In September, the remembrance ceremonies held at the World Trade Centre for those that perished on September 11 five years ago, and also for the two Australian icons that died in accident, bring out some different lessons and important warnings to the saints. Both events point to the requirement to be ever vigilant as we see the day approaching to ensure that we have been watching and have “kept our garments” (Rev 16:15).

The War on Terror – Why the West Can Never Win

The crowds of sad and sobbing relatives and friends gathered once again in the solemn ceremony that brings the streets in vicinity of the former World Trade Center to a stand-still, as September 11, 2001 is recalled. It has been five years since the events of that day, which changed the world forever.

A world that was so self-assured and confident has been reduced to one of fear as the audacious attacks by the terrorists continue in their random savagery. The subsequent attacks in Bali, Madrid and London have only highlighted that, where the desire to inflict death and suffering exists, there is little that can stop it from becoming a terrifying reality.

Of late the debate by leaders and other commentators concerning the future role of the “Coalition of the Willing” has been more vigorous. As the elections in the US are fast approaching, many candidates are promoting a policy of complete and immediate withdrawal of US troops (“Lieberman Blasts Troop Pullout Timeline”, Washington Post 25 September 2006), as protests continue to mount from the general public.

Prensa Latina a news service for Hispanic Americans reported a massive motorbike rally and vigils and other activities in 350 communities in one county of San Francisco (“A Week of Protests for the US Withdrawal from Iraq”, 25th September 2006). Vigils for peace were also held in dozens of cities and towns, including Little Rock, Arkansas; Tucson, Arizona; Pasadena, California; Miami, Florida; Decatur, Georgia; and Austin, Texas. The report said that “In San Diego… there was a Dance Action for Peace; [and] in Cincinnati, a Peace Tent City was erected,” and 12,000 signatures had been collected on a petition over the weekend.

Even President Bush’s own church has joined the chorus of protests demanding immediate withdrawal from Iraq (“Bush’s church urges pull-out of US troops from Iraq” http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/news_syndication/article_060924bush.shtml 24th September 2006).

However, as Governments count the cost both in lives, dollars and votes, staring back at them is the stark reality that there is no real way out of the quagmire in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Is this because they have such an unswerving devotion to the pursuit of principles of democracy becoming enshrined in legally binding national constitutions in countries that, until recently, had nothing more than feudal fiefdoms as governments? In part the answer is “Yes”.

To withdraw would be an open admission that the plan was at best ill thought out and doomed from the outset. No government is likely to make such a statement, even though it is common knowledge today that both Iraq and Afghanistan are ungovernable and anarchy reigns supreme.

What then is holding them there in an obviously un-winnable war? After all, the US did not hesitate to beat a hasty retreat in the face of the Viet Cong as Saigon fell in April 1975, after steadily withdrawing troops almost from the outset of the Nixon Administration assuming office in 1969.

We could speculate that it is the desire of the US and its allies to guarantee their oil, or to inflict as much damage as possible on Al-Qaeda, or to be at the ready in the region should Iran step up her nuclear ambitions, or a combination of one or more of these. What is beyond speculation is that prophetically the Merchants of Tarshish and young lion nations were destined to have a presence in the Middle East, notably in Sheba and Dedan as required in Ezekiel 38. The UK and US seized the opportunity when Saddam Hussein threatened to invade Kuwait a second time in October 1999, and they have never left.

Even though the US began withdrawing its troops and aircraft from Saudi Arabia in May of this year (“America to Withdraw Troops from Saudi Arabia”, London Daily Telegraph 30th April 2006), they were simply moved to Qatar, where “air operations are now being run from the giant Al-Udeid base”. Another report carried in the UK’s The Independent (“US and UK Forces Establish ‘Enduring Bases’ in Iraq”, 26th September 2006) states: “The Pentagon has revealed that coalition forces are spending millions of dollars establishing at least six ‘enduring’ bases in Iraq—raising the prospect that US and UK forces could be involved in a long-term deployment in the country. It said it assumed British troops would operate one of the bases.”

The report continued: “… while the withdrawal of a substantial number of troops remains an aim, it has become increasingly clear that the Pentagon and the (UK) Ministry of Defence are preparing to retain some forces in Iraq for the longer term. The US currently has around 130,000 troops in Iraq; Britain has 8,000.”

Further, it is necessary that military forces which will challenge, albeit not sufficiently worrisome to cause Gog and his confederates to revise their military incursion against “the glorious holy mountain”, be located to the North and the East of the Holy Land (Dan 11:44).

