Thursday, December 22, 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year




I'm off for my holiday break and wanted to wish you all a happy and joyous Christmas. I know that the news we link to here is often grim but I'm sure that most of you who visit this site are Christians who understand that beyond the headlines we know that God is sovereign and always in control. We know that this effort to be watchful has a purpose and a focus, and that focus is on Jesus Christ.

We watch the signs of His return, but this season is all about the First Coming and not the Second Coming, so as we turn to our families and friends to celebrate the holidays we offer thanks and praise to God and above all, celebrate Jesus as the reason for the season.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing
lyrics by Charles Wesley

Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled"
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Labels:

War

Syrian gov't says it has retaken control of battle-scarred Aleppo - UPI.com
UPI reports: "After weeks of intense fighting, the Syrian government on Thursday said it's finally got control of the entire city of Aleppo -- one of its biggest victories in the bloody civil war, which is now in its sixth year. The Syrian army announced on state TV the "return of security to Aleppo" after months of control by U.S.-backed opposition forces."

Comment: This is a great victory for Syria and Assad's Russian and Iranian allies.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Gog Alliance

Karlov assassination in Turkey will likely bring Russia, Turkey closer - Business Insider Business Insider reports: "The assassination on Monday of Russia's ambassador to Turkey at an art gallery in Ankara is unlikely to fracture relations between the two countries as they work to improve their tumultuous relationship, analysts said. [...] statements released by Russian and Turkish officials in the aftermath of Karlov's death suggested Moscow and Ankara were determined not to let the incident derail their rapprochement. [...]
Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, called the assassination an attempt to 'undermine' Russia-Turkey ties and derail Moscow's attempts to find, with Iran and Turkey, a solution for the Syria crisis."

Russia, Turkey could grow even closer after envoy's slaying:
AP reports: :"The assassination of Russia's ambassador to Turkey could actually bring the two regional powers closer together, with Russia reaping political benefits by arguing that it has paid a high price for fighting terrorism as Turkey, embarrassed by its security breaches, increasingly coordinates with Russia in neighboring Syria. The two nations were already trying to resolve their differences over the war in Syria since Turkey shot down a Russian military jet along the Syrian border last year. The measured reactions of their leaders to the killing Monday night [...]  shows they want to stay on the path toward reconciliation. High-level officials from Russia and Turkey, as well as Iran, went ahead with a previously scheduled meeting Tuesday in Moscow on the Syrian crisis."

Comment: These are very  interesting news reports suggesting that in the aftermath of the assassination of the Russian ambassador, Turkey and Russia will likely grow closer rather than drift apart. This is because, they say, Russia will cooperate with Turkey on the investigation and on finding a common strategy on Turkey. So, it looks like the growing alliance between the major powers mentioned in Ezekiel of Russia, Iran and Turkey will not be set back by the latest developments.

Labels: , ,

Famine

Dust Bowl would obliterate modern crops - UPI.com
UPI reports: "If the conditions of the Dust Bowl were replicated today, modern agriculture would be devastated, according to scientists at the University of Chicago. Researchers analyzed how extreme drought and heat would affect maize, soy and wheat crops in the United States. The results show conditions similar to the 1930s would drastically reduce modern crop yields. [...] Though agricultural practices have evolved since the 1930s, most changes have privileged yield over resilience and sustainability. As a result, scientists suggest many staple crops remain vulnerable to extreme weather."

Labels:

Monday, December 19, 2016

Covenant With Many

Trump taps hardliner David Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel - UPI.com
UPI reports: "President-elect Donald Trump's choice for U.S. ambassador to Israel is his bankruptcy attorney and campaign adviser David Friedman, a controversial hardliner whose appointment promises big changes in U.S. Mideast policy. [...] Friedman's views contrast decades-long American policy on Israel. In one immediate example following his nomination, Friedman said he looked forward to serving as ambassador 'from the U.S. embassy in Israel's eternal capital, Jerusalem.'"

Labels: ,

Wars & Rumors of War

Several dead after truck crashes into Berlin holiday market - UPI.com
UPI reports: "At least nine people were killed and dozens were hurt Monday when a truck driver, apparently intentionally, plowed through a group of people gathered at a holiday market in the German capital, authorities said. The commercial truck ran into revelers at the holiday market in Breitscheidplatz, on the west flank of Berlin near a major rail station. The death toll was initially reported at nine, but may climb. At least one person inside the truck was killed, Berlin police said."

Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov assassinated in Ankara - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Russia's ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, was shot to death Monday while giving a speech at a photography exhibit in Ankara. Russia's Foreign Ministry confirmed Karlov's death, Hurriyet Daily News. Three other people were taken to central Ankara's Guven Hospital with injuries. The gunman was shot dead at the scene. During the attack, he made remarks about the Syrian war, according to a graphic video on the Dutch website nos.nl: 'Don't forget Aleppo! Don't forget Syria! As long as our brothers are not safe, you will not enjoy safety. ... Whoever has a share in this oppression will pay for it one-by-one.'"

Comment: It looks like the jihadists went on a rampage today. I can't help wonder if this was a coordinated attack? 

Labels: ,

Friday, December 16, 2016

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

China grabs underwater drone from U.S. ship in South China Sea - UPI.com
UPI reports: "A Chinese naval ship has captured a $150,000 U.S. underwater drone in the South China Sea. The autonomous underwater vehicle, used to measure ocean conditions and map the ocean floor, was stolen as a U.S. crew watched nearby, a U.S. defense official told CNN Friday. The incident took place around noon Thursday, local time, about 40 miles west of the Philippines, according to Fox News."

Comment: This is an interesting development. It will be worth keeping an eye on this story to see how the U.S. responds. 

Labels: ,

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Rumors of War - King of the North

EU votes to extend Russia sanctions for another 6 months - UPI.com
UPI reports: "European leaders meeting in Belgium to address a list of concerns voted Thursday to lengthen economic sanctions against Russia, over its 2014 acquisition of a region of Ukraine and military acts in Syria. European Union leaders granted the extension after concern was raised by members that parts of the Minsk Protocol peace agreement -- which established a cease-fire after months of fighting between Russia and Ukraine -- weren't being fulfilled."

U.S. intelligence: Russian President Vladimir Putin approved hack of Democrats - UPI.com UPI reports: "U.S. intelligence officials are now convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally involved in the hacking of Democrats' computers to interfere in the U.S. presidential election, senior U.S. intelligence officials told two media outlets. NBC first reported Wednesday the officials had "a high level of confidence" Putin approved the hacking. CBS sources confirmed it Thursday. NBC's sources said the intelligence came from diplomatic sources and spies working for U.S. allies."

Labels: ,

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

China's state tabloid denounces U.S. 'arrogance,' calls for weapons buildup - UPI.com
UPI reports: "China's state tabloid is calling for the expansion of defense spending on nuclear weaponry in response to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's critical stance toward Beijing. The editorial published Wednesday in the Global Times comes at a time when China is imposing a penalty on an unnamed U.S. automaker for monopolistic behavior. The state newspaper suggested Beijing should not be pushed out by a militarily powerful United States."

U.S. warns China about South China Sea aggression - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific sought to reassure worried allies and tell leaders in China that the United States will not allow the South China Sea to be blocked off. [...] The Chinese have been constructing artificial reefs in the South China Sea expected to be used as military bases, in addition to chasing other ships out of the waterway and violating what nations in the region claim as their own territorial waters."

Comment: I don't think it's inevitable but there is very high likelihood that the next great war will be between the U.S. and China. The U.S. has become accustomed to fighting small wars against weak opponents but China is a near-peer competitor and the scale and damage of such a war would be huge. Let's hope calmer heads prevail. Perhaps under Trump we will have more trade and less conflict?

Labels: ,

Covenant With Many

France postpones Middle East peace conference until January - UPI.com
UPI reports: "A French-sponsored peace conference on the Mideast has been moved from late December to early January, the Palestinian envoy to France said. [...] The conference was scheduled to begin on Dec. 21. Neither Palestine, which approves of the meeting, nor Israel, which strongly opposes it, was invited to attend. Israel prefers direct negotiation with the Palestinian Authority, without preconditions or involvement from other countries."

Comment: Well, that's ok, I'm sure the French know what they are doing and will use the additional time wisely to come up with new and creative ways to blame Israel and champion the Palestinians. 

Labels:

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Persecution

Islamic State claims responsibility for Egypt church bombing - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The Islamic State claimed Tuesday it was behind a church bombing in Egypt and said it plans to target more Christians there in the future. Shafik Mahmoud Mohamed Mostafa was sent to the Coptic Christian cathedral by the Islamic State, the group said in a statement, where he detonated a suicide bomb in the latest attack on Christians in Egypt, killing himself and 25 others."

Comment: Praying for the church in Egypt, that their hearts will not be guided by the values of tribalism but by Christian values of mercy, compassion and forgiveness. 

