Archive for September, 2010

What’s Wrong with the Church Today?

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

The results of a survey on religion have just been released by The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.  The survey included questions about Christianity, as well as other world religions.  We might expect that people would not know much about religions other than their own.  However, the results are categorized according to the faith of the participants, and Christians performed terribly, even on questions about Christianity.

The average score of Christians, on the questions about Christianity, was about 50%.  Evangelicals scored slightly higher, and Catholics scored slightly lower.  Now, understand that these were not deep theological questions.  They were relatively simple questions, such as being able to associate the Exodus with Moses; or, naming the first four books of the New Testament.

This is a sad testimony of the work that our churches are doing.  Ephesians 4 clearly sets forth the purpose of the church as one of equipping believers with biblical truth.  If evangelicals can answer only 55% of simple Bible questions correctly, how well can we perform our cause of evangelism?  It’s much more difficult (although not rocket science) to clearly articulate the facets of the Gospel message of Christ.  If we can’t do this, upon what do we claim to be evangelicals?  Do we think that we’re Christians just because our pastor says we are?

Our churches today have largely become a place to socialize, and a way to pacify our feelings of guilt for not truly living Christian lives.  Clearly, we are failing miserably on our mission of equipping and edification.

A Lot More Obama Tax Increases

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Get ready for a lot of higher taxes on January 1, 2011: 
Expiration of the Bush Tax Cuts

– All income tax rates will be increased:  The top bracket increases from 35% to 39.6%, but the bottom bracket (for the poorest) will actually increase the most–from 10% to 15%, or a 50% increase.  The marriage penalty returns, and itemized deductions, personal exemptions, and child tax credits will phase out.  Go to Bush Tax Cuts to see how much your taxes will increase, and to see the new tax tables. 

– The capital gains tax will increase from 15% to 20%. 

– The dividends tax will increase from 15% 39.6%. 

Other Tax Hikes

– There is currently no estate tax, but beginning in 2011, the estate tax of up to 55% will return, for multimillion-dollar estates. 

– HSA and FSA accounts will no longer be able to use pre-tax dollars to purchase non-prescription medicines (except for insulin). 

– Businesses could lose many tax credits. 

– Tax credits for education and deductions for tuition and student loan interest may be limited or eliminated. 

– Charitable Contributions from IRAs (Required Minimum Distributions) may no longer be allowed.

The Pledge to America

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

The Republicans’ new Pledge to American is solid.  Regarding taxes and the economy, it would stop tax hikes that are helping to keep our unemployment rate so high, including nice tax breaks to small businesses.  In addition, it would repeal health care mandates for small businesses.

Concerning federal spending and the deficit, it would repeal the new health care law, and replace it with something more reasonable.  It would also apply budget caps for federal spending, and implement a long-awaited reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

On Congressional reform, it would also require three days for members of Congress to actually read the bills before they vote on them.  This would stop those late-night deals and votes like we saw with the health care bill.  It would require all legislation to point directly to the section of the Constitution that gives Congress authority to pass that bill.  This is probably a good idea, although it should be unnecessary, although it does seem as though it’s needed.  You would think that our representatives would know the Constitution well enough such that they wouldn’t propose unconstitutional legislation.

The Pledge also addresses national defense, allowing for plenty of resources for our troops and our missile defense systems, as well as strict enforcement of sanctions against Iran.

On social issues, it permanently prohibits federal funding of abortions.

However, I noticed that a couple of things were missing.  It should have put strict restrictions of lobbyists, or even made lobbying illegal.  Perhaps most importantly, it also should have called for term limits for members of Congress, which would help to keep us from getting right back into these same messes again.  Still, The Pledge is a good start, and a good platform for the 2010 elections.

Obama Is Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Obama’s # 1 Problem:  Himself

In an interview earlier this week, President Obama said that it’s a “noble tradition” that “… government should pay its way; that it shouldn’t get so big that we’re leaving debt to the next generation.” 

He also said that some people are misidentifying the culprits who are responsible for the economic crisis, high unemployment, and the rising national debt. He went on to say that he would like to hear how the tea party (and Republicans) would fix our massive spending debt. 

With Democratic prospects looking bleak in the upcoming elections, he apparently wants to sound like a fiscal conservative, but his actions simply don’t match his words.  (In the pre-politically correct era, we would have called this “lying.”) 

For such a smart guy, the President left himself open to criticism that would even be easy for a grade-schooler.  If it’s a noble concept that government spending should be reigned it, then why did he add $2 trillion to the national debt by signing the failed stimulus package and the health care bill? 

