Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New Blog - www.inmessment.com

Hello all!

I have started a new blog: http://www.inmessment.com. Please follow me there.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Helping the Poor -- Socialism or Capitalism

Before the election I thought a lot about the idea of helping the poor. The question I am pondering, "is socialism wrong?" The Bible teaches that we must care for the poor. This is not something that can be ignored for a Christian or for any caring member of society. But what is the best way to accomplish this? I have been a Christian, conservative, Republican all my life so, as I entertain these ideas, I am trying to keep an open mind.

The liberal platforms seem to be leaning toward democratic socialism. Socialism is an economic system based on state ownership or at least control of wealth and the means of producing wealth. Democratic Socialism seeks a socialistic society while maintaining a political democracy. In Socialism government is used to diminish social classes by equalizing wealth in society. The expectation is that as wealth is distributed more evenly there will be fewer poor.

The conservative platform tends to prefer Capitalism. Capitalism is an economic system in which wealth, and the means of producing wealth, are privately owned. In Capitalism government provides freedoms for businesses. The expectation is that as the businesses prosper there will be more jobs and more "capital" available to help out the poor.

From these brief overviews it seems to me that the main issue between Socialism and Capitalism is ownership. Who owns the wealth that will be used to help the poor? Does the state own it or do individuals own it?

From my American perspective it seems that our nation has been founded on the ideal of private property. The Declaration of Independence states: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Historically, the phrase "pursuit of happiness" is considered to include the idea of private property. Jefferson pulled much from John Locke's idea that we have a right to life, liberty, and property. Unfortunately we are far from having full ownership of our property. Try not paying your property tax and see who "owns" your property.

In my own view I do not think government ownership of wealth is the way to go. If the state owns the land and the business, who really owns it? The philosophic idea is that we all would be the owners but in reality it works out that whoever is in power actually owns it. If those in power do good, OK, but if those in power do evil, we all suffer.

A big problem is that it tends to work out this way in Capitalism as well. Those in power, those with the most money, are able to have the most influence in our society. If those with the most money do good, great! If those with the most money do evil, again, we all suffer.

In the beginning when God created Adam and his family he gave them charge of the garden to rule over it, but I do not see that He transferred ownership to them. When Noah came off the ark after the flood I see God setting up the first civil system (read government), instituting sanctions to be enforced by men against other men for committing murder. I also see a reiteration of the Genesis mandate to populate, cultivate and rule over the earth, but ownership is not conveyed. With Abraham and his descendants is the where I see God giving ownership of land to people. He gave land to each of the twelve tribes of Israel. This ownership was by family and was not to be transferred outside of each family. This ownership was predicated on devotion to the God of creation. If the families served other gods ownership was taken away and given to others.

For the Christian, "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it." (http://ref.ly/1Co10.26) We are merely stewards of His possessions. The question is now, does Socialism or Capitalism provide a better way for us to serve the true Owner of the earth? In the political and economical system that we have to work in, which system provides us more freedom to serve the purpose of God? How does God want us to help the poor?

I feel like I am raising more questions then I am answering. I am glad this is a blog and not a school paper.

For my part I feel that Capitalism provides a better platform for men to stand up and do good with the property that God allows them to acquire. I think the Bible teaches that the Purpose of government is to protect good and punish evil. this is supported by the next phrase in our Declaration of Independence: "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." I do not think government should be granted "ownership" of what truly belongs to God. We have far less control of what government will do then we do of our own actions. It is because of the sinful nature of men that God has instituted government to step in with the sword when men go beyond their rights. In Capitalism, men need to use their wealth to help the poor. Basically, we need men to act rightly with self control. Then, and only then, we can have freedom and smaller government control of our society.

Friday, November 6, 2009

I never shall shine, 'till some animating occasion calls forth all my powers

In 1760, John Adams wrote these words in his diary, "I never shall shine 'till some animating occasion calls forth all my powers." It was just seventeen years later he was fighting for the liberty of the nation in the Congress of 1776. He would later become the second president of the United States.

I have often found it easier to sit back and continue doing what I have always done. There is comfort and security in doing what I know I can do - and do well (maybe even better than others). But, staying in the same place will not "call forth all my powers." In order to grow, I must change.

Recently I have taken on new responsibilities in my work. At first I thought I could not take any more on. I was worried I would be overloaded. What I am finding is that this "animating occasion" is pulling me up to a new level. It is bringing me to a new level of productivity, a new level of satisfaction, and a new sense of accomplishment.

Surely this also applies to those who work for and around us. I wonder if sometimes we limit the potential in others by trying to protect them from being overloaded. We are concerned they will not be able to handle the extra load. What I am starting to see is that sometimes pressure can bring out creativity and new energy in people.

