Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Who Do You Trust?

Last evening President Obama gave his first speech before a joint session of Congress. I hesitated to listen, but decided that I needed to hear his plans for our nation's recovery from this financial debacle we have created. Not since the days of Ronald Reagan have we heard someone who can sway the masses by his rhetoric. As I listened to President Obama I thought to myself, "If only he were trying to convince people to become followers of Jesus Christ." But, alas, that was not his message.

As I later began to sift through what he said - and I absolutely refuse to listen to those media "talking heads" who think they have it all figured out - I came to the conclusion that what the President really wanted the American people to do was to trust him. He would provide the way of escape from our difficult times. He had the answers for the catastrophic problems that confront us. He wanted to be the leader, along with the members of Congress, to right the faltering ship of state.

Should I, as a believer in Jesus Christ, place my confidence and trust in my nation's governmental leaders to resolve the crisis we are in? And I began to ponder just who the President was asking me to put my confidence in. First, he asked that I trust him. Has he had any experience of leading a business through a crisis time? Has he ever worked with a nonprofit organization to help it to find footing in uncertain times? Has he ever had to file a business report or create a budget for a business that was nearing the brink of bankruptcy? Has he ever had to lay off staff and employees because the funds simply were not there? Has he ever had to sit down with a bank president to formulate a loan for a small business?

Second, he asked me to have confidence in the members of Congress. Now that is a scary proposition. As the television cameras panned the House Chambers last night, I recognized faces that I have seen in those Chambers dating back to the 1970's. They have become professional politicians. They are so far removed from knowing what the real world is like. Have they ever faced the threat of cancellation of health insurance because they could no longer afford the premiums? Have they ever had their salaries slashed and benefits curtailed because of budget shortfalls? When was the last time they were gainfully employed in a real job that demanded 8 hours a day or longer? When was the last time they were told that they would be furloughed for several weeks without pay?

These are the people who have answers for those of us who are presently experiencing health insurance premiums which we can no longer pay; salaries which have been cut and benefits which have been curtailed; and unpaid furloughs from work if we want to keep our jobs. I don't believe that too many of the politicians inside the Washington Beltway truly understand the pain we are experiencing. But, they will not come up with the solutions. We just have to trust them.

I am reminded of the closing verse of the second chapter of Isaiah. It reads: "Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?" What this ancient prophet is saying is this: Why should we put our confidence in the plans of men? After all he cannot even control the number of breaths he takes." If the prophet were here on this 25th day of February 2009, I think he would advise us to put our confidence and trust in the Lord. To draw our encouragement from His Word and not from governmental initiatives. To receive hope for our tomorrow through a commitment to His promises and not from those delivered by politicians.

I think I probably would have derived more hope from President Obama's speech last night if he had been as honest as was the ancient King Jehoshaphat, when confronted with a crisis of similar proportions. "We don't know what to do, but our eyes are upon you" (2 Chronicles 20:12). I believe God has a solution...but our leaders are certainly not calling upon Him for directions. "There is a way that seems right unto man, but in the end it leads to death" (Proverbs 14:12). We certainly are living the first part of that proverb...hopefully it will not result in the consequences recorded in the last part.

It was Andre Crouch who wrote these words many years ago. They still speak encouragement to my heart: "Through it all, through it all, I've learned to trust in Jesus, I've learned to trust in God; through it all, through it all, I've learned to depend upon His Word."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Stimulus Bill: To Stimulate What?

Yesterday President Obama signed into law the largest publicly funded spending bill ever seen in American history. When you factor in the interest that will be paid on this debt the amount soars to over $1.3 trillion. Now I don't know about you, but my mind doesn't do well with numbers that large. But it is a lot of money...which, by the way, our country simply does not have stashed in a bank somewhere. we will have to borrow that money from someone else...probably the Chinese or the Saudis. Those two nations already hold enough of our debt that, if they decided to ask for their money back, ... well, you think General Motors has problems.

Now you might be saying, "Max, are you against helping people out? Don't you want new jobs to be created?" I am not against helping people out, nor am I against new jobs. I am just against using the federal government as the tool for the creation of those jobs. I am struggling to find a paragraph within the United State Constitution that declares it is the function of the government to ensure that everyone has a job. It is not there. The matter of employment is a function of private enterprise. Governmental involvement always includes this disclaimer: "strings attached." And somehow those "strings" are detrimental to private enterprise.

Should we allow businesses to fail? What about General Motors and Chrysler? Let me respond by asking you, "Should we have bailed out the struggling airline industry?" If we had, perhaps we would still see airplanes flying the Eastern and TWA symbol, just to name a couple. No, we allowed the market to determine which airlines would survive. Perhaps that is what we need to do with the auto industry. Perhaps we don't need three major car manufacturers in America any longer. Perhaps we can get by with two domestic producers. Historically the market has always corrected itself. But I fear that governmental interference now has changed how the market will operate forever.

