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PLANNING FOR ISLAMIC CALIPHATE TO BEGIN

 

A senior fellow for a Madrid-based think tank is alerting freedom-loving people about a caliphate-planning conference being held by Muslims soon, a move he said was given a boost of support by the Obama administration recently when it allowed a three-day “Istanbul Process” conference in Washington.

That event, writes Soeren Kern, Senior Fellow for European Politics at Madrid’s Grupo de Estudio, “gave the [Organization of Islamic Cooperation] the political legitimacy it has been seeking to globalize its initiative to ban criticism of Islam.”

The coming event, Caliphate Conference 2012, is being organized by Hizb ut-Tahrir, which Kern describes as a “pan-Islamic extremist group that seeks to establish a global Islamic state, or caliphate, ruled by Islamic Shariah law.”

The 57-member OIC has been proposing a special international law that would make it criminal to speak ill of Muhammad or his followers for years, but it never was successful under its earlier plans that were portrayed as a ban on the “defamation of religions.” Actually, support for the idea had started waning.

But then it proposed Resolution 16/18, a plan for countries to “combat” things like “intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of … religion and belief.” The idea was adopted in the U.N. General Assembly just a few weeks ago and Kern’s analysis notes that it would be largely ineffectual as long as the West doesn’t jump behind it.

That is why it was a “diplomatic coup,” according to Kern, when Obama held the three-day conference in Washington, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton committed to the key principal Muslims have been seeking for years: holding people responsible when “free speech” … “results in sectarian clashes.”

The critical question that has been among the reasons the so-called “anti-defamation” plans previously have failed is that such limits suggest, even require, that the blame be placed on the person making a statement if the situation is that someone else reacts to it violently.

Free speech advocates are worried over her comment that, “It’s one thing if people are just disagreeing. That is fair game. That’s free speech. But if it results in sectarian clashes, if it results in the destruction or the defacement or the vandalization of religious sites, if it even results in imprisonment or death, then government must held those – hold those who are responsible accountable.”

In Western civilization, the standard for responsibility would be to hold those accountable who do violence, not those who make statements that those who do violence blame for their actions.

The U.N. strategy, proposed by Pakistan “on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference,” again creates an open door to blame someone for making a statement about Islam to which Muslims would react violently, by raising concerns about “incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”

Further, it “condemns any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”

Repeated concerns have been raised by such statements, as they open the door for attacks on people making statements about their own beliefs, which someone else would choose to decry as “hatred.”

In fact, the resolution calls for “measures to criminalize” some related behaviors.

Sharona Schwartz at at the Blaze noted that the German-language promotion video for the conference starts: “The relentless decline of capitalism has begun. The time has come to fight against poverty. Time to obliterate the injustices. Time for the correct system.”

Which is identified as Islam.

In a report published by the Stonegate Institute, Kern said the “explicit aim” of the Istanbul Process is to make it a crime to criticize Islam.

He writes, “According to Steven Emerson, a leading authority on Islamic extremist networks, Hizb ut-Tahrir is emulating the three-stage process by which Muslims established the first Islamic caliphate after the death of the Islamic Prophet, Mohammed, in the year 632.

“During the first stage, Hizb ut-Tahrir builds a party by cultivating a small number of supporters to engage in recruitment and propaganda. In the second stage (which Hizb ut-Tahrir is now entering in Europe and the United States), the group educates Muslims in order to recruit a larger group of people to join Hizb ut-Tahrir and support its revolution. Finally, having won the support of Muslims, Hizb ut-Tahrir moves to establish a Shariah-ruled Islamic government.”

He notes the OIC just two weeks ago sponsored a symposium in Brussels to talk about “anti-Islamophobia.”

“Resolution 16/18, which was adopted at HRC headquarters in Geneva in March 2011, is widely viewed as a significant step forward in OIC efforts to advance the international legal concept of defaming Islam,” he reports.

He cited the report from the International Islamic News Agency, which stated, “The phenomenon of Islamophobia is found in the West in general, but is growing in European countries in particular, in a manner different from that in the U.S., which had contributed to drafting Resolution 16/18. The new European position represents the beginning of the shift from its previous reserve over the years over the attempts by the OIC to counter ‘defamation of religions’ in the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations.”

WND previously has written about the Islamic-led Defamation of Religions proposal in the United Nations. It was “nothing more than an effort to achieve special protections for Islam – a move to stifle religious speech,” according to an analysis by Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice.

According to the Human Rights First organization, the plan simply violates fundamental freedom of expression norms.

Tad Stahnke, of Human Rights First said the concept is “unfortunate for both individuals at risk whose rights will surely be violated under the guise of prohibiting ‘defamation of religions,’ as well as for the standards of international norms on freedom of expression.”

The issue also has been addressed by Carl Moeller, chief of Open Doors USA, in an interview with WND at the time, because of the pending threat to the freedoms in America.

“This is a battle for our basic freedoms,” he warned.

“This [U.N. idea] is Orwellian in its deviousness,” he said. “To use language like the anti-defamation of a religion. It sounds like doublespeak worthy of Orwell’s 1984 because of what it really does.”

He said Muslim nations would use it as an endorsement of their attacks on Christians for statements as simple as their belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ, which Muslims consider an affront.

Worse would be the “chilling” effect on language that the U.N. plan would create worldwide, he said.

“This would be a huge blessing to those who would silence dissidents in their countries, Islamic regimes,” he said. “This stands as a monument to the gullibility of the masses in the United States and other places who don’t see this for what it is.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3149

Looking for His coming – David Wilkerson

Jesus says in Matthew 24:44, “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

A characteristic of the bride of Christ is an expectancy of His soon return. Jesus’ bride is to live in continual, joyful expectation of His imminent return—because He may come at any moment.

Jesus warned, however, that in the last days evil ministers will infiltrate the church in an effort to put the bride to sleep. They will attempt to take away her heart of love for the Bridegroom by claiming, “My master is delaying his coming” (verse 48). This gospel is preached by those who do not want to pay the price of obeying Christ’s commands. They really do not want Jesus to come back because they have sinful habits and lead double lives; in fact, they have concocted a doctrine to justify their continuing in sin. What is the result of this false teaching? First, it ends in worldliness because those who believe it want to enjoy worldly success and prosperity.

Beloved, do not give in to this doctrine of delay! If you are a part of Jesus’ bride, you will be so lovesick for your Lord you will not be able to buy into it. Instead, you will cry out, “My Lord said I am to be ready at any moment for His return. I know He is near—I can sense it. My heart cries out within me, ‘Behold, the Bridegroom is coming!’”

The early church was wide awake, heeding Jesus’ words. Their lamps were trimmed and burning, and they had a good supply of oil. Peter summed up the spirit of the early church this way: “Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God . . . nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth” (2 Peter 3:12-13). Likewise, Paul said: “[We are] eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7).