This only confirms that whilst the strength of the military presence of the Merchants of Tarshish and young lion nations may ebb and flow, they will be there until “that time [when] Michael shall stand up”, because the Lord has spoken it (Dan 4:17).

This is in direct contrast to the position of the clergy who have been instrumental in urging the protests that were conducted across the US on the weekend of 23–24 September 2006. According to the report cited above, in an attempt to justify the church’s involvement in the protests, a senior minister of the Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, Rev Dean Snyder said: “It’s part of our discernment process of truth, but that does not change the fact that church leaders are put in positions of prophetic responsibility.” (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/news_syndication/article_060924bush.shtml)

Once again their failure to speak in accordance with “the law and the testimony” has demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt that “there is no light in them” (Isa 8:20), and serves to us as a warning not to be drawn into the rewriting of our prophetic understanding, lest it detract from our anticipation of the great day of God Almighty.

So, the West will never win their war on terrorism. They are there for the duration. Their actions and the prophetic Word confirm this, and it serves as a prescient reminder that the time is short for the world, but more importantly for us.

Australian Icons Leave No Enduring Legacy

The sudden passing of Australian icons, Steve Irwin and Peter Brock, caused their followers to engage in very public anguish.

Mountains of flowers were strewn at the entrance of Irwin’s Australia Zoo on the Sunshine Coast, as countless total strangers professed their admiration for “the Crocodile Hunter”. Similar scenes were repeated at locations which were identified with the life and triumphs of the “King of the Mountain”, racing driver Peter Brock.

Both men left behind thousands of devastated devotees who had great difficulty dealing with and understanding the mortality of their idols.

For the two fallen idols, the rewards of their fame are no longer of use to them, the incessant adulation of the crowds means nothing in the dark silence of the grave—their time is finished and they have nothing in prospect.

Whilst the grief of Steve Irwin’s and Peter Brock’s fans is no doubt genuine, the outpouring of emotion is essentially a pointless exercise. It cannot bring them back. There is no promise of any future. They have been swallowed up by a victorious grave.

Both men were institutions in their own right and were from institutions which evinced a sense of permanence, of indestructibility. Both men, as do their legions of fans, had no fear of dying because they had cheated death so many times.

But both men today are a testament that human life is but a vapour, and that the institutions they created and served are equally as temporal.

The passing of Brock and Irwin is a direct and salient lesson to all of us. We cannot afford to become convinced of our own invincibility. Death is as certain for us as it was for the two Australian idols. We know that—yet we sometimes act as if we don’t believe it.

We cannot afford to put off our preparation—we cannot afford to put in half-hearted efforts because we have other things to do. How often does the work of the Lord become a chore whilst we willingly put our hand to tasks that have no enduring benefit for ourselves and our brethren, and more importantly fail to glorify the Father?

In the many tributes to both Brock and Irwin, friends, relatives and other admirers spoke of their passion and drive to succeed. Their lives became consumed with their respective life goals, and they unashamedly let no barrier inhibit the relentless pursuit of their ambitions.

The Lord Jesus Christ in the parable of the Unjust Steward observed that “the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light” (Luke 16:8). How can this be?

Brother Carter in Parables of the Messiah (p238) says: “The men of the world ‘who have their portion in this life’ are quick to discern what will be of advantage to them… The children of light do not show a corresponding resourcefulness concerning the spiritual things to which their enlightenment has related them.”

There is a challenge for all here.

Do we seize opportunities with both hands? Better still, do we actively seek to create opportunities rather than wait for them to be given to us? Even when we are given a task, do we seek to put in an outstanding effort or is it a “weariness”? If we are in a position to engage brethren and sisters, do we ‘actively press’ them into service or try to do everything ourselves?

Sadly there are rows of both brethren and sisters in ecclesial halls today that are unwilling or not invited to contribute to the work of the Lord and this needs the urgent attention of all, as it involves our eternal well being.

Only the best will do. The condemnation of both the people and the priests in Malachi’s time serves to remind us of this. The defensive shroud that they threw over their tardy and second rate efforts could not conceal the real worth of their work from the all-seeing God who knew that they had attempted to deceive Him (Mal 1:14).

To achieve what Irwin and Brock did required an uncompromising devotion to their vision, focusing their own energies and continually honing their own capabilities, as well as marshalling the resources of those around them.

Soon the Lord shall return. Soon every work will be revealed by fire. Will our work abide (1Cor 3:13–14)?