Let animating occasions call forth all your powers and all the powers of those around you!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Government - Big vs Little

A couple of weeks ago I attended the annual FMCI conference near Dallas, TX. The theme for the conference was "Reforming The Church Reclaiming The Nation." One of the speakers, Dr. Patty Amsden, gave an excellent, ten-thousand foot view of government from a Biblical/historical perspective. Let me share with you some of the high points that I learned. I would like to expand these thoughts much more but right now I just want to get my thoughts out. Please bear with the lack of depth.

The first government was established when God created man and told him to rule and take dominion of the earth. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'" (Genesis 1:27-28) This was self and family government. The smallest and most local type of government.

After the great flood, God reiterated his established government with Noah and his family. Man was to multiply and fill the whole earth (Genesis 9:1-7). God also expanded government by instituting the death penalty for anyone taking the life of another man (Genesis 9:6). Before this, I can only assume men like Cain and Lamech were allowed to live.

Man multiplied on the earth but decided it would be better to centralize in direct contradiction to the plan of God to fill the whole earth. "Then they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.'" (Genesis 11:4) This centralization took the focus off of God and looked to man to provide the needs of all. The tower of Babel symbolized the top-down structure that man would try to build rather than follow God's decentralized order.

Later, God made covenant with one man, Abraham. He governed his family under God's covenant and they multiplied. The world around them began to centralize and we can see this clearly in the nation of Egypt. Pharaoh was the ruler of the land and all decisions came down from him. The pyramids are visual examples of this top-down structure.

We can see the affects this system had on the people of Israel even after they had been delivered from Egypt. They were free in the wilderness but when times became hard they wanted to run back to their slavery because at least they had security, safety and three square meals. After all God displayed in delivering them from bondage, the people liked the having a man they could look to to meet their needs rather than God. Even if it meant harsh slavery. They wanted someone else to provide for them rather than finding a way to survive as families under God's direction. While wondering in the wilderness the people set Moses up to hear from God for them when God was trying to speak to them directly (Exodus 20:18-19). They also cried out to Moses when times got hard and they wanted him to provide for them (Exodus 14:11, 17:3).

Later, God set up Judges and the priests for leadership. After a while the people looked at the other nations around and thought it would be better to have a king. Another attempt at centralizing their government. Samuel the prophet warned them about how badly a king would treat them but the people wanted someone would would provide security, safety and three square meals (1 Samuel 8). Now, it must be said that it is God's plan that a king reigns from the family of David. This is not an earthly kingdom only but a heavenly kingdom with Jesus, who is God in the form of man, on the throne.

We can see this pattern again when Jesus was on the earth. Jesus fed the 5000 and then the people wanted to take Jesus and make him king by force (John 6:1-15). Jesus withdrew because he knew that this was not how God intended for Him to rule. The people had become used to relying on man to meet their needs, Pharaoh, Moses, now Rome - they thought Jesus would feed them as well.

Again, after Jesus was raised from the dead, His disciples asked if now He was going to restore the kingdom here on earth (Acts 1:6).

Fifteen-hundred years later, the church had once again set itself up with a top-down structure, placing the Pope at the top. Martin Luther got the revelation that salvation was a gift of grace for all and that the scriptures should be available for all individual believers. The Reformation swept the world into a new paradigm of personal devotion to the Lord. Luther's ideas took authority away from man's structure and returned it back to the man's personal relationship with him.

England did not like the Pope having all the power either but all they did was declare the King as the head of the church.

America was founded on the ideals of a decentralized government. Truly unique, starting from small local governments and funneling up to a national government. The republican (form not party) system is set up to stand for the individual through elected representatives. This government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. The constitution is written as an implied-powers document with all power not specifically delegated to the federal government remaining at the state and individual level. It is designed to limit the power of government.

Over time we have gotten away from this limited government and we have allowed the federal government to grow and grow. We have abandoned our individual rights and we want the government take care of us. It usually starts as a good idea and it seems to solve a problem but government has a way of taking more of our liberties then we ever intended.

We see this with government schools. There is a need to collectively help educate our children but now we have abdicated our rights to direct what they are taught. Our schools are not allowed to talk about God or even acknowledge His existence. We are seeing increasing education on issues that are opposed to our own personal values.

Currently our government is trying to solve the problems of the economy, poverty and health care. Socialistic thought is growing the size of our government and asking it to meet our needs. If we just pay a little more taxes we can get government bailouts, welfare and health care. It takes our focus off God and has us look to our government to save us. And we will loose personal freedoms as government comes to the rescue.

