World’s Most Inconsistent Blogger Strikes Again

I just noticed that I have not updated this space since December.  It’s no wonder I don’t have any readers.  I’m committed to making some changes to my consistency and content.

1. I’m going to do my best to avoid political posts.  It won’t be easy, but political blogging is not my area.  This space is supposed to be about Faith, Finances and Food.  And I’m going to stick to that. I will not be taking down my political posts, but will only address political issues as they directly impact one of the three core areas this blog is about.

2. I am going to make every effort to update this blog at least weekly.

3. I am launching a new study series in the Faith section called, “The Great Adventure”.  Look for the first installment either over the weekend or early next week.

Finally, please forgive me for my negligence of this site.  Some of the issues have been health related, but mostly, I’ve just allowed life to crowd out my writing.

 

Some Election Reflection – Content Warning: Explicit Spiritual Themes

America has spoken. We have endured two years of hard campaigning, incessant rhetoric, name calling from pundits, threats from extremists and propaganda galore. Yesterday we voted. We had our say.

Nationally, we didn’t say much.  On the surface, it looks like we voted the status quo. Mr. Obama is still President, the Democrats still have the Senate and the Republicans still have the House. Ho Hum.

Digging in a little deeper, two or three State specific decisions stand out to me as quite telling. First, popular conservative, Allen West, lost his seat in Florida. Two States voted to legalize same sex marriage and two more voted to legalize recreational marijuana usage.

To my poor, simple mind, I think all these results suggest that America is no longer a center right country. We look a little more center left to me.  This may be a phase, it may be the start of a long term move, I can’t tell.  Either way, it is clearly the world we live in right now.

I make a lot of noise about running for political office, and sometimes I am tempted, because I want to make a difference. I am flattered by the support I get from friends and family.  It’s great to know that I’d get at least SOME votes if I ran.

The simple fact is, though, my calling is not a political one, it is a spiritual one.  My task, my purpose, my passion, is not to call America to the voting booth, but to call the Church to the prayer closet and to call the world to Christ.

America’s political shifts are fascinating to me. I truly love the cut and thrust of politics. It’s challenging and fun, but it is a superficial thing, and can be a distraction. When my candidate wins, I can become overly content, even smug.  When my chosen candidate loses, I can despair and grieve.  I am so easily drawn in to giving way too much importance to temporal things.

My foundational document is not the Constitution, but the Scriptures.  My true allegiance is not to the flag, but to the Gospel.  My hope is not in America, but in Christ.  I am more interested in tithes than taxes.  There is more promise in prayer than in politics. I need a Savior more than I need a Senator. The world needs the Great Physician more than we need health care. We need pulpits more than we need political stumps.  We need deliverance more than Democrats and we need revival more than we need Republicans. It is by His stripes rather than the stars and stripes that we are healed.

Yesterday, I voted. I cast my ballot for some winners and some losers. Oh, well.  Yesterday (and today), I also prayed. I cast my cares on the One who cares for me.  My vote will stand for 4 years. My prayers will stand forever. My life is in His hands.

I believe the world can change.  I believe we can become more loving, more giving, more secure, more free,  more just, more peaceful, more holy, more neighborly, more content, more balanced, more united than we ever imagined.  And I not only believe it, I know the Way. I think I’ll spend the next four years, point it, er, Him, out.

 

Mixing Politics and The Pulpit – A Rant

It would appear that some one thousand Pastors have banded together and committed to use their pulpits on Sunday, October 7 to preach politics in an effort to tempt the IRS into a court case over the issue.

I literally wept when I read the article. My heart broke when I realized how far we have fallen. We are, at the very least, Revelation’s Church in Ephesus, having lost our ‘first love’. To our shame, we have mingled the blood of Christ with the platforms and agendas of America’s political parties.

While millions are dying, hurting and broken, we are stumping for our candidates of choice. May God have mercy on our souls.

The October plan seems to be mostly conservative and Evangelical, but liberal congregations and those espousing “Liberation Theology” are also guilty of reducing Christ’s pulpit to a political stump.

I poured out my emotions in a Facebook update yesterday when I said:

“To all the Pastors out there, regardless of your political alliances, I beg you from the bottom of my heart, the marrow in my bones and the depth of my soul, please do not reduce God’s pulpit to a campaign stump. Follow Paul’s example to the Corinthians when he said he came to them with only “Christ, and Him crucified”. He commanded Timothy to “Preach the Word”, he said nothing about preaching the party. With tears on my face I’m begging, “Lift high the cross and don’t let earth bound things dilute God’s Good News”.

