In July, 1944 as WWII was still raging, representatives of the 44 Allied nations met at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire to create an international economic system designed to govern post-war monetary relations between independent nation-states.
The meeting resulted in the "Bretton Woods Agreement", which set up a system of economic rules, institutions and procedures that were designed around the yet-future United Nations system. Bretton Woods established the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the embryonic World Bank.
Bretton Woods pegged the US dollar to the price of gold and pegged all other currencies against the value of the US dollar. Under Bretton Woods, the US dollar was fully convertible to gold on demand and the price of gold remained relatively stable at $35.00 per Troy ounce.
The chief features of the Bretton Woods system were an obligation for each country to adopt a monetary policy that maintained the exchange rate by tying its currency to the U.S. dollar and the ability of the IMF to bridge temporary imbalances of payments.
In August, 1971 the United States unilaterally pulled out of the Bretton Woods Agreement, breaking the link between gold and the US dollar. For the first time in history, formal links between major world currencies and real commodities was severed.
The action, known as the "Nixon Shock" came in response to America's growing war debt, which resulted in the US experiencing, for the first time in the 20th century, a balance of payments and trade deficit.
By 1971 the Federal Reserve had increased the money supply by 10%, forcing the other Bretton Woods countries into the position of being forced to prop up the US dollar.
(Wikipedia)—To stabilize the economy and combat the 1970 inflation rate of 5.84%, on August 15, 1971, President Nixon imposed a 90-day wage and price freeze, a 10 percent import surcharge, and, most importantly, "closed the gold window", ending convertibility between US dollars and gold. The President and fifteen advisers made that decision without consulting the members of the international monetary system, so the international community informally named it the Nixon shock.
The Nixon Shock immediately caused the US dollar to depreciate. Because oil was priced in dollars, OPEC was suddenly receiving less real income for the same price. The OPEC cartel issued a joint communique stating that, from then on, they would price a barrel of oil against gold.
The Nixon Shock in 1971 was met by the Oil Shock of 1973. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, President Nixon defied Saudi pressure and authorized Operation Nickel Grass, a strategic airlift of weapons and ammunition to Israel.
On October 16th, OPEC announced it was raising the cartel's price per barrel for oil by 70%. It cut production the next day. Nixon didn't back off on supporting Israel and OPEC imposed an oil embargo on the US, Western Europe and Japan.
By 1974 the price of oil had quadrupled. The stock market crashed. The oil shock produced chaos in the US, with long lines, price controls and even gas rationing. But the Saudis began to break with OPEC on key issues, ending OPEC's hegemony over global oil prices.
The US cut a deal with the House of Saud to support the regime and in exchange, the House of Saud agreed to go along with Bretton Woods 2, which continued the practice of pegging the price of oil to the US dollar.
Bretton Woods pegged the value of a dollar to the price of gold. Bretton Woods 2 unlinked gold and replaced it with oil. Today, the House of Saud is both the birthplace and wellspring of radical Islamic terrorism and America's "most valuable ally" in the war on terror.
It's nuts. And it isn't even necessary anymore.
According to testimony given before Congress by the GAO (Government Accounting Office) on Thursday, the United States is energy independent right now. Or rather, it could be, all in one single effort.
GAO TO OBAMA: MORE OIL THAN REST OF THE WORLD!
The GAO estimates that the "Green River Formation"—a vacant tract of federal land where Colorado, Wyoming and Utah come together—contains as much recoverable oil as—get ready for this—all the rest of the world’s proven reserves combined!
Let me say that again. The GAO says the recoverable oil in the Green River Formation is EQUAL to the combined proven reserves of the WHOLE WORLD! (I want to say it again, just because nobody else is saying it, but I will forbear—to let the GAO say it.)
Anu K. Mittal, the GAO’s director of natural resources and environment, told the Congress:
“USGS estimates that the Green River Formation contains about 3 trillion barrels of oil, and about half of this may be recoverable, depending on available technology and economic conditions."
“The Rand Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, estimates that 30 to 60 percent of the oil shale in the Green River Formation can be recovered,” Mittal told the subcommittee. “At the midpoint of this estimate, almost half of the 3 trillion barrels of oil would be recoverable. This is an amount about equal to the entire world's proven oil reserves.”
