Todd Weber's Random Thoughts

November 18, 2010

Quantitative Easing Explained

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , — tkweber @ 12:27 pm

Check out this funny video that explains the latest not-so-funny boondoggle of the Federal Reserve. Enjoy! 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTUY16CkS-k

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November 17, 2010

Lisa Murkowski = LOSER

Filed under: Politics — tkweber @ 1:46 pm

Lisa Murkowski may have won the Senate race in Alaska, but she is still a LOSER for circumventing the primary system and behaving like a sore loser and a spoiled child. Shame on her! And shame on the Alaskans that voted for her!

November 14, 2010

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I am so very happy that Washingtonians rejected the initiative to implement a state income tax on November 2nd. Also good was the repeal of a recently enacted tax on bottled water, candy, etc. Disappointing was the failure of initiatives to end the state’s liquor monopoly, which I think was due to fear-based ads that convinced non-thinking lemmings that hard liquor is somehow more dangerous than other alcoholic beverages, and that it is better for the state to have exclusive selling rights. It assaults my libertarian sensibilities.

Even more disappointing was the re-election of Senator Patty Murray. Ugh! No surprise, really, in this very left-leaning state, but so frustrating. My sympathies to Dino Rossi for striking out in his third run for high office (two prior attempts at the governorship). Six more years of Super-Spender-Socker-Mom will do no good for the nation.

On another note, if you like inflation you’ll love the Federal Reserve’s plan to pump $600-billion new dollars into the national economy, which they deceptively call “Quantitative Easing.” This increase of the money supply will de-value the dollar (to which many foreign governments have vehemently objected) and cause the price of everything to go up, up and away. So, if you haven’t noticed increases in the price of groceries and gas so far, start paying attention. As you do, you will see them continue to rise indefinitely, and if the predictions of some inflation experts are correct, it will have drastic effects on our daily lives.  Whatever cash we have will be worth less and less, meaning the products we want to purchase will cost more and more. What we pay $5 dollars for today may cost $10, $15, or more in a very short time. 

For this, we have to thank Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and ultimately President Barak Obama, who determines the nation’s monetary policy. Of course, Obama supports this Qualitative Easing because it moves us further toward his Socialist vision for America by exacerbating the present economic crisis, which he and his Progressive cohorts believe will create the opportunity for them to rush to the rescue with still more Socialist solutions. Remember the words of Obama’s Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, “Never let a crisis go to waste.”

We can only hope that the recent election of many conservatives to Congress will be the beginning of the end of our nation’s mad dash toward Socialism. I am cautiously and skeptically optimistic.

October 31, 2010

No Shame in Being the Party of No

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , — tkweber @ 3:22 pm

Change is not always a good thing. Democrats often call Republicans “the Party of No” and accuse them of having no vision for the future of America because they oppose the progressive agenda. However, Republicans – or more accurately, Conservatives – do in fact have a vision for America and are equally passionate about it as the liberal progressives are about theirs. The Conservative vision for America does not involve changing the nation into something new, but rather changing it back to what it once was. The Conservative vision involves returning our nation to the principles upon which it was founded, and includes reducing the size and power of government and realigning it with the limited powers enumerated in the Constitution.

While some may argue that looking back is no way to lead the country into the future, the facts suggest otherwise. America is great because of the wise principles upon which it was founded. It is the strongest, wealthiest, and most free nation in the history of humanity because of its emphasis on individual liberty and limited government. The American system of government was designed to serve the people, not vice versa, and this has resulted in unprecedented freedom and prosperity for its citizens, as well as the spread of freedom and prosperity around the world.

However, the forces of progressive liberalism (proto-socialism) have been eating away at the American system for most of the last 100-years. Those who hold and espouse such views desire to change America into something it has never been, nor was ever intended to be, but which has existed and failed in many other parts of the world.  Liberal progressives want to turn America into a European-style socialist/communist state where the citizens serve the government and the government reigns supreme.