Conservatives (as well as common sense) have made it clear that the fix for our massive spending and debt includes the following simple ideas:  stop spending; and, repeal the spending that has already been passed.  He created most of the debt that will saddle future generations.  So, the best answer to his questions would be that he should step down! 

Obama’s # 2 Problem:  His Pride

President Obama would like nothing more than to raise taxes on everyone by letting the Bush Tax Cuts expire, providing more taxes that he could re-distribute.  Unfortunately, almost all Americans disagree with this idea.  However, if he endorses the idea of extending any of the Bush tax cuts, then he is effectively agreeing that Bush had a good idea, and his pride won’t let him say anything favorable about a political opponent.

We’re Bought with a Price

Friday, September 17th, 2010

I heard Governor Huckabee tell the following story at the Republican National Convention in 2008:


On the first day of school in a small town in Arkansas, a teacher removed all the students’ desks from her classroom.  When the first-hour students came in, they asked where their desks were.  She said, “You can have a desk when you tell me how you can earn a desk.”

One student asked, “Do we earn a desk by making good grades?”

The teacher said, “Well, you’re expected to make good grades, but that won’t earn you a desk.”

Another student asked, “Do we earn a desk if we behave?”

She said, “There’s no question that you will behave in my class, but that won’t earn you a desk either.”

None of the students could tell her how they could earn a desk.  As the students left her classroom, hour after hour, the buzz spread throughout the school that she wouldn’t let her students have desks.  By noon, all of the local TV stations had sent reporters to the school to cover the unusual story.  By the last hour of the day, even parents were arriving, wondering what was going on.

Finally, the teacher told the last-hour students, “You’ve all been wondering where your desks are.”  Motioning toward the door, she said, “Well, here they are.”

One-by-one, men and women quietly entered the classroom, each carrying a desk.  Every one of them was a member of the military, or a veteran; some were veterans of foreign wars, even dressed in their military uniforms.  As they delivered the desks, they carefully arranged them for the students, who still didn’t understand.

The teacher said, “Kids, all day I’ve been asking you to tell me what you have to do to earn a desk.  The correct answer is that you don’t have to do anything to earn your desks, because these men and women have already earned them for you.  Because of them, you have the freedom to sit in these desks and learn as much as you’re willing to learn.  For you, these desks are free, but not because they come without a cost.  These men and women have already paid for them.”


When I heard this story, I couldn’t help but recall the hymn, “Jesus Paid It All,” where Mrs. H. M. Hall wrote, “For nothing good have I whereby Thy grace to claim–I’ll wash my garments white in the blood of Calvary’s Lamb.”

“You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.”  1 Corinthians 7:23

Disagreeing With Charles Krauthammer

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

I think that Charles Krauthammer is brilliant–one of the best analysts of all time.  However, I find myself disagreeing with him for the first time, as well as with Karl Rove.  After O’Donnell beat Castle for the Republican nomination for Senate in the state of Delaware, these guys just aren’t making sense on this one. 

Krauthammer says that the Delaware people should have voted for left-moderate Castle, because Castle would have easily beaten Democrat Chris Coons.   Rove says that O’Donnell has some explaining to do about a foreclosure on her house, her inability to pay back student loans, and IRS trouble.  Neither believes that the right-wing O’Donnell, who is backed by the tea party, can beat Coons. 

I’m quite surprised to see this coming from these two smart gentlemen, because I feel like treating them like I treated my young children when they made similar mistakes: 

Guys, that was then, this is now!  Like Obama once said to John McCain, “The election is over.”  In this case, the Republican primary is over.  Castle lost so you have to say bye-bye to him no matter how much you loved him as a staunch member of the old-time Republican establishment in Washington.   He’s gone, and you just have to get it through your heads. 

Now, O’Donnell won the Republican primary, because that’s what the Delaware Republicans wanted.  Now we should simply proceed to back her through the general election. 

Krauthammer and Rove would have us go back in time and vote for Castle instead of O’Donnell.  They would have us to vote against our own ideology, based on the assumption of how the election is probably going to turn out.  There are two major problems with this:  First, how can any right-wing conservative in good conscience, violate his own ideology in favor of a left-wing/moderate agenda–regardless of who the polls say will win?  And, secondly, nobody knows for sure how a Castle-Coons race would have turned out.  Maybe the media would have found dirt on Castle, and ruined his chances. 

Anyway, since time travel will probably not become viable before November 2nd, we simply need to proceed forward and imagine how great it would be if O’Donnell actually upset Coons and became a Tea Party Senator. 

Yes, little Charles and Karl, I know that the dog ate your cookies, but there’s just no way to get them back now.  You just need to go back to the cookie jar and get a new cookie.

Why Can’t We Get Bin Laden?

