Is the Sky Falling ?

Is the Sky Falling Yet?
Vol: 84 Issue: 30 Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Last week, I expressed my opinion that the current credit ‘crisis’ is a manufactured one. So, what do I think in the wake of the bailout failure followed by the largest one single-day drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average in all of human history?

I think the current credit ‘crisis’ is a manufactured one. That is not the same thing as saying it isn’t serious, or that there isn’t a real danger that the global economy could slide into a recession or depression as a consequence.

What I am saying is that it was manufactured. This morning’s edition of the Toronto Globe and Mail called this the “worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.” Later in the same story it notes that both the Dow and the Toronto Stock Exchange lost 6.9% in yesterday’s selling.

So, if yesterday’s 6.9% sell off was the ‘worst financial crisis since the Great Depression’ when the market lost 40% of its value, then what was the Crash of 1987 — when the market lost 25% of its value?

You begin to see what I mean. It isn’t that I’m arguing its time to break out the champagne — this is serious — but it isn’t the Big One — at least, not yet. It could easily become the Big One, however, thanks to breathlessly irresponsible reporting like the one I quoted from the Globe and Mail.

USA Today’s headline talked about the blame game ongoing in the Congress ‘due to the failure of the bailout’. First off, it assumes the bailout was the panacea necessary to fix the problem.

I watched the vote. The Dow was already down almost 400 points when it still looked like the bailout would pass. It wasn’t necessarily the failure of the vote that caused the market to tank — odds are good it would have tanked anyway.

But according to USAToday: “The financial fallout was of the Armageddon proportions that some predicted if the $700 billion bill which was promoted by the Bush administration as the best way to boost investor confidence and unclog frozen credit markets that have created a daily bank death watch on Main Street failed to pass.”

“It was the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane,” says Scott Black, president at Delphi Management.”

Hardly. When one looks at percentages instead of numbers, yesterday’s losses weren’t actually the worst in history — indeed, yesterday doesn’t even rank as an official market ‘correction’. The combined losses (Dow, S&P and NASDAQ) for yesterday are estimated at 8.8%.

I looked up the web definition for the term “market correction.” A stock market correction is defined as a time when major market indexes drop between 10 percent and 20 percent.

Declines greater than 20 percent are considered to be bear markets.

In the past 10 years, Standard & Poor s Composite Index of 500 Stocks has experienced a correction several times, and a bear market early on in the new millennium.

Yesterday’s losses weren’t even severe enough to meet the definition of a market correction, let alone a stock market crash.

But here is another place to take a reality check. So far, not one single banking customer in any of the failed banks has lost money. The 8.8% losses chalked up yesterday were real — but they were EIGHT POINT EIGHT PERCENT — that’s not a Category 5 Hurricane — its a minimal tropical storm.

That is NOT to say that all is well. All is NOT well. But it isn’t a financial Armageddon. It isn’t the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Not even close.

It isn’t a stock market ‘crash’ and it still has to drop several points to fit the minimum definition of a stock market ‘correction.’

But it’s a political windfall for the Democrats if the public thinks it is.

So it failed.

Assessment:

Nancy Pelosi opened the vote by blaming the entire ‘crisis’ on the fiscal policies of the Bush administration and George Bush in particular.

“But only a part of the cost of the failed Bush economic policies to our country. Policies that were built on budget recklessness. When President Bush took office, he inherited President Clinton s surpluses four years in a row, budget surpluses, on a trajectory of $5.6 trillion in surplus. And with his reckless economic policies, within two years, he had turned that around.”

Time for a reality check. First, ‘four years of budget surpluses’ caused the 2000-2001 recession. The recession didn’t turn around until after 9/11 forced the US back into deficit spending.

The US economy is a DEBIT (debt-based) economy. A balanced budget guarantees a recession. Despite the Great Depression and the deficit spending caused by New Deal, by 1937 the US economy was very close to having balanced its budget.

This created “a recession within a depression”. Roosevelt abandoned efforts to balance the budget and launched a $5 billion spending program in 1938.

By 1939, the national debt as a proportion of the GDP was at 40% and the Depression was soon over.

So if deficit spending is good for the economy, which of George Bush’s ‘reckless economic policies’ caused the current ‘crisis’? The one where he failed to overturn the Clinton economic policy that caused it.

It was Bill Clinton’s economic policies that brought about the 1997 Community Reinvestment Act that required banks and savings and loans to lower borrowing standards and to offer mortgages to those whose income didn’t meet minimum requirements.

Under the Act, banks were required to treat welfare payments, unemployment insurance benefits, alimony and child support payments as ‘income’ for the purposes of granting the mortgage.

And, since those on welfare or unemployment generally can’t come up with 20% down payment, the Act required banks to finance up to 120% of the mortgage.

Suppose you bought a house for $100k and financed $120k so you could fix it up. Then the housing bubble burst and now your house is only worth $80k — but you owe $120k.

So you’re paying 40% more for your mortgage than you would pay to rent the same house — and you have NONE of your own money at risk. What’s to stop you from walking away?

Evidently, nothing. Which is why there are so many failed mortgages right now.

The current financial ‘crisis’ is not quite an official market ‘correction’. It is the entirely the result of wrongheaded liberal thinking that if you give somebody something for nothing, they’ll respect it as if they had earned it.

Finally, after the bailout bill failed, the Democrats have done a pretty creditable job of blaming the Republicans for not passing it.

To do a reality check on that charge requires only that one restate the obvious: The Democrats have a MAJORITY in Congress.

