Friday, November 09, 2012

I once broke into someone's privacy fence...

I once broke into someone's privacy fence, went to the back of the house and began breaking windows.  It all started when I left the house on the way to the printer to pick up some envelopes for the church.  I had to stop for gas, and as I was pumping the gas, I smelled something funny.  It was the same smell my GI Joe action figures made when I was younger so it caught my attention.  A few blocks away there was a brownish smoke rising, so I decided to drive over and see the obvious army of GI Joes.  What I found was a house that had just caught fire.  Now I am no hero, but being the only one there, I began to yell and pound on the door.  No one answered.  A semi-truck driver arrived and we kicked in the front door.  Again I yelled but no one answered.  I tried to go in but the smoke was thick.  I was scared.  Instead of going in, I broke into their privacy fence and went from window to window breaking them.  Yelling inside.  No answer.  The dog barked.  The fire trucks arrived, a paramedic bandaged up my bloody hands.  I left and got my printing.  As I left the print shop, I saw a car stop at the end of the road-block, a woman got out and yelled at the cop, "That is my house."  She is panicked.  Crying. She runs down the street.  I leave there shaken.  It was a Thursday.  I arrived back at about 10 that morning and my pastor tells me that I can have the rest of the day off.  I am still shaken.  Finally, around noon, I called the TV channel, because I am overwhelmed with the fear that someone was in that house, that maybe the panicked lady had a child home sick that day.  The person comes back to the phone.  The house was empty.  I am still shaken.  10 years later as I type this, I am still shaken.  I hope that I will always be shaken.

Over the last week I have been shaken.  Some would define all the virtual yelling and breaking of glass as hate.  I do not.  It is the overwhelming sense that the house is on fire.  I am on scene, and something must be done.  What is first classified as hate, ultimately will be seen as love.  And conversely, what is now seen as love, acceptance and tolerance will ultimately be seen as the greatest form of hatred.  Condoleezza Rice wrote in her biography that "Today's headlines and history's judgments are rarely the same."  Be careful how you define hate.  Be careful how you define love.  Be careful how you respond to the smell of GI Joes burning in the distance.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A tax is Attacks is A tax

A wise man once said there is no such thing as a free lunch.  Keynesian economics says to tax the rich and discourage saving so that people are encouraged to keep their money flowing.  Each time it is spent, it can be taxed and the more people spend the better it is for the poor.

 Politicians promise lower taxes and free healthcare, but the money has to come from somewhere.  When you tax Big Oil Companies to pay for your Green Energy, gas prices go up to compensate.  When gas prices go up, everything goes up.

A family making $50,000 a year spends about to $15,000 on  gas & groceries alone.  The spike in gas prices have driven up the cost of living.  On the flip side, a family making $500,000 a year spends... you guessed it, about $15,000 a year on gas and groceries.  So the impact on the middle class is 10 times more severe.  The doubling of gas prices in the last 4 years is the equivalent of a $7,500 tax increase on every middle and lower class family!

Bottom line.  There are always consequences.  For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  You cannot tax the rich without taxing the poor.  You cannot raise the poor out of poverty by raising taxes on anyone.  Taxes and regulations on big corporations are strangling our lower and middle classes.

Class warfare is smoke and mirrors.  A tax on one American is an attack on all Americans.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

2012 General Election Florida Amendments

This year’s election is not simply about the White House.  There are 4 pages of items up for vote and anyone who plans on going into the voter booth without doing their homework will be shocked and amazed at the shear number of confusing amendments and options this year.  Everyone needs to vote, even if you are not in favor of a particular candidate for president.  There are many other important races and it is my hope that by going public with my ballot that you will be challenged to do some research of your own.  I realize that our vote is a private matter but I make mine public not so that you can attack me on the points where we likely will disagree, but rather to help you understand my perspective on the issues at hand.  (Initially, I put this together to help my wife sort through the mess as she has little time or stomach for politics.)

Number 1 - 100% Yes
Because it prohibits the government from forcing individuals to purchase health insurance. (Obamacare) And prohibits the government from penalizing companies to provide healthcare options that violates their conscience.

Number 2 - 75% No
Expansion of property tax discounts to injured veterans who were not residents prior to their injury.  This is one of those laws that makes for great pretense but little substance.  We already give this discount to residents, to expand it nationally sounds patriotic, but potentially puts a greater tax burden on the residents of the state.

