Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Value of Newspaper Endorsements

As if we didn’t have enough reasons for supporting Rick Perry’s re-election effort for Texas Governor, here’s one more. The AP recently reported that Mr Perry is shunning major newspaper endorsements:
Candidates for high political office usually grovel for newspaper endorsements. Not Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Breaking from a decades-old tradition, the governor isn't even bothering to meet with editorial writers, much less ask for their blessing.

The way Perry sees it, newspapers are old news and have lost much of their influence. In a rapidly changing media climate, Perry said he decided before the March primaries that seeking their endorsements was a waste of time… "The most prized resource that you have is the candidate's time, and what is the best return on your investment that you can get with a candidate's time," Perry told The Associated Press. "It was a calculated decision, but you know the world is really changing, I mean, the way people get their information, who they listen to, etc. Put it all on the balance beam and the balance was toward not doing the editorial boards."

Newspaper editorialists have responded to Perry's snub with fury, accusing him of doing a disservice to voters by refusing to submit to unscripted questioning. The staunchly conservative Tyler Morning Telegraph, which Perry once called his "favorite" paper, slapped the longest-serving Texas governor with a blistering front-page editorial on Sunday.

"Your position to not visit with the editorial boards of Texas newspapers may be astute politically, but it demonstrates a disregard for newspaper readers and voters across the state, who deserve to hear substance rather than silence," the editorial said.

Perry also drew an unusual rebuke from the National Conference of Editorial Writers, which called him "disingenuous" for saying he didn't have time to take questions from its members when he spoke to their annual conference last month in Dallas. "If the governor can't take questions from the editorial board, from the press, on behalf of the public, it makes you wonder if they're fit for office," said Tom Waseleski of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, former president of the conference. "To out and out refuse to meet with editorial boards is cowardly and reprehensible."

The statements from the media heads attempt to give us the impression that by avoiding the newspaper editors, Mr Perry is snubbing the people. The Tyler editorial mentions that the voters “deserve to hear substance”, but isn’t Mr Perry providing real substance by avoiding the media filter and communicating directly with the people. Therein lies the real objection to Mr Perry’s strategy. It minimizes the amount of liberal spin the media can put on his message. If Mr Perry allowed the media to deliver his message, it would be unrecognizable by the time it got to the people.

As an example of newspaper “substance”, the far-left Austin American Statesman (known as the “un-American Statesman” to many locals) featured a hit-piece on Mr Perry for renting a “mansion” at taxpayer expense while the Governor’s building is undergoing renovation. In this article, they applauded a gimmick by his opponent, former Houston mayor Bill White, who promised to move into a double-wide trailer if elected. Mr White gave no details on where this trailer was to be located, or how he would handle the required security that must be approved by Homeland Security. A friend of mine remarked that, ”if Mr White does for Texas what he did for Houston, we’ll all be living in trailers within a sanctuary state”. Also absent from the article was the fact that Mr White, a multi-millionaire portrayed as a regular guy, left a $17 billion deficit in the general fund when he left office, and the fact that Mr Perry could have already moved back into the governor’s quarters had it not been torched during the Democratic state convention.

We must disagree however, with those who say that newspaper endorsements are irrelevant. On the contrary, an endorsement by a major newspaper can be very valuable to the voter. For the voter who doesn’t have time to check out the background of all the candidates, especially since the media minimizes or downright purges the liberal candidate’s stance on the issues, its endorsement can reveal a wealth of important information. For example, we know that most major metropolitan newspapers lean to the far left (with a few exceptions such as the Washington Times), so if a candidate receives the endorsement of several major papers, we can be reasonably sure that the candidate is soft on terrorism, pro-death, favors higher taxes, and more entitlement spending. The endorsed candidate will generally have a low view of the constitution, and be either hostile toward religion or friendly to all but Christianity. They will also have voted for nationalized healthcare and bailouts or will support them if a new candidate. It is certainly no coincidence that most major newspapers endorsed Mr Obama.

