What is a lie?

I had a great conversation with a friend the other day and we talked about lying. They were having a little relationship difficulty and one issue centered around a lie that had been told. As we discussed the ins and outs of lies, white lies, big lies, little lies, etc., this became clear to me:

A lie is an attempt to manipulate someone into doing something in accordance with your wishes when if they knew the truth they probably would not.

In essence, I see a lie as an attempt to manipulate another into doing something that is not in their best interest.

If you've read other entries in my blog, you know that one of my primary themes is freedom. I believe in freedom. I believe that God values our freedom. I believe freedom is very important in human relationships and in nearly every other aspect of life.

When we are free, we are able to do what is in our best interest. I add to that this caveat: our freedom should not take away the freedom of others to do what is in their best interest. I believe that God designed the world in such a way that things work best when people do what's in their best interest while at the same time respecting the freedom of others. Essentially the golden rule: "treat others as you would like to be treated."

Occasionally our interests conflict with the interests of others. I believe it is at this point that we are offered the temptation to lie.

Sometimes we want something very badly; however, we know that those around us may not want the same thing. I think we know when another will not want what we want. We know, like an innate sense, when it isn't in their best interest. When we suspect that another person does not want what we want, we have to choose at that point to press on and try to get it anyway, or back off. Its in our nature to try to get what we want and therefore we limit the information another has or in some way "frame" things so that the other person will "see" what we want them to see. We manipulate; we lie.

Quality human relationships are based on the truth and both parties are free to act as they see best. We enter into relationships with others because we see something of value in that person. We choose to have a relationship with another person because we believe that in some way we will be better off having known that person. Relationships are based on a mutual benefit. This applies to marriages, families, business, friendships, you name it. We have relationships that will in some way benefit us. I don't believe that this is an evil characteristic. Even when we help the poor or serve in a ministry to others, we benefit from that relationship. Service to others has its own rewards.

Lying takes the benefit away from the other person. We still want to benefit, but our lie prevents the other person from being able to benefit. If we want to have quality relationships, we've got to decide that we value their desires as much as we value ours. If we don't do this, the relationship will be shallow and short lived. So in the end, it's actually in our own best interest to seek the best interest of others!

Lying actually undermines our own interests by removing another's reason for being in the relationship and thus - robbing us of the benefit of that relationship. Lying is stealing - and people will not put up with that for long. If you lie enough to another person, they will know they are being taken advantage of and leave the relationship.

Oh - I can already hear the naysayers - "What about the little white lies? If my wife says, 'does this make look fat?' I can't say yes or I'll be in trouble!" There are plenty of good answers to that question. If it does make her look fat, how about saying, "yes" for starters. If she is not attractive in a particular outfit, telling her that she is attractive is not helping her.

People trust truth tellers! If you don't want to tell someone the truth, don't say anything. People don't need to know everything you're thinking. But when you speak, speak the truth - it may not always appear on the surface to be the "nicest" thing to do, but by doing so you are always preserving the right of others to decide for themselves what is best for them. They may or may not like hearing what you have to say, but once you've said it, they now have the option of responding to it in a way that is best for them. People around you will know that they are safer being around you, as a truth teller, then around the "nice" person who lies.

It's Not About the Temperature

Global warming, global cooling, and every other environmental concern has but one end in mind - to stop the advance of mankind.

Liberals, without understanding what they profess, are filled with anger toward mankind and consider people a cancer on the earth. They will advance any cause that hurts humanity. They are for the reduction of population on the earth. They don't care about quality of life for the masses (which requires energy). They hate all who succeed and all who improve the quality of life for others - hence, they hate the corporations that work to give us the products we need for living (homes, automobiles, food, fuel, clothing). They hate freedom and free markets because freedom makes life worth living. They are ideologically aligned with terrorists (without realizing it) because they both hate America and the good that America brings to the world.

Environmentalism, and every other issue held dear by the left, is merely a vehicle to destroy the quality of life for as many people as possible. It is vital for us to understand why they choose the battles they choose. Why environmentalism? Why smoking? Why abortion? Why homosexuality? These are the issues that gain them the most ground, the issues that have powerfully seductive messages and at the same time do great damage to the quality of life for millions.

Consider the messages: Environmentalists say that they are concerned about the planet on which we all live. Who can disagree with wanting clean water, beautiful mountain views, the survival of endangered species? The anti-smoking lobby wins converts by claiming that second hand smoke kills even the person who doesn't smoke (and of course, the children). We want to protect innocent children don't we? We must allow legal abortion to save the innocent girl who got raped and would otherwise die at the hand of a back-alley abortionist. Homosexuality: who can be against two people loving one another? Doesn't the world need more love, not hate?

The average person, who just wants to stay out of trouble and live a peaceful life is seduced by these arguments. The truth of each debate is more challenging to understand and requires more than a sound-bite to articulate. Most people aren't willing to put in the energy required to really understand the issues. These people want what is best for society and are convinced by these seductive arguments to support causes that actually bring harm to many people.

Each one of these issues is strategic. Environmentalism is powerful in its political ability to reduce man's access to energy, to resources, to land, and to use his own property. Each one of these things is necessary for a person to provide for his family and to increase his quality of life. Global warming is about limiting man's access to energy and destroying all the good that energy brings to our quality of life. Enough people are worried about "global warming" to give governments around the world the power to destroy their freedom, their prosperity, their quality of life. We are now reaching the point where merely saying that you don't believe the earth is warming is like saying that the earth is flat - watch out for witch trials next.

Its not about the warming! If it was, liberals would be all in favor of nuclear energy - which they are not. They are in favor of no energy. They don't want to develop domestic energy sources. The only reason they clamor for alternative energy sources is because at this point in time, being for alternative energy is a way of being against oil companies - which we should be supporting. Energy is necessary for living. It is the resource we need to do our jobs, power our homes, feed ourselves, communicate. If it is worthwhile, it requires energy. Simply enjoying a book of poetry required the energy to print and transport the book. People who care about people should be actively searching for ways to support the companies that turn natural resources into energy. Liberals don't do this - they hate the energy companies and will do everything in their power to prevent them from providing inexpensive energy.

Smoking is similar: enough people dislike the smell of smoke that they give away their freedom to government officials who promise them smoke free environments. "I don't smoke so I don't care if the government prevents my neighbor from smoking." We will allow politicians to tell restaurant owners they can't allow smoking on their private property. Once we get comfortable giving away that freedom, other freedoms won't be far behind. The smoking issue is a lever - a lever to move a nation away from freedom towards socialism. Freedom is the issue, not smoking.

Consider the war on terror. Why is the left so opposed to any attempt Bush makes to keep America safe? It isn't about the mistakes he has made. It isn't about weapons of mass destruction. All the liberals believed exactly what Bush did about weapons of mass destruction before the war in Iraq. But Bush is succeeding in advancing freedom in the middle east, and freedom is the only thing that will help them there. Terrorists and radical Islam are full of hatred towards America. Why? We've done nothing to harm them, but yet they hate us with all they have. We are the target of their hatred because we succeed in making life worth living. We spread freedom around the world, we help others in need, we are prosperous, we enjoy living our lives. The terrorists hate that about us - so do the liberals.

Why is it that the left secretly hates the military? Because it is one of the few proper and moral responsibilities of a limited government. So is a police force. One protects our liberty from outside invasion. One protects our liberty from inside criminal activity. Liberals hate them both. If it is a proper and moral function of government, you can bet liberals will stand against it. Did you notice the thousands that marched in protest of the police in New York in December? Both the military and the police protect liberty. Although they don't realize it, liberals support any cause that harms liberty and oppose any cause that helps it. Liberty is mankind's surest foundation for success, prosperity, and quality of life - and that is why it is opposed.

What the issue comes down to - at its deepest level - is hatred for humanity. Liberals are angry, bitter people, full of hatred towards God and the good God desires for all people. The issues liberals hold dear are those that will do the most harm to the most number of people.

Hurray! 300 Million!

I don't think of myself as a contrarian, but lately I find myself disagreeing with the mainstream on nearly everything. Here is another one: "300 Million Reasons For Concern." The "wise" people at the Washington Post are concerned about the number of people in the world. This actually makes me sad because the thinking is so flawed.

