Pollsters asked the American people in recent surveys: What are your greatest concerns for 2003? In most polls the number one answer was war in the Middle East; number two was the economy.
How will war with Iraq affect your life? Anxiety over war in the Middle East has already affected your wallet. War fears and unrest in Venezuela have caused oil prices to shoot up rapidly in recent weeks-the spot price exceeding $36 a barrel as of this writing. In some parts of the United States energy costs have soared as an arctic winter sent thermometers plummeting as far south as Miami.
The stock market is down for the third year in a row, hammered recently by uncertainty, war fears and rising energy costs. Consumer spending is slumping, unemployment is growing, manufacturing continues to slow and the trade deficit is spiraling out of sight. The U.S. dollar continues to lose ground against the euro as prospects for a brighter U.S. economic future grow dimmer.
According to Stratfor Report, Japan, with the world's second largest economy, continues to wallow in a protracted economic bust. Japan's Nikkei index has lost around 20 percent of its value over the last year.
Germany, with the world's third largest economy, also continues to experience grave difficulties. Germany's unemployment rate stands at 10 percent. Some of the nation's largest banks are in trouble.
Recently, German business leaders expressed their concerns with the economic policies of Gerhard Schroeder's government. The chairman of Adidas called the government "conceptionless" and said that "nobody has a clue in this overall chaos," while the head of IKB Deutsche Industriebank said, "Not since the end of the [Second World] war have conditions been as bad as today."
Worldwide quest for armaments
Much of the economic vitality of the nations is continually siphoned off in their pursuit of armaments. The nations of the world are trying to beat as many plowshares into swords as possible. The prophet Joel prophesies of the prelude to end-time warfare: "Proclaim this among the nations: 'Prepare for war! Wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near, let them come up. Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, "I am strong"'" (Joel 3:9-10 Joel 3:9-10  Proclaim you this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up:
 Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.
American King James Version×).
America's military is the country's biggest business. The 2003 Department of Defense budget is $369 billion, plus another $10 billion in supplemental funds for fighting terrorism if needed.
U.S. President George W. Bush has ordered the military to begin installing a national missile defense system. Ten ground-based interceptors will be installed in Fort Greeley, Alaska, by 2004 and 10 more will be added by 2005 or 2006. Washington also requested permission from the Danish and British governments to use radar sites in Greenland and England. Many analysts believe that this move will set off another arms race similar to the one that consumed much of the resources of the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
North Korea, one of President Bush's "axis of evil" nations, has recently admitted that it has nuclear weapons. In December the nation pulled out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and expelled the UN observers who were monitoring its mothballed nuclear power reactor, then announced they were restarting the reactor—which would enable it to create more bomb-making materials.
Then on Feb. 12 CIA Director George Tenet acknowledged that North Korea has intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons to the West Coast of the United States.
The situation in Korea appears to be reaching crisis proportions, with North Korean officials threatening "total war" and preemptive strikes against the United States. North Korea appears to be coldly calculating the odds, wondering if America is able and willing to fight an active war on two fronts.
China, the world's most populous nation, is sounding a clear clarion call that she intends to displace the United States as the preeminent power on the face of the earth.
Bible prophecy reveals that a powerful alliance will be the dominant world power just before Christ returns. According to Daniel, a European-centered power (called the "beast" in the book of Revelation) will eventually enter and set up its headquarters in Jerusalem. "He shall also enter the Glorious Land . . . But news from the east and the north shall trouble him; therefore he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many. And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas and the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and no one will help him" (Daniel 11:41 Daniel 11:41He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.
American King James Version×, 44-45).
Tidings out of the east and the north (directions are from the point of view of Jerusalem in the prophecy) trouble the "beast," indicating that the world is divided between East and West. Neither China nor nations from the Middle East will have control of the Middle East at the end of this present evil age.
Disease epidemics to escalate
Health experts estimate that some 20 million people will die of AIDS on the continent of Africa in the next few years. American politicians, businessmen and entertainment figures have visited Africa and pledged financial support in fighting AIDS. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, has pledged millions of dollars to fight the disease there.
On Jan. 28, in his State of the Union address, President Bush proposed an emergency plan for AIDS relief to help in the fight against AIDS in Africa. The intent of this plan is to "prevent 7 million new AIDS infections, treat at least 2 million people with life-extending drugs and provide humane care for millions of people suffering from AIDS and for children orphaned by AIDS." He asked the U.S. Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean.
