Leaders of Luhansk, Ukraine, Change Their Official Currency to the Russian Ruble

Leaders of Luhansk, Ukraine, Change Their Official Currency to the Russian Ruble

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Officials in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine have made the Russian ruble the official currency of their breakaway territory, starting today. The move is the latest indication that Vladimir Putin’s Russia is incrementally gaining more control over parts of Ukraine, a former member of the Soviet Union, and that he is making steady progress in his drive to rebuild the Soviet empire.

“The basic monetary unit in the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic from March 1, 2017, will be the ruble,” the region’s Council of Ministers announced on its website on Monday. The council said that the move is designed to “take measures to stabilize the financial and monetary system” in the territory.

The decision comes just days after President Putin signed an executive order saying Russia officially recognizes passports, birth and death certificates, diplomas, vehicle registrations and other documents issued by the Luhansk People’s Republic as well as the Donetsk People’s Republic. This decision allows people living in the two eastern Ukrainian territories to travel, work and study in Russia.

Russia has not officially recognized the two self-proclaimed republics as independent from Ukraine. Yet it has already annexed Crimea from Ukraine and has sent Russian troops to assist separatists in Ukraine. Putin’s new executive order amounts to a de facto recognition and locks Luhansk and Donetsk into Russia’s orbit.

Ukrainian leaders have condemned these actions, with one official calling them a “deliberate escalation” of the Ukraine crisis. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said Putin’s decision to recognize documents from the breakaway regions “fundamentally contravenes the logic of the Minsk agreements.” The most recent of these agreements, called Minsk ii, was signed in the Belorussian capital in February 2015, and called for deescalation in eastern Ukraine.

More than 9,700 people have been killed in the Ukraine crisis since violence broke out in 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Pro-Russian rebels, supported by Russian personnel, later staged an insurgency in the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Back in 2008, after Russia had invaded the former Soviet nation of Georgia, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry said the move signaled that Putin’s Russia had entered into a “dangerous new era.”

He wrote:

Russia’s attack on Georgia in August marks the beginning of a dangerous new era in history. This was the first military strike of a rising Asian superpower—and there will be more! It is critical you understand the meaning behind this attack. …Vladimir Putin … really is the dictator of Russia. He called the breakup of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century.” That gives you some insight into his thinking. He is trying to resurrect the Soviet empire. … The Soviet empire is making a comeback! … Will a crisis occur over Ukraine? That area is the breadbasket of Russia, and surely it is willing to wage war over that as well.

As Mr. Flurry forecast in that article, a crisis did break out over Ukraine a few years later. That conflict is still raging today. The decision of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic to adopt the Russian ruble as its official currency and Moscow’s decision to recognize documents from the two eastern Ukrainian regions show that Russia is emerging victorious in that ongoing conflict. These moves reveal that Russia is “trying to resurrect the Soviet empire,” as Mr. Flurry emphasized—and those efforts are proving successful.

To understand what will result from Russia’s increasing adventurism, watch Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry’s recent Key of David episode “The Prophesied Prince of Russia.”

The Great Flood: Just a Bible Story?

The Great Flood: Just a Bible Story?

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Is this classic account limited only to the book of Genesis?

The Flood is one of the most well-known accounts in the Bible. It has been the subject of everything from Bible classes to nighttime stories to immense research and heated debate. It has stirred numerous expeditions to find Noah’s Ark. Some consider the Flood a historically accurate event. Many others consider it a fable that has been perpetuated for millennia.

Yet perhaps not so many realize that the story of the Flood is not limited to the Bible.

Taking the Bible literally means believing that the Flood was not a regional event. It means believing that the floodwater covered the entire Earth. “And, behold, I even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die … every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth” (Genesis 6:17; 7:4). Aside from Noah, his family, the animals inside the ark, and any aquatic animals surviving the floodwaters, this was a worldwide destruction that wiped out everything “under heaven.” So the Bible does not describe a regional flood.

“And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered … and the mountains were covered … and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark” (Genesis 7:18-20, 23).

This was a globe-covering catastrophe. This is important to establish, for if such a worldwide event occurred affecting all human life, it should be expected that the ensuing generations would have their own memories, records and legends of this enormous event. And remarkably, this is exactly what we find, all around the world. Various descriptions of a great, cataclysmic ancient flood are common around the world. These common ideas point to a common root event. The account of the Flood is not just found among the Israelites, who came on the scene some 700 years after the floodwaters receded. Examining the accounts of other sources from other cultures tells us a lot about the reliability of the biblical record.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is probably the most famous extra-biblical Flood account. It is found on a series of tablets from the ancient city of Sumeria. The most complete tablets date to around 650 b.c., but these are known to be copies from more ancient tablets (parts of which have been found), dating to around 2000 b.c. In turn, these 4,000-year-old tablets are themselves thought to have been sourced from even older material. Chronologically, this puts the Sumerian account quite close to the time of the flood that the Bible indicates.