I would like to take a minute and suggest some planks in the only political platform worthy of the Kingdom of God.

Foreign Policy: For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.   “Therefore go and make disciples of every nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, and surely I will be with your always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19.20

Social Policy: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Matthew 22:39.  “Do unto others and you would have them do unto you.” Luke 6:31. “Pure religion and undefiled is this: taking care of widows and orphans.” James 1:27

Taxation: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s” Mark 12:17.

Immigration: “My Kingdom is not of this world”. John 18:36.  “For our citizenship is in Heaven and we eagerly await a Savior from there.” Philippians 3:20.

Healthcare: “I was sick and in prison and you visited me.” Matthew 25:36.  “Heal the sick.” Luke 10:9.

Social Welfare: “Leave the edges of the fields for the poor and the alien.” Leviticus 23:22.  “If a man won’t work, he shouldn’t eat”.  2Thessalonians 3:10.

These matters are fit subjects for the pulpit. The affairs of Republicans and Democrats are better left outside the worship center. Elections and politics matter, but only for this world.  Our High Calling in the Church is to worship the King and Creator of all that is, to point humanity to Christ, to enable them to live and serve to their fullest potential here and to prepare them for eternity.

Here is stand. I care not a whit whether your politics are left or right, if you use God’s pulpit to promote your political agenda then I stand against you.  I rebuke you and I call you to ‘remember the height from which you have fallen.  Repent and do the things you did at first. Otherwise, He will return and remove your ‘lampstand’.

Why Libertarians Are Deluded, Delusional, Mostly Right And May Hold The Key To The November Election

The Party Conventions are over and a sigh of relief sweeps across America. We watch them with the same morbid interest we gawk at a car wreck. We are searching for bodies and gore (not the Al kind) among the twisted metal, while praying that everyone is ok and cursing the traffic jam. In other words, they’re a mess.

 The bases are fired up, the opponents are ticked off and Twitter goes wild with glowing praise and 4 letter word spiced denunciations.  There’s nothing like an election year to make creationists consider that Darwin might be onto something.

 While the news media fawns and fumes over the various Red and Blue candidates jockeying for power, a disenfranchised portion of the population sulks in frustration and disillusionment. They are politically opinionated, certainly vocal, generally articulate, stubborn and when not mellowed out by their hydroponically grown cannabis, quite passionate. They are the Libertarians.

 I love Libertarians. I count myself among their number (except for the cannabis part. I do not partake. My substance of choice is Krispy Kreme) and do so proudly.  Libertarians are mainly supporters of small Government and fiscal responsibility. They are big on personal liberty and responsibility. They are live and let live kind of people. All noble positions.

 Libertarians, though, have some problems that prevent them (us) from being more influential in National politics.

 First, many Libertarians are deluded into believing we are more numerous than we are.  When we move mostly in like minded social circles, it’s easy to think we are a majority. This is the problem all political ideas face. We don’t get out enough to see and hear what’s going on in the bigger world.

 Libertarians are not a majority. We’re not even a large minority.  Sure, many, even most, Americans have some Libertarian positions, that’s not the same as most Americans being Libertarian.

 Yes, most people say they are tired of ‘business as usual’ in Washington.  Every water cooler conversation is packed with ‘there’s no real difference between the parties’ rhetoric. But that’s just talk. The simple fact is, Americans want to be independent thinkers, but we are a two party system and instinctively vote Democrat or Republican.  We aren’t even close to a third party making a real difference on a National level.

 Another serious problem with Libertarians is a lack of unity.  While on the whole, we are fiscally conservative, we are mighty and mightily divided in almost every other area.  Consider the military, for example.  Some Libertarians would pull all of our troops out of every foreign country and that is the end of the discussion. Others of us take a more pragmatic view and believe we risk too much if we become overly parochial. 

 Social issues are also huge dividers.  We are pretty much united in our position on legalizing drugs, but beyond that, we’re all over the place. I would hazard a guess that a majority of Libertarians are secularists, but a significant percentage of us have our views shaped by the Bible and those disparate foundations keep us from being cohesive on some pretty important matters.

