Should Christians Observe Birthdays?

Should Christians Observe Birthdays?

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Does the Bible say?

Only two birthday celebrations are referred to in the Bible. Ironically, both are marred by tragedy. In Genesis 40:20-22 we read, “And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants: and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. And he restored the chief butler unto his butlership again; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh’s hand: But he hanged the chief baker: as Joseph had interpreted to them.” This birthday celebration tragically involved the death of an individual.

Another example of a birthday celebration which had a terrible event occur can be found in Mark 6:21-27: “And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom. And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist. And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist. And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her. And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison.”

The only two birthday celebrations mentioned in the Bible were associated with the death of other men. If birthdays were a positive thing, we certainly would not find such horrific events listed in the same context as their celebrations.

Equally interesting is the fact that there are no examples in the Bible whatsoever of any true Christian having participated in a celebration of his or her own birthday. Jesus Himself never observed the anniversary of His birth in any fashion. Focusing on the birth of Christ takes our minds off His death as our Passover—His ultimate sacrifice for us as our personal Savior. Why would we think that our birth is of greater importance?

The date on which we happen to be born is not as important to God. He is far more concerned with the development of our individual spiritual character toward eventual birth into His Kingdom (Ecclesiastes 7:1; Revelation 21:7; John 12:24-25). If we repent, turn to God’s true way, receive His Spirit and perhaps die before Christ’s return, wouldn’t the day of our death be much more meaningful than the day of our birth?

Revelation 18:4, for example, makes it quite plain that God does not want His people to mimic the world in any way. Rather, He wants us to remove ourselves as far as possible from its wrong habits, customs and traditions. Just one tiny area would be how we think about and treat the birthdays of others.

There is a vast difference between a simple acknowledgment that someone is a year older and a step closer to the grave and observing the occasion with a celebration. The date of one’s birth is not pagan, nor is the fact that someone is a year older. Certainly, there are a number of milestones in life which are significant. A person’s reaching their teens and then becoming old enough to drive, living to the age of 70, 80, or more years of age, are just a few events which are perfectly proper for family members and friends to acknowledge. Simple recognition is not wrong.

Conversely, a birthday celebration with its usual trappings, inviting guests, giving of gifts, baking and decorating a cake, lighting candles, and so forth, is an entirely different matter. This kind of festivity tends to accentuate flattery and vanity—the I-me-my attitude—and the get, rather than the give way of life! Vanity and glorifying the self are thoroughly condemned in God’s Word (see Galatians 5:26; 2 Peter 2:18; Colossians 2:18; 1 Corinthians 5:6 and Psalm 24:3-4).

Other scriptures tell us to observe God’s Sabbath and His holy days. A similar command for birthday observance simply does not exist!

The California Dream Is Dead

The California Dream Is Dead

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From gold rush to fun-in-the-sun rush—now Californians are in a rush to leave.

In the dead of a cold and drizzly New York winter in 1963, John and Michelle Phillips made famous their longing for adventure and fun in sunny California when they wrote, I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A., California dreamin’, on such a winter’s day.

These sentiments were not unusual at the time. The same year they wrote their song, California surpassed New York as America’s most populated state, growing at a rate of 1,600 people per day. Newsweek featured California on a September 1962 cover as America’s “Number One State.” In April 1963, a New York Times article led off with this title: “From Gold Rush to Sun Rush.” Author Eugene Burdick highlighted numerous alluring features that helped fuel the state’s population boom—“the oil wells, the fishing industry, the availability of the beautiful mountains and beaches, the neat, prim charm of the sun-baked villages of the south, the excellence of the schools, the fertility of the land [and] the forests of the north.” Burdick continued,

The realities of California began to become apparent. It was during the ’20s boom that, for the first time, something like a normal cross section of America began to migrate to the state. Carpenters, plumbers, electricians, school teachers, physicians and intellectuals began to see the state as a place where one could live the good life and get a tan simultaneously.

If the Midwest was America’s breadbasket, then California, as the largest agricultural producer in the country, filled the basket with just about everything else. One of the state’s best-kept secrets, according to Burdick, was the quality of its public school system. These were some of the reasons California grew three times as fast as the rest of the country during the 1950s and ’60s. By 1970, one tenth of the U.S. population lived within California’s borders.

