nearer to the divine. It also provides them with valuable tools that help them live more decently on earth. George Washington argued in his Farewell Address that “morality is a necessary spring of popular government,” and he advised Americans to keep a tight grip on their Christian faith. I have observed that nations which lack Christianity’s ethical infrastructure face a harder climb to the ‘good life’.

Does this mean that all Christians always do the ‘right’ thing and all non-believers are unscrupulous? Of course not. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn reminded all of us, the line between good and evil runs directly through the heart of every human. Selfishness, dishonesty, corruptibility, ethnic hatred, and violence—these are sins that each person, and all cultures, will wrestle with until the end of time. But Christians can count their blessings that they have a ‘heritage’ which unambiguously condemns and reduces such behaviors.

The ‘hand over’ of sovereignty back to Iraq is a wonderful analogy for what a person goes through when they consider ‘handing over’ their ‘life’ to Christ, and become a Christian. There are many ‘unknowns’, and it is ‘frightening’ not to be in control and to trust your life to Someone else.

But, if you believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God to each one of us, it says that God “created us in His image,” and wants to ‘guide’ us through this short life on Earth in the best possible manner. Even though the ‘insurgent’ of this world, Satan, will try to ‘derail’ your progress, God promises that He will be with you in every ‘trial’. Though evil will be ‘foisted’ against you in this life, God promises He will ‘repay’ that evil done to you with good—and after your life here on Earth is over, you can has the assurance that you will be with Him forever in Heaven, where “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” [Revelation 21:3-4].

After one institutes a ‘regime change’ their life to Christ, just as Iraq will experience in the years to come, you will be slowly “transformed by the renewing of our minds” [Romans 12:1-2].

Mind renewal is critical because ‘whoever/whatever’ directs and controls our thinking is ultimately the one/thing that will direct and control our lives. In other words, how we think affects how we feel; how we feel influences our desires; and our desires finally produce our actions.

The Bible says that, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” [2 Corinthians 5:17]

In my backyard, I have a number of trees. During the autumn, the kids and I enjoy watching the leaves fall (and jumping in the piles), but there are certain trees that hold their leaves until spring. Their leaves whither and turn brown, but they don’t drop—not until spring do these trees lose their leaves when the new leaves push out the old leaves. That is exactly what happens to our old habits and our old lives when we become Christians. The new life pushes that old life ‘out of the way’. It is not a matter of plucking off this ‘bad habit’ or knocking off that ‘bad thought’. The Christian life is not forged in that manner. Your new life replaces your old life when you become “born again” and the Holy Spirit comes into ‘reside’ in you to be your personal ‘guide’, ‘mentor’, and ‘advocate’.

As the people of Iraq will have to ‘accept’ the authority of the new government, so to does a Christian need to accept God’s authority. We may hand our life to Christ, but sometimes we may think that God doesn’t see the whole picture. We may see what we think is a ‘better’ way, but it will always turn out that if it’s not God’s way, it’s not the better way.

Consider this: Whenever you follow someone, where are you in relation to the guide? Behind him. That means that you can not really see where you are going (talk about trust!). That also means that whatever trails you see on the side, the one’s that have just come into your view, are the trails that the guide has already passed. Following Christ means trusting in his guiding authority. Once you ‘hand over’ to God the controls to your life, you have to let Him ‘guide’ you.

The Apostle Paul accepted Christ’s authority and went to jail many times. You might think that these were ‘mistakes’ on God’s part, but they were not!  As once instance is told, there was a violent earthquake that shook the foundations of the prison that Paul and Silas were in—and that all of the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains became loose. The jailer woke up to see what had happened and knew that when the authorities came and saw all the prisoners had escaped, that he would lose his life. So, he had drawn his sword and was about to kill himself when Paul shouted to him not to harm himself since all the prisoners were still there. The jailer knew in his heart that this was God speaking to him through Paul. Paul was then able to present to a jailer and his entire household the plan of salvation—and all of them accepted Christ as their Savior and became baptized. If Paul wasn’t there at that specific time, the jailer would be dead, and his family would not have heard the way to salvation. God put Paul in the right place at the right time [Acts 16:32-33]. God will work in your life in the same sometimes ‘mysterious’ and unimaginable ways—if you trust Him!

