Living on Borrowed Time

After buying a company worth twenty-seven billion dollars, Warren Buffet was asked in an interview why he manages his diary so meticulously.

Buffet explained that he manages his time with the utmost care, because;

“I can buy anything I want, but I can’t buy time

There is a great disparity of wealth between the likes of ourselves compared to Buffet. Buffets wealth is something-something billion dollars (and fluctuates like the weather) whereas our wealth is simply incalculable, and is stored up in heaven.

However despite the great disparity between us, there is a good lesson in what Buffet said. Just as his colossal fortune causes him to guard his use of time with obsessive carefulness, so too our rich faith and hope should prompt us to guard our time to ensure it is used wisely.

Christ’s message to us of faith was, “occupy till I come”. This message was incredibly important because he said this in context of the parable of the money that the nobleman gave to his servants before he travelled to a far country. When the nobleman returned, he found that each servant had invested his money in varying ways. Some had simply done nothing while others had invested their money hard. This is a very frank picture of what it will be like when Christ returns; some of us will have invested hard in using our time for God and sadly, others will have done very little with their time to advance Gods work.

And so the question is, how are we occupying our time? How are we spending, investing and managing our time? What do we do in our spare time?

A key area of concern is the amount of time we spend swiping, browsing, sharing and interacting on social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and more. These platforms seem free, but they’re not; we pay for them with our time. Our time and information are then sold by these platforms to third party advertisers.

These platforms are designed so that we develop an addiction to them; there’s a term for it – its called “Persuasive design”. Persuasive design is a design practice that focuses on influencing our behaviour. Persuasive design techniques are ingrained in our social media apps to try and influence our human psyche and habits. From a neurological point of view, we respond to these design techniques in two ways. Firstly, we feel a subconscious stress response, (because we are waiting for something to happen and have no idea where its going to go), and secondly, they stimulate a dopamine release for building anticipation which makes us feel the urge to come back to find out more. This generates which is known as “FOMO” – “Fear of missing out”.

We also get a good dopamine fix when watching TV. Today’s producers know all the neurological design tricks to get viewers addicted and living with an insatiable anticipation for the release of the next episode, or the next live sports coverage. The producers highlight the most intense moments of the season and preview them over and over again; they cut the scenes just at the point when viewers are about to discover a thrilling new element to the story; they deploy and elicit the full spectrum of emotions (disgust being an increasingly popular emotion that viewers like to feel) and are always sure to make viewers question what is right.

Giving in to mindless habits like TV or social media whenever we find free time is like reaching for the bottle that says “dopamine”: we take a sip and fulfil the behaviour of an addict. We surrender our precious time to the advertisers so that they can ask us to surrender our money as well.

Of course, many of these activities are not of themselves evil, but let’s not be naive about this; not only are they proven to have adverse social, psychological and neurological effects, but they can also have an insidious effect on our relationship with God, depending on how much time we invest in them.

When we constantly surrender ourselves to easy, mindless and impulsive habits like these, we demonstrate to God our lack of self-control and we cripple our ability to commit brain power to Gods work. And so the question is, how are we occupying our time? How are we spending, investing and managing our time?

The clock is ticking. Prophecy is unfolding quickly.

The nobleman is about to return from a far country and gather us together to judge how we have occupied our time. Have we been reading his word each day? Have we been preaching the gospel? Have we been contacting and visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction?

Or have we surrendered our spare time to mindless habits that are of no worth to Christ?

Putin says ‘sorry cant help’ to Israel and invites Iran to Israels border.

For so long, Israel’s Prime Minister has warned Iran about crossing the ‘red line’ – an ultimatum which has characterised most of Netanyahu’s tenure as PM.

His warnings were issued to Iran with a tone of profound confidence and proclaimed at the highest levels of government. His speeches were arresting and the news organisations around the world cashed in on the sensationalism of it all. Many would remember his vivid speech to the world at the United Nations where despite irreconcilable world views, world leaders gather to epitomise unity and peace on earth while on the other hand, Netanyahu presented an explosive chart showing the sketch of a bomb with – you guessed it – a red line.

However, in the last few years, the red-line rhetoric fizzled out when under President Obama, the US put Netanyahu into a headlock and used the other arm to give Iran a load of cash as part of the Iran deal. While to the North, Russia’s grand move into Syria left an irritating little scribble on Netanyahu’s red-line.

As times have changed, the reality is that a bigger problem looms on the horizon: another red-line – this time, not Netanhayu’s.