It is important to understand that Mittal was testifying before Congress, under oath and was not offering some partisan political argument. Her testimony wasn't based on ideology, but rather, on science. But she did point out some of the political potential inherent in developing the Green River project.
"As you can imagine having the technology to develop this vast energy resource will lead to a number of important socioeconomic benefits including the creation of jobs, increases in wealth and increases in tax and royalty payments for federal and state governments,” she said.
What I can't imagine is why the government is sitting on its hands instead of exploiting the chance for energy security and all that would mean for national security?
That is the big question for which the big answer is big money. Big money that flows into US political campaigns. Big money in the form of guaranteed "consulting" jobs for outgoing White House officials.
Big money that is to be made by pretending that alternative sources are a better replacement for petroleum products. But solar power byproducts can never be used to make plastics or nylon or linoleum or trash bags or bicycle tires or shower curtains or lipstick or non-dairy whipped cream.
For that, you need oil. Not windmills. Not solar farms.
This morning, I saw where the Obama administration is about to give $50 million to a Nevada solar farm. The solar farm employs two people. The electricity it produces costs three times as much. And the company itself is not even American!
It almost sounds like a joke looking for a punch line.
We are on the brink of global war, but we’ve been on the brink of global war since September 11th 2001. Our biggest enemies are also our biggest suppliers of a product we could produce ourselves, but we don't want to make our enemies, umm, angry at us.
The global economic situation is unsustainable; we’ve spent all the money in the world several times over and we’re trying to find a way to spend it one more time.
According to the Book of the Revelation the order of events are these. With the breaking of the first seal comes the rider on the white horse, symbolizing the ascension of the antichrist to a position of global power.
It is significant to note that the rider on the white horse carries a bow—but no arrows. He conquers in a bloodless, ie, political conquest. He's not a warlord. He's a politician.
The second seal is broken next, releasing the rider on the red horse, War. This rider is given power to take peace from the earth and “there was given to him a great sword”.
The third seal releases the rider on the black horse, Famine. He symbolizes world-wide economic depression. References to a measure of wheat or three measures of barley for a penny is symbolic of a day’s food for a day’s pay, whereas oil and wine are symbolic of great wealth.
In the Bible’s Great Depression, the poor will suffer catastrophic poverty, but the rich will appear to weather the storm quite comfortably. We’ve been almost there since the dawn of the 21st century. It feels like at any moment, the trumpet might sound.
We are so close that many argue we are already somewhere between the breaking of the first and the third seals.
We're not. Israel has yet to achieve any measure of peace and safety. No covenant has been confirmed. No rider of sufficient stature has made an appearance on the world stage. Not yet.
But what I want you to see is how little it would take to bring all these events into motion.
If you had never heard of the Bible, and if you knew nothing about Bible prophecy, how would your assessment, given the facts presented, differ from the scenario the Bible says is inevitable?
And that's the point.
"And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh" (Luke 21:28).
A new computer virus being described as the most sophisticated cyber-weapon in history has begun tearing through government and other computers in Iran, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian-controlled territories.
Dubbed "Flame," the new virus contains 20 times more code than the Stuxnet virus that infected Iran's nuclear program two years ago, according to Internet security company Kapersky. Stuxnet was previously marveled over for its incredible ability to adapt and alter its attacks, and it was concluded that only a national government would have the resources to develop such a program.
ISRAEL BEHIND FLAME?
Flame is said to contain some of the code for Stuxnet, creating a clear link between the two viruses. Flame may also have been introduced into the region at the same time as Stuxnet, but has remained dormant until now. All of this again points to Israel, which hinted in the past that it was behind Stuxnet.
Speaking to Army Radio on Tuesday, Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon would not give a definitive response as to whether or not Israel was behind Flame, but did say, "Israel has been blessed with a prolific hi-tech sector that opens possibilities in both the business and security fields."
Currently, Flame is believed to be conducting targeted attacks on specific data. The virus collects its target data and then deletes it. To date, most of the infected computer systems are in Iran.
The virus was discovered by Kapersky analysts, who were shocked that Flame remained hidden for so long despite its enormous 20 gigabyte size.
