Monday, December 28, 2009

ObamaCare Blues

Nobody I know is in favor of the health care bill the Democrats are ramrodding through Congress. Maybe that is saying something about my circle of friends and acquaintances. Since my blog here at www.discovertruth.com also cross-posts in Facebook, I'm hopeful some Facebook liberals or Democrats or anyone in favor of ObamaCare can help me out. I know quite a few people who are vehemently opposed because they believe ObamaCare will be more harmful to our economy than the bailouts and takeovers of the financial and automotive sectors. Common sense and basic economic principles lead me to the same conclusion.

I'm open to listening to someone, anyone, who can help me understand why ObamaCare is good. If you're in favor of ObamaCare, please tell me why! A friend of mine was engaged in a similar dialog. He too is unconvinced that ObamaCare is good. He explains why in this email to his sister. He gave me permission to share it here.

Dear Sis,

I suspect there are some facts you have not taken into consideration regarding ObamaCare. I downloaded the proposed law a while back and examined it carefully. Have you read it? Has your Congressman even read it?

We agree that ObamaCare does not help the rich, it just raises their taxes.

We agree that ObamaCare does not help the poor, they already get free health care (through Medicaid).

We agree that ObamaCare does not help most of the people in the middle, whose employers (or spouse's employers) already pay for health insurance.

The relatively small number (10%) of people in the middle whose employers cannot afford to pay for health insurance, and the people who are not employed, are the ones we disagree over.

First of all, we need to recognize that these people in the middle can buy health insurance TODAY if they want to. It's very expensive because health insurance is like that. In addition to paying all those expensive doctor and hospital bills and prescription drugs, the insurance companies also have to pay for their own administrators and the extra paperwork caused by government regulations and their CEO's expensive new car. The people on no insurance only pay for the doctors and the hospital and the pills. You could buy health insurance for you and your minor child TODAY, if you want to, but it would cost you more than you are paying out-of-pocket for doctor visits and medications. That's because the insurance companies must make a profit if they are going to stay in business. If they don't make any money, they just close their doors and you can't get their services at all.

ObamaCare does not help those people in the middle like you and me, who COULD buy health insurance TODAY, but don't want to pay as much as it would cost. All the new law does is force us to buy insurance that is too expensive today and still too expensive under ObamaCare, or else pay hundreds of dollars in new taxes, or else ObamaCare sends them to jail if they refuse. I read the proposed law, that's what it says. That part was in Obama's original plan.

Many of the people in the middle work at minimum-wage jobs where their employer cannot afford to pay for health care. ObamaCare also raises the taxes on those employers in an effort to force them to pay for health insurance, but the taxes, while burdensome, are less than the actual cost of health insurance, so many (perhaps most) of those companies will still not pay for health insurance. To the extent that they are small businesses operating on a shoestring they will not be able to stay in business, and all those people will be out of a job. At least then they can go on welfare and get free health care.

ObamaCare promises to make health insurance "affordable". That's a lie. They can't. They might subsidize the premiums for the poor people otherwise on Medicaid, but they already get their health care for free. People like you and me won't see any significant help. The premiums less the subsidies will still cost more than just paying the medical bills ourselves, the way we do TODAY.

One more thing: Taxes go up for everybody, because *somebody* has to pay for those subsidies. The poor people who pay no taxes today, some of them will still pay no taxes, but people like me (I paid no taxes last year) will pay up to $1000 in new taxes. The rich people who pay no taxes today, will still pay no taxes, for the same reasons. Their cronies in the White House will continue to look the other way and let them off the hook. It's called "Chicago politics" and Obama is in that game.

All the rest of the people with any livable income will pay increased taxes. I calculated what ObamaCare would do to me, if it were the law this year, and I would have to pay $800 more in taxes -- and my income is below Federal Poverty Level.

That's what I see in ObamaCare. That's why I don't like it.

Now, tell me how is it going to help anybody? I really want to know.

You could start by telling me how ObamaCare helps *ME*. Or yourself. Your minor son is already covered by the new Childrens Health Act passed last year under Bush. All ObamaCare does is penalize you for not paying for it.

Signed,

Perplexed Brother

For a Cause or for Christ?

Over at Wineskins for Discipleship Heather Zempel raises and interesting question. She asks, "Why am I more cause focused than person focused?" In her case, being a Christian, this carries the Christian expectation that the person of focus should be Jesus. I agree. Jesus is the center of Christianity, but what does this look like practically?

I love passionate people like Heather who give their lives to a cause. In fact, I'm inspired by people who give their lives to all sorts of worthy causes whether it is caring for the poor, helping the homeless, ministering to those in prison, starting new churches, etc. I'm even inspired by people who merely offer a cup of cold water to a child (Matt 10:42). The Bible makes it clear that these sorts of causes are on mission and within the heart of Christ.

It is good to recalibrate the compass periodically and ensure the cause on which we're focused is a cause that Christ would approve, but I see absolutely nothing wrong with being cause focused. Heather arrives at her "for a cause or for Christ" dichotomy by starting with this premise:

"The disciples didn't lay their lives down for a cause but for a person."

Heather didn't share the full context of this Dave Buehring statement, and I'm hesitant to be too critical without proper context, but out of context and by itself this appears to me as a false statement. The cause of Christ is outlined in Matthew 28 and in other areas of the New Testament. The disciples were cause-driven men who turned the world upside down in spreading the Gospel. I believe Christians should passionately pursue the cause of Christ, and isn't that the Gospel? Perhaps the real question here is whether or not whatever cause we've given our lives to is furthering the Gospel?

I don't know what it means to lay down my life for a person unless that also means laying down my life for the causes that person cared about.

Your thoughts? Please comment.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Insurance is the Problem in Health Care

This essay was written by a friend of mine. I totally agree with his assessment. What do you think?

Health Insurance Is the Problem, Not the Solution

President Obama ran on a campaign (among other things) to solve the cost of health care crisis in this country. His proposed solution can only make matters worse, not better.

Two things drive up the cost of a product in a market economy: supply and demand.

Obama's proposal eliminates the market economy by eliminating all competition, then forcing everybody to pay for his "public option" instead. He doesn't say all this, because our President-trainee does not understand markets.

In a market economy both buyers and sellers are free to transact their business or not. People who decide that there is profit for a seller in the transaction can produce the product and sell it for what the buyer is willing to pay. If they decide there is no profit, the supply is diminished, driving up the price until there is sufficient profit to motivate producers to enter the market. If the price is too high, buyers stop buying and the reduced demand results in over-supply, which encourages producers to reduce their prices. The market stabilizes at a price that free buyers are willing to pay and free sellers are willing to produce it for. That is usually slightly higher than it costs to produce, the difference being the profit margin which motivates producers. If the profit margin is too high, other producers will enter the market at a lower profit margin and take their business away. The system works and it works well.

The problem with spiraling health care costs is that we do not have a truly free market, because the buyers are not the consumers. The buyers of health care are the insurance companies. They repackage their plans and sell the package to the companies and individuals who pay fixed premiums regardless of how much service they use, so that most of the actual health care costs are paid by the insurance companies, not the consumers. That makes health care "free" to the consumers. There is no limit to demand on free products, and demand drives the price up.

The way to manage the cost while restoring and maintaining a free market is to eliminate the insurance companies. You can't just outlaw them -- although Obama's plan effectively does that -- what you need to do is restore the freedom of choice to the consumers. Make it worth their while to consume fewer health care services. Allow them (not the insurance companies) to keep the money not spent on health care, and they will make informed and reasonably intelligent choices about when to spend it. Insurance is the problem, not the solution.

The people who will object to this idea are the people whose lifestyle choices lead to bad health and thus to higher medical needs: the smokers, the obese, the sexually promiscuous, the thrill-seekers and the clumsy. A very few are born with health problems we do not (yet) know how to prevent; they will be unhappy also. This is not all that different morally from the fact that some people are born into wealthy families and some people are born poor. It's the luck of the draw. Government efforts to equalize wealth only serve to reduce everybody to (equal) poverty, because it is the prospect of great wealth that drives people to do things that increase the wealth of the nation. The rising tide lifts all boats, but it raises the boats of the hard workers even more. That is what motivates them to work for it.

