Two Los Angeles gang members appear to have emerged armed and dangerous in the middle of Syria’s civil war, a senior counter-terrorism official confirmed to ABC News, sparking security concerns back on the West Coast.
In a video posted recently on YouTube, a heavily gang-tattooed and camouflaged duo, who call themselves “Creeper” and “Wino,” brandish AK-47s while saying that they’re “in Syria, gangbangin’.”
Though a version of the video appeared to have been posted online just in recent days, the footage first came to the attention of authorities a month ago, Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief for Counterterrorism Mike Downing told ABC News Sunday.
“My organized crime and gang investigators found it online and on Facebook,” Downing said. “We’re kind of concerned about their recruitment and whatever other associates they have here… We predicted this would happen — the [organized crime and terrorism] convergence. What we’re worried about is the ones we don’t know about here or coming back to the U.S.”
Disturbing: This image shows a young girl wearing Disney pajamas pointing an AK-47 rifle at the camera. The image was recovered during a massive crackdown on the Rollin’ 30s Harlem Crips gang in LA
Immigration law enforcement has been a key ingredient contributing to the success of criminal gang suppression efforts in many jurisdictions across the United States. Since 2005, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has arrested more than 8,000 gangsters from more than 700 different gangs as part of a special initiative known as Operation Community Shield. This effort has produced incalculable public safety benefits for American communities, despite being criticized periodically by immigrant and civil liberties advocates that are consistently opposed to all immigration law enforcement.
Local governments and law enforcement agencies that shun involvement in immigration law enforcement are missing an opportunity to protect their communities from criminal immigrant gang activity. Policymakers should take further steps to institutionalize partnerships between state and local law enforcement agencies and ICE in order to address gang and other crime problems with a connection to immigration.
Immigrant gangs1 are considered a unique public safety threat due to their members’ propensity for violence and their involvement in transnational crime. The latest national gang threat assessment noted that Hispanic gang membership has been growing, especially in the Northeast and the South, and that areas with new immigrant populations are especially vulnerable to gang activity. 2 A large share of the immigrant gangsters in the most notorious gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), Surenos-13, and 18th Street are illegal aliens. Their illegal status means they are especially vulnerable to law enforcement, and local authorities should take advantage of the immigration tools available in order to disrupt criminal gang activity, remove gang members from American communities, and deter their return. Once explained, these measures find much support, especially in immigrant communities where gang crime is rampant.
On Monday, November 11, 1918—95 years ago tomorrow—in a train car on a railroad siding in northern France in the wee hours of the morning, a group of German, French, and British men wrote their names on a piece of paper. In so doing, they brought an end to the Great War, the European War, the World War, as it was known then.
It had been fought as “the war to end all wars.” Out of its ending arose the League of Nations, the first international organization whose purpose was to achieve and maintain world peace. The kind of devastation seen in the trenches—tens of millions of young men killed, and wounded, and missing—could never happen again.
But one thing led to another, and we humans did what we humans do, and trouble did arise again. And pretty soon they had to add a roman numeral after “the World War,” because another great conflict was exploding everywhere. In ghettos and concentration camps, in firefights and dogfights and naval battles, yet more millions were killed, and wounded, and disappeared, until 1945, when new armistices were signed and the fighting ended again.
Out of the ending of World War II arose the United Nations, a renewed effort at international diplomacy and peace. As details of the horrors of the Holocaust emerged, the world united around two words: Never Again.
But one thing led to another, and we humans did what we humans do, and trouble did arise again. There was Korea, and Vietnam, and Kuwait, and Iraq, and Afghanistan… There was Pol Pot in Cambodia and Idi Amin in Uganda. There were the Serbs and the Croats and the Kosovar Albanians in Yugoslavia, and the Hutus and the Tutsis in Rwanda. There were the Contras in Nicaragua and the Generals in Chile.
