Hebrews 12:1-2

"..let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..." - Hebrews 12:1-2

Friday, September 19, 2008

American Patriotism

Let me be honest with you and state what may seem obvious to some: By American standards, I am not a wealthy man.

It’s shocking, isn’t it!?

I know that you were thinking that I am a filthy rich and own several houses and drive exotic cars and eat at posh restaurants, but that is quite simply not the case.

In fact, in comparison to the demographics of the county we live in, my wife and I live in a smaller house and earn less than our average neighbor.

And you know what?
We are happy.

Sure, we have hopes and dreams of being more financially stable in the coming decades, but we also realize that we are blessed with what we have and that what we have is way more than a lot of people around the world. We go to work at our jobs, pay our taxes and plan for a future that is yet unseen and could be far different than what we hope for.

We are living more comfortable than some and less extravagant than others, so I’d say that we are the epitome of middle class America.

However, according to Senator Joe Biden, I am in desperate need of help. In an interview with Good Morning America, the vice presidential candidate discussed the direction he would like to see our country head with regards to tax structure.

During that interview he stated the following:

“We want to take money and put it back in the pockets of middle class people.”

"It's time to be patriotic ... time to jump in, time to be part of the deal, time to help get America out of the rut."

Now don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of having more money in my pocket and I like hearing that the government is going to put it there. I’m all for this plan. If you would allow me to have more money in my pocket by promoting a smaller government, which requires less tax-generated revenue to operate with, then I am all for this plan.

But this is not what the senator has in mind. Mr. Biden, in all his profound wisdom, has determined that the best way to help America is to tax the wealthy even more heavily and give that money back to the poor or middle class. In fact, the Senator even went so far as to state that it was the patriotic duty of wealthier Americans to do so.

Since I am a middle class American you might think that I would love to see this plan come to fruition because, in theory, I would be a direct beneficiary of it.

And you would be dead wrong!

First, I think there should be a flat tax for all Americans. Everybody should pay the same percent, regardless of their income.

Second, I believe that those who do make a lot money do not owe me anything.

Thirdly, it is my firm belief that if a person works hard, takes the necessary steps to either increase their knowledge or skills and applies themselves to the task presented to them, they can not only survive in America, but they can thrive.

Finally, I believe that a person’s patriotism is not tied to their income or how much they allow the government to steal from them. After all, even the poorest Americans can be incredibly patriotic. However, according to Mr. Biden’s premise, I am somehow not able to be as patriotic as some, because I do not make more than $250,000 a year and do not allow the government to tax me at a much higher rate.

My father touched on this issue on the family blog and I basically agree with him.

I also wholeheartedly agree with Dave Ramsey’s thoughts on this matter, which he proclaimed yesterday on his radio show (audio):

@ 4:45 - This is straight up socialism. I mean this is straight up class warfare, class envy. It is truly the politics of envy.

“We want to take money and put it back in the pockets of middle class people.”

@ 5:20 - They’ve pulled all of the sugar coating off of the socialism now, haven’t they?

Yes it is and yes they have!

As a hard working, tax paying, middle class American, I take offense to the idea that I am incapable of being as patriotic as the next guy due to my financial income.

As a patriotic American it frightens me that a man who is supposedly promoting patriotism is, in fact, promoting a form of government that thousands of people from this country have died opposing.

The redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor is not a solution for our government. It is the end of our country as we know it.

Perhaps if Mr. Biden and most other Americans understood the Constitution and our country's history we would not find ourselves at this place where evidently patriotism is directly tied to money and the redistribution of it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hurricane Ike Threatens

At this point, it appears that Hurricane Ike will make landfall this evening or early tomorrow morning. When I heard that it was headed towards the Galveston area I had two thoughts cross my mind. The first was that I have several memories of going there on vacation as a young child. I remember all the crabs along the beach. I also remember my father getting so sunburned that he was violently ill afterwards. My second thought was that I had read a good book in January about the last large hurricane that hit Galveston and those stories chilled me to the core (Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson).

Knowing that things have really been built up in that area and that there are a lot more people in the vicinity, I am hoping that everyone heeds the warnings and evacuations that have been ordered. Whether or not the storm reaches a category 3 level or not before landfall is basically irrelevant, as there will be huge amounts of devastation based simply on the geography and topography of the region.