The Epic of Gilgamesh describes a Noah-like figure named Utnapishtim. According to the epic, Utnapishtim built a boat within which he, his relatives, and all species of animals survived a flood that destroyed all mankind. Like the biblical account, Gilgamesh states that the reason for the flood was human wickedness. Like the biblical account, the large boat came to rest on a mountain. Both accounts describe birds being released to test whether the water had sufficiently subsided. In fact, both accounts describe the use of the same bird species, the dove and the raven. Both accounts record that sacrifices were offered after the flood, and both records say that the men (Utnapishtim, Noah) were afterward blessed.

Gilgamesh differs from the biblical account in a number of ways, but the similarities as described above are too striking to overlook.

Another ancient account of a great flood is the Babylonian Ark Tablet. This dates to around 1900–1700 b.c. The god described on this tablet instructed Atra-hasis to build a boat for himself and the animals to survive an imminent flood. It also specifically states that the animals entered the boat two-by-two. The Bible records the identical fact: the animals boarded in pairs (Genesis 7:2, 8-9). The Ark Tablet also differs from the biblical account (for instance, it describes the boat as perfectly round in shape), yet the commonality with the Bible is remarkable.

There is the Greek myth of Deucalion. The myth states that after human beings were created, they disobeyed the gods. It was decided that they should be destroyed. The righteous Deucalion and his wife were spared in an ark from the flood that destroyed mankind. Deucalion’s ark landed on a mountain, and after surviving the flood, he offered sacrifices. Interestingly, Deucalion’s great-grandson was Ion. Ion compares to Noah’s grandson Javan, whose name is actually spelled with the Hebrew letters I/E, O, N.

The ancient Chinese told many myths about floods, some describing the waters as “reaching heaven.” In some of these legends, the main character is a female named Nüwa (a strikingly similar name to Noah). She repopulates the Earth and repairs the broken heavens. In imagery invoking the rainbow of Genesis, Nüwa patches the damaged sky by smelting stones of five colors. Then there’s the Hindu tale of Manu, who is warned about a flood and builds a boat to contain the seeds of life with which to repopulate the Earth. His boat, tugged by a fish, comes to rest on a mountaintop, and Manu performs a sacrifice. You can read further of Irish and Welsh flood myths, Finnish and Norse blood-deluge myths, numerous African flood myths, Pacific flood myths, and ancient American flood myths.

This begs the question: How did all of these completely different peoples, all over the globe, get the same general—and sometimes very specific—ideas?

In “Why Does Nearly Every Culture Have a Tradition of a Global Flood?, John Morris, Ph.D., described his collection and analysis of more than 200 accounts of floods, originally reported by missionaries, anthropologists and ethnologists. He wrote:

While the differences are not always trivial, the common essence of the stories is instructive, as compiled below:

  • Is there a favored family? 88%
  • Were they forewarned? 66%
  • Is flood due to wickedness of man? 66%
  • Is catastrophe only a flood? 95%
  • Was flood global? 95%
  • Is survival due to a boat? 70%
  • Were animals also saved? 67%
  • Did animals play any part? 73%
  • Did survivors land on a mountain? 57%
  • Was the geography local? 82%
  • Were birds sent out? 35%
  • Was the rainbow mentioned? 7%
  • Did survivors offer a sacrifice? 13%
  • Were specifically eight persons saved? 9%
  • Morris concluded his article by writing:

    The only credible way to understand the widespread, similar flood legends is to recognize that all people living today, even though separated geographically, linguistically and culturally, have descended from the few real people who survived a real global flood, on a real boat which eventually landed on a real mountain. Their descendants now fill the globe, never to forget the real event.

    The deduction is straightforward and sound. A common idea points to a common experience. And the concept of a great flood must be one of the most common in human history. Many scoff at the biblical story of the Flood, yet its account has been preserved by so many ancient civilizations around the Earth. Dismissal of this event out of hand would be either naïve or intellectually dishonest.