Today, in 2014, there are civil wars in Syria and Somalia. There are insurgencies in Yemen and Iraq. There are drug-related conflicts in Mexico and Colombia. There is inter-religious fighting in Israel-Palestine. There is inter-ethnic fighting in Sudan and the Congo. There is gang violence in Hartford and New Haven and Bridgeport and Boston.
One thing leads to another, and we humans do what we humans do, and over and over again, we end up in trouble. When we look at human history—the past century, the past millennium, the entire arc of our existence—it is easy to feel like we’re caught in a never-ending cycle of violence and death and destruction. It is easy to think that these conflicts are intractable, that more fighting is inevitable, that the ideal of world peace is an unachievable pipe dream.
And that’s why we need the prophets. That’s why we need visions from the likes of Jeremiah. That’s why we need the message we heard this morning. We need to be reminded of God’s promise that violence will not be the end of us—that peace will prevail at the last.
Jeremiah was no stranger to cycles of violence and death and destruction. More than six centuries before the time of Jesus, Jeremiah was born into a world torn by political and military instability. The Israelite kingdoms were divided between north and south. The Babylonian Empire was gaining strength, and eventually it laid siege to Jerusalem. The king was deposed and replaced by his son; the son was then deposed himself and replaced by his uncle. Eventually, the city was sacked and the Temple was destroyed by the invading forces. All the rulers and leaders were exiled, some to Babylon and others to Egypt. Jeremiah was carried off with them and remained a refugee in Egypt until he died. Jeremiah was no stranger to cycles of violence.
If you’ve read much from the book of Jeremiah, you’ll know that many of his prophecies foretell destruction and devastation. But the one we heard today is different. The one we heard today promises restoration and renewal, peace and prosperity.
The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness…
I have loved you with an everlasting love…
Again I will build you up…
Again you shall take your tambourines
and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers…
Again you shall plant vineyards…
and shall enjoy the fruit.
Jeremiah says that God promises a world in which those who have survived the sword, the veterans who make it home from their deployments, will be met with grace—with healing for their shrapnel wounds, and support for their struggles with depression and PTSD, and encouragement and embrace as they readjust to peacetime living.
Jeremiah says that God promises a world in which building-up outpaces tearing-down—a world in which planes will airlift food rather than bombs, and builders will build schools rather than prisons.
Jeremiah says that God promises a world in which everyone can come home again—the refugees scattered to the four winds, and the soldiers killed in far-away battles, and the estranged family members who haven’t spoken in years.
Jeremiah says that God promises a world of restoration and renewal, peace and prosperity. Jeremiah says that God promises. There’s no maybe about it. God says, “There shall be a day.” No matter how tangled-up our world might be now, no matter how checkered our past or uncertain our future, there shall be a day when all who survived the sword will find grace, when all who are hungry will be fed, when all who weep will rejoice, when all who are divided will be reunited, when peace will reign at the last—there shall be such a day.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged America, changed lives, Communities, Culture, Gang Violence, Human Rights Campaign, humanity, immigration law enforcement, injustice, law enforcement, Los Angeles gang members, Los Angeles Police Department, Mike Downing, Police, social issues, social justice, Society, standing power, suffering, Syria.
I am grieving tonight more so than I have since August 21st when the Syrian attack Saran gas was unleashed on innocent men, women and children. I have long seen our nation as King of this world dead and I have long grieved its future. Out of all God’s creations Man is the only thing that does what it wants. Man was given dominion over this planet and we have all played the harlot with our own lives and those of whom we have been trusted to Steward. I am in prayer that we as a nation would come back to our first love and begin to act as a nation with a Living King seated on the right hand of God Almighty.
REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin—we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring
A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth with righteous indignation. It will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.
A true revolution of values will lay a hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.
