Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Real Recipient of the Economic Stimulus?

$787 billion is a lot of money to spend. Most of us, given that amount of cash, would probably find it hard to spend the entire amount. To illustrate - I like Corvettes. They retail for about an average of $55,000 each. There are only about 27,000 made each year, though. So, if I bought every single one made this model year, I would spend about $1.485 billion (not including any discount that Chevy may give me for such a super-sized order). That would be a little less than 0.2% of the whole economic stimulus package passed by Congress last February. I could do that for 528 more years before I ran out of money. Put simply, I could buy every Corvette ever made (starting in 1953) – and still not come close to running out of stimulus money (but, boy, would I be happy!)

How big is $787 billion? Well, if someone paid you $1 million a day every day for the rest of your life, it would take until April 4165 before you collected all of the money (yes, more than 2000 years from now). Never fear, though, as I think the federal government will find a way to spend it.

Near my house, there has been some road construction going on lately. Well, that’s a little optimistic – I’ve rarely seen anyone actually working there, but there are some signs of occasional activity. There are concrete barriers and orange barrels blocking off some lanes of traffic. It’s as if they are going to do something to improve the road. But I can’t figure out what it is. Months have gone by, and my roads (what lanes have been left open) just stay the same.

Before approaching the area, from both directions, the workers installed a sign some months ago. The sign lets us know that funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are being used to implement this construction. I guess the sign is supposed to make me proud…but it doesn’t. From what I can tell, the only thing that the government is using my tax money for is to provide orange barrels, and erect a sign telling me about it.

I suppose this could be considered to be “stimulating” the economy if one were to evaluate how plastic barrel rental shops and aluminum signmakers are weathering the downturn. Hey, if you want to make a good investment, those look like two market segments whose stock should be on the rise.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: the best way the government can stimulate the economy is to take less money from me at tax time, and give me the decision about where that money should be spent – rather than deciding for me. People are much more likely to consume or invest wisely on their own. We don’t need the government deciding where that should happen.

Because all I have for my tax money today is an obstacle course and some roadside reading material.


Want to see some more government “song and dance”? Visit their website to see exactly where your money is going. There is a state-by-state accounting of where the stimulus money is being spent. I must say, I tend to disbelieve much of what I see here. For example, if you hover over the state of Michigan, they will tell you that they have created (or saved!) 10,073 jobs. Um…my parents live in Michigan, and I’m pretty sure the government is stretching a truth here…..

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Communion Meditation

This is an unusual time of year to bring to memory the death of our Lord Jesus Christ – a time of year when we also celebrate his birth. Indeed, this week we glory both in his birth and in his death. How should we approach our weekly remembrance at this time of year?

It is estimated that Jesus Christ fulfilled over 3000 Messianic prophecies – predictions about him that came true through his birth, his life, and his death. No other period in history contained so much fulfilled prophecy, and no man’s life was ever more predicted by others. That is because the life and death of Jesus Christ are the most important things which have ever happened in history.

I sincerely want to study all 3000 prophecies, and I hope to do so in time. I’m funny that way, but to me, seeing these predictions fulfilled over and over makes Jesus even more real to me. But, instead of doing a study of all 3000 prophecies for this week’s meditation time (you may breathe a collective sigh), I decided to look at one of the earliest ones.

In Deuteronomy 18:15-18, the Bible says:

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the LORD your
God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, "Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die."

The LORD said to me: "What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.”

God tells us that he will raise up a future prophet, one who will be like Moses. If you look at all of the prophets in the Bible, you will find that no other life comes as close to the similarities of Jesus as the life of Moses. Both were delivered from death as babies, both performed miracles, both were leaders, both mediated between God and man, and both offered to die in order to forgive the sins of the people.

Recall that when Moses was born, the king of Egypt had ordered all of the midwives to kill any boys born to Hebrew women. But the midwives disobeyed, and his mother put in motion a plan to rescue him and deliver him to none other than the royal court of Egypt. Twelve-hundred years later, in a fury over being outwitted by the Magi, King Herod condemned to death all of the baby boys born in Bethlehem. Jesus managed to escape. Both little babies were saved from evil kings.

Just as striking, both Moses and Jesus made an offer to die for the atonement of other’s sins. In Exodus 32:30-33, after Moses discovers that the people had built a golden calf to worship, we are told this:

‘The next day Moses said to the people, "You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin."

So Moses went back to the LORD and said, "Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written."’

However, God chose not to accept Moses’ offer. He had other plans to save the people from their sins.

Which brings us to one major difference between these two prophets - Moses and Jesus Christ. When Jesus made the offer to be an atoning sacrifice, God allowed it to happen – because it was His plan to do so all along. Why Jesus instead of Moses? Because of one other distinctive difference between the two – the sacrifice is so much more meaningful when the offering is the Son of God himself.

And so, while we study the story of Moses on occasion and recall his life – we meet every week to think of Jesus and remember his death.

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time.... (Romans 3:21-26)

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

“King” of Healthcare?

Some form of healthcare will likely pass in the Senate this Thursday.

Every single poll I have been able to research (Rasmussen, Pew, CNN, YouGov, NBC/WSJ, AP, Harris, USAToday/Gallup, ABC/Post, FOX) shows that more Americans DON'T want government-dictated healthcare than the number who want it - some by as much as 15%.

So, what happened to representative government?

Instead of executing the wishes of those who elected them to office, our senators and congressmen appear to be giving in to someone else. Is it their own pocketbooks? The healthcare companies? President Obama? Or all three?

When people get together to pass a law that the people don't want, but which a government leader does – that is called a monarchy. I guess we now live in a country where we should call our leader "King Obama". Oh, by the way, that's what the Pilgrims fled from when they came over on the Mayflower.

A lady asked Dr. Franklin, “Well Doctor, what have we got - a republic or a monarchy?”"A republic," replied the Doctor, "if you can keep it."

Anonymous, from Farrand's Records of the Federal Convention of 1787

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Will Cultural Brainwashing Now Be Mandated To Get A Teaching Degree?

“Whoever controls the schools controls the world.” – Voddie Baucham
I promise that I am not making this up. Okay, I did photoshop the picture, but really - that’s all. I apologize in advance to the University of Minnesota graduates, but I’m pretty sure Mao would have been proud of what is happening at your school.

A task force at the University of Minnesota is recommending a training plan for future educators that is so Orwellian, you would think that Karl Marx had written it. This group – called the Race, Culture, Class and Gender Task Group – is recommending a multi-step plan of cultural “re-education” for those wishing to get a teaching degree at “the U”.

Under this plan, students wishing to obtain a degree in education must admit - and be willing to go forth and teach - that America’s roots are racist, sexist, and homophobic, and that such attitudes have been the cause of poor minority academic performance in state schools. Put simply, teachers would need to confess their inherent bias, and then pass on to their students that white students have had an unfair educational advantage due to a history of racism in our nation.

The task force’s recommendation comes in two parts. First, a prospective teacher must confess their own history of prejudice. Extra points are given for being self-critical. A sample “confession” is included in the report - "As an Anglo teacher, I struggle to quiet voices from my own farm family, echoing as always from some unstated standard. ... How can we untangle our own deeply entrenched assumptions?" Again – I promise – I did not make that up.

Second, teachers must be able to point out to students the history of racism and how it has led to an unfair bias against non-whites in the educational system. They must be able to teach about “the myth of meritocracy” in the United States – which is a fancy way to say that the people who have been successful in our nation’s history did not earn their position through hard work, but because of racial privilege.