 I can’t help but draw a comparison with the Scottish Nationalist Party (based on my days of living in that wonderful country).  For more than a dozen years I lived in Caledonia and was drawn to the movement for Scottish Independence.  I read their books, listened to their speeches and attended their meetings.

 Scots were drawn to the cause of Independence for all kinds of reasons; some noble, some ignoble. They loved their country and culture. They were weary of their lives being directed by, and their excessive tax money going to, London. The Nationalists were passionate in this common desire. The problem was, they couldn’t unite on much else.  The midlands of Scotland were, and are, liberal, secular and progressive.  The North East, Highlands and Islands tend to be more conservative and religious. A united platform was never adopted during my years there. A loose confederacy was the most that could be accomplished.

 As a result, the SNP could win a few local elections, but couldn’t muster enough mass appeal to take the nation. 

 In case I sound cryptic, let me be clear.  There is NO WAY a Libertarian Presidential candidate could be elected President of the United States at this time. We can win local and State seats from time to time and we can influence National elections and affect Party platforms, but there is no way to win on a national level.

 Libertarianism, you see, is not a political party.  It is a philosophy. It affects our views on Govt., laws, rules, regulations and even morality.  It’s national draw politically comes primarily from young conservatives who hold more liberal social views and from Boomer adults who were once leftists and have moved to the right as they matured in their understanding of economics but have held true to their Vietnam era anti war views (Of course I’m generalizing, but I’m on target, even if I miss the bull’s eye on some points).

 November is coming and Libertarians are in a tizzy. Some still believe that Gary Johnson can become President. That’s nonsense.  If every Libertarian comes out to vote in November and votes for Gary Johnson. If every person posting cute ‘both parties are the same’ posters on FB and Twitter all pull the lever for Johnson I can tell you right now who will win.  We will have 4 more years of Barack Obama.

 You may hate that idea. You may love that idea. You may shrug your shoulders at that idea, but please, for the sake of intellectual integrity, don’t pretend any other result is possible.

 I’m more pragmatic in my approach.  I will accept baby steps.  I will search for candidates who are willing to listen and move, even a little, in our direction. Sometimes ‘the greater part of valor is discretion’. In my opinion, the economy is our most immediate issue and I believe one of the major party candidates is well equipped to take us down the road to repair and restore ours. I believe he will promote the entrepreneurial spirit and personal responsibility that is dear to my Libertarian heart.  He will break my heart in some other areas and will aggravate the life out of me in others. So I will vote for him and his baby steps toward true liberty and the constitution. I will also hold his feet to the fire and be a pain in his backside if he betrays me.

 Which candidate am I talking about? I’m not saying. You do the research and you vote.  I WILL say that if you vote Gary Johnson, you’re casting two votes. Is that what you meant to do?

Governments, Churches and the Family Budget

Now there’s a Headline that has the potential to tick off almost everyone.  It’s a gift I have.

Five years ago this month, my remarkably below average selling book, “IOU NO MORE” hit the market.  I had high hopes for it, but some other simultaneous life changes prohibited me doing the aggressive marketing that success required.  No big deal really.  The material helped a lot of people and the principles are still true.  Some of the content is dated now, but if you want a copy you can still get it from Amazon (There’s a Kindle version).

Last year, I updated the book and added a couple new thoughts, but decided not to publish it.  I’m still considering making it available in an e book format. Time will tell.  At any rate, Happy Birthday, “IOU NO MORE”.

The book’s principles would be very useful for Governments and Churches, too.

I read with dismay, the debates between left and right over how to get the economy going.  Both sides may be right and both are definitely wrong.  They are more interested in sound bites and pandering to their respective bases than actually addressing the national debt and getting the economy rolling again.  They are interested in power and job security and very few have the courage to stand up and tell the whole, ugly truth.  Senator Paul Ryan has tried, but neither side, nor the American public is interested.  We can’t handle the truth.

I could fix the budget.  Millions would hate me, at least for a while, but I could do it.

Budgeting is simple.  It’s not easy, but it’s simple.  When you have serious, crippling debt, there is one definite problem and one possible one.  The definite problem is a spending issue.  You are spending more than you earn.  That’s automatic, beyond dispute.  It is also possible that you have an income problem. You may actually need to earn more money.

In politics, the left is more willing to face the second factor, while ignoring, even berating the first.  For the left, it’s always an income issue.  We need more money, let’s raise taxes, especially on the rich.

That sounds good on the surface, it’s certainly populist, but it’s naieve and maybe even dangerous.