    What must have happened to trigger the recording of such stories? Perhaps a great worldwide flood really did happen—one that would have thus left a significant historical and cultural mark on all mankind afterward—not just the Israelites. And if the Bible is right about the great Flood, what else is it right about?

    This article was originally published on Watch Jerusalem.

    Japan Opens Door to Third Term for Prime Minister Shinzō Abe

    Japan Opens Door to Third Term for Prime Minister Shinzō Abe

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    Would an extra three years enable Abe to amend Japan’s constitution?

    The stability that Prime Minister Shinzō Abe has given Japan is an anomaly in the past three decades of instability. For that reason, Abe’s ruling party is eager to keep him in office. Consequently, on Sunday, the party announced it would extend the term limits for its leaders, meaning Prime Minister Abe may become Japan’s longest-serving postwar leader.

    This move is not a behind-closed-doors totalitarian takeover of the Japanese government that you might suspect if you saw the same event occur in an African dictatorship. It involves no change of Japanese law, merely a change in party policy. According to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s (ldp) previous policies, Prime Minister Abe would have to step down as leader of the party after two three-year terms. The policy was introduced in 1980, when Prime Minister Eisaku Sato’s eight-year service from 1964 to 1972 was criticized for concentrating too much power in one man. The ldp has simply to make an internal decision, well within its power, to extend that limit to three terms—or nine years.

    However, as a Japan Times editorial pointed out, “given the ldp’s long hold on power, its rules on presidential terms effectively determine the tenure of the prime minister.” Since 1955, the ldp has dominated politics so thoroughly that it has only given up leadership of the nation twice in 62 years. The Japan Times, writing while the party discussed the change last September, continued:

    Party elders involved in the discussions deny that they’re merely seeking to keep Abe at the helm. … One point about the ldp presidency rules should be sorted out. When Abe was reelected party chief a year ago, the rule at that point dictated that the new three-year term he was given was going to be his last. It must have been the understanding of ldp lawmakers who either supported his reelection or who gave up challenging him that he would not be running again in 2018. Altering this regulation now—and making it applicable to Abe—smacks of changing the rules in the middle of the game.

    A note for the Western reader. The name Liberal Democratic Party might give one the impression Abe’s party leans left. Not so. (Our article “The Cryptic Nationalist Group Steering Japan” from the March Trumpet magazine explains the party’s roots.) One of the ldp’s three factions is the nationalist Japan Democratic Party. Its minister of defense (among many others), Tomomi Inada, visits the Yasukuni Shrine: a war memorial which, when visited, causes outrage from the surrounding Asian nations because of the number of war criminals enshrined there.

    Abe’s party has been the driving force behind recent changes in the interpretation of the Japanese Constitution. Although Japan is considered a “pacifist” nation because of Article 9 in its Constitution, which “forever renounce[s] war as a sovereign right,” it now has troops stationed in South Sudan. Prime Minister Abe is the most powerful supporter of further changes to the Constitution. There are dissenters within the party of course, but on a whole, the ldp adopts a policy principle of “taking a practical step towards proposing amendments to the Constitution.”

    As the term-limit extension was announced, Agence France-Presse reported Abe asking: “The ldp will lead concrete discussion towards proposing amendments to the Constitution. This is the ldp’s historic role, isn’t it?”

    In effect, the term-limit extension will give Abe the chance to push ahead with the ldp’s “historical role”—that is, lifting Japan from pacifism and re-creating the nation as a proactive military power.

    If Abe runs for another term and is successful, he could be prime minister until 2021. No one can tell whether he will last that long or whether he will be able to push forward with his constitutional changes. Scandals surrounding his wife, Akie, have been growing, and there’s no telling whether they will catch hold. Nevertheless, Abe’s popularity is still at 60 percent levels, and the party trusts that he is the one to lead the transition nation. The extra three years would give Japan’s “constitutional scholars” time to reinterpret some more clauses, and the ldp time to normalize and extend the use of Japan’s (fictional) “Self-Defense” Force. Maybe Shinzo Abe will be the man to finally push through historic changes on Article 9. Maybe it will be someone else. What is sure, is that Japan’s ultra-dominant party, the ldp, is in line with Abe’s vision.

    The above-mentioned article from the March Trumpet quoted Herbert W. Armstrong’s forecast that “Japan would awake from its postwar slumber, cast off the pacifism the U.S. imposed on it, and return to formidable militarism” (Plain Truth, March 1971). Mr. Armstrong continued:

    Japan today has no military establishment. But we should not lose sight of the fact that Japan has become so powerful economically that it could build a military force of very great power very rapidly.