Let me start by saying this - people are a good thing. Remember when God finished creating Adam and Eve He said, "and saw that it was good." We are made in the image of God and our existence is a good thing. After creating man and woman God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it." (Gen 1:28) That was the first thing God ever said to mankind. God wanted us to fill the earth with people!

This concern reveals something about the person who is concerned about population growth - they actually don't like people. Sure - they don't want to see their friends and family removed from the earth, but they're more than happy to see most other people's friends and family removed from the earth. This is a violent and hateful perspective.

Where does this perspective come from? If God thinks people are a good thing and wants to see them fill the earth who would want to see them destroyed? Enemies of God.

God's enemy hates God and hates His creation. And if God loves His people as His crowning achievement, you can bet that God's enemy will hate that good thing and seek to destroy it. And that's what's going on - the devil hates humanity and hates to see the good that comes as a result of our existence.

Why do you think God wanted to fill the earth with people? I think that the answer is powerful and a beautiful revelation of the awesome character of God. I've said before that God loves our prosperity and wants us to live happy, healthy, comfortable lives. He wants good for the people that He has created - He does not desire squalor or misery for any of us. Would you want those kinds of miseries for any of your children? Of course not - we want good for our children, God wants good for His.

The short answer to why God wants to fill the earth is that we need each other to help make our lives better. Ask the people who want to limit population who they want to see removed. Of course not their friends and family, but what about their grocer? They need that guy for food. What about the guy that built their house? The kind of needed him too, so lets not kill him. What about the guy that built their car, or their computer, or their TV, or their hospital, or the people that created all the technological innovations that keep them healthy? They need those people too. Better not reduce population with any of those people.

Maybe we could get rid of the other grocers though, do we need so many? Well, if we didn't have so many prices sure would be a lot higher. Lots of people create lots of innovation, competition, and growth. The point is, each person brings something to this world that makes it better for others. All lives are important. (except for maybe the Washtington Post writer who wants to end the lives of others).

I've talked about wealth a time or two in this blog. Many people think of wealth as a lot of money, or something to that effect. The real source of wealth is the human spirit. It is the desire to experience something better and the innovation that flows from that. When a person gets up each day and goes to work, he succeeds by satisfying the needs of others. In this world, real success comes from taking care of your fellow man. And the more people that exist, the better things will be for each of us. Wealth is the product of the mind of man.

Resources are not limited by space or the capacity of the earth - they are limited by the minds of men who find and exploit them. We have oil because people have found it, retreived it, refined it, distributed it, and sold it - all to make a life for themselves and their families. Oil didn't just arrive at your gas station on its own - it required the hard work of people. People who Population Alarmists don't want around. Resources may be physically located in the earth, but they come from the mind of man.

We're not going to run out of space. Its just not even close to a problem! We've got gobs and gobs of space out there. So space, resources, overcrowding, starvation. They are not an overpopulation problem. This "problem" isn't about space or resources. Its a spiritual issue. It is about the fight between heaven and hell, good and evil. People are a good thing and more people are good for the earth. We don't need less people - we need more. (France gets it - read this article).

As each person seeks to build a life for himself - he brings his ability to take care of others to the marketplace - and those skills make all of our lives worth living. We need each other. We need each other's creativity. We need each other's hard work. We need each other's service. We need each other!

So I give thanks to God for the millions of people around the world who work tirelessly to solve my problems and make my life better. I'm grateful to God for recognizing the real wealth that lies within each person's mind and heart and for wanting us to have more of it and for giving the command "muliply" so that we could have more of it. Thank you God! People are such a blessing!

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Do Accidents Require Banning Freedom?

This article that I'm copying and pasting here needs to be heard. The cry for increasing restrictions on light airplanes is ludicrous. Accidents happen - why does every accident in aviation produce a public clamor for a loss of freedom. So now we want to ban all light aircraft operating over cities? What does that actually accomplish? Terrorists have all kinds of methods for inflicting harm, why ban just the airplanes?

Again, typical - the politician just uses any public "move" for an opportunity to remove freedom. Why, oh why do they always want to take away freedom?! Do they have no other option? Do they have no solution to any problem except by banning something? I am so sick of it!

So here is that article:

Enough is enough
Mayor Daley's latest rants have sent me
over the edge. He used the accident in New York to once again demand a no-fly
zone over downtown Chicago for general aviation aircraft.
It was expected,
of course. He has an irrational hatred for piston-engine aircraft, as evidenced
by his illogical tirade this week. "They should not jeopardize, through
intentionally or by accident, a single- or two-engine plane flying over our city
[sic]," the Meigs Field destroyer exploded at a press conference. (I don't think
he was including Boeing 737s, 757s, and 767s in his list of twin-engine
aircraft.) "Remember: a single- or two-engine plane can kill as many people as
possible if they want to."
And if it were just Daley, I'd ignore his ravings,
just as the folks in the federal government in charge of security and airspace
But it's not just him. Other politicians (with the spectacular and
notable exception of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg) and self-appointed
"experts" are jumping on the tragic accident — repeat, accident — in New York to
sound off again about the "danger" of light aircraft, and how they must be
regulated, restricted, banned.
OK, for all of those ranting about "threats"
from GA aircraft, we'll believe that you're really serious about controlling
"threats" when you call for:
Banning all vans within cities. A small panel
van was used in the first World Trade Center attack. The bomb, which weighed
1,500 pounds, killed six and injured 1,042.
Banning all box trucks from
cities. Timothy McVeigh's rented Ryder truck carried a 5,000-pound bomb that
killed 168 in Oklahoma City.
Banning all semi-trailer trucks. They can carry
bombs weighing more than 50,000 pounds.
Banning newspapers on subways.
That's how the terrorists hid packages of sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo subway
system. They killed 12.
Banning backpacks on all buses and subways. That's
how the terrorists got the bombs into the London subway system. They killed 52.
Banning all cell phones on trains. That's how they detonated the bombs in
backpacks placed on commuter trains in Madrid. They killed 191.
Banning all
small pleasure boats on public waterways. That's how terrorists attacked the USS
Cole, killing 17.
Banning all heavy or bulky clothing in all public places.
That's how suicide bombers hide their murderous charges. Thousands killed.
Number of people killed by a terrorist attack using a GA aircraft?
Number of people injured by a terrorist attack using a GA aircraft?
Property damage from a terrorist attack using a GA aircraft?
So Mr. Mayor (and Mr. Governor, Ms. Senator, Mr. Congressman, and Mr.
"Expert"), if you're truly serious about "protecting" the public, advocate all
of the bans I've listed above. Using the "logic" you apply to general aviation
aircraft, you're forced to conclude that newspapers, winter coats, cell phones,
backpacks, trucks, and boats all pose much greater risks to the public.
So be
consistent in your logic. If you are dead set on restricting a personal
transportation system that carries more passengers than any single airline,
reaches more American cities than all the airlines combined, provides employment
for 1.3 million American citizens and $160 billion in business "to protect the
public," then restrict or control every other transportation system that the
terrorists have demonstrated they can use to kill.
If you're not willing to
be consistent, then we might think that you're pandering to uninformed public
fears, posturing from the soapbox of demagoguery, screaming security for your
own political ends.

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The Cancer of Unions

It's Labor Day, a great day to discuss such a politically charged topic as labor. Everybody labors don't they? Isn't everyone a laborer? Sure, but when it comes to politics, what matters is influence, and of all of us that labor, those with the most influence are the labor unions.

The "unionization" of labor is a difficult issue to get figured out. I spent a long time trying to figure out the "morality" of unions. Is a union a good thing? Afterall, don't the unions protect the lone worker and give him a voice? Isn't it true that the "business" is powerful and has the ability to run roughshod over the employee who doesn't stand together with his fellow workers?

After considerable thought, I've come to the conclusion that the union is a cancer that grows in certain unhealthy business environments. A company is, or at least should be, a group of people who share a common vision and have a common goal to provide a product or service to the marketplace in as competitive a manner as possible. The most successful companies are providing their product or service with the highest levels of excellence. As I've said many times in this blog, the free market forces businesses to increase excellence or go out of business.