Number 3 - 60% Yes
This law is just an update to an existing law that limits the amount of revenue our state government can collect.  Typically I would vote to keep our state from having the ability to collect greater revenue,(taxes) but in this case this amendment is just a provision to account for growth in population and inflation.

Number 4 - 60% No
For me this was not a strong no.  This is a great law if you are in the real estate development business, but what is a tax cut for some requires a tax increase for others.  To add additional homestead exemptions and slow the government’s ability to adjust property tax from 10% to 5% sound good, but someone’s got to pay and since I do not make my money flipping houses, I will vote no. 

Number 5 - 80% Yes
This is just good law.  It requires supreme court justices that are nominated from the governor to be confirmed by the legislature.  This will keep activist governors from appointing activist supreme court justices.  It will give elected officials greater power than appointed ones.  In addition, it streamlines the court system within the state to act in accordance with one another. (Rather than each court doing its own procedures)

Number 6 - 100% Yes
This law further strengthens existing laws that states that tax dollars be spent in the abortion industry.  It is one thing to say that abortion is not murder, it is another thing to require me to pay for it.

Number 8 - 60% Yes
This is another of those 60/40 in favor of votes for me.  I feel strongly in the separation of church and state, but our FL constitution prohibits support of ministries simply because they are based in religious efforts.  I am not saying that I want churches to be dependent on government aid, but I do not think a ministry such as Salvation Army should be discriminated against simply because they are associated with a church.  My vote is for Salvation Army to have the same access to public funds for their ministry as the secular ministry down the street.

Number 9 - 75% No
This is similar to amendment 2 where it sounds like a nice idea to give discounts to first responders and their spouses if they die as a result of their work.  Firemen who die in a fire are heroes and so are the policemen killed in the line of duty.  I do not argue this.  However, they all should have life insurance and this amendment even though it means well, is misguided.  We don’t need to amend our constitution and make things a constitutional right to provide breaks to our first responders.

Number 10 - 75% Yes
This bill is directed at small business owners who have “tangible property” that they are taxed on.  Real people call that “equipment.”  If a lawn care guy needs $25,000 worth of equipment, he is not rich, those are just the tools of his trade.  Releasing him on the taxes would help him better run his business.  On the other hand, this may also provide tax breaks for owners of 4 wheelers, jet skis and boats…  Not a strong yes, but I will hope that with the tax breaks the small biz guy hires someone else to work for him.

Number 11 - 80% No
More property tax breaks for specialized classes.  First veterans, then first responders and now grandma….  I know you hate me for saying it, but this is not what amendments are for.  Granny gets one homestead exemption and that should suffice.  If she has been a resident of that home for more than 25 years it is almost paid off anyway.

Number 12 - 75% No
Again, this is more of a procedural move and I am tired of making a state constitutional right for everything.  If it is necessary to make the change, we don’t need to make it a “right” to do so.  The legislature has ways of doing this and this sounds to me like someone did not get their way and so they are trying to make it a constitutional right of the government to include this position…  In conclusion, we don’t need to make procedural decisions a constitutional right.

 Stay tuned for my candidate picks and why...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Why Obama will win in 2012 and What People of the Bible should do about it

Before we get to the reason why I believe Obama will be re-elected, let me see if I can bring you into my perspective on the state of the human mind when it comes to change of direction.

People change their direction/mind when they are open to change of direction/mind.  What opens their minds?  Glad you asked....

1. They are STUCK because they are looking at a situation from a wrong point of view
3. They are SUFFERING the consequences of bad decisions

For an example of this, let look at the story of the prodigal son from the Bible.

 The Parable of the Lost Son

Luke 15:11-32 

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

1. Entitlement
What we see in this passage is a classic example of a young man who, though extremely blessed, feels like he is being cheated and thus boldly demands more.

The first reason I believe Obama will be elected to a second term in office is because the majority of Americans, though in the top 1% of the richest people in the world, still have a poverty mindset.  No matter how rich we are, we as a nation feel like we are entitled to more.  Not only that, but we feel that getting "more" will actually make us happier.

Sadly, the entitlement that FDR set in place has grown in subsequent generations and is not one of the factors that will cause us to change our thinking.  The young man did not "self-check" his entitlement.

2. Need
So the boy parties like a white house staffer in Columbia until he runs out of OPM. (other people's money)

Though one would think that "Need" would turn our nation back, and cause us to change our minds and actions, it is not the strong medicine that we demand.  Our nation is sick with sin and self, and running out of money is simply a symptom of our disease.  Treating the symptom through stimulus, or other trick may hold off the fever, but will not remove the infection.