Just as the people of Iraq will be striving to unshackle themselves from the ‘burden’ of a past dictator, it is also very ‘healthy’ for all of us to rid ourselves of worry and anxiety. Many surveys have been conducted, but most agree that there are many “complications” that are linked to excessive worry. Physical symptoms may include rapid heartbeat, diarrhea, headache, stomach pains, muscle aches and pains, hardening of the arteries, and eventually heart attacks. Psychological symptoms may include irritability, muscle tension, restlessness (feeling keyed up or on edge), difficulty concentrating (mind going blank), and sleep disturbances (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless, unsatisfying sleep). Some people go even further by ‘damaging’ their lives by using drugs and/or alcohol to ‘sooth’ their feelings.

Would you like to get rid of your burdens? Do you not long to hand over the management of your unmanageable self into the hand of One who is best able to manage your life?

Well, just as the Iraqis will have to do, begin with small steps. Take one thing at a time—a day at a time. Don’t expect God to cleanse all your hidden ‘chambers’ over a period of days. How many years has it taken you to fill them? Give God some time to expose and empty them in His Way and in His timing. You must just be ‘willing’ to deal with the things that He brings up—and He will do the rest.

We also needn’t be afraid of how or when God will reveal these hidden things to us. We simply must trust Him completely, knowing that it’s His Will for us to be ‘freed’.

I’m convinced that we all desperately need this deep inner cleansing and healing in order to ‘know’ God intimately. By this, I simply mean we need to allow the Holy Spirit of God the freedom to search the deep, uncharted recesses of our soul and bring to light all that needs to be dealt with.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” [James 1:2-5]. That’s the transformation that God wants in all our lives.

So, take one day at a time. Don’t think and worry about how to handle the future. Just ‘hand it over’ to God and He will give you the strength and wisdom to get through today. It has been said that worrying is the advance interest you pay on troubles that seldom come!

Psychologists tell us that 45% of what we worry about is past, and 45% is future (Thirty percent concerns our health alone!). Only 1 in 10 things we worry about will EVER come to pass (and we usually cannot do anything about it anyway). When we worry, we fail to maintain a true perspective of our circumstances.

No wonder Jesus told us, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” [Matthew 6:34]. That’s good advice for us all to strive for! Jesus even tells us there’s enough evil in one day to be concerned about without looking ahead. In other words, take one day at a time and deal with the things it brings. Don’t look ahead to the next. God knows the perfect way and the perfect timing to reveal the ‘truth’ you need. Just be willing to ‘hear’ it and deal with it. God, then, will do the rest.

Is there any good reason why you cannot turn your life over to Jesus Christ right now?  The Bible says, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved'” [Romans10:9-13].

God has provided the only way—we must make the choice. Your part is simply to ‘hand over’ your life to Christ. His part is to sustain you—and He cannot fail!

[Excerpts from: Cal Thomas; Richard Murphy; Chuck Colson; BBC World News; Kenneth Pollack and Joe Siegle;  Karl Zinsmeister; Washington Times; Nancy Missler; The American Enterprise magazine; Adrian Rogers]

P.S. I you would like to further investigate what it means to ‘believe’, click on this link:
http://www.4vis.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q10_d1_1of10.html

Blessings…Mark

LIFE’S DEEP THOUGHTS (v65) for JULY 2004
If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@comcast.net

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I’LL HANDLE IT
Good morning, this is God. Today, I will be handling all of your problems. Please remember, I do not need your help.

If the devil happens to deliver a situation to you that you cannot handle, do not attempt to resolve it. Kindly put it all in the “SFJTD” box. (Something For Jesus To Do). It will be addressed in my time, not yours. Please be patient. Once the matter has been placed in the box, do not hold onto it. Do not become impatient and take it back to see if you can find a solution. Holding on or removal will delay the resolution of your problem. You must surrender the problem to Me for proper resolution. If a situation you think you cannot handle arises, please consult Me in prayer.