If everybody pays for their own health care, then the rich people will have better health care. They also eat better food and drive nicer cars and live in bigger houses. That is the nature of wealth, and it is not immoral. The prospect of great wealth motivates people to produce products that other people are willing to pay for, and they are willing to pay for these products because they make life more pleasant. Furthermore, the rich people spend more money on their nice products, which enables opportunistic people to increase their own wealth by producing the products these rich people are willing to buy. The result is that when people get rich in a market economy, everybody benefits. If they want to.

There are also poor people who cannot afford nice cars and big houses and fine food -- nor the best health care. Some of these people cannot afford food and housing at all. There are charities to provide minimal food and housing to people willing to meet their requirements. The people who are unwilling, go without. That too is the nature of a market economy, that you can choose to do without the things that hard work would pay for. Health care is no different, and there are (or can be) charities that provide it to indigents. Unless the government gets in the way.

Obama's proposed solution is opposed to free markets. He wants to cap the price people pay for health insurance without providing any incentive for them to limit their consumption of services. Demand therefore increases without any limit, but supply becomes limited by the reduced profit incentive. Doctors will drop out and go do other things that better reward their efforts. Insurance companies will discover that they cannot afford to stay in business at these reduced prices and higher costs, so they will drop out also. That leaves only the "public option" funded by taxes. Taxpayers will protest, so the government will limit supply by various means such as delay and outright refusal. The quality of health care will drastically go down -- as indeed it must in any system that attempts to equalize wealth by government intervention.

The rich will always be able to access quality health care -- on the black market if the government attempts to make it unlawful, but they can do that. The only difference is that large numbers of middle-class people who now pay high prices for their health care, they will not be able to get it at any price because of the reduced supply. Sure, they will have the government-mandated insurance, but (as reported in England, where this kind of program is already operational) the waiting period or the quota lotteries will make it inaccessible.

Do you want that kind of health care? I don't.

Tom Pittman
2009 December 9

Source: http://www.ittybittycomputers.com/Essays/InsProblem.htm

Monday, December 07, 2009

Truth Decay

In two national surveys conducted by the Barna Research Group the following was found:

  • By a 3-to-1 margin (64% vs. 22%) adults said truth is always relative to the person and their situation.
  • 83% of teenagers said moral truth depends on the circumstances, and only 6% of said moral truth is absolute.
  • Just one out of ten of our country's born again teenagers believes in absolute moral truth - a statistic that is nearly identical to that of non-born again teens.
  • The alarmingly fast decline of moral foundations among our nations young people has culminated in a one-word worldview: 'whatever.' The result is a mentality that esteems pluralism, relativism, tolerance, and diversity without critical reflection of the implications of particular views and actions.
Very sad.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Flu Vaccine Exposed

When I went to India, I did a lot of research on vaccines, and decided to only take anti-malaria tablets and skip the suggested vaccines. One of the guys in my office that did go for the vaccines got an infection from the shot and got really sick and ended up not being able to go on the trip at all. It seemed to me that the chances of complications from the vaccine itself were at least as risky as what the vaccines were supposed to prevent on my Asia trip since I was going to be spending most of my time in Bangalore which is a modern city. I didn't get sick, so I guess my risk taking worked out. Here's a short video that summarizes the information on which I based my decision years ago to not get the annual flu shot, but don't confuse my view on flue vaccines and travel vaccines for me being an "anti-vaxxer." That is a totally different, albeit related, topic that is full of hype and hysteria.



Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Comedy in Theology

“Because of piety’s penchant for taking itself too seriously, theology–more than literary, humanistic, and scientific studies–does well to nurture a modest, unguarded sense of comedy. Some comic sensibility is required to keep in due proportion the pompous pretensions of the study of divinity. I invite the kind of laughter that wells up not from cynicism about reflection on God but from the ironic contradictions accompanying such reflections. Theology is intrinsically funny. This comes from glimpsing the incongruity of humans thinking about God. I have often laughed at myself as these sentences went through their tortuous stages of formation. I invite you to look for the comic dimension of divinity that stalks every page. It is not blasphemy to grasp the human contradiction for what it is. The most enjoyable of all subjects has to be God, because God is the source of all joy.”

-- Thomas C. Oden quote from his three volume Systematic Theology

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Science & Technology: A False Hope

Human beings have an innate need to worship. Modern people are too sophisticated to worship idols of wood or stone. Instead, we idolize sex, self, security, power, money, and particularly science and technology. The sophistication of modern idolatry is quite high. Neither atheists nor Christians bow down to a statue or sacrifice animals on the altar of Science, but when you examine where people place their trust as an ultimate authority, even unaware Christians bow the knee to Science and its twin god, Technology. One of Satan's more heinous tricks is the subtlety of substituting science and technology as the ultimate authority over and above the authority and promises of God's Word.

Many people have written on the rise of scientific authority and technological progress in the modern and post-modern era, so there is no need to repeat that here. The bottom line is science is an unstable foundation for ultimate truth seeking, i.e. answering the "big questions" in life. Scientific progress is accomplished by adherence to an ethic of uncertainty. Technology will not lead us to utopia. The atom bomb proved that without doubt. Science is a shifting sand of doubt based on questioning the current paradigms of human understanding, and it is limited in its ability to answer the big questions in the domain of theology and philosophy. Technology is a false hope for ultimate human redemption.

Even something as apparently absolute as the law of gravity is subject to change with advancement in scientific understanding. For example, Newtonian gravity isn't as precise as Einstein's view, and who is to say that Einstein's description of gravity won't be replaced by some new understanding in the future? Such is the evolution of science, and this is a good evolution for understanding the universe around us. However, there is a not-so-good evolutionary mindset among scientists today called Darwinism. Darwinism often degrades into scientism which has taken control of science over the last century even through there are a few bright lights that things may be changing.

The unfortunate outcome of pitting science and technology against God as the ultimate authority is to is to build up a false dichotomy for truth seeking. I am disturbed by how many Christians allow the atheistic scientism driven out of Darwinism to be more authoritative in their thinking than the Word of God, but I've met relatively few people who chase down their assumptions to this level of consideration. Most people seem to be too caught up in the idolatry of consumerism, money, etc. to really consider the big questions at the root of their belief systems.

The good news is eventually true science will realign with God's Word, or errant understandings of God's Word will be corrected and realigned with true science. History shows this pattern. Human scientific understanding grows in fits and starts, and for periods of time science is sometimes at odds with Biblical truth. But, if God's Word is as important as Jesus claimed that it was, then ultimately human beings will discover there is no conflict between the Bible and science when both are correctly understood.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Time

Did God create time? I used to think so. When studying physics many moons ago, I learned that time is a 4th dimension in addition to the three spatial dimensions. According to Genesis 1, God created space and matter, so I had assumed God created time too. That implies God is "outside" the space-time continuum. Now I'm not so sure about this implication. Here's why:

There are two ways to interpret the mathematical core of Special Relativity. On Einstein’s interpretation, there is no absolute “now” in the world; rather what is now is relative to different observers in motion. If you and I are moving with respect to each other, then what is now for me is not now for you. But on H. A. Lorentz’s interpretation, there is an absolute now in the world, but we just cannot be sure which events in the world are happening now because motion affects our measuring instruments. Moving clocks run slow and moving measuring rods contract. The Einsteinian and the Lorentzian interpretations are empirically equivalent; there is no experiment you could perform to decide between them. But I want to argue that if God exists, then Lorentz was right. Here is my argument:
1. If God exists, then God is in time.
This is true because God is really related to the world as cause to effect. But a cause of a temporal effect must exist either before or at the same time as its effect. So God must be in time.
2. If God is in time, then a privileged observer exists.
Since God transcends the world and is the cause of the existence of everything in the world, His perspective on the world is the true perspective.
3. If a privileged observer exists, then an absolute now exists.
Since God is a privileged observer, His “now” is privileged. Thus, there is an absolute now, just as Lorentz claimed.
This is a very startling conclusion, indeed. But I am firmly convinced that if God exists, then a Lorentzian, rather than Einsteinian, theory of relativity is correct. It is hard to imagine how religion could have any greater relevance to science than this, to show that one theory is wrong and another is right.
[Source: What is the Relation between Science and Religion? by William Lane Craig]

Perhaps time is not so much created in the manner of space and matter, but merely a result of creation being in relative motion compared to God, yet God is also transcendent and omnipresent "for in him we live and move and have our being." Maybe time simply ceases to exist at God's point of being as the privileged observer which could account for God's timelessness. Who knows? What I do know is I really don't know with any degree of certainty what I thought I used to know!

