Author Archives: Mark Hughes

ADDICTED TO THE DONALD

The news team helicopter hovered overhead capturing every moment. The stolen black limo was careening down the avenue clipping parked cars and running red lights. Police sirens were blaring and their lights were flashing. Fire engines were hopelessly trying to keep up. Then the limo abruptly changes direction and the action all starts moving in a new and unpredictable direction. As viewers we cannot drag ourselves away from the TV screen, any second it could all end in a spectacular fire ball and we don’t want to miss it. I am not describing a live high speed police chase broadcast but a Donald Trump news conference.

I really did not want to write yet another blog about Trump but what is going on in our culture is too big to ignore. A new addiction has surfaced almost overnight and it is affecting millions of people. It’s called HyperTrumpitis. It has deleterious effects on both the Trump fans and detractors alike. It is most easily observed by scanning the US news channels. They no longer cover much of anything else. They follow every word, every Tweet, every dramatic moment of Kelly Anne Conway, Sean Spicer and their boss the Twitter-in-Chief Donald Trump. More perversely they have all but abandoned any sense of objectivity and all have cemented deeply entrenched partisan positions on The Donald. FOX News is Trump’s biggest cheerleader and will defend any and all announcements with little regard to journalistic neutrality. By contrast CNN, MSNBC, and CBS and the like all hold strong oppositional perspectives and are in full attack mode. Rather than reporting the news of the day they engage in lengthy anti-Trump political commentary. They too have jettisoned journalistic principles of objectivity and are just as embarrassing as Fox as to how they report the day’s events. There is no doubt that Trump has provoked them with his continual attacks on the media’s honesty, ethics, character, and sometimes even appearances. He has vilified the American media calling them “the most dishonest human beings on Earth.” He is like that kid we all knew growing up that we used to follow into the woods so we could watch him poke a bee’s nest with a stick. We would then all run for our lives and hope we weren’t the one who got stung. Even then we knew it was a bad idea but we went along anyway because we didn’t want to miss anything. Well, that kid grew up and is poking the world’s biggest stick at the world’s biggest bee’s nest and we tune in everyday because we haven’t grown up either.

Just for the record, I am neither fan nor foe of President Trump. Yes, I have been poking fun at The Donald long before he was a Presidential candidate. I found him immensely entertaining and used to unkindly put him in the same category as Donald Duck or other cartoon characters on TV. Clearly I underestimated him, and the American electorate that has chosen him as their leader. Still, I am not convinced that some people are clear as to what they have elected. Trump is not a right wing, left wing or even a populist politician. There is no ideological consistency in his politics. His protectionist policies would be more left wing than right. Union workers in the Rust Belt voted for him on the promise that coal and steel jobs would return to their communities. I am quite sure that ship has sailed. Trade barriers or not, because of the high price of American labour, never again will they be able to produce industrial products in a cost effective way within a global economy. On the other side of the coin, the promises of deregulation and tax cuts appear to be right wing. However if that is the plan, where does the money come from to fulfill the promise to rebuild America’s so called “crumbling infrastructure”?  And how does one cut taxes and somehow deal with an out of control national debt approaching 20 trillion dollars? (Check out the debt clock. It is frightening to look at http://www.usdebtclock.org/). Not to be unkind, but anyone that thinks he is a populist leader returning the power to the people needs to give their head a shake. For the most part he has approached the role of US President in much the same manner as being president of the Trump Corporation or host of The Apprentice. He clearly leads as an ‘autocrat’ making bold declarations and executive orders without any measure of accountability to his party or anyone else for that matter. Case in point, his surprise and anger when the courts stepped in and stopped his ‘travel ban’. There is nothing new about America’s long standing balance of power between an Executive branch (Presidential cabinet), the legislative arm (Congress and Senate) and the judiciary system (courts).