When workers decide to form a union, they do so because they feel like they are being taken advantage of. I think everyone wishes that they made more and had better circumstances, but some companies are doing a poor job of taking care of their people, and their people inherently know it. A union is a natural result of an unhealthy business culture. I believe that while everyone contributes to a healthy culture, the responsibility for that culture begins at the top. It is up to management to recognize and meet the needs of their people in a way that draws the best out of each of them. It is up to the leaders of that company to model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge and improve current processes, enable others to act, and encourage the heart. (The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner, 22) When leaders fail to do these things, employees suffer, and in order to protect themselves, they form unions.

If a business is ideally a group of people gathered out of society with the special skills necessary to build a great product or deliver a great service, then the union is a cancer that destroys the unity of the "body" and pits one part of the business against other parts. As Jesus said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." The unionized business is a house divided. Rather than management and labor working together as a team pursuing a common vision to be the best in their industry, they are pitted against one another - seeing the opposite side as the enemy rather than the competition, which is the real enemy.

The union is a form of coercion where labor says, "You do things our way or we'll destroy your business." Unfortunately, by destroying the business the union destroys itself. There are many cancerous results of the union. One is the entrenchment of mediocrity. The union typically guarantees advancement to all employees based on seniority rather than excellence. The non-union employee has two powerful tools at his disposal. One is the ability to leave his job and go elsewhere if the conditions and pay are no longer suitable, and the second is the ability to advance based on performance rather than seniority. Both tools are part of what makes the free market system so capable of producing excellence. The union removes both tools. The result is waste and a loss of excellence.

The free market produces the miracles of innovation and productivity that it does because everyone can freely buy whoever has the best product. A man's labor is his product. When he is hired, it is because he offers that product at a price an employer is willing to pay. If either party becomes dissatisfied with the arrangement, either can shop elsewhere for a better deal - meaning, the employer can hire someone else or the employee can find a job somewhere else. This fluidity allows workers to find jobs at the best possible pay and employers to hire the best possible people. Employers demand high performance for their money and good employees demand good pay and good working conditions. Essentially, to get good employees, employers compete by providing good pay and benefit packages. Likewise, to get a good job, employees develop their skill set and protect their resume by having a good work ethic and habit patterns. Both parties bring excellence to the table in this free market arrangement and employer, employee, and customer all benefit.

The union removes these free market forces as they normally apply to labor. Within an industry, it is very difficult for a worker to seek better conditions at another company without starting again at the bottom of the seniority system. The union also makes it very difficult for the employer to retain, develop, and promote those employees with the greatest performance. Therefore, employees cannot seek to improve their lot by shopping for better pay and benefits, likewise, the employer is hampered in his search for more capable employees. The employees have tied his hands. The union employees stop looking for ways to go above and beyond in their performance since all performance requirements are clearly spelled out by the union contract. Mediocrity is the result of the union arrangement.

I am a pilot and within my industry there are both unionized and non-unionized sectors. The airlines are unionized and the corporate and charter pilots are not. As a corporate pilot, if I don't like how my employer treats me, there are other jobs out there at the same or possibly even better pay. It might be painful to change jobs, but at least I'm free to do so if I choose. The airline pilot cannot say the same thing - he is stuck. He either spends a career at the same airline, whether he likes it there or not, or he starts over again as a brand new copilot earning next to nothing with a new company. Consequently, airlines are suffering terribly right now with massive disputes raging in nearly all the major companies, while the corporate world is quite peaceful and healthy.

Sure, wages may be higher and some working conditions may be better in a unionized business, but wages determined by coercion rather than market forces make a company less competitive in the market. The cancer may grow by feeding on the body, but cancer kills, and when the body dies, the cancer dies too. Just look at the American automotive companies, public schools, the airlines, or unionized government sector jobs like air traffic controllers - in each case, performance is mediocre and businesses are increasingly failing.

It's up to management to build strong healthy companies. By doing so a business owner has the best chance of avoiding the cancer of a union. However, it is also up to employees to recognize that their best negotiating tool is their freedom to leave a job. When an employee chooses to give up that freedom and decides instead to form a union with fellow employees to coerce their employer, they have decided that the good of the company as a whole is no longer important to them. In essence, they've decided that they are willing to destroy their employers livelihood, the jobs provided to other employees in other parts of the company, and even to stop meeting the needs of the customers in order to get their way.

The union removes the employer' s freedom to shop for labor that has the best value, and in so doing, is an immoral entity. Like I've said in so many other blogs, freedom permits the most number of people to live in the best possible circumstances. It may not be perfect, but freedom, by far, is the best option we've got.

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The Ideological Lens

As a follow-up to my last blog, in which I pointed out that the American left has the same ideological worldview as Hezbollah and Al-qaeda terrorists and therefore resist any effort to combat them or defend America or Israel against them, I want to point out another example of it that I've been hearing in the news today.

Several pundits are discussing the obvious disparity between the left's outrage over Mel Gibson's anti-semitic comments and the total pass they are giving Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in his interview by Mike Wallace. The pundit's ask why there is outrage in one case and not in the other, and then sit there and discuss it like they don't really know the answer.

The answer is obvious. Mel Gibson does not share their worldview and Ahmadinejad does. Anti-semitism is simply a label that is used as a political weapon. It is used by the left, not as an attempt to defend or in any way to help Jews, but to harm a political opponent. The same is true regarding the labels of racism.

The left abandoned Mel Gibson when his worldview became obvious. He made it plain when he produced the "Passion of the Christ" against the advice of everyone in Hollywood. Mel Gibson is a Christian, he is "connected" to the God of the bible (see my last blog for my discussion of "connection"). Ahmadinejad is as far from a Christian as you can get, so consequently, he shares the same worldview as most of the media.

The outrage over Mel Gibson's foolish comments are nothing more than an attempt to use a political weapon against an ideological enemy. This is the left's chance to hurt him for having an ideology that they hate. Ahmadinejad is obviously anti-semitic and says so daily, but the left has no desire to use that weapon against him - they don't want to use any weapon against him - he is their ideological ally.

We're seeing the same exact phenomenon as the world realizes that the recent UN resolution to stop Israel from defending itself was nothing more than a cleverly disquised attempt by France to give Hezbollah terrorists a breather. In the left's mind, they see Israel as evil for simply fighting back, and have no outrage over Hezbollah using civilians as a shield.

This is a war of ideologies. Looking through this lens will always help you determine who will take what position on any issue. The world hates Jews and Christians - who both worship and serve the God of the Bible. President Bush is a Christian. Mel Gibson is a Christian. Most conservatives are Christian. It is for this simple reason that the American left hates Bush, Mel Gibson, and the conservative right. It is for the same reason that Muslim's hate America and Israel.

This isn't a disagreement that will end with a middle east peace deal. The current events that we see and discussed today have their roots in the same division that has existed since Abraham fathered Ishmael (the father of the Arab nations) and Isaac (the father of Jews and "spiritual" ancestor of Christians) in the book of Genesis. Even then it was prophesied that Ishmael would be a problem child, "He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against every man, And every man’s hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren." (Gen 16:12)

The battle between left and right, democrat and republican, liberal and conservative, will always be based on core beliefs. There are only two positions - you are either "His" or you're not. Consider this as you try to figure out the bizarre prediliction of the left to support the terrorist on every level.

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The World is Divided

Many on the right wonder why the world doesn't seem to understand that the war in the middle east began with aggression by Hezbollah. We sit back and marvel how clueless the United Nations seems to be. We yell at the reporters on CNN. It just seems so obvious: Israel has given up land for years and has never started a conflict, they simply respond when their enemies attack them. Israel always abides by the terms set forth in these "cease-fires" and the other side never does. Why doesn't the world get it?

The answer to that question is the same as the answer to this question: "Why doesn't the left support any of the efforts made by the president to combat terrorism?"

Simply put - there are only two main ideologies in the world. There are splinters and sects within each ideology, but there are only two sides to the real battle. I made a stab at explaining what these two sides are in this blog a few months ago. Essentially, you're either with the God of the bible or your not. Every political debate and issue comes down to that fundamental core question.

