Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Nanny State

             Since when did hard work and “putting one’s nose to the grindstone” become evil? Of course, I’m referring to the recent objections voiced by the President regarding the industriousness of the American people. While speaking to a group of supporters a few days ago, Mr. Obama said, "If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." What?

I can only conclude from such a remark that Mr. Obama is striking at the very core of our society in a shameless attempt to roil up the latent class warfare debate leading into the presidential election this November.

The following are some of my reflections on this topic:

1) I’m sick and tired of the incessant business-bashing that successful American entrepreneurs and industrialists are forced to endure. We would be in a sorry state of affairs had President John F. Kennedy taken a critical and condescending attitude toward businesses and industry when he challenged our best and brightest in 1961 to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. We did accomplish that feat, but only because the government got out of the way and allowed enterprising Americans to go with their dreams.

2) When I got my first paying job at 15, I was thrilled to be working for a well established grocery company, S.S. Pierce Foods. This chain of stores began in a location on Boston Harbor in 1831. Had Mr. Samuel Stillman Pierce not been willing to take risks, there would never have been this successful business. I first worked in one of those stores in Wellesley, Massachusetts on Christmas of 1964. I stocked the shelves, swept and mopped floors, and tore up cardboard boxes, along with taking the trash to the bins behind the store. My point is: You don’t get a job working for unsuccessful people. You get a job because someone had an idea and they made it work. They took the risks and succeeded. That creates jobs!

3) Gifts and talents are distributed throughout the human race. Some folks are much more successful in such ventures for any number of reasons. But with very few exceptions successful business people plow their profits back into the business they have created. They should not be vilified and castigated for their successes. They should be applauded and encouraged to do even more.

While in seminary in the mid-70s, I entered into a business partnership with another seminary student during my second year that we called, The King’s Custodians, a commercial janitorial business. Kelland was married and already had two kids. Isaura and I were married just prior to beginning seminary. We each ponied up $100, plus Kelland’s dad loaned us $300. With this we bought some supplies and used equipment, plus we had all necessary printing done. We went several months before landing our first account. We worked hard, with our wives helping as well. After acquiring several accounts we began to hire other Bible College and Seminary students. When I graduated the following June we were employing 15 workers, and at the end of each month we paid our federal and state taxes, we paid our employees first, and then Kelland and I paid ourselves $3000/month. We routinely gave our employees bonuses (for performance mostly), but also to be a blessing as we had been blessed. We also helped a few of our employees start their own businesses as well. In the midst of this Isaura and I had Laura, our first child. When I moved back to California to take a church position, I sold out my half of the business to Kelland for $10,000. It was a great experience. Oh, we paid Kelland’s dad back, too.

So let me explain something at this point. The government did not clean those office buildings for us – we did! The government did not buy that equipment and supplies – we did! The government did not get those new accounts for us – we did!

In fact, this is what I want the government to do for me. 1) Protect our nation by providing a standing army, 2) Maintain roads and highways for easier means of transportation, 3) Establish a ruling body to create and implement laws that serve “we the people,” And 4) Make the environment right for trade and commerce. Beyond that, the government should stay out of the way and quit messing with “we the people.”

The Constitution of the United States actually provides a very short list of those things the federal government should do: borrow money, regulate commerce with foreign nations and between States, immigration, bankruptcy law, coin money, post offices, patents, punish piracy on the high seas, declare war, raise an army, and maintain a navy. And it was only allowed to collect taxes for executing these few powers. (John Pickerill, The Role of Federal Government, October 12, 2011)

All other government powers were to be placed in the hands of the State governments where they would then trickle down to the county, city, and local governments as appropriate and as needed. A big fear the Founding Fathers had was a central federal government that grew too big and too demanding; a federal government that would exercise bully-power over the States; and a federal government that began to take away the rights of the States and the individuals within those States.

I have been saying this for years: I do not need, nor want the government’s help. If I need a job, and I am both mentally and physically capable of performing the job, then I will go out and find a job. If I cannot find a job, then I will create one. You say, “But what about people who haven’t been able to do that?” Then you provide them with temporary assistance. The American people have never begrudged helping anyone who is strapped or in need. But that person who is down on their luck should never stay in that condition – and that’s what the federal government has created – people dependent on the government. We’ve become a “Nanny State.”

I’ll visit the problems inherent in out-of-control government in future articles.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Only Forgotten

I had no idea being a grandparent could be so much fun!

My daughter, Laura, sent me a text message informing me of yet another classic statement made by our granddaughter, Alyssa Grace, who is four and a half. Here’s what happened.