    “Fearmongering!” no doubt, was the accusation of many when they read that in 1971. It’s no longer far-fetched. Many Japanese politicians are putting forward the same proposals themselves. Whether Prime Minister Abe will be the one to make a militaristic Japan a reality is still to be seen. But the term-limit extension will give him a few more years to make it happen. Readers of the Trumpet will do well to continue watching Japan’s transition. If you don’t know why the Trumpet watches this trend, read “Why the Trumpet Monitors Japan’s March Away From Pacifism and Toward Militarism.”

    Can President Trump Fracture the Russia-China Power Bloc?

    Can President Trump Fracture the Russia-China Power Bloc?

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    The election of United States President Donald Trump generated optimism among some pundits that he may be able to ease strained U.S.-Russia relations. The relations had taken a turn for the worse in 2014 after Russia unilaterally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and sent its military into eastern parts of the country to support pro-Russian insurgents. The U.S. and other Western nations responded by levying sanctions on Russia. President Vladimir Putin determined that if Western powers were punishing and attempting to isolate Moscow, Russia would instead look to the East, and the Eastern powers welcomed Russia.

    In “Asia Stands With Putin,” Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry said that while the Obama administration was trying to isolate Russia, “at least 3 billion people disagree” with the attempt. These were the peoples of China and other Asian nations. Mr. Flurry wrote:

    Russia’s bullying of Ukraine and takeover of Crimea have exposed Vladimir Putin as the authoritarian dictator that he is. These moves have Eastern Europeans quaking with fear and the Western world deeply concerned. But what about China and India? These Asian powerhouses have made clear that they support Putin.

    Now, three years after the annexation of Crimea, the Russia-China relationship remains robust. But analysts, such as Cato Institute senior fellow Doug Bandow, say that President Trump could and should seek to break that Russia-China bond and pull Russia closer to America.

    “If Donald Trump succeeds in improving relations with Russia, he would have the salutary side effect of discouraging creation of a common Russo-Chinese front against the United States,” Bandow wrote. He said that Trump should follow the model of Richard Nixon’s China policy. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Soviet Union and China were locked in fierce competition to lead the Communist world. Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger used a model of “triangular diplomacy” to successfully exploit that tension and to create an opening with China. This remarkable accomplishment positioned the U.S. closer to the Soviet Union and to China than the two Asian powers were to each other.

    But conditions today are drastically different from those in which Nixon and Kissinger were operating. Writing for the Diplomat on February 23, John Van Oudenaren of the National Defense University’s College of International Security Affairs said that any attempt by Mr. Trump to employ this Nixon-Kissinger model of “triangular diplomacy” would be unsuccessful. This is mainly because the ideological arguments that divided the Soviet Union and China before and during the Nixon era are no longer present. Today, any remaining ideological differences between Moscow and Beijing have been trumped by their common hatred of the United States. Van Oudenaren wrote:

    Both countries harbor intense authoritarian nationalist opposition to Western and globalist ideologies, but no longer share the common Marxist-Leninist political orientation that produced the divisive ideological schisms of the Cold War. … Putin and China’s ruling Communist Party have similar views of the threat posed by Western “universal values” such as democracy and human rights. They see “foreign influences,” which they believe have penetrated their societies through globalization, the Internet/social media, and ngos [nongovernmental organizations], as the primary threat to their domestic grip on power. For China and Russian governing elites, these influences are a Trojan horse designed to spark destabilizing “color revolutions” that produce regime change in “non-Western” (i.e. authoritarian) political systems.

    He went on to explain that both Russia and China have seen this kind of revolutionary activity happening frightfully close to home. For Russia, it was the 2013–2014 Euromaidan protests in Ukraine. For China, it was Hong Kong’s 2014 Umbrella Revolution.

    Both Putin and China’s Xi Jinping view these types of movements as grave threats to their grip on power, and they blame the West for authoring them. Moscow and Beijing view such movements as evidence that America in particular is attempting to destabilize their political systems and undermine their domestic legitimacy. This view guarantees that Russia and China will remain in close partnership.

    As Mr. Flurry wrote in 2014, China has “made clear” that it supports Putin’s Russia. That signaled a new phase in the cooperation of these two powerful Asian nations. Despite the change in the U.S. presidency, that cooperation remains strong today. Mr. Flurry wrote that, in light of Bible prophecy, the Russo-Chinese cooperation carries foreboding implications:

    These Asian powerhouses have made clear that they support Putin. This is a stunning fulfillment of a biblical prophecy! … When these Asian nations—extremely powerful nuclear-armed countries—begin to show solidarity with each other regarding moves like [Russia’s annexation of Crimea], what does that portend for the world? I tell you it is woe to the world. It will cause many serious problems. And it is going to affect everyone. … It is clear that Ezekiel recorded an end-time prophecy for Russia and China and other powers. This prophecy makes plain that Russia will be the leader of this massive Asian alliance. That is a key to understanding this.

