Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas

I wish you a blessed Christmas and all the best in the New Year. I encourage you to remember the reason for Christmas and what we are really celebrating.
It isn’t gift-giving – we already have the Greatest Gift of all time available to us.
It isn’t the human spirit – we already have the Holy Spirit to help us.
It isn’t family and friends, important as they are – what a Friend we already have in Jesus.
It isn’t sentimentality and tradition.

We are celebrating the Incarnation – the Word was made flesh (or took on human form) and dwelled among us. Jesus didn’t just come for a visit, to see how we were doing. He didn’t just come to teach, although he did that. He didn’t just come to perform miracles, although he did that. He didn’t come just to give us an example as to how we should live, although he did that.

He came so that “God and sinners [could be] reconciled” as that great Charles Wesley carol “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” puts it. We might not quite understand how that works or why reconciliation between humanity and God is necessary. We’ll never understand it completely, but try to accept it on faith. Jesus came because it was necessary – not for God, but for us.

One last point. I read this article on the e-newsletter “Pastor’s Weekly Briefing” put out by Focus on the Family. Judging from this article, people may be getting sick of being bullied by political correctness. See what you think.

According to a 2008 Gallup poll, 93% of Americans celebrate Christmas. However, in past years, due to political correctness, disinformation and even the threat of lawsuits from the ACLU and its allies, religious expression at Christmastime was becoming increasingly absent from the public square. But today, because of many Christian defense ministries, several of the “anti-Merry Christmas” stores and organizations across the nation have been silenced about their resistance in the wake of such overwhelming public enthusiasm to say “Merry Christmas.” The years of educating Americans with an awareness of their rights by organizations such as Alliance Defense Fund® and annual efforts to reclaim Christmas show that:
•69% of Americans now use the “Merry Christmas” greeting compared to 56% previously.
•61% of Americans now oppose generic “Happy Holidays” greetings, compared to 44% previously.
•69% of Americans prefer “Merry Christmas” over “Happy Holidays.”

Copyright © 2009, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chinese Junk

When is this country going to learn not to buy things made in China? Haven’t we learned from the problems we’ve had with shoddy and dangerous products made there? The reason I mention this is that I recently read in the AARP Bulletin (Dec. 2009, Vol. 50, No. 10, page 8) that there have been problems with houses built using Chinese-made drywall. Can’t we even make our own sheetrock these days?!
Apparently this sheetrock contains chemicals that cause corrosion. Appliances have corroded, hinges have rusted, TVs have failed, and there have been health issues for people living in these houses. The article estimates that 60,000 – 100,000 houses may be affected, mainly in Louisiana, Florida and Virginia. No definitive link between the drywall and these problems has been established, but the EPA and the Consumer Products Safety Commission are investigating.

Another frightening thought is that dietary supplements are not labeled as to the country of origin of ingredients. My wife and I investigated one particular supplement (a multivitamin) and found out that the ingredients came from many different countries, including China. Quite frankly, I don’t want to ingest anything made in China given their track record.

Speaking of poisons, I recently learned anecdotally that mattresses must be made to withstand a certain amount of heat before catching fire. This means all kinds of chemicals are used in the manufacturing of these mattresses. Yes, you may not burn to death on a mattress, but you’ll die of cancer! How many bed fires are there vs. how many deaths are caused by the chemicals they are using in mattresses? Makes you wonder. Another misguided government mandate designed to “protect” us.

Bottom line: be an informed consumer, and look at the country of origin. Try not to buy anything made in China if there is an alternative (and sometimes there isn’t). Let’s buy quality American-made goods instead of less expensive but inferior (and maybe dangerous) Chinese-made goods. “You get what you pay for,” my mother always said, and she was right.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Brainwashed Americans

I find even devout Christians saying to me “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.” We have become brainwashed by the political correctness crowd. God forbid that we “offend” someone by using the “C” word – Christmas! Oops! I just said the “G” word – God. Unfortunately today God is an exclamation – Oh my God! – rather than the Deity who created the universe. My, how we have fallen!

If you believe that God is more than just some vague Being out there, then don’t allow yourself to be beaten down and brainwashed by political correctness. If somebody is so hate-filled and intolerant that they are “offended” by the word Christmas, then they are a sorry excuse for a human being. They, more than anybody, need the God that they so passionately hate. I like what Ben Stein wrote about Christmas in a letter that has been making the rounds on the Internet. He’s Jewish, but isn’t “offended” by Christmas because he is truly tolerant – unlike those who merely claim to be tolerant but aren’t by any definition of the word. If you want to read his letter, google “Ben Stein’s Christmas Letter.”

