“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed” 2Peter 1:19

A quick perusal of recent articles in this series reveals how clearly the prophecies are fitting into place. The working of the ‘frog like spirits’ throughout the earth, the burdensome stone of Jerusalem, the uniting of Europe around a strong Germany and a Franco-German alliance with Rus­sia, are certainly miracles that are so obvious to the enlightened believer (2 Pet 1:19; 1 Thess 5:4).

More recently, the Pope held out the olive branch to the Muslims, praying in a Syrian Mosque and planting an olive tree on the Golan Heights. He also went to Greece, the first visit to that country by a pontiff since the “Great Schism” that divided Christianity in 1054AD. He continues to strive for reconciliation between the Church of Rome and the Eastern Orthodox Church, despite slow progress and opposition from Greek church hardliners who accuse him of being “the 2-horned monster of Rome” (headline in the Sun-Herald 6.5.01). Russia and Iran continue to expand military ties to the anger and dismay of the United States. George Bush’s anti-missile plans are at the forefront of discussions on the world stage at present, and it is clear that this is driving the European nations to side with Russia in their opposition to his plans. Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has just revealed his plans for “a European security body which would replace NATO and embrace Russia…” (Sydney Morning Herald 20.7.01). Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, a highly significant development, although not well publicised in western media, is the military alliance signed recently between China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. This group of nations has now “expanded its mission to include military co-operation and development of Central Asian oil and gas resources… Co-operation in the military field will be further strengthened”, a Chinese diplomat said. “The target of military co-operation will be to safeguard regional peace, and holding joint military exercises” (The Australian 16.6.01). The heading to the article suggests that this “Shanghai group may have another agenda”! We see here the potential for a united Eastern bloc of nations headed by Russia which will eventually ally itself with all Europe and others for Armageddon.

An article in the Washington Times (11.7.01) en­titled “Russia’s Caspian power grab” indicates that the countries to the south of Russia are “growing more dependent on Moscow, but so might Europe be in the near future, since natural gas reserves from the North Sea and the Persian Gulf have begun to dwindle. The logic behind all this is clear. If exploited to anywhere near its projected potential, additional volumes from the Caspian could put Russia and its CIS allies on a par with the Persian Gulf in terms of oil wealth, making it an energy superpower. Not even the Soviet Union at the height of its power came close to that” (Washington Times). The article went on to say:

“These manoeuvres have placed Russia within reach of controlling at least one-third of the region’s estimated 650 billion barrels of oil, and one-half or more of the area’s approximately 1800 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. When combined with its own domestic reserves (some 50 billion barrels of crude) and Caspian stores, domination of Gulf oil could allow Moscow to virtually dictate energy terms not only to the CIS and Europe, but to Washington as well. In pursuit of this policy, Russia has steadily worked to ce­ment its regional position and dislodge American influence. Employing a variety of measures, rang­ing from diplomatic support to arms sales and military co-operation, Russia has tilted countries like Libya, Syria and Iraq conclusively back into its orbit. In particular Iran, with whom it recently signed an estimated $7 billion arms and coopera­tion deal, figures heavily in Moscow’s calcula­tions… Thus unopposed, Russia stands poised to become no less than the pre-eminent power not only in the Caspian, but in the Gulf as well. It is time for Washington to pay attention” (comments by Ilan Berman, a fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council).

While much more could be said about the astounding political and religious happenings throughout the world, we now draw our attention to some of the disturbing social issues facing our world today.

Our Angry Society

At the recent G8 summit in Genoa, Italy, the anger of anti-globalisation protestors highlighted the growing problem the world is facing with the in­creasing divide between rich and poor, as well as the anger of young people towards governments who are not providing any solutions:

“Smashed banks and charred cars lining the streets indicate the high price this city has paid for hosting the G8 summit… The cabinet of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was expected to meet last night to debate setting aside $US45 million ($89 million) to help Genoa pay for the clean-up and repairs.”