    To understand more about the implications of Russo-Chinese cooperation and how it will “affect everyone,” watch Mr. Flurry’s powerful Key of David program “Russia and China Unite.”

    California’s Curses

    The drought-stricken state direly needed rain—but it came in a deluge.
    From the April 2017 Trumpet Print Edition

    After five years of drought, massive rainstorms hit parts of northern California in February. The precipitation brought much-needed relief to a state in the driest period of its 165-year recorded history. Yet in some areas, what seemed to be a long-withheld blessing became a curse.

    The rainwater caused the Lake Oroville reservoir level to rise more than 50 feet in mere days. Engineers opened the dam’s main spillway to prevent water from overflowing the 770-foot dam, the nation’s tallest. The spillway, a 3,000-foot concrete channel leading to the Feather River below, was in disrepair, and the onrushing water carved a 300-foot crater into it, allowing water to spill out uncontrollably and erode earth beneath it.

    At this point, operators faced a dire situation: If the main spillway remained open, the earth beneath it would continue to erode back to the reservoir. This could cause the spillway’s barrier to collapse, unleashing a 30-foot tidal wave from the reservoir. They decided to close the main spillway and rely on the emergency spillway, an earthen channel with a holding basin, which had never been used in the dam’s 48-year history.

    The emergency spillway began eroding faster than expected. Aware of the potential threat, state authorities quickly evacuated more than 180,000 residents living in the floodplain below the dam. By then, the water released through the spillways had lowered the reservoir’s levels. The rain stopped and workers hurried to repair the damage before more rainstorms arrived.

    The dramatic footage of an enormous dam gushing 100,000 cubic feet of water per second and the suspense of an anticipated catastrophic flood affecting Californians in three counties made front-page news. People worldwide learned of everything this imperiled dam represented: political bickering, rural-urban tension, decaying infrastructure built during a decades-old American boom. These were all partially to blame for the situation at Oroville—and for the estimated 100,000 other American dams like it that need repair.

    But for as much blame as has been issued, is it inappropriate to ask what role God may have played?

    Of course, many say God doesn’t exist, or that He plays no direct role in destructive phenomena like extreme droughts, flooding, wildfires, earthquakes and other environmental disasters that have afflicted America and especially California. They insist these problems are simply the aggregate effects of random events and human choice.

    But are California’s problems happenstance? And can they be fixed by improved human choices?

    Do you believe in a God who can actually influence events in this world? Couldn’t He have provided gentle rain in due season that would have relieved California’s scorching desertification without jeopardizing this dam? For that matter, couldn’t He have prevented its searing drought from happening in the first place? Does He not care about such matters?

    The Bible shows that He does care. In 2003, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry asked, “Is California Under a Curse?” In this article, he wrote, “God does punish us with ‘natural’ disasters.” He referred back to an article he wrote a decade prior, which said, “One disaster after another is striking California. These deadly disasters are repeatedly labeled the ‘worst ever’! … With all the disasters that have struck California the past few years, it’s as if the state is under a curse.” That article is as timely today as ever.

    Few people seem to believe this today, but weather disasters are warnings from God designed to get people’s attention. “The God of the Bible is not impotent. He wields the punitive sword of flood and mildew—and also that of drought (Deuteronomy 28:22; 11:17). Sometimes He uses both at the same time in order to heighten their corrective power: ‘And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered’ (Amos 4:7). Notice—this is God talking through His Prophet Amos. God causes these weather disasters! In one region God sends a drought—in another region, floods—and it all happens right before harvest time. And why? God causes it because we haven’t returned to Him (verse 8). Amos is trying to help us see the connection between extreme weather upsets and human sin.” That comes from our booklet Why ‘Natural’ Disasters?

    Extreme weather events are going to worsen in parallel with the worsening not of Californian partisanship, emissions or budgets, but of our sins. Prophecy shows that they will intensify until we admit we simply don’t have the intelligence, time, money or cubic yards of concrete to block them all.