Conservatives are passionately opposed to this vision and will continue to vigorously oppose it. “No!” should be the continual refrain when it comes to progressive/socialist policies and laws, not because we lack vision or concern for the good of the nation, but because we believe in the wisdom of the Constitution of the United States of America and trust it to ensure the continued success of the nation for ourselves and for posterity.

October 12, 2010

No State Income Tax for Washington! No on I-1098!

Here is the  letter I sent today to the editor of my union’s newspaper in response to a letter from a supporter of the pro-income tax initiative in the state of Washington. In respect of his privacy, I have withheld the name of the person to whom I am responding.

Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to Mr. X’s letter in the October 2010 issue of the News Review titled “Shell Game” in which he made several bold, yet unsubstantiated statements to support his argument in favor of I-1098, which would create a state income tax in Washington.

He suggested that millionaires are to blame for the sorry state of the economy, and said, “No matter how much the local millionaires try to lie about it, it is an inescapable fact that the more money one has, the more they owe the society…”

I am certainly not a millionaire, nor do I know any. However, I am a firm believer and supporter of the right and freedom of individuals to pursue profit and prosperity through any and all legal means available, and to keep and use the fruit of their labor as they choose. As one who hopes to one day achieve such prosperity myself, I respect and admire those who have already done so.

Wealth is not a zero-sum game in which we all draw from a limited pool of resources and those who get ahead do so at the expense of those who do not. To say that “Wages in the private sector are falling because CEO wages are rising” is unfounded and preposterous.

Instead of inciting discontent, class envy, and trying to pull successful people down to a common level of mediocrity and misery, we ought to celebrate the freedom and opportunities that make success and prosperity possible and find ways to encourage and inspire the rest of us to better ourselves through hard work, creativity and thrift.

A state income tax is not the answer to Washington’s economic woes. Currently, forty-one states tax personal incomes. California is one of several states which have both retail sales taxes and income tax, and both are among the highest in the nation. How well is that working for California? Can you say, “bankrupt”? The point is that implementing an income tax in Washington will not solve the state’s problems any better than it has for California. The problem is not too little revenue, but too much spending.

Mr. X believes millionaires owe more to society than the rest of us and that taxation is the proper means of obtaining such “contributions” (read: compulsory redistribution). I whole-heartedly disagree. Many high-wealth individuals already give back to society of their own free will – the way it should be. For example, Jack Benaroya donated over $15.8M to build a home for the Seattle Symphony, now known as Benaroya Hall, for the benefit of citizens of Seattle.

Paul Allen plans to leave the majority of his $13-billion estate to fund scientific research, and his charitable giving already totals over $1-billion. Moreover, The Allen Family Foundation recently announced $3.9M in new funding for 41 non-profit organizations in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle Times, 7/15/10).

The Seattle Times (5/24/10) notes that numerous “Microsoft alumni have founded and supported more than 150 non-profit organizations and social ventures working around the world…Employee giving and company matching funds totaled almost $90M last year…”

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave $27M to help the urban poor in Africa (Seattle Times, 9/30/10). As part of their “Giving Pledge,” Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and many other super-rich have voluntarily pledged to give substantial portions of their wealth to charity.

These are only a few examples of the countless individuals and corporations who, every year, voluntarily give back to, as Mr. X said, “the society that provided them with the situations and opportunities to accumulate that wealth in the first place.”  All this is beside the well-known fact that wealthy Americans already pay “a higher overall tax rate than any other group,” while “about 10 percent of households pay no net federal taxes” (New York Times, 4/13/10).

I believe the solutions to our economic challenges include: 1) reducing the size and cost of government; 2) relieving businesses and individuals of onerous tax and regulatory burdens; and 3) encouraging personal responsibility and industry rather than a sense of entitlement.

The real “shell game” is in the continual surrender of our wealth and freedom for the promise of ever-more governmental care and provision. Let’s stop whining and confiscating the success of others, and start taking responsibility for ourselves.