Laura was doing nightly prayers with Alyssa. You never quite know what Alyssa is going to thank God for in her prayers, but on this particular evening she was thanking God for “his only forgotten Son!” After managing to squelch a burst of laughter, Laura attempted to correct her little darling by saying, “No, Alyssa. It’s only begotten Son.” But Alyssa was quick to defend her choice of words, “No, mommy. It’s only forgotten Son!”

Besides this being funny, it got me to thinking. Jesus, God’s only begotten son, came into the world to save us from our sin. It seems that many people have forgotten this. He is the only one who can change our sin nature so that we are no longer controlled by our sin nature. Instead, God says in the Bible that he will conform us into the image of Jesus, his Son. The thought of that transition, going from a sin nature to a Christ-like nature, is staggering! Have we forgotten this basic truth of the Bible?

The verse that Alyssa was referring to is John 3:16. If you’ve ever watched a sporting event on television, you’ve no doubt seen someone in the crowd holding a sign which reads: John 3:16. This verse, taken from the gospel of John in the New Testament, is considered to be the entire Bible in one verse. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The nexus of the Christian faith is this single truth: Jesus, the Son of God, gave himself as a sacrifice for the sinners. That’s you and me.

In the busy-ness of our day-to-day lives, we can easily forget that we are but mortal creatures, and that there is an end to our earthly lives, designated by the fact that we all will face death sooner or later. Therefore it is the wise person who contemplates the ramifications of their decisions now. It’s easy to put off making a decision to trust your soul to Jesus. After all, there’s always tomorrow. But is there?

The basic philosophy of the world is “eat, drink, and be merry.” Or as the old Schlitz Beer commercial used to admonish us: “You only go around once in life so you’ve got to grab for all the gusto you can!” This TV ad from yesteryear was very clever and sounded like good advice. But there’s a problem – the underlying philosophy is fatalism, and faith in God is left out of the equation entirely!

Without realizing it, my granddaughter has hit upon man’s basic problem: We have forgotten God’s only begotten Son! Or put another way: “We’ve forgotten the begotten.”

You may be asking yourself what “begotten” means. Okay, good. Here’s the definition of Jesus as the only begotten: Jesus is utterly unique, in his person and saving role.” In other words, Jesus was absolutely unique in being our Savior. God the Father did not have a Plan B.

Other faiths will lead you to perform sacrificial acts that supposedly put you in God’s good graces, but don’t you believe it! As a sinner you cannot do a thing to improve your standing before God. Jesus already paid the price of your sin for you. Your role in the salvation equation is to accept Jesus as Savior. Have you forgotten this?

Let me encourage you today to surrender your life to Jesus and invite him into your heart to be your Lord and Savior. To confirm this truth, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.”

Oh, and when you pray – don’t forget to thank God for his only begotten Son, Jesus!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Closet Terrorist?

           I am venturing into a topic that is fraught with confusion, misinformation, and a whole lot of misunderstanding, depending on how you view the topic. It has to do with terrorism in general and what is a terrorist in particular.

          For some time now I have been debating with myself whether I wanted to step into this mine field. What pushed me over the top has been the continual defining of a terrorist by our own government, specifically the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). For the past several years I have noticed that various groups are singled out as being potentially terroristic, at least from the point of view of the DHS.

           On the web site for International Terrorism and Security Research I found this description for terrorism that is intentionally ambiguous. “Terrorism is not new, and even though it has been used since the beginning of recorded history it can be relatively hard to define. Terrorism has been described variously as both a tactic and strategy; a crime and a holy duty; a justified reaction to oppression and an inexcusable abomination. Obviously, a lot depends on whose point of view is being represented. Terrorism has often been an effective tactic for the weaker side in a conflict.” .

          All this begs the question: What or who then is a terrorist?

          Well, if you go by the definition of terrorism as provided by the DHS, I would have to say that I clearly qualify as a terrorist. Admittedly, this is a shocking revelation to me. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

          Terrorism, according to DHS, is defined under the Homeland Security Act of 2002, as “any activity that involves an act dangerous to human life or potentially destructive of critical infrastructure or key resources; is a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State or other subdivision of the United States in which it occurs; and is intended to intimidate or coerce the civilian population or influence or affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping. See Section 2 (15), Homeland Security Act of 2002, P.L. 107−296, 116 Stat. 2135 (2002).”

          So here’s my beef: The definition of terrorism is just vague enough to place almost anything or anyone under its heading.