Labels:

Monday, December 12, 2016

Global Government

Antonio Guterres sworn-in as next U.N. secretary general - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Former Portuguese leader Antonio Guterres was sworn-in Monday as the ninth secretary general of the United Nations, officially succeeding Ban Ki-moon after a decade of the South Korean's leadership. Guterres was chosen as the next secretary general in October, and will formally assume the role on Jan. 1. But the swearing-in ceremony was held Monday. During the ceremony, Guterres spoke about his vision for U.N. leadership in a changing international landscape."

Comment: I'm somewhat reluctant to embrace the idea of the UN as an emerging world government that plays an active role in the end times. I think it's a useful debating club right now but it's not very powerful.  That may change in the future, so it's important to keep up with trends and developments.

Labels:

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Persecution

Bomb kills 25 at Egypt's main Coptic Christian cathedral- AP
The AP reports: "A bomb ripped through the chapel in the cathedral complex in central Cairo, killing 25 people and wounding another 49, mostly women and children, one of the deadliest attacks on the country's Christian minority in recent memory. [...] One of the worst previous attacks against Christians by Islamic militants was a 2011 bombing at a church in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria that killed 21. The Islamic State group also has targeted Christians in the Sinai Peninsula, where it primarily goes after security forces. [...] Egypt's Christians have long complained of discrimination, saying they are denied top jobs in many fields, including academia and security forces."

Comment: Please join me in praying for the church in Egypt. I've often wondered if Christians in Egypt had a special kind of pride knowing that Jesus lived there for a time in his youth? At any rate, this is a difficult time for Christians in the entire Middle East and they deserve our support and our prayers. 

Labels:

Saturday, December 10, 2016

War

U.S. to send 200 more troops to Syria to combat Islamic State - UPI.com
UPI report: "The United States will send an additional 200 troops to Syria to assist rebel groups in capturing the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced. Speaking at the annual IISS Manama Dialogue security gathering on Saturday in Manama, Bahrain, Carter said special forces trainers, advisers and bomb disposal teams will join the 300 U.S. troops already in Syria, the BBC reported."

Labels:

Friday, December 09, 2016

Pestilence

Zika-linked birth defects surge in Colombia: CDC - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The tragedy of hundreds of babies born with devastating birth defects linked to the Zika virus is no longer confined to Brazil, a new report confirms. Colombia is now also experiencing a surge in these cases of infant microcephaly. It's a birth defect where newborns whose mothers contracted the mosquito-borne virus in pregnancy are born with too-small skulls and underdeveloped brains."

Comment: I've been wondering what happened to the Zika outbreak. It dominated the headlines for a while and then disappeared. I suppose this is going to be a seasonal disease that just sort of lurks in the background but never goes away until they perfect the cure.  

Labels:

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Earthquakes

7.7-magnitude earthquake strikes off Solomon Islands - UPI.com
UPI reports: "A 7.7-magnitude earthquake struck off the Solomon Islands in the southern Pacific Ocean on Friday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The quake at 4:38 a.m. was centered 42 miles southwest of Kirakira, the USGA said. The quake was at a depth of 30 miles. No injuries or damage has been reported."\

 USGS: 6.5 magnitude quake in ocean off California coast - AP
The AP reports: "A 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Northern California on Thursday, jolting residents of the coastal town of Ferndale but bringing no immediate reports of damage or injuries. The quake hit at 6:50 a.m. in the Pacific Ocean about 100 miles west of Ferndale, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in a statement there was no threat of a tsunami."

Death toll in Indonesia earthquake passes 100 - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The death toll in Indonesia's Aceh province passed 100 early Thursday as a massive search for missing people after a 6.5-magnitude earthquake Wednesday has been mounted in flattened parts of the area. Officials report 102 people have been confirmed dead in Aceh province since the earthquake struck around 5 a.m. Wednesday, 99 of whom were found in Pidie Jaya, the district hit hardest by the quake."

Comment: There's been quite a noticeable uptick in major quakes lately.

Labels:

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Famine

Major famine imminent in Nigeria as Boko Haram attacks cripple economy - ABC News ABC News (AU) reports: "The United Nations believes as many as 75,000 people could die in north-eastern Nigeria in the next 12 months unless there is a renewed contribution from the international community. Already close to five million people need food assistance. There are predictions of a major famine, mainly due to the insecurity brought about by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. The jihadist group claims to have established a caliphate in West Africa. It regularly carries out suicide bombings, kidnappings and merciless assaults on entire villages."

Comment: So many of the recent famines in history have been man-made, a result of war and corruption more than a lack of rainfall. 

