Russian invasion of Ukraine - did Russia achieve its military goals?

Between US cable news, news from European news programs (Sky UK, France 24, and DW) streaming on YouTube, and checking out think tank web pages, have been trying to get a handle on the military objectives of the Russian invasion. 

Prior to the invasion, the opinion seemed to be falling into two categories: (1) Russia won't invade or (2) the invasion would be limited perhaps to just the eastern part. Some experts described what the "go big" invasion would look like but didn't think it likely they would go that far. 

As we all saw, Russia went all in with a multi-pronged invasion (see map 1).

Map 1 - possible end points of invasion plan

Objective 1 was to capture, kill, or force to flee the central government of Ukraine by seizing Kyiv.

Objective 2 was to cut the country in half by driving toward the Dnieper river and potentially trapping Ukrainian army units in the east of the country.

Objective 3 was to solidify control of the disputed regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. 

Objective 4 was to connect Crimea (annexed in 2014) to Russia with a direct land corridor with a north-easterly invasion.

Objective 5 was to deny Ukraine access to the Black Sea by heading north-west out of Crimea and taking the coastal port of Udesa.

How far did the Russian ground forces get? See map 2.

Map 2 - state of the invasion as of March 29, 2022

Objective 1? 
Russian forces have stalled in the outskirts of Kyiv. The Ukraine government remains in charge and in place in Kyiv.

Objective 2? 
Russian army has laid siege of Kharkiv but haven't advanced much beyond Kharkiv.

Objective 3? 
Haven't seen much news from this region probably because Western news services aren't able to get here suggesting Russia has these areas under control.

Objective 4? 
The siege of Mariupol has been the scene of tremendous destruction. If and when Russia takes control of the city, they will have their "land bridge" from Russia to Crimea.

Objective 5?
Russia has not reached Udesa and have gotten as far Kherson but does not appear able to advanced any further.

One unknown is the degree to which Russia can continue to sustain troop and equipment losses to achieve a revised limited set of aims. 

On the other side, how much material resources can Ukraine continue to receive and how much military personnel do they have to effectively deploy them?

When the cost of war eventually gets too high for both sides then the two side might come to a deal of some kind. It does not appear that point has been reached. Ukraine realizes it will not be joining NATO or the EU anytime soon so it may have to make some concessions when the time for negotiation arrives. Ukraine may accept loss of territory but as long as they have a "stalemate" on the battlefield, they will not accept demilitarization. In 2014, when Crimea was annexed, Ukraine was in no position to militarily oppose the Russians so they had to sign a deal. Since 2014, they built up their army and it is paying off so far as they have extracted a high price from Russia in this war. They will want to continue to build up their forces so that Russia would not be tempted to restart the war to gain more territory.

As for Europe, NATO, and USA, they realize the line has to be drawn here so they will continue to supplies both military and economic aide to Ukraine because if Ukraine collapses the next target could be a NATO member. 

#StandWithUkraine


Read through the Bible in one-year, reflections part VII

In a typical read through the Bible plan, I know I struggle with the big chunk of material in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers that are filled with various minute details of the tabernacle, the garments, the sacrifices, and the numerous codes of conduct. 

#1
I think one perspective to keep in mind as we wade through these sections is the holiness of God. God is perfectly holy, and we are not. The laws are there to hold up a mirror to us to show us we are not holy. We not only fail to keep the letter of the law we fail to even uphold a fraction of the spirit of the law. These laws are in regard to our relationship to God. These laws are in regard to our relationship to each other. And we fall short on both fronts.

#2
Mixed in with all these laws that are a megaphone announcing the holiness of God are the provisions for us to be made right before God. We can’t be made right using our own methods, we need to follow the way set forth by God. Thus, the over-arching theme is God is holy, we are not, God has made a way to be restored, and we need to trust and obey God’s way of restoration. 

#3 
As such, we need to be careful as New Testament Christians how we talk about the Old Covenant. We should not talk down upon the Old Covenant. The stories of God's people who lived and walked in the Old Covenant like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and others are illustrative of the human condition. They stumbled around a lot (we do to) and it was God's mercy and grace that picks them (and us) up!

So yes, the Old Covenant was well ... a certain way at a particular time. And, yes, the New Covenant is well … new! But the message is still the same: God is holy, we are not, God has made a way to be restored, and we need to trust and obey God’s way of restoration. In the New Covenant, the way is through trust and obedience to our Lord and King Jesus! The grace of God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. Abraham needed grace. We need grace.

Jesus’ critique of the religious leaders of the time was that they missed the point of the Old Covenant. These religious leaders thought they kept the letter of the Law and that their birthright as the children of Abraham was enough. Regarding the letter of the Law, they under-estimated just how holy God actually is and thought more highly of their own holiness than actually warranted. As such, they also missed the spirit of the law:  God is holy, we are not, God has made a way to be restored, and we need to trust and obey God’s way of restoration

Anyway, these handholds have been a helpful 30,000 feet perspective for me. 