"It’s pretty fantastic and incredible in complexity," Kapersky's chief security expert, Alexander Gostev, told Wired magazine. "It will take us 10 years to fully understand everything."
At the same time Flame was discovered and made public, Israel announced that it would invest an additional $13 million in national cyber defenses. Much of those funds will be awarded to private Israeli companies that can demonstrate innovative methods for dealing with new cyber threats.
Syria’s bloody civil war promises to end with an anti-American outcome no matter which side wins. That is why our Syria policy must focus on America’s Middle East interests and not the latest atrocity. Stay out of Syria.
The news is full of heart breaking pictures of bloody atrocities like the one last week in the Syrian village of Houla that claimed 90 lives, including 32 children. The death toll from the war exceeds 10,000 and there is no sign of peace. Even the United Nations’ six-point ceasefire initiative failed and there are fresh reports the fighting is spreading to next door Lebanon while possibly morphing into a sectarian war.
As one diplomatic effort after another fails to end the brutal violence, the Obama administration changed its Syria policy. The Associated Press reports President Barack Obama is preparing a plan with Arab allies to arm the Syrian rebels. Until now the U.S. remained neutral providing only humanitarian aid and non-lethal equipment to Syrian rebels.
Obviously Obama’s new plan puts America squarely in the rebels’ camp. That’s a radical policy shift given that for the past three years Obama sent a stream of envoys to Damascus to meet with Syria’s President Bashir al-Assad, confident a new start with Assad could rehabilitate the rogue dictator.
But Obama’s naiveté regarding Assad is astounding if not paradoxical. Last year as Obama called for Libya’s Gaddafi to step down less than two weeks after the Libyan uprising, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Syria’s Assad a “reformer” a month after Syrian security forces brutalized unarmed protesters. Meanwhile Obama urged Assad to “exercise restraint,” “respect the rights of citizens,” and “bring about a reform agenda,” but didn’t call for him to “step aside” until more than six months after the regime’s brutality started.
THE “EXHAUSTION STRATEGY”
Now the sides are understandably irreconcilable and Assad is just one among many with bloody hands who must “step aside.” The dictator surrounded himself with numerous security forces and a loyal 300,000 man military which shares responsibility for the atrocities. And his foreign allies are just as committed to his survival as regime sycophants.
Syria is Iran’s best Middle East ally because Damascus provides the Persian hegemon a land bridge to the Mediterranean Sea and a base of operations to maintain a lifeline to its terror proxy Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Iran will do practically anything to keep Assad in power.
Damascus is Russia’s best ally in the Middle East as well. It buys Russian-made arms and permits Moscow’s warships use of Syrian ports and supports President Vladimir Putin’s expansionist vision.
Assad worked with Syria’s allies in crafting a strategy to stay in power. Specifically, Assad uses his security forces to kill and imprison internal enemies and creates regional distractions using allies like Hezbollah to stir-up tensions in Lebanon and others to follow.
Meanwhile, Russia and Iran supply Damascus with weapons, keeps her afloat financially through trade and loans, defends Assad at the United Nations, and presents a credible collective military threat to nations that might consider joining the war against Syria.
Should Assad survive this war he will be more anti-American than before and much more dependent on both Tehran and Moscow. This outcome will bolster Iran’s regional influence, help Russia solidify its Middle East foothold, and make Hezbollah more of a threat to Lebanon and Israel. Surviving also gives Assad a new lease on power to do everything possible to sabotage U.S. interests and facilitate terrorism and harm Israel.
By comparison Assad’s rebel enemies are a hodgepodge of Salafists, al-Qaeda and Syrian Muslim Brotherhood members; exiled secularists, and military deserters who share a common hatred for the dictator. Their cause earned significant Arab and Western sympathy as well as logistical support, but not a single nation has as yet joined the rebels’ fight.
The anti-Assad war strategy is simple albeit naïve. The Arab League led by Saudi Arabia and Western supporters will supply the rebels with arms and humanitarian goods like medicine and food until Assad falls, which could take years if ever. Call that formula an “exhaustion strategy.”
The problem with the “exhaustion strategy” is it leaves the initiative with Assad and could lead to a larger conflict. However, should the rebels prevail, the question everyone should ask is: Who will take power in Damascus?