May 11, 2010

The Rise of Government and the Decline of Morality

I highly recommend this excellent article by James A. Dorn of the Cato Institute.

http://www.torenewamerica.com/rise-of-government

May 10, 2010

Consequences Unforseen

Filed under: Biblical/spiritual — Tags: , , , , , , , , — tkweber @ 8:52 am

“When the perceptive Frenchman, Alexis de Tocqueville, visited the United States five years after Jefferson’s death, he discovered a society that had sought ‘to evade the bondage of system and habit, of family maxims, class-opinion, and, in some degree of national prejudices.’ Tocqueville described for his readers how in Europe aristocracy bound all members of a community to one another, while New World democracy had severed every link in that chain. In America, Tocqueville noted, the individual stands alone without hereditary allies or neighborhood support. Personal freedom and economic opportunity – that was the gist of Jefferson’s ideas and convictions. He did not fully understand what he had wrought, nor was he entirely comfortable with the result. It was his legacy nonetheless.” (Norman K. Risjord, Thomas Jefferson, Madison House, 1994, p. 195-196)

 Tocqueville’s observation highlights the fact that ideas and actions, no matter how well-conceived and well-intentioned, always have consequences unforeseen or anticipated by their proponents. In the case of social and political structure, we Americans have basked in the liberty, security and prosperity of our Constitutional Republic free of the limitations and inequities of Old World structures and traditions. At the same time, however, we mourn the weakness of our social fabric and yearn for many of the elements left behind, such as a strong sense of community with extended family and neighbors, a sense of identity and belonging to history and heritage, the warmth and security of cultural and family traditions, and so on. Still, we cannot forget the causes and motivations behind the genesis of America. Thousands of years of Old World systems gave rise to tyranny, oppression and suffering from which our forefathers fled to create the New World in which we now live, with blessings and curses all its own.

 This is true in the context of faith and religion, as well. New generations wrestle with the structures and traditions handed down to them and search for new ways more meaningful and satisfying than what they have known. Sincere idealism drives the quest for truth which often results in the modification, and sometimes rejection, of beliefs and practices long held by predecessors, but now deemed irrelevant, unprofitable or undesirable. However, there are always unintended, unforeseen consequences, good and bad. There is no way to avoid this.

 Everything comes at a price and even the best-laid plans have unintended consequences. We are fallen beings in a fallen world. No one is perfect; therefore, it is impossible for us to create anything that is perfect. Everything we build, devise or operate will eventually break down and fail. Even the Church, the body of Christ, which is not our creation but God’s, is subject to corruption, misuse and failure (limited and temporary) because it is in the care of humans.

 The point is that knowing our plans and schemes will result in effects we cannot possibly anticipate should not keep us from continually striving to create better circumstances for ourselves and posterity. Regardless of context, the price of timidity is often mediocrity and stagnation. It can be hoped and trusted that whatever negative or undesirable effects of our decisions and actions today will be corrected by brave and energetic occupants of tomorrow. This does not suggest license to be careless or cavalier, but rather an antidote to fear and inaction. We must do the best we can with what we have, carefully considering past and present circumstances as well as potential future ramifications.

 God lives and moves in every generation of man and desires the best of circumstances for those made in his image. Proof of this is the environment first created for man’s habitation. Corruption and depravity resulted from man’s sin, not God’s will. As seen in the history of the Israelites, wherever God’s will is upheld and maintained in full accord, the peace and prosperity of man follows, limited only by the weaknesses of man himself. Therefore, it seems our duty to continually seek to improve our state, right our wrongs, and rise again from the ashes of failure to which all human endeavors seem ultimately destined.

 © Todd K. Weber 05/10/2010

April 29, 2010

Farewell, familiar shore!

Filed under: Biblical/spiritual — tkweber @ 8:03 am

I am surprised to feel more anxious now that we have taken the most significant step in making this transition a reality. It is now official and the butterflies in my stomach have multiplied exponentially overnight, which is not what I expected. It is not of fear, though, and still I have no apprehension about what we are doing. I continue to believe it is the right thing and a good thing – a very good thing. It is the anxiety of truly walking by faith, not knowing how all the details will work out, hoping that all is and shall be well.

I appreciate the trust and confidence the congregation has expressed in me by their unanimous vote to follow my lead in this. I understand their real and valid concerns and apprehension, and am truly humbled by their willingness to rally and support my initiative.