READ: Isaiah 6:1-13
Not too long ago I watched part of a documentary on ABC Television which traced the history of the Royal Family – the House of Windsor. In that program they recounted the passing away of King George VI. In 1952 the sad word went forth from London . . . “THE KING IS DEAD”. King George VI had died in his sleep at the age of 56. He was somewhat of a private man, in comparison with others who’ve held the throne, but he was greatly respected and admired. His reign had carried him through the rigors of World War 2, the election of a socialist government, and the dissolution of much of the British Empire. His tired heart gave way. All across Britain, people flocked to churches to worship, to pray, and to seek comfort and hope.
In 1963, another shocking word was sent out across the world: “The President is dead”. It was unbelievable. JOHN F. KENNEDY, young, vibrant and dynamic, was cut down by an assassin’s bullet – a nation was plunged into grief. People flocked into churches in the greatest numbers since the announcement of the end of World War 2. Ministers changed their sermon texts and preached messages of healing and hope to the people of America.
About 700 years before Christ was born in Bethlehem, the sad announcement was made, “THE KING IS DEAD”. King Uzziah, the eleventh King of Judah, had died. Crowned at the age of 16, he had reigned 52 years. Despite his failings, he was the greatest king since David.
The heart of Isaiah, the prophet, was broken. Uzziah was not only his king, he was also his friend. In his heartbreak, Isaiah made his way to the Temple to worship and to seek comfort and renewed faith.
Friends, when sorrow comes, when life presses you in, the best place to be found is in the House of the Lord. (We ought to ALWAYS be found in the House of the Lord! But especially when we’re facing the difficult seasons of life – there is an answer in god, there is hope in Him, if we will quickly turn to Him.)
When Isaiah went up to the House of the Lord, he learned that the king was dead . . . BUT THAT GOD WAS NOT DEAD! He was still upon His throne. Isaiah had lost his earthly king, whom he loved, but he caught a fresh glimpse of the King of Kings. He met with God in an encounter that radically changed his life.
Would you note with me, tonight, that Isaiah saw four things that I want to draw to your attention:
1. ISAIAH SAW THE LORD.
Here is the greatest vision that anyone can ever have. To see the Lord! Let’s read about it together. [READ vv1-4.]
Isaiah saw something of God’s nature and character – he caught a glimpse “through the curtain”, as it were. He saw something of the Lord as Moses described Him in Exodus 15:11 – glorious in holiness, fearful in praises (or awesome in His glory – NIV).
The vision was of God high and lifted up upon His throne. He saw God as the central object of all praise, surrounded by heavenly courtiers – angelic beings – the seraphim.
What a vision! Oh, that we would all have such times of encounter with God. BUT, would you note with me, it seems that it was ONLY ISAIAH who saw the glorious vision. If others were seated around him there in the Temple, THEY had no such revelation. He doesn’t write “WE saw the Lord”, he says, “I saw the Lord”.
There is a sense in which our corporate worship is still very much made up of INDIVIDUALS who are worshipping. (Hopefully we are not “individualistic” in our worship, in the sense that we ignore or disregard others around us. We must be mindful of one another, and offer Him corporate adoration – BUT WE ARE STILL INDIVIDUALS as we do so!)
It IS possible for one person to be moved to tears, whilst the person beside them – on the same row of chairs – is UNMOVED. One repents, whilst another trusts in his own self-righteousness. One responds willingly – with a soft heart – to the claims of Christ, whilst another is desperately resisting the persuasion of the Holy Spirit.
Which one are you tonight? Are you sat here, going through the motions of a cold, formal religion, satisfying your conscience that you’ve come? Or are you meeting with God here? Are you opening up to the Lord as He knocks at the door of your heart?
Isaiah met with God, he had a revelation of the greatness of the Lord, and it changed his life forever. The same living Lord is here tonight to meet with WHOEVER will call upon His name. EARTHLY kings may come and go – but the King of Kings is alive forever more, and just as powerful as ever He has been, and just as willing to reveal Himself to men.
And listen, Isaiah didn’t get this revelation just because he was a prophet. He saw God because he had a soft, pliable heart, and a listening ear. Titles and offices don’t cut any ice with God!
