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The future of the Middle East

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Israeli security officers patrol at a roadblock near Tzihor junction, about 60km (37 miles) north of the Red Sea resort o Eilat, August 18, 2011 (Credit: Reuters/Ronen Zvulun)

A five-month-old uprising in Syria has led to calls by the United States and other nations for President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Thousands of Syrians took to the streets last Friday; at least four protesters were reportedly killed by security forces.

If you were to throw darts at a map of the Middle East, every country you would hit is in turmoil this morning. Israel is dealing with fallout from last Thursday’s attacks which killed six Israeli tourists and a soldier. On Israel’s southwest border, Hamas is in the news as a result of these attacks. Its official charter, ratified in 1988, calls for the destruction of Israel and raising “the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.”

Further south of Israel, the trial of Egypt’s former president Mubarak will resume on September 5. In the meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood is positioning itself to dominate Egyptian politics. Considered “the mother of all Islamist movements,” it produced Ayman al-Zawahiri, the eye surgeon who now leads al-Qaeda.

Hezbollah lurks on Israel’s northern border. The group engaged in full-scale war with Israel in 2006; when I was last in the Holy Land, I met many officials who assume that another war with Lebanon is inevitable.

To the west, Israel worries about Turkey. The Republic of Turkey possesses the second-largest military in NATO after America and the largest economy in the Muslim world. It sent a flotilla to Gaza in May 2010 that Israel believes was intended to bolster terrorism against its people.

To the east, Israel considers Iran to be an “existential threat”. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calls the Holocaust a “myth” and describes Israel as “filthy bacteria.” He is waiting for the Mahdi, a Messiah-like figure whom most Shiites believe will return at the end of history to dominate the world for Islam. He has told his people that if Muslims would attack Israel, the Mahdi would appear to protect them from retribution. His quest for nuclear capacity, seen in this context, is apocalyptically frightening.

How do people in Israel face a future so fraught with threats? They embrace a mindset taught in the Hebrew Bible: Today is all there is. “Tomorrow” is only a word. A biblical statement I often hear quoted in the Holy Land is Psalm 118:24: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

What about Tuesday frightens you on Monday? Name your fear, place it in your Father’s omnipotent hands, and step into your day with courageous confidence. All of God there is, is in this moment.