So, what about something like an absolute zero temperature region or a perfect vacuum where all molecular motion ceases or no matter is in motion? Does time stop there? Nope, not in relation to God since this region or vacuum has motion relative to the position of the privileged observer, i.e. God.

Even if this line of thought holds water in the context of Special Relativity, it has been 20 years since I gave much thought to General Relativity. And, even though I was a physics major in college I didn't fully grasp General Relativity even when I studied it. Someone much smarter than I will have to consider the ramifications in the context of GR.

This line of thought reminded me of Psalm 46:10a: "Be still, and know that I am God."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tozer on the Unknowable

In the chapter on the self-existence of God in his classic work The Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer writes:

Philosophy and science have not always been friendly toward the idea of God, the reason being that they are dedicated to the task of accounting for things and are impatient with anything that refuses to give an account of itself. The philosopher and the scientist will admit that there is much that they do not know; but that is quite another thing from admitting that there is something which they can never know, which indeed they have no technique for discovering.

To admit that there is One who lies beyond us, who exists outside of all our categories, who will not be dismissed with a name, who will not appear before the bar of our reason, nor submit to our curious inquiries: this requires a great deal of humility, more than most of us possess, so we save face by thinking God down to our level, or at least down to where we can manage Him. Yet how He eludes us! For He is everywhere while He is nowhere, for "where" has to do with matter and space, and God is independent of both. He is unaffected by time or motion, is wholly self-dependent and owes nothing to the worlds His hands have made.

I used to think I was the furthest thing from a mystic when it came to my Christian faith, but the older I get the more I resonate with guys like Tozer and Oswald Chambers. I've also been hearing more about younger generations of Evangelicals going over to the Eastern Orthodox church. I wonder what is afoot here?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mr. Fix-It

Dr. John Gray of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus fame calls it Mr. Fit-It. It has probably been over a dozen years since I read that book, but I remember identifying with Mr. Fix-It a lot. If you articulate a problem around men, we look for a solution. If you articulate a problem around women, they tend to empathize and talk it out. There is a definite gender difference in how the sexes deal with personal problems. I have been reminded of this difference in some very significant ways just recently.

In the last couple of weeks, I've had a rash of personal problems popping up all around me with friends and family: two marriages blowing up of two couples I care about deeply, issues with my teen-age boys, getting along with co-workers, etc. I've discovered that being Mr. Fix-It is exhausting. The Bible has some powerful wisdom on how to deal with personal problems.

First, get the log out of your own eye. That is often my first problem. Dealing with someone hypocritically (especially our children) is usually a train wreck waiting to happen. Romans 2:3-5 addresses this directly and without pulling punches. Then, realize there are two sides to every story. Proverbs 18:17 is one of my favorites: "The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him."

My most recent discovery is realizing that in the midst of their messes, others are not just problems to be fixed, but people to be loved. I often forget that when I'm in the middle of a crisis situation and looking for a solution. Jesus gives a great example on striking the balance when he was approached by the rich young man. The version of this story in Mark 10 has some additional insight beyond the synoptic version in Matthew 19. Mark's gospel gives this account:
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'"

"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."

Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

This passage is almost always used for teaching about money and possessions, but it also teaches us the art of helping someone with a personal problem. First, be careful of giving unsolicited advice. In this case, the rich young man came to Jesus asking for help. Second, work from a position of log-free humility. Jesus was perfect yet he deferred the goodness and honor given to him over to God rather than engaging from his position of perfection. None of us have a perfect position from which to counsel others.

Third, engage the other person on the basis of Biblical truth. Jesus gave the rich young man the law from the Book. Fourth, note how in v.21 Jesus loved him. This is more than just warm fuzzies and emotional affirmation. It is telling the truth in love rather than what would tickle his ears. Jesus gave this rich young man some hard truth and still loved him. Finally, the ultimate advice always points back to Jesus himself. We do well to follow Him, and point others in the same direction.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

9/11 Nonsense

On this eve of 9/11, a friend of mine sent me this purported interview of President Obama by Hollywood actor Charlie Sheen.

http://www.infowars.com/twenty-minutes-with-the-president/

It sounded fishy from the beginning, but I was immediately skeptical anyway because I recognized the Infowars.com domain. Infowars.com and PrisonPlanet.com are the work of conspiracy theorist and self-proclaimed truth seeker Alex Jones. If you read through this piece of fiction concocted by Mr. Sheen, you find this little nugget at the bottom:

"Author’s Note: What you have just read didn’t actually happen… yet."

Thankfully I didn't waste my time reading this nonsense. My chagrined friend alerted me to the skullduggery he inadvertently passed along before I got around to reading the material myself. This is exactly why I pay nearly zero attention to Alex Jones, and why I'd recommend any serious minded truth seeker should ignore him as well. 95% (maybe more?) of the people who hit this link won't read the fine print at the bottom or will overlook it in their zeal to pass it along to a "truth seeking" friend who is like minded in their skepticism regarding the official conspiracy theory about 9/11.

Mr. Sheen's work of fiction will inadvertently be passed along as truth, and I have no doubts that is the intent and desire of Mr. Jones who is also promoting this work of fiction on his PrisonPlanet.com banner ad as I'm writing this blog entry. In Mr. Jones's world, truth is not only stranger than fiction, fiction is presented as truth (until you read the fine print). It is no coincidence this propaganda piece showed up on Mr. Jones's web sites during the anniversary week of 9/11. Alex Jones and Charlie Sheen are obviously running a propaganda program of their own. It gives Alex Jones more fodder for his online radio and TV shows. I guess when fighting "infowars" lying...or "fiction" purported as truth (with a little disclaimer)...is okey dokie on Mssrs. Sheen and Jones's moral compass?

In my world view, fighting lies with lies only results in more liars. Why should Alex Jones or anyone else believe Charlie Sheen as a credible authority on the 9/11 controversies and mysteries? Because he is a Hollyweird celeb? Give me a break!

Monday, August 31, 2009

An Aphorism

Truth invites scrutiny of the evidence, but error demands tolerance of opinion.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Dave Ramsey on "Cash for Clunkers"

With all the buzz about Cash for Clunkers, it’s easy to think that it was a great way for people to get a better set of wheels. But was it really? No way! Cash for Clunkers was simply a way for broke people to buy cars that they really couldn't afford. It was a bad idea on multiple levels. But before digging into that, let’s take a little history lesson.
About a decade ago, a fair housing program was started, called a sub-prime lending market. The idea behind it was that everyone “needed” to own a home—including broke people. The government decided to start a program to reinvest in communities, which allowed pretty much anyone to borrow money to buy a house. Lending companies charged high interest rates, causing already struggling families to go even further into debt.
Basically, this was a program designed to encourage broke people to buy houses. Most people didn’t even know it existed until it unraveled and became the number-one cause of our recent recession. The government took those stupid loans back and securitized them, which created the financial mess last fall. Helping broke people buy houses didn’t turn out to be a great government program. Guess what? Helping broke people buy brand-new cars—and now home appliances—will turn out just as bad.
The Cash for Clunkers program was designed exactly for people who should not take advantage of the program. You trade your $2,000 clunker in for a brand-new, shiny $20,000 car, and the only way you can afford it is with a high-interest payment. That just means you really couldn’t afford it to begin with. Doesn’t this sound like the sub-prime mortgage problem all over again?
When you drive that new car off the lot, you’re immediately going to lose $4,500. The worst car accidents happen on the showroom floor. New cars go down in value like a rock. The government thinks it’s going to save the American auto industry by putting broke people into cars they can’t pay for. It’s going to come back to bite them—and the rest of us—in the form of taxes galore.
Another bad thing about this program is that we, the taxpayers, are paying for the new cars! It’s morally wrong of the government to take money away from us—against our will—in the form of taxes and give that money to someone else to buy a stupid car they can’t afford in the first place! This is theft, plain and simple.
Cash for Clunkers is a program that redistributes wealth in the name of the environment, and it’s going to be a curse on the car dealer and the manufacturer that carries the paper. It’s going to hurt the broke person who bought a car he couldn’t afford. And it’s already a problem for our country, because it’s adding dollars to the national debt.
There’s always a twist with government programs like this. They try to think of creative ways to help people, but the situation usually ends up worse than it did before they “helped.” In the end, I should decide what to do with my own money. If I want to buy you a car, I will! And if you can’t buy a car without actually paying for the whole thing, then you’re better off keeping your “clunker.”
So good riddance to a really bad program that has done more damage than good.