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3131

‘Chrislam’ – A Spirit of Antichrist

I want to address what is beginning to occur in the Church and why it must be rejected outright. It’s becoming increasingly ‘in vogue’ to accept Islam in the Church. Consider a June 24, 2011 article from World Net Daily. “Dozens of churches, from Park Hill Congregational in Denver to Hillview United Methodist in Boise, Idaho, and First United Lutheran in San Francisco to St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal Church in Honolulu, are planning to send ‘a message both here at home and to the Arab and Muslim world about our respect for Islam’ with a time to read the Quran during worship this Sunday.” It has been labeled ‘Chrislam’, the attempt by some Christians to find common ground with Islam. One person said it was wrong. Another called it dangerous. God uses stronger words than that. Scripture itself declares ‘Chrislam’, the mixing of Christianity and Islam, to be a Spirit of Antichrist!

The Spirit of Antichrist was already prevalent during the time of the Apostle John. In fact, he was the one who had the most to say about this demonic influence. In 1 John 2:18, he said, “…you have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now are there many Antichrists; whereby we know it is the last time”. Again, in 1 John 4:3, he said, “…this is that SPIRIT OF ANTICHRIST, whereof you have heard that it should come; and EVEN NOW ALREADY IS IT IN THE WORLD”. The word ‘Antichrist’ simply means ‘against Christ’ or ‘opposes Christ’. Anything that would be introduced into the Church that would subvert the finished work of the Cross, that is, distract, corrupt, or take away from who Jesus Christ is and what He accomplished at the Cross, is a Spirit of Antichrist. I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul, “Now the Spirit speaks expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the Faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1). The acceptance of Islamic practices into the Church by these and other ministers is giving way to seducing spirits and is teaching the doctrines of devils.

What I am about to show you are the characteristics that the Apostle John himself used to describe the Spirit of Antichrist:

1) The Spirit of Antichrist denies that Jesus is the Christ. In 1 John 2:22, it says, “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is Antichrist…” The word ‘Christ’ in the original Greek means ‘Anointed One’. In other words, it is a declaration of Jesus as Messiah. Islam rejects that Jesus is the one and only true Messiah. They believe He was a prophet and maybe a type of Messiah, but not the Anointed One. If that’s not enough, John goes further by calling them liars.

2) The Spirit of Antichrist denies that Jesus is the Son of God. In 1 John 2:22, the Apostle continues, “He is Antichrist, who denies the Father and the Son”. Islam rejects that Jesus affirmed He was the Son of God. Furthermore, one well-known Bible teacher said that Muslims believe that the Mahdi is the future leader and that Jesus will return and follow the Mahdi to Jerusalem where He (Jesus) will deny He is the Son of God. Again, in this same verse, John said those who reject His Sonship were liars.

3) The Spirit of Antichrist does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. In 1 John 4:3, again the Apostle states, “And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that Spirit of Antichrist…” Did you catch that? Any spirit that rejects God as coming in the flesh is ‘not of God’. If it didn’t come from God, then it is a doctrine of devils according to the Apostle Paul himself, as stated earlier. Islam rejects that God came into this world in the flesh. This also tells us that the Christian God, who is Jesus Christ, is not the same as the Muslim god, Allah. It also proves that Allah is a false god.

Finally, the following are some of the last words the Apostle Peter would write before, according to tradition, he was crucified upside-down. “But there were false Prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord Who bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Peter 2:1). For these Church leaders, who are blind watchmen, to bring Islam and the reading of the Quran into the Church is to deny the Lord himself, it is to deny who He is, and it is to deny what He accomplished at Calvary’s Cross 2,000 years ago, when He gave His life for the sins of the world! Just as bad, it is an open acceptance of the Spirit of Antichrist, which John said will bring swift destruction and ultimately, yet sadly, the damning of the soul.

What should the Church do now? We must get back to proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation without fear of reprisal. We must defend and preach the deity of Jesus, that He is the one true God and there is no other. Then we must also boldly proclaim the Holy Scriptures, not the Quran, as the inspired and inerrant Word of God.

Everyone should be free to practice their religion in the way they choose. What this is about is defending the truth of who Jesus Christ is and what He accomplished at the Cross, and preserving the purity of the Church against the infiltration of false doctrine. The Early Church Fathers (e.g., St. Polycarp, St. Irenaeus) defended the Truth against heresy, so why don’t we?

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3106

The Crescent Moon Rises

Please read the article below. The beast that was is reviving again from Revelation 13. Read Revelation chapter 17 to gain further understanding to this puzzle also. Keep looking up!

 

Turkey’s Ascension in the New Middle East

 

A political earthquake has ripped across the Middle East and North Africa in the last year, toppling several longstanding dictators in its wake. Some of the region’s most well-known names are gone, while a once-dominant nation appears poised to seize the chaotic opportunity to return to regional superpower status: Turkey. The Islamic-influenced—but technically secular—country once ruled the Middle East as the Ottoman Empire, and now they are using rhetoric, threats, and money to gain influence in the Arab Spring-transformed region.

 

Erdoğan Boldly Steps Forward

 

In the last few years, Turkey has gone from a consistent Western and Israeli ally to publicly threatening Israel. Relations between Turkey and Syria were also warming prior to Syria’s brutal crackdown on protesters in the country. Concurrently, Turkey has become a more vocal voice in the region and more recently sought to make itself a power to be reckoned with in the Middle East. Both changes—the gradual moving away from the West and the emergence of Turkish power—owe their origins to one man: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

 

Almost 100 years ago, Turkey was the dominant force in the Middle East, but its Ottoman Empire had held supreme control of the region for hundreds of years. However, it chose the wrong side in World War I. Defeated, the Ottoman Empire was divided up among European states as the spoils of war. Much of their territory eventually turned into a mix of kingdoms and dictatorships. Later, Turkey was relegated to a piece in the global struggle over the region between the United States and Communist Russia, with Turkey siding with NATO. Turkey had fallen from superpower in its own right to superpower pawn.

 

But as a bold and strident leader, Erdoğan stepped forward in 2003 to change the Turkish nation, and possibly the entire region. Dr. Alon Liel, a former Israeli ambassador to Turkey and now an expert on Turkey at Hebrew University, told The Mideast Update that Erdoğan has helped Turkey to snap out of its political and regional doldrums partly by jumpstarting the Turkish economy. He said Turkey’s economy used to be of the unstable start-and-stop variety, a definite roadblock to regional power. However, he noted that Erdoğan has affected a major impact in this area during his years in power.

 

“He has done almost, I would say, miracles in Turkey economically. He strengthened the country regarding its regional position [diplomatically],” said Liel. “And as a result of his economic success and diplomatic success, there are more and more talks of Turkey being a kind of regional power or even a regional leader…”

 

This new leader has won multiple elections in Turkey during his tenure, but Erdoğan’s apparent national popularity has done anything but calm everyone’s fears of where he plans to take Turkey. Erdoğan has definitely removed Turkey from the West’s control, even if they aren’t always opposing them. This shift really became apparent in early 2009 after Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

 

New Policy toward Israel

 

Erdoğan made headlines in January 2009 at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, when he made a public show of walking off the stage he was sharing with Israeli President Shimon Peres in protest over the Gaza war. In the conflict, an Israeli aerial assault and, eventually, ground troops were called in to stop Gazan terrorist rockets from falling on Israeli civilians. As of print time, the campaign’s goal of diminishing rocket attacks from Gaza largely has worked, but it also gave Erdoğan an opportunity to begin a change in Turkey’s foreign policy.