What if a student resists this program at the University? The task force recommendation deals with this specifically. If someone is unwilling to conform to the cultural re-education process, the University must "develop clear steps and procedures for working with non-performing students, including a remediation plan."

The overall direction of this plan is not so different from the reeducation camps used by Mao Zedong during China’s Cultural Revolution. Hitler used similar tactics to brainwash the youth of Nazi Germany. Even if there is a grain of truth in American racism (and there have certainly been isolated examples), promoting this philosophy has nothing to do with becoming a better teacher! It simply arms teachers with an excuse to give their students for underperforming. If you were paying the University of Minnesota a large tuition to turn your child into a quality teacher, would you be happy with this program? Would you like it if a teacher graduating from this program was assigned to your first-grader – to influence their formative years with racial bias and untruths?

We need educators to stand up for what is right and true, and not fall victim to the recommendations of those who wish to corrupt our children. Home educators – Mom and Dad – need to be willing to teach the truth to their children, regardless of social pressures. Public educators need to rise up and stand against the tactics used by “task forces” which aim to offer up our children on the altar of political correctness. Parents of children, whether home-educated or state-educated, should understand the forces which arise to steal our children’s hearts, minds, and souls. They should not be afraid to take a vocal or public stand against the dumbing-down of the American school system. Write an opinion piece for your local paper, get involved with your school’s leadership, contact a Congressman and let them know your wishes for education, or take personal charge of your children’s education by considering homeschooling.

If we don’t, our children’s children will be living in a world far different from the one in which we grew up. And pretty soon, our beloved United States will start to look like Communist China…or Nazi Germany.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

What Happens When Congress Gets In A Hurry

There has been a lot of rushing around in Congress lately, as if there is no time to evaluate what laws are being passed.

The economic stimulus bill was rushed through as an absolute necessity. $787 billion was allocated for spending and agreed to in just a few days. And yet, the results are just the opposite of what was expected – unemployment continues to rise far beyond what we were told it would be if we would support the stimulus package. There have been no firm connections made between the stimulus bill and an economic turnaround. Things have become decidedly worse in our economy.

Now, healthcare is being rushed through Congress, even though such a bill has far-reaching and long-lasting effects. Revamping healthcare could have serious consequences – life and death consequences – if not properly done. And yet, thousands of pages are being written, Congress is voting on it without reading it, and our leaders are breaking their promises to allow it to be posted on-line for 72 hours before taking a vote. We are rushing toward something – but what?

The most recent penalty for a hurried attitude came recently when the Internal Revenue Service announced that they had erred in the release of the tax tables in 2009 – a result of President Obama’s signature tax credit offered as part of the stimulus package. The credits were designed to give individuals as much as $400 in “money back” and couples as much as $800. Because of an oversight, the tax tables for many couples were posted incorrectly, allowing them to claim more credit on their 2008 return than they were allowed. It is estimated that as many as 15 million people will now owe the government $250 or more – some as much as $400. Most of those affected are working couples, but the error also spills over onto single students and Social Security recipients (another error in which the government overlooked the possibility that someone might claim a new Social Security bonus and the above-mentioned tax credit – they are eligible for only one of these credits). Affected people in any category will have to make the correction, either through more tax liability for 2009, or in a reduced return. One thing is for sure – the government will get “its money”, even if they were the ones who made the error.

It feels to me that we are rushing to our own economic destruction. The tax credit was given to Americans with the instructions to “spend the refund in order to stimulate the economy”. How long can that tactic work? Is such a design sustainable? Isn’t there another route we can take – namely, to require the government to spend less, resulting in a lower tax burden, and allowing each individual to keep more of their own money to invest and use as they see fit? Imagine the economic strength of a nation where everyone was free from the worry of debt, and could concentrate on superior products and innovative ideas.

What is lost in nearly every news article that I read is that the tax money started out as ours. We work hard for our paychecks and we make many decisions about how to spend and save. And yet, the assumption made by so many is that the government has a right to take it from us at their whim. True – per the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution, Congress can collect taxes at will. What may have been forgotten is that before 1913, they did not have the right to collect taxes from our incomes (see a previous article here). They continue to abuse this law, taking more and more of our money to fund their own unread and poorly crafted laws. And we continue to send them cash with every pay stub.

I came across this interesting quote recently, from Herbert Hoover:

“Every collectivist revolution rides in on a Trojan horse of 'emergency'. It was the tactic of Lenin, Hitler, and Mussolini. ... And 'emergency' became the justification of the subsequent steps. This technique of creating emergency is the greatest achievement that demagoguery attains.”
The “emergency” has certainly been declared again, and we are falling for it just as surely as economic ruin awaits us if we continue on this course. What should we do? It’s time to get involved – write a Congressman, elect leaders who understand this principle, or work to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment. Without our income tax to spend, Congress just might get downsized. Would that be a bad thing?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What If I Tell Them I Refuse To Pay Abortion Taxes?

During the recent passage of the House healthcare bill, there was a lot of uproar over whether or not public funds would go toward financing abortion on demand (the debate now swings to the Senate). Some more conservative House leaders introduced the Stupak amendment – a measure which limited (but did not completely eliminate) healthcare funds from being used for abortion. As I read the news, a thought occurred to me - what would I have done if the government had placed an abortion free-for-all in the bill, effectively being paid for with my taxes?

Is there a time when we say, “Enough! I refuse to pay for that!” Is there ever a time when we would be justified in NOT paying our taxes?

The Bible tells us to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and also that God puts government officials in their place at his bidding. Jesus told us in Matthew 22 that it was right to pay taxes to Caesar. But it makes me wonder - what were taxes used for by the Roman government two thousand years ago? Did they spend tax money on the same things that our government spends it on today?

In ancient Rome, the tax rate varied between 1% and 5%, with a 1% sales tax being the norm (the higher rates up to 5% were levied on one-time events, such as inheritance taxes). And where did this tax money get spent? I can only find reference to the tax money being used to fund the Roman legions – the military used by the emperors to provide national security and preserve order. The Roman government, the one we hear about as being controlling and oppressive, did not use tax money for public healthcare, arts endowment…or to fund abortion.

Is there a difference today? If Roman taxes were being used to fund abortions, would Jesus’ answer have been different when asked about paying taxes? The point that Jesus was making in Matthew seems to be more about the concern of individuals and their love of money. This event was also a simple ploy that the Pharisees were using to try to trap Jesus into being arrested. Would he have given the same answer if the subject was about what the tax money was being spent on? Would Jesus have felt outrage and decry the payment of taxes if the Roman government had been funding abortions?

It angers me to the point of tears that some of my tax money – right now – goes to fund abortions in instances of rape, incest, or “the health of the mother”. Money that I work hard for is collected by a government which legalizes and even promotes the murder of our nation’s children. To this I say, “Enough!”

I wonder what would happen if I sent in my taxes next year with this note:
Dear U.S. Government,

I have calculated my taxes for last year to be $20,000. I have also calculated that $1,200 of this money will be allocated, proportionally, to the funding of abortions. You should be made aware that the practice of abortion is morally reprehensible to me. I cannot in good conscience allow you to spend my tax money on this procedure. I believe it is tantamount to murder. Please accept this short-payment of my tax debt with the understanding of why I am refusing to pay the full amount. To assist you in any budget shortfall, I will be doing everything in my power over the next few years to help reduce the number of abortions taking place – through discussions, volunteer work, or political activism. I hope that this more than makes up for the amount of my money that you would have spent on abortion had I not been working diligently to teach people about the outrage of this practice. I encourage you to get out of the abortion business and look to God for forgiveness and direction.