It is a question of the spirit. I wrote in another blog, "Spirit, Soul, and Body", that the essence of the spirit is the ability to "connect." To be spiritual is to be "connected." We are relational beings. It is in our nature to desire to connect with others and to connect with God. But we choose what we will do with our spirit. We choose where we will connect. We choose our relationships. We choose what "god" to connect to.

There are many "gods", but there is only one God. You are either connected to this one God or you're not. That is the defining issue for determining your worldview. That one relationship is at the heart of who you are. God is searching throughout the earth for those who want to be called by His name - and He knows those who are His.

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. (2 Chron

They will call on My name, And I will answer them. I will say, This is My people; And each one will say, The LORD is my God. (Zech 13:9b)

I point that out to show that in this debate over the cease fire and why so much of the world lines up against Israel, and in the United States, why so many oppose the fight against terrorism, why there seem to be only two sides. The left leaning media, the left leaning United Nations, the left leaning countries of the world like France, Russia, Germany always seem to support the terrorist rather than Israel. Why? Because they share the same ideology. It might take a dramatically different form than radical Islam, but their ideology is based on the same "relationship", i.e. "No relationship with the God of the bible."

It seems to be such a waste of time debating with the left about Lebanon and Israel, Iraq, or any other political issue for that matter, without taking the debate to the core issue involved, which are deeply spiritual. So we end up debating the "results" of our ideologies rather than the ideologies themselves. What a huge waste of time. If you change someone's core ideology, then the "consequences" of their ideology will change. Meaning, when you change the deeper belief, the positions a person takes on political issues will change.

So Ann Coulter is right when she says, "we need to invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity." Although the statement sounds harsh to our sensitive, politically correct ears, converting people to Christianity is the surest way to change their politics. People don't change because we're "nice" or we send them money and medicine. When you give something away, people will line up to take it - but their heart toward you will not change, they just see you as an idiot who is giving stuff away. As soon as the goods stop flowing or you place any demands on them, their friendly faces disappear and you still have an enemy.

The world is divided. This divide does not follow national borders, it follows "relational borders." Its sides are determined by "Who" you love, not by where you were born. When it looks like the political left in America supports the terrorists of Al-Qaida or Hezbollah - its because it actually does.

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What do they want?

I'm baffled to some degree about the reporting on gas prices recently. These are the messages:

"Gas prices are too high."
"If gas prices were higher, more alternative energy sources would be developed."
"We need to conserve - people should drive less."
"The government should increase gas taxes to reduce demand."

I can't figure out what the real concern is. For example, why develop alternative forms of energy? They won't be cheaper than gas, at least not right now and not for a long time - so what is the push? Trying to save money? You won't save money.

Are people worried about running out of fuel? I don't think so, I think they actually want us to run out of fuel so we'll quit ruining the environment with our stinky cars. Global warming is supposedly caused by burning fuel, so we're all gonna die because of gas anyway - sheesh, we should be banning fuel, not trying to conserve or reduce prices - isn't that the message?

Should we be trying to conserve? Why? If people can afford the gas, let them buy it and drive as much as they want. The price is the incentive to conserve, what other incentive do you want to create - ration stamps? Why conserve anyway? The more we use, the sooner we start to run out, the sooner the price drives us towards alternative energy sources. As we run out, other methods of transportation will be developed, so why freak out about it?

So I ask all these questions because the questions I hear being asked all have certain assumptions built in such as:

"The fuel companies are ripping us off."
"Burning fuel is destroying the world."
"America is evil for being modern and using so much fuel."
"I don't want to spend so much on fuel, the government should do something."

So these "concerns" or better yet, these "whining complaints" are creating another opportunity for politicians to take action due to the public mood. It makes me sad. Because so few people understand the beauty of the free market system, they respond to a desire to get something for nothing, and have no clue that they give up something precious to get something useless. This is what I'm saying: as the government acts in response of the envy, hatred, laziness, and blame of the uninformed public, they take actions that reduce the quality and quantity of energy, thus raising prices, growing government beauracracy and making life more challenging in the end.

People should be celebrating the success of the oil companies because as they succeed, they are pouring that money into development of the technologies and infrastructure that will actually provide inexpensive, clean, reliable energy sources for years to come. Oil companies succeed because they provide the product you want and their success will improve the environment you want.

My general message is this: nothing is wrong here, nothing needs to be fixed. Prices will drive the exact right amount of conservation. Leave the system alone. If you want to bring prices down, then allow the energy companies to increase supply by removing road blocks (regulations). Please, don't let the government get involved in trying to develop alternative energy or alternative transportation - that is such a huge waste of our tax dollars. Beauracracies don't innovate! They regulate! They get in the way of innovation, they slow down the wheels of progress.

But people want something for nothing and the politicians will give it to them to buy votes. So maybe the message between the lines of all the recent reporting on oil is this: "Bush is a jerk, oil companies are evil, America is destroying the world, the government should give us oil for free."

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A Dinner Prayer

As a departure from the political/religious/economic topics I've written about lately, I wanted to talk for a minute about an interesting scripture in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. The discussion there is on sharing the Lord's supper and the problems the Corinthian church were having while coming together for communion. The problem arose because people were divided at the Lord's supper and were looking our for themselves rather than desiring to have unity with one another. These people also had no connection and communion with God, the real purpose of the Lord's supper.
When we take the Lord's Supper, we break the bread as a remembrance of the fact that the Body of Christ was broken for us. Specifically, He was broken so that we could be healed. Isaiah 53 shows this in verse 4 and 5, "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed."
That last phrase is key, "by His stripes we are healed." His punishment brings our healing. His punishment also makes it possible for us to have a relationship with Him. By His stripes we are healed and by the shedding of His blood we are forgiven. The second, you could say, allows for the first. When our sins are forgiven and we can reconnect with God, we can then receive from Him all that is necessary for healing. This is a physical, mental and spiritual healing. I'm not saying that a relationship with God means you won't have physical illness, but I do believe that good health begins with a relationship with God.
The person who is rightly connected to God is able to resist bitterness, is able to extend grace to others and forgive, is able to trust God in difficult circumstances, is able to go to God for answers in the midst of a challenge. Walking with God reduces stress! We don't have to have it all figured out, we can rest in Him. Just that alone is a great foundation for health. Add to that the leadership of the Holy Spirit in the various things we choose to do. For example, the Holy Spirit may lead me to drink less alcohol, eat less sugar, go to bed earlier, get more exercise, stop being so angry, let something I'm stewing over go. God actually leads me into a place of health. Connectedness with God is the beginning of the answer for every problem we face. Whether its relationships or work or depression or addiction or finances - you name it, knowing who you are in God and being connected to the source of your life is where you'll find the answers you need to deal with the problems that come up.
You might be wondering, "how can I tell how connected I am to God?" For me, a measure of my connectedness is 1) the quality of my praise of God and 2) my focus on others. 
So the first measure of my connectedness is the quality of my praise of God. I heard someone say recently that happy people are first grateful people. Throughout all of life, there will be challenges. We all have challenges every day - everyone does. But at the same time we all have things in our lives that are going well. A happy person praises God for the things that are going well and trusts Him in the things that are difficult. If I am negative, upset, and focusing exclusively on the difficult things, then I'll quickly become unhappy. That unhappiness is evidence that I'm disconnected from God. But when I say, "God I trust you in this because you have promised me so many good things in your Word, plus I rejoice in and am grateful for all the good that I am experiencing", the weight of my difficult circumstances falls away. God comes through for the person who rejoices and gives Him praise - because that person is fully connected to God.
The second measure of my connectedness with God is the level of my focus on others. When I'm concerned mainly about me and what's going on in my life, I tend not to think about what is important to God and what is important to others. As the scripture began, "when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you." (vs 18) People are divided when they are concerned about themselves rather than loving those that God has brought into their lives. Factions and divisions are evidence of disconnection from God.
These scriptures point out the connection between our unity with God, our unity with others, the food that we eat and the impact of all of these on our health. The section culminates in vs 30 with this startling conclusion: "For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many die." We want the opposite of "weakness, sickness, and death." We want "strength, health, and life." These start with salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and continue with an ongoing spiritual connection to God through the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

I wrote this blog today because I was thinking about the scriptures in 1 Cor 11 in regards to what we normally pray when we sit down to eat dinner. I wanted to write a dinner prayer that I could pray with my wife and our family. Considering what I learned from these scriptures, this is what I wrote:
"Dear Lord, we thank you for this meal and the opportunity we have to share in it together. We thank you for our fellowship and pray for unity as we eat. May our communion with you and with each other and may the food that we enjoy together provide for strength, health, and life. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen."