Therefore, Democrats could have passed that bill even if not one single Republican voted for it. That the Republicans could have tanked it is ludicrous on its face.

So, in the final analysis, the current credit crisis is NOT a meltdown. It was caused primarily by Clinton administration’s liberal economic policies.

And, had the Democrats wanted to pass the bailout, they could have done so — even in the face of unanimous minority opposition.

Does ANY of that stack up with what you are hearing on the news?

And Now, the Trumpet . . .

And Now, the Trumpet . . .
Vol: 84 Issue: 29 Monday, September 29, 2008

And Now, the Trumpet . . .

According to the most recent set of calculations circulating on the internet, the Rapture of the Church positively, absolutely must occur either October 2nd or October 9th, 2008.

Somebody proves by extensive and painstaking calculation that the Rapture will occur either at the conclusion of the Jewish Feast of the Trumpets or Yom Kippur pretty much every year.

Writes one such prognosticator: ” This rapture of believers and the Bema Judgment will occur on the exact day of Rosh Hashanah, the 1st day of the 7th month. . . .That leaves the 2nd or 3rd Rosh Hashanahs in the last half of the end-times 7 year period as the fulfillment of prophecy.”

The problem with this view is that it means we must be nearly half-way through the Tribulation now.

There is a new book out by Tim McHyde on the 14,000 Day Theory, which concludes that the Rapture must happen this year. I don’t know a lot about the 14,000 Day Theory apart from the fact that it is wrong.

How do I know it was wrong? Because it was wrong last year. And the year before. Its proponents are running out of significant events that they can use to count 14,000 days forward from.

Assessment:

The most logical argument favoring the Rapture at some point during this period is the Feast Theory. There are seven Divinely-appointed Feast days on the Jewish calendar.

The feast days were established as a kind of annual rehearsal for the events they prefigured; Passover was a prefiguration of the sacrifice on the Cross where the Lamb of God’s Blood was shed as payment for the sins of mankind.

The Feast of the Unleavened Bread was a prefiguration of His Burial; the Feast of First Fruits prefigured His Resurrection. The Feast at Pentecost prefigured the descent of the Holy Spirit to indwell the Church. So these feast days share these two characteristics: 1) They were prophetic in nature, and; 2) they were fulfilled by Jesus Christ.

The first four feasts all take place in close proximity to one another during the spring of the year. Then there is an entire season’s interlude before the feasts of the fall season begin. According to the Feast Theory, this interlude is representative of the Church Age which separates the First Advent from the Second.

In summary, then, we find there are seven Jewish feast days Divinely appointed by God and recorded in Leviticus 23. They are the Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits and Pentecost.

After a season’s interlude, they are followed by the Feasts of Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacles. All are prophetic in nature and the first four have already been fulfilled by Jesus Christ.

The Feasts Theory holds that since the first four feasts prefigured the First Advent of the Messiah, His Death, Burial, Resurrection and the Birth of the Church Age, the next three feasts prefigure the rest of the Gospel story; The Rapture, the Second Coming and the Millennial Kingdom.

Jewish tradition holds that Rosh Hashanah (Feast of the Trumpets) celebrates the anniversary of the creation of the world. Its a day when God takes stock of all of His Creation, which of course includes all of humanity.

Translated from the Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means head of the year ‘rosh’ means head, while ‘hashanah’ means year. Jews believe that God s judgment on this day determines the course of the coming year.

Rosh Hashana is called the “Feast of the Trumpets” because at the end of each holy convocation a shofar is sounded.

“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.” (Leviticus 23:23-25)

In the New Testament, the Rapture of the Church is also linked with the sound of a trumpet:

“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53)

“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17)

A special season known as Teshuvah which in Hebrew means to return or repent , begins on the first day of the month of Elul and continues 40 days, ending with Yom Kippur. Thirty days into Teshuvah, on Tishrei 1, comes Rosh HaShanah. This begins a final ten-day period beginning on Rosh HaShanah and ending on Yom Kippur.

These are known as the High Holy Days or as the “Awesome Days”. There are seven days between the Feast of Trumpets and Yom Kippur.

The Sabbath that falls within this ten-day period is called Shabbat Shuvah , the Sabbath of Return. Five days after Yom Kippur is Sukkot , the Feast of Tabernacles.

Teshuvah begins on Elul 1 and concludes on Tishrei 10 — which is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Each morning during the 30 days of the month of Elul, the trumpet (shofar) or ram s horn is blown to warn the people to repent and return to God.

Rosh HaShanah is also referred to as Yom Teruah , the Day of the Sounding of the Shofar, or the Day of the Awakening Blast. On Yom Teruah, the Day of the Sounding of the Shofar, it is imperative for every person to hear the shofar.

Significantly Yom Teruah is also the only festival in which no man knows exactly when it will occur.

It begins on the new moon. The new moon was sanctified when two witnesses see the new moon and attest to it before the Sanhedrin in the Temple. This sanctification could happen during either of two days, depending on when the witnesses come.

Since no one knew when the witnesses would come, no one knew when the Feast of Trumpets would start.

For this reason, Yom Teruah is always celebrated for two days. These two days are celebrated like one long 48 hour day.

The reason that it is celebrated for two days is because if they waited to start the celebration until after the new moon had been sanctified, they would have missed half the celebration because the new moon can only be sanctified during daylight hours.

There is a lot involved.

We often cite the Scriptures that say we can know the season, but not the day or the hour (Matthew 24:32-36).

Yom Teruah, or the Feast of Trumpets, is the only feast that we do not know the day in which to keep it. Therefore, we have to be on the alert and watch for it. Teruah means “an awakening blast” — it is also translated as an awakening “shout.”