Source: http://www.daveramsey.com/etc/newsletters/company/082809.cfm?ectid=cnl0909.1_05#1

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I know nothing!

This past Saturday morning I spent some time down at UGM with some friends that do a monthly service project there, and we were enjoying some brunch afterward. I was having a bit of a theological discussion with a couple of the guys at the table, and another guy across the table made a comment about how "You know everything!" (meaning me). He didn't say it in a mean spirited way. In fact, I think he meant it as a genuine compliment, but it got me to thinking about how *little* I really know. Then I got worried that other people might actually believe I know something when I don't. Or, even worse, I might think I actually do know something when I don't and steer someone in the wrong direction. Jesus called people like this "blind guides." That started me thinking about what I know and don't know. I'll be the first to admit, I know far less than it appears on the surface, and that is an integrity issue that bugs me.

When I was a kid I liked the show "Hogan's Heroes." It was about some very smart POWs in a German prison camp who basically chose to stay in the POW camp of the naive Col. Klink so they could run counter intelligence activities. One of my favorite characters was the pudgy Sergeant Schultz whose famous line was "I know nothing – NOTHING!" I've been feeling a lot like Sergeant Shultz lately, and this got hammered into my mind further today when I read this on a web site:

If we honestly want to discover the truth, it's helpful to start with a clean slate by pretending that we don't know anything about the topic that we are studying. This will help us look beyond our preconceived biases and "filters." It's important to be as prayerful, honest, thorough, and objective as possible, and it's important to be willing to believe whichever view has the greatest weight of evidence in Scripture.

One of my best friends has been telling me this for a couple of years. This "second witness" really hit it home for me. I come to the Bible with a TON of preconceived ideas that have been absorbed from all over the place. I rarely have an original thought. I'm lazy that way. It is easier to let someone else do the thinking for me and then criticize their viewpoint by comparing it to other viewpoints and using compare/contrast techniques. Original thinking is hard work and slow. I find it much faster to build on the work of other people and synthesize their thinking into my own world view. I'm pretty fast and adept at this process, and I try to choose my source information carefully. This allows me to increase my knowledge base widely. However, it puts me at HUGE risk of being wrong if one of my sources is wrong or if I inaccurately interpret a correct source. I hate being wrong, but it now occurs to me that I've been letting the pride of having a wide breadth of knowledge outweigh my desire for Truth. Bad choice. Pride comes before the fall, and knowledge puffs up.

Another issue I've been under conviction about is that I read for information more than transformation. Being in the technology industry where change is always accelerating, I've learned how to process large amounts of information and filter down to what is important for the task at hand. For example, it is not unusual for me to process through more than 150 email messages in a day. This is a counter productive behavior when it comes to processing information for personal transformation. Somehow I need to figure out how to go deeper rather than casting such a wide net in our information rich but knowledge poor info-tainment culture.

If you have any ideas about how to do this, I'm listening...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tim Keller on the Gospel

Religion operates on the principle of "I obey -- therefore I am accepted by God." The basic operating principle of the gospel is "I am accepted by God through the work of Jesus Christ -- therefore I obey." As we have seen, believing the gospel is how a person first makes a connection to God. It gives us a new relationship with God and a new identity. We must not think, however, that once believing it, the Christian is now finished with the gospel message. A fundamental insight of Martin Luther's was that "religion" is the default mode of the human heart. Your computer operates automatically in a default mode unless you deliberately tell it to do something else. So Luther says that even after you are converted by the gospel your heart will go back to operating on other principles unless you deliberately, repeatedly set it to gospel-mode.

We habitually and instinctively look to other things besides God and his grace as our justification, hope, significance, and security. We believe the gospel at one level, but at deeper levels we do not. Human approval, professional success, power, and influence, family and clan identity -- all of these things serve as our heart's "functional trust" rather than what Christ has done, and as a result we continue to be driven to a great degree by fear, anger, and lack of self-control. You cannot change such things through mere will-power, through learning Biblical principles and trying to carry them out. We can only change permanently as we take the gospel more deeply into our understanding and into our hearts. We must feed on the gospel, as it were, digesting it and making it part of ourselves. That is how we grow.

From The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller, pp. 114-115

Monday, July 27, 2009

Centered Set vs Bounded Set Christianity

I originally wrote this in my private journal on 11/7/2007.  I moved it here to my public blog due to several conversations I've had with people on this particular topic.  This discovery changed my thinking substantially.


I've been taking an online self-paced Theology Program and learning more than I expected. One concept in the intro course text by Roger Olsen particularly captured my attention. The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity & Diversity significantly impacted my views on defining orthodoxy.

Olsen describes two perspectives of defining orthodoxy. He calls them bounded set and centered set views. I've always been a bounded set guy. I didn't even realize there was another way. The bounded set view defines the essential beliefs for anyone to be properly classified as a Christian. Having an "essentials" list appeals to my analytical personality which likes to put things in categorizes. In fact, there are two categories of people in this world. Those who put things into categories and those who do not!

For analytical people like me, the bounded set view can result in an inordinate amount of time and energy spent on boundary maintenance. Trying to figure out what is "in" and what is "out" of the essentials list is difficult, and it can lead to strained relationships and excessive and unnecessary conflict that works against the desired unity that Jesus taught as a necessary part of being the church.

I've been working on my theological boundary problems for most of my adult life. This caused a lot of relational tension over the years with people whom I care about a lot. But why should I be surprised? Theologians have been working on these orthodoxy problems for nearly two thousand years. Not a few wars have been waged over these issues. The problem with the bounded set approach is the sheer diversity of views on what is "in" and what is "out" of the set of essential beliefs that define orthodoxy. The Bible is pretty clear starting in Genesis that God loves diversity, so rather than fight what appears to be the nature-of-things, I began looking at the centered set approach.

Centered set theory was a totally new perspective for me. Ironically, I told my wife about my new discovery, and she matter-of-factly said, "I've always thought about it like that." At that point, I did my best Homer Simpson impression and slapped my forehead with a big "Doh!" My own better half knew this all along?! For the last 12+ years I've been beating my head against the boundary problem while the person who climbs into bed with me every night has thought about the problem in a completely different and enlightened manner. I guess I'm a slow learner and should be taking theology lessons from my wife!

Anyway, centered set theory makes a lot of sense. It is a new way of thinking for me. Jesus is the center. I may be taking a little liberty with my interpretation of Olsen's description, but the gist of the centered set view is that orthodoxy is not defined by a set of bounded beliefs. Rather, it is an ongoing process of moving beliefs toward the center which is Jesus Christ, son of God and savior of mankind.  I could go into this much deeper, but I want to think about it for a few days before writing more. This has been a serious paradigm shift in my thinking.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Is Hating my Enemy Easier?

In my last blog entry I was bemoaning the hard teaching of "love your enemy." Shortly after I posted this, I was listening to a teaching by Dallas Willard that corrected my misperception. Willard points out that the alternative of loving our enemy, i.e. hating him, is not any easier. After considering the wisdom of Dallas Willard for a bit, it became obvious to me that he is absolutely right!

Just look at all the revenge/hate cycles that have destroyed the Middle East for millenia. This began with the Jacob and Esau feud which continues today between the Israelis and Arabs. On a more personal level look at all the lives that are destroyed by individual haters as they kill people, even their own families. Hate is much harder than love. The biological damage hate does to our bodies through stress and blood pressure and heart problems alone is enough to cause us to question if love might not be a better way.

One person I know who hates me is repeatedly wrecking his own life and destroying the lives of those who he professes to love. Human hate is stupid, self-destructive, and foolish. The only hate that works is the righteous hate of God which is reserved for sinners who refuse to repent. God hates unrepentant haters, but he overcomes them with His love as shown by the Cross. Those who relent and repent of their hate can receive the free gift of grace. Love wins!