The evidence suggests Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood is best positioned to take power in Damascus. It is the best organized and already controls the Syrian National Council, the organization created by the U.S. Government through Turkey to lead the opposition movement. The Brothers make no secret that under their leadership Syria will become a Shari’a-complicit country that will be known for being anti-Semitic and anti-American.
What then should be America’s policy regarding Syria? Should America keep Obama’s “exhaustion strategy” that keeps us in league with the anti-American rebels?
That is a wrongheaded approach because it leaves the initiative with Assad, keeps the region indefinitely unstable, and potentially partners the U.S. with an unsavory anti-American group.
However, before deciding on the right policy we should answer two additional questions: What are America’s national interests in Syria’s civil war and what price are we willing to pay to protect those interests?
America’s interests are simple, but not necessarily vital to our security, and not easily achieved or cheap. America seeks to stop Iran’s hegemonic activities in Syria and her support for Hezbollah. America wants the future Syrian government to be at peace with all its neighbors, especially Israel and Lebanon. Finally, America wants to minimize Moscow’s expansionist designs.
There are three obvious alternatives to Obama’s “exhaustion strategy;” only two potentially help achieve our Middle East interests but at a potentially unacceptable cost.
First, America could build a coalition of the willing and invade Syria as it did Iraq. This has the best chance to achieve our national interests but no one is seriously contemplating that costly alternative.
Second, some partners favor launching a Libya-style operation that provides air cover for rebel ground forces equipped with heavy weapons and assisted by Western advisors. Of course any time a nation puts advisors into a conflict there is always the possibility that role could grow vis-à-vis Vietnam and before long the conflict gets out of hand.
Meanwhile, an interim Syrian government must be formed that agrees to eschew Iran’s influence and adopt a democratic government that will live at peace with its neighbors, especially Israel. Keeping that government from becoming a Shari’a compliant state may be a deal breaker but one we accepted in Libya, Tunisia and soon in Egypt.
Finally, do nothing and let the civil war take its course. Don’t provide arms or humanitarian assistance and accept the bloody consequences which will likely be anti-American no matter the outcome.
The third option is the only realistic course as America no longer has the resources to join every war. Syria’s civil war is a human tragedy but one among many begging for dwindling American resources. Let Syria’s neighbors help the rebels if they must, but America should keep its powder dry for wars that truly threaten our vital national interests. And the risk of Russian expansion into the region should Assad survive is real, but will have to be dealt with in other ways.
Although it was barely reported by the world press, another serious Iranian threat was issued against Israel during May—a fresh vow that the world’s only Jewish State will be totally erased from the Middle East map. More ominously, the vitriolic pledge came from the country’s senior military leader, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Hassan Firouzabadi. According to the state-controlled Fars news agency, he told a "defense gathering" in Tehran on May 20 that "The Iranian nation is standing for its cause, which is the full annihilation of Israel." The top military commander added that "threats and pressures cannot deter Iran from its revolutionary causes and ideals," meaning international sanctions and warnings of possible military action against the Shiite regime’s manifold nuclear sites will not alter its jihad war against Israel. He called upon the world "to wake up" to the supposed "threats and dangers posed by the Zionist regime," as if the Iranian regime’s repeated vows to destroy Israel while pursuing a rogue nuclear development program were just plot lines in some science fiction film. The Major General was said by Fars to have "reiterated the Iranian nation and Supreme Leader’s emphasis on the necessity of support for the oppressed Palestinian nation and its causes." He reminded his audience that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said earlier this year that "defending Palestine is a full religious duty," adding "he believes that any kind of governance and rule by anyone other than the Palestinians is an instance of usurpation."
The latest Iranian vow to annihilate Israel came just days before diplomats from the so-called P5+1 nations, the USA, UK, Russia, China, France, plus non-nuclear Germany, held crucial talks with their Iranian counterparts. After two days of discussions in Baghdad, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton admitted that "significant differences" were evident at the talks. Speaking more bluntly, British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters only "limited progress" had been made. He also warned that the defiant Shiite regime would face intensifying economic sanctions and the growing prospect of military action unless Iranian leaders took what he termed "urgent, concrete steps" to scale back their uranium enrichment program. This came after chief Iranian negotiator Said Jalili insisted once again that Iran "has every right to enrich uranium" for supposedly peaceful purposes. Days later, Iran announced it would begin constructing a second nuclear power plant in the south of the country next year.