Dr. Patty Amsden coined the phrase, "pyramidism," in an effort to try and explain this process of moving from individual, family and local government to having an powerful centralized government. That term helps us picture the structures that men try to set up to remove our need for God. It is one of the most basic rebellions, "I will be like God."

It seems to be a basic principle that the more self-government we exhibit, the less external government we need. As Christians, we need to work toward establishing the law of God on our hearts so that we can break down the need for big government. We need government and God establishes it for our good (Romans 13). We just need to increase God's rule in our lives and do all we can to limit governments power over us.

If you made it this far without falling asleep, thanks for allowing me to spill out my thoughts here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The church must take right ground in regard to politics

I enjoy reading the writings of the early leaders in America. Below is a quote from Charles G. Finney. He was a preacher during the Second Great Awakening back in the 1850's. I find this note particularly applicable in light of the recent political events. Finney considered lack of Christian involvement in politics a hindrance to revival. (I have added some paragraph breaks to make it more readable.)

The church must take right ground in regard to politics. Do not suppose, now, that I am going to preach a political sermon, or that I wish to have you join and get up a Christian party in politics. No, I do not believe in that. But the time has come that Christians must vote for honest men, and take consistent ground in politics, or the Lord will curse them.

They must be honest men themselves, and instead of voting for a man because he belongs to their party, Bank or Anti-Bank, Jackson, or Anti-Jackson, they must find out whether he is honest and upright, and fit to be trusted. They must let the world see that the church will uphold no man in office, who is known to be a knave, or an adulterer, or a Sabbath-breaker, or a gambler, or a drunkard.

Such is the spread of intelligence and the facility of communication in our country, that every man can know for whom he gives his vote. And if he will give his vote only for honest men, the country will be obliged to have upright rulers. All parties will be compelled to put up honest men as candidates. Christians have been exceedingly guilty in this matter. But the time has come when they must act differently, or God will curse the nation, and withdraw his spirit.

As on the subject of slavery and temperance, so on this subject, the church must act right or the country will be ruined. God cannot sustain this free and blessed country, which we love and pray for, unless the church will take right ground. Politics are a part of religion in such a country as this, and Christians must do their duty to the country as a part of their duty to God.

It seems sometimes as if the foundations of the nation were becoming rotten, and Christians seem to act as if they thought God did not see what they do in politics. But I tell you, he does see it, and he will bless or curse this nation, according to the course they take.

Lectures on Revivals of Religion
Lecture XV. Hindrances to Revivals.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Daniel - rest in peace

It is most appropriate that my last post, from so many months ago, was the Detroit Auto Show. Daniel had wanted to go for several years and we finally went. One of his great passions in life was cars. He knew more about cars than anyone I know.

His mother told me that the one of the last sites he had visited on his laptop was Car And Driver. He got to come home for a surprise visit over Labor Day weekend. I was sitting with him on the couch at one point and he was looking at the Car And Driver site. He told me that he really liked that site because he got to read about the regular cars as well as the fancy ones.

The verse below was printed on the folder for his wake on Saturday night:

Isaiah 57

1 The righteous perish,
and no one ponders it in his heart;
devout men are taken away,
and no one understands
that the righteous are taken away
to be spared from evil.

2 Those who walk uprightly
enter into peace;
they find rest as they lie in death.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

2008 Detroit Auto Show

Last Sunday I went with three young men from our Youth Group to the 2008 North American International Auto Show. We had a blast! We got there about 10:00 AM and stayed till almost 4:00 PM. I think we saw just about everything.

The guys had to sit in every car and test out all the new features. As we moved between the exhibits there was often a race to see who would get the driver's seat. Once, while I was in the drivers seat of a new Saturn Aura with a nice open sun roof, DA decided to test out the Windshield Washer Sprayer... needless to say they had not emptied it for the show and I ended up getting some nice clean glasses.

Another time we were looking at the new Smart can and I wanted to take a look at the engine. I reached my fingers under what looked like the font hood and the entire piece popped off in my hand. An attendant standing by politely took the hood from me an placed it back on the car while instructing me that the engine was in the back.

There were the all the classics. The Corvette is always one of my favorite. This is a picture of the new 2009 ZR1. They did not have any published stats on it but the lady at the display said it has 620 horsepower and they expected it to do 0-60 in under 3.5 seconds!

There were a lot of luxury cars there. If I remember right this one is a Mercedes. I liked the recliner in the back seat.

Buick had this beauty as a Riviera concept car:

Here is another concept by Dodge

And yet another concept by Hummer

The trip was not complete till we took a picture of the guys with The Michelin Man