Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Hurricane From Hell

I had no idea that I would witness the virtual destruction of an American city this week. New Orleans is practically gone. The looting is so bad now that police are being shot and beaten if they try to restore order. Martial law has been declared for the first time in 60 years. I understand people stealing food, but why the TV’s? Where are they going to plug it in? God help us if we have a real terrorist attack. God help us!

Have you heard the name Harvey Jackson? He was wandering aimlessly down a flooded street in Biloxi with his small grandkids when a CNN reporter asked him how he was doing. His reply made the reporter cry and it should rip your heart out. His wife recently had a stroke and couldn’t move her legs, so they remained in their house. When the water flooded the first floor they moved to the second floor. When water flooded the second floor they moved into the attic. Harvey Jackson then had to make a hole in the roof. He and the kids climbed onto the roof, but by the time they tried to pull his wife out, the water had already reached her. They struggled. He pulled. She pushed as hard as she could. He clung to her hand. And then she begged him to let her go and take care of the kids and grandkids. He wouldn’t. He clung to her until the house split in half and she was washed away! And here I am worried about $3 gas!

However, on a separate note, could we please build some new friekin refineries now!!! It’s not a supply/demand problem – it’s a supply problem! Mexico has given us millions of their unwanted citizens; I say we take their oil in return! They’re swimming in black gold down there.

And, speaking of other countries, take a guess how many other countries have offered help to us? I’m still waiting. Oh, you can’t come up with a list? That’s because there isn’t one!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Louder the Commercial, the Dumber They Think You Are

Last year I made this observation as it relates to political ads, but I have this theory about car ads on radio and TV as well. The louder and more obnoxious the advertisement, the dumber the dealer thinks his customers are. When you hear about a commercial with a background of loud noises, and two announcers screaming phrases like "$99 down, $99 a month" over and over, or when you hear announcers screaming idiotic, mindless phrases like "All credit applications accepted", you know that you are listening to a commercial for a relatively inexpensive car, the type of car generally purchased on credit by someone at the lower end of the economic scale. Take the high-end cars like Mercedes or BMW. You will never hear commercials for these automobiles delivered in a screaming, obnoxious fashion. Why not? Because the dealers know that the type of person who has worked hard enough to afford a decent car is going to be turned off by a commercial that screams at them. Just an observation.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Where would you most like to live?

I knew Abilene (where I live) was a conservative city, but here’s the hard evidence, according to recently released research conducted by a group called “Voting Research.” I thank my friend Travis for the heads up on this. It’s an interesting list of America’s most “conservative” and most “liberal” cities. Where would you most like to live? Come on, be honest!

America’s 25 Most Conservative Cities
(in descending order)
1 Provo, Utah
2 Lubbock, Texas
3 Abilene, Texas
4 Hialeah, Florida
5 Plano, Texas
6 Colorado Springs, Colorado
7 Gilbert, Arizona
8 Bakersfield, California
9 Lafayette, Louisiana
10 Orange, California
11 Escondido, California
12 Allentown, Pennsylvania
13 Mesa, Arizona
14 Arlington, Texas
15 Peoria, Arizona
16 Cape Coral, Florida
17 Garden Grove, California
18 Simi Valley, California
19 Corona, California
20 Clearwater, Florida
21 West Valley City, Utah
22 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
23 Overland Park, Kansas
24 Anchorage, Alaska
25 Huntington Beach, California

America’s 25 Most Liberal Cities
1 Detroit, Michigan
2 Gary, Indiana
3 Berkeley, California
4 Washington, D.C., Dist. of Columbia
5 Oakland, California
6 Inglewood, California
7 Newark, New Jersey
8 Cambridge, Massachusetts
9 San Francisco, California
10 Flint, Michigan
11 Cleveland, Ohio
12 Hartford, Connecticut
13 Paterson, New Jersey
14 Baltimore, Maryland
15 New Haven, Connecticut
16 Seattle, Washington
17 Chicago, Illinois
18 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
19 Birmingham, Alabama
20 St. Louis, Missouri
21 New York, New York
22 Providence, Rhode Island
23 Minneapolis, Minnesota
24 Boston, Massachusetts
25 Buffalo, New York

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Those Who Bless the Jews, and Those Who Curse the Jews

While listening to talk radio over the past few days I’ve heard a lot of people insist that our support for Israel is “costing too much” in terms of American lives lost and gas prices. Not that I was alive then, but in 1973, during the Arab embargo on oil exports that followed the Yom Kippur War, many Americans had to deal with gas rationing, and various setbacks to the economy. As a result, some called for our abandonment of Israel for the sake of oil. Jerry Falwell was a dissenting voice. He said that he would sooner give up his car and ride a bicycle than yield to Arab blackmail. Citing Genesis (12:3), he explained that God “will bless those who bless the Jews and curse whoever curses the Jews.” I know that many people dismiss this idea as more quaint than believable. So, is this verse biblical poetry or verifiably true?