The right side of the aisle says we should cut taxes because tax cuts spark the economy. They talk about spending cuts with fiery zeal, but never do it, because too many members of their base would baulk at their favorite entitlements being affected.  So, round and round we go, never progressing, always spinning and spiraling, ever downward.

The very first step to fixing a debt crisis is to STOP BORROWING!  You’ve got enough of a problem with what’s already been borrowed.  Stop trying to dig your way out of a hole. Is anyone in Washington listening?  Anyone in America?  STOP!

To fix a budget, whether personal, organizational or national, the next step is a debt assessment.  We need to find out where we are.  How much is coming in?  Where is it coming from?  How much is going out?  Where is it going?  To whom do we owe and how much do we owe each creditor? What are the minimum payments.

Now we do a budget.  Every category has a name and every dollar is assigned.  This is where we start to cut.  We prioritize where our money goes.  In a family budget, God comes first.  He gets the first ten percent, then comes Food.  In my U.S. budget, National Defense would rank very high.

As individuals, if we don’t eat, we become vulnerable to illness.  As a nation, without a strong defense, our freedom and very existence is at risk.  When I’m in debt, I cut the fat, I might not eat out as much, I rip the junk food out of the budget and the stupid squandering, but you gotta eat.  Our national defense is more important than entitlement programs.  But I digress.

I would go through the budget item by item in a zero based, rather than a line item budget.  Every category has to defend it’s right to existence, every time the budget it done.  Some categories must be eliminated, some must be slashed. Some must be reformed.  For example, if I can’t keep the lights on, I can’t afford to go to the movies.  Back when I was in debt, I did just the opposite.  I had plenty of fun, but I repeatedly had my electricity cut off. Twice I had cars repossessed, but I went to the movies, concerts and night clubs without thinking twice.

In America, there are multiple categories of spending that should be eliminated.  That’s a vote loser. Other categories need slashed to the bone. It’s uncomfortable, it’s unpopular, but it’s necessary for survival.

After every category is properly designated, prioritized and the necessary adjustments (cuts) are made, if there is still more going out than coming in, then additional income is required.  In our case, my wife went back to work.  Sometimes a second job is required.  Other times all that’s needed is a good yard sale or some postings on Ebay.

From a national perspective, at this point, we may need to raise taxes for a while.  We have to be honest.  It’s not fun working two jobs to pay bills, but we got ourselves into debt, so getting out contains some discomfort. It won’t be fun paying more taxes, but it may be necessary. You’d better prove to me that it’s necessary by cutting spending first.  Don’t try and snow me with mythical promised cuts that never transpire. Show me the cuts, then I’ll show you the money.

The two primary impediments to a successful family budget are: 1. unwillingness to change behavior and 2. a family not being on the same page.  On a national level they are 1. Republicans and Democrats not being on the same page and 2. Americans not willing to change behavior. Most of us on the right are delighted with spending cuts, unless it touches our entitlements.  Don’t touch Medicare or Social Security.  Don’t go near Defense, etc.

The left is fine with taxing the ‘rich’, but don’t ever tax the middle or lower classes.  Those rich people have to pay their fair share, but it’s not fair for my base to pay any share at all.  How ridiculous.

We need leaders who are willing to be one term officials.  We need men and women who are prepared to do the hard stuff and fix the economy, knowing it will be unpopular and that they may likely be voted out in a landslide at the end of their terms.  We want to be Mayberry with Andy Taylor as Sherrif, but we might actually be Tombstone and need Wyatt Earp.

Oh, remember that those tax increases were temporary.  When my wife and I got out of debt and were able to live on a single income, she quit her job to become a full time farmer.  She was probably better off employed….

Any tax increases should follow spending cuts and have a deadline built in.

I’ve blethered on way too long, but bear with me for another moment or forty.

I would implement a consumption, rather than an income tax (read “Fair Tax”)

I would eliminate junkets.

I would open offshore drilling and drilling in ANWR.

I would immediately open the Keystone Pipeline Project.

I would make a deal with the auto makers that the first auto maker who could create a legitimate 50 mpg gallon (city) vehicle, would get all Govt. contracts for ten years.

I would then make similar deals with alternative, renewable energy companies.

I would implement Tort reform and term limits

I would reform Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Food Stamp programs and other Welfare.

I would implement a work for benefit plan into Welfare benefits.