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

The U.S. has been after Usama Bin Laden since 1987, but we can’t get him.  Officials from Homeland Security make a lot of excuses.  They say that Bin Laden is crafty, clever, and evasive.  Others say that he’s wiser than us, and history tells us that this must be the case.  After 23 years, we can’t track down a guy wandering around through caves and wilderness with a $25 million bounty on his head. 

Homeland Security complains of the difficult terrain, and that Bin Laden is playing on his home field.  Well, the real reason for our failure seems to be that we are incompetent.  We’ve blundered many opportunities to kill him.  On one occasion, we refused to fire on the house where we knew he was, because we might have damaged a nearby mosque.  We’re more concerned with what others think of us than we are with defeating our enemies and keeping us safe. 

We don’t even know if Bin Laden is dead or alive.  Our officials just keep complaining that it’s a very difficult task.  They can’t even decisively conclude whether or not his audio and video takes are authentic.  In fact, our best information comes from Bin Laden himself, when he decides to make himself known to us by taunting us with these tapes.  If this weren’t such a serious issue, it would be laughable.  And, I’m sure that Bin Laden is indeed laughing at us.  What happened to our sophisticated intelligence? 

Bin Laden has been on the FBI Most Wanted list since 1998, but the CIA can’t find him.  President Bush said that if Bin Laden thinks he can hide from us, then he’s sorely mistaken.  Well, it appears that he can indeed hide, and President Bush is sorely mistaken.  Along with Presidents Clinton and Obama, Bin Laden can now declare victory over three U.S. presidents.  What ever happened to our being a world super power–one to be reckoned with?

Why Don’t We Win Wars Anymore?

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

I was never a big fan of the Iraq War.  However, once we sent our military in, of course, we all had to support them.  With the recent “downsizing” of the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to less than 50,000, we recently brought many troops home; and, we shifted others to Afghanistan which is itself becoming a more controversial war.  At a moment’s notice, we suddenly declared that the remaining troops in Iraq were no longer combat troops; now they are advisers.  This sends chills up my spine as I recall that this is also what we called those first few thousand troops in Vietnam in the early 1960s.  Either way, the day after this magical transformation from combat troops to the less war-like term of advisers, the danger of their mission didn’t really change that much.  They still have to watch for road-side bombs, suicide bombers, and IEDs; and, unfortunately, more will continue to be killed.

I saw some video of some of our troops leaving Iraq.  They made comments like, “This phase of the war is over.”  Some even sheepishly, but unconvincingly, declared victory–a logical psychological goal for those who had invested so much there.

As I watched this downsizing occur, a couple of questions came to mind.  First, when was the last time that the U.S. actually won a war–according to the old school version of winning wars?  By this I mean, when did we last decisively defeat our enemy, to the extent that they willingly signed a declaration of surrender?  When this occurred, the defeated aggressors would give up all claims to the land they had seized.  They would then be held subject to the moral mercies of the victors of the war, who would choose how to fairly draw the new boundary lines between countries, and, at their discretion, choose how to offer humanitarian assistance to the people of the defeated nation.  Then, in the worst cases, the national and military leaders of the defeated nation would be held accountable before a military tribunal for any war crimes.

I believe that the last time this happened was over 65 years ago when we won World War II.  President Truman was the last U.S. president who was actually able to hold his head high as he oversaw the surrender of Germany, Italy, and Japan to the U.S.

Yes, instead of winning_ wars, consider some of the politically correct language we have used since World War II:

– We chose not to decisively win the Korean War, even though it was a winnable war, because we were afraid of what other nations, like China, would think of us.  Instead, we drew a line–a North-South line, and we agreed with the Communists that we would each stay on our side of the line.  Well, how has this worked out for us?  We brought some troops home, and left some there (like Iraq today); and this has continued to drain our resources for the last 57 years (so far).  As a result, we now have a terrorist with nuclear capability running North Korea.

– We chose not to win in Vietnam–another winnable war.  Instead, we sacrificed 58,000 American lives there, and then withdrew with honor.  We trusted our adversaries to be honorable, only to have South Vietnam quickly fall to the Communists when we left.

– In the Gulf War, we liberated Kuwait, but we didn’t defeat Saddam Hussein.  Instead, we went only as far as the UN resolution would allow.

– The Iraq War has lasted seven years so far, with no end in sight.  Now we’re withdrawing, with plans to eventually turn the country and the fighting back over to the Iraqis.  This sounds dangerously close to what happened in Vietnam.  As soon as we pull out, the country is likely to return to a state of civil war, and this never turns out good.  If this happens again, will our soldiers have died in vain?  How can we possibly withdraw_ without bringing the heart of the insurgent forces to its knees, begging to surrender?