Until now, Netanyahu’s military exploits in Southern Syria have been left unchecked by the Russian occupying force – most likely against the will of the regional Russian military commanders.

Netanyahu has bombed Syrian tanks that have strayed towards the Israeli border and even bombed Hezbollah targets close to Damascus while Putin seems to have had more interest in Sochi’s weather. Yet, only a few days ago, a senior Israeli official outright threatened to bomb Damascus – still, no response from Putin.

However Netanyahu’s concern for Iranian occupation in Syria reached a tenor pitch when he left Israel and took his red-line narrative to Putin who was patiently suffering harsh conditions in his Sochi resort. The meeting with Putin started well – at least for Netanyahu, who drizzled at length about his concerns of Iranian occupation in Syria; “Iran continues to threaten Israel’s existence, and it funds terror organizations and missile plans,” Netanyahu told Putin. “Wherever ISIS disappeared, Iran has taken over. Iran is already on its way to taking control of Iraq, Yemen, and in many ways has already taken over Lebanon.”

But when it came time for Putin’s turn to talk, the conversation did not go so well; “Iran is Russia’s strategic ally in the Middle East,” Putin told Netanyahu.

Witnesses present during part of the nearly two-and-a-half hour meeting say that following the Prime Minister’s entreaties to the Russian leader, Putin sighed, telling Netanyahu his government would be unable to assist; “Unfortunately, we can not help you here.”.

This is Netanyahu’s fourth trip to Russia in the last 16 months, and his sixth meeting with Putin during this same time frame. Netanyau said that the reason he wanted to hold talks now with the Russian leader was because the situation inside Syria has changed very rapidly over the last few weeks.

Less than a week after Netanyahu warned Putin, Putin put Netanyau’s warning to the test. DEBKAfile reports exclusively from its military and intelligence sources that on Saturday and Sunday Aug 26 – 27, Russian forces installed Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hizballah officers at a joint “administration center” they had set up in the town of Quneitra – 5 Kms from the Israeli border.

Surveillance spotters saw them moving 2 km from the Golan border, the closest hostile Iranian and Hizballah troops have ever come to Israel’s border with Syria.

The reality is that while Israeli enemies gather on its border with Putin’s explicit support, Netanyahu’s tattered red line could well soon be replaced with Putin’s very literal and meaningful red line – Israel could lose its authority overnight to strike freely in Southern Syria.

What then of Israel’s red line?

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Ezekiel 38 prophecies that Russia and Iran will invade Israel in the latter days around the time of the coming of Jesus Christ. This has been a clear understanding of Christadelphians for 150 years and only now looking to becoming a reality in the years ahead. Follow our Facebook page for daily updates:  https://www.facebook.com/pg/WatchYeTherefore

Israel alarmed as Russian military moves 5km from Israel’s border

A couple of weeks earlier, we reported that Russia had moved troops within 85 kilometres of Israels border and we thought this was close! Well in the last few days, Russian troops have now moved 5 Kilometres from Israels border where they plan to stay for the long term.

This news is confirmed by a number of mainstream media reports including STRATFOR intelligence who say that this move was a part of a loosely established ceasefire agreement between the US and Russia.

Its a monumental step from September 2015, when we watched Russia move into Syria and setup a military base in the North-West.

The troops are now stationed in the Syrian town of Quneitra opposite the Syrian-Israeli Golan border. Russian military personnel were already present there to advise Syrian Arab Army troops – however this is the first time the Russian military units have been deployed on this scale.

A senior Israeli official reacted with alarm, “The agreement as it is now is very bad. It doesn’t take almost any of Israel’s security interests and it creates a disturbing reality in southern Syria. The agreement doesn’t include a single explicit word about Iran, Hezbollah or the Shi’ite militias in Syria”.

Debkafile reports:

The absence of any Trump-Putin commitment on this score leaves Israel fully exposed to the presence of Iranian and Hizballah forces within mortar range of its Golan border in an area supervised by their ally, the Russian military.

It was this danger that galvanized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu into broadcasting Israel’s total opposition to the Trump-Putin ceasefire for southwestern Syria during his visit to Paris on Monday, July 17, after his talks with President Emmanuel Macron.

In an apparent bid to calm Israel’s concerns, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made an usual statement for a Russian diplomat: “I can guarantee that we have done everything and the US side has done everything to ensure that Israel’s security interests within this framework are fully taken into account,” he said later on Monday.