The Italian government had already spent $220 million on additional security measures before the G8 summit. Here we see the spirit of the frogs in the very heart of Europe, working their rebellious miracles, to eventually bring the world to Arma­geddon (James 3:14–16; Rev 16:13). Because no solutions are being provided, anger is becoming the predominant feature of our society today, both locally and world-wide. A recent article headlined “Angry City” (Daily Telegraph 3.7.01) reveals the same underlying problems here in Australia:

“Add the culture of instant gratification to a time-poor Sydneysider who feels protected by big city anonymity and you have the ingredients for bad behaviour, psychologists said yesterday. Dianna Kenny, associate professor of psychology at Sydney University, said the various ‘rages’ were the result of a level of frustration that was very high because people were ‘always hitting brick walls’… Grant Brecht, clinical psycholo­gist and corporate adviser to AMP and Westpac, said people were ‘time poor’ and opportunity rich. Affluence and the quick fix society of fast food and e-mail had made people accustomed to ‘get what we want, and quite quickly, so when they do have to wait, in a supermarket queue or have to hold on the phone there’s often a sense of rage’, he said.”

Various types of ‘rage’ were examined includ­ing road rage, petrol bowser rage, vending machine rage, newsagent rage and supermarket rage. ‘News­agent rage’ is apparently where newspaper buyers become fed up with waiting behind Lotto players and as a result “throw coins at newsagent staff”.

As Matthew 24:12,13 says, “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Similar words are found in 2 Timothy 3:1–4, which are well-known to us. Simply, the key problem is selfishness. One of the core problems of this angry society we live in was identified over a year ago in The Australian magazine (29.01.00) entitled “The Age of Rage”. The article deals with a study by psychotherapist Frank Donovan, author of the book Dealing with Anger— Self-Help Solu­tions for Men:

“Men are subject to previously unseen challenges at work and home. He identifies employment sectors experiencing the greatest growth as service industries and information technology, both ideally suited to women… At home, women are behaving with far more independence and autonomy. ‘Women are much more assertive, discriminating and much more in command of their choices than they used to be… Many men find all this a challenge they can’t meet and it leaves them with mixed, if not confused, emo­tions… If you go back to how most Australian, American and especially English men are brought up, the consistent messages they learn are about competition, winning, striving, being strong and tough… Showing fear, pain and sadness makes them look vulnerable—they’re wusses if they act in such a way. The one emotion they have a good command of is anger. The rest of the stuff they’ve learnt out—and now they can’t access it.’”

The article quotes researchers and psychologists who are finding that Australian motorists are “be­coming more self-focused, and ever more selfish” on the road. Of those Australian motorists surveyed, 74% now say that they “become angry” when oth­ers cut in on them. Selfishness and aggression is becoming so much more a part of our society for the simple reason that people have removed God from their lives, and thus the discipline of self-restraint and Christlikeness.

The Elusiveness of True Happiness

Despite the affluence in the western world today, par­ticularly in Australia, so many people are not happy:

“Today, many people work purely to survive rather than working so they can enjoy life, while 2 out of 3 Australians can’t wait to quit their jobs, according to a Morgan and Banks survey conducted late last year. Statistics prove it is a daily grind: 88% of Australians are not satisfied with the work they do, 85% feel the workplace is stressful. Antidepressant use has jumped 58% over the past 4 years and after domestic duties and work, only about 11% of time is available for leisure—a couple of hours on a Sunday af­ternoon. And that leisure time predominantly is spent watching television and videos, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics social trends report” (Illawarra Mercury 10.4.01).

These trends in society are often commented on in the press, however without any solutions be­ing given, and a sense even of helplessness. Such commentary was recently given in The Australian (30.6.01):

“Today, baby boomers—children born during the great post-World War II fertility spike of 1946 to 1961—wave goodbye to their (somewhat extended) youth and march towards middle age… As boomers, they discarded their cultural inheritance—lifelong marriage, church and the ideal of the male breadwinner—in favour of individualism, sex and liberation. They are the generation that came of age during the sexual revolution, the rise of hire purchase and no-fault divorce and in doing so created the motto: Why wait? But in the process they lost their peace of mind, discovered insecurity and have turned into the most divorced generations in history, social commentator Hugh Mackay says in his book Generations: Baby Boomers, their parents and their children”.