There are so many things I do not know and cannot foresee, yet I am convinced that we must not allow the unknown to hold us captive. There are times in all our lives when we must choose between the comfort, safety and mediocrity of the familiar or the potential bounty that lies just beyond our field of view. The risk of unforeseen loss and regret is real, but the potential reward of tremendous blessing and fruitfulness is well worth it. It has been said that one cannot discover new lands without first losing sight of the shore. I believe this. We have hoisted sail and caught the wind. Let us charge the horizon with faith worthy of our God!

 Todd K. Weber

April 26, 2010

Where Art Thou, Lord?

Filed under: Biblical/spiritual — tkweber @ 10:20 am

Some of my peers and I struggle with the tension between what we have known and what we know to exist but have not yet obtained. We desire the sense of spiritual life and power in the presence of God that we have experienced countless times in Pentecostal church services, while at the same time attempting to lay aside and leave behind the un-biblical elements of those events as we pursue authentic biblical spirituality and relationship with God.

While often accused of spiritual compromise, “leaving the message,” heresy, and other crimes against the faith, our sincere desire for pure faith and biblical accuracy has led us to recognize that many of the methods, mannerisms and activities common among Pentecostal/Apostolic Christians have little or no basis in scripture and often lead to error and abuse. We find in the New Testament a conversational, dialogical style of preaching and teaching rather than the loud, passionate, emotive style with which we are familiar. We read of outpourings and manifestations of the Holy Spirit occurring in response to sincere prayer and devotion which seem nothing like modern Pentecostal gatherings which often rely on music, hype and manipulation to work people into a frenzy, which is associated with a “move of the Spirit.”

It is not that we are against emotional expressions in worship and emotional responses to the presence of God. We understand that humans are emotional beings and that our interaction with the Creator will naturally involve the emotions he created. Our problem is with emotionalism and emotional manipulation that is mistaken or misrepresented as spirituality and/or worship. In fact, we desire and encourage the deep devotion, prayer and worship that brings the manifestation of the Spirit which is often evidenced by emotion, be it crying, or laughter, or silent awe and reverence.

However, the tension arises when we abandon traditional modes of worship with which we are familiar to practice what seems to us a truer form, but then fail to achieve the same powerful experiences as before. We try to lead people into a more sincere and Christ-centered worship, but are often left with the sense that we failed to connect with Christ because no sinners were converted, or sick people healed, or prophesies given, etc. So, we begin to wonder where we have gone wrong. What have we missed? Are those traditions and mannerisms we have abandoned truly essential? Should we go back to the ways of our fathers?

My answer to such questions is an emphatic, No! Our dissatisfaction and disillusionment come from our upbringing. We have been conditioned by years of teaching and experience to expect the manifestation of the Holy Spirit to occur in certain ways and to elicit particular responses or reactions from worshipers, and when those expectations are not met, we doubt the validity of our faith, worship, and even our relationship and devotion to God, in spite of our desire to move beyond such shallowness.

All we know is what we have known, so our journey into the unknown is fraught with anxiety and apprehension as we feel our way forward in faith. We must resist the natural tendency to measure what lies ahead with the same rule given to us by our predecessors. Just as Moses led the Hebrews through uncharted wilderness, suffering the cries of the fearful and unbelieving to return to the bondage they knew rather than pursue the freedom that they did not know and for which they had no frame of reference to comprehend, so we who desire pure, authentic New Testament faith and praxis must stay the course and feel our way through the mysterious mist of the Spirit until we reach the Promised Land.

One of the hardest things for us to deal with, and which slowly wears down our resolve to continue this journey, is leading members of our congregations who are likewise conditioned and programmed with false expectations, but who do not wrestle with the deeper issues and implications and the causes and consequences as we do. We often feel as though we are rowing a boat upstream against a strong current while our passengers (and sometimes the crew) are hacking holes in the hull. We are continually subject to misunderstanding, accusations, and assaults upon our character and commitment to Christ and truth, yet we must press on.