 

As pro-Palestinian supporters blindly ignored Hamas’s ongoing terrorism against Israel and accused Israel of war crimes in Gaza, Erdoğan set himself as the face of this perspective with his show at Davos. He then followed up his display of disgust with rants against supposed Israeli crimes against the Palestinians—rhetoric that has continued to this day. Israel and Turkey had been allies for decades, but following the Gaza war, Turkey also canceled military exercises with Israel.

 

Then came the May 2010 Gaza flotilla when the Israel–Turkey relationship took another blow. A group of ships, ostensibly bringing aid to Gaza, sought to break the Israeli naval blockade there, put in place to prevent weapons smuggling. In defense of the blockade, Israel sent commandos in to commandeer the vessels. But on the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship, activists armed with metal bars, staves, and similar instruments assaulted the boarding commandos.

 

Fearful for their lives, the Israeli soldiers opened fire in self-defense and nine activists, all of which had connections to Turkey, were killed in the fighting. Despite the legitimate reason for maintaining the blockade and the fact that Israel was attacked first by the activists, Turkey was outraged by the deaths of its citizens.

 

Military deals between the countries came into doubt, and the Turkish rhetoric against Israel continued. The break with Israel was really set into motion now. Turkey also started to warm relations with Syria, a sworn enemy of Israel and the West, and Turkish popularity among Palestinians soared. Ynet reported that a Gaza baby was named Erdoğan in light of his support for Gaza. The rift with Israel was scoring Turkey points in the Arab world.

 

However, the split with Israel was not necessarily part of Turkey’s grand plan—or at least the United States still wielded enough influence at the time to encourage Turkey to backpedal. In December of 2010 during Israel’s horrific Carmel forest fire, Turkey sent firefighting planes to help fight the flames. Following that, Israel and Turkey, with US help, started negotiations to mend their relationship, and Turkey even helped discourage another flotilla. But another fire in December 2010 gave Turkey a potential alternative to sticking with Israel. This time it was a Tunisian man who set himself ablaze in a suicidal protest that set political fire to the entire region.

 

Arab Spring’s Influence

 

 What started as a protest by one Tunisian against his government’s stifling economic policies turned into a tumultuous march towards broader popular rights and democracy. Tunisia’s regime collapsed; then came Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, one of the most powerful men in the Middle East for decades. Muammar Gaddafi was next, and as of print time, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and the regimes in Yemen and Bahrain were also being challenged.

 

The Arab Spring, as the demonstrations became known, opened new doors for Turkey. While continuing to try and mend relations with Israel at the time, Erdoğan had quite an opportunity. Prior to the Arab Spring, he was one of the only democratically elected leaders in the Muslim world, making him uniquely qualified to endorse the protesters with no fear of the same thing happening in his own country.

 

Iran, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and others looked hypocritical and ridiculous as they supported protests in opposing states but assisted dictators in friendly nations. Therefore, Erdoğan has the potential to be the only stable leader assisting the fledgling democracies—a significant position of influence that can’t be bought.

 

Or maybe it can. Dr. Liel noted that Turkey’s economy enables them to give “massive” amounts of foreign aid, and they have already helped the rebels in Libya financially with “a lot of money.” And thanks to Turkey’s effective shift in loyalties, they were able to save relations with Libya, reversing what Liel had called a “substantial” blow in losing the relationship with Gaddafi.

 

That doesn’t mean, however, that all is perfect for Turkey in the region. A commentary in the Israeli Globes newspaper in September by columnist Jacky Hougy said Erdoğan’s planned triumphal visit to Egypt was largely muted and diluted by the Egyptian authorities. And his support for Egypt to be secular, as is technically Turkey, didn’t sit well with the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo, according to Dr. Liel. On the other hand, Liel said Turkish relations with Egypt used to be bad, so the relations are already closer than they were “by far.” There is “a lot of admiration in the Egyptian street for the Turkish achievements [economically].”

 

But giving dollars and declarations are one thing; actively supporting the protesters when the struggle is in doubt is something else. That’s exactly what has happened in Syria. As the death toll continued to rise in Syria at the hands of Assad’s regime, Turkey finally had enough. As of print time, Turkey was preparing sanctions against Syria’s regime over the crackdown on the protesters. It’s a risk that could cost Turkey its relationship with Syria, but it also has catapulted Erdoğan into a true regional showdown with Iran, Syria’s main ally, to see who can join Israel in the regional superpower class.

 

Dr. Liel said the Turkish steps are fraught with risk and potential. “It depends what will happen in Syria, because I have the feeling that Turkey is doing an enormous effort to get close to the rebels, is assisting the rebels, is enabling the leadership of the rebels to function out of Turkey…so I have the feeling that if Assad will be toppled, the relations between Syria and Turkey will recover,” said Liel. “If he will stay, they will not recover, at least not in the foreseeable future.”

 

Liel pointed out that thousands of Syrian refugees who’ve fled the violence have also been hosted by Turkey. Erdoğan had even been set to give a speech in the refugee area in October. Not everyone is happy about Erdoğan’s approach, however. The Syria disagreement has negatively impacted Turkish–Iranian relations, according to Liel.

 

The New Superpower?

 

As for Turkey’s position as Israel’s friend, that bridge was basically burned down in September. After lengthy negotiations that could not resolve the two countries’ relationship over the Gaza flotilla incident, Turkey dramatically downgraded their relationship with Israel. Israel’s ambassador was told not to return, and the Israeli embassy in Ankara was headed by the lowest-ranking diplomatic official possible. Turkey’s rhetoric also reached almost war-like proportions when it threatened to send warships with future flotillas to Gaza. For the first time in decades—if ever—the potential for military conflict with Israel seems theoretically possible.

 

In the midst of the souring relations, Erdoğan did receive some praise from Israeli President Peres for his country’s stance surrounding the prisoner swap for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, according to Ynet. Yet, if using Israel as a punching bag is a cheap way to win support in the anti-Israel Muslim world, then Turkey is scoring big. Erdoğan used his United Nations speech in September to assail the Jewish state, and that continued in his interviews with American media, as he called for sanctions against Israel in an interview with Time magazine.

 

 So is it working? Is Turkey becoming such a power? Erdoğan is certainly a regional “rockstar” at this point. CNN host Fareed Zakaria actually referred to him as “arguably the man of the week at the United Nations” during the world leaders’ speeches at the UN General Assembly. In addition, if the Assad regime collapses and Turkey becomes the best ally to a new government in Syria, then Iran will be losing friends, and Turkey will be earning new friends throughout the region.