Well, I would probably be risking some jail time. I’ve probably guaranteed myself an audit just by posting this.

Pray for our nation.
Previous posts on abortion - here, here, and here.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Radical Environmentalism – “Climategate” – The Fall of Global Warming? (Part 11)

…continued from a previous post, commenting on the recent discovery of purposefully manipulated climate data – dubbed “Climategate” - designed to falsely promote the concept that the earth is warming…Hey, I’m all for good stewardship. But science shouldn’t lie about statistics in order to promote a dubious agenda.
The exposure of falsehoods, data deletion, and attempted cover-ups recently related to The University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) is having some repercussions in the environmental community. I am reading blogs and posts by people who were formerly convinced of Anthropogenic Global Warming as fact, but who now have their suspicions that the world has been led down “an inconvenient path”.

What changes in attitude or action are being seen as a result of Climategate?

On his way to the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) summit in Copenhagen next week, Saudi Arabia’s lead climate negotiator has said, "It appears from the details of the scandal that there is no relationship whatsoever between human activities and climate change… So, whatever the international community does to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will have no effect on the climate's natural variability." I think some of us have been hinting at that very point for a while.

In the wake of the Climategate memos, Australia’s Parliament got rid of a pro-Kyoto leader, and then voted down their proposed cap-and-trade energy policy (designed to regulate carbon emissions to be more environment-friendly). It was expected to pass before the Climategate scandal came to light. I continue to “warm” to the idea of moving to Australia if things continue down their current path here in the United States. I certainly hope that our lawmakers have the fortitude to abandon cap-and-trade before they further wreck our economy.

Here’s a good one - Al Gore has suddenly canceled his December trip to Copenhagen for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, though he had already sold 3,000 tickets to his scheduled speaking event, at over $1,200 each (that’s $3.6 million that he’s turning down – why would he do that?). And there are at least two people in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts who are calling for Gore’s Oscar to be investigated or rescinded for his 2006 documentary film An Inconvenient Truth. Here’s a little-known fact - did you know that Gore and his producers have admitted that much of the footage showing majestic icebergs in the movie was not real – but was made using CGI (computer-generated images)? You know – like Toy Story – which, by the way, also isn’t real.

Remember that graph at the beginning of An Inconvenient Truth that showed the sudden temperature rise in recent years? In an article entitled “The Deceit Behind Global Warming”, written by Christopher Booker and Richard North, they note:

One of the greatest problems Gore and his allies faced at this time was the mass of evidence showing that in the past, global temperatures had been higher than in the late 20th century.

In 1998 came the answer they were looking for: a new temperature chart, devised by a young American physicist, Michael Mann. This became known as the "hockey stick" because it showed historic temperatures running in an almost flat line over the past 1,000 years, then suddenly flicking up at the end to record levels.

Mann's hockey stick was just what the IPCC wanted. When its 2001 report came out it was given pride of place at the top of page 1. The Mediaeval Warming, the Little Ice Age, the 20th century Little Cooling, when CO2 had already been rising, all had been wiped away.

But then a growing number of academics began to raise doubts about Mann and his graph. This culminated in 2003 with a devastating study by two Canadians showing how Mann had not only ignored most of the evidence before him but had used an algorithm that would produce a hockey stick graph whatever evidence was fed into the computer. When this was removed, the graph re-emerged just as it had looked before, showing the Middle Ages as hotter than today.

Items like this have been known for several years, but they are finally getting some real exposure in the wake of Climategate. Look for more of Michael Mann’s involvement to be revealed as the scandal progresses. Things are beginning to unravel, but will it come apart altogether?

One U.S. climatologist is quoted in the Climategate documents as saying, "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't... Our observing system is inadequate." Do you see his leap to a conclusion, even when the facts don’t support it? Rather than postulate the possibility that global warming is not occurring, the automatic conclusion is that the measurement system must be incorrect. This is a perfect example of the “bad science” I have been pointing out in this series.

And this is precisely what I mean about environmentalism becoming a religion. Because some scientists reach out to global warming on faith – whether the facts support it or not. For them, it is truly "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). This is the very definition of faith in the Bible. And because many of these scientists do not have God in their life, they have replaced the worship of God with a worship of the earth. Now, their environmental faith is in jeopardy. Will they finally replace it with a faith in God?
Next in this series.......
Back to Part 1 of this series...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Radical Environmentalism – “Climategate” – The Fall of Global Warming? (Part 10)

When I started this environmental blog series earlier this year, I had it in mind that the concept of global warming might see its demise during my lifetime (possibly within the next forty years). Now, it appears that that it might happen within the next twelve months. But I am not celebrating yet – people don’t toss out their religion so easily, even the religion of environmentalism.

Enter “Climategate”. On November 19, 2009, memos and e-mails from researchers at The University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) were hacked and put on Internet display. These documents reveal a series of lies, fabrications, and fact-twisting efforts put out by the CRU over a number of years. Their intent was to show global warming to be occurring, when in fact the researchers were internally admitting that it was not. The CRU is one of the main contributors of climate data and studies used by political bodies to make decisions about environmental policy.

What exactly did the researchers at CRU do that was so wrong?

First, data was manipulated. In an attempt to prove that Anthropogenic (man-made) Global Warming (AGW) is a truth, scientists went beyond the facts to keep the story alive. The memos detail specific instances where the researchers padded data, added where they shouldn’t have, or simply misled the public with the result. Don’t believe me? The graph above is an example of the earth’s temperature data used by climatologists – a 100-year measurement. The blue lines are the raw data (showing a clear cooling trend over the century). The red lines are “compensated data”, which shows a warming trend. Neat trick, huh?

Manipulation of data isn’t all that happens. Manipulation of perception has also occurred. There is now a report that an important paper previously claiming that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035 at the current rate of global warming - contained a typo. The data should have said that the date would be 2350. I’ll bet you haven’t read that retraction in the paper, though.

Second, data was deleted. Raw data sets, which were used to construct the models leading to global economic policy decisions, were simply thrown out. This means that it is impossible to go back and verify or reconstruct a model that uses this data. It calls into question everything about the scientific conclusion, because the original data set is gone. Do you think your high school chemistry professor would have let you get away with that? And it begs the question – why did they delete the data? To save space? Or because the raw data was problematic to the conclusion that they wanted to draw? Hmmmmm…

Third, they tried to cover it up. Memos make it clear that the scientists in question were purposefully trying to evade the U.K.’s Freedom of Information Act. E-mail exchanges show that colleagues were being asked to delete e-mails that might prove troublesome later. That alone calls into question the true objectivity of these scientists. Their purpose clearly wasn’t about getting to the truth. It was about holding up a false premise designed to glorify themselves and others as the saviors of our poor planet. The top director of the CRU is on record as saying, “I would like to see the climate change happen so the science could be proved right.” His goal was not to reverse global warming – it was to be shown that he was right all along. That’s like hoping someone in your family gets a life-threatening disease so you can take full advantage of your health insurance.

To be sure, environmentalism takes the place of religion for many. It is a form of “doing good” and appearing to be concerned, with worship of the earth acting as a substitute for worship of God. Next up – what changes are occurring as a result of Climategate (including “What do Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and Pixar’s Toy Story have in common?”)
Next in this series.......
Back to Part 1 of this series...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Seeking The Origin of Life

The Large Hadron Collider is back on-line, after a fourteen month repair period. For the first time, scientists were able to achieve high-velocity proton collisions in the detector in November 2009.

