Friday, March 13, 2015

'Watchman On The Wall' And The Existential Threats Facing America, Rumors Of Vladimir Putin's Death

My text tonight is Ezekiel chapter 33, verses one through nine. It is a famous passage — one that you all know — about the role of the “Watchman on the Wall.” I believe it is deeply relevant to our times.

33 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people, then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning; his blood will be on himself. But had he taken warning, he would have delivered his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.’
“Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life.
More than 2,500 years ago, the Lord spoke these words to the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel.
  • A man of God
  • Born in Israel
  • Exiled and living in Iraq
  • Amidst grave dangers rising

What was Ezekiel commanded to do? The text is clear.
  • Listen to God
  • Watch for threats
  • Warn the people, come what may
This was a divine calling – an enormous responsibility. And God was clear. Some would listen to Ezekiel’s warnings. Some would not. Ezekiel was not going to be held responsible for the decision others made to obey the Lord or not. He would be held responsible for obeying the Lord, teaching people the Word of God and warning the people when God told him to speak. Fortunately, Ezekiel was faithful to the task.

As followers of Jesus Christ — and as pastors and ministry leaders and religious broadcasters — each of you are, in our modern times, also watchmen on the walls. In many ways, you have the same calling. The same responsibility.
  • To listen to the Word of God, found in the Bible
  • To speak the Word of God — to tell people the bad news and the good news according to the Scriptures
  • To warn people of threats that are rising
  • To speak the truth in love, come what may

God warned Ezekiel — as He warns us today — that if He speaks and we don’t share His Word with others, we will be held to account. What’s more, if we see threats rising, and we do not warn people, we will be held to account.
Tonight, as I look out America, I see three existential threats.
  • Threat #1 — What if America is not simply in a season of decline but heading towards collapse, towards implosion?
  • Threat #2 — What if America is not simply at rising risk of attack by Radical Islam but heading towards the risk of annihilation by Apocalyptic Islam?
  • Threat #3 — What if America is not simply entering a season of strained relations with Israel but heading towards total abandonment of the Jewish State?

Threat #1 — What if America is not simply in a season of decline but heading towards collapse, towards implosion?

In the State of the Union address in January, the President covered a range of issues and challenges that we face, but this was his central case. “No challenge — no challenge — poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.” (SOTU, January 20, 2015)
I respectfully disagree. There is a long list of reasons America faces implosion, but I can sum it up in one number: 58 million.
Since 1973, Americans have aborted 58 million babies. Think about that — 58 million. It is a staggering number. And if something doesn’t happen soon to change course, in less than two years we will hit 60 million.
If this happens, we as Americans will have murdered ten times more human beings than the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis.
We know the judgment of God that fell upon Nazi Germany. What do we think is going to happen to a nation that exterminates ten times more people than the Nazis?
The judgment of Almighty God is coming. There is no way out. The souls of 58 million babies are crying out for justice – and they will get it.But for this to happen we need to be pleading with God to have mercy on us. We need to be calling people to prayer, fasting and above all repentance.
I’m grateful for pastors like Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Bible teachers like Anne Graham Lotz who are calling the Church to precisely this. May their tribe increase.
As watchmen, are you warning America of the coming implosion? Are you calling the Church and nation to prayer and fasting and repentance? Is there more that you can do? Let us be found faithful, for I believe our time is running out.

Threat #2 — What if America is not simply at rising risk of attack by Radical Islam but heading towards the risk of annihilation by Apocalyptic Islam?
There are two core themes in my books, both novels and non-fiction:
  1. To misunderstand the nature and threat of evil is to risk being blind-sided by it.
  2. Evil, unchecked, is the prelude to genocide.
On December 7, 1941, we were blindsided by an evil we did not understand.
It happened again on September 11, 2001.

Consider the words of Jordan’s King Abdullah, not only a Muslim but a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.
  • we are in a “Third World War”
  • “This is a war inside Islam. So we [Muslims] have to own up to it. We have to take the lead. And we have to start fighting back.”
  • “This is a Muslim problem. We need to take ownership of this. We need to stand up and say what is right and what is wrong.” (interview on CBS 60 Minutes, December 5, 2014)
The King and his senior advisors get it. They aren’t Radicals, but Reformers. And they are actively engaged in fighting the Radicals militarily, diplomatically, politically, financially, and even theologically.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi also gets it. He, too, is a Muslim – and he, too, is engaging the fight on multiple fronts.
Consider his speech on January 1, 2015 at Al Azhar University in Cairo:
  • “Is it possible that 1.6 billion people [Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants…so that they themselves may win? Impossible.”
  • “We are in need of a religious revolution. You imams are responsible before Allah. The entire world is waiting for your next move.”

The most serious threat we face in the Middle East and North Africa is what I call “Apocalyptic Islam.”
This is a term each of needs to become familiar with and begin to teach others.
For the first time in all of human history, we have not just one but two nation states who rulers are driven not by political ideology — or even mere religious theology — but by apocalyptic End Times eschatology.
  • The Islamic Republic of Iran today is ruled by an apocalyptic, genocidal death cult.
  • So is the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
  • The former are Shia. The latter are Sunni.
  • Both believe the End of days has come.
  • Both believe their messiah – known as the “Mahdi” — is coming at any moment.
  • Both are trying to hasten the coming of the Mahdi.
  • Yet each has entirely different strategies.
  • ISIS wants to build a caliphate.
  • Iran wants to build The Bomb.
  • ISIS is committing genocide now.
  • Iran is preparing to commit genocide later.
In the near term, ISIS is more dangerous. Why? Because ISIS is on a jihadist rampage right now. Robbing. Killing. Destroying. Enslaving. Raping. Torturing. Beheading. As Americans, we dare not turn a blind eye to this threat. If we don’t defeat the jihadists over there, they are coming here. We must act, and act now.