The book of Isaiah, chapter 12, puts the shouting in the context of the thousand-year reign of Jesus. The Messianic era and shout is mentioned in Isaiah 44:23 and Zephaniah 3:14.

The first coming of Christ is associated with a shout in Zechariah 9:9. The ultimate shout is the Rapture in First Thessalonians 4:16-17.

For example, in Ephesians 4:30, being sealed unto the day of redemption refers to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. God gave this festival to teach us that we will be judged on Rosh HaShanah and will be sealed unto the closing of the gates on Yom Kippur.

The theme of awakening from sleep is used throughout the Bible. It is found in John 11:11, Romans 13:11, Daniel 12:1-2 and Psalm 78:65.

So there are lots of good and valid Scriptural reasons to assume that the Rapture will be associated with the Feast of the Trumpets.

Rosh Hashana begins at sundown tonight, Monday, September 28, 2008. It will end at nightfall, Wednesday, October 1, 2008. According to the Feasts Theory, that means the Rapture of the Church will occur next Thursday, October 2, 2008.

Now, to the sixty-four thousand dollar question. Are the Feast Theorists right? The answer? I believe they just might be — but with one important codicil. I’m not sure they are right that it will occur in 2008.

Jesus said no man would know the day or the hour — but He also said that we WOULD know when it was near, ‘even at the doors’. So they could be right and not necessarily be in violation of that Scripture.

The ‘day’ could a 24 hour day, or a Biblical 12 hour day. The ‘hour’ could be a time on a clockface, like 3:15 pm — or it could be literally ‘the hour’ as in the ‘ninth hour of the day’ as measured from . . . well, that’s the point, isn’t it? We couldn’t know, even if we guessed right.

So, do I believe the Rapture will take place at some point near the end of next week? I believe it could. Or not. It might not be until next year. Or 2012. Or 2015. And I could mount equally persuasive arguments for each.

You see, that is the problem with predicting something like the Rapture of the Church. One can mount an incredibly convincing argument, but as convincing and persuasive as it might be, it might also be wrong.

The Bible doesn’t give a date or time for the Rapture — at best, it gives a season — to go beyond that and predict the date of the Rapture is to take upon oneself the mantle of a prophet. And when it comes to Bible prophecy, one only has to be wrong once.

The Scriptures tell us to be ready, to watch, and to be prepared. The Lord may well be coming next week for His Church. But if not, that also lines up with the Scriptures. 2nd Peter reminds us that the Lord is long suffering towards us, not willing that any should perish — so we know He is waiting until the last possible moment, for that last lost sinner, for the final member of that company of called out elect ones.

Maybe next week. If not next week, soon. But I’ll be listening extra close next Thursday.

Just in case.

The Spin Never Stops Anywhere

The Spin Never Stops Anywhere
Vol: 84 Issue: 27 Saturday, September 27, 2008

It is a truism of American politics that “an informed voter is a voter whose vote doesn’t count any more than does the vote of a complete idiot.”

One could pretty much tell which candidate was going after which voting demographic during last night’s debate. It’s pretty clear that Obama is counting on the latter group to get him to the White House.

That’s probably why the Obama campaign insisted on having the debate on a Friday night — traditionally the second least-watched TV night of the week after Saturday.

If Obama bombed, then Obama’s target demographic would never know it. And it gives the Obama team a whole weekend to spin reality before the beginning of Monday’s news cycle.

Meanwhile, if Obama had scored any major points against McCain, the liberal spin machine would have the whole weekend to spin it to look like Obama cleaned McCain’s clock.

It is, however, pretty clear that Obama had no intention whatever of trying to win over the informed voter demographic. Just scare them to death before election day, thereby capturing another major demographic. (No voter votes as consistently Democrat as a dead one.)

I was fascinated to watch as Barack Obama blew off one constituency after another, alienating the military, fiscal conservatives, women, traditional families and pretty much everyone except those who fall into his apparent target demographic, (being the voters whose votes count just as much as informed votes do.)

McCain didn’t really have to portray Obama as naive on foreign policy. Obama did that all by himself. In response to Obama’s statement that it might become necessary to send U.S. troops across the Pakistani border to pursue terrorists, McCain scoffed; “you don’t say that out loud. If you have to do things, you do things.”

“So let me get this right, we sit down with Ahmadinejad and he says ‘we’re going to wipe Israel off the face of the earth’ and we say, ‘no you’re not!’ Oh please,” McCain said of Obama’s offer to meet Iran’s maddest mullah without preconditions.

Obama had some memorable lines in the debate — its doubtful the mainstream media will focus in on the one that impacted me the most, though. I’ll be curious to see.

At one point, McCain told a story about a bracelet he wore. He was given it by the mother of a fallen US soldier who asked him to ensure her son’s death was not in vain. It wasn’t a new story — McCain’s been wearing the bracelet for years and has told the story many times.

But here is the way McCain told it in the debate, verbatim from the transcript.

And I’ll tell you, I had a town hall meeting in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, and a woman stood up and she said, “Senator McCain, I want you to do me the honor of wearing a bracelet with my son’s name on it.”

He was 22 years old and he was killed in combat outside of Baghdad, Matthew Stanley, before Christmas last year. This was last August, a year ago. And I said, “I will — I will wear his bracelet with honor.”

And this was August, a year ago. And then she said, “But, Senator McCain, I want you to do everything — promise me one thing, that you’ll do everything in your power to make sure that my son’s death was not in vain.”