3. Worldly Solution
Unfortunately, this young man did what most anybody would do who finds himself in a situation like this.  He gets a j-o-b.  On the surface, this seems like reform, and is what most of us would feel like a step in the right direction.  But he has not yet hit bottom.

We do this when we turn to the world and its leaders for a solution to our problem.  Make no doubt, the boy's problem was not that he was out of money, it was because he was in rebellion from his father.  The turn to the citizen of that country was not a step in the direction of repentance, but a desire to continue to fund the rebellion.

One of the major reasons we will see Obama in the White House yet again is that there is no indication of any intention on the part of our nation to admit our rebellion against God.

4. Senses
The first six words of verse 17 are some of my favorites in all of the Bible.  "When he came to his senses..."
This is the point of change.  This is the place we will have to be before we elect a different type of leader.

People will NOT change their minds until they are 1. STUCK, and are 2. SUFFERING the consequences of their decisions.  America is not stuck, and we do not even know the meaning of the word suffering.

So what are people of the Bible to do about our brothers that are partying away the inheritance?

1. Keep Doing the Father's Work
As far as I can tell from scripture, neither the father nor the brother ever made any attempts to rescue the brother.  They did not send him nasty emails, or have an intervention.  They knew that efforts of that kind were premature.  They stayed focused on the Father's work.

2. Stop Complaining
One of the saddest things in this story is that, after all is said and done, the one good son complains.  Losing perspective, he actually becomes jealous of his emaciated, gaunt brother.  You never threw a party for me....

3. Accept Your Inheritance
The Father tells the son, "everything I have is yours."  For People of the Bible, we need to remember that we are not citizens of this country and even the best country BBQ does not compare to what our Father has for us.  Let's keep working until our Father calls us home.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Peace in the Middle East

There will be two times of peace in the middle east.  The first will be under a great world wide ruler that will be able to bring peace on earth for the span of 3 1/2 years.  This great leader is the one the Bible calls the Anti-Christ.  The second, and final peace will be brought under the Prince of Peace during the millennial kingdom when He rules and reigns over all the earth for 1,000 years.

To understand the events of this week, and for that matter, the last 1,500 years you must understand Genesis 22.  I personally believe that without a firm grasp of Genesis 22, Christians may find themselves on the wrong side of history.

Before we begin, we must understand that Islam is not at war with Jews and Christians because of cultural differences or issues of free speech or even modesty of women.  At its core is the fact that as long as Christianity and Jews are allowed to exist on the earth, Islam's core religious tenets will be in question.

For the purpose of understanding the conflict, we will combine Christianity and Judaism into one faith, that we will call the faith of the Bible. (The Jewish Old Testament combined with the Christian New Testament.)Or as it has been called the Judeo-Christian ethic.   The link between these two world religions and by extension the nation of Israel and America cannot be underestimated.

The First Conflict: Isaac or Ishmael (The Jewish Conflict)
The root of the conflict between Islam and Biblical Faith exists in the account of Abraham on Mount Moriah.  This is the place where in Genesis 22 the Bible states that Abraham sacrificed his son Isaac.  For Jews this is a key historic event and for Christians this is a major picture of Isaac as a type of Christ and the lamb as a sacrificial substitute.  (This also explains the constant battle for Jerusalem and specifically the Temple Mount)

In Islam, Abraham's first born, yet illegitimate son Ishmael was the one in the story.  Ismael, the son of the Egyptian slave Hagar, is the forefather of the Ismaelites, of which Mohammad claimed to be a descendant.  This conflict is core to understanding why these two worldview will always be in conflict.

The Second Conflict: Jesus or Mohammad (The Christian Conflict)
The root of this conflict between Islam and Biblical Faith exists in who's narrative of God you will accept.  Though Islam claims that Jesus was a prophet, their mantra is that "there is no God but Allah, and Mohammad is His prophet."  The exclusivity of Mohammad is as central to Islam as the exclusivity of Jesus is central to Christianity.  There is no way to find an amicable resolution to this conflict.

For people of the Bible, there are some choices.  Will you accept the narrative of the 24 hour news cycle that makes this about oil, or land, or insults? Will your loyalty be to the Bible, and Jesus? Will you stand with Israel?  Will you accept the idea that Islam is peaceful, or that peace can be achieved through a two state solution, or by democratizing nations in an Arab Spring?