Big deal.

The LHC is a technological marvel – there is no doubt about that. At a cost of $4.5 billion, and mostly financed by European taxpayers, it sits underground spanning the border of Switzerland and France – a twenty-seven kilometer (seventeen mile) circle of two empty tubes and liquid helium superconducting magnets. Protons are accelerated in the tubes to enormous speeds – moving in one direction in one tube, and the opposite direction in another. The particles move within the tubes at about one foot per nanosecond, which equates to approximately 11,000 times around the circle every second – nearly the speed of light. When the scientists see fit, they allow the beams to collide. Colliding protons emit lots of other particles, including photons, leptons, gluons and quarks. Simply put – smash things together and see what comes out.

Scientists hope that the Collider will reveal much to them about the structure of matter, the science behind electromagnetism, and origin of the universe. Scientists believe that at the moment of the Big Bang, the entire universe of particles that we know today was smaller than a single atom. It was all packed into an incredibly small space….and the collision of the particles within resulted in the universe as we know it – complete with rocks, water, helium, fruit trees, crocodiles, and you and me.

One of the things that the people at the LHC hope to find is the Higgs boson. This is a theoretical particle which should be produced by proton collisions, but it is so large and short-lived that it has so far been impossible to detect. Science has not yet been able to observe a single Higgs boson. But of more interest, the Higgs boson has been given another name by a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. He called it “the God-particle…”

The irony is rich. And sad. Intelligent people are spending billions of dollars to find an all-inclusive theory of everything. They devote enormous energy to experiments that are indeed thrilling – and relatively boring at the same time. And their purpose is to find the meaning behind their own existence. How did we come to be? How does the universe fit together and work as brilliantly as it does? What is the origin of life? And the number-one thing that science is attempting to discover in this grand experiment is…the “God particle”.

God Himself has predicted this very thing – the foolish pursuit of wisdom by men who refuse to open their eyes and see Him.

“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness.’” - 1 Corinthians 3:19
I am not against science and the desire to discover more about our universe. But science, without God, is a vain pursuit. In fact, I believe He has predicted the creation of things like the Large Hadron Collider in the Book of Isaiah! Every time that man has gone in search of the smallest particle of matter, he has been surprised that what he thought was the smallest bit could be broken up into even tinier pieces. Molecules became atoms. Atoms became protons, neutrons and electrons. Protons can now be broken into bosons and muons and gluons and quarks. If we find all of these, will we think we are done? God answers that question:

“Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”Isaiah 29:13-14
Just when we think we understand it all, God reveals a new wonder. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Life Aboard The Mayflower

This year, during this time of thanksgiving, I’d like to reflect on what it would have been like to be a Puritan in 1620. That was the year that English separatists were finally able to leave England to establish a new colony in Virginia. And while planting a new colony and avoiding the religious persecution brought down by King James are some of the reasons commonly taught in textbooks for the Puritan’s departure, the opening words of the Mayflower Compact reveal even more about their purpose:

“In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, etc.

Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia…”

A study of their purpose reveals that the Puritans wished to glorify God and advance His kingdom above all else. And so, on September 6, 1620, 102 people (half of them were part of the Puritan group, the other half were not) boarded a boat about 110 feet long and 25 feet wide – the Mayflower – and set sail for Virginia. Very little is known about the voyage itself. William Bradford, the leader of the separatists kept a small account of the journey. It is interesting to read one of his written passages, about the fate of a crew member who treated the Puritans poorly:

“There was a proud and very profane young man, one of the sea-men, of a lusty, able body, which made him the more haughty; he would always be condemning the poor people in their sickness, and cursing them daily with grievous execrations, and did not let to tell them, that he hoped to help to cast half of them overboard before they came to their journey's end, and to make merry with what they had; and if he were by any gently reproved, he would curse and swear most bitterly. But it pleased God before they came half seas over, to smite this young man with a grievous disease, of which he died in a desperate manner, and so was himself the first that was thrown overboard. Thus his curses light on his own head; and it was an astonishment to all his fellows, for they noted it to be the just hand of God upon him.”
Only one other death occurred during the journey – a young Puritan servant named William Butten, who died just three days before the ship landed. Finally, 66 days after leaving England, on November 11, 1620, the Mayflower dropped anchor off the tip of Cape Cod – 600 miles north of where they were supposed to land. Because of bad weather, the ship was not able to get down to Virginia – their desired landing point – and so the passengers and crew spent their first winter aboard the ship.

Cold and disease took its toll. By the spring, only 53 of the 102 original passengers survived (two had been born during the journey, so exactly half of those who had left England remained). I often wonder what kind of courage it took for them to stay the course and not leave their new home, in the face of danger and death. The passengers left the ship itself in April of 1621, and the Mayflower returned to England shortly thereafter. None of the passengers returned with it.

Would I be able to maintain the same faith and strength of purpose as these men, women and children? In the face of possible loss of family members – sorrow upon sorrow – would I hold fast to the purpose of furthering God’s kingdom and glorifying His Name?

I close with the words of John Robinson, a pastor to the Separatists who stayed behind in England, but who left them with the words from this passage in Ezra 8:21:

“There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions.”
I hope that all of us who treasure God and family are able to stay humble before Him in the coming year, and that He will bless us explicitly. I am thankful for my friends, my family, and most of all for my Lord who knows my desires and who watches over me with a long-term plan that I cannot begin to fathom.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ten Things I Like About The Homeschool Civil War Ball

Yesterday, my daughter and I attended Northern Colorado’s Civil War Ball, sponsored by Agape Family Schools of Loveland, CO. It was a defining and memorable moment in our relationship. Some things I liked:

1) Molly invited me to the ball. Put plainly, she still wants to go to the dance with her daddy as her date.

2) My daughter looked absolutely stunning in her peach dress, complete with hoop skirt. I wasn’t the only one who said that she looked like a real Southern belle. Wasn’t it only a short time ago that she was watching Snow White while sitting at her Little Tikes table and drinking from a sippy-cup?

3) The group practiced for two hours on Saturday morning, just to be ready for the dance that night. During that time, I never saw any of the kids rough-housing or chasing each other around the room. I did not see the typical teen organization into cliques. There was clearly an air of respect and friendship – between boys, girls, and parents. I LOVE homeschooled kids.

4) I got to learn the Virginia reel.

5) During the instruction time in the morning, our coordinator made it very clear – spaghetti straps and strapless dresses were prohibited. If they tried to wear them to the evening dance, they would be prohibited from entering. I like that they were not afraid to draw that line. And the rule was upheld.

6) During the practice, we learned a lot about Civil War era etiquette. Women are to be honored by the men and they go first in everything (which makes some dance moves easier to remember). A man or woman never called someone of the opposite sex by their first name in front of others. It was always “Miss” or “Mister”. Every moment was governed by civility and respect. Our culture could learn a thing or two by going back to those ways.

7) The dresses were amazing. Every girl looked gorgeous in their old-fashioned hoops, and their hair up in curls. It felt like a scene out of Gone With The Wind. Each of the men got to pick a Confederate or Union outfit to wear. I, of course, stayed true to my Southern roots.

8) My daughter and I got to spend some very precious and memorable time together. She got her hair done professionally and was a picture of beauty and elegance. I got to show her how a Christian woman should be treated by a man. It breaks my heart to think that I might have to give her up to another man someday.