In an effort to try to understand the nature of disease epidemics in general, scientists have been looking at the environmental connection to meningitis, which ravages desert areas of North Africa. They believe that there is a connection to the "desertification" that's been happening over the past 40 years. The disease doesn't occur in the forested areas of Central Africa, but is endemic in the dry region stretching from Senegal to Ethiopia.
Many of the more communicable diseases are becoming more and more resistant to the so-called miracle drugs. New and more virulent strains of various diseases are rearing their ugly heads.
Upset weather conditions, food disparity
Scientists have made great strides in being able to predict the weather. Yet they cannot control it or in many cases even begin to understand it. Scientists talk about global warming and the El Niño effect, but they still don't really know what is causing either one.
Drought plagues some areas while others receive too much rain. God foretold such a time through the prophet Amos: "I also withheld rain from you, when there were still three months to the harvest. I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, and where it did not rain the part withered" (Amos 4:7 Amos 4:7And also I have withheld the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain on one city, and caused it not to rain on another city: one piece was rained on, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered.
American King James Version×).
Up to 24,000 people a day-three quarters of them children under the age of 5-die of hunger-related causes. More than 800 million people are chronically undernourished, 180 million children are severely underweight for their age and, says the UN, 2 billion people suffer from nutrient-deficiency diseases.
Yet the problem is not one of a scarcity of food. The United States exports 60 percent of the food it grows, but even in America, 26 million people are in need of food handouts.
Only 20 years ago, Ghana used to export rice; today its rice industry has collapsed under U.S. and Thai imports. Many Pakistani farmers have burned their harvests in desperation because they are losing money. About 20 percent of Africa's food now comes from rich countries, even though it could in many cases grow its own.
Water becomes more and more scarce
As the world seeks and fights for the oil fields of the globe, in time another liquid will become even more precious than all the world's petroleum reserves—water! A World Bank forecast for South Korea, a relatively well-watered country, calculates that if its economy grows 5 percent a year, industry's demand for water will cut in half the amount available for farming within 23 years.
In China, the water needed to produce one ton of wheat worth $200 can be used to expand industrial output by $14,000. Farming, analysts predict, will always lose out to industry.
The paradox is that as nations continue to increase industrial production, water use increases exponentially. The result is less and less water for growing food. As the food supply of a country decreases, it is forced to depend more on other countries.
Moral decline continues to accelerate
Various authors have written volumes concerning America's obsession with materialism and pleasure seeking. Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork gained notoriety with his book Slouching Towards Gomorrah, in which he graphically describes the disturbing trends of America's increasing obsession with sensual pleasure.
The United States is now in what I call "the post-immoral state" and has lapsed into a state of amorality. Amorality means no standards of morality are universally accepted. As Victor Davis Hanson writes in The National Review Online, "There is a postmodern amorality afloat—the dividend of years of an American educational system in which historical ignorance, cultural relativism, and well-intentioned theory, in place of cold facts, has reigned" ("Postmodern Palestine," March 29, 2002).
When a nation falls into the cesspool of amorality, the only universally accepted standard is that all lifestyles are to be equally accepted. Thus the greatest evil becomes intolerance of another person's lifestyle. Then intolerance is suddenly defined as hate, and then laws are passed to prosecute those who would condemn another person's lifestyle.
So one of the most disturbing trends in the United States is the secularization of society, to the point that all standards of behavior are to be equally tolerated. This has far-reaching implications for its people.
America is a nation in which 90 percent of the people profess that they believe in God. Its currency bears the national motto, "In God We Trust." Its citizens and schoolchildren repeat the pledge of allegiance to the flag with the affirmation, "One nation under God." In its courts jurors and witnesses are sworn in with the words, "so help me God."
But the question of the day is, do Americans really believe in the God of the Bible? Based on the popular culture of the day, one would have to conclude that their belief is betrayed by their hedonistic lifestyles. Many Americans are now driven to try to squeeze out every ounce of pleasure they can while at the same time wallowing in the pits of hopelessness and despair, having lost sight of personal and national integrity.
A warning to all
In view of all of this, in Luke 21:34-36 Luke 21:34-36  And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come on you unawares.
 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.
 Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
American King James Version×Christ admonishes everyone who will listen to "take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day [of end-time calamity preceding Christ's return] come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."
Will you be ready? GN