But like most of the immigrants who rushed to the state in search of gold during the 1850s, sun-rushers who poured into the Golden State during the 1960s quickly saw the California dream turn to a nightmare.

Root Causes

“Most of the trends that have recently and radically changed California life are familiar in the other America,” Timewrote in 1969, “though many first came to prominence in California. They include the hippie movement, the pop-drug culture, widespread sexual permissiveness, campus revolt and, since the Watts explosion in 1965, more virulent ghetto riots.”

In What’s the Matter with California?, Jack Cashill identifies several root causes that set off social upheavals all across the state and, following in the wake of California’s radical transformation, the rest of America. Not surprisingly, family breakdown had a devastating domino-like impact on numerous social, economic and political institutions and programs.

When Governor Ronald Reagan established a law in 1969 that redefined the curse of divorce as no one’s fault, the new label did nothing to help the already beleaguered institutions of marriage and family. Cashill wrote,

In 1970, the first full year of the no-fault law, the state registered a record 112,942 divorces, a 38 percent increase from just the year before. To put that number in perspective consider that, in 1960, there had been only 105,352 marriages in California. …In 1970, California’s divorce rate was 60 percent higher than that of the nation as a whole, and it continued to trend upward throughout the decade. By 1980, California had registered a new record 138,361 divorces. In other words, 276,722 Californians got divorced in 1980 alone.In 1980, embarrassed by the divorce plague in their midst, California lawmakers implemented a quick fix of world-class caliber: They would no longer keep or publish statistics!

But pretending curses don’t exist only makes matters far worse. Cashill noted that many of California’s gangs started at or around the time divorce became an epidemic. Since the establishment of the Crips in 1969, for example, approximately 100,000 Californians have been murdered—not all because of gang-related activity, of course, but a sizeable portion nonetheless. More Americans, for example, have died in the battle for south-central Los Angeles than in both Gulf Wars combined, Cashill wrote.

Who could have possibly imagined a scenario in the mid-1960s, when the Mamas and the Papas were singing about how safe it was in Los Angeles, that by the end of 2007, it might actually be safer on the war-ravaged streets of Fallujah?

The Dream’s Implosion

By the early 1990s, the number of Americans moving to California still outnumbered those leaving, but only by a small margin. Time featured California on the cover of a 1991 issue over this subtitle: “The Endangered Dream.” Jordan Bonfante wrote, “California’s fabled magnetism is reversing itself, repelling as well as attracting many of the get-up-and-go Americans who have flocked to the Golden State in search of the California Dream. The escapees are being driven away by an accelerating deterioration in the quality of life: clogged freeways, eye-stinging smog, despoiled landscapes, polluted beaches, water shortages, unaffordable housing, overcrowded schools and beleaguered industries, many of which are fleeing, with their jobs, to other states. The very qualities that have lured millions to California for 50 years are threatening to disappear.”

In the same issue, Time warned of the possible implosion of the California dream. And indeed, reading the headlines California is making today, it can be safely asserted that the dream is well beyond the point of implosion.

In October, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed four bills that promoted homosexual, bisexual, transsexual and other deviant lifestyles in the classroom. One of the bills will prevent any public school from offering instruction that might be interpreted as negative toward transsexuals.

California schools have definitely come a long way since being the state’s best-kept secret in the early 1960s. Just this week, a new study revealed that one in three California students fails to graduate from high school on time. According to the report, a modest graduation rate increase of just 10 percent would result in 500 fewer murders and 20,000 fewer assaults across the state every year.

Nationwide, according to the report, 68 percent of prison inmates are high school dropouts. “The key is getting kids started on the right track as early as possible and then making sure the schools do what is needed to help [them] succeed and graduate,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.

But because of California’s budget crisis, Governor Schwarzenegger is proposing a $1.4 billion cut in funding for public schools.

That’s not to say throwing money at the problem would make everything better. But it does show how long the list of crises really is. Whether it’s family life, gang warfare, environmental pollution, high schoolers dropping out, illegal immigration, the housing market or the budget deficit—everything is now topping out at full-scale crisis mode!

Two weeks ago, Governor Schwarzenegger announced his intention to declare a state of fiscal emergency, relying on a never-before-used provision in the law books that will force legislators to fix California’s out-of-control budget. During the sunny days of the housing boom, California not only ate up its huge tax windfall, but expanded and created all kinds of government programs—programs that are now reliant on taxes generated from the presently collapsing housing industry.