I now believe loving my human enemy is better than hating him, but my natural instincts are to engage in hate. The only way I know to really love my enemy is through the power of the spirit of God working through me to do what I cannot do on my own. I want to do what God wants, and He will help me do it. Jesus said "my yoke is easy and My burden is light" but it is still a burden. The burden of hate is hard and heavy by comparison. Which burden are you going to bear? I need to learn to bear the burden of love because it seems obvious the burden of hate is heavier.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Love your Enemy

I've been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately, especially related to the emotional component of how love and hate/anger are related to forgiveness. The Biblical passage that has me stumped is in Matthew 5 where Jesus teaches us to "Love your enemies."

An enemy is "one who feels hatred toward, intends injury to, or opposes the interests of another; a foe." Jesus doesn't say befriend your enemy. Jesus doesn't say feel good feelings about your enemy. Jesus doesn't even say forgive your enemy. If my enemy were to repent and ask for forgiveness, and I were to forgive and reconcile with that person, then he would no longer be my enemy. This command is all about *my* behavior irrespective of what my enemy does. It is a hard command, very hard. Maybe the hardest of them all. It is very asymmetrical. Someone does evil to me, but I return that with good. That is the point Jesus is making.

So, can I love my enemy and still be angry at him? That probably depends on how my enemy responds to my loving behavior. If I can win this asymmetrical battle by overcoming evil with good, chances are my emotions will follow. And, perhaps my my enemy will repent or at least relent or even turn from their wicked ways and seek God, but I cannot count on that. I may continue to be attacked in which case I can put up boundaries or flee if possible. There are no guarantees. If all I get is continued persecution I'm left to depend on Romans 12:19. Jesus does offer a little bit of help. He says "pray for those who persecute you." Take it to God, and maybe He will help us with this very hard teaching.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

You Get What You Measure

I'm hard wired as an MBTI Thinker/Judger. It is designed into my personality. There are some dangers and problems that come from being wired this way, but I believe God made me this way for a reason. So, I need to figure out how to work with the Owner's design. As one of my good friends likes to say, "You get what you measure." Maybe measuring is better than judging, particularly if you're not sure your judgment is right.

Another friend of mine sent me this insightful coaching tip from http://www.straususa.com/

DISTINCTION: Measure vs. Judge (Distinctions are subtleties of language that, when gotten, cause a shift in a belief, behavior, value or attitude.)

When you want to grow in some manner it's useful to measure your progress so you can tell how you're doing. Are you getting closer to what you want or further away? If closer, do more of the same. If further way, change something. Measuring relative to some standard lets you determine your progress and quickly make corrections.

What do you measure against? Anything which looks like what you want.

It's when you let measuring turn into judging that the trouble starts. To judge yourself means that you decide some level of your self-worth by how the measuring goes. And that's a problem because there is always something, or some place, or someone richer, smarter, taller, faster, prettier, smaller, nearer, younger, or older than you. You will always lose the comparison, if you make it a win/lose comparison.

"I'm not enough" is the lament of the person who judges their performance.

"I see what I need to do next" is the healthy attitude of the person who measures their progress.

Coaching Point: What are some useful measurement points you can find?

Monday, June 01, 2009

Words Women Use

This came to me as an email forward, so I cannot credit the wise man who captured this knowledge for the rest of the male species. All I can say, is "thank you!" and pay it forward by posting it here without annoying others by forwarding it to my entire email address book. I'm sure this is already in a zillion other blogs, but it is worth adding one more entry into the blogosphere with the hopes this sage advice enter the collective consciousness and disappear from the email forwarding circuit.

Words Women Use

1. Fine: This is the word women use to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up.


2. Five Minutes: If she is getting dressed, this means a half an hour. Five minutes is only five minutes if you have just been given five more minutes to do what you're doing before helping her do what she wants you do to.


3. Nothing: This is the calm before the storm. This means something, and you should be on your toes. Arguments that begin with nothing usually end in fine.


4. Go Ahead: This is a dare, not permission. Don't Do It!


5. *loud sigh* This is actually a word, but is a non-verbal statement often misunderstood by men. A loud sigh means she thinks you are an idiot and wonders why she is wasting her time standing here and arguing with you about nothing. (Refer back to #3 for the meaning of nothing.)


6. That's Okay: This is one of the most dangerous statements a woman can make to a man. That's okay means she wants to think long and hard before deciding how and when you will pay for your mistake.


7. Thanks: A woman is thanking you, do not question, or faint. Just say you're welcome.


8. Don't worry about it; I got it: Another dangerous statement, meaning this is something that a woman has told a man to do several times, but is now doing it herself. This will later result in a man asking 'What's wrong?' For the woman's response refer to #3 above.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Happiness

I have nothing against being happy. In fact, I often order my life in such a way that it will optimize my level of satisfaction and happiness. However, I've noticed over the years that pushing this behavior to its logical conclusion is a path do disaster resulting in the exact opposite of what conventional wisdom would lead us to believe. The ultimate result of radically pursuing happiness is unhappiness, brokenness, and separation from God.

A lot of Biblical characters were not happy. Job was not happy beginning in Job Chapter 1. For the next forty one and a half chapters much misery follows. It isn't until the very end of chapter 42 that we see another glimmer of happiness. Jonah was not happy about having to preach to Nineveh. Hosea loved Gomer, but he sure wasn't happy with her unfaithful behavior. My children were not happy about eating their vegetables when they were younger. Now they are older and not happy about their curfews.

God seems far more interested in our obedience and developing our character than he is in our happiness. Unfortunately, in our individualistic culture we tend to center our lives around ourselves instead of God. At its core, happiness is almost always selfish. God's best for our lives and selfishness are mutually exclusive. Both the greatest commandment (love God) and the second greatest command (love others) are anti-selfish. They are other focused.

So, is happiness wrong or evil? Does God want us to be unhappy? I don't think so. The problem with happiness is making it the end game or goal. When personal happiness becomes the center of our lives, we reap the consequences of being out of alignment with God's best for us. However, if happiness is a byproduct of living our lives in obedience to God and in service to His Kingdom, then we have our cake and eat it to. We risk personal destruction and eternal separation from God if we pursue personal happiness instead of God's purposes for our life. Our ultimate good will come from our ultimate obedience.

Friday, May 29, 2009

More on the Soul

Dallas Willard is one of my favorite authors. Here's what he says about the soul:
"The soul is one non-physical dimension of the person. A human person is a non-physical (spiritual) entity that has an essential involvement with a particular physical body. The brain, then—a piece of meat that is of more than usual interest—is one part of the embodied dimension of the human person. It too is integrated by the soul into one life, along with all of the dimensions of the person (at least when all is well).

These matters are especially important as Christians often treat the soul as recipient of salvation, and the other dimensions of human life are left out—especially the bodily and the social, but also thought and feeling. Redemption in Christ is a retrieving of the entire person from alienation from God and opposition to God.

The soul is not some separable part of us that eventually gets to go to heaven while everything else about is left out."
Source: Grey Matter and the Soul

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What is a Man?

Are people triune beings? I'm convinced we are. Obviously we have a physical body. That part is obvious to the most casual observer. So, what about soul and spirit?

Soul: I believe the soul consists of, but may not be limited to, intellect/mind, will, and emotions. The Bible is clear that man and the animals have souls. The Hebrew word translated into "soul" (nephesh) is first used in Genesis 1:20 for the words translated "creature" and "life." This same word is translated into English "soul" 472 times in its 754 appearances in the Old Testament. My two pet dogs have intellect, will, and emotions too. In fact, Kaydee our pit bull has more intellect, and Sydnee our mix breed has more will. The soul strikes me as being like a sophisticated software program running on a flesh computer (brain) and central nervous system network.

Spirit: In 1Thess 5:23 Paul wrote, "May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." The writer of Hebrews tells us in 4:12, "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit..." 1 Cor 2:14 makes the distinction between the "soulish" ("psychical" in Greek) person and the spiritual person. Biblically, the spirit is something ontologically different from soul, but how? Spirit is a little more mysterious than soul, at least in my meager understanding.

The Hebrew word "ruach" appears 389 times in the Old Testament, 237 of which it is rendered as "spirit." By looking at how this word is used I get the impression of a supra-natural yet personal force. I'm not talking about the Star Wars "may the Force be with you" force. I reject the dualism. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), so apparently spirit is an important concept for people who want to worship God. I need to do more study on soul and spirit to develop a clearer understanding, but the above analysis summarizes my current thinking with slight revisions since I wrote about this topic in my journal back in 2007.