As that holy day approaches, I wish you a very blessed Christmas and a happy New Year. And to my Jewish friends, Happy Hanukkah!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pray for Our Leaders

In an earlier post I suggested we pray for our leaders, since like it or not, our future is in their hands. They have inherited a terrible mess, and it will take determination and resolve to get this country back on track. I have doubts whether Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi have what it takes to do what is needed. As a matter of fact, I question the ability of Congress and the various state chambers (especially Albany and Sacramento) to do the right things, even in time of severe crisis.

Health care reform is long overdue, but they shouldn’t wreck or dismantle what is in place. Congress must find a way to reduce costs, eliminate fraud, implement tort reform, and provide coverage for the uninsured.

Energy policy should have been well underway in the 1970s, after the Arab oil embargos showed how vulnerable we are. Congress and the various presidents did nothing for 30 years, and still aren’t addressing the problem.

We are heavily in debt to China because of our imbalance of trade with them. That is a scary thought, and I don’t know what we can do to reduce or eliminate that debt. I think we are well on our way to becoming a second-rate country that will be at the mercy of China, India, and other countries very soon – if we aren’t already.

State, county and municipal budgets are in terrible shape, but those leaders don’t know how the cut costs. They must stop increasing taxes and make the tough decisions. If they can’t or won’t, we must vote them out until we finally have leaders who can lead.

So pray for our country and its leadership (such as it is). I believe only prayer can turn this country around. Now would be a good time for this nation to stop trying to eliminate God from everything and turn to God in faith with prayer. God helped this country through tough times before (Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, the Great Depression, WWII, and the dark days after the Kennedy Assassination) because we as a country put our faith in God. Now forces, small in number but powerful, are successfully driving God from public consciousness, and are ridiculing and marginalizing people of faith. Then we wonder why this decade has been so bad for the U.S.!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Taxed to Death

Taxes continue to go up in states, counties, and municipalities. I just read that the Dutchess County tax is going up by more than 10%, well above the average increase of county taxes in New York State. What’s wrong with our elected officials?

People are out of work, people are underemployed (hours cut back or forced to take a lower paying job), people are facing higher costs, and what do our leaders do? Increase taxes. This is happening in a state that already has some of the highest taxes in the nation. No wonder people are leaving the state! You can be sure I won’t retire anywhere in New York state.

This sad state of affairs reflects poorly on our politicians, who were elected by us and are supposed to represent our best interests. Are higher taxes in our best interests? I don’t think so. We already know Albany is dysfunctional, but right here in Dutchess County? You would think they would know better.

The problem is, I believe, that government entities don’t know how to cut costs. Of course they claim they are making the tough decisions and some costs are being cut, but they don’t go far enough. Programs take on a life of their own and it’s almost impossible to cut them or eliminate them. Special interests have tremendous influence (unlike the voter, it seems), and so they are well taken care of.

Government has tried to be all things to all people, but at a cost. Now much of this should be dismantled, and the taxpayer, the very foundation of society, should be given a break. But no, the taxpayer keeps getting taxed to death. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Government should stick to what government does best: maintain the roads, fire and police, things like that. Forget the nonessentials. Same with schools: give a good basic education, make most sports fee-based, and forget the frills. Our kids have been dumbed down by a failing educational system – let’s give them the kind of education that will make this country competitive once again, and at a reasonable cost.

It is downright immoral, irresponsible, and harmful to keep increasing taxes in such an economy. It may even created a “double dip” in the economy, meaning the economy will take another turn for the worse. Consumers have less money to spend, so they buy less, and the economy declines. Pray for our leaders to have the wisdom and the guts to truly make the right decisions regarding cutting costs.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Artist Andy Warhol is said to have coined the phrase “15 minutes of fame” as part of a larger quote. Some people go a little too far in trying to achieve their 15 minutes. It’s a sad commentary on how desperate some people are to be relevant or to matter. Celebrity status becomes their god because they don’t have God in their lives.

Recently we had the “balloon boy” hoax which received national attention. The father of a young boy said his son was in a homemade balloon that was floating hundreds of feet in the air and riding the currents to who knows where. This received nationwide media attention and millions prayed the boy would be all right. It turns out the boy was hiding at home, and was perfectly safe. Further investigation revealed that this was a hoax because the family wanted to be on a reality TV show. What kind of a person does such a thing?

Then there were the uninvited guests who crashed the party at the White House. This couple got past Secret Service security and ended up shaking hands with the President at a White House dinner for Indian Prime Minister Singh. They got their 15 minutes of fame, which will hopefully be followed by a fine or jail sentence. You don’t just walk into the White House and get away with it!

If you feel you are insignificant or don’t matter, think again. “Jesus loves you, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” You matter to Jesus, and that’s what counts. You can have your 15 minutes of fame, and then it’s over. Or you can decide to follow Jesus, and you get to spend eternity with him. 15 minutes or eternity – what do you think?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Obama Satisfies Nobody

It’s amazing how many politicians, when they become president, are no longer slaves to ideology. When “The Buck Stops Here” you become a realist very quickly. You realize that left-wing ideals are unworkable and utopian. You realize that right wing ideology doesn’t work either. So a president moves towards the middle and makes decisions less on ideological grounds, and more on what he thinks will work.

