Monday, December 24, 2007

The Spirit of Christmas

Every year as we approach the Christmas season, we hear references to “The Christmas Spirit” and the “real meaning of Christmas.” Christmas movies and television specials teach us that the spirit of Christmas is being joyful and generous. They tell us that the real meaning of Christmas is being together with friends and family for the holidays. Both of these explanations are true to some extent, but fall short of the full meaning of Christmas and the Christmas spirit.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel (God with Us).
Isaiah 7:14

To find the true meaning of Christmas, we must return to the origin of Christmas. Amongst the gift shopping, Santa Clauses, Frosty the Snowmen, and other distractions of December, we often forget that Christmas is a celebration of the fulfillment of God’s promise.

In spite of efforts to “de-Christ” Christmas, the baby Jesus remains at the center of Christmas. Why is this infant so threatening to the people of the world? Why have men from the days of Herod tried so hard to destroy and hide the good news about His birth?

She (Mary) will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
Matthew 1:21

The Jews of Jesus’ day expected the arrival of a Messiah, an Anointed One of God, to deliver them from their oppressors and to establish the kingdom of God on earth. Israel, at this time, had been a conquered nation for almost six hundred years. The people had been oppressed by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Romans. They looked to a military and political leader who would free them from Roman rule and make the nation of Israel great again.

They did not understand that a greater oppression came from Satan and his demons within their own lives. This is the oppression that comes when sin enslaves a person’s soul. They did not understand that because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and therefore all are under a death sentence (Romans 6:23). If, at that point in time, Jesus had come as a conquering military hero, Satan would have won possession of the majority of the souls of the people throughout the earth because only the Jews had been given the means and opportunity to seek forgiveness through sacrifices at the Temple.

God’s plan defeated Satan’s aims. If the penalty for sin is death, then God would pay the penalty for all who would accept by the sacrificial death of His only son, Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:28). The beautiful baby in the manger was born to be the bloody corpse of the cross. The baby Jesus was born to die.

Christmas celebrates not only the birth of Jesus, but His continuing reign. Jesus death on the cross was not the end of the story. His resurrection and triumph over death provide us with hope to do the same and to live eternally with Him in Heaven. It gives us comfort and joy in the knowledge that our departed loved ones are safe in His arms.

Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Luke 1:30-31

If you know where to look, many symbols of Christmas remind us of Christ’s purpose in coming to earth and His sacrifice on the cross. The evergreen Christmas tree, which is green all year long, symbolizes hope for mankind. The star reminds us of the star that shined over Bethlehem on the night of Jesus’ birth. Christmas candles symbolize the light of the world, which is Jesus Christ. The Christmas wreath symbolizes God’s eternal and never-ending love. The green holly leaf represents immortality and its red berries represent the blood that the baby Jesus would one day shed. Christmas angels recall the angels that sang to the shepherds near Bethlehem. The candy cane reminds us of the staffs that the shepherds carried. Santa Claus, a representation of an actual Christian saint (St. Nicholas) who was born in Turkey around AD 270, symbolizes generosity and goodwill. Christmas bells, which were used to help lost sheep find their way home, symbolize guidance and returning to the fold. Gifts remind us of the gifts of the magi, as well as Jesus himself, God’s gift to us.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men of good will!”
Luke 2:13-14

Christmas is a wonderful time of year. It is the one time of year when everyone tries to be a little more like Jesus. People everywhere talk about hope, peace and goodwill, regardless of their behavior for the rest of the year.

Many people choose to focus on the aspects of Jesus message that do not require action on their part. But Jesus also taught that we must change and follow Him (Matthew 4:17, Romans 10:9). The baby in the manger promises hope and peace, but the man on the cross asks for obedience and submission.

Today, there are still people who, like the ancient Jews, look to political, military, or even entertainment figures for salvation and inspiration. All other means of fulfillment are doomed to failure. Submission to Jesus is the only viable option (John 14:6). The baby who came to preach peace and forgiveness will one day return as the conqueror that was expected two thousand years ago.

Merry Christmas to All from CaptainKudzu!

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Victimization of Guns

After more mass shootings last week, the usual questions about how Americans can be safe from psychotic killers are being asked. Metal detectors, armed security guards, and more gun control laws are some of the ideas being discussed, but the most obvious solution is to free Americans to defend themselves.

For most of our history, the majority of Americans have been subject to few restrictions on gun ownership. The first modern federal gun control laws were passed in 1968, while some cities, such as New York, placed state and local restrictions on gun ownership earlier. Nevertheless, mass killings of the sort that we are seeing now, are a relatively recent occurrence.

Throughout American history, individual ownership of firearms has been a proud tradition. Frontier families relied on their guns for food as well as protection from predators, both animal and human. The American Revolution was largely fought by citizen soldiers (on both sides) armed with their own weapons.

In fact, the founding Americans saw the need and right to bear arms as one of the most important rights that they possessed. The Bill of Rights, which was needed convince the states to ratify the Constitution, places the right to keep and bear arms as second only to the rights to free speech, press and religion.
The second amendment to the Constitution reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

It has become popular in some circles to ascribe the right to bear arms to government militias and the National Guard. This fallacy can be easily when the second amendment is seen within the context of the full Bill of Rights. The first amendment guarantees the rights of free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and the right to assemble and petition the government. These rights have never been assumed to apply to the government and not the people. Likewise, the rest of the Bill of Rights guarantee individual liberties. The Bill of Rights does not give the government rights; the Bill of Rights limits government powers.

The US Court of Appeals agreed that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right when it struck down the District of Columbia’s draconian gun law in March 2007. The Supreme Court will hear the case soon, but some gun control activists are already calling for the repeal of the second amendment.

The question remains whether the repeal of the second amendment and more stringent controls on gun ownership would have a positive effect on mass killings and crime in general. In truth, there is much research to suggest that the opposite is true.

Areas with strict gun control laws often have higher crime rates than areas with high rates of legal gun ownership. New York City and Washington, DC are two of the most violent cities in the United States and have some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country.

Countries such as England, Canada, and Australia have all seen increases in violent crime after passing heavy-handed gun control laws. Other countries with high rates of gun ownership, such as Switzerland and Israel, have low rates of violent crime.

The reason for this disparity is two fold. Most obvious is that people who obey laws are not the same people who commit crimes. If someone is willing to commit murder or robbery, making the possession of a firearm illegal is not a deterrent. Furthermore, the inability to get a firearm merely means that a predator will find another weapon, whether it be a knife, a chain, a steel pipe, or fists. In fact, after experiencing a rash of knife attacks, England considered enacting knife control laws in 2005.

The second reason is that unarmed citizens are easier prey than citizens who access to their own legal weapons. If a criminal faces the risk of confronting an armed citizen, they are demonstrably less likely to attempt to rob or assault that person. Armed citizens face few of the legal restraints that police deal with. Criminals don’t like this and will often go in search of easier prey.

Forty states now either do not require a concealed carry permit or have a “shall-issue” or “reasonable-issue” law. The exceptions are mainly in New England, Illinois, Wisconsin and California. Right to carry laws are typically met with hysterics from the media and gun control groups. They predict accidental deaths, dramatic increases in crime, and small arguments escalating into firefights. These predictions have not been borne out by reality, however.

Florida first adopted a right-to-carry law in 1987. From 1987 to 1996, Florida’s homicide rate fell by 36% while the rate for the United States as whole remained almost unchanged. Florida’s firearm homicide rate fell by 37% and the pistol homicide rate fell by 41% for the same period. The rates for the United States rose by 15% and 24% respectively. Other areas that have adopted right-to-carry laws have reported similar results. No state has reported an increase in crime after adopting a right-to-carry law.

Other predictions by anti-gun groups have not come true either. Florida issued 221,443 carry permits from 1987 to 1994. Permit holders committed only 18 crimes with guns during this period. One permit holder shot someone following a traffic accident, but a grand jury ruled that the shooting was self-defense. No police officers have been shot by permit holders, but gun-carrying citizens have come to the aid of several officers.

There were two major gun control laws from the Clinton Administration. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 and the Brady Law of 1993.

The Assault Weapons Ban did not ban automatic weapons (“machine guns”), but banned semi-automatic weapons with certain characteristics deemed to be military style. According to the Department of Justice, such weapons were only used in about 2% of gun crimes and made no noticeable impact on crime. The ban expired in 2004 to dire warnings of increases in violent crime, which have not materialized.

The Brady Law established a five-day waiting period for handgun purchases. This waiting period was to be used for a background check on the buyer. The waiting period was replaced by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in 1997. Between 1994 and 1997, 242,000 checks prevented gun purchases. Of these, only 9 people were convicted of illegally attempting to purchase a handgun.

Most police officers do an excellent job and have the public’s best interests at heart. The fact remains, however, that police officers cannot be everywhere at once. Rural residents may be long distances from the nearest police patrol. Even city residents can be placed in a situation where police are unavailable for long periods. This has happened several times in recent memory, such as the LA riots in 1992 and the New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Armed citizens are able to protect themselves in the absence of police protection.

So why is it that when a violent crime occurs that the first instinct of many politicians and activists is to call for more gun control? It seems that guns have actually been the victims of a smear campaign. It is easier to demonize an inanimate object and call for more gun control laws than to address the real issues that cause crime.

If we really want to get protect innocent people from criminals, we should make sure that law-abiding citizens have the right and ability to defend themselves. We should also ensure that criminals who commit crimes using guns should serve long prison sentences without parole. Initiatives to reduce the violent content of movies and video games and to promote ethics and morality would also discourage criminal behavior.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Signs of the Times

The Biblical book of Revelation is most commonly associated with end time prophecy, but many other parts of the Bible contain prophecies associated with the end of the age as well. Revelation is primarily concerned with events during the seven-year period of Tribulation, so we must look to other parts of the Bible in order to find out what will signal the approaching of the last days.

False Prophets and Deceivers

Jesus himself told us what to look for during His Mount Olivet discourse found in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. One of the most prominent signs is the arrival of numerous false prophets.

Matthew 24
4 Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.

11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.

23 At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible.

26"So if anyone tells you, 'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it.

The number of religions is today is staggering. And it is only increasing. Some, like the Mormon Church, are offshoots of Christianity that claim to have access to the uncorrupted version of the Gospel. Others, like the groups led by Jim Jones and David Koresh, claim to be led by a returned Jesus Christ himself. As recently as 2006, news reports indicated that a former convict and heroin addict in Miami is leading yet another cult and claiming to be the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (

In contrast, note what Jesus says in verse 27:

27For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

When Jesus does return, He will be visible to everyone. He will not require a web site or news agency to get the word out! His return will be so spectacular that there will be no doubt of the authenticity of His identity.

Wars and Rumors of Wars

6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.

War is not an uncommon thing on the planet Earth. In fact, during recorded history, it has been very uncommon for the whole world to be at peace without a war occurring anywhere. Therefore, the sign of wars must be a special or different kind of war.

Jesus goes on to say that “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” It has been suggested that this phrase implies a world war that involves most of the nations of the world.

World War I was the first such war that meets that description. The war was fought from 1914 through 1918 and included most of the nations of Europe. The war was also fought on many fronts from Europe to the Middle East.

World War II was an even greater conflict. It was the most widespread conflict in human history. By 1945, there were very few neutral nations left in the world. Fighting took place around the world.

These two conflicts represent the fulfillment of Jesus’ description.

Natural Disasters

7b There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.

As the time of the end approaches, we can expect food shortages and earthquakes to become more frequent and more severe. Famines and earthquakes are also specifically predicted in the book of Revelation.

Today, the number of earthquakes remains relatively constant according to the US Geological Survey. There have been a number of earthquakes in recent years that caused major loss of life, however. In fact, twelve of the deadliest earthquakes of all time occurred since 1900. Two of these, the 2004 earthquake off Sumatra that spawned the deadly tsunami and the 2005 earthquake that rocked Pakistan, occurred since 2000.

Famine often goes hand in hand with war as crops are disrupted and destroyed by fighting. Often marauding armies attempt to starve civilians so that they cannot support opposing forces. As the world population increases, famines may occur more often.

Mass Communication

14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Jesus says that the gospel will be preached throughout the whole world. This indicates the fairness of God in that He gives everyone a chance to be aware of His plan of salvation before He brings judgment on the earth.

This prophecy is now possible to be fulfilled in two ways. First, Christian missionaries have preached the gospel for hundreds of years in many different countries around the world. Wycliffe Bible Translators estimate that a Bible translation project will have begun in every language in the world by 2038. The pace of translations is also increasing as translations are started with increasing frequency.

Secondly, modern technology makes it possible for a single sermon to be heard around the world in real time. Satellites routinely beam television and radio broadcasts to every corner of the globe. Likewise, the internet is another method for the gospel to spread to parts of the world where missionaries cannot go.


1 Timothy 4
1The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

2 Thessalonians 2
11For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

There will be a falling away from worship of God and instead people will believe a lie propagated by Satan. Today we find a myriad of new religions and the renaissance of many old ones. The New Age movement has spawned numerous cults, such as the Heaven’s Gate cult, whose members committed mass suicide in 1998. Paganism has returned with the renewed popularity of Wicca. Eastern mysticism and its variations remain popular. Islam is growing around the world.

The Laodicea church age (Revelation 3:14:22) also refers to a falling away by the church itself. This church is neither hot nor cold, so is rejected by God. Laodicea churches have forsaken the gospel, but believe themselves to be rich. This church has become prestigious and powerful in the world, but has strayed away from Christ. Many churches today fit this description.


2 Peter 3
3First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." 5But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

Increasingly, people are also rejecting religion outright. A number of popular books espouse atheism and attack religion, specifically Christianity. These authors deny the existence of God and claim that religion is the root of all misery on earth. Some go so far as to claim that, if God does exist, that He is bad rather than good.

The attacks of the atheists run the gamut from questioning the validity of Biblical texts to pointing out hypocrisies of self-proclaimed Christians. People who believe in God’s creation of the world are attacked as ignorant and uneducated. They deny the Great Flood of Noah and thus question the future judgment.

Dreams and Visions

Joel 2
28 "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.

We do not hear much about dreams and visions in the western world, but in other areas they are becoming increasingly common. In many Muslim countries, where the preaching of the gospel is forbidden, Jesus is revealing himself through supernatural visions, dreams, and miracles.

Jesus typically appears and gives details of the last days of His life (Muslims accept Jesus as a prophet, but deny the details of His death and resurrection). The Muslim contacted by Christ typically sees a calm and peaceful face that they recognize as Isa-Masih, Arabic for “Jesus Christ.” Often, Jesus is robed in white with His arms outstretched. In some cases, the dreams prepare the dreamer for encounters with other Christians. In other cases, the dream itself tells the whole story of Christ and leads to the dreamer’s conversion. Jesus also frequently refers the dreamer to the Bible.

Although Jesus’ appearance in dreams and visions to Muslim men and women began at least twenty years ago, such reports are dramatically increasing.


Ezekiel 37
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
9 Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.' " 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
11 Then he said to me: "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.' 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.' "

God revealed to Ezekiel that He would one day restore Israel as a nation. Israel is the only ancient nation to maintain its ethnic and cultural identity. There are no more ancient Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians or Persians. Some of these countries still survive in name, but their people, cultures, and religions have changed.

One of the leaders of the Zionist movement that established the current nation of Israel was Chaim Weizmann. Weizmann was a Russian Jewish chemist who settled in Britain during the early 20th century. He assisted the British government in WWI by devising a method to extract acetone, an ingredient in gunpowder, from maize. This discovery aided the Zionists in convincing the British government to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. Thus, Israel’s existence began with the “noise” of exploding gunpowder.

Tim Lahaye, author of the Left Behind series, has called the restoration of Israel “the super-sign” of the approaching end times. Lahaye points to Matthew 24:32-34 as one of the most important verses for determining the time of the Day of the Lord.

Matthew 24
32"Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. 34I tell you the truth, this generation[
e] will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

“These things” in verse 33 refers back to the signs of the end times that Jesus discussed earlier in chapter 24. There are several possibilities as to the identity of the “generation” that will not pass away before the coming of the Kingdom of God. The first possibility is the World War I generation (verse 7).

The second possibility is rooted in the Biblical symbolism of Israel as a fig tree. Numerous Old Testament references (including Jeremiah 8:13, 23:5, 24:5-7, 29:17, Hosea 9:10, Joel 1:7-12, and Micah 7:1) link the fig tree with the nation of Israel. An incident from Jesus ministry in which he cursed a barren fig tree (Matthew 21:18-19, Mark 11:12-14) also linked the fig tree with Israel.

If the blooming of the fig tree symbolizes the restoration of Israel, then the generation in question may be the generation alive when Israel became a nation in 1948. It might also refer to the generation alive in 1967 when Israel regained control of Jerusalem in the Six Day War. Finally, it might refer to a generation of the future in which Israel regains control of the Temple Mount.

We must also ask what Jesus meant when He said “generation.” Again, there are different possibilities to consider. The term could refer all the people living at the time of “these things.” The other possibility is that “generation” could mean a specified period of time, usually considered to be thirty to forty years. It seems that Jesus’ meaning is most likely the contemporaries of “these things.”

Gog and Magog

Ezekiel 38-39

Tim Lahaye refers to the War of Gog and Magog, together with the rapture of the church, as the number one and two events of the end times. It is unclear which of these events comes first, but we can be certain that this war has not yet occurred. The prophecy immediately follows the prophecy of the dry bones in Ezekiel 39, so we know that the war will occur after the restoration of Israel.

Although Israel has fought several wars in its short history, none of them fits the details of the Magog war. Verses 3-6 list the nations involved in the attack on Israel. This list is very interesting in light of recent international events.

Gog is the title of a leader of Magog, which is identified with some degree of confidence by many Biblical scholars as Russia. This is supported by verse 15, which says that Gog will come from the remote parts of the north. Moscow is located almost due north of Jerusalem and has never been directly involved in a war with Israel, although Russia has provided the Arabs with training, supplies, and strategy in past wars.

Persia can be clearly identified as Iran. In fact, Iran was called Persia until 1935. Today, Iran is ruled by Muslim mullahs and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran has made no secret of its desire to rid the world of Israel at any costs, and, to that end, has initiated a program to develop a nuclear weapon. This program could be complete within the next three or four years if not interrupted.

Today, Iran has an authoritarian and anti-Israeli regime and Russia is moving that way. Vladimir Putin recently announced that he will become Prime Minister after his term as president ends in 2008. Putin has killed dissidents, jailed journalists, and curbed freedoms while simultaneously strengthening Russia’s military and bullying Russia’s neighbors. Also, for the first time in history, Russia and Iran have established political and military alliances.

Turkey (Togarmah), Sudan (Cush), Libya (Put) and other various nations of the Middle East and Africa will round out the attacking armies.

Also notable are the countries specifically excluded from Gog’s alliance. Iraq, which has taken part in most wars with Israel, is not mentioned. Currently Iraq is embroiled in an insurgency and is rebuilding its armed forces with a focus on defense. Egypt is also conspicuously absent in spite of being at the forefront of many Arab-Israeli conflicts. Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979.

22 I will execute judgment upon him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him.

The war will conclude with supernatural intervention that saves Israel. Gog’s whole army will be destroyed by fire from the sky reminiscent of the Old Testament destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Needless to say, no previous Middle East war has ended this way.

Times of the Gentiles

Luke 21
24They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

The times of the gentiles started with the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC and continue to this day. Jerusalem was divided between the Arabs and Jews in 1948. The Israelis captured the Arab section of Jerusalem in 1967, but allowed Muslim authorities to retain control over the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site.

Micah 4
1 In the last days
the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established
as chief among the mountains;
it will be raised above the hills,
and peoples will stream to it.

Because the Temple Mount is also home to the Dome of the Rock mosque and under the administration of Muslims, the heart of Jerusalem is still being “trampled by the Gentiles. For the Israelis to violate the Dome of the Rock would mean touching off a major religious war, therefore a major change in the current political situation is needed to end the times of the Gentiles. The War of Gog and Magog may be this change.

The chapters of Ezekiel following the prophecy of Gog’s war contain the description of a temple to the Lord. Given that this part of Ezekiel seems to be in chronological order starting with the valley of dry bones coming to life in chapter 37 and leading to Gog’s war in chapters 38 and 39, it may be that the vacuum left by the supernatural destruction of Gog’s army may lead to an opportunity for the Jews to rebuild their temple.


Matthew 24
36"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
42"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Jesus clearly states that we don’t know when He will return. We can see the signs that He has given us when we watch the news or read the newspaper, but we don’t know His exact timing. All we know for sure is that His return is drawing nearer every day.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “Work as if you were to live 100 Years, Pray as if you were to die To-morrow." I don’t recommend cashing in your 401k or quitting your job unless you get specific guidance to do so from the Holy Spirit. What I do recommend is that you make sure that you are spiritually prepared for Christ’s return.

So what should we do? The answer is obvious.

If you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you should accept Him as your Savior and Lord. This is the only way to assure that you will receive eternal life whether you die a natural death or survive until Jesus returns.

If you are already a Christian, you should follow Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) and do your part to spread the Gospel. Realize that time may be short for our friends and neighbors to accept Christ. If they delay, they may indeed be left behind.

Nelson Study Bible, Radmacher et al, T. Nelson Publishers, 1997
Are We Living in the End Times?, Tim Lahaye, Tyndale House, 2001,7340,L-3338175,00.html
Epicenter: Why the Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future, Joel Rosenberg, Tyndale House, 2006

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Do Human Rights Still Exist in the US?

Human rights most definitely exist in the United States. Although it has become fashionable to decry alleged abuses of power by the government, the fact is that the United States is still the home of freedom in the world. The fact that these people are free to make such arguments is proof of their fallacy.

Those who don't believe that the US is free should look at other countries. In the United States we are free to worship as we choose, but in the majority of Muslim nations it is illegal to convert from Islam to another religion. Our press is free to criticize our government, even if they reveal classified programs in wartime, while Russian journalists who criticize Vladimir Putin sometimes end up dead and Venezuelan journalists can be jailed for insulting President Hugo Chavez. Our opposition party frets about the government's ability to wiretap conversations with terrorists in other countries. In many nations, the government is able to wiretap at will with no oversight whatsoever.

Our government, even in wartime, gives due process to criminals and terrorists who are US citizens or are captured in the US. The opposition wants to extend these rights to fighters captured under arms in foreign countries. The Guantanamo detainees that are often cited by the left are more akin to prisoners of war than criminals. Did we extend habeas corpus and access to our court system to German and Japanese prisoners of war in WWII? Certainly not! And a key difference between the detainees and POWs is that the detainees are not part of an organized army with uniforms, but are civilian irregulars. As such, they are entitled to very few rights under the Geneva Convention and none whatsoever under the US Constitution.

The fact is that US history is rife with examples of the limitations on individual rights during times of war. Abraham Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus, spent money without Congressional authorization, and imprisoned thousands of Confederate sympathizers including members of the Maryland legislature. Lincoln's government even prosecuted members of the anti-war Copperhead faction of the Democrats for disloyalty.

Woodrow Wilson, remembered as the author of the League of Nations, passed some of the most repressive free speech laws in American history. The Espionage Act of 1917 basically made it illegal to criticize the US government or to voice opposition to US participation in WWI. The American Protective League became a volunteer secret police for the Justice Department that informed on dissenters. The Committee on Public Information fed the public propaganda and encouraged Americans to report disloyal sentiments, especially among German and Irish immigrants.

Franklin Roosevelt also had his share of civil rights restrictions during WWII. The internment of Japanese-Americans is common knowledge. Censorship was also common during the war years, along with heavy restrictions on freedom of the press. Before the war even started, FDR had rammed legislation through Congress to pack the Supreme Court with justices friendly to his New Deal programs, short-circuiting the Constitutional checks and balances on executive power.

In contrast, the current government of the US, in spite of an ongoing war and the threat of attacks on our homeland, has not suspended habeas corpus, arrested opposition party leaders, silenced dissent, or failed to abide by court decisions. Instead, any limitations on rights have been remarkably restrained and noninvasive. Those who believe that the US is becoming a dictatorship with heavy restrictions on the Bill of Rights should go back to their history books.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Truth About Social Security

Social Security should not be abolished, but it should be overhauled and fixed. As the program stands today, it is not sustainable in the long term.

Thanks to our "nanny-state," many people do not have any retirement plan other than social security. To abolish social security for these people, many of whom are near retirement, would be disastrous. The government, rightly or wrongly, has made a commitment to these people and must keep it.

On the other hand, the country cannot afford to keep making the same commitment to future generations. Social security is a Ponzi scheme, in which retirees are paid out of the contributions of current workers instead of interest and earnings on their own accounts. Demographics show that social security, like any other Ponzi scheme is doomed to fail. Baby boomers are starting to retire and soon their SSI contributions will disappear. There are fewer workers in subsequent generations, called the Baby Bust or Generation X. At the same time, retirees are living, and collecting SSI payments, longer. Therefore, as social security payments increase due to more recipients living longer, the social security contributions of younger workers must grow larger and larger because fewer workers are contributing.

According to government data, in 1950 there were 16 workers supporting each retiree. Today there are only 3.3 ( . As Baby Boomers retire over the next few years, we may reach a point where each worker is sponsoring his or her own retiree!

Social security is not a very good deal for retirees. A retirement plan administered by Galveston, Texas using nearly the same funding formula as traditional social security provides much different results. Both plans withheld approximately six percent of employee's pay, but the Galveston plan provides returns almost 400 percent better than social security. A Galveston retiree earning $17,000 per year would receive a monthly payment of $1,285 compared to $782 under social security ( archive/200502/NAT20050203a.html). The results are even more dramatic at higher incomes.

Many Americans have learned limited lessons about investing through their 401k or IRA plans. While not guaranteed, the stock market has historically provided much higher rates of return than social security. By allowing private companies to administer social security alternatives, the government would give employees control of their own money, allow them to earn a higher rate of return, and allow them access to the investment expertise of professional money managers.
Government entitlement spending is a ticking time bomb. If current trends continue, social security and medicare will account for over 70% of the federal budget by 2060 ( #11). While the government should honor commitments made to current and near-term retirees, it cannot continue to pay out benefits indefinitely.

Americans under fifty should not count on social security for their retirement. Save for your retirement using diversified funds in your 401k and IRA. Self-reliance is the American way, especially when our elected officials cannot be depended upon to resolve such an important issue.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Stem Cell Update

Political setbacks for stem cell advocates will not destroy or harm medical research efforts because successful efforts have not relied on embryonic stem cells in the first place. For those who wish to pursue embryonic stem cell research, there are other sources of embryonic stem cells.

A fact that is not commonly heard in the debate on embryonic stem cells is that medical advances based on stem cell research have not been based on embryonic stem cells. These advances have been made exclusively by research using adult stem cells. Use of adult stem cells has proved beneficial in over seventy different diseases ( m) while embryonic stem cell research has led to no treatments thus far. On the contrary, embryonic stem cells have been known to cause tumors in adults and be rejected by the body ( m).

Additionally, embryos are not the only source of embryonic stem cells. These cells can also be found in umbilical cords, placentas, amniotic fluid, and cadavers. Many of these sources of stem cells cause no disruption of a pregnancy and no loss of human life. These nonlethal sources of stem cells should be sufficient for research.

Finally, over the past few months, scientists have made advances in creating artificial stem cells. Scientists have already succeeded in turning bone marrow cells into stem cells ( em-cells-turned-into-primitive-sperm-cells.html). Just a few days ago, scientists announced that they are now able to convert adult skin cells into cells that behave like embryonic stem cells ( e/archive/200711/CUL20071120d.html).

The political setbacks for stem cell advocates only focus on government funding for stem cell research. Private research using embryonic stem cells is legal. We should ask ourselves, if embryonic stem cells hold so much promise for miracle cures, then why can the research not be done by private companies? These companies should be willing to invest in research and development of stem cell therapies that would earn massive profits. If private companies don't see that embryonic stem cells hold the promise of cures and profits, then why should the government pursue this research with taxpayer dollars?

There is no longer any reason to destroy living human embryos for research. Adult stem cells provide the greatest success for medical treatments, but for those who wish to continue research using embryonic stem cells, there are several artificial alternatives. If their research is promising, private funding can easily be found on the capital market due to the huge profits to be earned from successful therapies.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Eagles-Long Road Out of Eden Reviewed

I am a big Eagles fan and have been ever since I discovered the band when I was in high school back in the '80s. At one point or another, I think that I have owned all the classic Eagle albums on either cassette or CD. I even had some in both formats.

I was in college when the long awaited Eagles reunion tour happened in the '90s. I managed to get out to see the band live on two occasions. Both shows were great crowd pleasers.

I was pretty excited when word of the new release, "Long Road Out of Eden," was announced. With the release so close to my birthday, I even had a good excuse to drop a hint for my wife to pick it up.

Having said all that, it really pains me to say that the one word that comes to mind when I listen to "Long Road Out of Eden" is "depressing."

The Eagles' most popular songs were an upbeat fusion of rock and country such as "Take It Easy," "Already Gone," and "Lyin' Eyes." They also mastered ballads and slower songs. "Take It To the Limit," although slow in tempo, was a powerhouse. "Desperado" and "Hotel California" were probably the best known Eagles songs.

I'm sorry to say that there is very little of the old Eagles on the new album. The album moves about as fast as a funeral and is just as cheerful. Close to half of the tracks beat you over the head with a leftist, anti-Bush, anti-war message.

I've always been of the opinion that music and politics don't mix well. Movies and comedy lend themselves to political messages much more than music. "Schindler's List," for example, vividly portrayed anti-Nazi themes by showing a tiny fraction of the brutality of the Nazis to a widespread audience. Various politicians are easy fodder for comedians. With music, however, I don't want to be talked down to. I want to sit back and listen, lose myself in the beat, maybe dance a little.

In the United States today, we are constantly bombarded with political messages, particularly leftist ones. We hear them on the news. We see them in the movies and on television. You can't hear a comedian on Comedy Central or HBO without being forced to listen to repeated Bush jokes. The left is finding out that there is oversaturation of the message with the poor results of Robert Redford's new movie, "Lions for Lambs." I think that "Long Road Out of Eden" may suffer a similar fate, once word gets out.

After the break up of the Eagles, Don Henley and Glenn Frey, the two most prominent Eagles had successful solo careers. Henley's work delved into politics and got slower and slower, while Frey's remained more upbeat. Henley did score a few hits, notably "Dirty Laundry" and "Boys of Summer." Frey tackled politics in a more upbeat manner with his hit "Smuggler's Blues." If you like Henley's solo work, you will like the new Eagles, otherwise you will be disappointed.

The album is not a total write-off, however. "How Long" is easily the best track. It is a fast paced, country style song. Instead of politics, it deals with a man thinking about his lover as he runs from prison. This is like the best of classic Eagles and a sure hit. Actually, this isn't really new Eagles, reportedly they used to do this song live in the old days.

Another decent song is "Somebody." This is slightly slower than "How Long," but still fast paced. It deals with the guilt that one feels when they've done something wrong and feel that someone knows. This may have been intended as political, but it isn't overtly so.

The remainder of the songs are slow and forgettable. While they are okay, they really aren't what I would expect from the band that gave us "New Kid in Town" and "Heartache Tonight." Even the effort by Joe Walsh, "Last Good Time in Town," feels more like a hangover.

There are an assortment of love gone bad songs. The best of these is Don Henley's best song on the album, "Too Busy Being Fabulous." It has a good beat and deals a wandering lover, something most people can identify with on some level.

Too much of the remainder is diatribes against Bush ("and when El Jefe talks about our freedom, here is what he really means, business as usual, how dirty we play"), patriotic Americans ("Good old boys down at the bar, peanuts and politics, they think they know it all, they don't know much about nothing"), and the American lifestyle ("music blasting from an SUV, on a bright and sunny day... having lunch at the petroleum club, smoking fine cigars and swapping lies"). If a poltical song is to be successful, it had better have plenty of saving graces, like "Dirty Laundry," which employed humor, a catchy tune, and a good beat. Unfortunately, these songs lack both sublety and entertainment value.

I would recommend that Eagles fans, unless you happen to be die hard leftists, spend their money on the "Very Best of the Eagles," which is also on sale at Walmart. This is another two CD set of classic hits that includes the popular Eagles hits as well as some lesser known, but great, songs such as "Midnight Flyer," "In The City," and "Please Come Home for Christmas." Hopefully, if they make another album, the Eagles, as well other entertainers, will get back to the basics, in other words, songs that people like.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

On Being A True Christian

On a very basic level, a true Christian is simply someone who believes that Jesus rose from the dead and who has made Him Lord of their life (Romans 10:9), but in practice being a Christian means much more than that.

The first step to becoming a true Christian is to realize that we have all sinned and done things that are wrong (Romans 3:23). Unfortunately for us, any sin, from a white lie to mass murder, is unacceptable to God because He is Holy and sinless. Each of us is living under a death sentence because of our sins (Romans 3:23). This death refers to an eternal punishment.

Fortunately, God provided a way out. God first sent His Word in the form of the books that make up the Bible. They told people to expect a Messiah (Savior) who would save them from their sin-induced death penalty. Next, God sent His Son, Jesus, to take human form and take our punishment for us (Romans 6:23, 5:8).

Now it is up to us. God has offered His forgiveness. We only have to accept it. We must believe that Jesus rose from the dead and make Him ruler of our lives (Romans 10:9-13). Becoming a true Christian does not stop there, however. Our faith in Christ saves us, but our faith must lead to action. Faith without action is useless (James 2:17). What kind of action should Christians take?

There are several paths of action that true Christians should take. The most important is following the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Non-Christians who resent it when people tell them about Jesus commonly misunderstand this doctrine.

Christians have the one truth about spirituality and life. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). Jesus commanded us to spread this gospel (good news) throughout the world. If people do not the truth, then their souls are in danger of Hell.

The important thing to remember about spreading the gospel is that people cannot be saved by force. Christianity is a religion of free will. People have to choose to accept or reject Christ. Failing to choose means a choice to reject. The Christian's mission is merely to inform people of the truth and let them make up their own minds.

Evangelism, the spreading of the gospel, is the most important action of a Christian for two reasons. First, Jesus specifically commands it. Second, it is a matter of eternal life or death.
As a second course of action, Christianity has a long tradition of helping the poor and sick. This tradition goes back to Jesus' day and before. Its roots lie in the fact that Christianity teaches that all life is valuable and should be treated with respect and dignity.

Christians are responsible for many of the great charities of the world. The Salvation Army and the Red Cross both have Christian roots. Christian relief agencies provide food for the hungry and medicine for the poor around the world.

A third course of action is the most controversial today. Christians have a duty to affect positive changes in the world. Throughout history this has been done several ways. Christians in scientific fields have given the world many technological advances. Indeed, modern science can be said to have Christian roots due to the fact that Christians were the first to combine scholastic observations with practical engineering to effect change on the environment.
Christians are also responsible for making education accessible to the masses. Many of today's colleges and universities started out as Christian seminaries. Harvard and Yale are two examples of formerly Christian schools.

Christian political activism has also changed the world for the better. The abolition of slavery was largely the result of Christians who believed that all men are created in God's image. The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s was also largely the work of Christian activists. Even the foundation of the United States was made possible by the belief that all men are equal at the foot of the cross. This belief allowed political philosophers to question the divine right of kings and pave the way for democracy.

Today, Christian activists are fighting multiple battles. Christians are being persecuted around the world from Darfur to Iraq to Burma. The Christian belief in the sanctity of life leads us to oppose the killing of unborn babies. The Christian belief in the importance of stable families leads us to protect the sanctity of marriage.

In general, the US and the world are moving away from a moralistic culture to one of moral relativism. As Clarence Thomas put it, people believe that you can choose right and wrong instead of choosing between right and wrong. This leads to a situation where everyone does what is right in his own eyes. This leads to anarchy and a breakdown of society. It also means that Christians have their work cut out for them.

In summary, a true Christian is one who has faith in Jesus and follows the commandments of Jesus. Faith is the key to salvation, but to be a true Christian, your faith must lead to action.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Life as a Fractional Pilot

If you have paid attention to the aviation industry over the last few years, you have heard about the rise of the fractional aviation companies. As the airline world hemorrhaged money, the fractionals gained market share and grew in numbers of pilots, aircraft, and revenues. Today, many misconceptions remain about what fractional companies do and what fractional flying is like.

For pilots, one benefit of fractional companies is that fractional growth has continued, even while the airlines downsized in the years following the September 11 attacks. Today, only one fractional company, Flight Options, is reducing the size of its fleet. Most other companies are actively taking deliveries of aircraft. Fractional hiring has driven much of the commercial pilot job market over the past five years.

Fractional companies can best be described as time-share companies that deal in corporate jets rather than real estate. The concept is simple: When a client buys a share (fraction) of a jet, they become entitled to a specific number of flight hours in their jet. In addition to their purchase price, the owner also pays a monthly maintenance fee that covers items such as insurance and crew, and an hourly fee that includes fuel.

Buying a share of an airplane, rather than the whole thing, allows an owner to share costs with other people, just as a flying club allows private and recreational pilots to reduce their costs for a Cessna 172 or Piper Cherokee. The concept of sharing costs makes private jet ownership more affordable for more people.

Shareowners prefer flying their own airplanes to the airlines for many reasons. They can avoid the hassle of government security checkpoints and long lines. Private jets allow travel on the owners schedule rather than an airline schedule, making it possible to travel out of town for a meeting and then back with minimum lost time. Many owners also travel to small airports that are not served by the airlines. Airline service is limited at best to airports such as Houma, Louisiana, Findlay, Ohio, or Key Largo, Florida.

The stability of the fractionals is a big reason that these companies find it easy to attract pilots. Most fractionals have large companies as their backers. Net Jets is owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, which also owns Flight Safety International. Citation Shares is owned by Textron, owner of Cessna, and Tag Aviation. Bombardier, the manufacturer of the Challenger and Lear Jet, owns Flex Jet. Avantair is partnered with Piaggio Aero, manufacturer of the turboprop Piaggio Avanti. Flight Options is a subsidiary of Raytheon, which builds the Beechcraft and Hawker corporate jet lines.

Even manufacturers of smaller aircraft are getting into the fractional business. Alpha Flying operates Plane Sense, a fractional operator of Pilatus PC-12 single-engine turboprops.
Additionally, many pilots find the fractional work rules and quality of life to be superior to that of the traditional airlines. Fractional pilots are typically paid a salary instead of an hourly wage like their airline peers. Fractional pilots typically earn significantly more money than equivalent pilots, particularly those in the regional airlines. Per diem, a daily allowance for expenses while traveling, is also paid at a higher rate for fractional pilots.

Fractional pilots also have more days off than most airline pilots. Most fractional companies use a "seven-on, seven-off" schedule. Pilots are on duty for seven days in a row, then get seven days off. This means that the fractional pilot will get at least fourteen days off each month. Airline contracts typically call for a minimum of 8-10 days off. To get fourteen days off, an airline pilot would have to be very senior in his aircraft and seat.

Additionally, airline pilots have to bid for their schedules each month. This can make it hard to schedule very far in advance, especially if you are junior. The fractional seven-day schedule can be projected far into the future.

A fringe benefit that is not available to airline crews is participation in hotel and airline points programs. Fractional pilots get to keep their airline miles, and they get plenty since they normally are fly as passengers on the airlines to and from their aircraft at the beginning and end of each workweek. Fractional pilots typically pay for their hotel rooms with a credit card and are reimbursed by the company. Therefore, they also get to keep their hotel reward points, as well as any points that their credit card company offers.

Even with these benefits, many pilots are unsure of what the fractional lifestyle entails. It is a very different world from airline flying and most of unsure of what to expect when they make the transition.

Even from the interview, you will notice that fractional companies are different from the airlines. Fractional companies are much more interested in customer service skills than are the airlines. This is because most fractional aircraft do not carry a flight attendant. Therefore, the flight crews are the employees with the most direct contact with the fractional owners. In addition to the normal questions about your flight experience, you are likely to be asked about your customer service background and what you would do if you had an unhappy owner in your aircraft.

Training is not as long as airline training. Indoctrination (Indoc) takes about a week. At Indoc, new hires learn about the company culture, operations rules, and procedures. This week you learn about everything from filling out expense reports to inflating the emergency life raft.
Aircraft training is typically done through a company such as Flight Safety International or CAE Simuflight. Most companies give First Officers, as well as Captains, a type rating in their aircraft. In the airlines, an FO would not normally get a PIC type rating. A type-rating course in a corporate jet typically takes about two weeks, although some aircraft, such as the Citation Sovereign, take longer. Unlike airline ground schools, you can expect to go straight through the course with few, if any, days off. You will probably even have some days with sessions scheduled in both the simulator and the classroom.

After completing initial training, a new hire will go through Initial Operating Experience, or IOE. IOE is actually flying the airplane on the line with a company Check Airman. IOE is typically two tours, or workweeks. While simulator training is good, any jet pilot can tell you that you learn only the basics in the sim. The real learning occurs flying the airplane in the real world under real flight conditions.

Fractional flying is much different than airline flying. A large part of airline flying is to and from central hubs. You see the same airports over and over. Often, you repeat the same three or four day trip every week for a month. In contrast, fractional flying constantly offers something new. I fly into at least one new airport every tour. While we often fly into small reliever airports, I have flown into nearly every major airline airport in the country in my fractional jet.

Fractional pilots also see airports that few, if any, airline pilots ever see. Teterboro, New Jersey is general aviation's answer to La Guardia. Both Teterboro and La Guardia are very high-density traffic airports with complex approach and arrival procedures. Teterboro is the GA gateway to New York City and easily one of the most demanding airports from which I have ever operated. Teterboro is a place that every fractional pilot gets to know well.

Challenging in a different way are the Colorado airports, Aspen and Eagle. These are mountain airports with one way in and out. There is high terrain on all sides and the Rocky Mountain weather can change rapidly.

Fractional airplanes have no real base. They simply float from one airport to another. When one crew goes home, they leave the airplane and another arrives to pick up the plane. Therefore, a fractional tour normally begins with a trip to an airline airport. The company buys the pilot a ticket to wherever their airplane happens to be. Rarely, you might be driven to a local airport if your airplane happens to be nearby.

Since fractionals are not scheduled airlines, there is no typical day. Even if you think you know is happening, your schedule for the day might change if there is a pop-up trip, or if another airplane breaks. The company has notified me via the satellite phone while in flight to change my destination on several occasions.

The crew normally starts the workday with preflight duties. As at most airlines, the FO is responsible for the preflight checks, as well as obtaining the ATIS and clearance. At my company, the captain files the flight plans (since we don't have true dispatchers), checks the weather and NOTAMS, pays for the fuel and FBO fees, and obtains the flight release and paperwork from the company. Additionally, the FO has the very important "PIC" duties of stocking the airplane with papers, ice, and coffee.

Our first flight today is a "position leg," which means that we will not have passengers on board. We will be departing from Fulton County airport on the west side of Atlanta and will pick up our passengers to Orlando Executive airport in Florida. We depart FTY in late afternoon in order to arrive at ORL an hour before our "live leg" with passengers. We even leave a little early because thunderstorms are forecast in the Orlando area. Over half of all fractional flights are position legs with no passengers aboard.

The flight to Orlando takes 1.7 hours. The thunderstorms cost us time, so it's a good thing we left early.

We arrive in Orlando on schedule and start to refuel the airplane. The FO gets local newspapers while the captain orders and pays for the fuel, then calls our dispatcher to get a release for the next leg. The FO also gets the new ATIS and clearance to Tallahassee, Florida. It's a good thing that we are early because our passenger arrives early. The FO loads the passenger's bags while the captain gets the flight release.

Bags loaded, the FO steps into the cockpit to conduct the safety briefing, a flight attendant duty on all but the smallest airliners. At the same time, the captain is starting the engines. When the FO steps into the cockpit, both pilots complete the after start checklist and the FO calls for the taxi clearance.

Like the airlines, fractional pilots take turns flying. Since the captain flew the first leg of the day, the FO flies now. Unlike airliners, which have tillers for ground steering, the Cessna Citation Bravo we are flying is steered with rudder pedals on the ground. Therefore, after completing the taxi checklist, the FO can take control of the airplane and continue the taxi to the runway. Since First Officers do not taxi in the airline world, you might go years without controlling an airplane on the ground.

After waiting a few minutes for our IFR release, we are airborne and on our way to Tallahassee. This flight is planned at 0.9 hours. Since the thunderstorms are mostly east of our route, we will probably be close to an on-time arrival.

As we get the Tallahassee ATIS, we find that the field is IFR due to smoke from forest fires. We set up for the ILS and conduct our approach briefing. In addition to normal items, the captain, the non-flying pilot, calls the FBO with our fuel order and checks on the passenger's ground transportation, a chauffer driven SUV. With visibility at 2 miles in smoke, the approach is uneventful and we land in Tallahassee. The captain completes the after landing checklist while the FO taxies to the FBO.

Upon reaching the FBO, the FO hops up and opens the door. He then runs around to the baggage compartment and offloads the bags. The chauffer drives the SUV up to the airplane and the bags are transferred. The passenger shakes hands with the crew and rides away as the fuel truck pulls up. While the airplane is fueled, the FO restocks the galley with snacks, cleans the passenger cabin, and dumps the trash. The captain pays for the gas and gives the FBO both pilots fuel reward program information.

Our next and last leg of the day is another position leg. This time we are going to Teterboro to position for a flight tomorrow morning. This leg is scheduled at just over two hours. It's our last leg and we are flying for ourselves, so we gas up, get the release, and go.

By the time we get to Teterboro and secure the airplane, it is getting late. We grab a ride in the FBO van to the hotel. Our minimum rest is longer than the minimum airline rest, so we have time to eat and get a good night's sleep. The captain gets a fax from the company with tomorrow's tentative schedule and starts the flight planning after dinner.

Fractional flying is not for everyone, but for those who choose this career path, life is definitely better than at the regional airlines. Company stability, better pay, more days off, and more challenging work are only a few of the reasons that the fractionals are forcing airlines to become more competitive for pilots. While no one knows what the future holds, it is a safe bet that more and more passengers, tired of bad airline service, inconvenient schedules, and long TSA screening lines, will choose to buy a share of their own private aircraft and join other jet-setting fractional owners.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

UFOs Identified?

UFOs are fact. By definition, a UFO is any flying object that is unidentified. The real question then, is what are UFOs?

The vast majority of UFO sightings have rational explanations. Experimental military aircraft are probably responsible for a large number of sightings, especially in the western US. Natural phenomena explain many more. Meteorites, planets, atmospheric reflections, and the classic "swamp gas" could explain many sightings. Other man made objects like balloons, airplanes, and hoaxes round out some common explanations for UFO sightings. Hypnotic suggestion casts doubt on witnesses who only remember their UFO sightings when under hypnosis.

But if 99.9% of all UFO sightings can be explained, the 0.1% left over still results in hundreds of unexplained cases. What could be responsible for all of these mysterious sightings, many of which involve face-to-face contact with "extra-terrestrials. "

One of the most compelling explanations that I have heard can be found in the book, "Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men," by Dr. Hugh Ross ( Dr. Ross is a Ph. D. in Astronomy who also has degrees in physics. Dr. Ross' theory is that unexplained UFOs may be inter-dimensional travelers that we would be more likely to call angels and demons.

Dr. Ross begins with an analysis of the likelihood of life existing in other parts of the universe. The odds for life arising elsewhere are astronomically (pardon the pun) low. Even if life did arise elsewhere, the odds that they could overcome the difficulties of interstellar travel are even more remote.

The book also notes that the majority of UFO witnesses are people involved in the occult or who are close to people in the occult. Dr. Ross also notes that people being harassed by aliens have often called on Jesus for help. When the name of Jesus is used, the aliens left immediately. Calling on other religious figures such as Mohammad, Buddha, etc., has no effect. The Bible repeatedly shows that Jesus has authority over demons and evil angels.

As Ross points out, if UFOs were a real, physical phenomenon, people who spend a lot of time in the sky would see them more often than other people. Statistics indicate that is not true, however. Links to the occult is the most important determining factor. (As a professional pilot with more than 5500 hours, many of them at night, I have never seen a UFO.)

Additionally, the "aliens" offer religious information that conflicts directly with the Bible, which is the inspired word of God. They often preach Eastern style universal consciousness or deny the fact that all humans will face judgment before God. They have even provided an alternative to the Bible in the Urantia book. Ross notes that evil spirits appear as an "angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14-15), they perform counterfeit miracles and signs (2 Thess. 2:9-10), and inspire "antichrists" to deceive and lead people away from the one true God and ultimately to eternal damnation (Matt. 24:24, 1 Tim. 4:1, Rev. 12:9). There are many UFO cults that do just this.

The inter-dimensional theory would also explain how UFOs seemingly defy the laws of physics. Often they make rapid accelerations to very high speeds and then stop suddenly. The "aliens" reportedly walk through solid objects. They disappear suddenly and leave no trace. Jesus himself could appear suddenly (Luke 24:36-37) and pass through a locked door (John 20:19).

If you are seeing UFOs and aliens, the best advice that is found in 1 John 4:1-3. Test the spirits by asking them whether Jesus is the Son of God who came to earth as a man. If they deny this, then you are dealing with an evil spirit. Seek help from Jesus Christ.

There is much evidence that UFOs are more than a myth. The question is whether they are a help or a hindrance, good or evil. Don't believe everything you hear, even if you hear it from an alien.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Power of Tax Cuts

Tax cuts are commonly misunderstood. Many new commentators and politicians refer to tax cuts as "costing" the country money or say that the country is not able to "afford" tax cuts. This view is overly simplistic and is not supported by economic data.

First, the money from the tax cuts is viewed as government money being given back to the taxpayers. In reality, tax cuts allow taxpayers to keep money that they government would have otherwise appropriated. People get to keep what they earn instead of giving it to the government.

Second, it is usually not realized that tax cuts often generate more revenue that tax increases. Presidents Reagan and Bush (41) both cut taxes. In both cases, tax revenues increased. Also in both cases, the economy grew much more strongly after the tax cuts than before. During both periods, inflation and unemployment fell to very low levels and the economy recovered from recessions.

To understand why tax cuts work, consider a tax as a punishment for something. For example, a tobacco tax is a punishment for smoking. It is assumed that if the price of tobacco rises, then fewer people will smoke. While that theory does not take addiction into account, it is true to some limited extent.

Taxes on income work the same way. If the government takes an increasingly large share of your take-home pay when you earn more money, some of the incentive to earn more money is lost. Similarly, dividend taxes encourage people to do something other than invest their money in stocks and mutual funds. Capital gains taxes discourage capital investment and entrepreneurship.

On the other hand, if taxes are decreased, then you keep more of the money that you make. By keeping more of every dollar that you earn, you have the incentive to work more to earn more. Low dividend taxes encourage more savings and investment. Lower capital gains taxes encourage people to invest in the economy.

Increased investing is probably one of the most important facets of tax cuts. Investing isn't just for the wealthy. If you have a 401k or a mutual fund, you are an investor. By putting more money into the nation's businesses, the economy grows. As businesses grow, they earn more profits and have to hire more workers. The government reaps the benefits of taxes on the profits and the income of the new employees.

If this doesn't sound right to you, ask yourself what a local government does when they try to attract a business to their area. Often they give the business a package of incentives that includes a lower tax rate. When a business pays lower taxes, they have more money to hire workers, research new ideas, market new products, pay their stockholders, or give to charities within the community.

Tax increases do the opposite. Money that could be invested in private industry is instead sent to the government. This causes the economy to contract and growth to slow. An example of this was when President George Herbert Walker Bush agreed with Congress on a tax increase in 1990. This led to a recession and ultimately cost the first President Bush his re-election campaign.

Does that mean that the rich and the corporations are not paying their fair share of the nation's tax burden? Not at all. According to the most recent data available (2005), the top 1% of taxpayers pay 39% of all taxes. The top 5% pay 59%. The top 10% pay 70% and the top 50% of taxpayers pay over 96% of all taxes. That means that the bottom 50% of taxpayers pay only slightly more than 3% of taxes.

History has proven time and again that raising taxes slows the economy and can often lead to a recession and lost tax revenues and jobs. Cutting taxes does the opposite. It spurs the economy and helps create jobs. Most importantly, tax cuts keep more money in our pockets instead of the government's.

Our tax code is complex and badly in need of a complete overhaul. Until it can replaced with something simpler, easier to understand, and more friendly to business and investment, and ultimately, the taxpayers, keeping the tax cuts in force is the next best thing.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Is the US Destined for a Nuclear Attack?

The odds are that not in our favor when it comes to the possibility of a nuclear attack on the United States. The bottom line is that with nuclear weapons technology becoming more and more common, sooner or later it will end up in the hands of the wrong person or group.
The US has a longstanding policy of enforcing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and attempting to keep the technology out of the hands of countries that may supply it to terrorist groups. However, it is increasingly difficult to prevent nations such as North Korea and Iran from building nuclear weapons. Short of war there is simply no way to force a sovereign nation to do something that its leaders do not want to do.

Sanctions may be used to try and persuade leaders towards our point of view, but they have weaknesses. First off, even if sanctions are successful, they make take years to work. Before they have time to work, it may be too late. Sanctions are not likely to succeed if other nations do not join them. Frequently, our adversaries in Russia and China thwart our attempts at successful sanctions and negotiations. Finally, even if sanctions are imposed, despotic governments are insulated from economic pressures and public opinion. All too often, the people suffer but the government and military do not.

If we cannot prevent rogue nations from arming themselves with nuclear weapons indefinitely, then our second line of defense is to prevent them from using them on US soil. We should immediately step up efforts at border security to ensure that foreign agents are not able to enter the US with a nuclear weapon illegally. Increased efforts at radiation detection in our international ports and airports is also necessary to ensure that a nuclear weapon is not smuggled through customs.

North Korea and Iran are also pursuing research projects to create ballistic missiles that could reach the friendly nations of Europe, East Asia, Israel, and possibly even the United States itself. For that reason, we must proceed with research, development and deployment of an anti-ballistic missile defense system. Anti-military groups have long opposed such systems, but to be secure against a missile attack from a suicidal national leader they are an absolute must. Such systems will not be 100% effective at the outset, but will become better and better as the technology matures.

All the planning and preparations in the world will not guarantee that a nuclear attack will never take place. Therefore, every American must be prepared to survive the aftermath of a nuclear attack. Emergency supplies such as food, water, batteries, battery powered radios, and first aid kits are valuable for both nuclear attacks and natural disasters. Recent disasters should teach us that we must be prepared to save ourselves for at least a short time.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Are American Civil Liberties Threatened?

The NSA and other US intelligence agencies exist to protect the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic. It has become fashionable to opine that civil liberties are deteriorating in the United States, but that is a notion not supported by fact.

Contrary to what many people believe, the US government has no interest in your personal phone calls, email, library books, or other aspects of your personal life unless you are communicating with known terrorists or planning a terrorist attack yourself. The surveillance programs are aimed at the very real threat of terrorist cells, both those abroad and hidden among us, not your plans for the weekend or your conversations with your spouse.

The NSA's so-called "warrantless wiretap" program is actually on solid legal ground. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 provided a secret court to issue warrants for surveillance. It also specifically allows the President to authorize warrantless wiretaps if "there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party". (50 U.S.C. 1802(a)(1)). Additionally, FISA also contains a provision that states that FISA is to apply "unless authorized by statute."

Congress' Authorization To Use Military Force Against Terrorist provides just such a statutory exception. The Authorization states in part that the president may "use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons." Such an authorization would reasonably include intelligence gathering operations to prevent future attacks.

The Bush Administration advised members of both parties of Congress about the nature of the surveillance program. In doing so, they complied with their duty to notify Congress under the National Security Act of 1947. These notifications also seem to indicate that the Bush Administration fully believed that the program was legal. A Congressional Research Service report states that limited notifications were permitted to protect intelligence gathering methods.
It is also interesting to note that none of the members of Congress who were notified were reported to have any problems with the surveillance program prior to its publication in the New York Times.

The Bush Administration is caught between a rock and a hard place with their critics. When an attack occurs, they are criticized for intelligence failures and for not doing enough to stop the terrorists. When they do take strong and decisive actions to go on the offensive against the terrorists, they are criticized for curtailing civil liberties.

The NSA's domestic surveillance programs are not a threat to civil liberties, but a valuable tool in the war against the terrorists. Making these programs public was a great disservice to the nation and makes it harder for our military and law enforcement personnel to do their jobs. I would be much more concerned if our government were not listening on the conversations of terrorists.

source: ss_surveillance_controversy

Monday, October 29, 2007

Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth

The inconvenient truth is that Al Gore's movie is way off base. The film has lost enough of its credibility that a British court recently ruled that it cannot be shown in schools without a disclaimer detailing its political bias.

The most damning scientific flaw in Gore's movie is his claim that of a link between global temperatures and carbon dioxide levels. There is a link, but, unfortunately for Gore's believers, it is not as he suggests. In truth, increased carbon dioxide levels come about 800 years after increases in temperature. If the temperature changes first, then how can CO2 be the cause of the temperature change?

In fact, carbon dioxide isn't even the most prevalent greenhouse gas in our atmosphere. Water vapor actually causes from 36-70% of the earth's greenhouse effect.

Gore's claims that the earth is hotter than ever before also do not bear scrutiny. Environmentalists have cited NASA data that showed that 1998 was the warmest year on record, but that was recently revealed to be untrue. Steven McIntyre, of the Climateaudit blog, determined that NASA's algorithm used to determine the hottest year had been corrupted by the Y2K bug. NASA corrected their figures (without a press release of any kind) and 1934 is now officially the hottest year on record. Five of the ten hottest years are now known to be before WWII.

Further giving lie to Gore's claims is the Medieval Warm Period. The Medieval Warm Period occurred from AD 800-1300. In this era, the glaciers shrank enough that the Vikings were able cultivate parts of Greenland. Parts of North America suffered severe droughts. Radiocarbon dating from the Sargasso Sea showed sea temperatures 1 degree celsius warmer than today. Alaska has been through three separate warm periods in the last two thousand years.
Following the Medieval Warm Period, the world entered the Little Ice Age. During the Little Ice Age, the Sargasso Sea was about 1 degree celsius cooler than today. This ice age lasted until the middle of the 19th century when the world entered a warming cycle, which we are still in today.
Gore also ignores the scientific advances of the last fifty years. Certainly there are more cars and factories operating today than in past decades, but today's technology makes them burn more cleanly than the fewer cars of old.

If man made carbon dioxide emissions are not causing the earth's warming, then what is? The answer may be the sun. A 2001 article in Nature describes the relationship between the sun and the ratio of oxygen-18 to the more common oxygen-16 molecule. Over a period of 3000 years, the authors of the study found a direct correlation between the intensity of cosmic rays striking the earth's atmosphere and the earth's temperature ( e.asp?year=2007&month=08). It would seem that the sun is responsible for the cyclical heating and cooling of the earth's climate.

When considering climate change, ask yourself several questions. Based on what we can see locally, the earth is getting warmer, but is it a true global change? Data from casts doubts on data from improperly located automated weather stations. Stations located in urban areas may falsely report higher than actual temperatures.

If so, is the warming caused by man? As stated earlier, carbon dioxide cannot cause temperature change because carbon dioxide levels change 800 years after the temperature.

If so, is it reversible? Even if global warming were caused by man, it is highly unlikely that the whole world would agree to the draconian cuts on CO2 emissions that Gore and the environmentalists want. The US is not the problem. China and other developing countries have lax environmental standards and are set to pass the US in CO2 emissions in the next few years.

Is global warming bad? The earth is constantly changing. Warm periods in our history have typically been prosperous due to longer growing seasons for crops and require less energy for heating homes. Some areas would benefit and some would not. Even the UN report on climate change does not support the more hysterical environmental claims of catastrophe. Even if all of the ice caps melted, for instance, sea levels would rise less than two feet. Rising seas would not flood all low lying areas as Gore and company claim.

Finally, if the environmentalists are so concerned about greenhouse gas emissions, then why don't they support nuclear power? The French have proved that nuclear power can be a safe, clean, cheap source of electricity. Why not promote its use worldwide as an alternative to carbon based sources of energy?

The jury is still out, but the science used by the environmentalists is seriously in question. It is always a good idea care for the environment, but not at the cost of destroying our economy.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

"Epicenter" Book Review

Joel C. Rosenberg is a fiction author who became famous in 2001 when he predicted in a novel that terrorists would attack the United States using a hijacked aircraft with a crew of suicidal jihadists in his novel, The Last Jihad. Shortly afterward, he predicted the death of Yasir Arafat and an attack on a US diplomatic convoy in Gaza in his second novel, The Last Days (2003). In 2005, his novel, The Ezekiel Option, foreshadowed the rise of a dictatorial Russian leader who would form an alliance with Iran.

In three consecutive books, Rosenberg has been eerily prescient in his fictional works. Is this simply a case of life imitating art, or does Rosenberg have some special insights into world politics?

Joel C. Rosenberg has impressive credentials in international politics. He worked on Steve Forbes unsuccessful presidential campaign. He has also worked closely with former Israeli deputy prime minister Natan Sharansky, former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and, last but not least, conservative talk radio host, Rush Limbaugh.

But there are many people with even more impressive credentials who are considerably less successful in predicting the future of the Middle East. What makes Rosenberg's books so "ripped from today's headlines"?

In Epicenter: Why The Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future, Rosenberg reveals that his muse is none other than the Bible. Specifically, Rosenberg bases his novels on chapters 38 and 39 of the book Ezekiel.

Ezekiel was an Old Testament prophet who wrote from six years before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BC until about sixteen years later. Chapters 38 and 39 of Ezekiel are prophecies that describe a war led by "Gog, of the land of Magog" and Persia. Rosenberg dissects the passage and shows evidence that Magog is Russia and that Persia is Iran. Many other nations are also identified as being part of the anti-Israeli alliance.
The focus of Gog's war is Israel. Rosenberg points out that Israel is a traditional foe of Iran. This is borne out by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's fiery rhetoric about how Israel will soon be erased from the map.

It has been more recently, however, that Russia became directly antagonistic toward the Jewish state. Even though Arab forces supported by the Soviet Union fought several wars with Israel, Russian forces were never committed. Arab forces used Soviet equipment and, it has been recently revealed, Soviet battle plans.

A major crux of Epicenter is that Russia and Iran have never before in recorded history had a military alliance as they now do. Russia and Iran already have numerous economic ties worth billions of dollars. Russia resists UN sanctions against Iran and is even building Iran's nuclear facility at Bushehr. Russia is even supplying the Iranians with air defense systems that may one day be used to defend that facility.

So what does Rosenberg believe is in store in the Middle East?

One prediction is the discovery of oil reserves in Palestine. Huge amounts of oil might provide the motive for a Russian war against Israel. Iran already has ample religious motivations for war with Israel.

Another is the rise of a dictatorial regime in Russia. Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, has already announced that he will not leave government when his last term expires in 2008. He is prohibited from serving another term as president and will instead step into the office of Prime Minister. Vladimir Zhirinovsky is another possibility. Zhirinovsky is a candidate for president in 2008 and has already written a book, The Last March to the South, advocates a Russian invasion of nations to the south.

And how will Gog's war end? According to Ezekiel's prophecy, in the best tradition of the cavalry riding to rescue when all hope is lost and the destruction of Israel is imminent, Ezekiel writes that Gog and his entire army will be struck down and that fire from Heaven will devastate the nation of Magog.

Epicenter is an easy and quick read, and is packed with well-researched information. It contains a wealth of information that will not be found in the mainstream media, especially relating to the spread of Christianity throughout the modern day fundamentalist Islamic countries. Whether you agree with Rosenberg's assessment or not, Epicenter is definitely worth your time if you are interested in the Middle East.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Islam and Revelation

From the time that John wrote his Revelation of Jesus Christ in the first century AD, there has been much speculation about the identity of the Beast from the Sea (Revelation 13), more commonly referred to in theology and culture as the Antichrist. Recent events may offer some clues as about the background of this future world figure.

There are several reasons to speculate that the Antichrist will lead an army of Muslims against Israel in the latter days. The most obvious of these is that the Antichrist is out to destroy Israel. Israel has been in a constant state of war with its Muslim neighbors since its inception in 1947.

Hostility to Israel

As British forces withdrew from Palestine in 1948 to allow its partition into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, a combined force of the armies of Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia invaded the Jewish state on multiple fronts. Azzam Pasha, Secretary-General of the Arab League, stated, “This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades."

Israel’s War of Independence ended with an armistice in 1949, but the fighting never really stopped. Arab fedayeen guerillas attacked Israeli towns and citizens in terrorist style attacks.

In 1956, Israel invaded the Sinai Peninsula with British and French support in response to an Arab blockade and boycott of Israeli shipping and the Egyptian seizure of the Suez Canal. Prior to the war, Egyptian President Gamal Nasser said, “There will be no peace on Israel's border because we demand vengeance, and vengeance is Israel's death.”

Low intensity guerilla warfare continued until 1967 when Nasser rallied Arab nations to attack Israel once again. Israeli forces launched a pre-emptive strike against Egypt on June 5, 1967 to start the Six Day War. When the smoke cleared, Israel had captured the Sinai and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, the West Bank (of the Jordan River) from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria. Following the Arab defeat, Egypt launched the War of Attrition, a limited war against Israel that continued until Nasser’s death in 1970.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) staged terror and guerilla attacks against Israel throughout most of Israel’s history. The PLO was given sanctuary at various times by Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. This eventually prompted Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the partial occupation of Lebanon by Israel until 2000.

Terror attacks, as well as artillery and rocket attacks, continue against Israel to this day. The First Intifada started in the West Bank in 1987 and the Second, or al-Aqsa, Intifada began in 2000. The Intifadas were marked by civilian deaths on both sides. Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but fighting and terror attacks continue there. From Lebanon, Hezbollah continues to attack northern areas of Israel. In 2006, these attacks sparked yet another brief war.

Revelation 17:16 states that the armies of the world will gather together at Armageddon. Armageddon is a Hebrew word that literally means “Hill of Megiddo.” Megiddo itself means “to cut off” (Nelson Study Bible, pp. 2190). Today, Megiddo is a town in Israel located approximately 100 miles north of Jerusalem, and is on a traditional invasion route to Jerusalem.

In John’s day, Megiddo was a strategic junction and the site of several battles throughout history. Interestingly, the Battle of Megiddo in the 15th century BC (between Egypt and the Canaanites) was the first battle to be recorded for history. John’s readers would remember Megiddo as the place where King Josiah was defeated by the Egyptians in 609 BC (2 Kings 23:29) and would associate it with slaughter.

When the armies of the world gather at Armageddon, they are presumably on their way to attack Jerusalem. In addition to the traditional enmity between the Arabs and Israelis, the Muslims have another motive to attack Jerusalem. Jerusalem is home to the oldest existing Islamic building in the world.

The Dome of the Rock mosque is located on what is widely believed to be the location of the ancient Jewish temple. The mosque was constructed in AD 630 on the site where Muslims believe that Mohammed, accompanied by Gabriel, ascended to Heaven to receive Islamic prayers from the prophets. Orthodox Jews believe that Abraham was instructed to sacrifice Isaac and Jacob dreamed of angels climbing a ladder on the same spot.

The Dome of the Rock is considered very sacred to Muslims. So sacred, in fact, that when Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon merely visited the Temple Mount in 2000, it set off Muslim riots. The Israeli occupation of Jerusalem is considered an affront to Allah and could easily lead to a war of liberation.

Similarly, Daniel 9:27 refers to a covenant (treaty or agreement) between the Antichrist and Israel. A treaty would only be notable in prophecy if it were highly unusual and notable. A peace agreement between the Arabs and the Israelis has been sought after for longer than Israel has been a nation, yet seems as far away now as ever.

One World Religion

Another similarity between the ideology of radical Islamists and John’s prophecy is the desire of the radicals to promote Islam as the one religion of the world. John wrote in Revelation 13 about a Beast from the Earth who would deceive people and trick them into worshipping the Antichrist. People who refuse are executed.

Today, radical Muslims are already calling for a the establishment of a worldwide caliphate. Al Qaeda’s charter states bluntly that “There Will Be Continuing Enmity Until Everyone Believes In Allah. We Will Not Meet [The Enemy] Halfway And There Will Be No Room For Dialogue With Them.” Similarly, Ayman al-Zawahiri said “The whole world is an open field for us."

Persecution of Christians

The Revelation is full of references to persecution of Christians and those who refuse to worship the Antichrist. Revelation 6:9-11 speaks of martyred Christians asking God when He will take vengeance on their killers. Revelation 13:7 and 17:6 also refer to persecution of Christians.

Muslim persecution of Christians is currently at a very high rate. In some cases, the persecution is the work of mobs and militant groups, such as attacks on Christians and churches in Indonesia that have cost thousands of lives. In other Muslim countries, the persecution is government sponsored. For example, in Saudi Arabia Christians are not allowed to have worship services or attempt to convert Muslims. Those who break these laws face jail time, deportation, or execution. In several countries, Muslims who have converted to Christianity have been executed. One of the first modern attempts at genocide was the Armenian Genocide, in which the Muslim government of the Ottoman Empire, today’s Turkey, killed thousands of Armenian Christians during WW I.

Revelation 20:4 is another verse that foretells persecution of Christians. This verse is unique, however, because it tells specifically how they are executed. According to John, the forces of the Antichrist behead followers of Christ.

In today’s world, beheading is associated with Al-Qaeda terrorists in Iraq who murder hostages by cutting their heads off, but other Islamic nations and groups also practice beheading. Abu Sayyaf, an Al-Qaeda affiliated group in the Philippines, practices beheading. Muslim members of the Bosnian army practiced ritual beheadings of Serb prisoners during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. Islamic Chechen soldiers beheaded captured Russian soldiers and hostages during the Chechen Wars. Saudi Arabia is probably the largest current practitioner of beheadings. Amnesty International reports that over 100 Saudi prisoners have been decapitated in 2007.


An additional hint of the Muslim involvement in the end times is the location of the Antichrist’s seat of power: Babylon. Jewish readers in John’s day would have recognized Babylon as the power that destroyed the ancient Israelite kingdom and led the Jews in captivity in 586 BC. Babylon itself eventually declined and the prophet Jeremiah wrote that it would never be rebuilt (51:26).

Saddam Hussein did not believe Jeremiah’s prophecy and started rebuilding Babylon in 1985. The United Nations may pick up where Saddam left off. The International Herald Tribune reports that UNESCO is looking for investors to turn Babylon into a tourist attraction (

If John is correct, before Jeremiah’s prophecy becomes complete, Babylon will reemerge the world’s commercial center and the capitol of the Antichrist’s government. The location of Babylon in Iraq implies another Muslim connection. Revelation chapter 18 describes final destruction of Babylon.

Daniel’s Clues

An additional clue to the identity of the Antichrist is found in Daniel 9:26. Daniel says that the “people of the prince who is to come” will destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. The Romans destroyed the Temple in AD 70, so the Antichrist could come be someone of Roman descent. The Roman Empire surrounded the Mediterranean Sea, an area which is largely dominated by Muslims today. Even European countries are becoming increasingly Muslim through immigration. Today Italy, the seat of the Roman Empire has a Muslim population of about 2.4%.

Daniel 9:27 refers to an abomination in the Jewish temple. This will be some sort of desecration of a temple that has yet to be built. Arab armies have desecrated Jewish synagogues, cemeteries, and holy sites in past wars.

Many Orthodox Jews believe that the Temple will be rebuilt soon. The Temple Mount Faithful is a group dedicated to rebuilding the Temple. They already have the cornerstone and many of the sacred temple vessels ready. The only obstacle is the fact that the Dome of the Rock currently sits atop the site of the ancient Temple.

Ezekiel describes a new Temple that has not yet been built in chapters 40 through 48. Interestingly enough, this follows immediately after the prophecy of the War of Gog and Magog in chapters 38-39. (Ezekiel 37 describes the reconstitution of Israel as a nation. This prophecy was fulfilled in 1948.) Joel Rosenberg’s book, Epicenter, describes this prophecy in detail. Rosenberg believes that the War of Gog and Magog will be a war in which Russia, Iran, and their allies, predominantly Muslim nations, attack Israel and are supernaturally destroyed by God. It is possible that the Dome of the Rock will also be destroyed in this war, paving the way for a new Jewish Temple.

There is much circumstantial evidence that points to a Muslim link with the forces of the Antichrist, but the most chilling connection comes from a sect of Shia Islam known as Twelver Islam.

The Mahdi

To understand Twelver Islam, we must first understand the origin of the split between Sunni and Shia Islam. Shortly after the death of Mohammed in AD 632, a disagreement arose over who should take his place at the helm of Islam. The Shia believe that Mohammed ordained Ali, his cousin and son-in-law, and his descendents to succeed him. The Sunnis believe that Abu Bakr, Mohammed’s father-in-law and a Muslim leader, was the rightful head of Islam.
Abu Bakr eventually gained control of the Ummah, the nation of Islam and today approximately 90% of all Muslims are Sunni. Al Qaeda is a Sunni organization. The Shia, which means the “Party of Ali,” predominantly live located in Iraq and Iran.

The Shia believe that there were twelve imams, religious leaders who were directly descended from the prophet Mohammed. The twelfth imam, who is also the current imam, has been absent from the earth for over one thousand years.

The Twelfth Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, as a five-year-old child, is believed to have led a prayer at the funeral of his deceased father in AD 874. The Mahdi, or “Guided One,” reportedly disappeared into occultation (ghaybat), where he will remain until a time when Allah sends him to bring justice to the world.

The Mahdi is believed to have said, “During the last times, my people will be afflicted with terrible and unprecedented calamities and misfortunes from their rulers, so much so that this vast earth will appear small to them. Persecution and injustice will engulf the earth. The believers will find no shelter to seek refuge from these tortures and injustices. At such a time, God will raise from my progeny a man who will establish peace and justice on this earth in the same way as it had been filled with injustice and distress.”

When this chaos fills the world, Twelvers believe that the Mahdi will usher in an age in which Islam covers the world. Muhammad will reappear with the legendary sword, Zulfiqar, which was given to Ali by Mohammed the prophet. Muslims also believe that Jesus will return with the Mahdi and will replace the Bible with the Koran.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a believer in the Mahdi. Iran produces a main battle tank called the Zulfiqar and, in 2006, held wargames called The Blow of Zolfaghar.
Ahmadinejad is reported to believe that the return of the Mahdi can be hastened by creating chaos in the world. He has said that Israel occupies the Holy city, Jersusalem, and should be “wiped off the map.” He has also written an open letter to the American people that some interpret as a da’awah, a request for submission to Islam that is a necessary step toward a just war in the Islamic view. Together with Iran’s drive to produce a nuclear weapon, Ahmadinejad’s beliefs are especially disturbing. (

Twelver beliefs are almost a mirror image of John’s prophecy. In the Twelver view, chaos and war will cause the return of the Mahdi who will convert the world to Islam and take Jerusalem from Israel. In John’s view, a demon-possessed leader will institute a single religion, persecute followers of Jesus, and attack the Holy city of Jerusalem. Could the two figures from different religions be the same man?

Mohammed claimed to receive revelations from God approximately six hundred years after Jesus Christ died and rose again. It is within the realm of possibility that the Enemy, seeing the growth of the Christian church throughout the known world, planted a seed that would blossom into a major religion poised for world domination fifteen hundred years later. John could have seen that members of that yet unborn religion would one day be in a position to challenge world superpowers and set the stage for the end of the world as we know it. The animosity between Isaac and Ishmael (Genesis 16), who sired the Jews and Arabs respectively, could be the origin of a nuclear holocaust in the end of days. Only time will tell.

Source: except where noted