Legislating Righteousness - The Loss of Love and Dignity

As I've grown as a Christian and as a person who believes in and loves liberty, my perspectives have changed over the years. I find myself increasingly departing from the mainstream view of conservative Christians lately. As I develop a deeper understanding of liberty, something which I firmly believe that God endorses, my political viewpoint changes. Whereas once I believed and supported whatever leading Christian pundits were advocating, now I notice where certain positions are at odds with what I believe the bible says and at odds with the principles of liberty.

In general I'm referring to the pressure to pass laws regulating personal behavior that comes from the Christian community. Laws regarding drugs, alcohol, sexual choices, etc. By no means is legislating behavior limited to Christianity; however, it is the Christian I want to address. To make my point, let me give you my moral orientation.

In a nutshell, I believe in the God of the bible and in His Son Jesus who came in the form of a man in order to redeem mankind. I believe that God is good, that He loves all men and women, and that He wants every single person to be saved. I believe God is personal and wants to have an interactive relationship with everyone. I believe the essence of relationship is freedom. Freedom gives relationships value. An unchosen relationship has no value; therefore, without the choice to love (which must allow space for the opposite choice, which is not to love) a relationship is meaningless (or valueless).

I believe this freedom extends to all human endeavors. We are relational beings and everything we do in life revolves around our relationships. It is for this reason that I believe in free markets as the ultimate system for bringing two parties into an economic relationship. That is why I believe prices should move freely as both parties determine for themselves the value of an economic exchange. So that is why I believe that the role of government is simply this: to protect our liberty. That means it should prevent one person from doing harm to another. Willfully harming another person destroys their liberty; therefore, as a nation we collectively act to restrict the freedom of those who do not respect the freedom of others.

I say all of that to lay a foundation for this point: the government should not be in the business of making me righteous - even if I generally agree with the behaviors required by those laws. As I've said, government should be in the business of preserving my liberty. As a free human being, I am free to try those things that might bring me harm. In trying those things, I gain experience. I learn. I am able to decide for myself what things bring good into my life and what things bring harm.

If choice brings value to relationships, choice also brings value to our actions. Doing the right thing has more value when it is chosen than when it is compelled. Doing the right thing starts with love. When we choose to do what we believe is right, we do so because we value the good that comes from that right choice.

Consider these choices: I choose to eat right and take care of my body. I value my body and make the choices necessary to keep it healthy. Good comes from that choice. I want a happier relationship with my wife so I choose to be kind to her. I value her and her happiness. Good comes from that choice. I want to take care of my fellow man by returning the $20 bill he dropped. I value my fellowman more than the $20. Good comes from that choice. Maybe it is the good that comes to a young woman by the choice of a young man to respect her heart and respect her body. He values her more than his own sexual satisfaction. Good comes from that choice.

All of these right choices produce something wonderful in the soul. These choices are the result of love. These choices are the result of loving something more than the self. These choices are the result of loving God, loving His wisdom, loving what God has created, and valuing what He values. It is love that leads us to make right choices.

Choice reveals value. Our choices reveal what we value - they reveal what we love.

If you remember, God gave the law to Israel because they did not understand that concept and had no love for the truth or for God. "What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made." (Gal 3:19). The coming of Jesus fulfilled a promise to Abraham that through his Seed, all the nations of the world would be blessed. That promise was Jesus. Abraham followed the leadership of God because he loved God and valued the promise that God made. Abraham also wanted the world to receive that blessing that God was promising, showing that he valued the people of the world more than himself. Abraham was even willing to kill his own desperately wanted son Isaac, showing how completely he valued the will of God over his own will. That is love.

It is our love for the good that comes, our love of true value and worth, that compels us to make right choices. If we allow the government to compel us to make right choices by legislating matters of morality, then we no longer do it for love. If the law forces me to do what is right, then the value is lost. I am no longer responding to love, no longer recognizing the value in a decision or action. Instead, I become self-centered once again. I do the action required by law to avoid the penalty of the law, not because I value the object of my action.

Compelling righteousness also removes the dignity that comes from struggling with our natures and learning to overcome. We have two "selfs". One self wants instant gratification and is me/pleasure/now oriented. My other self looks to others and is willing to delay gratification for a greater good. These two selfs are at odds with one another. These two aspects of our character, the "Dr. Jeckyl, Mr Hyde" inside each of us compete on every level over every issue. Whether it is a decision about having a brownie, the decision about our attitude that day, the decision to offer a kind word to someone, the decision to drink, smoke, or look at a dirty magazine - we have to learn to manage the decision process and choose the good. I have struggled mightily with learning to overcome some aspects of my character. But I have learned! I have grown! And I am a better person, a person of dignity, for having had the opportunity to "sin" and learned how to overcome the slavery that results from sin.

One thing the founders of this nation resisted was the idea of "central planning." It is not the role of government to shape society. In order to shape society, one person must exercise his will for the direction of society over the will of another. For example, socialism, environmentalism, humanism, feminism, multiculturalism are all attempts to shape society according to the vision of a small group. Christianity, while typically the true defender of liberty, in many cases tries to do the same thing.

Again, this limits liberty. One person doesn't know better what is good for another person. Each person needs to take his own path, fight his own fight, learn his own lessons - write his own story. If you believe you know better than another, become a teacher, start a church, begin an advertising campaign. Attempt to influence others by allowing them to hear your message and freely come to your conclusion by the logic of your arguments and the strength of your love for them. But don't compel them to adopt your conclusion by the force of law.

Compelling righteousness, whether done by Christians or an "ism" destroys human dignity by removing the value that comes by learning from poor choices how to make good choices.

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Calling Evil Good

I came across an amazing point this morning. I was reading the new Dennis Prager column in which he tries to figure out why the left is hysterical (did you know the etymology of the word hysterical? Its interesting, check it out) about global warming and the right isn't. He makes some interesting points, but I don't think he gets to the bottom of it. I've tried to figure it out as well - my attempt is written here.

Several people commented on his column on Townhall.com. One commenter said:

In an effort to justify greed and envy, defend sloth, etc., the Left will define
virtues as evil. According to the Left, it isn't "greed" to demand treasure from
others that one did not earn; it's "greed" to wish to retain the fruits of your
own labor. To the left, it isn't justice that someone should benefit from
undertaking actions that create jobs; jobs are an entitlement that no one should
have to "earn" and should be paid a minimum amount no matter how much the work is actually worth. And on and on...

What a great point! Isaiah the prophet made the same point a few years ago:
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light,
and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe
to those who are wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own
sight! (Isaiah 5:20-21)

Isn't that the battle we face? The fight for truth is the fight to see things as they really are. We fight a war of paradigms - how will information be presented, how will information be characterized?

There is poverty in the world. That's a fact. What then do we do with that fact? The left will use it to advance their cause while the right will use it as an individual call to action (there are probably exceptions on both sides).

Its up to those who love the truth to fight for it while loving those who disagree. It's a tough mission, but I know we've got what it takes.

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The Real Crisis

Everything is a crisis! Everything is a scandal! Everything is a threat to our way of life! Why can't we just have the news? Tell us what's going on in the world. But no, that's not the way the media works, that's not the way government works.

By the way things sound in the media, you'd think the world is coming to an end. The reporting and hysteria about global warming is just one great example. How about bird flu? Are we running out of fuel? The kids in this article worry about war, pollution, and global warming. Politicians in Antarctica are asking for government action. So many looming problems. But is it really that bad? You might think that these stories make the news because they are attention getters. "If it bleeds it leads." That kind of thinking. I don't think that is the motivation.

I think the manufactured crisis is the most effective means that the left and pro-government forces have at their disposal for generating the public reaction necessary to motivate people to give up their liberty. When people begin to truly believe that there is an environmental crisis, or a medical crisis, or a human rights crisis, or a hunger crisis - they give permission to the government to "do something."