“I’ve got a bracelet, too,” Obama said as I cringed in my seat. Obama then proceeded in an effort to out-do McCain’s bracelet story with one of his own.

In Obama’s story, the mother wasn’t concerned with whether or not her son died in vain in a lost cause. All she cared about, Obama said while I continued to cringe uncomfortably in my seat, was, well, let’s take that verbatim as well.

“I’ve got a bracelet, too, from Sergeant – (Obama looks down to read the serviceman’s name) from the mother of Sergeant Ryan David Jopeck, given me in Green Bay. She asked me, can you please make sure another mother is not going through what I’m going through.

I thought it was over, but no. Obama had more to say on the subject.

“No U.S. soldier ever dies in vain because they’re carrying out the missions of their commander in chief. And we honor all the service that they’ve provided.”

Read that sentence again with me and read what it says about the man who uttered it.

It tells me that Barack Obama thinks those sacrifices are made for their Commander in Chief. And that the goals are irrelevant to those asked to make that sacrifice.

It says he sees them as another form of political currency, to be spent or held in reserve as needed, rather than the currency of last resort to purchase what must be had and cannot be purchased at any other cost.

You know, like Sergeant Whatsisname.

It made me feel kind of, umm, angry. Y’know?

Note on Israel-Only Tour:

I’ve received some firm numbers regarding dates and costs for the Israel-only portion of the upcoming tour March 21-March 29, 2009.

The land package portion runs $2,200 (that’s for all the ground expenses, hotels, meals, transportation etc.)

The airfare is estimated at $1,400 (from JFK).

But we are working on arranging departures from other major airports like Houston, Atlanta, LAX, DFW, etc., so you’ll be able to fly out from the closest domestic airport, so airfare may be a bit lower or higher, depending.

So altogether, the total cost of the package will be approximately $3600 per person based on double occupancy.

If you don’t want to share a room, there is a single room supplemental fee of $500.00. In the event of an ‘odd man out’ situation the supplemental fee is waived. And if you can’t share a room, (say a lady from Georgia and a guy from Nebraska) then the supplemental fee is waived.

I’ll be posting the new itinerary on the website over the weekend, including links with more information about what we’ll see at some of our stopovers.

Assuming the Lord tarries and we’re still here by then. If not, we’ll talk about it in the air on the way up. Maranatha!

Bear Moves West

Bear Moves West
Vol: 84 Issue: 26 Friday, September 26, 2008

Even in a world where terrifying headlines are the normal state of affairs, this one from the Drudge Report stands out from the crowd:

“Putin: Russia May Launch Nuke Cooperation With Venezuela.”

Hugo Chavez is in Moscow on his second trip to Russia in just over two months. Chavez is there to discuss increased arms purchases from the Kremlin and to discuss the Russian proposal that the Russians help Venezuela develop nuclear energy.

First, a word on that subject. Venezuela is in even LESS need of nuclear energy than is Iran. While Iran is awash with oil, Venezuela is positively swimming in the stuff.

While Chavez was having tea with Putin, a Russian naval squadron was sailing to Venezuela, across the Caribbean Sea from the United States, in a pointed response to what the Kremlin has cast as threatening U.S. encroachment near its own borders.

Both men suggested their countries are working to decrease U.S. global influence.

“Latin America is becoming a noticeable link in the chain of the multi-polar world that is forming,” Putin said at his suburban residence at the start of his talks with Chavez. “We will pay more and more attention to this vector of our economic and foreign policy.”

Putin did not mention any specifics of potential Russian-Venezuelan military cooperation in his opening remarks, but Russian news reports said that Venezuela could buy Russian air defense missiles and more Sukhoi fighter jets.

Earlier Thursday, a Kremlin official who spoke on customary condition of anonymity said that Russia would grant Venezuela a $1 billion credit for the purchase of Russian weaponry in an effort to help Venezuela revamp its military forces.

Russia has signed contracts worth more than $4.4 billion with Venezuela since 2005 to supply arms including fighter jets, helicopters, and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles.

Putin did not specify what kind of cooperation Russia could offer Venezuela in the nuclear field, but Russia is aggressively promoting itself as a builder of nuclear power plants and supplier of fuel to nations seeking nuclear energy.

Chavez, who addressed Putin as “my dear friend Vladimir,” said that stronger ties with Russia would help build a multi-polar world — a term Russia and Venezuela use to describe their shared opposition to the perceived U.S. global domination.

“I think that today more than ever before what you have said about a multi-polar world is becoming reality,” Chavez told Putin. He said he brought greetings from Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Russia is the latest leg in a tour taking Chavez to a number of nations whose governments are eager to counter U.S. global clout. He stopped briefly in Cuba on his way to China, where he touted agreements to increase oil exports and purchase military jets.

In an interview broadcast on Russian television before the visit, Chavez said that Venezuela and Latin America as a whole need “friends like Russia” to help them shed U.S. “domination” and ensure peace.

Russia’s deployment of warships to Venezuela for naval maneuvers came after the United States used naval ships to ferry aid to Georgia after the war.

The Russian naval deployment follows a weeklong visit to Venezuela by a pair of Russian strategic bombers. On his Sunday TV and radio program, Chavez joked that he would be making his international tour aboard the “super-bombers that Medvedev loaned me.” And next month, Russia will launch its first oil drilling platform offshore from Venezuela.

It would appear that the Russians are here to stay.

Assessment:

Russian Foreign Minister made headlines last week when he withdrew from a scheduled meeting with his American, French, British, Chinese and German counterparts aimed at discussing the Iranian nuclear weapons program Russia started there.