9) Molly and I were pleasantly surprised when we were placed next to our Colorado state Senator, Kevin Lundberg, during one of the dances. He is an ardent homeschooling supporter and a devout Christian man – a prince among men in our State Legislature. We got to spend ten minutes talking with him during one of the breaks. His outlook: he has rarely been as encouraged as he is right now over the changes in political winds. He believes that things will get better over the next few years.

10) On a night when so many other teens were taking in the latest installment of the Twilight movies with each other, my daughter and I, along with a dozens of other brave teens and parents, shunned the cultural decay – and spent a wonderful evening together as father and daughter. And made a lasting memory.

More photos are being added on Wendy’s Facebook page.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ten Thoughts on the House Health Care Bill

Ten random thoughts on the healthcare initiative...

1) The same government that can’t get for-profit labs to create H1N1 vaccine in a timely manner wants to take over the whole healthcare shebang. And half of the people want to let them have it…

2) Nancy Pelosi promised on September 24, 2009 that she would let the bill be published for 72 hours before calling for a vote. “Absolutely. Without question”, were her very words. But she decided in the end not to do that. Why? There can be only one reason – she believed that three days of discussion time could only result in the bill’s defeat. So she broke her promise and drove through a bill that should have been debated – and defeated.

3) I cannot for the life of me figure out WHO is going to get the $1.2 trillion that they want to set aside for the program. But I’m willing to bet it is the people and organizations which come out in favor of the bill in the coming weeks. Once someone actually reads it.

4) Can anyone really explain what a “public option” is? Does anyone really know how healthcare will change if such a bill were to pass? I’m willing to bet that 95% of the American people (and 80% of the people in Congress) don’t know what we’re talking about. I’ll admit that I don’t.

5) Name for me one country which has adopted a public health plan which has been deemed a success. Canadians still cross the border to get a lot of their surgeries performed in the States.

6) The most telling words of all that I read when news articles were announcing the removal of funds for free-for-all abortion under the plan were “For now”. Abortion foes were given an incentive to vote for the current plan when this language - the Stupak amendment - was introduced (abortions will still be covered for rape, incest, and “the health of the mother”). But I’m guessing that pro-abortion Congressmen were told to “Just wait – we’ll get that wording back in there in the final version.” If you have no inkling about what the rest of this legislation means, please pressure your Congressmen and Senators to vote against it for this one reason – public funds are being used to fund abortions. This is the single most important topic in this whole debate.

7) $1.2 trillion over ten years. An average of $120 billion per year of new taxes. There are 105 million people a year who pay taxes. That’s an average of $1,143 per year, per tax-paying person in each household. For ten years. Hey, where did we think the money was going to come from? French taxpayers? The sale of Chris Dodd’s Irish cottage?

8) If you have reached your credit limit on five credit cards – is the solution to get another card? Or is it to control your costs? For healthcare, the primary problem that I see is runaway costs in the industry. It is NOT that some people don’t have health coverage (because there are ways around not having formal coverage). Fix the cost issue first, make healthcare more affordable for everyone, and more people will be able to get on board.

9) The best single method I have heard to get healthcare costs down is to enact tort law reform. Minimize and limit the amount of damages for which people can sue – malpractice insurance costs will plummet for the doctors – this savings will be passed on to the customer. I am led to believe that this cost is not insignificant. The only people to be hurt by this reform will be the lawyers. That’s a good reason to implement tort reform right there! (Sorry – to all my lawyer friends out there…)

10) It’s not too late to put pressure on your Congressmen and Senators. Find out their positions and write them at this link. March on their offices. Go to a Tea Party. And remember – “Abortion is not ‘healthcare’”.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Walls (Part 4)

In the year 445 B.C., Nehemiah was cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, king of Persia. He had previously lived as a Jew, likely from the tribe of Judah, in the city of Jerusalem, which had been largely destroyed in previous Persian campaigns.

Upon hearing of the decline of his hometown, Nehemiah was convicted that he needed to return to Jerusalem to direct the construction of the walls surrounding the city. A city without walls was defenseless and it was considered an embarrassment to the people who lived there. Earlier attempts had been made to rebuild the wall during the time of the priest Ezra, but they had failed.

Having gained permission from the king of Persia to return to oversee the effort, Nehemiah begins by praying for the work. This was not about his own glory or power – he genuinely sought God’s blessing and direction over the effort. That might explain his dramatic success, because prayer was the very first thing he undertook (Nehemiah 1:4 and 2:4).

The book of Nehemiah makes it clear that he rallied families and workers to devote themselves wholeheartedly to the construction of the wall (chapter 3). Opposition arose against him and he was repeatedly asked to stop construction. The enemy even resorted to tricks to lure him outside of the city. At one point, they sent a seemingly friendly messenger to try to get Nehemiah to hide in the temple (where he was not allowed under Jewish law) because of a fabricated threat of being murdered in the night. Nehemiah stood firm. Even in the face of an impossible task, with daily opposition, Nehemiah was able to keep everyone on task, and the wall was completed in an amazing fifty-two days.

Once the wall is complete, he drew God’s people together in order to evaluate their dedication and purpose. Things began to really change for the Jews now. The word of the Lord was read publicly in the main square, and people would listen for hours. They would respond to the words by confessing their sin and rededicating their lives to the service of the Lord. Each day became a time of reading, confessing and worshipping of God. Now fully protected from outside invaders, the people of Jerusalem began to change and grow in their service to the Lord.

We have read in this series how walls have been built to keep people out (the Maginot Line) and to keep people in (the Berlin Wall). One might conclude that walls are simply bad and they should always be broken down. That sounds very much like a modern self-help theme.

But the story of Nehemiah makes it clear that there is a proper place and time to erect a wall – primarily for protection and to keep out evil influences. In fact, it is often absolutely necessary in order to have a place where we can reflect, be still, and know God. Nehemiah even made it a point to physically separate the people of Jerusalem from outside cultures (Nehemiah 13:1-3). To some degree, nearly all of us put up walls against things we find offensive or which might negatively shape our thoughts and actions, or those of our children. I get some strange looks when I tell people that our family doesn’t watch many movies or much television – and what we do watch is on the ultra-conservative end of the spectrum. Likewise, I still experience some derision from some who think our choice of homeschooling is over-protective and short-sighted. Yes, these things are both walls of a sort – intentionally built – and which I think are necessary in the sea of a declining culture. But like those people in Jerusalem in the fifth century B.C., it is done “for the sake of the Law of God”. From Nehemiah 10:28-29:

“The rest of the people – priests, Levites, gatekeepers, singers, temple servants and all who separated themselves from the neighboring peoples for the sake of the Law of God, together with their wives and all their sons and daughters who are able to understand – all these now join their brothers the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our God.”
Each of us, like the people of old, need to search for those times when we go into the world to be a light, and also understand that certain times call for us to clothe ourselves in protection, and block out evil influences. There is no simple recipe that can be written out to detail when each one of these occurs. But a good place to start is to do what Nehemiah did - begin with prayer for wisdom. Walls are sometimes a necessity.
Return to Part 1...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Walls (Part 3)

…(continued from previous post)…

The Berlin Wall went through several transformations. The most well-known version, and the one shown in most of the surviving photographs, are the twelve-foot high reinforced concrete wall sections, along with a “Death Strip” of gravel leading up to the wall from the East German side - to make it easy for border guards to shoot any defectors trying to cross to the West. While the Wall was up, there were as many as 5,000 successful escapes made to the West. In the first three days of the order to divide the city, a famous photo was taken of Conrad Schumann (an East German border soldier), which showed him leaping the barbed wire to safety. In a famous, non-successful attempt, an eighteen-year-old East German bricklayer named Peter Fechter tried to leap the six-foot wall, but was shot by East German guards. He fell back to the East German side. Both sides were afraid to help him, for fear of being shot as well, and Fechter bled to death over the course of an hour – in full view of cameras and passers-by.