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The Castro Brothers

Forward, But in What Direction

I am a conservative that is right of Romney.  Romney, let's not forget is a New England Liberal.   One who has drifted with the expedient political winds.  I will hold my nose as I cast my vote for him for the first time in November.  Not because I disagree with his politics, but because I believe his is a far cry from the godly men we used to elect into office. American politics IS moving forward, but in what direction?

I am a conservative and I watch FOX News because I believe CNN Is a minion of the left wing.  I was surprised that even their reporting showed the all out retreat of the Democratic party from the morality of our past.  The Democratic national convention last night removed "God" from their official platform to the cheers of atheists who are quoted as approving of this forward motion.  (See CNN article here).

I fear that my statements about November's election may be construed as political.  It is not.  It is, above all moral.  I am watching as both parties move forward but they are facing away from God's word, and towards a secular humanist state.

Please understand that we get the politicians we elect.  They are in the most basic sense, a reflection of our national values.  I do not mourn the election of any politician more than I mourn the national sin that would choose such a politician.

Last night, the Democratic Party endorsed Contraception, Abortion, Gay Marriage. And this to thunderous applause.  These are the issues that eclipse any political agenda.  These are not political issues.  These are moral issues. The danger is that those who believe in democratic principles are being swept forward in a moral tidal wave.

I can agree to disagree on economics and jobs, and politics.  I cannot agree to disagree on morality and scripture.  It is clear to me that both parties are moving forward in the wrong direction.  Both parties are abandoning their biblical moorings and increasingly supporting and promoting ungodly lifestyles.  The difference is that the Democratic party last night made it loud and clear that they wanted to win that race.

Broad is the road that leads to destruction, and forward is the way that we are headed.  It may be too late to exit the vehicle before the cliff.  The brakes may be out, but I choose to be in the car that is traveling "forward" in the slow lane.

It is my prayer that morality would be the reason Christians go to the polls.  Not politics, not personality, but bible.  That we would humble ourselves and pray and seek God's face and forgiveness and repent from our forward direction, and head back to the bible.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Turning on the lights and dusting off the blog

I began blogging in 2006 way before it was cool, and while Facebook was still in diapers.  It served as a way for people who did not know about us and Cornerstone to get a look behind the curtain before attending one of our Sunday services.  In those days I felt that it knocked down some of the weirdness of attending a church that meets in a school and it allowed people to "check us out" before they checked us out.  At that time, we were running an average of 108 in church, and it was a great way to interact and spread announcements.

Enter the Facebook Era.  In September of 06, Facebook became available to normal people.  Not that college students are abnormal, but let's face it.  College students are abnormal.  I was an early adopter on Facebook because it did exactly what I wanted the blog to do.  It allowed me to communicate with our people in a timely manner and allowed them the ability to get to know me and my family apart from Sunday.

Through the years, I blogged less and less and about less important things and it became more of a nuisance than a real outlet for serious discussion and thought.  By 2011, the blog was an after thought and needed some attention.

As the church has quadrupled in size, I found myself with a thousand Facebook "friends" and a more diverse congregation of people from all walks of life.  Along with the growth and diversity came a shallower interaction with everyone, and an increased pressure not to be offensive to people who may not agree with my theology, philosophy, humor, politics, you name it.  I found myself typing a status, only to delete it before posting, putting up a humorous picture, only to take it down as the sensitive were offended.

So last week I sat down and tried to put on paper a "Philosophy of Facebook"  Now this was a personal exercise and I do not believe everyone needs one, but I needed to figure out its purpose and place.  I came up with a few types of facebookers to consider....

Personal - Pictures and family events
Play by play - What I am doing
Pastoral - Verses and inspirational quotes
Provocative - Engaging people in discussion
Political - Trying to sway the vote
Preachy - Spouting deep spiritual truths into everyday life

Yes.  They all start with "P"  I am a preacher, I cannot help it.  After doing this, I decided that I would use  my Facebook account to be personal and pastoral, with a smidgen of play by play. (Yes, I know about Twitter, but nobody cares about anyone's tweets but their own)

The new direction of the blog will be a place for me to be authentic.  I will get preachy so people, if they choose to come here can know my faith, I will get political because I believe we have a responsibility to run our government in a biblical way.  I may even be provocative, but I think that is against my nature.

So, if you want vanilla Joel you can find him on Facebook.  He will be nice, a little witty and post awkward photos from time to time.  If you are hard core, and you don't mind straight talk, you can find Jalapeno Joel here at

Tuesday, March 20, 2012