After hearing the unimpressive results of the latest talks with Iran, PM Netanyahu repeated his government’s position that the belligerent Iranian regime was merely stalling for time as it proceeded full speed with its insidious nuclear weapons program. Earlier in the month, Brad Gordon, a former US government arms control official who now works for the AIPAC pro-Israel lobby in Washington DC, told a conference in New York that Iran has enough uranium already enriched to twenty percent grade to produce several nuclear warheads in short order. He pointed out that although such uranium must be fortified to ninety percent to reach weapons grade, the spinning process to reach that level is a rapid one.
Gordon’s chilling assessment was echoed by the Iran Watch American group, which posted disturbing information on its website revealing that with existing uranium stockpiles, Iran could produce a bomb equivalent to the one which destroyed much of Hiroshima Japan in 1945 in less than two months time. Another American group, the Institute for Science and International Security think tank, said Iran has enriched enough uranium to build five nuclear warheads if refined to ninety percent. The reports came just before the UN’s Atomic Energy Agency issued its latest review of Iran’s nuclear program on May 25, saying the Islamic state is pressing ahead with its uranium enrichment program. It said Iran has produced an additional 750 kilograms of enriched uranium since its last report was issued in February, with monthly production rising by around a third since then.
With this tumultuous region at the heart of planet earth now spinning around at a dizzying pace, it is wonderful to know and worship the One who holds the whole world in His unshakable hands:
"'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope'" (Jeremiah 29:10:12).
Q. I'd like to thank you guys once again for the resources you provide online, good stuff.
Well I had a couple of questions and perhaps a comment. How is it that the more I study biblical topics the more questions I end up having instead of answers. A lot of times I feel anxiety because it feels like everything I grew up believing wasn't 100% correct. I tried going to a couple of Christian brothers but unfortunately they cannot begin to approach some of my questions. Yes I do pray for wisdom and understanding, but I have to tell you it feels more like I get ignored which leads me to my first question.
Throughout the Old Testament we see a Mighty God interacting with man. We see Him talking to them, visions, prophecy, angelic visitations, miracles etc. But today we really don't get any of that. Why does it feel like He hides himself today? Why won't he answer us directly?
The Jews had certain requirements for a Messiah. Why did the Apostles believe Jesus met those requirements when none of the teachers of the day did? This seems to be why the Jews still reject Jesus today.
I feel a little to analytical at times. Is it OK to ask questions from God? I was raised in churches where you never questioned anything just in case you slandered the Holy Spirit but I can't help it.
I think a lot of questions have arisen from talks with a friend who studied theology and basically discredited the validity of the canon (but I have been listening online to you guys lately on the canon) and fed me things like, "How do we know we're not all just in the mind of God and really don't have control over anything?" I also started listening to debates with some good apologists like William Lane Craig but some of the counter arguments seem strong as well.
A. I’ll attempt to address each of your questions in turn:
WHY DOES IT FEEL LIKE GOD HIDES HIMSELF TODAY?
It is important to realize that God is not required to interact with people the same at all places and times. God has a progressive program of revelation and redemption within which history is working itself out. What that means is that each generation is born within a period of time within which God may choose to operate with different emphasis. In relation to what we see in the Old Testament (and Bible in general), I would make several observations. Neither the Old or New Testaments record a steady stream of visions, prophecy, miracles, etc. There are periods in both testaments where “nothing much” of a supernatural nature is taking place. This is the norm for history. We tend to forget how many years both the OT and NT span and so we see quite a few supernatural workings recorded in their pages as if they were almost constant. They were not. Take Moses' 40 years in the desert as but one example. There is also the intertestamental period, spanning several hundred years, during which no prophet arose in Israel—a period which resulted in no canonical revelation. And when one examines the NT, one sees a “flurry” of supernatural activities in the gospels and in Acts, but little mention of the same in much of the epistles—clear down to John’s Revelation in about 95 AD which closed the canon. What are we to make of this?