I would abolish the USDA

I would privitize the TSA

I would close the borders tighter than drum for illegal immigrants and build a nice new, wide, welcoming door for legal immigrants

I would legalize drugs, tax the fire out of them and enforce DUI and similar laws with a zero tolerance policy

Until the Fair Tax could be implemented, I would lower the tax rate and eliminate tax deductions (flat tax).

These are just some of the reasons no one would vote for me.

I could go on, but now I’m starting to preach.

Speaking of preaching, I haven’t even started on Churches an money yet.  Wait till next post!

 

When Problems are Too Big For Partisan Politics….

2012 is still new. There is still plenty of shine on it. It has all kinds of potential for good.  As long as the election cycle doesn’t overshadow our opportunity.

Elections are important. They are also a necessary evil. We have a chance to participate in the process, so vote. We also get to live with the consequences of our decisions, so vote wisely.

Here’s the deal, though. Government will not fix a single real problem facing our country or our world. Their size, their needs, their divisions will forever mire them and keep us frustrated with them. Government is in the business of Government.

Inflation, unemployment, the ongoing real estate crisis, escalating divorce rates, poverty, hunger, rising costs of medical care; these are just a few of the mountains Americans are facing. We mistakenly think that somehow Washington is going to put their partisan differences aside and solve them. How foolish are we?  The Republicans and Democrats have become so polarized that the party out of power will forever see their role as obstructionist.  We may have lost the art of compromise forever. Wisdom has left the building.

The fact is, Washington never was, or never should have been, the answer. For people like me, the Church is much better positioned to help find solutions to our communities’ crippling economic, social and moral problems.

As individual congregations, we have agility and mobility to focus on the needs inside our fellowships, that the red tape of Govt. Bureaucracies  could never allow.

Think about it for a moment. If each Family of Faith would concentrate efforts on finding creative solutions to the hunger, financial and health issues just within our own groups, we could reduce the load on Government, exponentially.

Now, let’s take that thought to the next level. If the Churches in any given community were to work together to solve mutual problems, our size, influence and wealth of our combined efforts would be a virtually irresistible force.

Let me cite just a couple of examples: 1. Let’s suppose all the Christian gardeners and farmers in a congregation united to create community gardens to help provide food security for the members of our congregations who were in need. Or, what if we tithed the produce from our gardens to our Church food pantry. What if we tithed our eggs, our chickens, our milk, our beef, our lamb, our pork; how much food could we provide?

What if we held classes in our Church buildings that taught people how to cook and prepare nutritious, whole foods and reduce the need the need for fast or highly processed foods in family diets. Now what if we taught them how to grow some of this food themselves. We could dramatically reduce poverty and health costs at the same time.

Sure, there is a certain percentage of the population who is not willing to help themselves. We have to live with that, but there is also a percentage who is more than willing, even desirous of being a part of our own solutions. We don’t stop offering a cure because some people want to stay sick.

Speaking of sick, imagine with me that all the Christian medical professionals in a given community, tithed their time to provide pro bono medical care for people in their congregations who could not afford it.  How much medicaid and medicare money could be saved?  Heck, how much fraud could be reduced?

Ok, one more; What if all the mechanics in a Church would devote time each week to do oil changes and basic maintenance on vehicles for the unemployed, single mothers, senior citizens and other financially challenged in the Church. How much money could be saved in the long run?

We can’t let the risk of abuse be our excuse for not following the Scriptural command to look after ‘the least of these’. A very large percentage of people Jesus himself served, apparently rejected Him or took their bread and fish for granted. In one example, Jesus healed 10 men of leprosy and only one even thanked Him. And that dude wasn’t even a Jew. It didn’t stop Him from healing or feeding though. How very radical.

Most of what I’ve described has been at a congregational level. Imagine for a moment, if Christians united to serve together. The force for change would dwarf a Tsunami. Our enemy knows that. He works overtime making sure the Church stays divided, because if we ever come together, the gates of Hell are toast.

Which brings me to a final point. The world needs Jesus much more than we need a conservative (or liberal, if that’s your orientation) Government. I don’t believe that the Republicans OR the Democrats will help us find Revival. And neither will prevent one, once it gets started. I’m just sayin’, vote, it’s an American privilege, but if you consider yourself a Christian, pray like the future depends on God and work like the future depends on you.

If you’re not a Christian, I dare you to give Jesus a fresh look. You might be surprised by what you discover.

Peace, y’all.