          Some of those identified loosely as potential terrorists are: American military or retired military members, especially those who have been in combat (law enforcement personnel also qualify); Americans who believe in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, particularly the 2nd Amendment – the right to bear arms; Americans who are subjectively classified as “right-wing,” or “far right-wing;” Americans who identify themselves as Christian – particularly Evangelicals; Americans who regard themselves philosophically and politically as being Conservative; Americans who believe in the sanctity of life and are opposed to abortion; Americans who see a danger in an overgrown and out of control federal government (this can also include state and local governments);

In studying this topic I read the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) report, entitled, “Hot Spots of Terrorism and Other Crimes in the United States, 1970-2008,” published in January of this year. The definition of terrorism used by the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), which is maintained by START, is: “the threatened or actual use of illegal force by non-state actors, in order to attain a political, economic, religious or social goal, through fear, coercion or intimidation.”

It is both fascinating and chilling to see what these researchers suggest in identifying those who might be potential terrorists. Mind you, this is not aimed at foreigners. This is targeting American citizens. The following is a sampling of a list of descriptions of potential terrorists taken from the report. They are, “fiercely nationalistic (as opposed to universal and international in orientation, such as a one world government, or the U.S. being under United Nations authority); suspicious of centralized federal authority; reverent of individual liberty; believe in conspiracy theories; a belief that one’s personal and/or national ‘way of life’ is under attack; a belief in the need to be prepared for an attack either by participating in paramilitary preparations and training or survivalism; impose strict religious tenets or laws on society (fundamentalists); insert religion into the political sphere; those who seek to politicize religion; supported political movements for autonomy; anti-abortion; anti-Catholic; and anti-nuclear.” You get the picture.

So by our own government’s definition of terrorism and terrorists, I would have to conclude conclusively that I am a terrorist. Gosh, and all this time I thought I was just a red-blooded American male who loves his country.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Lady Liberty

On this day two-hundred and thirty-six years ago our nation was formed when a handful of courageous men came together in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to sign the greatest document of liberty ever penned in the history of the world – the Declaration of Independence. We who are Americans by birth or by choice have a gift of immense value that others from foreign lands still long for. It is the gift of freedom.

The Statue of Liberty, given to the United States as a gift from France in recognition of our joint friendship established during the Revolutionary War, has these memorable words engraved for all to see and consider, entitled, The New Colossus: Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land; here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. ‘Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ cries she with silent lips. ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me; I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’”

Though the Statue of Liberty was to have been built in time for the centennial celebration of the United States, the necessary monies at that time were in short supply in both nations. It was ultimately completed in 1886. Another interesting side-note is the story behind “The New Colossus,” a sonnet written by poet Emma Lazarus. When she was first approached with the idea of writing a special piece for the commemoration of the statue, she refused. A friend prodded her to reconsider at which point she penned the now famous poem. However, though written in 1883, it was not used in the ceremony in 1886. Emma Lazarus died in 1887, never knowing that her poem would resurface in 1902, whereupon it was selected to be cast in bronze and placed in the interior part of the foundation of the statue.

In addition, the Statue of Liberty was not intended to be a symbol of freedom for immigrants to America – but that’s what happened. This occurred in part due to Emma Lazarus’ poem, and because the United States had become that shining beacon on a hill. For some seventy years immigrants coming to America were greeted by the Lady located on Ellis Island, New York Harbor. In the poem, Lazarus mentions “the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.” The twin cities were, in 1883, New York City located on Manhattan Island, and the City of Brooklyn located at the extreme western end of Long Island. The two cities would eventually merge.

America has a rich heritage of people groups coming from all over the globe. This is significant because to be an American has nothing to do with a particular race of people, or an ethnic group, nor did it have to do with certain political, philosophical, or religious ways of thinking. Instead, it has everything to do with personal freedom. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses . . .” That’s the warp and woof of America. Oh sure, we’ve had our problems with immigration since the earliest days of our nation. But, we have always managed to work through those issues, ultimately extending the hand of friendship and the hope of freedom to all who hunger for such lofty ideals.

As we celebrate our nation’s birthday this Wednesday, let’s remember that we are a people blessed by God for having the privilege of living in the United States of America. Many times in her history there have been those ready to write her off. But not so fast! There are still those huddled masses who would be free and who long to come to our shores. And there are those who were born here who are rising up in large numbers to have their say in an effort to retain the freedoms and liberties we still enjoy, and not only for themselves, but for all who are “yearning to breathe free.”

Despite the challenges we face as a nation, both within our borders, whether it has to do with illegal immigration, or a declining economy; or outside of our borders, facing the challenges of foreign conflict and armed military intrusion, the United States of America is still the “land of the free, and the home of the brave.”

It is my fervent prayer that God will yet pour out his bountiful blessing on our nation, causing our hearts to turn back to him who has given this country of ours such abundance. We, of all people, should ever be giving him our thanks.

Take a moment today, as you spend time with friends and family, to personally thank God for America and the liberties and freedoms we enjoy. Happy Birthday, America!