Apocalyptic Islamic eschatology is a photographic negative of Biblical eschatology. The leaders of Iran and ISIS believe the way to hasten the coming of the messiah to kill as many people as possible. The followers of Jesus Christ, on the other hand,  believe the way to hasten the coming of the messiah is to save as many people as possible. (Matthew 24:14)

Which brings me finally to Threat #3 — What if America is not simply entering a season of strained relations with Israel, but we are heading towards total American abandonment of the Jewish State?

  • Genesis 12:1-3 — God says He will bless those who bless Israel and the Jewish people, and curse those who curse them.
  • Joel 3:2 — God warns the nations that He will judge all who divide the Land of Israel.
  • Ezekiel 38-39 — God warns that a group of nations will attack Israel in the “last days” but no nation will come to Israel’s defense.
  • Revelation 16 — God warns that all nations in the End of Days will attack Israel.

The Bible teaches us that all nations will turn against Israel in the last days — and all nations will face judgment for it — but woe into us if it happens on our watch.

What do the next two years hold?
I’m not sure. But this much I know: on top of all America’s national challenges and sins, we dare not also abandon or turn against Israel and the Jewish people. If we do, we will seal our fate with God.
Which brings me back to you — the watchmen on the walls.
Are you warning the nation and the Church of the dangerous road the President has us on vis-à-vis Israel?
Are you mobilizing Christians to love and bless and pray for and stand with Israel and the Jewish people in this critical hour?

I am afraid I cannot tell you whether God will grant America a Third Great Awakening and/or raise up a King like Josiah (see 2 Chronicles 34-35) and thus forestall the coming judgment.
I cannot tell you whether the American government will do its job to protect us and our allies from Radical and Apocalyptic Islam before it’s too late.
Or whether the Church will do her job in fulfilling the Great Commission and standing with our persecuted brothers and sisters in the epicenter.
Or whether America and the Church will stand with Israel and bless her and the Jewish people.
All I can tell you is that you and I have been called to be watchmen on the walls.
Our job is to:
  • Listen to and study and know the Word of God
  • Teach the Word of God
  • Watch for threats
  • Warn the people, come what may
We are not going to be held responsible if people do not listen to us or to the Word of God. We will be held to account if we fail to speak and act when the Lord commands us to do so.
Much is hanging in the balance. May you and I be found faithful to the task.

[Personally, I don't think so, as this is probably another example of the bandwagon effect on the internet and there are multiple reasons for the rumors which would not involve his death and his death would be almost impossible to hide. But, this is in the news and hard to ignore. It's also possible he is sick with a 'normal' illness such as the flu or a common cold and is simply being treated appropriately]

RUSSIA’S internet is abuzz with rumour: President Vladimir Putin has not been seen for eight days. Heart attack? Cancer? Is their controversial leader actually dead?
His press secretary Dmitry Peskov asserts: “There is no reason to worry ... everything is fine”.
But it seems official statements out of the Kremlin carry little currency.
Putin Umer” (Putin is dead) is the trending search subject across Russia. #PutinIsDead is exploding across Twitter.

Blogs have been posting serious claims: One says it has had contact from a source inside a Moscow hospital saying Putin has suffered a stroke.
Others reject this, saying instead the actual problem is advanced cancer.
Rumourmongering aside, many Russians are embracing the idea. For fun.

Speculation ranges from bare-chested state funerals to speculation over whether or not the notoriously tardy president will make it to the pearly gates on time.
Such morbid chatter is not being helped by the Kremlin.

On March 11, Kremlin officials issued photographs of the President attending a meeting with the head of the Republic of Karelia, claiming the photos were taken that day.
Later, it was discovered that meeting had actually taken place a week earlier.

Putin’s press office is pushing the line that their leader is perfectly healthy.
Peskov’s message is: He’s fine, he’s busy, and he’s still “crushing fingers” with his handshake.
This statement is being seen by some observers as coded evidence the President is unwell. The Moscow Times reports that whenever Boris Yeltsin - president of post-Soviet Russia in the 1990s — became ill, his spokesman asserted “his handshake was firm” and that he was “working with documents.”

“As soon as the sun comes out in the spring, as soon as it starts to smell of springtime, people get feverish,” Peskov explained. “Someone dreams up Sechin stepping down, others invent a big ministerial resignation, and some people start thinking they haven’t seen Putin on TV in several days.”

But the press office went on to say Putin would miss a meeting with the head of the FSB — the new name for the old Soviet KGB spy agency.

And the number of cancelled meetings keeps mounting. Putin’s office yesterday cancelled a scheduled visit to Kazakhstan. A Kazakh government official told Reuters: “It looks like he (Putin) has fallen ill.”

A Kremlin press release announcing this visit has simply been deleted, though it can still be found in Google Cache.
Putin also was expected to be joined by the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, tonight, for talks.

The intensity of the rumours surged early yesterday when news blog Russkiy Monitor claimed it has been contacted by an anonymous source inside the elite Moscow Central Clinical Hospital. The source reportedly claimed that the controversial leader had been diagnosed with ischemic stroke — a blood clot which has lodged in an artery. It is usually associated with high cholesterol levels and heart disease.

The charismatic Russian Presidnet was last seen with a group of women at the Kremlin on March 8, celebrating International Women’s Day.
His last meeting with media was March 5 at a press conference with Italian Prime Minister Mattero Renzi.

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