My bigger concern is the Christian response to it all. When we align ourselves too closely with either side of this current hysteria we put ourselves in a compromised position. There is no way any political movement can ever reflect the values of the Christian faith. Jesus said My Kingdom is not of this world. That’s because the values of our faith can never fit neatly into any political package. When we read the gospels we see that Jesus did not ignore the political realities of His day (which incidentally were more violent and acrimonious than ours today. They were being occupied by the Roman Empire after all) but He was careful to not align with them either. When asked by the Pharisees if it was lawful to pay taxes unto Caesar, it looked like He was backed into a corner and was going to have to pick a side. Instead he answered, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matt 22:21) It was of course a brilliant response, which we would expect from the Son of God?

This is not to say that Christians should not be involved in politics. We should always do what we can to positively influence our world. However, I have been saying for the last few years that as a Christian I have no political home. There is no party out there that I would ever be comfortable lending my unqualified support. So when I see believers jumping on the bandwagon of either one of the positions we see playing out with our southern neighbours, I feel they are only contributing to the deepening divisiveness that has now crept across our own borders.

A woman in our congregation recently told me they have three TV’s in their house. All three are always on and tuned to a US news station and her husband cannot seem to drag himself away from the screen. Her concern was that he was increasingly taking on the harsh perspective of what he was listening to. I did not say which channel he was watching, because it doesn’t matter. We eventually become that which we listen to. What we are witnessing is possibly the most polarizing political environment we have seen in our generation. We have not seen protests in the streets at these levels since the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. The political landscape is so divisive it is driving a wedge between friends, families and whole communities. As Christian people we probably do not want to be part of the problem. I am reluctant to call President Trump’s travel ban from Muslim countries, or plans for a wall along the Mexican border, racist or righteous. Firstly, a nation has the right to exercise their sovereignty and decide who enters their country. Secondly, I do not know what is in the man’s heart. But what I do see is the rhetoric surrounding these discussions is a feeding of the latent shallowly buried racial resentments that are too easily stirred up. It concerns me when I hear Christians speaking ill of people from other cultures and religions in light of Jesus’ non-negotiable commandment to Love our neighbour as yourself. The hardening of resentment we see towards other people should never be part of our Christian culture.

We are in for a wild ride in the days ahead for sure. But this is the time for the church to show love and forgiveness, to give ourselves to prayer for our leaders and above all to carefully “guard our hearts for out of it spring the issues of life”. (Prov 4:23)

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NEBUCHADNEZZAR TRUMPS JEZEBEL

For years I have poked fun of the idea that Donald Trump wanted to one day be the President of the United States. When people asked me if I thought he could ever win, I would smugly say, “sure, either Donald Trump or Donald Duck or even better yet Mickey Mouse!” So, imagine my surprise on Nov 8th when he proved me and the rest of the world wrong. Although I had predicted a year ago that Donald Trump would be the Republican candidate, I did not see him winning the Presidency. In fact almost nobody did. One notable exception was Matt Groening the creator of the animated cartoon The Simpsons who predicted it in the ‘Bart to the Future’ episode 16 years ago.

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I could not see how such a reckless politician could possibly garner enough support to kick Hillary to the curb. He insulted everyone in his path… his opponents, the media, every politician in Washington and even his own party. But it didn’t seem to matter. The more outlandish he became the more his star rose. This is what I missed. I did not realize how profoundly unhappy Mid-Western voters were with the status quo. The pollsters missed it, the pundits missed it and almost everybody else. Ironically one of the few guys that got the scenario right was liberal film maker and Trump foe Michael Moore. He had predicted that the white, jobless and broke working class living in America’s depressed ‘rust belt’ would carry the day and Trump would be the 45th president. Which is exactly what they did. Moore warned that with the steel mills and coal mines closed, these people would come out and vote for a guy who promised to bring their jobs back from China. Nobody has any idea how Trump can possibly do it, including him, but that didn’t matter. That was what they wanted to hear.

