Hurricane Katrina

One of the worst natural disasters in the USA occurred on 29.8.05 when hurricane Katrina unleashed its fury. The storm roared in with 230 km/hour fury, causing massive devastation in the states of Louisiana and Mississippi in particular. In New Orleans, a city in Louisiana of 470,000 people, there was widespread devastation.

Most of the city was evacuated as the rising flood waters inundated the low lying areas. In some areas the flood waters, consisting of a red-brown soup of sewage, fuel and garbage, was six metres deep.

Natural disaster and emergency service agencies were stretched to the limit in trying to cope with the disaster.

At last count the total death toll from the hurricane had reached 1,121 and the damage estimate was A$265 billion.

Whilst it appears that initial reports of widespread lootings, shootings and assaults taking place in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina were exaggerated, there is no doubt that many people were fearful as a result of the breakdown in law and order and essential services that occurred as a result of the devastation. Such apprehension and fear was a reminder to us of what the world will be like when “gross darkness shall cover the earth” prior to Christ’s manifestation in Armageddon (Isa 60:2). Jeremiah speaks of the whirlwind of Yahweh’s fury in the latter days. “Behold a whirlwind of the Lord is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the Lord shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly… Behold the whirlwind of the Lord goeth forth with fury, a continuing whirlwind: it shall fall with pain upon the head of the wicked. The fierce anger of the Lord shall not return, until he have done it and until he have performed the intents of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it” (Jer 23:19–20; 30:23–24).

What may not be so well-known is that, prior to hurricane Katrina unleashing its fury on 29.8.05, the city of New Orleans was all geared up to celebrate an event called “Southern Decadence xxxiv”. The event was to have run from 31.8.05 to 5.9.05 as “a celebration of gay life, music and culture”. The fact that this event was numbered xxxiv indicated how many years it has been held.

It all began in 1972 with a going away party and has since grown into an enormous event bringing millions of dollars into the coffers of New Orleans. It is now the city’s largest homosexual event and the organisers pride themselves with the caption “Whatever you see, it will be totally decadent”. But an event that was to have been given over totally to unbridled lust, “men with men working that which is unseemly” (Rom 1:27) was abruptly cancelled when the power of God was unleashed in hurricane Katrina.

The connections and overtones between the celebration of southern decadence and the lifestyle in Sodom and Gomorrah are obvious and we all know what happened to those wicked cities. It must grieve our loving Heavenly Father to witness how much of society (worldwide) today is given over to wickedness and there is a limit to His forbearance. The longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah and also Sodom and Gomorrah, but eventually the judgments of God fell because “God looked upon the earth and behold it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth” (Gen 6:12).

The devastation caused by hurricane Katrina and other “natural disasters” is a warning to our world that God has such powerful elements at His disposal that can be used and will be used to bring about His judgments.

Our wisdom is to ensure that we are not caught up in the wickedness of this world but to stand apart from its corrupting influences.

May we be found to be like Noah who “by faith… being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith (Heb 11:7).

The Kremlin Awash with Oil and Gas

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the defeat of Communism in Europe brought freedom to the Russian people. But with the freedom came poverty.

The new form of government which replaced communism in Russia after 1991 brought about economic chaos. Many people lost their jobs and the government was unable to maintain the sense of social security that the people had been accustomed to under Communism.

When Vladimir Putin came to power as president in 2000 however, he set about restoring Russian pride and rebuilding the economy. At first the going was tough as Russia had spent many years in an economic decline but with the meteoric rise in the price of oil Russia’s fortunes had turned around almost overnight.

Russia has abundant reserves of oil and gas and by 2030, according to the International Energy Agency, Russia will be the world’s biggest gas exporter. Russia’s oil production is predicted to rise to nearly eleven million barrels a day by 2030 and by this time Europe will be dependent on imports for 80% of its oil and gas needs.

Vladimir Putin obviously has his eyes on the future and Western analysts are wondering whether he will initiate a change in the constitution to allow him to remain as president beyond 2008 when the two-term limit on his presidency expires.

In keeping with his vision for the future, Vladimir Putin has moved to increase state control of Russia’s energy industries. The state owned natural gas giant Gazprom has recently taken over Sibneft, the country’s fifth largest oil company, and as a result nearly one third of Russia’s oil production and most of its energy resources are now under state control.