The Left is furious with Obama, one of theirs, for prolonging the war in Afghanistan. Yet we can’t just walk out, leaving that country in chaos and ripe for the Taliban. If we just packed up and left, the Taliban would take over in months and Al-Qaeda would have a safe haven from which to launch further attacks on the West. Does the Left really want that?

The Right is furious with Obama, mainly because they don’t like him, but also feel he should be more aggressive in Afghanistan. What really annoys me is that Dick Cheney is taking pot shots at Obama’s policies regarding the war. Yet who got us into this mess to begin with? It was mainly Cheney if the anecdotal evidence is to be believed. Why doesn’t he just fade away as Bush did?

The U.S. has a moral obligation to finish what it started. The moral obligation is to:

(1) Those who gave their lives in this conflict.

(2) The American people, whose safety and security would be compromised if we gave up.

(3) The Afghan people, especially the women, who would suffer terribly if the Taliban were to once again rule that country.

We as Americans must pray for our leaders, that they be given wisdom to make the right decisions. Pray also for victory over the Taliban and for a stronger and more effective Afghan government. The sooner we can get out of there, the better.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Adventures in Driving

Murphy’s Law says “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” Pastor’s Tony’s Corollary goes like this: “If your car is going to break down, it will always happen when you are out of town.” This happened to me on Thanksgiving when we were, yes, out of town. However, God helps his people. Every time my car has broken down out of town, it happened in such a way that help was readily available.

A whirring sound started coming out of the engine compartment when we were on our way to Thanksgiving dinner, so I knew something was wrong. However, the car wasn’t squealing or screeching, so I figured we’d get home all right.

After dinner, my wife and I were driving out of a neighborhood we weren’t familiar with (we had spent Thanksgiving with my son’s girlfriend’s parents and I had used the GPS to find their place). I asked if I could follow my son out of that neighborhood so we wouldn’t take a wrong turn in the dark.

As we were driving out of the neighborhood at about 10:30 at night, the car was still making the noise. All of a sudden, it made a high-pitched squeal, and then “boing!” At that point, the lights dimmed and I lost the power steering, although the engine was still running. I knew where we were, since we had just come out of the neighborhood and were on a road I was familiar with. I knew there was a church immediately ahead, so I turned into the church’s parking lot. My son, having seen us turn, came to see what was wrong.

He drove us home (45 minutes away), and I had the car towed the next day. The dealer fixed it that same day and we could pick it up later in the afternoon. While it was inconvenient, look at how God made it less dangerous and more tolerable than it could have been:

-the car broke down at just the right place where we weren’t blocking traffic or stuck along the highway late at night.
-the engine was still running, so I could make it into the parking lot.
-my son was right there, and could give us a ride home.
-the dealer could fix the car the next day.
-it was the tension pulley that broke, not an expensive part (I thought it was the alternator).

So God may not always spare us from bad things happening to us, but he often mitigates the negative effects. I also believe that God spares us from many things that we are not aware of because they didn’t happen. So rather than blame God for bad things when they come, thank him that it wasn’t any worse.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tiger Woods’ Failure

When the story first broke about Tiger Woods’ car accident, we all knew there was more to the story than we were being told. Tiger has now admitted to having affairs with several women. This is very disappointing to many who viewed him as Mr. Clean. Unlike other sports, golf is relatively free of scandal, so this was especially surprising.

Think about what these affairs are going to cost him as his all-American image is now severely tarnished:

-His endorsements will dry up for the most part.
-He hurt the ones he loves the most.
-He disappointed his parents and fans.
-He embarrassed his children (once they are old enough to understand what happened).
-His legacy as a great athlete is compromised by his personal failures (similar to Billy Rose and Kobe Bryant, among others).

Some will say something like, “He’s only human, like the rest of us. Give him a break.” Of course he’s only human, and yes, he’s subject to probably more temptations than the rest of us. But that doesn’t excuse his behavior, because he arguably has more to lose than most of us. Moreover, celebrities and especially sports figures are role models for our children and youth, so they have an extra responsibility.

You can tell that this has been a painful ordeal for Tiger and his family. I wish him all the best in restoring his relationships and his image. I hope good will come out of this, such as people will see the effects of such behavior and will renew their determination to resist temptation in whatever forms it presents itself. The cost is just too high and pain just too great. Look at former NY governor Spitzer and South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, who is in the process of being impeached.

I encourage you to pray for Tiger Woods and his family, and pray that you don’t fall into temptation as well.