The Wall was built on order of the Soviet government, with the purpose of preventing people from escaping or being able to compare socialism and democracy. But it became a symbol of oppression, despised by all those who treasure freedom. When the Wall was up, the side facing democracy was painted and made colorful by graffiti. The side facing Communism was gray and untouched - guarded by soldiers with orders to shoot anyone who approached it.

In June of 1987, to commemorate Berlin’s 750th anniversary, Ronald Reagan visited Berlin’s Brandenburg gate and uttered these now-famous words:

“We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Two years later, the Berlin Wall came down, but not before a strange sequence of events occurred. Eastern-bloc Hungary decided to open its border to Western-minded Austria. Thousands of East Germans fled there. Other East Germans already in Hungary crowded the West German embassy and announced that they would not return to their country. This triggered protests in East Germany against their own government. A revolution was well underway.

Under pressure, the East German government issued an edict allowing refugees and private travelers to exit the East for the West. Television stations and announcers, confused by the text, announced that East Germany was opening its borders to everyone (which was not really the intent). On November 9, 1989, people began gathering at the wall and demanding the guards to let them through. The guards, also confused, called their superiors but found that no one on the other end of the phone was willing to direct them to use force to preserve the borders. The guards simply opened the gates and let people pass freely. People began to systematically chip at the concrete wall. Small tools turned into sledgehammers over the next few days, and the Wall began to come away in large pieces. By mid 1990, the German military began tearing down large sections of the wall. Germany was formally reunified on October 3, 1990.

Unlike the French Maginot Line, which was designed to keep people out, the Berlin Wall was primarily erected to keep people in. But is one purpose more noble than the other? Keep reading the series…

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Walls (Part 2)

On this twentieth anniversary of the opening of East Germany's borders to the West, it seems appropriate to continue this series in discussion about the Berlin Wall...

After World War II, Germany was divided into zones, each of which were controlled by one of four war “winners” – The United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. The goal of the first three was to return Germany to economic and government independence. But it was immediately clear that the Soviet Union had no intent to honor this part of the agreement, as they began to make plans and take action as if to make Germany their own. Within a few years, the US, Britain and France combined their three zones into one and funneled funds toward German reconstruction. The Soviets did not participate.

Curiously, the city of Berlin itself lay deep within the Soviet zone. As part of the original agreement, the city itself was divided into four occupation zones – one for each of the aforementioned nations. It is important to understand that Berlin became divided into two cultures and two governments – with all of this taking place within the Soviet occupation zone. As the city of Berlin evolved into East and West, it should be noted that West Berlin was an island of democracy, surrounded entirely by a Communist-controlled nation.

In 1948, over a reconstruction disagreement, East Germany blockaded the import of food and supplies to West Berlin. Because West Berlin was geographically surrounded by East Germany, an airlift of goods was put into place by various western nations (including the United States).

A great experiment was now put in place – one which could not have been designed or implemented more thoroughly in a laboratory environment. East Berlin operated under a restrictive Communist regime (and struggled), while West Germany implemented a western capitalist-style economy (which thrived and grew). It is no surprise that people in East Germany found themselves wanting to emigrate to the more prosperous West Germany.

Until 1952, people were allowed to pass freely between East and West Germany. As the two political experiments began to grow apart from each other, the Soviets began to restrict movement across the border. Stalin directed that the border between the two be closed, and barbed wire was erected between the two nations. The borders between East and West Berlin remained open up to this point, though. People wishing to immigrate (illegally) from East to West simply went to East Berlin, rode the subway or walked into West Berlin, and then took a flight out of Berlin to the western half of Germany. Thus, they escaped through the “island” of democracy which was surrounded on all sides by Communism.

By 1956, the Soviet leaders back in Moscow had seen enough. The Soviet East German ambassador Mikhail Pervuhkin said, "the presence in Berlin of an open and essentially uncontrolled border between the socialist and capitalist worlds unwittingly prompts the population to make a comparison between both parts of the city, which unfortunately, does not always turn out in favor of the Democratic [East] Berlin." Additionally, Germany began to see a “siphoning off” of their most educated and talented workforce, with millions of engineers, doctors, teachers and lawyers leaving for the West.

On August 1, 1961, Nikita Khrushchev, Premier of the Soviet Union, suggested the placement of a wall between East and West Berlin. On August 13, at midnight, streets began to be torn up along the dividing line, barbed wire was set in place, and soldiers were placed with orders to shoot any defectors. Shortly thereafter, construction of the Berlin Wall began. The U.S. administration of John F. Kennedy put up a weak protest and eventually informed the Soviets that the States considered the Wall “a fact of international life” and did not challenge it (even though many families had been split up, with little recourse, by the sudden border placement). Curiously, the border was only closed in one direction. Anyone wishing to travel from West to East was allowed to pass.

…(to be continued)…

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Walls (Part 1)

When Germany attacked France in World War I, the French losses were devastating. The loss of so many young men during this war had an effect on the next generation – there were far fewer French men to take up arms during World War II, precisely because there were fewer men to marry and raise families. France was determined never to allow this to happen again.

When Hitler began rattling his saber toward France in the runup to World War II, France believed they were ready. In the ten years from 1930 to 1939, the government had built an elaborate set of deterrents to dissuade Germany from attacking. The Maginot Line consisted of blockhouses, anti-tank outposts and retractable turrets (called “cloches”), which would be used to detect the enemy, damage their equipment, or prevent equipment from passing. The French buried large metal girders in the forest, pointing up out of the ground, in order to discourage tanks from passing. They even established low-lying zones which could be flooded quickly with water to prevent the passage of the German army.

The purpose of this Line was manifold – prevent a surprise attack, allow time for the French army to be mobilized (predicted to take two to three weeks), and to encourage the German army to choose a different route to attack, preferably toward Switzerland or Belgium. A quick look at a map of Europe shows how this would play out.

The Maginot Line was a wall, of sorts, designed to deter an enemy and deal defensively with the threat of invasion. For the French, they invested heavily in a defensive installation, while many in their government were instead proclaiming that they should be investing in better offensive weapons.

When one views the complexity of the Maginot Line, one cannot help but be impressed by the effort. The technology (for the time) was excellent, communication between bunkers was in place to transmit the occurrence of an invasion, and there were formidable placements of guns and mortars designed to cripple the German army as they approached.

So…the German army took the hint and attacked northward, through Belgium, beginning on May 10, 1940. They sent airplanes and gliders to fly over the Line and drop bombs on the French behind their defenses. Within five days, the German ground forces had skirted the entire Maginot Line and were into France via the Belgian border. By May 24, the Germans had bottled up the British Expeditionary Force (in-country to aid the French) at Dunkirk. The English had their backs to the sea (the outcome of this battle is a great story and victory of sorts for the British – but we won’t go into detail here). Finally, Paris fell to the Germans on June 14, 1940. The capture of an entire proud nation had taken just over a month. The Maginot Line was a failure.

What was wrong with the French strategy? It seems they failed to consider the ease with which the enemy could circumvent their defenses. In reality, the Germans did not have to go far out of their way to go around the Line and achieve their objective. The French had invested heavily in a purely defensive strategy, without regard to the very real possibility that they needed to be ready for an offensive battle.