 

There’s no one else in the Muslim world who can challenge Erdoğan as the most powerful leader in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia’s authoritarian regime isn’t going to find it easy to be friends with the Arab Spring nations. Iran is already more feared than loved, and the once-powerful Egyptian and Libyan regimes are history. In other words, the Middle East can change fast. Turkey may be yesterday’s news by tomorrow, but at this rate, they seem destined to reemerge from almost 100 years of limited relevance. Look out Middle East, the crescent moon is rising again!

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3097

Why are people apathetic concerning the return of Christ?

This is an important discussion around the APATHY in the church around our blessed hope, the Return of Jesus!

Why are people apathetic concerning the return of Christ? – Nathan Jones – www.lamblion.com

 Explaining Away the Rapture

 Dr. Reagan: Have you ever given any thought as to what kind of explanation will be given by the world after the Rapture happens? When all these people disappear the world surely is going to have some wild explanations as to what happened so as to be able to deceive people.

 Dennis Pollock: I’m not sure, but I have a feeling they’ll at least be smart enough to figure out it was those religious fanatics who have all disappeared, you know, the ones who talked about Jesus and carried their Bibles around and went to Bible studies. They’ll be saying, “I always thought something no good was going to come of those faithful folks. Who knows where they are.”

 Nathan Jones: You do know that the New Agers would actually be rejoicing when we’re gone, for they’re expecting the Rapture as much as we are, but they think that Christians are holding back human evolution and have got to go. Once we’re gone they’ll think that’ll be a good thing that’s happened. Maybe they’ll explain the Rapture away with UFO’s or global warming.

 Dr. Reagan: True, as a matter of fact in the early 70’s books were written by the New Age Movement that said the masters of the universe which are their channeled spirits have revealed to them that a time is coming when they are going to remove from the world all those who live by faith so that those who live by reason can continue in their evolutionary development. I’m sure the New Agers will rush to the microphones and declare, “See, we told you back in 1970’s that this would happen.”

 Apathy Over the Lord’s Return

 Dr. Reagan: An attitude that seems to dominate the Church today regarding the Lord’s return is namely apathy. Why is there so much apathy about the Lord’s return when the signs of the times are literally screaming from the heavens that Jesus is about to return?

 Dennis Pollock: The Bible says, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” So, if you don’t have faith, you may wish you had some faith, but you’ve got to do more than just wish for some faith. You’ve got to get into the Word and that faith will grow. That faith will come.

 Attraction to anything comes by exposure. The more you are exposed to something the more you become attracted. For example, we’ve all had songs we first heard and didn’t think too much of them, but when we kept on hearing them the more we began to enjoy them, and they may even have become our favorite songs, and all because we’d been exposed to them.

 Another example, when I was 19 I decided I was going to enter the world of adults and become a coffee drinker. It just seemed so cool to drink coffee. But, I hated the taste of coffee. I remember being at a friend’s house and his dad asked me if I wanted coffee and so all cool I answered, “Yeah, I’d like some coffee.” I was thinking I was a big old adult guy now. And so, he gave me this coffee and I took a sip, and instead of being cool my entire goal for that cup of coffee was to drink it without grimacing and making a terrible face! Over time, the more I became exposed to coffee the more I began to like it. And, guess what? Now I can drink a cup of coffee and smile and enjoy it. It goes great with a lot of foods that I enjoy.

 We can pretty well agree then that as you become more exposed to anything you become more attracted to it, or at least desensitized to it, if it doesn’t have any attractiveness to it at all.

 The same continued exposure to the truth of the news that Jesus Christ will return will attract us more to that fact. If you’ve never thought about it much, and if it’s never preached on, if you never read about it, and if you never watch TV programs that are dedicated to that concept, then of course you have no excitement about the return of Christ. You just never will.

 It’s not enough just to say, “I just don’t think much about Jesus’ return. I just never have felt much excitement. I guess if the Lord really wants me to get excited He’ll just explode it into my heart.” No! Get into the Word. Get a red pen and start marking the Scriptures that deal with the return of Christ. Watch programs like Christ in Prophecy. Get a good Bible or Christian books about the return of Christ and read them. Faith and excitement and attraction will then come to you as well. So, that’s the primary way to get over the apathy, and that being just to start exposing yourself to this incredible doctrine that saturates the Scriptures — the return of Christ.

 Nathan Jones: I believe there are two groups of people. The first group of people are the ones who have been waiting for so long that they’ve lost their excitement and have given up. They are like a friend of mine who a few years back said she was really excited about Bible prophecy when Hal Lindsey came out with Late Great Planet Earth, but then thirty-some or forty years later, the Lord still hasn’t come back. All that excitement, where did it go? After all, Paul was talking about the Rapture 2,000 years ago and it still hasn’t happened. We know that these past years in God’s perspective is a short time, but for us it’s been an eternity, and so we can finally just give up.

 The second group can be found in 2 Peter 3, and they are the one’s who think the idea of the Rapture is just absurd. We can find them where it says, “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this coming He promised? Ever since our fathers died everything goes on as since the beginning of creation.'”

 The 2 Peter 3:9 text gives us the response to both of these groups when it says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promises as some understand slowness. He is patient with you not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come into repentance.” Jesus is waiting so you and me and all the people who will become saved can be part of the Bride of Christ, which is the Universal Church. Just think that if the Lord came 100 years ago you and me wouldn’t even exist, so praise the Lord He is patient and waiting!

 What We Do While Waiting

 Dr. Reagan: Speaking of waiting, what should we do as we wait for the return of the Lord at the Rapture?

 Nathan Jones: One of the great things about people who love the Rapture, who understand the Rapture and really get into it, is that they’re excited. They’re just an excited group of people, and the reason is because it gives them purpose. They understand that they need to be holy. They need to be dedicated to the Lord.

 For example, when I come into the house sometimes my kids are watching an extra half hour beyond their time limit. They give you this look that kids give you, that guilty kind of look. Similarly, knowing that God could come at any moment, what’s He going to find us doing? Knowing that the Lord will come back at any time gives us a sense to live holy lives.

 Dennis Pollock: If you’re an unbeliever, obviously there’s only one thing for you to do, and that’s to be born again. Receive Christ as your Savior so that you will be prepared, because when Christ comes He’s coming for people who are exclusively His.

 In God’s eyes there are only two kinds of people in this world: 1) those who belong to Christ, and 2) those who don’t. There is no Partial Rapture which says that if you reach a certain level of holiness then you can be part of the Rapture. Christ is coming for all of His people, and leaving behind all those who are not and subjecting them to His judgment.

 If you are a parent and you have children, those children are your children. They are different from every other child on the face of the earth. Those happen to be yours, and your blood is in them. Christ looks on a certain people all across this world — black, white, oriental, hispanic — that are His people because the Holy Spirit lives in them.

 If you are not one of His you need to run to the cross of Jesus and believe in Him and be born again. That’s your ultimate preparation.

 And, if you are a Christian, what you need to do is to abide in Him. John says, “So that when He appears we won’t be ashamed before Him at His coming.”

 

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3094

THE KEYS TO REVIVAL IN AMERICA

Great article from Greg Laurie around the keys to revival in America. Please read and pray for America and her people.

The keys to revival in America

Exclusive: Greg Laurie identifies critical spiritual weapons that trump political ones

Greg Laurie

Greg Laurie is the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., one of the largest churches in America. He is also the featured speaker for Harvest Crusades, large-scale evangelistic outreaches that have been attended by more than 4 million people around the world since 1990. Greg is heard internationally on the daily radio broadcast,

There is a lot of talk about who the next occupant of the White House will be. And while I believe that Christians should find a candidate who represents a biblical worldview as much as possible and then vote for that candidate, we also need to understand at the same time that no congressman or congresswoman, no senator, or no president can turn our country around.

It is not a political answer America needs; it is a spiritual answer. And the only real answer is a spiritual awakening. A revival must hit America. The classic verse that is often quoted on this subject was given initially to the nation of Israel, but it applies to our nation as well:

 “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NKJV).

We want God to heal our land. But notice that God said, “If My people who are called by My name …” (emphasis added). When God looked at a nation that was having problems, he pointed his finger at his people. So often we are quick to point out all of the problems in our culture. But God essentially says, “You know, I have kind of been looking at you – you who are called by my name.” The question is, are we experiencing spiritual revival?

God was saying that if you want to turn a nation around, then his people need to live as they should.

That first-century church turned their world upside down. And the question arises, is that where we are today? I think, sadly, the answer is no. In a time when we need to engage our culture with the one truth that has any hope of transforming it, many in the church have turned away from the answer.

One pastor wrote a book questioning the biblical teaching on hell. Of course, that got a lot of press coverage, because many members of the media don’t believe in what the Bible teaches. Therefore, they embrace the idea of a so-called evangelical preacher saying that he was not certain that what we have always taught and believed about hell is really accurate.

Then I read about a pastor of a megachurch who said recently that he thinks the terms “saved” and “born again” should no longer be used in preaching because our culture doesn’t understand that. And a Christian blogger who is very popular questioned the whole idea of evangelism.

Now, I expect this kind of behavior from nonbelievers. But when I see it from people in the church, it causes me to be concerned. To these misled people and those who would follow them, I would say this: There has never been a time when it is more significant for us to warn people about the reality of hell and tell them that, yes, they need to be “saved” and “born again.” And yes, we need to do it through evangelism.

C. S. Lewis said, “All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.” The gospel message is eternal. It never goes out of date. It never goes out of style.

Is the church today, like the church of the first century, changing their world and turning it upside down? Or, is the world turning us upside down? Think about the daunting challenge the church of the first century faced. They had no political base … no voting bloc in the Roman Senate … no emperor of Rome who was sympathetic toward them.

These first Christians did not out-argue the pagans; they outlived them. Christianity made no attempts to conquer paganism blow by blow. Instead, the Christians of the first century outfought, outlived and out-prayed the nonbelievers. And that is because they recognized their weapons were not physical; they were spiritual. We don’t read that the Christians armed themselves and led a revolt against Rome. Rome had the most powerful military on the face of the earth at that time. No, the first-century believers decided to fight fire with fire. They recognized it was a spiritual battle, and so they used spiritual weaponry.

And what is that spiritual weaponry God has given us to fight the battle today? It is primarily prayer and the preaching of the gospel.

The problem is that we don’t use this weaponry. We use political means or other avenues as we try to solve problems, and it is like attempting to extinguish a forest fire out with a squirt gun.

The Bible gives us an account in Acts 12 of a particularly difficult time in the early church. Herod had James, the brother of John, murdered. He had Peter imprisoned. So what did the church do? Did they organize a boycott of all products made in Rome? Did they develop a campaign to have Herod overthrown? No. They actually did something that we don’t do enough of these days. They prayed. We read in Acts 12, “Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church” (verse 5). Though all doors remained closed, one was still open: the door of prayer.

As D. Martin Lloyd-Jones said, “Of all of the blessings of Christian salvation none is greater than this, that we have access to God in prayer.”

How things change as a result of powerful prayer. God will always have the last word. Acts 12 opens with James dead, Peter in prison and Herod triumphing. But it closes with Herod dead, Peter free and the Word of God triumphing. It’s not over till it’s over. That is the power of prayer.

So let’s use the spiritual weapons that God has given us. Let’s start praying.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3069

THE HANDWRITING ON THE WALL: Lessons from Daniel chapter 5

Great study from Joel Rosenberg from Daniel chapter 5 on fate of America and the coming war in the Middle East. Pray that you are found worthy of protection by our Lord in these times of trouble. Keep looking up!

“Is America in a ‘Nebuchadnezzar moment’ (where we still have an opportunity to repent and be restored), or a ‘Belshazzar moment’ (where God removes His favor from us and turns out the lights)?”

Joel C. Rosenberg, Jacksonville Pastors Conference, January 29, 2012 

 “The Pastor and the Future” — that’s what I’ve been asked to speak about tonight, and I cannot think of a more important subject to close this conference. You and I are living in one of the most dangerous moments in the history of the United States….in the history of Israel and the Middle East….in the history of the Church. Yet at this very moment when so many people are so anxious about the future, too many pastors are shying away from teaching Bible prophecy.

  • Some, because prophecy has been sensationalized in the past and they rightly resist such cheapening of God’s Holy Word.
  • Some, because they’ve never really carefully studied Bible prophecy and feel unprepared to teach it to their congregations.
  • Some, because they’ve lost sight of the power of prophecy – prophecy is an intercept from the mind of the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful God….prophecies are storm warnings from the future….not to frighten us but to motivate us – to get us ready for what is coming, and to help get others ready…..prophecy is given to encourage and exhort the Church to repentance….to holiness and purity….to prayer and fasting….to sharing the Gospel and making disciples….to pastor training and church planting….prophecy tells us we are going to be shaken….why?….to wake up the Church….to wake up the nations….to wake up Israel….because the Day of the Lord is coming, and surely it is near….and God love us and He wants us to be ready.

In Luke 12:54-56, Jesus rebuked His disciples for not understanding the Word of God and not analyzing the times in which they lived….which is why it is so important that we close this conference by considering “The Pastor and the Future.” So, turn with me, if you would, to Daniel chapter 5. [Read the entire chapter]

What do we see in Daniel chapter 5?

5:1-2 – A pagan nation at the height of its power, and corruption.

5:3-4 – A pagan government and high society drunk with power and consumed with seeking pleasure of all kinds….worshipping the gods of gold and silver and all things material….what do we see in the king’s court?

  • Sexual immorality.
  • Drunkness.
  • Greed and materialism.
  • Idolatry
  • Blasphemy.
  • No care or concern for their history of sin and God’s judgment.
  • No remembrance of God’s grace and mercy for those who repent.

King Belshazzar doesn’t seem to remember or care about the testimony of his forefather, Nebuchadnezzar. Once an evil and terrible king, one of the worst in the Bible, Nebuchadnezzar had then faced the judgment of God. He’d been driven out of the king’s palace, into the wilderness, driven mad and eating grass like a beast. Yet after a time, God relented. The Lord gave Nebuchadnezzar a second chance, and Nebuchadnezzar repented of his horrific sins and gave his life to the One True God. What’s more, Nebuchadnezzar praised the Lord before the entire nation ofBabylon.

Nebuchadnezzar testified before his people: “At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.” (Daniel 4:36-37).

5:5-6 – So God begins to shake them.

5:7-9 – A mysterious hand appears out of nowhere in the king’s court….mysterious fingers begin supernaturally writing on the wall of the king’s palace….everyone in that room could see the handwriting on the wall….they could all see the hand of God at work…..it terrified them, but it certainly got their attention…..they knew it was important, but they had no idea what is said, or what it meant….so because they were pagans they turned to the so-called “wise men” of the age, but the wise men had no answers.

  • 5:7 – King Belshazzar has two reactions:
    • A physical reaction – he gets physically ill.
    • An emotion reaction – he becomes desperate….he suddenly becomes willing to give massive wealth and power to whoever can help him understand the handwriting on the wall.

5:10-12 – Frightened, desperate, and having run out of all other options, Belshazzar turns to a man with a reputation for being completely different than they….a man described as having an “extraordinary spirit”….a man described as having “knowledge and insight”…a man “in whom is a spirit of the holy gods”…..the man, of course, was Daniel….he hadn’t been invited to the party, mind you…he wasn’t part of their culture….he wasn’t part of their religion….he wasn’t a member of the “in crowd”….and that was the point….in their fear and trembling, they were looking for someone completely different….someone who had a completely different perspective and just might be able to help them.

5:13-16 – Enter Daniel….he is brought into the upper echelons of power and wealth and offered a great reward if he can solve the mystery.

5:17-28 – Daniel doesn’t ignore or resist the king’s request….he doesn’t claim separation of Church and State….he doesn’t self-righteously declare he won’t “dirty his hands” by speaking to government leaders….but Daniel makes clear that he’s not interested in money, power or prestige….he’s not trying to be in their club….he certainly doesn’t want to be part of their pagan culture or corruption….rather, he knows he holds citizenship in another kingdom, yet he also knows that he is God’s ambassador….so he agrees to explain the hand of God to the king and his court….giving all glory and honor to the Lord, Daniel fearlessly makes known the word of the Lord, even at great risk to his own life.

Many in ministry look at Daniel with admiration and want to be like him:

  • He’s handsome (Daniel 1:4)
  • Brilliant (Daniel 1:4)
  • Wise (Daniel 1:4)
  • Sterling reputation (Daniel chapters 1 through 5)
  • Invited into the highest courts of power (the entire book of Daniel)
  • Given great accolades, wealth and authority (Daniel 2:46-49 and 5:29)

Yet let’s be clear: Daniel didn’t seek any of these things….moreover, he knew he could take no credit for these things.

That said, let’s take another look….are you really willing to be a Daniel? Consider the high price of his service to the Lord:

  • He was taken captive from his homeland (Daniel chapter 1)
  • Forcibly given a new home, new name, new diet, new education, new job in a brutal pagan empire (Daniel chapter 1)
  • Arrested, convicted, imprisoned, sentenced to death (Daniel chapter 6)
  • Yet he never faltered….he never wavered….he clung to the Lord….he knew His God….he listened to His God….he was a man of prayer….he understand the Word….he studied God’s Word diligently and carefully (chapter 9 he’s studying Jeremiah!)…..and when God told him to speak, he spoke boldly and without reservation…..he didn’t pull any punches….he did so at great risk, but with great faith and courage.
  • In Matthew 24:15, Jesus calls Daniel “the prophet”….for that is what he was.

How about you?….are you clinging to Christ?….are you on you knees repeatedly throughout the day in prayer?….are you fasting?…..are you listening carefully to the voice of God?…..are you willing to teach God’s Word – all of it, including the prophecies of a future that is coming fast upon us?…..are you ready to stripped of all our worldly possessions…stripped of our identity….arrested…. convicted….imprisoned…. sentenced to death….all for being men faithful to pray and faithful to speak the Word of God in our pagan, corrupt culture? Let us not answer too quickly – let us consider the gravity of this calling in this moment…for these tests may be coming soon.

Now, what was the Lord’s message to Belshazzar via Daniel?

  • 5:18-21 — Belshazzar should have known better…he had seen the sins of his father, and God’s judgment
  • 5:22 – “Yet you…have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this,” Daniel says to the king. “You have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven.”
  • 5:26 – Mene, “God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it.”
  • 5:27 – Tekel, “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.”
  • 5:28 – Peres, “Your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.”
  • Why was God judging Belshazzar? Because of Belshazzar’s pride…his vanity….his insolence….his hubris….Proverbs 16:18 – “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

Yes, the God of the Bible is a God of grace and mercy and forgiveness. He gives us one opportunity after another in life here on earth to say “Yes” to the Lord Jesus Christ and receive His free gift of forgiveness and eternal life by putting our faith in Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. But eventually there is a point of no return. There is a point in which you defy God too long….go too far….cross a line….and at that point you no longer have the opportunity to repent and receive God’s mercy. At that point, when you least expect it, you have sealed your own fate by rejecting the Most High God…by exalting yourself against the Lord, and you will stand condemned to the fires of hell for all of eternity with no way of escape.

Thus, the Scriptures are clear: Say “Yes” to Jesus Christ now, before it is too late.

  • “And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” (I John 5:11-12)
  • “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish (die and go to hell forever and ever), but shall have eternal life….he who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:16,18)
  • Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell….Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:28,32-33)
  • Don’t do what Belshazzar did. Don’t keep defying the Most High God. Don’t wait too long to repent and give your life to the Lord. Otherwise there will come a point of no return. You will be weighed in God’s balances and found deficient, and theKingdomofGodwill be ripped away from you and you won’t have another opportunity to be saved. The Apostle Paul put it clearly: “Now is the acceptable time [to get right with God],” he wrote. “Behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)

5:29-31 – For some unknown reason Belshazzar kept his word to Daniel and rewarded him for his insight….and God kept His word and before the night was finished, Belshazzar was dead.

Question: Why did God write on the wall?

It was too late for that king — and that kingdom — to repent. Why, then, did God sent the message? To warn to those Babylonians who were in the room with Belshazzar, and to warn the entire nation of Babylon….and to warn us down through the centuries: Listen to the voice of God….read the Word of God….don’t harden your heart….understand the “handwriting on the wall”….understand that God is trying to wake you up….get your attention….draw you to Him….motivate you to serve Him….don’t wait too long….repent of your sins and receive Christ as your Savior while there is still time.

Today, we can see the handwriting on the wall once again….in Israel and the Middle East….and here in the United States….God is trying to get our attention….will we listen, or harden our hearts?

The Future of Israel and the Middle East

As followers of Jesus Christ, we can see the handwriting on the wall in theMiddle East. We know what it says, and we know what it means: a terrible war is coming to the epicenter. God is going to shake the people of theMiddle East. He wants them to wake up and realize their real and desperate and urgent need to receive Jesus as their Messiah, Savior and Lord. Jesus doesn’t want anyone in the epicenter to perish and go to hell. He wants them to all to be saved. 

The Good News is that more Muslims and more Jews are coming to faith in Jesus than ever before in history. But it’s not enough for the Lord. Too many people are still resisting Him. So in His mercy He will continue shaking them in hopes that they will listen and repent like Nebuchadnezzar, not rejecting Him to the very end like Belshazzar.

Will the coming war be a prophetic war (like Ezekiel 38-39, the “War of God and Magog”), or just a really terrible geopolitical war? Of that we cannot yet be certain. But clearly the most dangerous corridor in the world is between Tel Aviv and Tehran. The leaders of the free world say Iran could have the Bomb by the end of 2012. Yet the nations of the world refuse to take decisive action to neutralize the Iranian threat. But make no mistake: if Iran’s mullahs get the Bomb, they could do in six minutes what it took Adolf Hitler six years to do – kill six million Jews. Today’s Sunday New York Times magazine story suggests Israel and Iran may very well go to war in 2012.

The handwriting on the wall is clear – the question is: What will we as believers do about it?

  • Will the Church demonstrate the love and courage necessary to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the Middle East with clarity and compassion before it’s too late? If we really love the people of the epicenter, that’s exactly what we should do.
  • Will the Church do everything possible to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in theMiddle East– to pray for them, to visit them, to equip them, to assist them, to stand with them, come what may? Will we help the persecuted believers in the region? Will we train the pastors and help them plant new churches? Or will we ignore them, abandon them, refuse them in their hour of need? Again, if we love them, we will serve them.
  • Time is short, and the handwriting on the wall is clear.

The Future of America

The handwriting on the wall is also clear here in theUnited States. We as followers of Jesus Christ know full well thatAmericais in grave danger — not just at risk of decline but of outright collapse.

  • We now have more than $15 trillion in debt….100% of our GDP….but we are facing $65 trillion in unfunded liabilities…..we are on the Titanic, heading for the icebergs, and too many inWashington are saying, “Speed up!” not, “Turn around!”
  • The Bible warns us not to go into debt, yet we continue to defy Him.
  • We are defying God in other areas, too.
  • 53 million abortions
  • Legalized homosexual marriage
  • A pornography industry that makes more than ABC, CBS and NBC combined.

How much longer will the Lord wait before He lets us reap what we’ve sown? Is God going to give us another chance, or is He finished with us? Is America in a “Nebuchadnezzar moment” (where we still have an opportunity to repent and be restored), or a “Belshazzar moment” (where God removes His favor from us and turns out the lights)? Honestly, I’m not certain.

The good news is that God moved powerfully in this land in the early 1700s with the first “Great Awakening,” a series of amazing spiritual revivals that woke up the Church and rescuedAmerica. God moved powerfully again in the early 1800s with the “Second Great Awakening” that was even more transformative.

The question now is: Will God give us a Third Great Awakening? I don’t know, but I hope so. That’s why I’ve written the book, Implosion. But I can’t wait until June when it releases. I feel compelled to start talking about these issues now because they are so important. We need to be on our knees praying and fasting and pleading with God to have mercy on us. Yes, Washington and Wall Street and Hollywood bear much blame for the mess we’re in. But so does the Church.

There are 340,000 churches in the United States. They are all supposed to be shining cities on a hill. They are supposed to be lights in the darkness. But in too many American churches, the light is growing dim. In some churches, there is no light at all. We desperately need a revival of the Church to save this country. Nothing less will do.

Even if we elect godly, principled, wise and courageous leaders to the presidency, the Senate and the House in 2012, this won’t be enough to keep us from implosion. It’s still important, don’t get me wrong. But won’t be enough. We need a supernatural movement of God to rescue us, or this nation will collapse economically, morally and culturally. 

On Saturday, June 16th, we will host the national “Implosion” simulcast….a three-hour program for churches all across the country….I’ll teach for about an hour on these issues, and then take 2 hours of questions in a live format…we’ll talk about how much trouble we’re in, and we’ll talk more about the Great Awakening and the Second Great Awakening and see if there are lessons we can learn and apply to our own time….I hope you and your churches will consider joining us for this.

Conclusion

The world is fearful and confused. Millions across the globe can see the handwriting on the wall. They know something is terribly wrong. They sense something terrible is coming. But they cannot read the handwriting or understand what it means. That’s your job. That the mission of the pastor, the man of God who knows the Word of God and is charged with teaching the Word of God. It is your job to analyze these present times in the light of God’s Word, in the light of Bible prophecy, and help the Church and the pagan world understand what God is saying….before it’s too late.

Too many pastors, however, are asleep to the trend lines. They are unable – or unwilling – to see how much danger the people of the Middle East are in, and how much danger the people of the United States are in. But now is precisely the time to call the Church, and the nations, and Israel, back to the God of the Bible…..now, while we still can.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3041

666: Mark of the Beast Update

India’s ID plan: An end to its inept bureaucracy or an Orwellian nightmare?

Eric Randolph

Sceptics of eye scans have raised fears about identity theft, saying a good quality camera could capture an image of the iris. But for this man joining the UIN in Bhopal, India, recently, it was a scheme worth looking into.

NEW DELHI // A plan to provide each of India’s 1.2 billion citizens with a unique identification number has been praised as an essential programme to impose some efficiency on India’s infamously inept bureaucracy.

But its opponents have said it is ripe for abuse. The government could use it to spy on its citizens and criminals could steal the data and create false identities.

Since the plan was launched in mid-2010, about 110 million Indians have queued up at data-processing centres across the country to have their irises scanned and their fingerprints recorded.

The unique identification (UID) number that arrives in the post a couple of months later can then be used to apply for welfare benefits and set up a bank account, without the endless form-filling and bribe-giving, which often goes along with proving your existence in India.

Headed by the respected former chairman of IT giant Infosys, Nandan Nilekani, the scheme has been a model of unusual government efficiency.

But the programme is now under threat from the Home Ministry, which has its own biometric database.

It collects not only fingerprints and irises, but also sensitive information such as caste and religion, which it wants to use for security purposes.

A turf war between the Home Ministry and the UID Authority led to a compromise last week. The agencies agreed to share their data to avoid duplication. That allowed Mr Nilekani to collect another 400 million people on to his database. The government is providing more than US$1.5 billion (Dh5.5bn) to merge the databases.

The deal is a boon for the Home Ministry, since it has only registered about 8 million citizens on its National Population Register (NPR).

It is unclear how all this information will be stored and shared, but it has done nothing to allay the fears of activists who foresaw the UID scheme turning into an Orwellian nightmare that could target, rather than help, India’s poorest citizens.

“These schemes are changing the relationship between the citizen and the state,” said Usha Ramanathan, an independent legal researcher and an opponent of UID.

“In the current climate, many of the poor don’t want to be identified because they will be subject to harassment.”

The paranoia is not entirely misplaced. The NPR emerged out of a scheme in the early 1990s to identify illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. More than 40,000 Bengali-speakers were later deported within a three-year period.

Many fear that the new data will be similarly used by parties – such as the ultra-right-wing Shiv Sena in Mumbai – that want to identify and remove migrant labourers from other states.

UID supporters said these concerns could be addressed through legal protections, and should not overshadow its work in streamlining welfare delivery.

One of the UID programme’s main tasks will be to cut out the millions of “ghost workers” that exist only on paper and allow contractors to siphon off extra money from the government.

Harsh V Pant

Payments for programmes such as the employment guarantee scheme – which provides 100 days of work to every adult in rural areas – are already starting to bypass middle men and go straight into verified bank accounts.

It is also expected to provide a “portable identity” for internal migrants, who often find it impossible to open bank accounts or receive welfare benefits outside of their home state.

“In a country where so many people are moving for short-term work or long-term relocation, we have not had a method by which people can take their identity with them,” said Pronab Sen, principal adviser at the government’s planning commission.

“Providing these people with public services has always been a problem. That’s where the UID will be essential.”

But much of its success depends on untested methods and technology. There are immediate practical concerns, with technicians reporting widespread difficulties in reading the worn-down fingerprints of manual labourers and the cataract-blocked irises of elderly citizens. Experts also said that without a proper design, the scheme could prove far less secure than its proponents imagine.

“All it would take to steal someone’s biometric identity is a photograph taken with a high-resolution camera or a fingerprint off a glass,” said Sunil Abraham, of the Centre for internet and Security in Bangalore.

“And once your biometric identity has been compromised, there is no way of re-securing it without surgery.”

He points to the recent incident in which several thousand Israeli biometric identities were leaked on to the internet by Saudi hackers. Stolen identities could be used to frame individuals for crimes or set up bank accounts for money laundering.

“I can see a situation in which a black market for biometric identities emerges,” said Mr Abraham.

Many in parliament share these concerns. Last month, the standing committee on finance rejected a proposed bill that required certain legal protections for people in the UID database.

The committee concluded that the standards were drafted with “no clarity of purpose and leaving many things to be sorted out during the course of its implementation … [it has been] implemented in a directionless way with a lot of confusion”.

Mr Nilekani said he will assess the committee’s concerns. “We will review the security concerns in the next six to eight weeks,” he said last week.

But with trust in the government at an all-time low in India, he will have a lot of convincing to do before his opponents back down.

“Every attempt at regulation in this country has failed,” said Ms Ramanathan. “They say this data will not be abused, but how can we believe them?”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3034

MIDDLE EAST WAR ON HORIZON?: Sunni versus Shia?

A proxy war between Sunni and Shia Muslims, which could dramatically further destabilize the Middle East, may be about to erupt, sources are reporting. It would pit Iran, Syria’s regime and Hezbollah on one side and Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, other Arab states and Syrian rebel forces on the other may, according to a report by Ryan Mauro in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

The individual indicators are cumulative:

Just about a week ago, the European Union agreed to an embargo on Iranian oil after Saudi Arabia promised to increase production to make up the difference. Iran immediately threatened that Arab countries assisting with the embargo would be “held responsible” and “one cannot predict the consequences.”

There have been reports Saudi Arabia and Qatar have agreed to help buy weapons for the Free Syrian Army, the rebel forces fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Free Syria Army is headquartered in Turkey. Assad is a close ally of Iran and Hezbollah and both are accused of secretly helping his security forces to crush the uprising against his rule.

In mid-January, the emir of Qatar called for an Arab military force to enter Syria to end the violence. The Arab League also has submitted a resolution to the U.N. that would condemn the Syrian government for its crackdown.

Then on Jan. 27, Saudi Arabia officially recognized the Syrian National Council, a body of opposition figures, as the representative of the country.

But Iran and Hezbollah have made saving the Syrian government a top priority. A Revolutionary Guards official recently confirmed that Hezbollah helped defend an Iranian base in the city of Zabadani. Iran also is accused of sending weapons, equipment and advisers to Syria to help orchestrate the work. In October, the Washington Post reported that the Shiite-led government of Iraq is also siding with the Syrian government.

The Free Syrian Army claims it is holding five members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards captive. The rebels claim to be 40,000-strong, though some experts believe that to be a major exaggeration. It has grown in strength over the past two weeks, taking the town of Zabadani near the Lebanese border and suburbs of Damascus.

Egyptian newspaper reported that Assad’s family tried to flee the country but came under fire from the rebels. On Jan. 30, the Syrian military retook the suburbs but the Free Syrian Army said it chose to disperse and carry out guerrilla-style attacks.

The increasing Shiite-Sunni tension prompted Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to warn of a “regional Cold War” on January 4.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=3028

Jesus appears in Visions to Muslims

Luke 21:16-17, “You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me.”

 “A former member of an Islamic extremist group in Uganda who converted to Christianity after claiming to see visions of Jesus is hiding in Kenya, his movements severely restricted following threats to kill him.

Hassan Sharif Lubenga, 54, was a sheikh and said to be member of Buk Haram, a violent group of Islamists whose name suggests the Bible is corrupt and therefore forbidden (not to be confused with the more well-known Boko Haram extremist group). Originally from Chengera, seven kilometers from Kampala, the husband to four wives began his conversion process four years ago; in June 2011, he said, after various dreams and visions in which Jesus appeared to him, he made a full commitment to follow Christ.

Lubenga fled to Kenya last July 10 after hostilities peaked, and upon returning to Uganda in September he received messages on his cell phone from mujahidin – Islamic fighters – threatening to kill him, he said. He reported the threats to Chengera police, who told him they would investigate, but in October a friend told him that he’d heard in a Chengera mosque that his former colleagues were enraged and planning to kill him.

‘My heart got troubled, but the voice of Jesus continued whispering to me to witness for Jesus without fear,’ Lubenga said.

When Lubenga felt like giving up on his new faith, he said, he received a call from Bishop Umar Mulinde, his former pastor at Gospel Life Church International who was scarred in a Christmas Eve acid attack by Muslim extremists. Mulinde told him the church was praying for him, and Lubenga was deeply heartened, he said.

‘All my family members have deserted me,’ he said by telephone. ‘The Muslims are looking to kill me. I need protection and help.’

The Islamic extremists who had declared war on ‘infidels’ such as Lubenga had been threatening him since 2007, when he first began to speak of dreams and visions of Christ. Dangers peaked in 2010, when he was seen visiting a church in Uganda. By April 2010, one of his four wives had poisoned him because of his budding faith in Christ, leaving him unconscious, he said. After his recovery, he fled Chengera to a village 25 kilometers from Kampala, Kiwangala.

In 2007, he said, he told his jihadist friends that he had seen Jesus in a dream. He said they had warned him, ‘Do not make such a mistake again – we are ready to help you. If you continue with this move, then we will destroy you. You know that you are a sheikh.’”

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