Keep reading!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Read through the Bible in one-year, reflections part VI

A large part of the “End Times” teaching from Jesus can be found in Matthew 24-25 with parallel passages in Mark 13 and Luke 21. Suffice to say there are differences in opinion about how to interpret these sections of the Gospels known as the Olivet Discourse. Additionally, Christians through the ages have tried to explain these verses along with discrete portions of teaching in the Apostolic letters that address these concerns. And, of course, there is the unusual book of Revelation that needs to be taken into account. 

#1 The one thing we can say about these teachings is that the timing is in God’s hands and people making claims about knowing when it is going to happen should be ignored. The notion of “signs of the times” that enable prediction needs to be view with skepticism. When taken in the scope of history, one could see these “signs of the times” at many times in human history. The spiritual reality is that the kingdom of God is breaking into the kingdoms of this world and when two geologic plates strike there will be seismic activity along that fault - signs of the times.

Another thing to consider is that while in some parts of the world, Christianity can be above ground, there are parts of the world where Christianity must survive underground. Which part of the world is seeing the “signs of the times” in terms of persecution? 

The reality is that spiritual struggles are happening everywhere. One could say in places where Christianity is above ground face different kinds of spiritual challenges compared to a place with outright persecution. The spiritual indifference due to materialism must be resisted as much as spiritual despair due to persecution. 

#2 When reading these Gospel passages, keep in mind not only the “end of times” perspective but also AD 70 which had not yet occurred when the disciples heard these teachings. In AD 70, Rome destroying the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was a tremendous spiritual earthquake. Thus, when you read these verses, many of them would “fit” in the understanding of a Christian living in AD 71 having heard about or lived through the trauma of AD 70. 

One school of Bible interpretation (Preterist) says that all these verses were fulfilled in AD 70 while others (Partial Preterist) say some but not all were fulfilled by AD 70. Yet another school of thought (Futurist) says most of the verses haven’t been fulfilled yet. My view is that the Partial Preterists are onto something here. 

On a side note, in the USA, the idea of a pre-tribulation rapture is popular. In brief, this is the belief that Christians will depart from the earth into the presence of God prior to a terrible time of disaster on earth. There are honest and vigorous discussions over this point among committed Christians who take the Bible seriously. If one holds this view, one can read it into the Olivet teachings. However, if one does not hold this view, it isn’t at all clear one would come to that conclusion from reading Matthew 24-25 and related passages. 

 #3 Finally, the key thing to remember is that the ultimate victory belongs to God! God is on the move accomplishing His work in this world and we have the blessing and challenge to join into what God is doing. Our call is faithful endurance despite difficulties and generous love to all the people God brings into our lives. I think that is a message we could all agree upon when reading the Olivet teachings from Jesus. 

 Keep reading! 

Soli Deo Gloria!

Read through the Bible in one-year, reflections part V

As we proceed through the Old Testament in the reading plan, all of Genesis and the first half of Exodus are narrative. These are the stories of great pathos and the stuff of movies! When we hit Exodus 20 and the giving of the 10 Commandments, much of the remainder is what is known broadly as “the Law.” 

 #1 We need to start by defining our terms when we think about “the Law.” This concept is used to describe several different things, so we need to understand its different meanings. The various definitions are: 1) it is the 613 commandments as tallied by Jewish scholars; 2) it is the five books from Genesis to Deuteronomy; 3) it is the theology of the Old Testament; and 4) it can also refer to how the Jewish religious leaders at the time of Jesus and the early church interpreted and sometimes mis-interpreted the Law as mentioned in the first sense previously. When we are reading through Exodus and eventually Leviticus and so forth, we are largely thinking of meaning 1 and 3. 

#2 What are the Laws in the 613-commandment sense? They fall into three broad categories: moral law, civil law, and ritual law. For current day Jewish people, the ritual laws that pertain to Temple sacrifice are moot since as there is no longer a Temple and the civil laws don’t apply since whatever country a Jewish person lives in has its civil laws. The Jewish people who are very committed still observe some of the ritual laws. And, of course, the moral law still applies. Likewise, as Christians, the moral law is authoritative since they are largely restated in some form or another in the New Testament while the civil law and ritual law don’t apply. 

#3 What is the purpose of the Law? There are a number of them: 1) they make clear the the holiness of God; 2) they describe the provision of God for restoration and forgiveness when we inevitably fail to live up to the standards set by God; and 3) they point toward Jesus. 

Keep reading! 

Soli Deo Gloria!