This has very real application to our spiritual readiness, which will be covered in Part 4 (think of Nehemiah). But first, we’ll look at another wall, which fell only some twenty years ago.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What Halloween Means To Me

I used to enjoy dressing up as a kid and going out on Halloween to get candy. For me, this was really all the holiday was about – having others admire a good costume, and having something to munch on for a few weeks.

When I grew older, I had to switch to the role of standing at the door and doling out sweets to others. It seemed like a just reward for all the candy I received when I was younger. But something was different as the years went on – I grew more and more uncomfortable with the costumes that were on display, especially anything that had to do with the world of ghosts, goblins, demons and zombies. The feeling gnawed at me more and more over time.

In recent years, our family (all of us, our children included) have discussed this and we all began to have deep convictions about the Halloween tradition. From our viewpoint, it seems overly casual to dress up as Satan or something resembling a creature from hell. After all, as a family we talk constantly about the spiritual battle that rages around us – Ephesians 6:12 – “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” The apostle Paul is warning us that these very forces that we dread and fight in Satan and his servants are here, in this very world with us, fighting against God’s plan. To deny that Satan is attempting to work his plan in our own physical world is to deny what the Scriptures tell us. Satan doesn’t simply exist in some other ethereal plane, awaiting the arrival of stray souls. Like it or not, he is here.

In the same way, I get a feeling of coldness when I pass the business of a palm reader or psychic. We pass one of these on our way to church every Sunday – a prominent sign on the road advertises that you can get started for a mere $5 consultation fee. It reminds me of King Saul in 1 Samuel 28, when he visits the witch at Endor and asks to consult with the dead prophet Samuel. Saul’s life has been heading downhill quickly by this point, but his consultation with the witch appears to be the final straw. Samuel is raised up to speak to him and predicts that Saul and his sons will be dead by the next day. The kingdom of Israel will be taken from his hands and given to David. The army of Israel will be given over to the Philistines. God has had enough.

It concerns me greatly that the thing that tipped the scales of finality for Saul was his dabbling in the spirit world. Indeed, his fall is discussed later in 1 Chronicles 10:13-14 – “Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death…” The Bible warns of treating the spirit world lightly (Exodus 22:18, 2 Kings 23:24, Galatians 5:19-20). Our culture smiles and plays along with the “fun” that is Halloween. But I wonder who smiles more over some of the costumes and inferences – God or Satan? I fear that God is not pleased with the lightness with which we treat the spirit world.

Those who argue against this thinking say that children don’t know and don’t intentionally represent the spirit world with their costumes, and so it is okay to let them dress up as such. They don’t wittingly know what they are doing. But it is interesting that some costumes are largely off-limits – such as Hitler or the BTK killer. No one is dressing up their children as these characters, because they instinctively know that these things are not to be treated lightly. But Hitler was just a pawn – while Satan is the king of lies. Why treat him as something lesser? No, I think it is exactly Satan’s desire that we unwittingly honor him on this holiday.

And so, our family has decided not to participate in Halloween in any form or fashion. We don’t dress up. We don’t watch horror movies. And, after much thought, we don’t turn on our porch light and pass out candy to others. One of my Christian neighbors opens up their garage to provide a warm, non-Halloween-themed atmosphere – where they give out hot chocolate and encourage others to just sit and talk. I like that. I need to find a similar tradition where our family can be a light to those who need it – without giving in to the satanic influences that abound. Any ideas out there?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Radical Environmentalism – Global Temperature and Sunspots (Part 9)

The current thinking among environmentalist groups and the teaching in our own classrooms is that global warming is caused primarily by human activity upon the earth. In An Inconvenient Truth Al Gore said, “Making mistakes in our dealings with nature can have bigger consequences now because our technologies are often bigger than the human scale. When you put them all together they made us a force of nature.” A book that I highly recommend, State of Fear by Michael Crichton, discusses and puts to rest the assumption made by nearly everyone five years ago - that global warming is a foregone conclusion, and that the reason is well-known and documented by science. It simply is not a fact. Not yet.

But that book was written in 2004, and in a very short period since then, the theory of global warming has come under a great deal of skepticism – both from science and the general public. There is a growing consensus now that the earth may in fact be cooling, or that warming is not really an issue. This has resulted in a change to the wording we frequently see in the news – from “global warming” to “climate change” (outlined in Part 4 of this series).

Since the assumption that global warming is occurring can be cast into doubt in such a short amount of time, is it not also possible that the idea of human activity as the cause of it all is not also open to debunking? There is a definite trend toward more open thinking on this matter. Perhaps something else is at work in the ups and downs related to climate – something completely unrelated to human activity?

One link that is being made to global temperature is the incidence of sunspots. As sunspot activity increases, so too does the likelihood that global temperature will rise. Conversely, periods of low sunspot activity seem to coincide with prolonged decreases in global temperature. An interesting connection has been made between something called The Maunder Minimum and global temperature.

The Maunder Minimum occurred during a 70-year period from 1645 to 1715. During the lowest point of this cycle - for a 30-year period within the Maunder Minimum - astronomers observed only about 50 sunspots, as opposed to what is typically seen today in that amount of time –40,000 to 50,000 occurrences. What is curious about this is that this seventy year period corresponds exactly with the middle and coldest part of The Little Ice Age. This was an exceptionally cold period in Europe and North America spanning from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Glaciers advanced and rivers froze. Some have speculated that Antonio Stradivari was able to get the unique sound from his violins because the wood he used to make them came from trees which went through a very slow growth period during this time frame (he was born a year before the start of the Maunder Minimum and lived to the age of 93). There is a great deal of evidence that the earth was a colder place during this age.

And there is evidence that sunspots were at a low during this point. So…is it correct to immediately assume that sunspots are really the main cause of global warming and cooling? If I made such an assumption, I would be guilty of the same scientific error that people make when they conclude that warming temperatures, corresponding with industrialization and energy use, prove that man is the reason for any climate change that we see. It’s not good science.

There is a real possibility that sunspot activity is the main contributor to global temperature change. Maybe. Take a look at the picture on the right. How could anyone look at that jet of hot plasma erupting from the sun’s surface (called a plasma ejection or solar prominence) – many, many times the size of our entire planet – and not wonder if other forces completely overshadow any effect that man may have on the earth’s surface. The energy release of that one event is likely greater than the cumulative release of energy on Earth by mankind over the entire course of history. Shouldn’t occurrences like this be taken into account when we speculate about global temperature models?

My suspicion is that humans couldn’t change the temperature of our planet if we wanted to. To think we can change it, without hard proof, is nothing but human arrogance. But again, we should invoke good science before drawing conclusions.
Next in this series.......
Back to Part 1 of this series...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ten Thoughts on "Balloon Boy" - or - The Family Who Cried "Balloon!"

My hometown of Fort Collins had another 15 minutes of fame last week…

1) Does anyone else notice the irony? - a family stages a balloon HOAX in order to promote a proposed REALITY show. Makes you wonder about the credibility of those "reality" shows, eh?

2) The next time a child really does get into trouble like this (or my dog accidentally takes off in a radio-controlled airplane), people are immediately going to be less likely to believe it. This stunt has the potential to diminish future REAL rescue efforts.

3) One wonders what was going through the parents minds when the story went viral last week. "They've just shut down Denver International Airport to protect your boy!" --- "Phew – (Umm, I sure hope we don't get caught.)" I sincerely doubt that they expected the thing to go global - which it did. The BBC still has it as a top headline.