Labels:

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Earthquakes

6.5 magnitude earthquate in Indonesia kills at least 25 - UPI.com
UPI reports: "At least 25 people died in an earthquake in Aceh province in Indonesia, with officials reporting many buildings are damaged and there may be many people trapped in the remaining rubble. The 6.5 magnitude earthquake hit undersea off Sumatra Island Wednesday morning, about 12 miles from the town of Sigli, but no tsunami warning was issued by meteorological officials in Indonesia."

Labels:

Persecution

Ransomed: The freeing of 226 Christians from Islamic State
AP reports: "The Assyrian Christians were seized from the Khabur River valley in northern Syria, among the last holdouts of a dwindling minority that had been chased across the Mideast for generations. They trace their heritage to the earliest days of Christianity, their Church of the East founded by the apostle known as Doubting Thomas. To this day, they speak a dialect of Aramaic, believed to be the native language of Jesus. But most also speak Arabic and some Kurdish, the languages of the neighbors who have long outnumbered them. In a single night of horror on Feb. 23, 2015, IS fighters attacked the Christian towns simultaneously, sweeping up scores of people and sending everyone from 35 towns and villages fleeing for their lives. [...] How much was ultimately paid to free the Khabur Christians remains a mystery. The bishop, the only person with a full accounting, declined to speak to The Associated Press. Those involved give him credit for saving the lives not just of the hostages but those of hundreds of other Assyrians who have left in hopes of building a better life outside the war zone. The Khabur valley has been all but emptied of its Christians."

Comment: What an incredible story. Please join me in praying for all those Christians still being held by the Islamic State. The broadcast media probably will not report this story, it goes against the approved narrative, but thank you to the reporters of the Associated Press for their coverage of this story and the larger story of the plight of Christians throughout the Middle East. 

Labels:

Monday, December 05, 2016

Mark of the Beast

Amazon planning app-based 'Go' stores in U.S. next year - UPI.com
UPI reports: "E-commerce giant Amazon.com on Monday unveiled plans to open brick and mortar app-based grocery stores in the United States -- a venture the company hopes will fill an enduring need for millions of Americans. The company announced Amazon Go, which will feature a no-checkout process called "Just Walk Out Shopping" -- in which shoppers can enter the convenience-style store, take what they need and walk out. Advanced retail technology automatically detects what items were taken and bills customers' Amazon accounts."

Comment: It's been a while since we've had a good MOTB update so I'll repeat my usual caveat: no, I'm not saying this is the MOTB, just an interesting tech trend to keep an eye on. After all, the implications of this are huge. Amazon has a technology that will do two very important things at the same time: it validates your identity and it processes the transaction.  If this process is seamless it could revolutionize retail. It's not a stretch to say the same kind of process could be used down the road to implement the mark.

Labels:

Saturday, December 03, 2016

War - Doomed Damascus

Assad's forces retake half of rebel-held Aleppo - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Syrian government forces have taken about half of the rebel-held portion of Aleppo, military leaders said, bringing an end in sight to the bloody six-year stalemate in the city. Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have held the gains made in the week since they took control of a key housing district at the center of the eastern portion of the war-torn city. A top Syrian general told the BBC that government forces have reduced by half the amount of territory in the city under rebel control."

Comment: The battle for Aleppo is almost over. Somehow I suspect that Damascus will never again know peace. 

Labels: ,

Friday, December 02, 2016

Rumors of War - King of the North

Ukraine tests missiles in Black Sea, drawing Russia's anger - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Ukraine began surface-to-air missile tests Thursday over the Black Sea, after Russia threatened to shoot the projectiles down. The Ukrainian military declared the tests of the S-300 medium-range missiles a success. [...] Although the missiles came within 18 miles of Crimean airspace, Ukraine moved the perimeter of the test area, apparently to calm Russian concerns [...] Crimea, formerly Ukrainian territory, was annexed in 2014 by Russia."

Labels: ,

Persecution

Yahoo News Digest — Indonesia protest draws 200K Muslims angry over Christian governor
Yahoo News reports: "At least 200,000 conservative Muslims rallied peacefully in the Indonesian capital Jakarta on Friday in the second major protest against Indonesia’s minority Christian governor, Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja, who is being prosecuted for alleged blasphemy."

Comment: The real offense is that he is a Christian in a Muslim majority country.

Labels:

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Pestilence

U.N. apologizes to Haiti for role in cholera outbreak, offers new plan to help - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The leader of the United Nations apologized to the people of Haiti Thursday for the organizations' failure to help the island nation deal with a six-year-long cholera outbreak, offering a multi-year plan to solve the problem and take action to prevent a recurrence in the future. [...] The outbreak, which has affected more than three-quarters of a million people, was made even worse earlier this year when Hurricane Matthew shredded the island."

Labels: