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.