The storm warnings issued for Galveston are chilling:

Shoreline of Galveston Bay...15 to 25 feet

Life threatening inundation likely!

All neighborhoods...and possibly entire coastal communities...Will be inundated during the period of peak storm tide. Persons not heeding evacuation orders in single family one or two story homes may face certain death. Many residences of average construction directly on the coast will be destroyed. Widespread and devastating personal property damage is likely elsewhere. Vehicles left behind will likely be swept away. Numerous roads will be swamped...some may be washed away by the water. Entire flood prone coastal communities will be cutoff. Water levels may exceed 9 feet for more than a mile inland. Coastal residents in multi-story facilities risk being cutoff. Conditions will be worsened by battering waves closer to the coast. Such waves will exacerbate property damage...with massive destruction of homes ...including those of block construction. Damage from beach erosion could take years to repair.

Very dangerous winds will produce widespread damage and destruction of mobile homes is likely. Structural damage will include the majority of mobile homes being severely damaged. Those that survive will be uninhabitable until repaired. Houses of poor to average construction will have major damage...including partial wall collapse and roofs being lifted off. Many will be uninhabitable. Well constructed houses will incur minor damage to shingles...siding...gutters...as well as blown out windows. Up to one quarter of gabled roofs will fail.

Partial roof failure is expected at industrial parks...especially to those buildings with light weight steel and aluminum coverings. Older low rising apartment roofs may also be torn off...as well as receiving siding and shingle damage. Up to one quarter of all glass in high rise office buildings will be blown out. Airborne debris will cause damage...injury...and possible fatalities. Natural damage will include all trees with rotting bases becoming uprooted or snapped. Nearly all large branches will snap. Between one quarter and one half of healthy small to medium sized trees will be snapped or uprooted...most common where the ground is saturated. Up to three quarters of newly planted ground crops will be damaged.

Here are some webcams in the Galveston area still broadcasting images: Here is a list (one, two)

Having visited the Mississippi coastline weeks after Hurricane Katrina, I cannot convey how devastating such a storm can be. I saw entire neighborhoods literally erased from the earth without a brick remaining. You could stand 5 blocks in from the oceanfront and have a clear view to the waves because everything was gone. I remember seeing houses that were within ten feet of a major highway and I thought that was strange, until I realized that those houses were initially a block or two away from the road and had been moved in their entirety by the storm surge. Everything within a mile of the ocean was damaged irreparably or utterly destroyed and everything within several miles beyond that had sustained damage to the point of houses being uninhabitable until repair was made.

My thoughts and prayers are with everyone in this region and I pray that people have heeded the warnings and have fled ahead of this storm.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I Remember

On September 11, 2001, I was working in downtown Clayton in a 9-story building. My department was located on the 6th floor with windows facing Lambert St. Louis Airport. I remember when a guy walked in and said he had just heard on the radio that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. Many of us in the room speculated on how someone could accidentally hit such an obvious obstacle, but we also knew it had happened before.

One of our salesman, who had just been to the WTC the week before, barged into a conference room meeting, grabbed the television cart and wheeled it into our area. This salesman began telling how huge the WTC towers were and how massive the complex was. We watched as the continuous footage of the smoke billowing from the building played in front of us and listened as the newsman attempted to figure out what had happened and what size the plane was that hit. Early accounts stated a small plane, but the evidence to that was to the contrary.

This is what we were watching:

The moment the second plane hit, people were utterly shocked. As we watched the pictures stream across the television, we listened to the professional news people attempt to find words to describe what they too had just seen. The room erupted into speculation as to what this meant. We remained glued to the tube as we heard rumors and stories of other planes being hijacked. One rumor we heard in our building was that a plane was headed towards downtown Baltimore. As nervous and excited as we all were, nobody was going anywhere. We were all mesmerized with what was unfolding.

And then the first tower fell. As it fell, gasps went up across the room and people began crying quite loudly. While I knew that people had died when I saw the second plane hit, I did not comprehend their deaths at that time. It was in the moment the first tower began crumbling to the ground that I realized I was watching people die as it happened. The tears flowed openly at this point.

The room was silent except for the sobbing of people devastated by what they had just seen. We weren’t mourning the loss of a building or the loss of some ideological freedom. We were mourning those we knew had just died. As the moments passed, people began to wonder aloud how that building could fall like that and how fast it had happened.