So, we can see great value in a newspaper’s endorsement. If voters will simply pick up a New York Times, a Houston Chronicle, or almost any other major city newspaper and vote against all those who are endorsed, our country would see vast improvements in a very short time.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bring Back the Ditch

As the November election draws nearer, most people’s top concern remains the economy. Indeed, other than the spiritual condition of our nation, its economy ranks as one of the most important problems facing our country. Our weak economy even poses a serious threat to our national security. For this reason, we’ll be posting several articles over the next couple of months pertaining to the Biblical view of economics.

In this post, I’d like to address a few myths that have been circulating the past couple of years. Let first examine the rhetoric surrounding the battle over extending the Bush tax-cuts. With unemployment continuing to climb, businesses are very hesitant to hire workers because of the huge tax increases that they will incur should the extensions fail to pass by the end of this year. Mr Obama and his liberal friends continue to oppose extending the tax cuts to those who create the most jobs, continually insisting that the “rich” need to pay their fair share. The latest data released by the IRS however, reveals that the top 1% of earners already pay 40% of all federal income taxes, and the top 5% pay 60%. Almost half of all wage earners pay no tax at all, and many receive "refunds" as earned income credit. We'll discuss the topics of redistribution of wealth and charity in an upcoming post.

A second argument is that we can’t afford to extend the tax cuts because it would drive up the deficit, citing the Bush administration as an example. This argument is also false, since tax revenues actually went up about 40% after the tax cuts were enacted. How can this be? Due to the lower tax rates, businesses hired more workers and paid out more in salaries, thus the increased workforce paid more total taxes even at the lower rates. Similarly, liberals always want to raise federal revenue by increasing taxes on large corporations, but the feds lose money because the workforce shrinks. The deficits during the Bush years were due to increased spending, not decreased taxation. Mr Bush was not exactly a fiscal conservative, although he would certainly be considered one when compared to the current administration. Mr Obama and company have incurred more debt in his brief time that all other presidents combined.

Mr Obama frequently blames the slow economy on former President Bush, and his lapdogs in the media dutifully and gladly echo these accusations. His favorite line is that the Republicans drove the economy into a ditch and he’s working hard to get it out. Never mind that many top economists have maintained that we would already be out of this crisis had the government not felt obligated to fix it. Unfortunately, socialists trust in the government rather than free enterprise to grow the economy.

Another common claim is that Mr Bush took eight years to get us into this mess, so it is argued that we should allow Mr Obama a similar amount of time to repair the damage. After all, he’s only in his second year in office. This assumes that Mr Bush actually caused the recession, and it also ignores that fact that the Democrats took control of congress in January of 2007. Thus, Mr Obama, Ms Pelosi and Mr Reid have controlled the purse strings for almost four years (only congress can pass legislation authorizing spending). Many indicators of the economic downturn can be directly traced to the takeover by the socialist Democratic Party (see the attached charts for a couple of examples).

For the sake of argument however, let’s assume that Mr Bush and the Republicans drove us into a ditch by the time that they lost control of congress (January 2007). Revisiting Mr Bush’s ditch, we find the National unemployment rate at 4.5% (December 2006), an average GDP growth of 3.4% (2006), and an average annual deficit of about $105 billion (during Republican controlled congress, 1994-2006). The DJIA was almost 13,000 and the federal debt was about 65% of the GDP.

In contrast, looking at Mr Obama’s highway, we see an unemployment rate that has more than doubled at 9.6% (~17% including those who have given up looking for work), a GDP finally inching up to 2% and an annual deficit of about $1.5 trillion. In addition, the national debt is approaching $14 trillion at a rate of about 3.5 billion dollars a day, and has now exceeded 90% of the GDP.

As if this wasn't enough, we also have the vast amount of eroding wealth under the Dem's watch. According to the Wall Street Journal, total residential real estate values lost $4 trillion from the beginning of the Dem takeover through March 2009 (WSJ-8-20-09), and net worth of US households dropped 18% or over $11 trillion in 2008 alone, the biggest loss since the Federal Reserve began tracking shortly after WWII (WSJ3-13-09). An estimated 20% (about $2 trillion) vanished from our retirement plans from August 2007 to October 2008 (WSJ 8-20-09). In 2009, the first year of Mr Obama's administration, the federal government ran a budget deficit for every month of the year, the first time this has happened in almost 30 years of record keeping. In fact, as of May 2010, the government's record deficit string had reached 19 consecutive months (Reuters 5-12-2010). We could also mention the many large institutions that failed or was "bailed out" by the government, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who contributed heavily to the Dems, most notably House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd.