Gazprom is already the world’s largest natural gas producer and with the purchase of Sibneft’s oil reserves, Gazprom would have the third largest oil reserves in the world, ranking only behind Saudi Arabia and Iran.

With such enormous wealth now flowing into the coffers of the Russian state, and with the ever increasing authoritative control Vladimir Putin is exercising, world leaders are concerned where all this will lead.

Vladimir Putin has made no secret of the fact that he wishes to restore the power and prestige that the country once enjoyed and Geoff Kitney, a political commentator in The Australian Financial Review, poses this question in the 30/9/05 edition: “One question will be how Russia will use the power bestowed on it by its energy wealth. A world transfixed by the rise of China and India would be foolish to forget about Russia.”

Indeed the world would be foolish to forget about Russia, particularly as we know from the Scriptures that “….there cannot be the shadow of a doubt that the Autocrat of Russia, when he shall have attained to the plenitude of his power and dominion, is the subject of the prophecy contained in the thirty eighth and thirty ninth of Ezekiel.” (Elpis Israel 14th edition page 432).

The Strong Man of Europe

Peter Wilson in The Weekend Australian October 1–2, 2005 wrote the following: “Less than a year after he [Tony Blair] was so politically weak he vowed this would be his last term in office, Blair finds himself THE STRONG MAN OF EUROPE, [our emphasis] with France and Germany lacking any real leadership, confidence or direction.”

Peter Wilson goes on to say:

“After thirteen years of growth the British economy has a jobless rate of 4.7%, compared with 9.9% in France and 11.4% in Germany. The French government, which has been running budget deficits for 24 straight years, has lost all momentum under ailing 72 year old President Jacques Chirac and is biding time until its next election in eighteen months.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is in worse shape, all bombast and impotence as he tries to use coalition talks to retain office despite losing an election two weeks ago.”

Tony Blair is now flexing his muscles on the European stage. France and Germany were the most vocal opponents of Britain’s campaign for closer ties with the US, but with their now political and economic demise, the star of Tony Blair is rising daily.

When Tony Blair became prime minister eight years ago he pledged to be the leader to take Britain into Europe. But the opposite is now the case. Britain is now much closer to America than Europe.

Tony Blair’s decision to take Britain to war in Iraq as an ally of the USA and other western powers has raised the prestige of Great Britain on the world stage. He has made Britain Washington’s closest and most significant ally and the closer Britain has got to Washington the more distant Britain has become to Europe.

It was only a few months ago that Tony Blair was strenuously promoting an Anglo-Franco-German axis, but as we know from Bible prophecy this was counter to the Divine plan. At the time of the end, Britain as a Tarshish power will not be part of the European confederation that invades Israel and it is interesting to see how that events on the world stage force political leaders to adopt positions that were not part of their original plan.

Britain is now firmly in the USA camp and Tony Blair has a very special relationship with George Bush, the USA president.

Time will tell as to what the next step for Britain will be in her relationship with Europe. The British public are generally Euro-sceptical and could it be that Britain will either voluntarily remove herself from the EU or be forced out by a peeved Franco-German axis before the return of Christ.

The movements of Britain on the world scene are most interesting and cause us to have confidence not only in the Scriptures of Truth but the wonderful expositions of prophecy in our pioneer writings.

“Darwin vs God Case Opens in the US”

The above caption appeared in The Australian 28.9.05 and refers to “A court case that has gripped the US, pitting Darwin’s theory of evolution against the idea that the universe was created by ‘intelligent design’, opened in Pennsylvania yesterday with the world watching.”

Eighty years ago in the US there was the so-called “Monkey” Trial in Tennessee where proponents of the evolutionary theory were pitted against adherents of the Biblical account of creation.

In this most recent court case once again Charles Darwin’s theory, that life evolves through natural selection and random mutation, is up against an alternative proposition. Whereas eighty years ago, however, the opponents of evolution clearly presented the Biblical account of creation as fact, this time round the opponents have put up the proposition that “intelligent design” is responsible for creation.

Proponents of this view hold that certain features of life, unexplained by evolution, are too complex to have developed through an undirected process and are best attributed to an unnamed and unseen intelligent agent. They are not prepared however to say that God is the Creator, only that “intelligent design” is responsible.

It begs the question as to why someone is not prepared to accept the Biblical account which clearly sets out that God is the Creator of all things.