Question: Why is this important?
Answer: Because it helps us answer the big questions in life.

The big questions in life are questions like these:

(1) Who am I? Was I designed or evolved?
(2) Why am I here? What is my purpose?
(3) Where am I going? What is my destination?

Most people don't think about these questions very much. I'm not sure why because I think about them all the time. I guess I'm a little weird that way. Life is too short to not think about these questions. Perhaps people are just too busy with the immediate and urgent to contemplate the important. That's a shame. As Ghandi once said, "There is more to life than increasing its speed."

The secular world view is that people are biological machines that came from a cosmic accident called evolution. It is an illogical and absurd world view because machines do not evolve, they are designed. But, the secular religion of scientism does have answers for the big questions of identity, purpose and destiny.  The answers are:  (1) I am an accident of random chance who (2) has no purpose, and (3) my existence is meaningless as there is nothing when I die. No wonder people who really understand the implications come up with wacky ideas to make themselves feel better! If this was the reality we lived in, I'd go crazy too!!

Fortunately, that isn't the truth. I reject the incoherent secular world view and its accompanying religion of scientism and nihilist implications. My view is informed by the Bible. I am a follower of Jesus Christ, and the answers Jesus gave to the big questions are life sustaining, awe inspiring, and thrilling. Jesus is the only spiritual leader who claimed to be God, and then proved it by raising from the dead.  That's what makes the religion Jesus started substantially different than all the other so called "paths to God."

Based on my understanding of the Bible and what Jesus taught, I believe I am a man created and commissioned by God who will ultimately face God and give an account for my life. So, I want to know as much as I can about who I am and what I should be doing with my short life. Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." I want to discover what God prepared in advance for me to do so I can do it to the best of my ability for His glory.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Conditional vs. Unconditional Love for God

I've been thinking a lot about love lately. Our modern emotional view of love doesn't seem to have much in common, if anything, with the kind of love described in the Bible. Emotional love is mentioned very infrequently. Have you ever noticed the word "love" doesn't even appear in the ENTIRE book of Acts? Acts is the book about the founding of the church. If love is such an essential component of Christianity, why did the Holy Spirit neglect to utter this word "love" even one time in the book of Acts?

I'm starting see that our modern emotional view of love is entirely selfish which is directly opposed to Biblical love. The Biblical notion of divine love I see in Paul's writings is a righteous love. It seems to have more to do with justice than feelings.

"God manifests his own love (agape) for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us... Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath [of God]... [W]hile we were enemies [of God], we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son."
--Romans 5:9-10

I'm starting to wonder if our modern evangelical gospel is warped too, largely related to the Emotional Jesus who we believe loves us unconditionally. Where in the Bible does it say, "Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life?" Where in the Bible does it say, "Ask Jesus into your heart," which is generally the phrasing used in emotionally manipulative and tearful altar calls I heard for most of my life in the church I grew up attending.

One of my best friends re-ignited this line of thinking in me, but these thoughts have been bouncing around in my head for years. I have really struggled to reconcile the emotional love preached from the pulpit and seen in our culture with the love I see in the Bible. My friend is (thankfully) pointing me back to Scripture, and I'm not finding a lot of feel-good love in Scripture. The love I see is a sacrificial love that cost Jesus everything. It is anti-selfish love, not the all-about-me love prevalent in our culture and even our churches.

Jesus seems to have a different view of love than the unconditional affirmation view held by many in the modern evangelical church. Four times in John 14, Jesus says some variant of, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." The last instance is an inversion of this: "He who does not love me will not obey my teaching." The very words of Jesus Himself tell us that our love for God is demonstrated by our obedience. God's love for us was demonstrated by Jesus being obedient to the Father even unto death. Seems to me that love is tied up inextricably with obedience, is it not?

If our love is directly tied to our obedience, then is OUR love for God conditional? Yes, it is! It is conditional on our obedience. So, can we really justify our expectation of unconditional love from God when we love God conditionally? Where is the justice in that? Why should we expect to receive what we do not give? Thank God for grace and the obedience of Jesus in going to the Cross even if He didn't feel like doing it.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Lust

Yesterday, I had lunch with a friend who was bemoaning the sexualization of our culture. That got me thinking about lust. Every guy I know struggles with lust, so I thought I'd investigate specifically what the Bible says. I was familiar with the general Biblical principles about lust (1Peter 1 has some great guidance), but I also did a little data mining on BibleGateway.com. I did a word search for "lust" in the New Testament (NT). Here are the numbers for how many times "lust" appears in the NT for these English translations.

40 - King James Version (KJV)
30 - New King James Version (NKJV)
14 - New Living Translation (NLT)
9 - New International Version (NIV)
5 - English Standard Version (ESV)

I thought this was a most curious set of data points. The KJV and NKJV had substantially more mentions of lust than the modern translations. Why? It would take a lot more work and data gathering to come up with a hypothesis. But, I'm curious what my friends think. These blog entries cross post in Facebook, so if I tagged you with this note it is because I'm interested in your opinion on this topic. I also welcome comments in my blog.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Muslim Demographics

This YouTube video is a fascinating look at the changing dynamics of our global culture.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Case Against the Income Tax

This is from Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk archives (5/7/2001). Note the comment about Treasury having surpluses. No more! After eight years of Republican fiscal mismanagement, the USA is essentially bankrupt. The Democrats are making the mess worse with the bailouts Republicans began endorsing during Bush's lame duck administration. Is Ron Paul the only voice for Liberty and Reason in Congress?

Dr. Paul writes:

Could America exist without an income tax? The idea seems radical, yet in truth America did just fine without a federal income tax for the first 126 years of its history. Prior to 1913, the government operated with revenues raised through tariffs, excise taxes, and property taxes, without ever touching a worker's paycheck. In the late 1800s, when Congress first attempted to impose an income tax, the notion of taxing a citizen's hard work was considered radical! Public outcry ensued; more importantly, the Supreme Court ruled the income tax unconstitutional. Only with passage of the 16th Amendment did Congress gain the ability to tax the productive endeavors of its citizens.

Yet don't we need an income tax to fund the important functions of the federal government? You may be surprised to know that the income tax accounts for only approximately one-third of federal revenue. Only 10 years ago, the federal budget was roughly one-third less than it is today. Surely we could find ways to cut spending back to 1990 levels, especially when the Treasury has single year tax surpluses for the past several years. So perhaps the idea of an America without an income tax is not so radical after all.

The harmful effects of the income tax are obvious. First and foremost, it has enabled government to expand far beyond its proper constitutional limits, regulating virtually every aspect of our lives. It has given government a claim on our lives and work, destroying our privacy in the process. It takes billions of dollars out of the legitimate private economy, with most Americans giving more than a third of everything they make to the federal government. This economic drain destroys jobs and penalizes productive behavior. The ridiculous complexity of the tax laws makes compliance a nightmare for both individuals and businesses. All things considered, our Founders would be dismayed by the income tax mess and the tragic loss of liberty which results.

America without an income tax would be far more prosperous and far more free, but we must be prepared to fight to regain the liberty we have lost incrementally over the past century. I recently introduced "The Liberty Amendment," legislation which would repeal the 16th Amendment and effectively abolish the income tax. I truly believe that real tax reform, reform that so many frustrated Americans desperately want, requires bold legislation that challenges the Washington mind set. Congress talks about reform, but the current tax debate really involves nothing of substance. Both parties are content to continue tinkering with the edges of the tax code to please various special interests. The Liberty Amendment is an attempt to eliminate the system altogether, forcing Congress to find a simple and fair way to collect limited federal revenues. Most of all, the Liberty Amendment is an initiative aimed at reducing the size and scope of the federal government.

Is it impossible to end the income tax? I don't believe so. In fact, I believe a serious groundswell movement of disaffected taxpayers is growing in this country. Millions of Americans are fed up with the current tax system, and they will bring pressure on Congress. Some sidestep Congress completely, bringing legal challenges questioning the validity of the tax code and the 16th Amendment itself. Ultimately, the Liberty Amendment could serve as a flashpoint for these millions of voices.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Head v. Heart

Q: What has the priority, the head or heart?