Lavrov said the move was retaliation for Russia being excluded from recent talks among the G8 nations. The “G-8” is a sham — it is actually the G-7 plus Russia. The G-7 took the step after Russia’s military incursion into Georgia this summer and the Kremlin’s subsequent recognition of the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The G-7 stands for the leading Group of Industrialized Nations. In 1998 the Clinton administration proposed including Russia in the meetings and soon, everybody was talking about the G-8 (except the nations who make up the G-7.)

Russia’s refusal to cooperate over Iran and its threat to give Hugo Chavez nuclear capability suggests a rapid slide back towards the days of the Cold War.

Two noted Russian experts at the London School of Economics think differently, however. Speaking at a special media briefing, Professor Arne Westad said very little connected the current situation with the way things stood before the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989.

Westad, editor of the forthcoming Cambridge History of the Cold War, said the earlier conflict was in large part an ideological one, a feature noticeably absent from present-day events.

Further, he said that the Russian Federation has nothing like the sweep and power of the former Soviet Union, even without the additional economic difficulties.

While the invasion of Georgia might seem to be a triumph, he said, the performance of the Russian military against a much-smaller neighbor was an “absolute shambles” in Western terms.

Not only did a senior military officer get lost and consequently ambushed in the opening hours of the incursion, but Russian communications systems broke down almost immediately, Westad said.

Three hours into the operation, the Russian commanders were depending on mobile phones to communicate,” he said.

Westad said half of the Russian military budget disappears into a black hole, never to be seen again, while its Navy is a shadow of its former self.

Professor Michael Cox, author of several books on the Cold War and international relations, said that the current Russian leadership is deeply insecure and lacks a coherent vision for its place in the world.

To the degree that it had a vision, he said, it was a desire to halt the decline experienced during the 1990s and a refusal to recognize the United States as the last remaining superpower.

Given the current credit crunch and the situation in Iraq, Russia regards the U.S. to be in a weak position. In turn, Moscow has sought to exploit differences between America and the nations of the European Union, Cox said.

“Russia will push the United States as far as they can go,”he said.

But putting nuclear weapons in Hugo Chavez’ hands just might be pushing the United States too far. This is a development worth watching.

Notes on Israel Trip:

We’ve been in discussion with the tour operators for the Poland/Israel trip and we are considering either dropping the Poland part of the tour and focusing exclusively on touring Israel or offering an Israel-only alternative. That would reduce costs considerably, and would give us more time to spend in Israel.

The estimated cost of the Israel-only tour would be approximately $3500 or perhaps less. Because we’re modifying the plan, we’ll also be modifying the signup deadline.

So far, that’s about all I know –they are working out the details now. But I’ll keep you informed as new details emerge.

Maranatha!

The Sky is Falling and Falling and Falling and Falling. . . .

The Sky is Falling and Falling and Falling and Falling. . . .
Vol: 84 Issue: 25 Thursday, September 25, 2008

We’re on the brink of another Great Depression. That’s what Sarah Palin told Katie Couric in one of Palin’s worst performances since being tapped by McCain.

John McCain says we’re in a major financial crisis. And last night President Bush went on TV to tell the nation that we’re on the verge of a “long and painful recession.”

In stark language he warned that if the credit crisis was not resolved, the ‘stock market could plummet and erase retirement accounts’ and businesses which could not access credit could close, ‘wiping out jobs for millions of Americans’.

Bush summoned both McCain and Obama to the White House for a ‘consultation’ with whoever his successor might ultimately be.

John McCain announced he was suspending his campaign to return to Washington and do his job as a senator.

Barack Obama, who hasn’t been a senator long enough to know what his job there actually is, said a president should be able to do two things at once.

So Obama is planning to skip the Senate and prepare for a presidential debate that may not take place.

(Meaning that a president should be equally able to do nothing at once.)

The media and the Democrats have been talking down the economy since the dawn of the Bush administration. It has evidently been a winning strategy since most Americans are convinced the economy is terrible, despite eight years of uninterrupted growth.

Now, the economy is in trouble. Everybody says so. So why am I still experiencing that sense of cognitive dissonance that I’ve come to regard as a visiting friend?

The media, the Democrats and now, the president and many top Republicans are all reading from the same page on the script. But something about it makes me dizzy. What they’re saying doesn’t seem to line up with what is happening.

The sky is falling, the economy is in the tank, we’re facing the prospect of a recession, a depression or worse.

The government is proposing a $700 billion dollar bailout for the banking industry to prevent a credit crunch — the Congress is waffling. But the US Gross Domestic Product for the second quarter of 2008 INCREASED by 3.3%.

I Googled the phrase “negative US GDP” and got the following return: “Your search – “negative US GDP” – did not match any documents.”

Congressional Democrats argue that it isn’t a “bailout” exactly — from a business perspective, it’s a pretty smart business deal that is likely to turn the government a HUGE profit.

(Warren Buffet made a $783 million profit on his investment of $5 billion in Goldman Sachs — in the past twenty-four hours.)

“I think the Treasury will pay back the $700 billion and make a considerable amount of money,'” Buffett said, adding that if he had $700 billion on the government’s terms to buy distressed assets, he would jump at the opportunity.

“Unfortunately, I’m tapped out,” he said regretfully.

Assessment:

In the interests of full disclosure, I am just some guy with a Bible. I’m not a big financial guru.

I don’t have a big stock portfolio — or even a small one. I have no investments and no 401k. I am the last guy anybody should take financial advice from.

