Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"These are the days of Elijah"

I am often accused of getting carried away with my attempt to relate the events transpiring in the world today with what the Bible says. Many times I have had people say, "Well, Max, things have been bad before. So, what makes you think that we are near the end now?" And then I begin to reiterate how, never before in the history of mankind, have so many of the events prophesied by both the prophets and Jesus Himself been realized at the same time. Let's just look at a few:

Lawlessness: America's prisons today are over-crowded, to the point that the State of Minnesota is seeking to release back into the public violent sexual offenders who have served their prison sentences, and yet who have not demonstrated any change in behavior. Reason why: simply no room for them any longer. Over this past week, a gang of about 50 young people entered a convenience store and robbed the store of merchandise. These "mob robberies" are becoming more frequent.

Religion without power: Success in today's church is measured by attendance and programs. We have compromised biblical truth in order to entertain the lost and carnal. Our goal is to make people feel better about themselves. Forgotten is any discussion on God's holiness or His justice and, although we talk much about His love, we really have failed to grasp what His love is all about.

Earthquakes in various places: Just this week a devastating quake struck Christchurch, New Zealand, bringing death and destruction. Two weeks ago, another quake in Chili. Since October, over 700 quakes in the state of Arkansas alone. And the intensity of the quake activity in and around Yellowstone National Park is growing.

Famines: Escalating food prices is what prompted the uprising in Tunisia last month. And, in case you hadn't noticed, food prices in America are rising higher than the inflation rate. Why? because of adverse weather conditions around the globe that have caused crop failures: no wheat in Australia this year (floods); no wheat in Pakistan this year (floods); no soybeans or corn in Brazil this year (floods); no wheat in Russia this year (drought).

Wars and rumors of war: The reality of war has almost become commonplace today. China is expanding its military, and I am not sure it is only for national defense. Iran keeps working toward a nuclear capability, and it is not solely to produce electricity, as the presence of its warships this week traveling through the Suez Canal can testify. The Arab world is sitting on a powder keg ready to explode.

Should we make anything of these signs? Let me share with you that the Shiites do. Iranian President Ahmadinejad stated that the Twelfth Imam is now managing the revolution going on in Egypt and in other Arab nations. He said, "We will soon see a new Middle East materialising without America and the Zionist regime and there will be no room for world arrogance (the West) in it." He continued, "The final move has begun. We are in the middle of a world revolution managed by this dear (12th Imam). A great awakening is unfolding. One can witness the hand of Imam in managing it." [from Joel Rosenberg's blog]. So, the Shiites are saying that the events of today are pointing to the imminent coming of their messianic deliverer, the Twelfth Imam.

Then, today, Joel Rosenberg shared that Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky stated, "People have come to me and said that it's 'Gog and Magog.' We cannot know. But it's probable that any unrest that God creates shows that the Messiah is coming, and that we must begin to prepare for it and become stronger." So, many among the ultra-Orthodox in Judaism are saying that the events of today are pointing to the imminent coming of their Messiah.

These are not days to have our eyes blinded, nor to be apathetic about what is happening. There is purpose behind these events. The Rabbi is right: we must begin to prepare for His coming and become stronger. It is only the scoffers who fail to see any connection between what is happening and the promises of His return. These are days of preparation. What are you doing to get ready?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Dominoes Are Falling!

The dominoes in the Middle East are beginning to tumble - one after the other. What began a few weeks ago in Tunisia over escalating food prices and unemployment has led to the toppling of two long-termed regimes inTunisia and most recently in Egypt. Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak clung to the reigns of power until his strength waned under the continued pressures of the people's revolt. With the Egyptian military now in control, the Egyptian people have traded a few freedoms for no freedoms in the hopes that they might have many freedoms. Will this gamble work? The answer will be known in September, if not before.

Now uprisings are threatening the autocratic governments in Yemen, Bahrain, and Libya. The situation in Yemen is of utmost concern. President Ali Abdullah Saleh, holding the reigns of power for 32 years, and is known for friendly dispositions toward the United States and the West, teeters on the brink of collapse. The nation of Yemen is already embroiled in two civil wars and has become a stronghold for Al Qaeda. If the government collapses, most analysts believe that a radical Islamic faction will take control, thus imposing a serious threat to the West and to Israel.

Yesterday, riots began in Libya, the playground of Moammar Gadhafi since 1969. Will the people be successful there as they were in Egypt? Gadhafi has been one of the strongest dictators in the region. Since being in power, he has built strong ties with the Russians. You are asking me, why is Libya important? It is the biblical nation of Put, mentioned in Ezekiel 38 - part of the coalition with Russia and the invasion of Israel.

Bahrain, one of the wealthiest Arab Gulf States, has been ruled by one family since 1820 - the Al Khalifa royal family. Other nations embroiled in uprisings by their citizens include Algeria, Jordan, and Lebanon. Reported this morning by, former Lebanese Prime Minisgter Saad Hariri is planning a mass rally in Beirut on March 14. His goal is to have one million demonstrators rallying against Hezbollah.

Even the Palestinian Authority has not been immune to the protests. This past week, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad submitted his resignation to President Abbas. The entire Cabinet in Ramallah resigned. A new government has been formed with Fayyad still acting as Prime Minister. President Abbas has called for new elections, no later than September,but already Hamas has said they would not participate in those elections.

One almost needs a map in front of him to keep up with the current activities in the Middle East. So, what are we to make of these events? Will the democracy that is looming large over the Middle East be realized? Lingering among the shadows is the ever-present Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamic sects. These people have a history of being opportunistic and they know when to demonstrate their presence. In the meanwhile, we are seeing God's hand at work. Israel must be in a position of safety before Russia, Iran, Libya, and others invade, seeking the mineral and petroleum reserves there in Israel. Israel is hardly in such a position today. Another war with her neighbors is inevitable. Perhaps God is using these events to align those nations for His purpose - their grand defeat.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Continuing Unrest in the Middle East - Where Is It Heading?