I am increasingly convinced that it is verifiably true. I think of Spain, for example. One of the world's mightiest powers and most developed cultures in the 15th century. In 1492 it reached its zenith when it sent Christopher Columbus on a voyage that changed history. But the same year, it also expelled all its Jews and intensified the Spanish Inquisition against the many forced Jewish converts to Catholicism. Spain then descended into a 500-year status as “the sick man of Europe.” I think of Germany (and Austria) as the cultural and intellectual center of Europe, if not the world, before World War II. Then Germany murdered nearly every Jew in Europe. Germany lost over seven million people, was divided for a generation, and while it now thrives materially, culturally Germany has become irrelevant. Think about the world today. Look at who blesses the Jews and who curses them, and then decide whether the verse in Genesis has validity.

It is the United States that has, since its inception, most blessed the Jews and that does so almost alone today - in its support of the Jewish state against those who wish to exterminate it. By almost any reckoning, America has been, and remains, the most blessed of countries. And it is the Arab world that curses the Jews. It rivals Nazi Germany for the intensity of its Jew-hatred. Look at its state. According to Arab scholars appointed by the United Nations to report on the state of Arab society, that part of the world lags behind the rest of humanity, including in most instances sub-Saharan Africa, in virtually every social, moral and intellectual indicator. And there is no question but that its half-century long preoccupation with destroying Israel has only increased the Arab world's woes.

No one can prove it is God who actively blesses those who bless the Jews and curses those who curse them. But at the same time, the evidence historically and this very moment suggests that there is a real connection between the state of a society and its treatment of the Jews.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Goodbye to Gaza

I am more angry than I've been in a long time! Why? Because today the government of Israel handed out eviction notices to the Jewish "settlers" in Gaza. It occurred to me that what I am witnessing today, in my lifetime, is cataclysmic. On this same day in history (the 9th of the month of Av, according to the Jewish lunar calendar) the Romans destroyed the Jerusalem Temple, Jews were evicted from Spain, and 50 000 Polish Jews were killed in the Warsaw uprising against the Nazis. The same thing happned today - not on the same scale, but it's the same old story all over again. Only this time it wasn't the Romans or the Spanish inquisitors, or the Nazis - it was Ariel Sharon and the Israeli government. Can a nation commit suicide? Apparantly so! People are digging up the bones of their loved ones before they leave for fear that the Palestinians will desecrate their graves. What a sad world when the dead cannot even rest in peace. I saw a woman on television weeping, and asking, "How can I pack up 20 years in 2 days?" How is this any different from what Mugabe is doing in Zimbabwe?

I felt ill when I saw Hamas celebrating victory in the streets! Because of pressure from our own government, particularly Condaleeza Rice, the terrorists have received a message: suicide bombers work! Now let's go fight that war on terror! After all, haven't you heard? "Freedom is on the march."

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Objective History? According to Who?

Sorry about the tone of that last post - I haven't been that aggravated since the November elections. Politics sure can bring out my mean streak. So, let me be more thoughtful here. I think of myself as somewhat of a historian. There is an interesting perception out there that history is about facts and dates and events. In other words, history is objective. But is it? I am always amazed that you can present 2 people with the exact same set of facts, and they will come to 2 different conclusions. In other words, interpretations. People bring their own background and frame of reference to EVERYTHING. Everyone has "baggage" - even journalists! So try this litmus test (and if you read this post, please comment on what your initial reaction was):

HISTORICAL FACT: Martin Van Buren's vice president, Richard M. Johnson, who served from 1837-1841, was married to a black woman, and yet the pair won the 1836 election because of electoral victories in the southern states.

In asking people how they take this, most inevitably say that she was probably hidden from the public during the campaign. Most people didn't know about this or they (southerners) would not have voted for the Van Buren/Johnson ticket since they were such racists. However, a few people, of which I am one, have a different interpretation. I believe that this is evidence that maybe whites in the antebellum south were not as racist as we have been led to believe, institutional slavery aside. A very different take, isn't it? So what happened in 1836? Johnson's wife was a big issue. During the election Van Buren's opponents reminded voters that Johnson's wife was a "Negro." Johnson fought back, pointing out that it was not uncommon for plantation owners to have relations with their Negro slaves, the only difference was that he had chosen to marry his wife in holy matrimony under the eyes of God. And still they won the southern vote! Here's a good rule of thumb. The winners of every war write the history. How's that for objective?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Congress: A Gang of Thieves

Today President Bush signed the recently passed highway bill. The $286 billion transportation legislation is so overloaded with “pork” that it contains 6,371 pet projects for all 535 members of Congress. How nice. Aren't you so glad that our politicians are confiscating our money to buy votes from people in their districts? So what else is new? One of the more outrageous examples is funding for a bridge in Alaska, secured by Republican Representative Don Young. $231 million will go for a bridge near Anchorage to be called? You guessed it – “Don Young's Way.” The irony! Another outrage is $2.3 million for landscaping along the Ronald Reagan Freeway in California. If that doesn't make him spin in his freshly dug grave for awhile, nothing will. This bill shows more than any other that the Republican Party has abandoned its quest for limited government. Aside from national security issues and a few other things, we have reached a point in our political landscape where there is no difference between a Republican and a Democrat. It’s as if two gangs of thieves have combined forces against us. I have more respect for street hookers and their pimps than I have for our “representatives” and their campaign managers!