And I also know that I am speaking into the wind on this one — not only could I be wrong, but based on the pronouncements of those who should know, I am certainly wrong.

But I’m not buying it. It doesn’t pass the smell test. The Federal Reserve has been creating money since the 9/11 attacks. The way that the Fed ‘creates’ money is via debt. We’ve discussed it before, but let’s quickly review a brief history of fractional reserve banking.

In medieval times, people would store their gold with the local goldsmith who would issue a receipt for the gold on deposit. The receipts were then used for large transactions, giving rise the phrase, “as good as gold.”

The goldsmith soon began issuing more receipts than there was gold on deposit. As long as everybody didn’t show up to redeem their receipts on the same day, the theft was never noticed.

The goldsmith would ‘create’ money issuing these extra receipts as loans against which he would take real property as collateral. If the borrower repaid the loan, then goldsmith had real money to replace the fake receipt.

If the borrower defaulted, the goldsmith acquired the collateral plus what had already been paid on the ‘loan’.

What was clearly out and out theft eventually became the basis for fractional reserve banking. Here’s how it works in a nutshell:

If a bank makes a $100k loan, it need only have $10k on deposit. The other $90k only exists on paper until the borrower repays it. But the $100k is carried on the books as a loan ‘asset’ until it is repaid.

The problem with creating too much money all at once is that it diminishes the value of the currency already in circulation.

On September 11, the US dollar was worth nearly twice as much as a Canadian dollar and almost at par with the euro. Six years later, the US dollar is at par with the Canadian dollar and the euro is worth $1.50 US.

There are a lot of reasons for that — low interest rates for investors, the Iranian Oil Bourse, six years of war, etc., but the biggest reason is because the Fed created too much money too fast and it has to claw some of it back before it — the Fed — collapses the economy.

Let’s return to the way that the Federal Reserve system allows money to be ‘created’. It lends out nine times as much money as it has on deposit in exchange for collateral on real property.

The money doesn’t actually exist until the borrower pays it back, but the Fed can keep lending it over and over, in essence shrinking it each time, until eventually, it takes $200,000 to buy a $60,000 house.

Before you know it, houses become so expensive that folks can’t afford to keep up the payments, so they ‘default’ on the unpaid balance and the bank is stuck with a house.

If it gets stuck with enough of them, it is a bit like the goldsmith getting caught with more paper out there than there was gold to cover it.

Five hundred years ago, they’d have just hanged the goldsmith from the nearest tree and put out a “Goldsmith Wanted” sign at the edge of town. (Ah, for the good old days when bankers jumped out windows. . . .)

Everything about the current meltdown from its informal name, “mortgage crisis” to its proposed solution (clawing back the excess to restore the dollar’s former value) says this is a managed crisis whose outcome was predetermined before the ‘crisis’ itself was allowed to come into being.

And, as a managed crisis, its’ outcome was predetermined by its planners before it even began. If I’m wrong on this, it will soon be obvious. But I don’t believe I am. I’m counting on being wrong — but expecting not to be.

The Bible does predict a global financial meltdown — but this isn’t it. The Bible’s financial meltdown calls for economic hardship so severe that it will take a day’s pay just to earn a day’s food — that meltdown occurs somewhere in the early part of the Tribulation Period in conjunction with the plagues of famine and pestilence and death during the ride of the Four Horsemen.

If the Tribulation were generations away, then it might be possible for the global economy to melt down, endure a recession or even depression, then recover enough for a major collapse as part of the judgment phase.

But I believe the signs indicate the Tribulation Period is very, very near. There isn’t enough time for it to collapse on this side of the Tribulation, and then recover enough for there to be another collapse significant enough to merit the status of Divine judgment.

We’re so close to that period now, I believe, that if the economy were to fail now, it would seem one continuous failure.

As I said, I could be completely wrong. I’m not a financial genius. I don’t have vast holdings. I wouldn’t take financial advice from me and I wouldn’t expect you to, either.

I am bucking one hundred percent against the trend, and based entirely on my understanding of the Bible’s timeline for the last days.

I don’t usually crawl this far out on a limb, and if it gets sawed off behind me, its the Lord punishing me for my presumptuousness.

But if we are where I believe we are on the Bible’s timeline, then I predict the following: This ‘crisis’ will evaporate quietly. The dollar will begin to gain strength against international currencies. There will be no depression and probably no recession.

If not, then I’m wrong on the Bible’s timeline and the Rapture isn’t as close as I think it is.

But if I’m right, then fasten your seat belts.

The Rest of the Story . . .

The Rest of the Story . . .
Vol: 84 Issue: 24 Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Rest of the Story . . .

I was a bit surprised by the confusion generated by yesterday’s report on the NDE phenomenon. So I will address those concerns first before moving on.

There is such a thing as Near Death Experiences. Whether they are the result of a chemical reaction that takes place as the brain dies or an actual spiritual experience is what the studies are aimed at determining.

But people report them, and there are medical studies that examine them. So, whether chemical reactions or actual experiences, they are real enough to those who report them.

The Apostle Paul reported that, having been stoned to the point of death outside the city of Lystra, he then found himself in the ‘third heaven’ where he received Divine revelation. (2nd Corinthians 12:2-7)

There is, therefore at least peripheral Scriptural precedent for the concept.

NDE’s are NOT evidence a person is saved; many of those who reported NDE’s report not only seeing hell, but report encounters with demons and hellfire.

If Near Death Experiences are evidence of anything, they are evidence that there is something that exists beyond this life.

‘Coming back’ from a Near Death Experience is not being raised from the dead — they are Near Death Experiences.

Near Death Experiences are not doctrinal. They are not anti-doctrinal. They play no role in a person’s salvation or condemnation. Nobody can experience it except the person involved.

Very few details of what they report back about their experiences line up with advanced Bible doctrine, but that’s irrelevant. Mature Christians aren’t looking to someone’s recollection of what happened when they were in a coma for doctrinal truths — that’s what Scripture is for.

Neither are NDE’s an evangelical tool one could use to lead somebody to Christ. Most NDE’s provide just as much ‘evidence’ of Buddha as they do of Jesus — NDE’s only indicate that there is something beyond this life.

That is the reason I addressed the phenomenon in the Omega Letter. Every Omega Letter is addressed to saved, mature Christians.

It’s mission and purpose is to inform you so that you aren’t blindsided by critics and to equip you with the information necessary to answer the hard questions from Scripture.

When a lost person asks about NDE’s, there are two possible ways to address the question. The first is to categorically reject them despite the reams of documentary evidence that they take place.

The second is to know something about the phenomenon, the research that is ongoing, and if there are Scriptures that either support or oppose the existence of the phenomenon on doctrinal grounds.

It is my personal position that it is possible to be informed about the existence of something without necessarily being a supporter of it. I am informed about NDE’s because people ask about it.

I have informed you — but that doesn’t mean I have embraced NDE’s as some kind of doctrine.

I do, however, see evidence of the doctrine of eternal security reflected in the NDE reports, as I indicated yesterday. Some unsaved folks reported hellish experiences, while some folks whom one might presume were unsaved reported heavenly experiences.

While one might have expected all of them to report a hellish experience, they did not, so it is at least possible that some of them may have been saved as youngsters.

I am encouraged that people I might have judged as lost based on my assessment of their lives may not be.

That revives in me the hope that somebody already passed on may have been saved at some point earlier in their lives, even if they turned away from Christ later.

I have hope, (albeit a dim one) that perhaps my Dad, who died in 1975, may have at some point in his life cried out to Jesus for salvation. (Maybe in a foxhole in WWII — I don’t know).

I wasn’t saved when he died, so I didn’t pay that much attention to his spiritual condition. I find in the NDE reports the possibility that not everybody I might have presumed to be lost actually was.

It doesn’t prove anything to the point of certainty, but it does give me some measure of comfort to think it is at least possible I might see my Dad again in heaven.

That is not a softening of my doctrinal position — I believe eternal security is clearly taught by Scripture.

Therefore if my Dad was saved, I will see him in heaven. If not, I won’t. But if I MIGHT — well, that’s a source of great comfort to me.

We’ve looked at death from the perspective of Heaven — if one has trusted in Jesus for one’s salvation, then one goes to heaven. If one trusts in one’s own good works, then one goes to hell.

Heaven and hell are destinations after we depart this life. The Near Death Experience deals only with the first steps of the journey, not the destination.

People have been revived from clinical death after long periods of time. If death de-links the ghost from the machine, so to speak, then what are described as near death experiences seem both inevitable and necessary.

Does the soul stay with the body until it is no longer medically possible to revive it?

How long is that?

Finally, to the question, why would God do that? Did He make a mistake? Didn’t He know that person was coming?

I’ve pondered that.

When I got saved, I went to a church, heard the Gospel message, but I didn’t respond to the altar call. If there WERE a heaven and hell, I knew I didn’t want to go to hell.

But I didn’t really believe there was anything after this life anyway, so why embrace what may have ultimately have been a meaningless lifestyle?

I woke up in the middle of the night and realized my bedroom was freezing. I became aware of some kind of malevolent presence in the room that filled me with a sense of horror unlike any I’ve ever felt before or since.

The pastor of the church had given me a pocket New Testament that day — I grabbed it and, not knowing what else to do, put it under my pillow, closed my eyes tight, and went back to sleep.

That night, the enemy had overplayed his hand. He intended to scare me away from that church but in so doing, inadvertently answered the question that proved his undoing.

I only needed to know the choice was between two REAL alternatives. I don’t know why God allowed THAT, either. But God did.

Near Death Experiences accomplish the same thing — they demonstrate a choice between two REAL alternatives.

Yesterday’s OL looked at death as a process rather than a state of being. The research being done is medical, not religious, spiritual or doctrinal. The doctors involved are using accepted scientific methods of investigation and are peer-reviewed every step of the way.

Without any particular faith or any particular religious tradition, based entirely on medical records and anecdotal evidence, here is what they found.

At some point in the dying process, the scientific evidence points to a physical separation of one’s spirit from one’s body.

The brain shuts down but the mind — that part that makes you you continues on.

Knowing THAT, where one chooses to continue on to is a real decision about a real eternity.

One that demands a real Savior.

The Final Frontier

The Final Frontier
Vol: 84 Issue: 23 Tuesday, September 23, 2008

In previous volumes of the Omega Letter, we’ve examined what the Scriptures have to say about what happens when we die. The Scriptures suggest no cessation of consciousness at death:

“We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. ” (2nd Corinthians 5:8)

“And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” (Job 19:26-27)

Jesus turned to the repentant thief on the Cross; “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Theologically speaking then, we can make a case that death is not the end, but rather, the beginning of eternal life in the same way that birth is not the end of a pregnancy but the beginning of a human life.

We don’t mourn the end of a pregnancy — we celebrate the birth of a child. But there are two important reasons why. A pregnant woman knows what it is like to be NOT pregnant, so there are no unknowns involved. The second is that the end of a pregnancy means the start of a relationship.