I believe it has to do with God’s will and purpose. His purpose and means by which He speaks to different peoples in different periods of history adapts to what He wants to accomplish and takes into account prior revelation. In our case, we happen to live in the “church age” and after the close of the canon. For a number of reasons, some of which we are not privy to, God has chosen to interact with our age in a different way. That way is primarily through the completed canon of Scripture (see, for example, Luke 16:27-31). It also appears that God has chosen to demonstrate the faith of the elect as a testimony to skeptics by keeping a people by His Holy Spirit who remain faithful without the need of signs and supernatural direct interaction (John 20:29; Luke 18:8). Thus, we find that the style of God’s interaction with believers manifests differently in different times depending upon what He is doing and what He has already revealed. In the OT, when establishing Abraham’s line, calling Israel out of Egypt and working with the Chosen Nation, we see much in the way of supernatural communication. This is similar to the time of the presentation of Jesus to Israel (the gospels) and the establishment of the Church (Acts). These times are special historically and we must not expect the time we are born into to be the same—requiring God to manifest Himself to us personally in the same way. He may choose to do so, but He also may not.
A resource which you may find helpful on this topic is The Silence of God by Sir Robert Anderson.
WHY DID JEWISH TEACHERS REJECT JESUS AS MESSIAH, YET THE APOSTLES SAW HIM AS FULFILLING JEWISH EXPECTATIONS FOR MESSIAH?
You mentioned, “none of the teachers of the day” accepted Jesus as the expected Messiah. This doesn’t seem accurate to me. Among the “teachers” of Jesus’ day who appear to have accepted Him as Messiah, we could include Nicodemus (John 3:10; 19:39), Saul of Tarsus who we know as the Apostle Paul (Acts 22:3), and probably even Joseph of Arimathea—a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin who would have probably been quite knowledgeable concerning the Scriptures (Mark 15:43).
The “certain requirements for a Messiah” which you mention the Jews as having arise from only one reliable source: Old Testament predictions concerning the nature, timing, and ministry of the promised Anointed One. So the question comes down to why many of the teachers of Jesus’ day rejected him while others saw Him as fulfillment of the promised Messiah? And that all comes down to issues of faith and the interpretation of Old Testament passages. It is important to note that nobody comes to faith in Jesus as Messiah due to cold logic alone. There is the matter of spiritual birth: God has chosen faith (not knowledge, not cleverness, not reason) as the dividing line between those who are in His kingdom and those who are not (John 1:12-13). This becomes clear when you examine the life of Saul of Tarsus. He was steeped in the Old Testament Scriptures, a zealous Pharisee and “Hebrew of the Hebrews” (Php. 3:5) yet he did not accept Jesus as Messiah and intensely persecuted the early church (1 Cor. 15:9). He read the same Old Testament Christians read, but could not see Jesus therein. How then, did he so radically change his view? Was it by careful reasoning in the Scriptures alone? No, He had a conversion experience on the road to Damascus after which he was then able to properly understand the OT Scriptures which spoke of Jesus. Thereafter, He “reasoned from the Scriptures” that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 17:2-3; 18:5,28). Prior to his conversion, he was unable/unwilling to see Jesus in the Old Testament.
This is because Satan has blinded the eyes of the unbeliever (2 Cor. 4:4 cf.John 9:39) such that a veil lies on an unbelieving Jew’s heart when reading the OT (2 Cor. 3:14). This is the veil which was lifted for Paul on the road to Damascus. Adding to this need of spiritual rebirth to understand the OT there is the apparent design of the Scriptures such that they simultaneously extend a rescue rope to the believer while giving the rejector enough rope to hang himself (Mat. 13:10-16). In other words, the Scriptures are written in such a way that they simultaneously uphold the faithful while providing the necessary “wiggle room in interpretation” for the God-rejecting skeptic to remain confirmed in his hardness. The result is that some teachers of the Jewish Scriptures continue to reject Jesus as the Messiah predicted by the OT whereas other Jews (e.g., the Apostles—simple unlettered men) saw Him plainly as the fulfillment.