Before we could recover from that shock, the second tower came down. Everyone was visibly shaken at this point and people began calling their loved ones. Some people left to go be with their families, going to pick up their kids from school.

We sat in wonder as we watched plane after plane land at the airport, one right after the other. We kept a nervous eye to the sky, very conscious of the fact that our building stood out against the skyline. At lunch we went to Bandana’s and kept watching the TV. The salesman who had just returned from New York City exclaimed with teary eyes “Somebody is going to pay for this! Someone has to pay for this!” Strangers at neighboring tables chimed in with their whole-hearted agreement and we all continued watching the devastating news.

As I made my way home, I was greatly impacted by the eerie silence that surrounded the airport and the sight of seeing all those planes parked wing to wing on every foot of concrete surrounding the runway. I looked to the skies and was not calmed by the fact that I couldn’t see any traces of airplanes soaring above.

We had a special church service that night and it was pack. People were sitting in the aisles and standing in the back. I have no recollection of what was said that night, but I do remember the intimacy in those quiet moments that I felt amongst a throng of strangers. Everyone wanted to be with other people. We wanted to grieve openly and honestly with each other. People turned toward God and entered churches for the first time in a long time.

I remember the buildings.
I remember the planes.
I remember the people who died that day.
I remember the sadness and anger that I felt.

I remember how motivated I felt to impact my world for Christ.
I remember praying for the strength, courage and heart to share God with people.

Today I remember the events and feelings of that day in 2001.
Today I remember the Cross.

I Remember.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Biden's Beliefs Betray Babies

Tom Brokaw interviewed Joe Biden on "Meet the Press" and asked him about when he believes life begins and what his stance is on abortion (video)

Much has been said about his comments in the news and on the internet, particularly surrounding this section:

I'd say, "Look, I know when it begins for me." It's a personal and private issue. For me, as a Roman Catholic, I'm prepared to accept the teachings of my church. But let me tell you. There are an awful lot of people of great confessional faiths-Protestants, Jews, Muslims and others-who have a different view. They believe in God as strongly as I do. They're intensely as religious as I am religious. They believe in their faith and they believe in human life, and they have differing views as to when life-I'm prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception. But that is my judgment. For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally and maybe even more devout than I am seems to me is inappropriate in a pluralistic society.

Later on in the interview, I believe a true reflection of Biden's faith is made clear when following question was asked by Biden in response to a statement by Brokaw:
Brokaw: You believe life begins at conception and you've also voted for abortion rights...
Biden: ... How am I going to go out and tell you if you, or anyone else, that you must insist upon my view that is based upon a matter of faith?

I believe that within that question we find that for Joe Biden his faith doesn't come into play when deciding how to form governmental policy. To me, this is an irreconcilable issue. How can a man who claims to be so strong in his faith, turn right around and state that it does not come into play when he is making decisions about life and death matters. In fact, the Roman Catholic church has taken a stance against abortion and has issued the following statement in response to Biden's interview:
Abortion is a foundational issue; it is not an issue like housing policy or the price of foreign oil. It always involves the intentional killing of an innocent life, and it is always, grievously wrong.
and here:
Resistance to abortion is a matter of human rights, not religious opinion.

Within his own religious establishment, Joe Biden's remarks have set off a firestorm of responses from all levels of the church he claims to adhere to the teachings of. If he did indeed believe and attempt to live out what the Roman Catholic Church believes, wouldn't Joe Biden be fully aware of the church's staunch stance against not only abortion but contraception as well. The Roman Catholic Church believes so strongly that life begins at conception that it has deemed any form of contraception to be sinful. Yet, here is a man claiming to be a strong follower of the Catholic faith who does not deem this to be an important issue or one worthy of flexing his political clout to attempt to impact the society he lives in in a way that reflects his supposed beliefs.

Albert Mohler provides a great closing thought on this issue:

Can a morally serious man really say that he believes that unborn babies are human beings, but that it should be a protected right to kill them?

The answer, which appears obvious to me, is a resounding "No!". There is no way to reconcile any amount of faith you claim to have with this attitude of justified inaction.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Healer - Follow Up

Just a quick follow up to a previous post.
Mike Gugliemucci has admitted that he has been lying for two years to his family, church and the world about having cancer and is seeking treatment for other personal issues.