When a loved one dies, we mourn the end of our relationship with them in this life. As to death itself, nobody has ever survived it and come back to tell the tale.

But those who have come closest to it are the ones who fear it the least.

Assessment:

They are called “Near Death Experiences” and such experiences are a lot more common than I would have believed. I ran across an interview done by TIME Magazine with a Dr. Sam Parnia of Cornell Medical Center.

Parnia is part of the “Human Consciousness Project” which is conducting a study known as AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation).

The study documents what happens when we die from the perspective of those who were resuscitated after being declared clinically ‘dead’ that were able to recall being conscious at the time.

Dr. Parnia explained to TIME: “When your heart stops beating, there is no blood getting to your brain. And so what happens is that within about 10 sec., brain activity ceases as you would imagine. Yet paradoxically, 10% or 20% of people who are then brought back to life from that period, which may be a few minutes or over an hour, will report having consciousness. So the key thing here is, ‘Are these real, or is it some sort of illusion?’

Previous research suggests about 10 to 20 percent of people who live through cardiac arrest report lucid, well-structured thought processes, reasoning, memories and sometimes detailed recall of events during their encounter with death.

First off, are NDE’s real? The Bible says that once one is dead, there’s no coming back:

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” (Hebrews 9:27)

“And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” (Luke 16:31)

But we are not discussing death — we’re discussing near death. Is that real? The Apostle Paul seems to indicate that it is.

In Chapter 12 of his 2nd Letter to the Corinthians, Paul discusses a time when he was ‘caught up’ to the ‘third heaven’ after being stoned [nearly] to death outside the Lystra city gates.

“I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. ” (2nd Corinthians 12:2-4)

Since the Apostle Paul references his own conscious near death experience and that fact that he was ‘caught up’ to the third heaven, we can be comfortable with the fact NDE is both real and has a Scriptural basis.

Paul says that he was given a glimpse of the afterlife, and he was obviously able to return to tell the tale.

Paul’s experience is very much like that described by the patients in Dr Parnia’s study. Not only that, but all of the experiences reported by Dr. Parnia are essentially one of two different scenarios.

In the first scenario, the patient reports seeing what is happening to his own body, from the perspective of somewhere on the ceiling. The patient reported feeling warm, at peace and loved.

Some patients reported a Presence — (some said an angel, others Jesus,) other patients reported being greeted by loved ones who had passed away previously.

Here is a quote from one of the patients in Dr Parnia’s study as published in the British medical journal, “The Lancet.”

“During my cardiac arrest I had a extensive experience ( ) and later I saw, apart from my deceased grandmother, a man who had looked at me lovingly, but whom I did not know. More than 10 years later, at my mother s deathbed, she confessed to me that I had been born out of an extramarital relationship, my father being a Jewish man who had been deported and killed during the second World War, and my mother showed me his picture. The unknown man that I had seen more than 10 years before during my NDE turned out to be my biological father.

Not every NDE is pleasant. According to the study, as many as a third of those who report NDEs describe having seen or experienced what the Bible describes as hell. The hell they describe is a place of fire and brimstone and torment and torture.

Here’s the thing – after I read the TIME magazine story, I went online and read everything I could find about NDE’s. What I was looking for were similarities and differences between the various accounts.

All the heavenly experiences were the same on all the major points, although the details varied depending on the individual. And all the hell stories were essentially identical.

One other thing I noticed that was the same in all the accounts. Those who reported a positive experience also reported completely losing any fear of death.

Those who reported a hellish experience all reported a subsequent religious conversion and a similar disdain for death. I was unable to find any reports in which someone who had an NDE remained unchanged.

What does it all mean? Medically, it means we don’t know much about death, other than it is a process, rather than an event.

Although there are medical skeptics who claim that NDE’s are caused by electrical impulses as the brain shuts down, there are too many instances in which the patient accurately described what was going on after he had died for the impulse theory to be viable.

There is only one explanation that does make sense, and it is the one Paul described in 2nd Corinthians 12:2-4. Being caught up alive to heaven, seeing and hearing the unspeakable, and then being returned to one’s earthly body.

You are NOT a body, you HAVE a body. You have a brain, but it is not the same thing as your mind. Your mind is the repository of your consciousness, your will and your emotions — it is the ‘soul’ which continues on after death.

If your soul’s spirit has been quickened (made alive) by Christ, then what follows death is precisely what Christians have believed for two thousand years — ‘absent from the body, present with the Lord.’

If not, then what follows death is the beginning of an eternity in hell.

There is something else one can glean from the NDE reports that is somewhat encouraging.

Not everybody who reported a heavenly NDE was a believer at the time, although all said they ‘had believed at one time’ — usually as kids in Sunday school.

Those who reported a hellish NDE all reported that they had, at one time, consciously rejected the offer of salvation through faith in Christ.

Why is that encouraging? Because it suggests that not every loved one we presume is lost actually is. We don’t know if they, at some time, gave their life over to Christ and then subsequently took it back.

But the NDE reports universally suggest that Jesus knows His own, even when we don’t.

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” 1st Thessalonians (4:13)

Be hopeful. Pray often. I believe we’re all in for quite a surprise when we finally do make that trip and find out who is there waiting to greet us. I believe there will be a lot of folks there we weren’t expecting to see.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

It’s good that Christians don’t know to the point of absolute certainty what awaits us on the other side. In that sense, a little fear is a good thing.

Without it, we’d probably all jump off the nearest bridge right after we got saved, just to speed up the process.