To see this in action, procure a copy of the Jewish Study Bible published by the Jewish Publication Society and read the orthodox Jewish explanation in the notes for some of the more obvious Messianic passages (e.g., Psalm 22; Isaiah 7:14; 49:1-10; 53:1-12). It is sobering to see how blind these Jewish scholars are to Messiah in their own Scriptures. They simply are unable (no, unwilling) to find the Messiah where He is plainly set forth.
The identity of the servant has generated much debate. Most rabbinic commentators and some modern scholars argue that Deutero-Isaiah speaks here in the first person and that these [verses] describe the prophet’s own mission. Others argue that the whole nation Israel is the servant, and some suggest that an ideal Israel or a faithful subset of the nations is the servant. 
This despite the passage indicating that one of the things the servant will do is “raise up the tribes of Jacob”—how Israel will raise up Jacob is not explained, but would seem to involve circular logic.
The notes concerning the servant of Isaiah 53 include:
...the identity of the servant is vigorously debated. Many argue that the servant symbolizes the entire Jewish people...the nation’s salvific role for the world at large. Others maintain that the passage describes a pious minority within the Jewish people...Other scholars argue that the servant in this passage is a specific individual...Targum and various midrashim identify the servant as the Messiah, but this suggestion is unlikely, since nowhere else does Deutero-Isaiah refer to the Messiah, and the absence of a belief in an individual Messiah is one of the hallmarks of Deutero-Isaiah’s outlook (in contrast to that of First Isaiah). 
This would be laughable if it wasn’t tragic: the main evidence given that Messiah is not likely to be found in Isaiah 53 is that Deutero-Isaiah  never refers to Messiah anywhere else—so long as you read Him out of Isaiah 49 and other passages as they have conveniently done! Of course one would be hard-pressed to describe how the suffering of the nation of Israel serves to save the world at large, especially in light of Psalm 49:6-8. 
The reason the majority of Jews still reject Jesus today is not because He fails to fulfill the Old Testament passages, but because they have been blinded in confirmation of their hardness of heart (Rom. 11:7-10). This blindness is in part and temporary (Rom. 11:25-29). A day is coming when there will be a great spiritual revival among the Jews and the situation we see from the time of Jesus to today will be greatly changed (Eze. 37).
IS IT OK [FOR BELIEVERS] TO ASK QUESTIONS OF GOD?
In a word: YES. Especially in the case of a person who was raised in the Church, but has not necessarily made faith their own—having believed things but not really having tested their belief and known more extensively why they are to be believed. Besides all that, God is omniscient so He isn’t impressed by unasked questions which we genuinely have in our heart. On the other hand, someone who considers themselves to be a Christian of many years should get beyond basic questions of philosophy and world view (for example, “How do we know we're not all just in the mind of God and really don’t have control over anything?”) if there is to be any hope of growing in sanctification and Christian maturity (1 Cor. 3:1). Such questions have the appearance of sophistication when doled out by the dozen by secular university professors on unprepared students, but ultimately are mainly distractors which serve the same role as Genesis 3:1. Somewhere along the line, the true Christian reaches a point of confidence in God’s Word whereby he accepts “God has said” and doesn’t waste time replaying things which the Scriptures very clearly define in unambiguous terms. Sure, there will always be some ambiguity in areas, but basic aspects of faith, salvation, history, and purpose are clearly set forth in the Word. Continuing to question these would be possible signs that a person is not truly born again. As any parent, God is patient with our questions so long as they are genuine and respectful. But if we get to a point where we are siding more with skeptics than with the guidelines for the faithful set forth in Scripture, then there is nothing that says God has to continue to put up with our toying with His precious truths—and we are likely to find ourselves under discipline (if believers) or leaving the faith (having never truly known Him, Mat 7:23).