4) Think about it - they publicly exploited their own children in a scam to make money. That's despicable....and very sad.

5) No matter what happens, I'll bet "Wife Swap" sees an increase in their ratings (if it’s still on TV – I don’t even know). There's no such thing as bad publicity. Also sad.

6) I fully expect the typical media twist to occur. Pretty soon, people will start blaming the sheriff's department for their handling of the event, and will ignore the root cause - which is the Heene parents.

7) I can't help but feel that the media LOVED this, regardless of the truth. And this is, candidly, how most of the media operates these days. Truth is non-essential. It might even get in the way of a good story.

8) I've never watched "Wife Swap" before this, but I did a little research and found the Heene episode on YouTube. Sick. The only way to end this madness is to stop watching it. Cancel your cable. Use the money for a really nice family night once a month. Make a statement.

9) I'll bet the Fort Collins sheriff's department (and a few others around the country) change their policy to search the whole house next time something like this occurs. By the way, I admire my sheriff and his role in this whole episode.

10) This incident is a microcosm of the deception going on in so many people's lives. It's clear to me that this family needs Jesus. So I'm going to pray for them. Join with me.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

More Upside-Down Morals – This Time From The NFL

I don’t typically follow Rush Limbaugh. I’m usually at work when he is on the radio, and sometimes I wonder if he’s more about show than substance. To be sure, he has some right ideas, and he is passionate about them. But I don’t think I’ll be calling him my inspiration anytime soon.

Earlier this week, it was announced that Rush was partnering with another individual to purchase the St. Louis Rams. But within a few days, the NFL revealed that he would not be allowed to bid for the team, due to their differences with some opinions he expressed in 2003. At that time, Limbaugh was serving as a commentator for NFL games on ESPN. What was his “criminal” statement that later forced him to resign from ESPN?

When asked about the prowess of Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb, Limbaugh replied that McNabb was “overrated ... what we have here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback can do well -- black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well.”

What’s so offensive about this statement? Is it any different than watching the media, politicians and individuals expressing delight that we elected a black president last year? No, Limbaugh made a rather benign statement (it’s probably also true). But here is the part that really demonstrates the double-standard. The same NFL which rejects Limbaugh as a worthy owner has no problems with taking back the likes of Michael Vick (Philadelphia Eagles, participating in a cruel and unlawful dog-fighting ring), or Leonard Little (St. Louis Rams, repeat drunk-driving and manslaughter), or Adam “Pacman” Jones (too many offenses and teams to list).

Two things need to be considered here. First, was Limbaugh’s statement racist, as many claimed it to be? I think it is a stretch to make such a claim – it’s no different than those New Jersey elementary school-children being taught to sing “Hello, Mr. President we honor you today! For all your great accomplishments, we all doth say "hooray!" Hooray, Mr. President! You're number one! The first black American to lead this great nation!” If you believe one of these statements is racist, then you must believe that both are. If you don’t believe that one represents racist thought, then neither one does. From where I sit, both statements imply that skin color has something to do with ability. That thought is at the very root of racism. Why mention skin color at all, and continue to perpetuate the idea that it somehow makes a difference in a person’s ability?

The second point relates to what the NFL considers to be forgivable and unforgivable behavior. Limbaugh’s statement, in my analysis, was neither racist, nor was it untrue. It was simply words, and relatively inoffensive ones at that. But the NFL and the media had a strong reaction to it. Michael Vick, on the other hand, was convicted of a felony and went to prison for twenty-three months. There were some expressions of outrage, but Vick was back in the NFL within months of his release.

When faced with the possibility of Limbaugh as an owner in the NFL, Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner essentially banned Limbaugh and stated, "I've said many times before, we're all held to a high standard here… divisive comments are not what the NFL is all about". That same Roger Goodell, when reinstating Vick to the NFL last July said, “I urge you to take full advantage of the resources available to support you and to dedicate yourself to rebuilding your life and your career. If you do this, the NFL will support you….I do recognize that some will never forgive him for what he did. I hope that the public will have a chance to understand his position as I have….I have thought about every alternative, but I think this gives him the best chance for success. We are not looking for failure here. We are looking to see a young man succeed.” Apparently, such sentiment doesn’t apply to middle-aged men.

Limbaugh was eliminated from the NFL for stating something that was true (but maybe unnecessary). Vick was welcomed back to the NFL after doing something wrong (and certainly unnecessary). I don’t get it. Up is down, and right is wrong in this world. And unless those of us who see the hypocrisy begin to publicly point it out, it will continue to be unnoticed by most.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Word on The Cultural Attitude Toward Marital Infidelity

What do Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, and David Letterman all have in common? They have all used marital infidelity to enhance their standing.

I do not make this statement to make light in any way of infidelity. It is a breach of trust, breaking a sacred vow made before God in the marriage ceremony. It rips the heart out of spouses and children, and it is a tool to divide and degrade what God has made holy. I have some close friends whose lives have been touched by this topic, and it is easy to see why God provides us with so many warnings. My statements here are not about the act, but about our cultural response to the act.

In 1998 , Clinton finally admitted to an incident with Monica Lewinsky – a young-twenties aide on his staff…

In 2001, Jackson, a Baptist minister, revealed an affair and how he had fathered a child out of wedlock…

Earlier this month, David Letterman dropped the word that he had had sex with multiple women on his staff…

While all of this is terrible for the families and the children who are affected, it is of utmost importance to note that God can forgive these sins. Each of these men has the opportunity to accept that forgiveness and be washed clean. Each of them can humbly accept God’s grace. While God’s forgiveness can absolve the guilt, it is a much harder thing to imagine the offended spouses being able to quickly forgive and forget. I know it’s possible – but it is indeed a difficult thing.

But what really stuns me is society’s reaction to the events. In Clinton’s case, his approval status actually increased with the news of infidelity. Perhaps our culture thought that his sexual dalliance made him more “approachable” – more like the “everyday man” (though I sincerely hope that is not the case). During Letterman’s admission of infidelity on his own television program, the audience laughed and then cheered for him. This seems to demonstrate that marital unfaithfulness has become nothing more than a joke in our culture. Is it a result of our society’s increasing tendency to abandon God and His promises?

Get ready - the statement that really reveals the moral fabric of our culture is what one of Jesse Jackson’s biographers said after Jackson admitted to infidelity and fathering a child with another woman. Marshall Frady, in an incredible declaration, said these words, “It’ll hurt a little, when you’re talking about his moral evangelism with black youth. But this might, as it did with (Martin Luther) King (Jr.) lend him a complexity that enhances the moral grandeur of the man.”

When I read that statement in January of 2001, I was amazed that he could have gotten away with saying it (I saved the newspaper article for the purpose of writing about it at a later date). Adultery, committed by a prominent Baptist minister, could have the effect of enhancing his moral grandeur?! Do I read that right? Doesn’t that seem to be a contradiction? What has the definition of “moral” become?

The news of infidelity has not harmed these three men – in fact, it seems to have made them more popular than ever. Sadly, Frady’s statement may be an accurate description of where our culture is headed…or perhaps where it stands already. It is time for good men and women to stand up and say “No, I will not laugh at what God has warned against.” It is time for us to be committed to helping those who suffer to see that God can heal anything. It is time for us to defend the faith and the principles of God, without apology, and preach that man cannot enhance his grandeur by accepting Satan’s lies. Rather, what truly and ultimately matters is the glorification of God - not ourselves – through our devotion to Him, by yielding to His grace, and by acknowledging that He is Lord of all.

Because this isn’t a laughing matter.