Unfortunately, the "something" is actually a bigger threat to us than any of the other perceived threats. As a matter of fact, we could probably demonstrate that most of the crises that we face today are the result of "doing something" in years past. Laws get passed every day that make it harder for businesses to solve the problems that we commonly face, allowing those problems to loom larger. An "environmental crisis" (like Three Mile Island) in the past prevents nuclear power plants from being built, resulting in expensive energy today.

The real threat is government meddling. When the government gets involved, things get ugly. Vote buying helps the few at the expense of the many. It is the "crisis" that gives the politician what he needs to move legislation through the system.

Fake threats advance the cause of the real threat - government regulation.

The godless left (as described by Ann Coulter's new book) will do anything they can to advance their "vision." They have a plan for you, a plan for me. They are full of "isms." They believe in socialism, environmentalism, humanism, feminism, multiculturalism, just to name a few. An "ism" is nothing more than one man's dream that he would like to see imposed on all others. Unfortunately, when one person seeks to advance their ism, they must suppress the rights and liberties of others to do it.

And ultimately, that is what every ism is really about - the suppression of liberty. God loves freedom because it is the only road to happiness on earth. As each person pursues their idea of happiness, they write their own story. Adam Smith railed against the "system men" who see the world as a chessboard to be manipulated. He noted that each chess piece though was a person with their own dreams and aspirations, and that it was immoral for the government to move those chess pieces without their consent. When one man tries to advance his "ism", he does so at the expense of another man's freedom.

That's why I don't actually like the term "capitalism." It was coined by Karl Marx to describe what is more properly called "free enterprise." Free enterprise is not government planning, it isn't one person's vision imposed on others. Free enterprise allows each person to live and dream according to their own dictates, their own plans, their own religion, their own desire.

We were all given the freedom by God to write our own story. Our nation at one time recognized that "we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Our Declaration of Independence says that "to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men." Government should not be in the business of advancing isms, they should simply secure our liberty.

The real threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in this world is not global warming or the bird flu. The left will milk these concerns for all they can to advance their isms, but in the end, we won't face any real crisis other than a crisis of liberty.

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Relationship, Not Religion

So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27

As you can probably tell from many of my blog entries, I am a bible believing Christian. I believe in God. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I believe that the bible is reliable and is the basis for truth. I believe that God wants to have a relationship with everyone on earth and to see them come to salvation.

Religion is a different matter. I don't believe in religion. I am not religious. Now don't get me wrong. There are lots of great religious men and women doing fabulous things: building communities of believers that love God, serving their fellow man, advancing the kingdom of God, all that stuff. But religion is not God. It is merely a system of beliefs advocated by those who do their best (in most cases) to adhere to the principles of scripture. Even Christianity is about people and made up of people. In that sense, it is highly fallible.

So why do I say all that? Because people love to be part of something. I love to be part of something. Being a part of something bigger than the self helps to give life meaning. Christianity and the activities and ministry of the local church helps to add meaning to the lives of many people. But it also distracts them sometimes from the real purpose of our existence.

God created us for relationship. He wants to walk with us, talk with us, help us to learn and grow. We are spiritual beings, created to know God. One of the problems I see with Christianity as a religion is that it takes its focus off of the relationship and puts it onto the "lifestyle" of Christians. There is a Christian lifestyle - common dos and don'ts, ways of talking and behaving, an expected political outlook - and unfortunately, a common critical eye towards those who believe differently and act differently. In this I find the biggest fault with Christianity - the focus on sin, both personal sin and the sin of others.

Jesus Christ did not come and die on the cross to get us to stop sinning. He came to set us free from sin. He came, not to put our focus on sin, but to take our focus off of it. The distinction is huge and the consequences even bigger. We are now dead to sin; dead to the law. It is fulfilled. If you got killed in a car accident and you were at fault, would the officer give you a ticket? No, you're dead - a ticket is pointless. We are dead to the law.

God wants our focus to be on Him, not on the rules. I don't lay down a law against my wife. We have a relationship, we love each other, and learn and grow together. Rules don't make that relationship work, love does. God wants the same thing to be true with the relationship He has with us. He wants it to be about love, not sin, not punishment, not getting it right every time, but learning and moving forward. "And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (1 Cor 13:13) Love is mankind's greatest motivator. If anything stirs the heart of man, it is the desire for love. You see it everywhere - movies, books, music, poetry, art. We were made for relationship, and the beginning of any successful relationship is God.

If we are in a relationship with God and commune with Him via the Holy Spirit (our spirit relating/connecting to His Spirit) we will be lead into right behavior. Jesus Christ set me free from the worry of sin, from the condemnation, from the fear. Now I walk with Him. I try things, I make mistakes, I fall, the Holy Spirit speaks to me, I learn, and I grow. It is by living that we become the men and women God wants us to be. Its partly by failing that I grow in my sensitivity to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

So does God want us to sin? Absolutely not. The wages of sin is death. It hurts us dreadfully to sin. But God wants us to be able to let it go and move on. He wants to lead us out of sin as we commune with Him in a love relationship - not because we are fearful of hell or the criticism of fellow Christians. God wants to teach us to avoid sin because it is an assault on the relationship He has with us and because it is an assault on life itself. God has good plans for us and sin prevents Him from leading us into that blessing. Sin is the choice to do something our way, contrary to the leadership of God. God is the author of life and knows what it takes to provide for life. Sin produces death because it is contrary to God and to His wisdom. Follow God and live - that message is everywhere in the bible.

We often sin because we hurt. All people need love, acceptance, and leadership. God promises to meet all of those needs through the Sprit - He is our comfort (love), provides fellowship (acceptance), and offers counsel (leadership). When we connect with God, we can receive all of these things and be made whole. Our hearts can be filled, so to speak. When we are disconnected from God, our hearts become empty. It's at this time that we often turn to sin as a remedy for the pain of an empty heart. Only the love of God can fill an empty heart. Sin is man's attempt to fill his own heart; to find a little relief; to escape the pain of life. As we grow in our relationship with God, we learn how to recognize when we are disconnected from God by the desire for sin that sometimes rises within. We can sense our own "heart level" and use that nudge to step back into fellowship with God.

So why did Israel have the law? The bible says in Gal 3:19 that it was "added because of transgressions till the Seed should come." And in verse 24 that it "was our tutor to bring us to Christ." Like a child needs rules and laws provided by the parents for protection - Israel needed those laws because they had very little love for God and weren't interested in pursuing a relationship with Him. God made a promise to Abraham (Gen 22:18) that He intended to keep. Specifically, God promised that from Abraham's descendents a savior would come that would bless the entire world. Israel was the promised vessel through which Jesus Christ would come. If Israel didn't follow God, like so many other ancient nations, they would cease to exist. God gave them the law to protect them and hence His ability to keep His promise to Abraham. He didn't give the law to other nations and He doesn't give the law to us. The law was not God's wish - it was added because of Israel's sin. God has no love for the law. The law had a purpose; that purpose has been fulfilled - Christ has come.

Focusing on the sin is legalism - and legalism kills. Here are 6 serious problems with legalism.

1) A legalistic person has a relationship with rules rather than a relationship with God.
2) Legalism produces a sense of self-righteousness in the person who follows the rules. Fake holiness. A self-righteousness that keeps them from seeing their need for God. Remember the pharisees? They had no love for God because they were convinced of their righteousness.
3) Legalism produces self-condemnation in those who recognize their own inability to obey consistently. "I'll never be able to do this!" People give up and leave Christianity in their hopelessness.
4) Since the heart is still empty, a legalist is tempted to think that there might be relief in that which is forbidden. People begin to think, "I'm so unhappy, but those people sure seem to be having a good time. Maybe I'll try what they're doing." For that person, the remedy for the emptiness must be sin. The legalist is drawn to sin by his own desperation for peace within his heart.
5) Legalism makes Christianity look unappealing to the lost; like a bunch of boring people trying to be good. Who wants that?
6) Legalism prevents people from learning to listen to the Holy Spirit and recognize when they are disconnected from God and how to reconnect. It puts them in a state of spiritual blindness.