A: ...Now by heart I don't mean feelings or sentiments or emotions. Those are like waves. They're wonderful. They're fun to surf on. You can't build on them. A biblical focus always aims at the heart, the pre-functional root out of which all the functions grow, out of which all the branches come. The danger of doing that is that you forget the head or that you subjectivize it, or that you become skeptical of it, or that you oppose the head to the heart, or that you reduce the heart to sentiment. But those are dangers that you don't need to succumb to.

The primacy of agape love, rather than the primacy of reason, certainly seems to be a scriptural emphasis. [Thomas] Aquinas, as usual, is wonderfully balanced here. In asking the question whether knowing or loving is the highest thing, he gives a very nuanced answer. He says, "With regard to the universe, knowing is higher than loving. With regard to God, loving is higher than knowing, because when you love something you become more like it. When you know something, it becomes more like you."

When I know a stone, I raise it up to my level because I give it a second life. I make it a thought. When I know God, I drag him down to my level. I reduce him to what I can know of him, and therefore when it comes to relating to God, loving God makes you more godlike than knowing God. And therefore its higher.

Source: Peter Kreeft

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

History Repeats for those who Don't Learn

Robert Welch, founder of The John Birch Society, predicted today's problems with uncanny accuracy back in 1958. He prescribed solutions in 1974 that are very similar to Ron Paul's positions today. This 9 minute video is stunning. We are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past if we don't learn from them.



Video of Ron Paul & Chuck Baldwin Keynote speeches at the JBS 50th Anniversary: http://www.jbs.org/index.php/jbs-news-feed/3377

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Emotional Intelligence

I'm taking a leadership training course at my church. The topic for this week's class was "Emotional Intelligence." The preparatory reading was pulled from the book Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence. I had an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach when I saw the title. Some folks explain such feelings as promptings of the Holy Spirit, but I won't go that far. What I can say without hesitation is my premonition was justified after I read through the material. I have no problem reading secular material in order to compare and contrast it with Biblical values and truth. In fact, I bought a copy of Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence about a month ago before I even knew about this class topic. I still plan to read it. However, I do have a problem when bunk science is used to justify a secular viewpoint that Christians accept uncritically.

Our Chase Oaks Church Core Doctrine says the Bible is "our supreme and final authority in all matters about which it speaks." Fortunately, the first semester of this leadership training course focused on doctrinal truths, and half of this semester is devoted to spiritual disciplines. I applaud my church leaders for finding a good balance in the curriculum, but I'm concerned about the choice of reading material for this particular class on Emotional Intelligence.

In a nutshell, the reading from Primal Leadership suggested our primitive lizard-like limbic brains that control our emotions evolved into ape-like mammalian brains which have a prefrontal area responsible for the higher level logic and reasoning. This bunk science may not be as high on the lie scale as the "ontology recapitulates philology" bunk, but it is still bunk according to the Book. This bunk science is then used to give scientific credibility to the alleged primal nature of emotions and usurp the importance of the intellect which drives moral reasoning. This is flat out wrong and unbiblical, but this is how the authors justify statements like "our emotions are, in a very real sense, more powerful than our intellect." (p. 27)

Are we Christians going to believe the Bible or bad science? Did God create an amoeba that evolved into a fully thinking and reasoning human being, or was Adam created with a fully developed frontal cortex capable of moral judgment? If we believe the latter, then why are we taking leadership lessons from secular authors promoting (at least in this excerpt) emotional intelligence over moral authority as the key to leadership success?

Primal Leadership
, as the title suggests, buys into the philosophy of Darwinism. In the dozen page excerpt included in our training materials, evolution was mentioned several times. I was reminded of Colossians 2:8 and Romans 3:4 as I read through it. When unbiblical philosophies are couched in scientific sounding language, undiscerning people may unwittingly assume this means they are authoritative. This is particularly a problem when the authors have PhDs from respected schools like Harvard. I'm a nobody with a piddly physics degree from small liberal arts college. My opinion doesn't carry much weight. But, I do try to use a Biblical grid and be like a Berean in filtering out truth from lies. Shouldn't all Christians, and especially leaders training leaders, do likewise?

Admittedly, I'm a person who got skipped when they handed out emotional intelligence. In the skills assessment we took in this training class, my three lowest skills were Social Intelligence, People Skills, and Emotional Intelligence (EI). My EI score was dead last. I got a dismal 3.6 out of 10. So, if this blog entry offends people, I won't be shocked. I simply don't have the people skills to couch the truth in feeler language so my church leaders feel good about it.

I'm a truth seeker first and foremost. That is my gift to the body, and I hope others will receive it in the spirit it is given, which is with as much gentleness as I can muster and respect for the authorities I've willingly placed myself under at Chase Oaks Church. I take 1Peter 3:15 seriously, including the last four words.

New Element Discovered

Big news from the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Physicists have now discovered the heaviest element known to science. Its existence, which was anticipated after the hurricanes, gasoline price increases, and Iraq Wars, has now been proven.

The new element has been named Governmentium.

Governmentium (Gv) has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called mo-rons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called pe-ons.

Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second, to take over four days to complete.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of four years. It does not decay however, but undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact,Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, as each reorganization will cause more mo-rons to become neutrons, forming iso-dopes.

When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium -- an element which radiates just as much energy as Governmentium because,though it has only half as many pe-ons, it has twice as many mo-rons.

In separate news, fears still abound about a black hole being created by the LHC.  In order to quell fears CERN physicts have set up a new web site for the general public.  If you're concerned you no longer exist and consulting a philosopher fails to convince you, just hit this link:

http://hasthelargehadroncolliderdestroyedtheworldyet.com


Monday, March 16, 2009

Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

Over the years, I've received email forwards quoting 2 Chronicles 7:14 so many times I've lost count. What I've noticed is they generally come from conservative Republican Christians during Democratic administrations. I got a lot of them when Clinton was in office. I'm starting to get them again (three so far) now that Obama is running the show. They generally include some admonition that Christians should pray for repentance so that our country will turn from our wicked ways so God can heal our land.

I think praying for repentance is wonderful. And we should pray for our leaders no matter their political party. However, as a truth seeker, I want to rightly divide the Word of Truth. So, can American Christians today claim 2 Chronicles 7:14 and hope for God to "heal our land" if we repent from our "wicked ways"?

About twelve years ago a friend of mine named Ken Klein was teaching a group of us at a seminar here in Dallas. Ken was teaching on prophecy and suggesting hard times might be in front of us as our country moves further away from God's commands. During the Q&A session, someone in the audience stood up and quoted 2 Chronicles 7:14. Ken gently instructed him that this verse does not apply and gave him an in depth lesson on the context of this particular passage. That teaching has stuck with me over the years. I believe Ken was right, and I even found an almost identical statement of what Ken was teaching:
Today we live in "the dispensation of the grace of God for us Gentiles." God's program with Israel is temporarily set aside during this present dispensation. The "new creation," the church the body of Christ, is what God is forming now, and it is NOT a nation with a land on this earth. Instead, the body of Christ has a citizenship in heaven and is awaiting the Lord's return to gather us together unto Himself and to take us into the heavenly places. Neither are we today, in this dispensation of grace, being treated by God like He treated Israel. He has not put us under the law today, but we are under grace. -- THE MISUSE OF II CHRONICLES 7:14 (Note: This page no longer exists at this link.)
If you've forwarded those email messages quoting 2 Chronicles 7:14, I'd encourage you to think about it deeper before blindly passing them along.  I don't get overly exercised when believers take this verse out of context or spiritualize it in an effort to call people to repentance and prayer, but I do make of point of questioning the sender to get him or her to think deeper about rightly dividing the Word as Paul commended Timothy to do. I believe Christians need to place our hope in things of eternal value rather than getting distracted by our present circumstances.

In conclusion, James 3:1 holds those who teach to a higher level of accountability, and I take that warning seriously. I believe people in places of authority in the church or with responsibilities for teaching the Bible (myself included) should be very careful to rightly divide the Word. Forwarding an email message is a tacit endorsement of its content including whatever theological perspective it contains. I want to be known as someone who rightly divides the Word. Don't you?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Literary License

It drives me nuts when people are loose with the truth. What is even more troubling is when the truth is violated by someone who is supposed to be a leader and keeper of the truth. My example in this case is Pastor John Baker from Saddleback Church in California and the editors of his book Life's Healing Choices. This is a great book that I'm sure has helped countless people, so why spoil it with inaccuracy?