Careful perusal of this comment revealed to our sources that it was made in the context of a previous ceasefire accord for the Russians had made Turkey and Iran “co-sponsors.”

Note how Russia has the responsibility of managing Iranian, Turkish and Hezbollah presence along the Golan – these are the national belligerents of Armageddon (Ezek 38 & Joel 3).

“‘Get ready; be prepared, you and all the hordes gathered about you, and take command of them. After many days you will be called to arms. In future years you will invade a land that has recovered from war, whose people were gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate. They had been brought out from the nations, and now all of them live in safety. You and all your troops and the many nations with you will go up, advancing like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land. Ezekiel 38

How much closer does Russia need to be to Israel for us to make changes in our life that should’ve been made some time ago? (I speak for myself as much as anyone else!).

How long until the next step South is taken?

Does the Bible compete with anything for time in your life?

Today’s generation is faced with a problem like no other – an unprecedented proliferation of opportunities to be entertained or indulged; each one playing a part in stifling and smothering the desirability and presence of God’s Word.

For thousands of years, the Word of God has been a captivating safe haven for people who have been confronted by war, disease and persecution. Fast forward to today, and we find ourselves in a societal landscape saturated with mind consuming distractions which range – according to whatever view you adopt – from ‘harmless’ to ‘insidious’. The reality is that however you see it, most ‘harmless’ activities can end up becoming ‘insidious’ by virtue of the amount of time we spend consumed in them.

For many of us, social media has successfully dominated our lives and taken large amounts of time away from our family or time away from Gods Word. For others the problem might be gaming, a hobby, holidays, having a TV in the lounge – you name it. Perhaps the problem exists, but is not yet known to you.

Even if we are convinced that our pursuit, habit or hobby is harmless, Christ’s words to the ecclesia of Laodicea should prompt us to constantly reassess our conviction. When Christ said to the Laodicean’s that he would “spue you out of my mouth”, he didn’t issue this stark warning because Laodicea had become subjected to some dark and insidious form of Baal worship, No! Their problem was not immorality, wrong doctrine, child sacrifice, or some other form of blatantly perverted evil.

The influence that repulsed Christ so much, was materialism; the Laodiceans lived amongst general prosperity and comfort, and they weren’t in any hurry to oppose it. Where the Smyrnan’s were incredibly thankful to have a loaf of bread on the table, the Laodiceans were complaining about the brand of the coffee they were just served. Where the Smyrnans suffered shocking persecution at the hands of the Roman authorities, the Laodiceans used wax to caress their shiny sports edition cars.

Transplant the Laodiceans to our age, and they would’ve had a rort! The deafening roar of the crowd as they cheer on the chariots at the Colosseum would be old-school entertainment when compared to the pounding roar of today’s V8 supercar. Better still, the vision of the elite cars projected onto the living room wall, complete with some ground shaking surround-sound would make for an adrenaline-on-tap experience which would leave the chariots in the dust.

The age in which we live today has had the benefit of thousands of years to master the art of stimulating every sensory, making todays offerings far more sophisticated than the classic Laodicean experience. Today’s selection of indulgence is highly customised to our unique taste, easily justifiable and always ‘in your face’; every minute of the day comes with an incessant and unrelenting invitation to lapse into an indulgent habit – the only remedy being a constant and determined effort, to make righteous decisions.

Sometimes (more than we like to admit?) we give in to mindless habits, and steal and plunder the time that belongs to God – and sometimes, we don’t even realise we are doing it. How do we know when we are plundering time that is due only to God? Perhaps one litmus test is to reflect on our growth in Christ. Paul talks about constantly growing in the word as a lifelong endeavour and you would recall he admonished the Hebrews for not progressing beyond a very basic understanding of scripture. The problem of not progressing beyond the milk of the word is a serious challenge for our ecclesia while faced by the constant allurement of materialism.

It’s a challenge that has seen brethren and sisters who, while hesitant to open their Bible and study the word, are studiously committed to their personal interests – be it sports, politics, gaming, hobbies or entertainment. In those fields of interest, study is not a problem, time is not an issue. For example, it might be a fanatical knowledge of the cricketing world has consumed time over many years, leaving scriptural knowledge to pay the price.

