The New Year has started with much of the nation in the icy grips of Old Man Winter. Here in Minnesota, we were greeted with a minus 20 degrees on New Year's Eve morning as we headed off to church. We are now in week three of subzero nights and single digit highs. Folks in Dallas are worried about frozen pipes and those on the East Coast are bracing for what meteorologists are calling a "bomb cyclone." Not sure what it is, but it doesn't sound very good. Only about 70 days until the official start of spring!
Political unrest is settling over the nation of Iran. Scenes there today remind us of those that occurred back in 2009. The economy in Iran is in shambles. There is a clamoring among the middle class for freedoms from the tyrannical restraints placed upon them by a dictatorial, sharia-driven ayatollah and his administration. Could this be the beginning of another Arab Spring? Will the Western world, particularly the United States, sit and watch as they did in 2009, or will they become actively involved in helping those who are desiring a change in Iran? Can you begin to imagine what the world would be like if there was a regime change in Iran? Perhaps the entire Middle East would take a deep breath. If there is a regime change, what would Russia's response be? We have witnessed a closely-knit relationship between Tehran and Moscow of the past few years. The situation in Iran could be one of the early seminal moments in 2018. So, keep you eyes focused upon that region of the world.
The war of words between North Korea and the United States continues into 2018. So far, North Korea has not launched any missiles. Yet intelligence sources are declaring that North Korea is developing both chemical and biological weapons that could be attached to a warhead and delivered by a missile. A recent defector from North Korea was discovered to have antibodies in his system for anthrax, a well-known biological agent. Just yesterday North Korea issued an invitation to South Korea to have discussions along the border. How sincere is this invitation? Is it just a stalling action on the part of North Korea to take international pressure off its weapons program? How involved will the United States get if such discussions do in fact occur? And, here is a very interesting question: What will happen in North Korea if there is a regime change in Iran? Stay tuned as this story about North Korea will be an important one for 2018.
Another area of focus in 2018 will be Europe with its wrestling over how to deal with an immigration crisis that has been created over the past decade or so. I was just reading this morning that the crime rate in England is at an all-time high and most of it is attributed to the large number of refugees in England. Last year we witnessed violent scenes in France and in Germany. Hungary has threatened to build a wall around itself to stop the influx of refugees. Coupled with that is the increased incidences of anti-Semitism that is flooding Europe. The stability within Europe is shaky and one wonders at the future of the European Union. I can assure you that I will be focusing time on Europe this year.
And, of course there is the political climate here in America this year. Mid-term elections occur in November, but lines are already being drawn. Current members of both the House and Senate are announcing retirements. The media is strongly anti-administration. The #MeToo movement has exposed some of the corruption within the political system. How influential will that movement be in the upcoming elections? And the investigations by the Special Counsel and by Congress concerning the 2016 election continue to drag on - seemingly without an end in sight. Will the impact of the recently passed tax reform legislation influence the attitude of people as elections near? Will people be swayed by the prolonged media-driven negativity or by the positivity driven by job creations, continued stock-market peaks, and more take-home pay?
There will be the continued pressure for the acceptance of immoral practices in 2018. Bathroom usage will be debated in school-board rooms, in legislative chambers, and in courtrooms across America. Those businesses who take a stand opposing same-sex marriage will soon find that the weight of popular opinion and of legal recourse are against them. 2017 saw the rise of the issue of transgenderism and gender-confusion. One can only imagine what issue will take center stage in 2018.
And, finally, for those of us who hold to the return of Christ, there is that ultimate question: Will 2018 be the year that the trumpet blows and Jesus returns for His Bride? Of all the questions to be pondered in 2018, I have to admit this is the most exciting one. How we pray with the Apostle John, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus." But we know that, until the trumpet does blow, we have a great work to be done to share with an increasingly spiritually darkened world that there is hope in Christ. That there is forgiveness in Christ. That there is love in Christ. That there is joy in Christ.
The New Year has arrived. It is time for followers of Jesus Christ to awaken out of our slumber and to begin to take a stand for Christ and His Kingdom.