Facing the facts, it’s no wonder that the Dems and their media friends are talking about everything except the issues. A study released earlier this week by the Wesleyan Media Project at Weslayan University found that both Repubs and Dems ran negative ads at about the same rate, but the majority of Republican ads focused on the issues while the majority of Democratic ads were personal attacks, often involving events or quotes (many from anonymous sources) from up to 30 years ago. It’s also worth mentioning that any ad that mentioned the facts about a Dem’s voting record is considered a negative or attack ad.

Rather than take responsibility for their failures, the liberal Democrats continue to blame everyone but themselves. The latest strategy appears to be blaming the potential voters. The American people are told that we’re just too dumb to realize and appreciate all that the Dems have done for us. According to the liberals, if we were better informed, we would realize that runaway spending and entitlements, higher taxes, government takeovers of private industry, and flushing the constitution is all done for our benefit.

Mr Obama, Mr Biden, John Kerry (D-Ma) and others have complained that the lack of their popularity is due to the fact that voters are not paying attention. While idealism can sound good for awhile, sooner or later, one must live in reality. The truth is, the inattentive voter is what got Mr Obama elected in the first place. Rather than checking his record, many were caught up in the media's worship and in “making history”. Now that Mr Obama’s disastrous policies have gotten the voter’s attention however, most folks are realizing that they were a lot better off in the Bush ditch than on the Obama superhighway. When comparing the results of Mr Obama’s socialism, many are longing to “Bring back the Ditch”.

Update: A special thank you to our friend Doug Ross for linking to this article.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Justin Back Safely from Afghanistan

We are overjoyed to relay the news that God has graciously returned our son Justin safely from the war zone in Afghanistan. He had been serving with his US Marine unit since early this year and arrived in Palm Springs, Ca about 3am Thursday morning. My wife Melody and future daughter-in-law Kayla were there to welcome him back. They are currently still visiting since he doesn't have to be back at base until Monday morning.

As only those who have fought in a war zone can fully imagine, Justin is having some minor difficulties adjusting but is certainly glad to be back in the states. Even though they were already considered engaged, Justin proposed and gave Kayla the ring at a scenic overlook yesterday. I’ll post pictures of the California trip in the next couple of weeks.

I’d like to personally thank all our readers, personal friends, and friends at work who have continually prayed for Justin while he was away. While all glory goes to God, we are especially grateful to the members of our local church, and particularly our Sunday School class, who spent time in prayer almost daily for Justin. It is popular these days to love Jesus but reject the local traditional church as irrelevant, but it’s times like these that “Internet churches”, “Relational churches”, the “Church at Starbucks” or the “Church of the Eighteenth Green” just doesn’t measure up. I have always maintained that our website ministry should always be supplemental to the local church, but never a substitute.

Although Justin is stateside for now, we ask that you continue to remember the troops (and their families) who are still bravely serving in harm’s way. Also, continue to remember the families of those who will not return safely. The first young man killed in Justin’s unit left a pregnant wife and a child he’ll never see. While we are rejoicing at Justin's safe return, there are others who are hurting, and we should mourn with them.