Our job on earth is to reach the lost. Legalism prevents us from doing so and focuses us on the sin of others rather than on ways to love them. Commenting or pointing out the sin of others never led them to Christ. Its love that draws people, not condemnation, not the fear of hell. Have a relationship with someone, find out what moves them, get interested in that. If you want to save them - love them. The Holy Spirit is already convicting them of their sin and you'll have opportunities to teach them as they grow in their relationship with God and learn to listen to the Holy Spirit. We are called to exhort, edify, and comfort (1 Cor 14:3) - not criticize.

Legalism steals the life that God intended for us to have. He wants us to live wonderful lives. Full of joy and blessing. He wants us to fully enjoy the kingdom of God. A great deal of Christians today are nothing more than modern day pharisees.

So, again I quote Jesus from the book of Luke:

So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” (10:27)

Love God, love your neighbor - its about relationship, not religion.

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Is Marriage About Chemistry?

I spoke with a 29 year old woman the other day who is still single and eager, but not desperate, to get married. I've been married 13 years tomorrow - my anniversary. Sometimes I'm amazed we've made it this far, but we learned a few things along the way that made it possible. So in chatting with this woman, I realized how much my thinking about marriage has changed over the years (and how hard it would have been to learn this prior to being married).

One of the notions that I kept hearing in her language (I don't remember the words she used) was the importance of the right chemistry between two people. She mentioned friends who think they might have settled too quickly for the wrong guy. These kinds of mindsets are so common. I believe that kind of thinking is dangerous. One of the points I made with her was that there is no value in discussing chemistry or if two people are right for each other after they are married. Once married, it is quite harmful to wonder whether or not you are with the right person. Here is the right way to think about it: "you're married, your spouse is now the right person, start thinking about how to improve your relationship rather than decide if you should be in it."

The thinking that wonders if someone is the right person assumes there is something critical about the combination of two people that makes relationships work. I don't believe things work this way. What makes a relationship work is the choices that each person makes, not some innate quality within the individuals that cannot be altered.

Relationships operate according to principles. These principles can be learned. As I've said previously, we enter into relationships that benefit us and both parties in any relationship expect certain terms to be adhered to. In marriage those terms are written as vows. Many of the relationship difficulties people face in marriage come from violating those vows. The other difficulties people face in their marriages come from selfishness and what I call "following with love" rather than "leading with love."

When a person "follows with love" they say to themselves, "I'll do something loving after my spouse does something loving." A follower waits until they feel loved before they do loving things. When dating, the relationship is all about the way the other person makes us feel (chemistry). Once married, there is a job to do. There are bills to pay, chores to do, problems to solve. Marriage then requires teamwork. It stops being about how you feel (reactive) and starts being about what you do (proactive). People get resentful because they no longer feel what they used to feel when dating. They want to feel that same thing again. Therefore they only do what they need to do when they feel what they want to feel. Unfortunately this results in two people who rarely feel what they want to feel and rarely do what they need to do.

My wife and I practice "leading with love." This means that we attempt to do loving things (we don't always succeed) even when we don't feel loved, even when the other person is not doing anything that qualifies them to receive our love. If Christ loved us when we were still in sin and utterly unlovable, then we should be striving to be like Him and do the same. We're actually commanded to do so in 1 John 4:10-11 "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."

Christ loved while we were in sin and then asks us to love the same way. Wow. Tall order, but it is a principle that works. Plus, and here's the real benefit, the feelings of love follow "leading with love." The feelings of love are the result of loving actions. If I choose to do what I should do and my wife chooses to do what she should do, we both get the benefit of feeling the passion and the love that we enjoy so much. In God's economy things always work this way - the benefit follows the work.

The reason the woman I spoke with hears from friends that are wondering if they "settled" for the wrong person - they've lost "those loving feelings." (Think of the song - "You've lost that loving feeling") The feelings weren't lost, the couple just isn't doing what's necessary to produce them - serving each other. The person who wonders if they "settled" is assuming that if they had chosen a better spouse things would have worked out better. If already married - it doesn't do any good to wonder that! The marriage difficulties are not the result of marrying the wrong person, they are the result of not adhering to the principles of successful relationships.

Jesus Christ came to serve. As we learn to be more like him, especially in our relationships, we will find that our relationships will start to work. My marriage has lasted 13 years because my wife and I have realized that marriage is about serving, not being served. Loving first, not waiting to first be loved. We've learned that our marriage success comes from deciding that our marriage is more important than anything else. We have not given ourselves the liberty of deciding that "this isn't going to work out." We're going to make it work out. It's no longer about the chemistry - its about the choices.

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Government Demand and Vote Buying

I listened to a discussion this morning where people were discussing the cost of sending their kids to school. I noticed another article in a magazine this morning about college costs. Here is another one in the Washington Post. College is expensive and getting more so. Why?

Prices of all things move in order to equalize supply and demand. If lots of people want something, and they have the means to buy it, prices will rise. If they don't rise, for any reason, there will be a shortage. An increase in price is the only way to avoid the shortage.

When government "visionaries" or what libertarians call "central planners" decide to promote something that they consider to be in the best interest of society, they alter its price structure. In the college issue, politicians searching for votes see a large vote base among the "disadvantaged" youth who may not be able to afford college. In their thinking, its only right that government should help out these youngsters who cannot afford college.

Unfortunately, government assistance only shifts the group who cannot afford college from one disadvantaged group to a different disadvantaged group. You see, when government provides funds for a given purchase, there now exists in the marketplace buyers who previously could not afford that product - an increase in demand. Thus, the price increases to bring demand into equilibrium with supply.

There are only so many "seats" out there in colleges at a given moment in time. When government funds one group in order to help them buy those seats, the price of each seat goes up; therefore a new group is going to find them unaffordable. Now, a politician rather than the fairness of the market is determining who gets to go to college. That of course, is just the way the politicians like it!

When I say "fairness" of the market, I mean it in this respect: those who are able to buy are those who have acquired the means to buy via service to the marketplace. Politicians love to celebrate the "virtues" of the poor. As much as I feel sorry for the difficulties that a poor person faces, they are poor because they have not brought their abilities to the market and used their time, talent, and energy to improve the lives of others. We might be able to blame their decision not to participate in the free market on many factors, but the end result is that they don't serve humanity like a rich person does. Rich people are rich because they do something that others find valuable enough to spend their money on. (This conclusion could obviously provoke debate. Let me clarify by saying a lot of the system is corrupted already. In a true free market, with a government functioning as it should to preserve liberty, our wealth would be a product of our service alone.)

The fairness of the market allows those who serve their fellow man to buy goods and services from their fellow man. Government intrusion into the market alters this moral principle. The government takes from one group and gives it to another. Since the group that gets it didn't earn it, and yet they have access to goods and services from the market that they otherwise wouldn't have had, we must recognize that an injustice has occurred.

So in our college example: since prices have risen and a new group that otherwise could have afforded college now cannot, we must recognize that in their case, an injustice has occurred. Government demand drove prices up to help a favored group at the expense of 2 other groups - 1) the group that paid taxes for services they didn't receive and 2) the group that can't afford education because the price is now too high.

Of course, the problem here is not limited to college tuition. The same injustices occur wherever politicians venture. Take for example farm subsidies. When the government supports a crop, the price rises above its natural price making it less affordable for buyers and removing the ability for other suppliers to compete effectively - thus keeping the price high since competition is suppressed. The same thing happens to the price of medical services with government subsidized health care such as Medicaid.

Many might agree with the governments choice of groups to favor. Unfortunately, any favored group creates injustice. Again this is an example of the impact of vote buying at the expense of the liberty and at the expense of fairness.

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The War on Prosperity

Is there a war on against having any economic prosperity at all? I see article after article praising so many things that are so destructive to freedom and prosperity. My basic belief is that God is good and wants good things in the life of all humans. The bible says that God takes "no pleasure in the death of the wicked" (Ezekiel 33:11). And of course, everybody knows this one: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." (John 3:16,17) He loved the world, meaning, He loved all the people in the world, wanting to save each and every person that ever lived.