Perhaps Revelation has been consigned to the ‘too hard basket’ and instead we have reclined and enjoyed an entrancing TV series. A decision like this requires self-discipline no doubt, but as a brother recently pointed out, consider the implications of this; that Revelation is the bridegroom’s last impassioned letter to us, his bride – whom he loves. It would be difficult when our bridegroom comes to have to explain to him why we have not read his letter to us – what legitimate excuse could we possibly have? Consider how our Lord would feel if we allow our focus to become consumed on temporary things, while ecclesial resourcefulness is in deficit, with attendance dropping, welfare becoming consigned to the work of a few and gospel proclamation under pressure.

It’s not hard to flick on the TV, sit back and revel in the drama of sport. It’s not hard to become experts in retail products that we covet. It’s not hard to follow a TV season, or spend each evening flicking through social media. It takes effort and time to open to the word of God and develop a deep personal conviction of God, his expectations and his love. But despite the effort, this should be our ultimate aspiration in life, beyond anything else!

Christ has called followers who are prepared to dedicate themselves to him in every way possible and therefore reassessing how we spend our time in this age, needs to be a conscious, repeated effort. If a habit or hobby has consistently taken our interest, or time, or enthusiasm away from God’s word or ecclesia, than we must remove the roadblock and clear the way for time in service to God.

If your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. Mat 5:30

The most important commandment in the Bible calls for dedication from every fibre of our being – not just our spare time.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Duet 6:5-9

Let’s take every opportunity we can to indulge Gods Word – to meditate upon it day and night, encourage others to talk about it at the meeting, consider its principles together with our closest friends and family, and expound them to those who are yet to learn the truth.

Our sacrifice is not one made on the cross, the stake, or in persecution; the challenge which materialism presents to faith today is far more alluring than times past, but no less fateful as our Lord has made abundantly clear.

As each day brings us closer to his return, let’s determine to give Gods Word the premium time in our daily schedule that it deserves, for truly there is little in this life that should compete for time with the Word of God.

Russia is building a new military base – right near Israels border

This article has been published by Debka here.

The Russian engineering corps has started building a new base in southeastern Syria at a small village called Khirbet Ras Al-Wa’r in the Bir al-Qasab district. Until now, Moscow adhered to a policy of restricting its military presence to the western part of the country along the Mediterranean coast; no Russian troops were based further east than Palmyra.

The new facility is the first to be established since Moscow’s initial military intervention in the Syrian war in September, 2015. DEBKAfile’s military sources say it will provide Russia with a lever of control over the volatile Syrian southeast and its borders, where US-backed and Iranian-backed forces are fighting for dominance.

Russian forces will also stand closer than ever before to the Israeli border

Russian forces will also stand closer than ever before to the Israeli border – 85 kilometers from central Golan and 110 kilometers from southern Golan, not far from IDF military positions.

The new Russian foothold will be located strategically 96 kilometers from northern Jordan and 185 kilometers from the American and Jordanian special forces garrison at the al-Tanf crossing inside the Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi border triangle.

Placing the new base just 50 kilometers from Damascus serves another primary function, that of securing  the strategic crossroads leading from eastern and southern Syria to the capital – in other words, propping up the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Our intelligence sources note that construction on the new Russian base began concurrently with the resumption his week of secret US-Russian talks in the Jordanian capital, Amman. They are led by Michael Ratney, the special US envoy for Syrian affairs and Aleksandr Lavrentiev, for Moscow.

There were reports on Thursday, June 22 of a trilateral accord reached between the US, Russia and Jordan for creating a demilitarized zone in southern Syria, that would also cover the Israeli and Jordanian borders. DEBKAfile sources assert that no such accord has been reached. According to our information, the Russians put on the table a three-part plan for de-conflicting the incendiary situation in southeast Syria.  We can reveal its main points:

  1. American forces will continue to hold the al-Tanf crossing. In return, they will agree to Iranian, Syrian and Hizballah forces capturing from ISIS – and holding – the border town of Abu Kamal, further to the north.
  2. Moscow will guarantee the withdrawal of Iranian troops, pro-Iranian militias and Hizballah forces from southeastern Syria region at some point in the process.
  3. A joint US-Russian administration will be established to conduct the day-to-day affairs of southeastern Syria, including the areas along the Israeli and Jordanian borders.

Washington has so far turned Moscow down on this plan for two reasons: First, the Syrian army’s conquest of Abu Kamal would strengthen Iran’s grip on the Syria-Iraq border area, the prevention of which is a primary US objective. And second, the Americans want Iranian and Hizballah forces out of the region before any other steps are taken – instead of later, as per the Russian guarantee. This, the Russian negotiators were not prepared to concede.