Already in South Australia the “intelligent design” viewpoint is being canvassed in certain schools and one suspects that this is a soft option alternative to evolution, whereby a mysterious unknown intelligent agent is responsible for life but the existence of God and His wonderful acts of creation are not put forward as fact.

This latest idea gives a good opportunity for ecclesias to present public addresses on the subject of creation and make it clear to the public that Christadelphians believe that the so-called intelligent agent responsible for life is none other than the God of heaven and earth.

Many people today are looking for answers to life in our troubled world and we should use every opportunity to promote the clear teaching of the Bible.

Israel and the Gaza Strip

In September 2005 Israel finally withdrew from the Gaza Strip, a territory that she had occupied for 38 years after the 1967 Six Day War.

In recent years administration of the Gaza Strip has become a nightmare, as Israel has striven to protect Israeli settlements in the area and also control the Intifada uprising of the Palestinians. After the death of Yasser Arafat and the election of the more moderate Mahmoud Abbas as the Palestinian leader, the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, decided to try and develop better relations with the Palestinians. Ariel Sharon decided and convinced his government to unilaterally withdraw from all 21 Israeli settlements in Gaza and four in the West Bank, and this withdrawal has now been completed.

Shortly after Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, the Palestinian terrorist factions Hamas and Islamic Jihad decided to flex their muscles and were responsible for a number of rocket attacks into nearby Israeli towns. The response from Israel was immediate and decisive. Israeli war planes blasted areas of Gaza city and lobbed artillery shells into the Gaza Strip for the first time. Having withdrawn from the Strip leaving it entirely under Palestinian rule, Israel will now respond to any attack from there as an attack on its sovereignty, officials said.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad soon learnt their lesson and quickly decided to call off all rocket attacks against Israel realising that Israel meant what it said and would not tolerate any attacks on her citizens.

Having decided to call off the rocket attacks it is interesting to note that the Palestinians then turned on themselves.

In early October clashes erupted in Gaza city between militants from Hamas and Palestinian police who tried to disarm them. Hamas militants fired rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons at a police station in a refugee camp. Armed factions such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad have refused demands by Mahmoud Abbas to lay down their weapons since Israel’s pull out from Gaza.

Mr Abbas has repeatedly pledged to tackle the spiralling lawlessness in the Palestinian territories, particularly in Gaza where gunmen frequently operate beyond the law.

The Palestinians are determined to create their own state and also want the West Bank and part of Jerusalem to be part of their state. Mr Sharon has made it clear that he has no intention of giving back to the Palestinians the West Bank apart from a few settlements and the recent lawlessness in Gaza illustrates how disastrous it would be for the Israelis if the Palestinians also controlled the West Bank. Indeed Mr Sharon must be looking on with some amusement at the way the Palestinians are behaving in the first bit of territory they see as part of their eventual state. If the terrorist groups cannot be controlled in such a small area, what hope would there be in a larger area such as the West Bank?

The Scriptures make it clear that when Gog comes against Israel it will be “against the mountains of Israel” (Ezek 38:8) and these mountains are the backbone of the West Bank. Ariel Sharon has stated categorically that the West Bank will always be part of an Israeli state, and the Bible makes it clear that this area will be under Israeli control.

So it seems that the Palestinians may have to settle for just the Gaza Strip as a Palestinian state.

Earthquakes in Diverse Places

News has just come to hand at the time of going to print of calamitous “natural disasters” that have occurred.A powerful earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale tore through Pakistan and reverberated across India and Afghanistan early on October 8th causing massive destruction and loss of life. Entire villages were destroyed and thousands of people were buried alive under collapsed buildings.

It was the strongest earthquake to hit South Asia in 100 years.

At last count 38 000 people had died and 62 000 were injured in Pakistan alone, but these numbers are likely to rise dramatically.

In Guatemala a massive mudslide occurred triggered by Hurricane Stan, resulting in at least 1,400 buried alive in a village. The storm killed some 300 people elsewhere in Guatemala and 103 others in the rest of Central America and southern Mexico.

Such calamities in our times remind us of the Bible’s words: “there shall be a time of trouble such as never was” (Dan 12:1); and the Lord’s words: “men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth” (Luke 21:26).

We should take heed to these signs and prepare ourselves accordingly for our Master’s coming.