    When the increasing volume and pressure of environmental disasters finally tops the dam of human effort, many people in the floodplain will finally reevaluate just whether there might be a God after all. Then, the religious and the nonreligious alike will be frantically asking: If there is a God, why is He letting this happen to us?

    California went from five years of crisis-level drought to devastating floods in mere days. It’s time we start asking, why “natural” disasters?

    Look in the Mirror

    To remove the blemishes on your character, you have to see them first.
    From the April 2017 Trumpet Print Edition

    You check the mirror every day to fix your hair, straighten your clothes and make sure you don’t have remnants of breakfast in your teeth. But how often do you study your spiritual reflection?

    Honest self-examination is essential to the Christian life. You cannot grow without it. The mirror you need to look into is God’s perfect law of love, and the perfection of Jesus Christ (James 1:22-25). When you study the face in that mirror, you can see what needs to change so you can become more like God.

    In the first-century Church, members in Corinth had become prideful and judgmental. They criticized the Apostle Paul for what they perceived as his weak speaking. Paul responded with a challenge: “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves” (2 Corinthians 13:5). You’ve been examining me, he said; turn that examination on yourselves.

    Examine here means to test, prove or scrutinize to see whether a thing is genuine or not. When you take an examination in school, you are tested on your knowledge and your progress. In a courtroom, when a witness is examined, the lawyer presses him with hard questions to bring out the truth of a matter. If the witness is lying, the lawyer tries to pin him down and expose that. Sometimes we must examine our own hearts, because our hearts are deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9).

    Take a good look at yourself, Paul says. What is going on deep down? Don’t be content with a panoramic view, or with looking only at how others perceive you. Look into the recesses of your thoughts that only God knows. Examine not just your actions but also your motives. What sins mar your character? How can you become more obedient to that law of love?

    This is work. Nobody likes to look at his own faults and ugliness, which is why we shy away from self-examination. It is also why we need to ask for God’s guidance in this process (e.g. verse 10; Psalm 26:2).

    Consider the poem “Self-Examination” by Isaac Watts: “Let not soft slumber close your eyes, / Before you’ve collected thrice / The train of action through the day! / Where have my feet chose out their way? / What have I learned, where’er I’ve been, / From all I’ve heard, from all I’ve seen? / What have I more that’s worth the knowing? / What have I done that’s worth the doing? / What have I sought that I should shun? / What duty have I left undone, / Or into what new follies run? / These self-inquiries are the road / That lead to virtue and to God.”

    Honest self-examination helps you remove self-deception and see yourself as you actually are, as God sees you. It reveals flaws that need to change and areas where you need to grow. Though it can be sobering, it should not be discouraging: It helps reveal a path forward. “Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established” (Proverbs 4:26).

    In your self-examination, give real thought to the kind of person you want to be. Pray about it, think about it, visualize it. Picture yourself a year from now, then five years from now, then at the end of your life. Who is that person?

    Think of the qualities you would like to build more of. Perhaps you want to become more positive and encouraging toward others. You may want to be more wise, productive, passionate, bold, decisive, generous, self-sacrificing and kind-hearted. Make a list. Now list your characteristics that you want to reduce: perhaps negative, judgmental, disorganized, lazy, selfish, petty, oversensitive, impatient, unreliable—surely there are others. Decide on practical steps—even small actsthat will move you in the direction you want to go. Ask for God’s help in following through, and then take action.

    Ponder your most important relationships. Are they as strong as they should be? Consider how to make them stronger, more enriching. Think about the qualities you appreciate in your friends and family, or even that you would like to see more of in them. Then take the initiative to exhibit more of these qualities toward them. Contemplate whether you are giving enough of your time and yourself to your relationships.

    How strong is your sense of purpose in life? Think about your career. Is it challenging you and helping you grow? Does it align with your values? Is it what God wants you to be doing? How well are you fulfilling His purpose for you?

    Ask yourself: What are you really passionate about? What is it about these things that excites you? How do they benefit other people? How much could you help others, even change the world, if only a little, if you focused more on these things?

    Think of your legacy. Give thought to how your children will remember you, and what more you can do to sweeten these memories. How can you preserve the wisdom or other treasures you would like to bequeath to them? “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children …” (Proverbs 13:22).

    These are marvelous aspects of character to contemplate. Failing to consider them can leave you mired in mediocrity, complacent and stagnant, oblivious to opportunity.

    The better you know yourself, the more alert you will be to doors God is opening for you to fulfill your true potential. A true appreciation of your purpose creates a determination to use each day to fulfill it, whatever the obstacles.

    It all starts with a focused look in the spiritual mirror.