2 Chronicles 16:9 – For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is LOYAL to Him.
The Old King James put it: “Them whose heart is PERFECT toward Him.”
That word “loyal” or “perfect” is the Hebrew word “SHALEM”, which means “completely devoted to”; and it’s related to the word “SHALOM”, which means “PEACE” or “stillness”.
So, the verse says that God’s eyes roam the whole earth looking for a heart that is disposed toward Him, devoted to Him, and still before Him. God looks for people to reveal Himself to who are listening and available.
Isaiah was listening, and ISAIAH SAW THE LORD. The second thing that Isaiah saw this day in the Temple was:
2. ISAIAH SAW HIMSELF.
Isaiah SAW HIMSELF as he had never quite seen himself before. He did not see himself in the way that one sees themself as they admire their own image in a mirror. No, no! He did not see himself as a good person, worthy of God’s commendation, and the praise of people. He didn’t think to himself, “WOW! I must be the best person here, because God has honoured ONLY ME with a vision of Himself.” That was NOT his attitude at all.
Instead he cried out: Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips!
AND THIS IS ALWAYS TRUE. The closer we get to God, the more clearly we see our sins. The contrast between His holiness and our unholiness gives us a vivid awareness of just how very far short of God’s glory we truly fall.
The times when we DO feel we have made it – we’ve arrived – we’re knocking on the door of perfection – they’re the times that we’ve been neglecting to pray and worship and feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.
When Peter was CLOSEST to Jesus he said: Depart from me; for I am a sinful man. When John received the Revelation of Christ on the Island of Patmos, he wrote, I fell at His feet as though dead!
A lost sense of God brings a lost sense of sin. But a renewed sense of God brings a renewed awareness of our own sinfulness.
Isaiah saw himself in a whole new light.
The third thing that Isaiah saw was:
3. ISAIAH SAW GOD’S CLEANSING POWER.
And I praise God for this! Oh, if all we ever see is the weakness of our sin – the depravity of our hearts – without discovering the cleansing power of God, WHAT MISERABLE PEOPLE WE WILL BE. But He DOES have power to cleanse!
When Isaiah confessed his sin, God was faithful and just to forgive his sin and cleanse him from all unrighteousness.
Let’s read about it . . . [READ vv6-7].
A live coal – a burning coal – a coal that speaks of purification and cleansing – was brought by that seraphim from off the altar of sacrifice and touched to his lips. That altar that the live coal was taken from was the Altar of Burnt Offerings – it was the altar where the blood was shed. It was the place where the priests would kill those animals to pay for the sins of the people, because without the shedding of blood there is no remission (no cleansing) from sin – Hebrews 9:22 – God has declared it.
So you have a coal that has been touched by two things: BLOOD and FIRE. The blood speaks of cleansing from sin (only blood can wash away our sin), and the fire speaks of refining, purifying power. The blood washes away sin, the fire brings the refining of positive holiness.
When God saves you, what does He do? He applies to your life the cleansing power of the eternal blood of His Son, Jesus – that washes away the sins of your old life – and then He sets you in the way of a whole new life which is being refined by the workings of the Spirit of Holiness; we begin to live a life of positive righteousness. HE CALLS US RIGHTEOUS BECAUSE OF THE BLOOD OF HIS SON, AND THEN HE MAKES US RIGHTEOUS THROUGH THE WORKING OF HIS HOLY SPIRIT – the FIRE of the Holy Ghost.
This is the power that ONLY GOD has in a life. Government agencies, social workers, psychiatrists, modern education; they can all try what they will, they cannot change the heart of man with all their programs of reform – THEY’RE POWERLESS! But God can come in a moment of time, and revolutionize a person, and make them a new creation!