A second problem I have with this "stimulus bill" is that it continues to feed our growing entitlement mentality. If I have a problem...don't try to solve it myself...ask the government to solve it for me. I have taken out a bad mortgage. Instead of seeking to work with my creditors to resolve the matter...I just look for a government bailout. Where has the American work initiative gone? Where have those principles that once made America the hardest working and most productive nation on the planet gone? We have become complacent because, after all, the government will take care of us.

Will this huge spending bill work? According to a recent Rasmussen poll, 70% of Americans believe it will not! It is interesting to listen to even those who voted for the bill who are now having second thoughts about its success. It seems to me that the only thing this "stimulus bill" truly can guarantee is a greater deficit, resulting in an increase tax burden upon my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Before I close I know that some of you are asking this question: What does this have to do with end-times? Simply this: The Bible tells us that in the end times there will be a one-world government that will dictate who can operate businesses, including manufacturing and selling. Is this "stimulus bill" part of that one-world plan? I am not sure, but it is a step in that direction; which can only mean that I need to be alert and aware because the King is coming!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Israeli Elections - What's Next?

Yesterday Israelis went to the polls in national elections. At stake were the 120 seats in the Knesset - the Israeli Parliament - and the leadership of the country. The reasons for the early elections were the resignation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert because of political and financial scandals that involved him, and the inability of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni - the successor to the leadership of Olmert's Kadima Party - to form a coalition government.

Israeli politics is fascinating. There are a host of political parties in Israel representing just about every political and theological position imaginable. In yesterday's elections, twelve parties received enough votes to gain seats in the Knesset. And there were other political parties that received no seats in the Knesset. Because it takes a majority of 61 seats to control the Knesset, and with the winning party in yesterday's election - the Kadima Party - receiving only 28 seats, the party leader must woo others into a coalition government. In this case, Tzipi Livni would need to woo 33 other MKs (Member of Knesset) to join with her.

How is this wooing done? It is through the offering of Cabinet-status positions, the two most important being Minister of Defense and Foreign Minister. So, Livni will begin her wooing.

But what made yesterday's election so unique is that, although the Kadima Party won the most seats in the newly to-be-formed Knesset, the runner-up party - Likud, under the leadership of Benyamin Netanyahu - actually is in the stronger position to form a coalition government. The Likud Party is center-right party while the Kadima Party is more a center-left party. And in yesterday's elections, those parties on the right (those holding to more nationalistic, militaristic points of view) won 65 of the 120 Knesset seats. This would make Netanyahu more capable of forming a new government, although his party finished second.

So, what happens next? Israeli President Shimon Peres will visit with all the parties who won seats in yesterday's election. Then he will make the determination as to which party would have the best chance of forming a coalition that could govern all Israel. That decision will come sometime after February 18 when the election results are fully certified. Until then, the wheeling and dealing will take place between Kadima and Livni and Likud and Netanyahu for coalition partners. It should provide some very interesting viewing.

And, underlying all this is the Obama Factor. It is a certainty that Livni is more closely aligned to the Middle East philosophical positions of President Obama than is Netanyahu. How much influence will Washington place upon President Peres remains to be seen, but you can be assured that the pressure will be there.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Potentially Scary Scenes and a Word of Hope

Tensions continue to rise in the Middle East. An uneasy ceasefire remains in place along the Gaza Strip between Hamas and the IDF. Several splinter terrorist groups have tested that ceasefire with rocket and grenade attacks and IDF troops have responded with returned fire. But no serious military incursions have resulted because of these sporadic attacks.

Meanwhile, this week news was received of the first Iranian satellite being put into orbit. That nation now joins a host of other nations with communication, spy, and other types of satellites in orbit. Might possibly be a traffic jam there in space with all the stuff floating around. Of course the concern with this latest news from Iran is that the potential now exists for the Iranians to detonate a nuclear devise within the bowels of space. What would happen if they detonated a bomb that had the potential to seriously damage, if not destroy, the electrical systems of the world. Can you envision what the consequences would be? As one person told me recently during a discussion of the damage caused by an EMI (electro-magnetic impulse bomb): Mankind would revert to the cave-man days. Without electricity all of our lives would be severely handicapped: no computers, no heating or air conditioning, no gasoline (pumps run off electricity), no microwaves, no ATMs, and the list goes on. A single rocket fired from the deserts of Iran could create a world crisis. Just ask the people in Western Kentucky what life is like in the absence of electricity.

And, what about another 9-11 attack? Is it possible? Certainly there are individuals and groups around the world that would delight to see another major attack upon our nation. It is interesting that today former Vice President Dick Cheney published an interview in which he said that a 9-11 type of attack is very likely as President Obama scales back on the imprisonment of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay. The terrorists might believe that the consequences are not as severe as they had been in the past. Can you imagine what a 9-11 type of attack would have upon our fragile economic structure right now? Or upon our fragile American psyche? There might not be any recovery.

Well I have just shared with you two very scary scenarios. But let me also share a very encouraging scenario: Jesus Christ is coming back. And what a day that will be. That is our hope! That is the news that brings peace to our hearts even in the midst of disastrous times. So I need to keep looking up because it is from there that my redemption will soon draw nigh. And so should you.