Monday, August 08, 2005

My Vent!

Allow me to vent for a minute. I just got my credit card statement for the time I was in Africa. In South Africa I used my MBNA card to withdraw about $40 from an ATM. Added to that was a $10 “foreign transaction fee.” That’s 25% of the actual transaction amount! Plus, because they received my July payment 2 days late, I was slapped with a $39 late fee. In my naivety as a new American I thought I would get cut some slack on the 4th of July!

Okay, so today I heard a report on the radio about how consumer watchdog groups are noticing a spike in credit card interest rates and hidden discretionary fees. In response banks have said, “the fees are legal, fair, and appropriate because credit cards represent significant unsecured debt.” Well yeah, that’s because these people are idiots! Anyone can get a credit card. My two cats can get credit cards. Today we got a pre-approved credit card in the mail for “Tamara North” – odd, since my wife’s name is Holly. Every time a college kid buys a textbook they get a credit card application in the bag. That’s why the high interest rates are justifiable. I suppose 18-23 percent for unsecured debt is fair given the high risk. So what’s the rub? Didn’t our Republican congress just pass a massive bankruptcy reform bill, signed by president Bush, making it easier for lenders (including banks and credit card companies) to retrieve debt? So when the risk factor goes down, so should the interest rates, right? Oh no, up, up, and away they go! Again, the consumer gets hosed.

So next time some wild-eyed, conspiratorial, crazy leftist accuses Republicans of being in the pockets of banks and “big business,” don’t dismiss them immediately. Oh, and while you’re thinking about that – really thinking about it – as you put gas in your car, keep in mind that last fiscal year Exxon-Mobil, the world’s largest oil company, posted a record profit.

Monday, August 01, 2005

A Greater Vision

Yesterday my "co-evangelist," Mike, and I delivered a joint sermon titled "A Call to a Greater Vision." I think we really challenged the church to be more Christ-like. So, here are the main points from that vision. Are these all NT principles, or did I pull this out of my head?

We want to be a church that:

• Promotes unity by focusing on Christ.
Jesus is the core of the gospel message. The whole human drama pivots on the life, and the death, and the resurrection of Jesus. He is the target around which everything else revolves. We need to be known as a church committed to holding up Christ, and preaching Christ, as we say with Paul, “for I resolved to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

• A diverse church, reflecting the racial and social demographics of our neighborhood.
I’m not talking about the kind of enforced diversity and inclusion that our culture champions. I’m talking about us living the truth of the gospel, because if we are clothed with Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

• A church committed to biblical authority, resisting the pressure to conform to cultural relativism or blind traditionalism.
We have always said that we take our stand on the Bible, but it is an ideal that has not always been lived up to – in our desire to be faithful to scripture there are two extremes we want to avoid: We do not force scripture to conform to our modern culture, and at the same time we need to avoid the opposite extreme – forcing scripture to say things in order to hold up long-held traditions, some of which need to be left in the past.

• A church whose worship pleases God, edifies visitors, and equips Christians to lead holy lives and be evangelistic.
Worship begins and ends with God. He is the center of our worship because He is present when we worship. Worship is not so much about checking off a list of activities as it is about God taking my life and shaking it up until my priorities are the same as His. Worship must bring to an end the idea that I am at the center of my own life. Worship has got to lead to changes in my life and behavior.

• A church that promotes spiritual growth among believers.
I’ve heard it said that the modern church is a mile wide but only an inch deep. We want to be known as a church where converts are taught and nurtured and where, together, we never stop growing, and we never stop becoming more and more like Christ.

• A church that meets physical and spiritual needs.
If we are going to be like Christ, then we have got to stop, like he did, and meet people’s needs with whatever means we have.

• A church that provides ministry opportunities for all members.
We want to be the kind of church where there are no pew-warmers, where everyone has something to do, where people feel like they are a part of something special and meaningful because we are not a club, we are the body of Christ on earth, and every one of us has a part to play in God’s redemption of the world.

• A church that promotes healthy families.
By God’s design the family is the building block of our society, and we want this community to know that this church welcomes all sorts of families, and that this is a place where fathers and respected, and mothers are honored and children are loved and nurtured.

• A church committed to more intimate fellowship with each other, and more effective witness to the world.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Whenever God calls someone into a relationship with Him, He always puts that person into a group of like-minded others. This is why the NT speaks of the “family of God.” We are bound together by faith and blood. We have been commanded to love each other, to live in harmony together, to forgive, and encourage, to serve, and lay down our lives for each other, to share our possessions. In a world that is characterized by loneliness, isolation, and self-centeredness, we are supposed to provide a striking contrast.

We followed by calling the church to engage in 40 days of prayer so that God will bless our vision and evangelistic effort.