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The big surprise to me was that 81% of Evangelical Christians voted for Trump. If you do the math, in the end they cast the deciding vote. Had they done the same thing in 2012 Mitt Romney would have been President, but they could not bring themselves to support a Mormon… even though he was moral and upright, had only one wife not three, and no mistresses at all. The tipping point for most Christian voters was that Trump said he would only appoint pro-life justices to the supreme court. (Romney would have done the same by the way.) We cannot however overlook the fact that most believers could never see themselves supporting Hillary who would have done exactly the opposite. I can’t help but think Trump just told us what we wanted to hear. In 4 years or even 8, don’t be expect Roe v Wade to be overturned. It won’t be! It is not the supreme court that has decided the fate of the fetus, it is the American people who believe killing their unborn children is their constitutional right.

Given my obvious affection for both candidates I managed to hold my tongue from commenting on the US presidential election for the entire campaign. The main reason I kept my opinions to myself was that there was nothing we as Canadians could do to influence the outcome. I felt a little like Crocodile Dundee when Sue Charlton asked him what he thought about world affairs. In his inimitable Aussie accent he said, “None of my business”.

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Of course, what the leader of the free world does is everybody’s business. In a perverse way, any President of the United States becomes everybody’s president. We have been living in an age of Pax Americana for two generations. The global agenda is most often determined by our less than subtle neighbours to the south. Economic boons, recessions, depressions, wars and rumors of wars are most often birthed right next door. And The Donald, for better or worse, will be like no other US president in history. I don’t think it is an understatement to say that the world changed on Nov 8th. If Trump delivers on even half his promises America and the world will look totally different in four years. Like it or not, he will effectively dismantle the ‘Obama legacy’ of the last 8 years. For starters he promised to tear up; Obamacare, NAFTA, the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), the Paris Climate Agreement, the Iran Nuclear Deal, to ban all Muslims from entering America, build a wall on the Mexican border and to throw Hillary Clinton in jail.
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Some high profile prophetic voices have compared Donald Trump to King Cyrus of Persia who released the Jews from 70 years of Babylonian captivity. Personally I think they are out to lunch and that Trump has far more similarity to King Nebuchadnezzar. He was the Babylonian king who brought them into captivity. He was an arrogant, self serving, narcissistic megalomaniac that believed he was the most important human on the planet and that everybody should bow down and worship him. In the interests of balance, Hillary was doing a very good imitation of the corrupt Queen Jezebel who along with her compliant husband King Ahab was trying to rid the land any semblance of godliness. Either way I do agree that a pagan king is about the right analogy. Please understand this, unlike ‘the prophets’, I am saying this tongue and cheek and do not want to be taken literally. My favorite election joke was this one; Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton decide to patch things up and spend a day fishing together. A sudden storm comes up and the boat capsizes.  Who survives? Answer: America!

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Who knows, maybe Trumpland will be the best thing to ever happen to the good ol’ United States of America. My greatest concern is that he is accountable to no one. No party, no team, no mentor. He only does what he thinks is right and for some strange reason thinks he is smarter than everyone else. But here is the most important thing to keep in mind. God knows the beginning from the end and there are no accidents in this world. Romans 13:1 says, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God”. Even more incredibly in the book of Daniel King Nebuchadnezzar himself concluded that, “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, Gives it to whomever He will, And sets over it the lowest of men.’ (Dan 4:17) Of course that was after God humbled him and made him graze grass on his hands and knees for seven years. That could be entertaining!

In the end God will always have His way. We have to believe that in some greater way there is a purpose for this abrupt turn in American politics. Our job in the meantime is to pray “for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 

 

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NO, GUNS ACTUALLY DO KILL PEOPLE!

A few years ago a pastor friend of mine in the American Mid-West had to conduct a very sad funeral for a 7 year old girl. It was one of those really tough ones, as one of life’s most painful and unfortunate experiences is to lose a child. The anguish in the heart of the young parents is unimaginable, except by maybe those who have lived through this kind of tragedy themselves. The circumstances surrounding the death of this precocious little grade one student made it even more unbearable. Friday evening after work her father came home to find his two daughters, age 7 and 10, playing in the back yard. He joined them for 20 minutes of frolicking in the snow until it was time to come in for dinner. Just inside the back door the father bent down to help his youngest daughter remove her boots. His legally obtained and loaded handgun fell out of his jacket pocket, hit the floor and accidentally discharged. It shot her in the head killing her instantly.

The father was not law enforcement, requiring him to carry a gun, nor does the family live in a high crime neighbourhood where people think they need to carry a gun for protection. In fact much of the community is made up of Mennonites and Amish, not people normally known as violent offenders. My pastor friend told me that on any given Sunday there might be a dozen men ‘packing heat’ in the church service. He felt somehow comforted by that fact. I personally would be terrified given that it is usually me that offends people in church. One ill-conceived Mennonite joke in a sermon and I might have a dozen bullets flying my way. No thanks.

The oft quoted and tired defense of the pro-gun lobby is, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  There are many variations of it such as:

guns-dont-kill-people-people-that-dont-value-human-life-2524418PS_1076W_DADS_KILL                                         if guns kill2

None of these clever slogans will ever lessen the grief of the family of the 7 year old girl. And I know that many would unsympathetically squarely blame the father who carelessly and improperly carried his loaded handgun around in his pocket. But here is the point I am going to make in this post. The more guns that are out there, the more innocent people are going to die. Guns actually do kill people. There is no doubt that if the father did not own a handgun, his daughter would still be alive. It is that simple.

In the last few weeks we have seen some horrendous gun related tragedies south of the border. In June, a 29 year old Omar Mateen entered an Orlando night club killing 49 and wounding 53. He was armed with a Sig MCX semi automatic sub machine gun (that in the US you can by at Cabela’s) and a handgun. A few weeks later 25 year old  Micah Xavier Johnson opened fire on a group of Dallas police officers killing 5 and wounding 9 others. He was armed with a Saiga AK-74 assault rifle and a handgun. After each of these incidences there was renewed talk about banning the sale of assault rifles to the public. Paradoxically, as the result of these announcements there were massive increases in sales of assault rifles at guns shops all across America. To be perfectly clear on one point, this type of weapon has only one intended use, killing people.  They are almost useless for hunting or target practice but they do an excellent job of killing people.

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Absurdly, the American solution to the epidemic of gun violence seems to be – you guessed it, more guns. Many of them live with this false sense of security that in order to protect yourself against violent criminals the best defense is to carry a gun yourself. I have discussed this many times with my American friends and they just simply cannot seem to connect the dots that the more deadly weapons you have in circulation, the more people are going to die as a result. They have bought into the Second Amendment mentality that everybody needs a gun to defend themselves. The stupidity of this logic is, that if you did happen to encounter an armed career criminal, they are going to kill you long before you have the presence of mind to secure your weapon and shoot it at another human being. Something you are not even psychologically capable of doing. Killing is not normal human behaviour. (Soldiers in the first World War more often than not shot over the heads of their enemy because humans are naturally averse to killing. Today the military must use de-sensitivity training to ingrain the ability to use lethal force.) Today there are more guns in the US than there are people (Over 300 million at a per-capita rate of 112 guns/100 people). The sheer number of weapons in circulation creates an environment where criminal and imbalanced people have unlimited access to killing devices, which in of itself, creates a culture where people live under a continual threat of violence.

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In the interests of full disclosure, I am a gun owner. I have two shotguns and a .22 cal rifle. My guns were properly registered (no longer required), stored securely with trigger locks and the ammunition stored in a separate location where a thief would never be able to find. I do not bring my guns to church or carry them around in my pocket. They only see the light of day when they are used for their intended purpose. I am not prepared to get into a debate about animal rights here, so I am not going to say what I hunt. Although one Thanksgiving I decided to shoot my own turkey. It did not end well, the meat department manager at Safeway told me to leave and never come back. But seriously, I would have no trouble giving up my guns to help the cause. In fact I might.

Ted+Nugent

This culture of gun violence is now being imported around the world. Dr. Samantha Nutt is a Canadian humanitarian who is the founder of War Child Canada.  She has spent most of her adult life working in war torn countries like Iraq, AfghanistanSomalia, Congo, Sierra Leone and Darfur, Sudan. She has done an incredible TedTalk where she pointedly describes how the 5 permanent members of UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) plus Germany produce 80% of the world’s weapons. Always in search for a new market and driven only by profit, they have been importing weapons to the developing world at such alarming volumes that, “In many places in which I have worked, it is easier to get access to an automatic rifle, than it is to get access to clean drinking water,” Nutt says. She also claims that an AK47 can be purchased for as little as $10. As a consequence anybody, including elementary school age children, have access to small arms. Some are being trained by militia groups to become ‘freedom fighters’ and have committed their first murder by 8 or 9 years old. 40 million people have died or been displaced in the Global South by the proliferation of small arms. Nutt’s indictment of the West is,“that most of the people who are dying in war are living in poor countries, and yet most of the people who are profiting from war are living in rich countries — people like you and me.” The madness needs to stop!

I will say it again, guns actually do kill people. When you look around the world at places where gun ownership is low, gun violence is proportionately low. In England where even the police do not carry guns, gun violence is almost nonexistent.

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We have a promise that one day we will all live in a peaceful world where there is no more war, no more violence, no more killing… and no more weapons. He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:4) That day cannot come too soon because the world has gone completely gun crazy mad.

ADDENDUM:  After reading the comments on this post for the past few days I think I may have been slightly misunderstood as to what I was saying.  I am not advocating the outlawing of guns. As I mentioned I have been a gun owner almost my entire life and passed the hunter safety course when I was 12 years old. I have no problem with farmers, ranchers, hunters, and target shooters owning guns. I am trying to expose the fallacy that owning guns for protection makes people safer. It does exactly the opposite by accommodating an ever increasing mindset that violence is viable option in personal crisis. . The arms manufacturers are not unlike the tobacco industry and are committed to putting a gun in the hand of every man, woman and child. They are driven to profit off the misfortune and deaths of others. The wholesale arming of unstable war torn parts of the world has to be immoral on some level. Canada and Great Britain are empirically much safer countries than America and Sudan because we do not readily sell handguns and assault weapons to the general public. The gun murder rate in the US is 25 times higher than that of other developed countries. 91 people are killed everyday in the US by guns. Seven of them are children. I think we are being deceived by the gun lobby when we buy into the logic that it is somehow our civic right to own an assault rifle or handgun for protection. There are just too many nutcases out there. We should be alarmed and concerned about the epidemic of gun violence in our world today.

Jesus clearly rebuked the use of weaponry against our fellow man. “Then Jesus said to him, “put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matt 26:52)  Conversely Jesus advocated only non-violence. He told His follows to ‘turn the other cheek’, to ‘love their enemy’ and “to do good to those who hate you”. Never once does he recommend killing someone, even in self defense. Luke 22:36 is the only place where Jesus suggests it is OK to use lethal force but that is only if read out of context. Here is what its says, Luke 22:35-38, [Jesus] asked them  “When I sent you out without a purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “No, not a thing.”  He said to them, “But now the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.” They  said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “It is enough,” He replied. 

Enough for what? Not for defending themselves against the Romans, But enough to be considered a band of criminals thus fulfilling the prophecy that He was numbered among the lawless. So shortly after this when the Romans show up Peter cuts off one of their ears. Jesus tells him to put the sword away claiming that to live by the sword is to die by the sword. Then is it immoral to use a weapon in warfare, or police work etc? Not at all… but your chances of dying by a like weapon is so much greater. After years of studying the Word of God I have become convinced that the message of Jesus is always one of forgiveness and non-violence. I believe it is far more christian-like to die for our faith… than to kill for it.

 

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I PREDICT FOR 2016

Let me preface this post by saying I have never claimed to be a prophet. I have never liked the responsibility that goes along with it. In the Old Testament when a prophet prophesied falsely he was to be ignored or worse yet put to death. ‘But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak… that prophet shall die.’ (Deut 18:20) Today when false prophecy is declared it usually has something to do with Israel or Iran and becomes a bestselling book. Instead of being ignored when none of it comes to pass the author scores yet another book deal and makes millions.  I belong to the much safer ‘Niels Bohr school of prophecy’. He was the Danish physicist who said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”

mayan

Sarcasm aside, today more than ever we actually do need the prophets and spiritual leaders that have some semblance of understanding what is going on in the world.1Chronicles 12:32 says “The sons of Issachar who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.” So as we enter 2016, I thought I would share my analysis of what it looks like is going on in the world. I figure if I put it in these uncertain terms you will have little cause to stone me at the end of the year. But maybe instead we can have a discussion to see how far off I was.

1) The Economy will falter in 2016

I would dub the era we live in the Decade of Denial. After the near cataclysmic world-wide economic meltdown of 2008 the stock market has been on a 7 year tear. Investors have been happy as clams as their RRSP’s and 401k’s (US) roared back to life. People have been once again spending liberally. They are buying vacation properties and new cars. Porsche sales in Canada were up 30% in 2015. That said most of us never bother to look behind the curtain to see that the Wizard of Oz is pulling the levers and putting on a good show and none of it is real. After the financial crash the US government gave some $16 trillion in bailouts to various corporations. Many of them were the very people that caused the problem in the first place like Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. Instead of using that money to make funds available to consumers, they used it for mergers and acquisitions and buying up stock market equites at bargain basement prices driving the market to the record levels of 2015. These greed motivated corporations made huge profits while many families lost their homes. The financial markets are completely manipulated and designed for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer. Mysteriously to me few ever asked the question where the trillions came from. The answer is; ‘thin air’. Government is the only organization in the world that can write cheques with no funds in their bank account. After the bailouts they began an economic campaign called Quantitative Easing. This is just a fancy term for; printing money out of thin air to stimulate the economy. Eventually something has to give and a day of reckoning must come. What goes up, must come down. Here is the best description I have seen on the process. http://demonocracy.info/infographics/usa/federal_reserve-qe3/money_printing-2012-2013.html

Most economists are calling for modest economic growth in 2016. I don’t believe it. The so called economic recovery is a ruse. Jobs have not been created, wages have not risen above inflation and stock fundamentals have not really improved. China, a major driver of the world’s economy, is in a massive recession. Canada already entered recession territory in 2015 (defined by two quarters of economic contraction) and yet few will admit it. Our TSX stock market was down 11% last year, the Canadian dollar was down 20%, and oil prices were off 50% from last spring. That does not look like growth to me. The economic systems of the world have all become dangerously linked together. When one country sneezes, they all get a cold. The bible predicts that one of these days the entire world economy will come crashing down.  ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come. And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore”  (Rev 18:10-11) Now  I don’t think that time is quite yet, and please don’t make any investment decisions based on my assumptions, but I think the entire world is in for a very bad year economically. That is prediction number one for 2016.

end is near

2) Bad things will happen in 2016

The Islamic State (IS, ISIS in Syria, ISIL in Iraq) is clearly the most destabilizing force in the world at the moment. There are lots of problems in lots of places but they all pale compared to the threat of IS. They are the most violent and ruthless radical Islam group in history. Their beheadings and rampage of ethnic cleansing have made Osama Bin Laden look like a Sunday school teacher. ISIL fighters in Iraq are told that they are free to have sex with or rape non-Muslim women, predominantly from minority Christian and Yazidi communities, and even take them captive as sex slaves. IS has contributed majorly to the chaos in the Middle East that has created 6 million refugees in a humanitarian crisis of biblical proportions. In June of 2014 the group called for a worldwide Caliphate. This is a call for Muslims everywhere to unite to fight for a one-world Islamic government that would conquer the West and rule the world. Of course, most Muslims have rejected the call and want to just live peaceably, however the propaganda campaign using social media has been very effective in recruiting young idealistic people to the cause. The Islamic State has proven impossible to fight since it is a terror cell based and grass roots organization. There is no large standing army on a battlefield somewhere, just crazed ultra-violent men and women in small cells wreaking havoc and destruction in their paths. I am always reluctant to interpret the Book of Revelation in the light of current events (since as I mentioned we are usually wrong) but there are many troublesome similarities to IS found in the book.  Not the least of them the persecution of Christians and the method of execution.  “…and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus….” (Rev 20:4). This past November Barrack Obama declared that ISIS had not been defeated but that they could confidently say that ‘they were contained’. The very next day coordinated attacks in Paris killed 130 people and injured 100’s more. Unfortunately I expect to see the Islamic State continue to spread, dominate the news and regrettably be responsible for even greater acts of terrorism in 2016.

isis

3) The Donald will dominate the news.

Some people have been annoyed with the fact that I enjoy making fun of Donald Trump for being loud, arrogant and having bad hair. However, I no longer think he is a joke. Almost all the political pundits are writing him off as a real contender for the US Republican presidential nominee. I however think they are dead wrong. The Donald has now gone from being mildly amusing to downright dangerous. He has dominated the news by becoming more outrageous every day. He is maybe the most polarizing political figure since racist and segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace ran for president in 1968. First Trump announced he wanted to build a wall along the Mexican border to keep out illegals and now he has said he would no longer allow Muslims to enter the US. Both of these brash statements have garnered immense support from many Americans including Christians.

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Here’s what makes him so dangerous. Firstly, it is entirely unconstitutional to discriminate against others based on their religion. The moment a nation starts down this path, everybody’s religious freedom is then in jeopardy. The very Christians that cheer him on today could be the ones being deported tomorrow. Secondly, he is accountable to no one. He does not answer to his party, to any advisors or to anybody else. In political terms they call these people dictators if they gain power. North Korea comes to mind. Thirdly, he fits the very model of a demagogue, who by definition gain political power by playing on people’s fear of others and racial prejudices. I am always surprised that he can make completely absurd statements and his crowds cheer wildly. Trump said he would build the 2000 mile long wall on the Mexican border and make Mexica pay for it. In another incredibly vague and sweeping statement regarding ISIS he said, “Nobody would be tougher than Donald Trump. Hit them so hard and so fast that they wouldn’t know what happened.” He said he would find a general like Douglas Macarthur and then in his typical half sentences he describes the plan. “You gotta hit ’em hard, you gotta hit ’em firm and you can’t play games. You gotta go hard and fast and firm”. I have no idea what that means. However recently he told CNN part of his plan would be to take away their oil by “bombing the hell out of their oil fields”. Sounds like a proposed declaration of war. Trump has positioned himself as the poster boy of the ISIS recruitment campaign. His antagonistic rhetoric can do nothing but inflame their anger against the West.

In the end however, I think Donald Trump is going to be most successful at ensuring that Hilary Clinton becomes America’s first female president as he polarizes the American electorate like never before.  Mark that one down for 2016.

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4) Jesus will NOT return in 2016.

Anytime people predict when Jesus will come they are always wrong. By saying He will not return I have a very good chance of being right, and if I am wrong that would still be good, right?

5) The Church will be triumphant in 2016

Here’s the good news. The church always does well in unstable times. As long as things are perking along nicely many people fail to see the need for their creator.  “… when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God…” (Deut 8:10-14) When times get troubled and people get fearful, the church becomes the one lone bastion of hope.

Psalm 20:7 says, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God.” This refers to the mistake of trusting in worldly resources or security. Though I see tough times ahead of us, the people of faith have little to worry about. God takes care of His own. The first century when the book of Acts was playing out was one of the worst times ever to be a Christian. They were persecuted, displaced and discredited and yet the church grew exponentially and the people lived victoriously.

My last prediction is that 2016 is going to be a great year for those that remember the Lord our God. It is the easiest prediction of all because we have God’s word on it.  “A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you.” Psalm 91:7

So, there you have it, troubled times?  I think so, but if God is for you who can be against you? Have a great 2016.

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