[ILLUSTRATION:] I understand that the success rate for rehabilitating hard-line drug addicts is pitifully low. An independent government study was undertaken in the U.S. and found that the success rate of de-tox centres in getting people off drugs permanently (tested after 7 years) was just 2 – 9%. The more intensive rehabilitation centres were not much better – just 9 – 11%. But this independent government study found that “TEEN CHALLENGE” (an organization that is thoroughly Christian – founded by David Wilkerson in New York – you may remember the story “The Cross and the Switchblade”) had a success rate documented as being 86%. When the government researchers were asked what was the difference, they replied (in their words) that the ONLY thing they could put Teen Challenge’s success down to was “THE JESUS FACTOR” (the government’s own words!). Teen Challenge are making a difference because this is not a program based upon the wisdom of men, but on the power of God to transform a life. they’re not preaching rehabilitation; they’re preaching RADICAL REGENERATION. And they’re not prescribing substitute drugs; they’re prescribing a relationship with the Saviour Jesus Christ!
Isaiah saw God’s cleansing power. The seraphim applied the blood-soaked, fire-purifying coal from off the altar and Isaiah experienced the sweet, clean feeling of forgiveness and peace. Hallelujah! Oh, there’s nothing like it in all the world!
Isaiah saw the Lord, Isaiah saw himself, Isaiah saw God’s cleansing power; then, the fourth and final thing he saw was:
4. ISAIAH SAW THE WORLD.
[READ vv8 – 9 (up to “GO!”)]
A knowledge of God will make us good in all our relationships. Isaiah got in with God and he heard God’s heartbeat for a lost and dying people. He heard God’s summons for a messenger to reach out to them. God said: Whom shall I send, who will go for us? And immediately Isaiah says, HERE I AM, SEND ME!
Would God call a sinful man to preach His message? A man of unclean lips?! Friends, there are no other kind of people available to God! Yes, God calls sinners to go for Him. He has not committed His glorious gospel to sinless angels, but to fallen men.
But God sends them ONLY after they’ve been cleansed of their sins by His grace. The message of God must be spoken through purged lips. The work of God must be poured from clean vessels. YOUR PAST WILL NOT EXCLUDE YOU FROM BEING USED BY GOD: BUT HOW YOU’RE LIVING TODAY MIGHT!
Yes, God can take YOU and use you for His glory – if only you’ll live for Him a cleansed, purified life.
Note: Isaiah did NOT say, “Where do you want me to go?” “What’s in it for me?” “What is the salary?” “What are the retirement benefits?” Isaiah signed a blank cheque on his whole life. He didn’t try to strike a bargain with God; he didn’t attempt to negotiate a compromise. God called – Isaiah answered. God commanded – Isaiah obeyed. Such an unconditional response comes only from the heart of one who has SEEN THE VISION: the one who’s MET WITH GOD.
The same thing can happen to you here tonight. THE KING IS ALIVE! He WAS dead – He died for our sins on the cross. But He arose from the grave and He lives today – He lives forever! He calls us to see Him as He truly is – the holy God. He calls us to see ourselves as we truly are – sinful and needing Him desperately. He calls us to discover that He can cleanse from all sin, and give life anew to those who will receive Him. And then He commissions us to look on the fields of this world that are white unto harvest, and to GO and be His witnesses.
Where are you along this process tonight? Have you seen Him? In the pages of His Word – in the voice of the preacher – do you hear His call? Do you recognize that your sin and guilt keep you from Him? Have you accepted His salvation – purchased with His own blood? Are you hearing His call to go, to be His witness to others?
Open your heart to Him tonight. Don’t be the one who is hardened, and goes away empty. Respond to Him with the faith He gives.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged America, American Civil Liberties Union, changed lives, Christ, compromise practices, courage, Culture, deliverance, disciplined thinking, education, faith, God, grace, Healing, Human Rights Campaign, humanity, humility, injustice, Isasiah, Maladjusted to Sin, Martin Luther King, Prophets, religion, social issues, social justice, spirituality, standing power, strength, Struggles, suffering, Syria, theology, Trust, War.