– The Afghanistan War has lasted nine years so far, and it’s still escalating.  We’ve already lost twice as many lives in Iraq and Afghanistan as we did on 9/11.

So, the other question that comes to mind is:  Why don’t we choose to win wars anymore?  We seem to no longer have the intent and the will to win.  We’re willing to sacrifice the lives of thousands of our young soldiers, and then we fail to fulfill our mission, making their deaths seem in vain.  We no longer have the willingness to stand up for our Judeo-Christian values by entering only those wars that we really intend to win, and then to actually choose to win those winnable wars.

Instead, we get into the task of nation building.  We try to rebuild a nation; we withdraw and we let the native people take over; we claim a watered-down victory; and, then the nation returns to a state worse than before we started.

In Vietnam, we let the military leaders fool us into thinking that we were winning the war by using the kill ratio.  As long as we lost far fewer lives than our enemy, we were supposed to feel like we were winning–and the media played along.  I can remember watching the national news during the Vietnam War.  I would hear that we lost a dozen men in a battle, but we had killed 200 of the enemy, so we were supposed to feel good.  Well, this doesn’t work anymore.  Although our kill ratio in Iraq and Afghanistan is impressive, we still don’t feel good because we still don’t win the wars.

Yes, now we only end wars–we no longer win them.  Are we still supposed to believe that we are the strongest nation on earth, with the strongest military?  Recent history would suggest otherwise–perhaps even that our military leaders (and CIA) are simply incompetent.  Do we no longer have military leaders like Eisenhower and Patton, who can actually formulate and execute a strategy to win a war?  Or, have we given so much power to incompetent commanders-in-chief (Johnson then, and Obama now) such that waging war has now become political?  Are our young people sacrificing their lives for politics–for the personal political gain of Washington bureaucrats?

I’m sorry, but I’d like to claim victory again, no matter what other nations might think of us.  Why are we really willing to settle for withdrawing and downsizing instead of winning?  Only victory will bring the appropriate honor to our fallen soldiers.

Is Faith a Work?

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

There are many Scriptures which dogmatically emphasize that God provides our salvation by grace, through faith–not by works, such as Ephesians 2:8-8:  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Those who object to this doctrine (of salvation through faith alone) sometimes suggest that faith itself is a work, so we are actually saved by a “work.”  This argument has two major problems, as follows:

1) This verse itself, as well as many others, clearly differentiates between faith and works.  It says, “… by grace … through faith…–not by works.”  Obviously, if faith were considered to be a “work,” this verse would not indicate that they are mutually exclusive.

2) To understand what is considered to be a “work,” we must look at the exact meaning of this word.  As used in the ancient Greek language of the New Testament, the word for “works” here can mean:

– To toil–as an effort or occupation

– An act–deed, doing, labor, work

Obviously then, “works” refers to the physical deeds that we do–those that require physical exertion.  This would include doing a good deed, such as helping an elderly person across the street, as well as simpler “deeds,” such as simply walking or running.

On the other hand, there are those “things” (not “deeds”) that we can “do” with only our mind, which require no physical exertion.  Examples of this would be believing, or faith, as well as simply thinking, or deciding about something, before we take any physical action based upon our thought processes.  When thought of in this way, faith is clearly not a “work.”

In fact, this brings up an interesting thing about faith itself.  Faith is simply believing without actually seeing what we believe.  So, if we believe in Christ and His death on the cross for us, His burial, and His resurrection, we are obviously using faith, since we did not witness these events.

However, we have sometimes asked God to make Christ visible to us, or to the world, in a physical way.  For example, we sometimes request a miracle–one that we can see.  Well, if God were to grant such a request, our belief would no longer be by faith, since it would be through seeing.

508 Days

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

On April 10th, 2009, an acquaintance of mine suffered an accident after which he never regained consciousness.  He never got to meet his son who was born just one month later.  Until his death on August 28th, 2010, his comatose life was spent in hospitals and nursing homes, with breathing hoses, feeding tubes, and grieving family members who were eager to grasp at any glimmer of hope for a miracle. 

Every day, for 16 months, his wife would update a blog.  It included the number of days since the accident, and her husband’s latest status, as well as her own true feelings. 

Then, after 508 days, he died.  Right now, I have no answers–only questions?  How could this be the outcome when so many thousands of peo0ple were praying daily for his recovery?  How could God answer, “No” that many times, when He would have received so much glory by answering “Yes” one single time by providing a miraculous recovery?  Even if this was to be the outcome, why couldn’t it have happened much earlier, enabling the rest of the family to get on with their lives much more quickly?  Why did God finally act on Day 508?  What was so different about that day?