After his many close calls, Justin told us that he knew God was watching over him, and that he could feel the prayers of the folks back home. Therefore, to all the prayer warriors, we are forever in your debt. I think of all of you (and many who are unknown to us) every time I hear the Allen Asbury song:

Pressing over me like a big blue sky
I know someone has me on their heart tonight
That's why I know it's gonna be alright
'Cause somebody's praying me through
Somebody's praying me through

It may be my Mother, it might be my Dad
Or an old friend I've forgot I had
But whoever it is I'm so glad that
Somebody's praying me through
Somebody's praying me through

Through the tears, through the rain
Through the sorrow, through the pain
It keeps bringing me through
Over and over again

So when you're drowning in a sea of hurt
And it feels like life couldn't get any worse
There's a blessing waiting to push back the curse
'Cause somebody's praying you through
Somebody's praying you through

Someone got down on their knees and prayed for me
Somebody's, somebody's praying you through

Thanks again and God Bless our Troops!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chile Miners Receive Spiritual Support

Here’s a story that was virtually ignored during the massive coverage of the Chilean miners who were recently rescued after being trapped underground for more than two months. Our friends at Love Worth Finding Ministries, the ministry of the late Adrian Rogers, notified us of this inspiring development during the ordeal.

Chilean engineer Igor Bravo is the owner of the geo-technical monitoring company that helped with the rescue effort. While taking part in the operation, Mr Bravo became concerned about the spiritual needs of the trapped miners as well as their physical needs. As reported by the Baptist Press:

"I had to help in some Christian way," Bravo said. "If there is an opportunity to share the Gospel -- even if we're extremely occupied -- and to contribute to the Christian cause and evangelism, it's something that's in [my] blood."

A member of First Baptist Church of Santiago, Bravo realized that though the miners' physical needs were being met, their spiritual needs had been overlooked. He called his pastor, Luis Cortéz, for help.

Cortéz contacted Radio Harmonia, a Christian broadcasting station in Santiago, which was able to provide MP3 files of Pastor Adrian Rogers' sermons and Bible studies in Spanish along with Christian music. Rogers, the late pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, TN, was a former Southern Baptist Convention president, author and TV-radio speaker.

While Cortéz made contacts in Santiago, Bravo searched Copiapó, the nearest town to the mine, for other spiritual materials. He found 33 New Testaments and two entire Bibles that met the size restrictions for what could be sent down the chamber. On Sept. 17 he sent the materials to the miners via the "paloma," a device used to transport objects between the trapped miners and the surface ("Paloma" means "pigeon" or "dove" in Spanish).

Three of the 33 trapped miners were evangelical Christians when the mine collapsed. Since that time, two more of them have made professions of faith.

One of the original believers, José Henríquez, has been leading Bible studies for the miners each evening. "It [Bible study] started out 5, 10, now 20 participants," Bravo said. "[The people on the surface] have José Henríquez identified as the spiritual leader; they call him 'The Pastor.'" Bravo wrote Henríquez's name in one of the Bibles and sent it specifically to him but left the other blank. Henríquez says he intends to give the second to the Bible study's best student.

As Bravo ministered to the miners, he knew their families waiting at Camp Esperanza (Hope) needed spiritual encouragement as well. "A lot of people don't know the Lord," Bravo said. "That's when the second need surfaced."

Bravo called on the Chilean Baptist Union for help, and soon pastor Marcelo Leiva of Vallenar Baptist Church in Vallenar, Chile, was on-site comforting the miners' families. "Pastor Marcelo has been fundamental in meeting that need," Bravo said.

Amid ensuring that both the miners and their families have the spiritual support they need, Bravo continues to play a vital role in the rescue efforts. His company determined the size of the rock blocking the mine following the collapse and is currently monitoring the status of the rescue shaft. "I was very involved in the technical aspects and then later became involved in the spiritual," Bravo said. "It's been a great blessing."

We join with LWF in praying that God will continue to use those messages to provide ministry, encouragement and salvation to the miners and their families

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Third Lausanne World Evangelization Congress

Our friend Sherri, a missionary serving in the Far East, called our attention to the 3rd International Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization that begins today in Cape Town, South Africa and lasts through October 25. According to ChinaAid, the Chinese government has been harassing invited representatives from their country.
Over the past few months, the Chinese government has been suppressing the 200 house church representatives who have been invited to attend this year’s Lausanne Congress. According to information obtained by ChinaAid, all the representatives, whether Uyghur Christians from Xinjiang or Han Christians from Beijing, have been contacted by authorities for questioning. It is sad to report, but family members of the invitees have also been threatened.