I found this article surrounding the issue that I feel best sums up my thoughts/feelings on the matter. (I have differing opinions regarding Todd Bentley than those stated in the article.)

I still find the song to be powerful and encouraging and I am praying that God will use this for His glory to expand His Kingdom.

I believe.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Life of Renovation

Over the past 2 months, my wife and I have been living in the middle of a construction zone. We have been coming home from work every night to a kitchen that is in the midst of a total renovation. After hundreds of hours of planning, purchasing and installing, we are a few short hours away from completing this huge project. As I was leaving the house for work this morning, I thought about how this project is similar to the goal of a Christian to be transformed into Christ's likeness.

Here are my observations in no particular order:

Change Takes Time
For most people, there is not an immediate, overnight change that occurs in their lives when they become a Christian. While God can make certain changes immediate, for most people this appears to be a slow process that can be filled with pain and doubt. Should we set a timeline for God that He must meet in order to stay on our schedule of change? If God, who is Perfect in both His timing and knowledge determines to change something for someone right away and chooses to allow that change to take time in another person, who are we to disagree? We need to realize that Gospel change takes time and that we will not be perfected in our lives with God until we are given our glorified bodies in Heaven.

Transformation Costs Something
While most American Christians haven't been truly persecuted for Christ's sake, we are called to give up certain things while pursuing Christ. For some that might mean not swearing or getting drunk and for others it might be not taking a job because the company has taken stances that oppose their Christian views on certain issues. You might lose a day of golf each week because now you are attending a church service. You might have to change your attitude towards certain people and alter the way that you treat them based upon your understanding of how the Bible tells you to live. Whatever the case may be, there is always a cost to being a Christian and it should not be overlooked. We are instructed to "count the cost" before beginning our walk with Christ, so it is healthy to reflect on if we are willing to pay that cost today for God. (Philippians 14:28)

Surviving the Renewal Takes Commitment
When things get tough, do we simply cave in and cry "uncle!" or do we hunker down and stick to our guns and continue in the battle? Sure, we could convince ourselves to be happy where we are in the process and make do with a life that only partly resembles who we are called to be, but that does not mean that we are living the lives God has not only called us to live but that Christ paid for us to be able to live. If I actually live out my life focusing on the fact that Jesus paid my debt so I could live an even more abundant life, I am more than likely going to strive harder to make sure that it becomes a more valuable, profitable investment. I have been made "more than a conqueror" but am I living a life that reflects this truth? (Romans 8:37)

Teamwork Tackles the Job
We need help. Obviously, our first and Ultimate Helper is God the Father. If we are not relying upon His help to keep us rooted in the faith and living lives that please Him then we will fail miserably. However, sometimes an earthly helper is needed to help "bear our adversity" and keep us on the correct path of holy living. (Proverbs 17:17) Sometimes that can be through an aptly spoken word and sometimes that can be through a tough accountability conversation. There are times when we are overwhelmed by the things in life and when we are distracted by the world and lose our focus in God. At these moments when we feel like giving in or giving up, the need for a peer group and community support system becomes incredibly important. Many people can make a burden seem lighter and they can provide guidance in how to handle certain situations in a manner that honors God.

Keep the End in Mind
Sometimes it becomes easy to lose sight of why we are doing something when we are in the middle of it. Again, this is an issue of focus. As Christians we allow ourselves to lose sight of "the prize of the high calling of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 3:14) We start doing something for a very noble and Godly reason and in the end it becomes a hassle or an obligation or a ritual that has no eternal significance to us. This is not how we are called to live. If we are doing things out of habit and not out of love, perhaps we need to reevaluate our motivation for doing it. If I have no longing to do something for God, is it because I am not listening for the Holy Spirit to guide me into action or is because that action is not of God? If we keep our focus on Christ, then we will have our hearts in the place where we cannot help but hear the Spirit call us into action.

Many hands Make Lighter Work
Sometimes we need more people to tackle a tough job. The Church is no different, Part of the process of being transformed as a Christian is directly tied to the body of Christ. There are certain things that the Church is called to do and the more Christians that do them the more of an impact there is in the community at large. (James 1:27) If every Christian remained focused on God and the work He has for us here on earth every day, I believe that certain "large" issues in our society could be impacted.

This was by no means an all-inclusive list, but it represents some of what God has shown me through this time of transition and change.