Concerning your friend who studied theology who is leading you to question the canon and your faith—this doesn’t surprise me. Many young men and women have been shipwrecked by studying theology in academic institutions. Having earned a doctorate in Theology, I am not against education: ignorance never glorified God. But I am also keenly aware that “theological inquiry,” often at a seminary, can be a well-worn path to apostasy. Remember that Satan is the god of this age—and that includes education and many campuses of theological training. In fact, some of the most dangerous influences in theology today come from professors at such institutions. Should this surprise us? No: it is just what we saw in Jesus’ day concerning many of the Pharisees and Sadducees. This is also one reason why the majority of the men chosen by Jesus were from simple professions (with the notable exception of Paul). The simple fact is that erudition and academic pride cannot be trusted with the “faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” This is one reason that I am personally thankful that I didn’t attend seminary earlier in my life before I had sufficient exposure to higher education in other fields (electrical and software engineering) to become familiar with some of the biases. The plain fact is that it might have been dangerous. Of course I was an unbeliever until age 34 so this opportunity didn’t present itself. At the risk of repeating myself: God has chosen faith as the dividing factor between the lost and the saved. Not education, not sophistication, not mental prowess, not information, not communication skills, not personal charisma, not debate skills. He simply will not allow us to sidestep the exercise of faith. This is not to say that our faith is irrational, but simply that the Bible teaches that our mental (indeed all our) faculties are under the sway of sin and unable to function in regard to accommodating spiritual truth without the aid of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14). This is the basis for the presupposition in “presuppositional apologetics.” We have a choice. We can start in one of two places: 1) we are equipped with a free-ranging and functional mind of inquiry which can reliably determine truth from evidence alone—which we use to evaluate reality and come to truth; 2) having been born again, we accept the Scriptures which teach our inability to reason to the truth on our own due to the ravages of sin so we must begin with Scripture and evaluate reality through that lens. A person can spend a lot of valuable time starting at #1 and never reaching reliable conclusions instead of starting at #2 and truly making progress growing in Christian maturity and effectiveness.
In closing: are you attending a Christian fellowship regularly? I would think these questions could be engaged by most of the pastors I’m aware of. I would advise taking them up in person with your pastor or elders as that is one of the reasons God puts us in a local fellowship.
 Adele Berlin, Marc Zvi Brettler, The Jewish Study Bible (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2004), Isa. 49:1-6.  Ibid., Isa. 53.  The author of the notes has adopted the notion that Isaiah was written by two different authors known as First and Deutero Isaiah. Jesus contradicts this idea (John 12:28 cf.John 12:39-40).  An alternate interpretation seems more reasonable: Can you think of a Jewish individual known to history who experienced what is described in this passage? A Jewish individual who died in association with the salvation of the world but who lived again? Pretty tough questions to answer for some I guess. Hint: He is related to the B.C./A.D. notation lately superseded by the use of B.C.E. and C.E.
When was the last time the leader of a country with fewer than eight million citizens made the cover of Time magazine?
“Time Magazine devoted its lead story to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is featured on the cover of the renowned publication, under the heading ‘King Bibi,’” reports Ynet News. “Underneath the heading, in the article, titled ‘Bibi’s choice,’ author Richard Stengel describes Netanyahu’s unshakable political stature, writing that he ‘is poised to become the longest-serving Israeli Prime Minister since David Ben-Gurion, the founding father of Israel. He has no national rival. His approval rating, roughly 50%, is at an all-time high.’”
It is further evidence that the eyes of the nations are indeed riveted on Israel, the epicenter of the momentous events that are shaping our times and shaking our world.
'King Bibi' Graces Cover of TIME Magazine
The Jerusalem Post reports that “Netanyahu discussed his relationship with the presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, disputing the impression left by a recent New York Times piece that the two have a ‘warm friendship little known to outsiders’ stretching back decades that was ‘nurtured over meals in Boston, New York and Jerusalem.... It was at Boston Consulting [Group] that he met Mitt Romney,’ Stengel wrote. ‘We did not know each other that well,’ Bibi says. ‘He was the whiz kid. I was just in the back of the room.’ In actuality, the article says, Netanyahu has seen Romney only a handful of times over the years and only once this year—when they spoke for 10 minutes during his visit to Washington in March, mainly about Iran. Netanyahu was asked about the cover and Time’s appellation ‘King Bibi’ during a press conference Thursday in Prague. ‘I can tell you one thing,’ he quipped, ‘Israel will remain a democracy, not become a monarchy.’ This was the second time Netanyahu had the weekly news magazine’s cover all to himself, the first time being on June 10, 1996, after he was elected prime minister for the first time. Then the headline was, ‘Can He Make Peace?’ Last month a small portrait of him appeared in a collage on Time’s cover of the ’100 Most Influential People in the World.’”