Two house church Christians from Baotou City, Inner Mongolia were stopped by officials before they departed for South Africa. On October 9, one of them was placed under a 15-day detention. Five house church invitees were stopped by customs officials at the airport on October 10, and four had their passports confiscated. One was detained.

Dr. Fan Yafeng is a prominent legal scholar, leader of the Chinese Christian Legal Defense Association (defenders of religious freedom, human rights and rule of law in China for years), and winner of the 2009 John Leland Religious Liberty Award. He was harassed by Beijing police on October 12 after accepting an interview from National Public Radio pertaining to the Lausanne Congress. Twenty police officers were assigned to stop him from leaving his apartment.

Dr. Fan commented that underground Chinese Christians should not naively put hope in the Chinese Communist regime, and should place their trust in God, and continue to non-violently strive for religious freedom, human rights, rule of law and democracy in China. Dr. Fan strongly supports legal defense as a very effective tool. He also strongly criticized the persecution of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Mr. Liu Xiaobo and his wife by Chinese government.

It has been 21 years since the Manila gathering, and tens of millions of Christians in China are thriving in the Church of Jesus Christ, and China experiences the fastest growth of Christians. With that said, how long will we have to wait for the 200 unoccupied seats meant for representatives of China to be filled?

Article 13 of the Lausanne Covenant reads

”It is the God-appointed duty of every government to secure conditions of peace, justice and liberty in which the Church may obey God, serve the Lord Christ, and preach the gospel without interference. We therefore pray for the leaders of the nations and call upon them to guarantee freedom of thought and conscience, and freedom to practice and propagate religion in accordance with the will of God and as set forth in “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” We also express our deep concern for all who have been unjustly imprisoned, and especially for those who are suffering for their testimony to the Lord Jesus. We promise to pray and work for their freedom. At the same time we refuse to be intimidated by their fate. God helping us, we too will seek to stand against injustice and to remain faithful to the gospel, whatever the cost. We do not forget the warnings of Jesus that persecution is inevitable. (1 Tim. 2:1-4; Acts 4:19; 5:29; Col. 3:24; Heb. 13:1-3; Luke 4:18; Gal. 5:11; 6:12; Matt. 5:10-12; John 15:18-21).”
We would like to pass on a prayer request that is being sent out to Christians around the world to intercede on behalf of the China.

As the day is quickly approaching for Lausanne III to start in Cape Town on October 17, please remember the participants from Mainland China. Participants and volunteers from Mainland China have already purchased their tickets and reserved hotel rooms in preparation to join 4,500 Christian leaders at the Congress. In addition to raising their own support, the Mainland Chinese participants have also given scholarships for 100 neighboring country participants to attend.

There is a possibility that the Chinese participants will not be able to attend.

Please intercede on behalf of the Church in China, that God would have mercy and move the hearts of those who hold the power to change the situation. We serve a God who is above all human systems, understanding and authority. May His Will be done in the Church in China, and His Power known throughout the world.

Please pray for God to change hardened hearts and for the continued faithfulness of the Chinese Christians under persecution.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Economics, Evolution and the Great Depression

At a recent press briefing, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that the economic recovery “is going to take an enormous amount of time.” When I read this statement, I couldn’t help but make a couple of comparisons and observations.

In 1859, English naturalist Charles Darwin claimed that something could come from nothing, life from non-life, personality from non-personality, and man from non-man. He also imagined that a series of pure random processes would result in continuously increased complexity. Now, Mr Darwin didn’t allow the fact that his theories contradicted the laws of physics, the laws of reason, and the laws of science dissuade him. He simply announced that it was possible if the process was given enough time, namely billions of years.

Likewise, the Obama administration believes that higher taxes, runaway government spending (leading to higher inflation), re-distribution of wealth, and other job-killing policies will produce economic growth if given enough time. To his credit, Mr Gibbs did not theorize that it would take billions of years, but when asked to clarify what he meant, he said, “it’s going to take several years.”