Materialism

Ironically, Christmas time often seems to bring out the worst in selfishness and materialism:

“Cash tops teenagers’ Christmas wish list (Sunday Telegraph 3.12.00). Materialism has replaced the Christmas spirit amongst Sydney’s young adults as cash, clothes and cars top their gift wish lists, a new survey found. Researchers said the results were a dramatic shift in the way people aged 14–24 regarded Christmas ten years ago.” The article went on to quote from a researcher who said, “They seemed to have high expectations that their parents are willing to fork out quite alot of money…. Further down the gift list were holiday tickets, computers, playstation 2, jewel­lery, motorbikes etc.”

Last Christmas, a front page headline in the International Express (5.12.00) was entitled “Sick Britain” with the following summary:

“A ten year old boy murdered by school bul­lies as people walked by on the other side of the street. A television quiz show which hands out $1,000,000 for answering a few questions. Cabinet Minister David Blunket believes these two images describe something horribly wrong with our society today.”

“Blunket has condemned the money-mad culture exemplified by TV’s Who Wants To Be A Million­aire?… (he said…) Governments can’t evangelise in the way churches can on any particular spir­itual, as opposed to material answer, but it does seem to me that what we can do is try to encour­age the civil society debate that actually takes on and challenges materialism.” In condemning sex and violence on British television, he said, “The people who produce programs have a pretty low view of the rest of the world. I’m not sure TV producers would want their own families to watch some of the sort of TV programs that are made.”

These programs thrive on people’s lust for money and a covetous desire to “instantly solve” all of their life’s problems. Isn’t it amazing to find some even in the world who can see clearly what the problems are, despite not being able to find the Godly solution. How true sometimes are the words of Luke 16:8, “For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light”. Can we really see the world for what it is?

Family Life in a Hectic World

As society degenerates, some governments are now even trying to promote the importance of lov­ing parents spending time with their children. The following article was entitled “Bedtime story a be­stseller for bonding” (Weekend Australian 9.6.01):

“Once upon a time, parents told bedside stories to their children, but then came TV, PlayStation and computer games. Bedtime books were put away—and now the parents are suffering. The image of a small child listening to his mother reading a bedtime story is one of security and contentment…. But this picture is disappearing in a world where children are more used to TV being the storyteller. A world-first campaign that stresses the importance of close family ties with be launched this week by VicHealth…. The benefits for children are well-known: reading a bedtime story opens up language centres in the brain in a way other mediums do not, and read­ing is a great bonding mechanism and good for getting children to settle. ‘Storytelling is good for parents who are tired, or feel they are not good at playing, because the book tells the story, says psychologist John Irvine… The important thing is for the child to have one-on-one attention and close physical contact’. Paul Jennings [Australian author] says the critical part of reading is that the children know that they are the centre of parental attention. ‘This love situation rubs off on to the books and the child will grow to see books as a thing of love and joy and they become readers.’”

Jesus said in Matthew 19:14, “Suffer little chil­dren, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven”. The ‘one-on-one attention’ of a parent and child today is becoming such a rare occurrence. A recent survey found that in Australia, the average child under 18 years of age only spends five minutes per week in private consultation with their fathers, and twenty minutes per week with their mothers, yet spends an aver­age of twenty one hours per week watching TV (this survey was quoted by opposition leader Kim Beasley in parliament).

A key problem is that children are so often seen as being a nuisance or a hindrance to one’s desire for the pursuit of riches and pleasure. This is be­cause the world is getting further and further away from God’s ways. The purpose of God is that He might have a family (Num 14:21; Hos 11:1–8; John 17:6–26; Rom 8:16; Eph 1:5,6; Rev 21:7 etc). Our own family lives should reflect the kind of family relationship God wants to have with His spiritual children (Deut 6:4–9). Where is the “natural affec­tion” in our world today? Where is the time in our lives today to sit quietly with the children to read them Bible stories or do the readings? Do we make time? Do we really care? The solution to so many of the problems in the earlier verses of 2 Timothy 3 are found at the end of the chapter: “From a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (v15) The result? “That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (v17).