Together we will come up with proper resolution. If you do not receive what you anticipate as proper response from Me, remember—some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayer. Because I do not sleep, there is no need for you to lose any. Rest, my child…if you need me, I am but a prayer away.  [Author unknown]

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Most of us never remembers the ‘tough’ times—especially when things are going well. So, if you find yourself in a ‘predicament’, perhaps God has brought you to this place in your life to say “yes” to Him—to surrender—to give up the ‘fight’.

We all want things to go well, easily, comfortably, happen quickly and to have all our needs met. God ‘knows’ that sometimes we will go ‘back’ to where we came from if a trial gets too tough—so He ‘protects’ us from doing that by putting us into an ‘impossible’ situation—one that only He can deliver you from.

It may be that you need to grow in your knowledge of Him—and if you can really ‘trust’ Him with your situation. More than anything He wants you to know Him. That’s why, when buffeted on all sides, the only place to look is up! Unfortunately, our human tendency is to look at our problems and panic. Where is your focus?

Might I encourage you to place your ‘trust’ in the God of the Bible—He has delivered many from ‘impossible’ situations. He can, and will deliver you from your situation. He has PROMISED! He has your ‘best’ interests in mind—even though it might look like a detour!

The ‘world’ says that one must “pick ourselves up by our bootstraps” and we must ‘fight’ our way up the ‘ladder of success’ to get what one desires and deserves. But God promises that if you keep Him first, He will supply all your needs, and fight the ‘battles’ for you!  [Mark Besh – Deep Thoughts, August, 2002]

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THE SERENITY PRAYER
God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with Him in the next.
[Reinhold Niebuhr]

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Change doesn’t happen overnight—but imagine how different we could be in time. Imagine the rest and sheer delight of loving others that could replace the exhaustion and drudgery of measuring up to unrealistic expectations. This can happen as we learn to entrust our well-being into the arms of a merciful and loving God and the total acceptance of His Spirit.

The Bible says that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” [1 John 1:9]. No matter how much knowledge we accumulate, how technologically advanced we become, or even how good our intentions are, our sin ‘nature’, without the Holy Spirit, is always in control. It may be subdued at times; it may be controlled by sheer discipline on other occasions; but a time will come when these works of the ‘flesh’ will manifest themselves. But when we are transformed by God’s grace, they are no longer “in control.” Only by faith can one turn over their lives completely and without reservation to the One who can make changes that will be everlasting.

We “surrender” to things all the time. When we fly in airplanes, we surrender our safety to the pilots and the airplane. When we have surgery, we put our trust in the doctors that they will do the right things. God also requires our surrender to Him, if we desire the forgiveness, peace and joy that only comes from Him.

If you haven’t yet surrendered your will to the Holy Spirit, let me encourage you to do so today. You could be a world changer! [Mark Besh – Deep Thoughts, Oct, 2002]

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THE CHANGE
Well I got myself a T-shirt that says what I believe
I got letters on my bracelet to serve as my I.D.
I got the necklace and the key chain
And almost everything a good Christian needs, yeah
I got the little Bible magnets on my refrigerator door
And a welcome mat to bless you before you walk across my floor
I got a Jesus bumper sticker
And the outline of a fish stuck on my car
And even though this stuff’s all well and good, yeah
I cannot help but ask myself

What about the change
What about the difference
What about the grace
What about forgiveness
What about a life that’s showing
I’m undergoing the change yeah
I’m undergoing the change

Well I’ve got this way of thinking that comes so naturally
Where I believe the whole world is revolving around me
And I got this way of living that I have to die to every single day
’cause if God’s Spirit lives inside of me, yeah
I’m gonna live life differently

I’m gonna have the change
I’m gonna have the difference
I’m gonna have the grace
I’m gonna have forgiveness
I’m gonna live a life that’s showing
I’m undergoing the change

What about the change
What about the difference
What about the grace
What about forgiveness
I want to live a life that’s showing
I’m undergoing the change
[Lyrics by Steven Curtis Chapman from his “Speechless” album]

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DEEP THOUGHT:
Worrying is like driving a car with one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the brake!
[Anon]

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Hope you enjoyed some of these insights—share them with your friends and colleagues—so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from, and more to share with!  Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  [Proverbs 3:5-6].

Mark

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Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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