Fortunately, we can reasonably hope that, unlike macro-evolution, free enterprise can eventually overcome these devastating policies. Unfortunately, judging by past history, the more a liberal government interjects itself in an attempt to fix the problem, the longer the problem lasts. Mr Obama, Ms Pelosi, Mr Reid and associates urge us to look to the future, but their ideology is firmly rooted in the past, from the “manufactured crisis” design of German philosopher GWF Hegel (18-19th century) to the economic concepts of 19th century German philosopher Karl Marx. Even Cuban dictator Fidel Castro recently admitted that socialism is an absolute failure as an economic system. Yet Mr Obama and friends persist in pushing these disastrous policies.

Mr Obama, Ms Pelosi, and Mr Reid constantly proclaim that the stimulus and other measures have saved two, three and even five million jobs (whatever number happens to pop into their heads at the moment). While these numbers can’t be verified (a primary reason why they continually float them), we can certainly look at some historical examples.

Nationally syndicated writer Larry Elder, in his Listen, dummies: Obama's stimulus 'clearly helped' article, contrasts the approach of Ronald Reagan to that of Franklin Roosevelt:

President Reagan, in the early '80s, inherited an economy with 13.5 percent inflation, 21 percent prime interest rates, and an unemployment rate that reached 10.8 percent. He addressed this by doing the opposite of what Obama has done. Reagan sharply lowered taxes, dropping the top marginal rate from 70 percent to 28 percent. He slowed the rate of domestic spending. And he continued the deregulation policies of President Carter. Interest rates fell, inflation declined and unemployment, after nearly two years, started dropping.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, during the Great Depression, continued the tax-hiking policies of his predecessor. Federal spending soared. The result? Unemployment during the Depression reached 25 percent and remained stuck in the teens until World War II. The subsequent destruction of foreign economies, which America helped rebuild, sparked a domestic boom. The dismantling of ill-advised worldwide trade barriers also helped.

FDR's secretary of Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, who served from 1934 to 1945, wrote in 1939: “We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises. ... I say after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started ... and an enormous debt to boot!”

We’ll have more on the Great Depression in upcoming posts, but we’ll offer one more piece of the puzzle here. FDR is widely credited with leading a government intervention that lifted the country out of this depression, but let’s look at the facts.

Even after the stock market crash of October 1929, at no time during the following twelve months did unemployment reach double digits. Two months after the crash, unemployment peaked at about 9 percent, and then began trending downward over the next six months, finally reaching 6.3 percent by June 1930. At this point, the federal government decided to step in to fix the imaginary crisis and proceeded to create a real crisis.

So, if history teaches us anything about economics, it is that the federal government should get out of the way and allow the free enterprise system to work.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Introduction to Theology Series

I'm back after being out of touch for a couple of weeks. First, I had a minor reaction to a flu shot. I had taken this shot every year for about twenty years, but then missed the last two years, so this was probably a contributing factor. Switching to some good news, we just got word that our son, serving in the marines in Afghanistan, should be on a plane out of there in the next week or so. God has graciously protected him thus far, and we greatly appreciate all who have been praying for his safe return.

I was only out of commission for three days from the shot, so during the remainder of this time, I was able to complete and upload our Introduction to Theology Series. Many Christians today question the importance of studying theology, considering it boring, irrelevant and divisive. Many argue that we should just love God and love one another. While this is very important, can we even love God and our neighbor without a certain amount of theological knowledge? We explore this question along with many others in this five-article series.

Our introductory series opens with What is Theology? which surveys the various theological disciplines. Our Why Study Theology? article discusses the importance of theology and sound doctrine, and addresses the reasons why we shouldn't just skip to the practical teachings. We've also included an article detailing the Benefits and Blessing of Studying Theology. Next, we've outlined typical Approaches, Process and Methods with helpful hints and instructions on doing theological studies. Finally, because of the importance of loving God and loving our neighbor, we've concluded the series with Theology, Doxology and Biblical Love. We pray that this series will encourage everyone to study theology and develop sound Biblical doctrine.

To read the Introduction to Theology series, just follow the link to our Theology page and look under the "General & First Principles" heading.