Covid19 fatalities and median age of nations

Heard on a podcast that some hypothesize that many of the poorer countries have weathered Covid19 without too much trouble (unlike USA and Europe) because they have younger populations and thus they have relatively mild cases from the infection. Thought I'd take a quick look at the "Our World In Data" web page to see if that seems plausible. Am using the data listed as 2022-02-06 and from nations with at least 1 million people. 

The bar graph divides the nations into those with median population age < 30 (n=83) and > 30 (n=73) and takes the average per capita fatalities. Difference was p < .0001. 

As you can see, the average of per capita Covid19 deaths in nations with median age of population > 30 are higher compared to those nations with median age < 30.

The scatter graph is a simple linear regression and the R^2=0.3404 with a p < .0001 and this level of R^2 would be considered "moderate" strength by some statisticians.

Correlation of median age of nation (x-axis) with Covid19 per capita deaths (y-axis) shows an upward trend line indicated a positive correlation.

Of course correlation is not causation but we know from CDC data that majority of the fatalities in the USA have been in the older population as seen in the table.


 

Read through the Bible in one-year, reflections part IV

In a “read through the Bible in a year plan,” for the New Testament, we will likely be reading in the Gospels. 

#1 Each Gospel is about Jesus. Note how each Gospel starts by turning the spotlight onto Jesus in its own distinctive way. Matthew 1:1, “An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” Mark 1:1, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Luke 1:1-3 “Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.” John 1:1-5, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” 

So right off the bat, when reading in the Gospel, a good question to ask is who is Jesus in the portion I just read? 

#2 There are Four Gospels. Many analogies have been made for the idea of Four Gospels but one Jesus: one musical score but different instruments playing, or one piece of music but four stereo speakers. There will be something we read in one Gospel, and it will move us in a particular way. We may run into that same teaching in another Gospel, and it will impact us in a different way as it is told in a slightly different way. Over repeated readings of the Gospels, we will be drawn to it in different ways. Using an art analogy, repeated viewing of a masterpiece will reveal new beauty each time. Using a music analogy, repeated listening of a masterpiece will reveal new beauty each time. 

#3 In Matthew, the kingdom of heaven (kingdom of God in other gospels) is a big feature of Matthew. On one hand, the kingdom of God is at hand but also, Jesus teaches the disciples to pray, “thy kingdom come.” From this, we get the idea of the kingdom is “already and not yet.” The kingdom teachings are particularly given in the five extended teaching sections of Jesus:

  1. The Sermon on the Mount as the constitution of the kingdom of God (Mt. 5-7) 
  2. The kingdom personnel on mission (Mt. 10) 
  3. The parables describing the kingdom (Mt. 13) 
  4. The relationships in the kingdom (Mt. 18) 
  5. The near future (probably fulfilled in AD 70) and final future of the kingdom (Mt. 24-25) 

Keep reading! 

Soli Deo Gloria!

Read through the Bible in one-year, reflections part III

As part of “read the Bible in one year,” the New Testament part will likely begin with the Gospels. And, of course, with Matthew. Thus, what are some features to be alert to as we read the Gospels? 

#1 Take note of the way the Gospels point out that Jesus is the Messiah rooted in the work of God through the Jewish people. Recall that the earliest believers were Jewish; therefore, it was important to establish that Jesus was in accord with the Scriptures of what we now call the Old Testament. This “Jewishness” of Jesus is most noticeable in Matthew, but it is an aspect of the other three as well. Since many of us are Gentiles, this might not have as big an impact upon us. Nonetheless, this “Jewishness” shows the faithfulness of God as it traces back to God’s intention when He promised Abraham “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” back in Genesis 12:2. God is faithful to accomplish his plans!

#2 Jesus is our life! Perhaps, one of the most well-known parts of the Bible is Matthew 5:3-12. One might ask how are those who “are poor in spirit,” “mourn,” “are gentle,” “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” “are merciful,” “are pure in heart,” “are the peacemakers,” ”are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,” and “are insulted and persecuted” in any way “blessed?” They are blessed because they belong to Jesus! While those who are self-righteous, self-reliant, and self-interested will not follow. 

#3 As such, in light of item 2 above, take note of the encounters that Jesus has with people and how they respond. Some reject him and some accept him. What is quite striking is that the people who accept him were often the “outsiders” of that time. And the people who reject him were often the “insiders” of the time, in particular the religious authorities. These encounters basically ask the reader, are you going to accept Jesus or not? And they also ask, if I’m a follower of Jesus, how am I going to look at people who don’t know Him yet? Am I going to be like the religious authorities who trust their “insider-ness” looking down on others failing to see the grace of God is available to all who trust Him?

Keep reading! 

Soli Deo Gloria!

Russian invasion of Ukraine - did Russia achieve its military goals?

Between US cable news, news from European news programs (Sky UK, France 24, and DW) streaming on YouTube, and checking out think tank web pa...