One of the ways God brings good into the world is through the principles that we see in scripture. You might say, He loves us via His commandments; His guidance to us; His word to us gives life. Why? Because through that instruction/ commandment/ guidance/ principle/ word we learn how life works and how to live. That's why, for the most part (some have other good reasons), those on the right are in favor of policies that increase liberty and reduce government regulation and involvement. "For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Gal 5:13,14)

God wants us to be free because liberty is mankind's best hope for peace on earth. When man is free he takes care of himself by taking care of his fellow man. When man is a slave, he has no incentive to do anything with excellence or to innovate or be creative or to in any way improve his lot in life or that of his neighbor. Just do what "master" tells you to. God hates that.

So if it looks like there is a war against prosperity going on out there - there probably is. The bible clearly states that we are a world at war. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12) God's plan is opposed. He has an enemy. If God desires to bring good into the world via freedom and liberty - you can bet there will be a war on freedom and liberty by the spiritual forces that oppose God. That opposition can be seen everywhere in our society.

Here is just one example among thousands. This article which I just came across in the Washington Post finds a few people who are upset by the environmental impact of drilling for oil. This is such a common tactic and so sad. There are so many "tactics" of economic warfare on display here.

This article discusses the "terrible" damage oil drilling was doing in Canada to satisfy the "unquenched US thirst for fuel." Ugh, how about the whole world's thirst for fuel? It's not just the US - the whole world needs energy - life requires energy. People need to move, they do it with fuel. Basically all of the goods and services available in our markets today required the consumption of energy in their development and delivery. Its not the just lives we live here in America. I don't care who you are, your lifestyle depends on oil. You wants medicines in remote Africa to help the poor. It takes oil. You want an apple as a snack. It takes oil to get it to you. You want to turn the lights on, it took oil in about 1000 different ways to make the bulb available and to provide the electricity.

Drilling for oil is not destroying the world. Not drilling for oil would destroy the world! Can you image billions of people having no access to the products and services available to them right now. The world prior to the industrial revolution was not some pristine peaceful paradise. It was the industrial revolution that made man mobile, and the machine that freed his muscles so that his brain could start working to produce real prosperity. We live in a wonderful world compared to the one that existed 200 or 300 years ago. Oil made much of that possible. Oil is the current fuel for the ideas that make life great.

Oil is opposed because prosperity is opposed. The left in this country needs a permanent underclass - a permanent poor. It gives them their purpose and their voting base. As a result they oppose prosperity, they oppose economic freedom, they oppose liberty. Oh they give the appearance of being for freedom, but only in those areas that also destroy life, such as the destruction of the family, the celebration of easy sex, the advance of homosexuality, the destruction of the work ethic via welfare, etc. If, in general, it hurts people, the left is for it. But rest assured, they'll have a great sounding reason for being for it.

That's the case with oil. The reasons sound so legitimate: "Drilling for oil is damaging the environment, what kind of world are we going to leave our children?!" That is a tactic of a diabolical agenda to destroy liberty and destroy the blessings of life.

By the way, free markets are also solving the environmental impact problem in amazing ways. This article shows how garbage dumps are being turned into golf courses. Its happening all over the place (Palm Beach Post article). Land is valuable. If its in a place that people want to be, there will be an economic incentive to clean up those areas and somehow take advantage of the transformation of the land by the oil recovery. I've seen some mining sites turned into beautiful mountain lake communities. Just keep the government out of it and awesome things will happen.

Yes, there is a war on prosperity. Actually, its a war on everything that enhances life. Environmentalism isn't about the environment, its about shackling businesses, the engine of prosperity.

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New York State of Mind (i.e. Socialism)

Well, we got our first ticket in New York - for talking on the cell phone while driving. Wow, this one really bothers me. I was out of town on a business trip, my wife was driving home from work, and we were catching up on the day. She was pulled over by an unmarked police car who was saving the public from my dangerous wife.

I read recently that in terms of liberty, Kansas ranks first among the states. New York , not surprisingly, ranks last. I have not lived in New York before, but I can definitely see the practical reality a "low liberty" state.

Here are some of the other ways I've seen it. When you buy gas at a gas station, you can't check your oil. No, there is no law against checking your oil (well not that I know of), but there is a law against the catch that holds the dispenser and allows the gas to fill without you manually holding it. So I can't check my oil while my gas is filling. Oh, and forget about using the gas cap. There is actually a sign on the gas pumps that says, "It is illegal to use your gas cap to hold fuel dispenser."

Building permits and property taxes are another real New York State socialist fallout. We're looking for a house. In that search we've talked to sellers who have either made changes or tried to make changes to their home. They all describe the process as painful. We've also noticed that for a tiny, tiny two bedroom house, property taxes are about $6000-$8000 a year. Buy an average size home and you'll be spending more like $12,000 a year. Who's house is it? If I buy the house, its my land, my buildings, and my responsibility to maintain. But the local government can charge me huge amounts every year to live in my own house. It should be illegal. They have to do it because they've become so socialist already. The governments are doing so much more than they should be and they've got to pay for it.

What about seatbelt laws? Its my car, its my body. Leave me alone about my seat belt. All these laws are making constant suspects out of all of us. We're constantly under the threat of forgetting some law and getting caught. Now they are using night vision goggles in some places to catch those rotten people who forgot to put on their seatbelt. The justification is the "cost" on the medical system of people who were in accidents not wearing their seatbelts. Again, that's a problem of socialism, not liberty. If the government insists on making others pay for my medical bills, then they'll have an inappropriate interest in my health.

And of course, smoking. They are increasingly making it illegal to smoke anywhere. I'm not a smoker, so it doesn't affect me. But it sure as heck affects my liberty. Why? Because people are increasingly getting it in their heads that if they don't like the behaviors of their neighbors, they'll just make those behaviors illegal. Folks - that is not the way liberty is supposed to work!

Liberty is the only way mankind has ever been able to provide for any measure of "human perfectibility." Do you want peace on earth, harmony between individuals, high general prosperity, and an increase in human dignity? These come as people work on what they deem to be in their own best-interest, which can only result as they focus on the needs of others in a competitive marketplace. Except for envy, in a free society, people stop focusing on what is wrong with others and focus on doing their own job well. But when given the power to take from others through the hand of government, and the power to change another's behavior through the hand of government - we start to talk about what we'd like our neighbor to change rather than focus on what we need to change. We take on a victim mindset. "My happiness will come as others change." Freedom declares: "My happiness will come as I take care of the needs of others in the market." When we stand before government with our hand out, we stop producing, we stop innovating, and we start seeing all that's wrong with our neighbor.

So back to cell phones - over the last 10 years there has been an increasing effort to limit their use. Of course, this effort is made in the interest of "public safety." First of all, that is not a legitimate function of government. Its job is to ensure that the exercise of my rights does not interfere with the free exercise of the rights of my fellow man. I cannot be allowed to bring harm to my fellow man via my freedom. But the government has to be very careful in the exercise of this power because it is a slippery slope. Everything can become an interest of public safety.

I believe that limits on cell phone use are "lifestyle over liberty" issues. Not "preventing harm" issues. The science documenting cell phone use and accidents is not able to show cause, only association. They might say, lots of people were on their cell phone when involved in an accident last year. Their accident was associated with their cell phone use. But they can't say, the cell phone use caused the accident. Limiting the cell phone use may or may not decrease accidents.

Consider bluejeans - yeah, bluejeans. Studies would probably reveal that in a large number of accidents, people were wearing bluejeans. We should begin a public awareness campaign of the dangers of bluejean wearing drivers. It is important to save lives! The absurdity is obvious - but the analogy holds. If you can't show cause, don't regulate.

Lots of things cause car accidents. Are we going to regulate every one of them? Eating, drinking, talking, makeup, changing the radio station, fiddling with the kids, looking for an exit, looking for a certain store, looking at the hot girl in the next car. If you're going to make cell phone use illegal - you better start legislating - we're along way from safe "publics" as it stands now.

I suspect the cell phone bans began more with a slant toward "getting even with the rich" mentality. Early on, only wealthy people had cell phones. The sight of a "dirty rich bastard" talking on his cell phone pissed a lot of people off and they were going to do something about it. Now that everyone has cell phones (thank you free market) we had to find a better reason - public safety.

An article in the Washington Post discusses our need for political change. Wow, is that ever necessary. But I don't think it will happen until people stop looking to government for their livelihood and start realizing how much government destroys their opportunity for real freedom, real prosperity, and real happiness.

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