On page 77 the book mentions the story found in Chapter 5 of the Gospel of Mark. It is the story of Jairus whose daughter is sick, then dies, but is raised from the dead by Jesus. On the next page (p. 78) John Baker goes on to tell this story from the Bible with great exaggeration:

Jairus was an honest guy, and so he told Jesus the truth: "Lord, I've got a lot of doubts, I want to believe; help me with my unbelief."

I don't have a problem with people paraphrasing the Bible or putting it into understandable language, but this is flat out wrong. Jairus didn't say that! The guy that said that line was the father of the demon possessed boy in Mark Chapter 9, a totally different guy with a totally different situation. How the editors and author goofed this up is unbelievable to me. Is the Bible not amazing enough without this sort of "literary license."  As my favorite TV news show guy John Stossel would say, "Give me a break!"

Friday, March 13, 2009

Our Enemy: Inflation!

25 minute video presentation by Ron Paul at "Our Enemy, Inflation," the Mises Circle in Houston, sponsored by Jeremy S. Davis. Recorded Saturday, 24 January 2009.


4 minute video of Ron Paul talking about Austrian School of Economics and the business cycle. Clips from: Federal Reserve Hearing with Chairman Bernanke, Alex Jones radio interview, Republican Debate 2008, Glenn Beck TV interview.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Country of Texas

(This is another one of those email forwards that I refuse to forward, but it was funny enough to post here. I made some edits. The original suggested making George W. Bush the president of Texas, but that wouldn't be much of a change from what we have now since he was just as fiscally irresponsible as Obama looks to be. I find it even funnier that people have commented both here and in the cross-posted facebook note about the Treaty. )

Texas is the only state with a legal right to secede from the Union . (Reference the Texas-American Annexation Treaty of 1848.)

We Texans love y'all, but we'll probably have to take action since Obama won the election and isn't implementing change we can believe in down here in Texas. We'll miss ya'll, but here's the plan:

#1: In order to avoid rampant socialism and crazy inflationary bailout packages Texas secedes from the Union.

#2: Ron Paul will become the President of the Republic of Texas, and we'll actually follow the Constitution.

So what does Texas have to do to survive as a Republic?

1. NASA is just south of Houston, Texas. We will control the space industry.

2. We refine over 85% of the gasoline in the United States .

3. Defense Industry--we have over 65% of it. The term "Don't mess with Texas ," will take on a whole new meaning.

4. Oil - we can supply all the oil that the Republic of Texas will need for the next 300 years. Yankee states? Sorry about that.

5. Natural Gas - again we have all we need and it's too bad about those Northern States. John Kerry will have to figure out a way to keep them warm....

6. Computer Industry - we currently lead the nation in producing computer chips and communications--small companies like Texas Instruments, Dell Computer, Raytheon, National Semiconductor, Motorola, Intel, AMD, Atmel, Applied Materials, Delphi, Nortel, Alcatel, etc. The list goes on and on.

7. Medical Care - We have the largest research centers for cancer research, the best burn centers and the top trauma units in the world, as well as other large health centers. Dallas has some of the best hospitals in the United States .

8. We have enough colleges to keep us going:
University of Texas , Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Rice, SMU, University of Houston , Baylor, UNT ( University of North Texas ), Texas Women's University, etc. Ivy grows better in the South anyway.

9. We have a ready supply of workers. We could just open the border when we need some more.

10. We have essential control of the paper industry, plastics, insurance, etc.

11. In case of a foreign invasion, we have the Texas National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard. We don't have an Army, but since everybody down here has at least six rifles and a pile of ammo, we can raise an Army in 24 hours if we need one. If the situation really gets bad, we can always call the Department of Public Safety and ask them to send over Chuck Norris and a couple of Texas Rangers.

12. We are totally self-sufficient in beef, poultry, hogs, and several types of grain, fruit and vegetables, and let's not forget seafood from the Gulf. Also, everybody down here knows how to cook them so that they taste good. Don't need any food.

This just names a few of the items that will keep the Republic of Texas in good shape. There isn't a thing out there that we need and don't have.

Now to the rest of the United States under President Obama:

Since you won't have the refineries to get gas for your cars, only President Obama will be able to drive around in his big 9 mpg SUV. The rest of the United States will have to walk or ride bikes.

You won't have any TV as the Space Center in Houston will cut off satellite communications.

You won't have any natural gas to heat your homes, but since Mr. Obama has predicted global warming, you will not need the gas as long as you survive the 2000 years it will take to get enough heat from Global Warming.

Signed,
The People of Texas

P.S. This is not a threatening letter - just a note to give you something to think about!

SLEEP WELL TONIGHT THE EYES OF TEXAS ARE UPON YOU!!

One Texan Nation Under God

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Live to Serve

Have you ever heard this line?
"Americans live to work and and Europeans work to live."
Whenever I hear this witticism, it is usually coming from an American (like me!) jealous of the amount of vacation and holidays Europeans get. I uttered this phrase myself many years ago when I felt stuck in my job. I worked at a global conglomerate where my French colleagues seemed to be on vacation half the year, nevermind their 35 hour work week if they happened to be working. I would sit in my cubicle in a suit and tie (just like Dilbert) and wish I was the guy outside cutting the grass. Of course, I wanted to keep my same salary and have access to the AC on really hot days.

Americans do work more and vacation less on average than Europeans, but my life versus work mentality was dysfunctional thinking. I had a very skewed notion of work during my late 20s and early 30s. The problem was compounded by the fact I really hated my job most of the time. I was paid less than I thought I was worth and uninterested in what I was doing. An odd combination. Perhaps if I'd put more passion into my profession my pay might have reflected my self-perceived worth.

Contributing to my angst was my association with a group of people reinforcing my thinking that my job was the problem. They said the cure was to get "financially free" in a MLM business. I bought into "the dream" of making a gob of money in MLM and telling my boss to "Take this Job and Shove It" like that old Johnny Paycheck song. I always wondered if Paycheck did tell his boss to shove it, did Paycheck lose his paycheck? (sorry, couldn't resist)

I was ripe for the picking with the MLM pitch because it was wrapped in American patriotism and Christianity, core values I already embraced. The money goggles blocked my truth vision, and it took me nearly a decade to discover the moral problems with MLM, but that's a another story for another blog entry. My focus with this note is the sacredness of work in the life of a believer.

Life isn't what happens when you're not working. Work is an integral part of life just like eating and sleeping. Work is a blessing. Unfortunately, work was tainted (like the rest of creation) in the Fall, but fundamentally work is good. This is much easier for me to say today because I love my job (most days), but it required a big shift in my thinking to get to this point.

First, I had to reject the greed thinking driven by the MLM hucksters. Next, I had to realize God desires his children do with excellence whatever they set their mind to accomplish. Third, I had to overcome the dysfunctional thinking that work is a curse rather than something affected by the curse. God gave Adam productive things to do before the Fall, so while work suffered from the curse God redeems work as part of the sanctification process.

I finally concluded the main purpose of an apprentice to Jesus is to love and serve God and other people, and I can do that wherever I happen to be working. In fact, work is the primary platform God gives us to live out His commandments. Lately, I've started seeing less of a distinction between the sacred and secular. Rather than compartmentalizing my life into "church work" and "secular work" I'm seeing all work as potentially good and even sacred when redeemed.

I'm a slow learner, or maybe I'm just stubborn -- probably both. God is patient with me, and I trust He is not done with me yet. But, when I began putting all this together, it blew away the false dichotomy of the "live to work versus work to live" thinking. Today, I believe all Christ followers live to serve. We can do that wherever we are in whatever we are doing, whether that is working a corporate job or working in a ministry. Unless your profession is illegal or unethical, bloom where you're planted. Do whatever it is that you do with an attitude of love and service to others, and God will change you from the inside out. At least that is what is happening with me. (It also helps if you don't believe the lie about money being the solution to all your problems.)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Truth about the Fed

Where does a US Dollar come from? What is the relationship between the Treasury, the Federal Reserve Bank, and the IRS?  G Edward Griffin's book Creature From Jekyll Island:  A Second Look at the Federal Reserve and the 42 minute companion video below are essential education for anyone who really wants to know the truth about these topics.

Additional Resources:  
The Truth about Money (DiscoverTruth Blog, June 2007)
Our Enemy: Inflation! (DiscoverTruth Blog, March 2009)