Unrest continues almost unabated around the world. Many of the countries in the Middle East are watching with great interest the drama being played out in Egypt. Will President Mubarak go into exile, being driven out by the persistent voices of the people? Will Vice President Suleiman be able to create an interim government that will fill the void until the September elections? What role will the Muslim Brotherhood have in a new government? What form will democracy take in a new Egypt?

The Western news media has been so focused on Egypt that it has paid little attention to what has been happening in Tunisia. Late last month, the people rose up in protest because of high food prices, resulting in the exiled flight of their long termed president Ben Ali. Now, new violence has filled the streets of Tunis. There has been looting and even the burning of a small Jewish synagogue. The interim President Mebazaa is ruling by decree without any influence from the Parliament. Corruption, so prevalent in the Ben Ali days, is still rampant. Fears are mounting that this new wave of violence will lead, not to democracy, but to the rise of another radicalized Islamic state.

Could something similar happen in Egypt? Absolutely. How does a country make sudden changes? It is almost an impossibility. Time is needed, and in the case of both Tunisia and Egypt, time is not an ally but an opponent.

In near-by Jordan, protests are increasing, even though King Abdullah has appointed a new Prime Minister and a new Parliament. Will he call for new elections soon? Of interest to the protesters, is that of Jordan's Queen who has been accused of corruption. I have stated before in these blogs, that it is my belief that if Egypt falls, so will Jordan. Historically Jordan has played on the hems of Egypt's robes...not always to the best intentions of the Jordanians, I might add.

About the only country that is weathering this storm of protests is Syria. Last Saturday was to be a "Day of Rage" in Damascus, only no one showed up. The streets were vacant. The reporters were there, but no protesters. It seems, at least for the time being, President Assad is secure. However, the more I study Middle Eastern history, the more I am aware that nothing is as it appears. Perhaps it is because the Middle East is built upon sand...and the sands are ever shifting.

As believers in Jesus Christ and expecting His soon return, the events happening in the Middle East should excite us tremendously. I believe that God is preparing the way for the entrance of the King. There are still events that will need to be played out before He comes. God is causing nations to begin to align themselves for Psalm 83 War and beyond. Soon the trumpet will blow...don't get caught with plugged ears.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Democracy in the Middle East - Can It Work?

Wow! Things are happening in the Middle East pretty quickly right now. Egypt is still in an uproar. Last night Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak went on Egyptian television and stated that he would not leave his office, but pledged not to seek re-election in September. Earlier in the day he had appointed a new Prime Minister to create a new government. Mubarak said, "This dear country is my country...and I will die on its land." Today, opposition leader, Mohammed ElBaradei gave Mubarak an ultimatum that he leave the country by Friday or, to put it in his words, "he will be a dead man walking."

You will remember that ElBaradei was the former head of the IAEC (International Atomic Energy Commission) and had the oversight of the Iranian situation. We know at least two things about this man: 1) he is very pro-Iranian, and 2) he is very anti-Israel. Need we say more. And, last night in his brief speech, President Obama stated that the Egyptians needed to include opposition parties in the formation of any government. Friends, standing in the wings is the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the oldest and most radical of the fundamentalist Islamic sects. I am fearful that allowing them a position at the table will result in what happened in Lebanon when Hezbollah was granted a role in the formation of a government - they soon took over.

And, keep your eyes on Jordan. King Abdullah, seeing what was on the horizon, quickly dismissed his government and selected a new Prime Minister to create a new government more responsive to the people's needs. The one thing the King has going for him that President Mubarak doesn't is that he is still popular with the Jordanian people.

I want to take a few moments to share my thoughts about democracy in the Middle East. To date there is only one country in that region of the world that has a viable democratic process - Israel. Oh, there are pseudo-elections held in Egypt and in Syria and in Lebanon and even within the Palestinian Authority. To date we have not seen democracy work there. Yet America keeps pushing for democratic reforms. In 2006, Secretary of State Rice and the Bush Administration urged the Palestinians to have elections. Yet, when the winner was announced - Hamas - we tried to void the elections because the ones we hoped would win, in fact did not. Hamas, whose strength was in the Gaza Strip took over that area later that year, filling the void left after the 2005 disengagement by Israel. I see where President Abbas has now called for elections this year for the Palestinian Authority. He, too, is trying to stave off a popular uprising.

Why doesn't democracy work well? I believe there are two reasons. First, these nations have a strong history of autocratic rule: the Hussein family has ruled Jordan since 1951; Hosni Mubarak has governed Egypt since 1981; the Assad family has led Syria since 1970; the Saud family has been Saudi Arabia since 1931. So we have entire generations that have known nothing but an autocratic leader. (To be sure, some have been friendly to the West, while others have not). So, if there is to be a democratic change, the people need to be instructed as to what democracy fully entails, and we have failed to teach them.

Second, democracy succeeds upon the foundation of a Judeo-Christian values structure. Democracy has worked in Europe and in many places in the Western World. Why? Because of the Judeo-Christian foundation of Constitutions and Civil structure. The Muslim religion provides no such structure. Therefore I have a very difficult time trying to understand how democracy will work.

Please remember our Christian brothers and sisters living within these countries. Pray for God to protect them. And pray, also, for those Jews who have stayed. These demonstrations can only increase the likelihood of more persecution.

So much going on, and we have not even touched the wacky weather most of us are experiencing. Praise God He is in control. That is what gives me peace at heart. I hope it does you as well.