With the fiscal emergency going into effect in January, Schwarzenegger is essentially forcing state legislators to deal with the budget shortfall. The current budget deficit is about $1.9 billion. Next year, because of California’s “booming” social programs, the deficit is projected to be $14 billion. For a state with a current debt of $48 billion, a 30 percent increase on top of that would break California’s back.

And so politicians are finally resorting to what they should have been doing decades ago: cutting costs. Only now, it’s much too little and way too late. One cutback Schwarzenegger’s aides recently proposed in order to alleviate pressure on California’s overcrowded prison system and to reduce government spending involves setting free as many as 30,000 inmates.

You would think California would have learned its lesson by now. Turning criminals loose in society and labeling them law-abiding citizens will only—believe it or not—make matters worse.

Last week, California’s Department of Finance released a study showing that California’s population grew by only 1 percent over the past year. Not counting new births, the state added 111,000 new residents from outside its borders. The key figure in the study, though, reveals that 200,000 entered California from outside America—foreign immigrants, in other words. That means 89,000 more moved out of California than moved in from other U.S. states.

The dream is dead.

Blessing and Cursings

During the California wildfires in October, theTrumpet.com re-printed excerpts from two articles my father has written about the many “curses” California has experienced in recent decades—the fires, the drought, the riots, the earthquakes, etc. Of course, many scoff at the idea of an ever-living, supremely powerful God actually intervening in the affairs of mankind, whether to bless or curse a people.

Abraham Lincoln didn’t. “I believe,” Lincoln said, “that it is meet and right to recognize and confess the presence of the Almighty Father equally in our triumphs and in those sorrows which we may justly fear are a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins to the needful end of our reformation.” Just as God rewards us for obedience to His laws, He lovingly punishes His children for disobedience so that we might be reformed, Lincoln said.

It is this God who has set before all of mankind two ways of life: the way of blessings and the way of cursings, as it says in Deuteronomy. God will not force us to choose one way over the other. But we all must make a choice. And there are consequences for our choices, whether good or bad. To use the biblical analogy, we reap what we sow. If we choose the way that results in cursings, no amount of wishful thinking will magically transform a curse into a blessing.

In the case of California, thanks to a promise God made 4,000 years ago to the great patriarch Abraham (for more on this, read The United States and Britain in Prophecy), the Golden State was once the recipient of a lavish array of fantastic blessings.

The unbelievably shocking facts of the present make it undeniably obvious that those blessings have long since been removed.

Poll: Israelis, Palestinians Expect Future of Violence

Poll: Israelis, Palestinians Expect Future of Violence

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The Annapolis conference has failed to convince many Israelis and Palestinians that peace is on the horizon.

Most Israelis and Palestinians think November’s U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace conference was a failure, according to a recent poll. They also feel that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s goal to achieve peace by the end of next year is far-fetched.

Nearly three out of four Israelis said Annapolis was a failure, and 59 percent of Palestinians agreed. Of the 2008 peace settlement, only 8 percent of Israelis agreed it was possible, along with 23 percent of Palestinians.

Just over half of Israeli respondents believed the violence would not stop (55 percent), and 32 percent of Palestinians thought the same way.

When asked if they would support resettling Palestinians in a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, more land exchanges and splitting sovereignty of Jerusalem, 53 percent of Israelis said yes, down from 64 percent two years ago.

The poll was conducted by Hebrew University and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research and reported by the Associated Press.

Since its inception in 1990, the Trumpet has watched Jerusalem closely. Its forerunner, the Plain Truth, forecasted Jerusalem’s future for decades. To understand whether Israeli and Palestinian pessimism is justified, and for much more on the future of the “peace” process in Jerusalem, read Jerusalem in Prophecy.

Pakistan: Primary Opposition Leader Murdered

Pakistan: Primary Opposition Leader Murdered

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Pakistan stands on the brink of civil war. Police stations burn; several cities report arson.

Benazir Bhutto was killed in a suicide bombing this morning. The bomber shot at the Pakistani opposition leader and former prime minister several times before blowing himself up as she was leaving a rally of her Pakistan People’s Party. Bhutto was a key figure in Pakistani politics. This murder is probably the start of a new era of violence in Pakistan.

Only hours after Bhutto’s death, signs of this violence are evident. In Rawalpindi, where the attacks took place, rioters have taken to the streets, stoning, smashing and burning buildings. Police stations and vehicles have been set ablaze. Reports of arson have come in from across the country. Karachi, one of the world’s most populous cities, has completely shut down. Even journalists are staying off the streets, which are now filled with rioters. At least three banks, a government office and a post office are blazing there. Shops are closing down across the country in fear of violence. Reports say that in response, the army has been deployed on the streets of Rawalpindi, Karachi and Islamabad, though a cnn reporter notes that despite the sound of distant gunfire, no law enforcement is to be found. The situation on the ground is changing fast; the whole country has been put on red alert.

“The impact will be that Pakistan is in more turmoil—it will be the start of civil war in Pakistan,” said Riaz Malik of the Pakistan Movement for Justice party. The Russian foreign minister echoed his concerns.

Pakistan—nuclear-armed Pakistan—may plunge into chaos. This could precipitate one of the biggest disasters so far this century.

Rawalpindi, a garrison city, is viewed as one of the most secure cities in Pakistan. Likely linked with the Taliban and/or al Qaeda, the attacks, according to Stratfor, would not have been possible unless the jihadists had help from government and intelligence services. The attack further highlights, says Stratfor, “the murky links between Islamist militants and elements within the Pakistani security/intelligence establishment” (December 27).

Bhutto’s supporters blame the establishment; many argue Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf is responsible through negligence, though the more extreme believe he may have been behind the attacks himself. Upon hearing of her death, chants broke out of “Dog, Musharraf, dog.” A more chilling and more plausible possibility is that radical Islam has already infiltrated Pakistan’s security service.

With only 12 days until the election, the main opposition leader is dead. Her supporters blame the government, and some are baying for blood. Meanwhile, radical Islam continues to grow and spread. Even before this attack the government had lost control of great swaths of the country. Now it could lose control completely.

Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote, Pakistanalso has the nuclear bomb and could be taken over by radical Islam, with plenty of help fromIran. That means it could become a proxy of the Iranian mullahs. This would be the worst possible disaster!”

Today, Pakistan took a leap toward this worst possible disaster.

Losing Our Sense of Crisis

Losing Our Sense of Crisis

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For many animals, life and death is decided by their ability to sense danger. We would do well to consider this lesson from nature.

The ability to sense danger is a life-saving quality. We see this lesson everywhere in nature. Take the herd of antelope grazing peacefully on the sun-soaked prairies of Africa, for example. Danger surrounds these beasts constantly; they are the fillet mignon of the lions, cheetahs and sundry other carnivores prowling the plains in search of fine dining.

For the antelope, staying alive is a function of their ability to sense danger and react quickly.

Perhaps you’ve seen a documentary of this scene: A herd of antelope grazing blithely, seemingly unaware of the lip-licking lion nearby in the tall grass, stealthily stalking the herd, crafting his assault, contemplating the best attack route, the timing, the target. Then suddenly, the peaceful colony becomes restless. Heads dart up, ears twitch, noses search for the ominous scent, and alert eyes scan the horizon. The herd becomes jittery, a few beasts begin to move, alarmed by the sense of unseen danger, then suddenly, though the lion remains hidden, they begin to stampede.

The outcome of this story varies; sometimes the antelope dodges death, sometimes a comrade is taken. Whatever the case, the herd’s reaction limits the potential for casualties and makes the attack infinitely tougher for the lion.

The lesson is, while it is the act of running that reduces the antelope’s chances of being mauled, that action is motivated by a sense of crisis. This is what saves the antelope’s life. Anyone who hunts has witnessed this: Sometimes even the faintest scent of human odor is enough to arouse a sense of danger in a deer that stirs it to flee the crosshairs of the poised rifle.

In the animal world, life and death are often separated by a keen sense of crisis.

How keen is our sense of crisis? How acutely do we perceive the dangers facing our lives, our families and our nations? Does an accurate sense of crisis underpin your actions and drive your life forward? Our planet faces catastrophic dangers, and human survival is our number-one threat. Does this create within us a sense of crisis so deep that we are motivated to learn how to escape the danger?

At theTrumpet.com we talk about the multitude of dangers besieging America, Britain and Israel. You can learn about why we focus on these nations by reading The United States and Britain in Prophecy. But we write often about the economic Armageddon lingering over Britain and America; the spiritual and moral disintegration tearing these societies asunder; the weakness of their national leadership; their geopolitical impotence; the danger they face from crime, disease epidemics, immigration, and the list goes on.

Despite these dangers, these nations have little sense of crisis, nationally or individually. Why?

First, human nature dislikes the truth when it threatens to disrupt one’s own interests, desires and lifestyles. We will go to great lengths to hide from the truth, or color it in our own terms, if comprehending the truth demands we react in a manner that runs counter to our desires.

A sense of crisis provides no leeway for inaction! When a human is frightened or faces immediate danger, the brain demands fight or flight: A person will either stay and fight, or quickly take flight. Either way, the sense of crisis demands a reaction.

But if there’s no sense of crisis, no need is felt to react! British and American societies, collectively and individually, thrive on inaction, passivity and a don’t rock the boat mentality. These nations manage external threats by relying solely on diplomacy and appeasement rather than action; they create environments that sanction economic irresponsibility rather than curb it; they create laws that condone moral depravity or illegal immigration because that’s easier than enforcing laws that would prevent these crises.

Having a weak sense of crisis, or not having one at all, means weak solutions, passivity and procrastination. When we bury our head in the sand, personally or as a nation, we ignore the need to confront danger.

Second, this individual and collective lack of a sense of crisis is the result of a culture of self-gratification and pleasure. Wrapped up in materialism and an unbalanced desire for satisfying the senses, these peoples have lost touch with reality!

This is a deadly state of mind. An accurate sense of crisis is a healthy and important function of our mental state, nationally and individually. Like the antelope on the prairie, having a sense of crisis can help us preempt danger and deal with it before it strikes. A sense of crisis is a precursor to action; it is one of the factors that drives us to react, to respond, and to act. When there’s no sense of danger, oftentimes there’s no sense of a need to act. Passivity prevails while the dangers grow larger and more dangerous—until one day they explode in our faces.

Ancient history shows what happens when people become consumed by materialism and self-gratification, and lose the capacity to sense crisis. Read Matthew 24:36-39, a passage describing the time of Noah, when people were focused on satisfying fleshly lusts and were shocked when the heavens opened and the flood came. Notice the context of that passage; it’s a prophecy for today (verse 27).

How keen is your sense of crisis? How acutely do you perceive the dangers facing you, your family and your nation? We all need a reality check from time to time. If you feel you need to develop a stronger sense of crisis, take the time to conduct an honest, open-minded analysis of world events.

Be prepared—the picture is not pretty. As your mind grows more outward focused and takes on a newly invigorated sense of crisis, your mind will likely be flooded with questions. How can you escape the crises looming? Why are the dangers occurring? Can they be prevented? What happens after the crises have come and gone?

Be assured, when these questions arise, theTrumpet.com will be here to show you the answers. And those answers are thrilling beyond belief!

Russia Launches Three More Satellites for Its Own GPS

Russia Launches Three More Satellites for Its Own GPS

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Russia successfully put into orbit the last three satellites needed for navigation coverage of its entire territory on Wednesday. Russia’s military-run glonass is a satellite navigation system to rival the U.S.’s global positioning system.

The latest round of satellite launchings follows the launching of three in October and brings to 18 the number of satellites now in orbit. glonass—the Global Navigation Satellite System—is expected to have global coverage by the end of 2009, with 24 satellites operational.

Though glonass has been around since the mid-1970s, the project fell into disrepair after the 1991 Soviet collapse. Recently, however, as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s drive to return Russia to world power status, money has been thrown at the project to make it fully operational. In 2005, Putin instructed the Russian Federal Space Agency and the Defense Ministry to accelerate work on the project so it would become fully operational across Russia by the end of this year, and operational globally by 2010, a year earlier than anticipated. With the latest launching, it appears the project is on target.

Today’s militaries are highly reliant on navigational system technologies. To this point, the U.S.’s gps has largely had a monopoly on the technology. Obviously, this means, as Stratfor has pointed out, “Anyone who picks a military fight with the United States risks losing access to satellite positioning. This makes it impossible for other countries’ militaries to develop and use gps-based satellite guidance technology without playing nice with Washington” (March 16).

That is changing, however. Europe, China and Russia are all working overtime to develop their own systems. As they do, the United States will lose the technological advantage it has had, and other nations will become better positioned for future warfare.