Remember, the fledgling New Testament church had no idea what they were doing, either. From the moment they were filled with the Spirit in the upper room, they were walking in the unknown. They continued to serve the same God as their fathers, but in a radically different way. They left many of the traditions with which they were raised to worship and serve Jesus in a manner that evolved from day to day. There was no roadmap. There were no how-to manuals. And, they were locked in a continual struggle with those who were determined to go back to the “old-time religion” of Judaism.

The answer we all need is in Christ. When we pursue the person of Jesus Christ first and foremost, all the rest will follow naturally. It is when we pursue other things first–spiritual gifts, signs and miracles, emotional stimulation, etc.–that we get off track and drift into areas none of us want to go.

The failure to apprehend does not invalidate the pursuit of a worthy goal. Let us keep seeking, pursuing and reaching toward the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. The manifestation and operation of the Spirit that follows may (or may not) turn out to be different than anything we expect or are prepared for. Can we trust God enough to simply follow and allow him to act according to his own will?

©Todd K. Weber 04/26/2010

March 26, 2010

Hyping the Gospel

Filed under: Biblical/spiritual — tkweber @ 7:46 am

“I have come that they might have hype, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

Of course, this is not an accurate quotation of John 10:10, but it seems that many believers today are reading it that way – particularly many pastors and ministry leaders who nurture this view, albeit inadvertently.

As a pastor, I am well aware of the constant pressure and perceived obligation to motivate and inspire people to actively live their faith and participate in the body of Christ. I am continually confronted by believers who can’t seem to keep it together on their own and who feel it is my supreme duty to keep them pumped-up for Jesus. In addition to prayer, study and crafting engaging and effective sermons, we are set upon by the apparent necessity of orchestrating experiences that will fulfill the spiritual and emotional needs of our audience and keep them coming back for more.

The result is that pastors and ministry leaders sometimes sound more like carnival hawkers and concert promoters than ministers of the gospel as we try to grab people with persuasive hype about the next great sermon or series that they don’t want to miss because it will blow their mind, change their life and rock their world. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against the use of creativity, multi-media, and various other means of communication. My concern is that, in our pursuit of capturing the attention of our audience in order to facilitate genuine life-change via the gospel, we may end up empowering the very monsters we set out to slay in the first place. While apathy, complacency and idle spectatorship may seem to be abated by a hip, wiz-bang presentation, it is but a brief respite for most – especially those who have been in the church for a while – followed by the expectation and urgency of ever-more-engaging and exciting experiences to keep them interested. It is in this context that Karl Marx’s famous statement about religion being the “opiate of the masses” has the ring of truth.

However, in fairness to ministry leaders, this cycle usually doesn’t begin with them. The majority of such men and women are deeply sincere individuals whose desire is to serve God in their calling to proclaim the gospel and make disciples. Yet, they are faced with the challenge of attracting and holding the attention of people who, for various reasons, often suffer from a combination of shallow, immature faith and an insatiable thirst for entertainment and external stimulation. Furthermore, the thirst for entertainment and stimulation is not limited to the Hollywood variety. There are countless “revival junkies” in churches across the land who are not satisfied until and unless someone whips them into a pseudo-spiritual frenzy of motion and emotion.

It is not clever, creative and captivating methods of communication with which I take issue. Jesus was a master communicator who used meaningful stories and object lessons to hold his listeners’ attention and relate powerful and important truths. He did not lecture or pontificate from behind a pulpit, as has become Christian tradition. His words, spoken with amazing simplicity, had profound impact on those who heard him. And, in fact, not everyone who heard him believed and responded favorably. Many turned and walked away, even from Jesus, so we should not feel bad when they do it to us, too.

Neither do we see any hype in or around the ministry of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers and ordinary believers whose words and ministries are recorded in the New Testament. What drew and connected people to Jesus and his Church was the pure and simple life-changing power of the gospel – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ reconciling sinful people with God. Paul put it succinctly when he wrote, “And my message and my preaching were very plain. I did not use wise and persuasive speeches, but the Holy Spirit was powerful among you. I did this so that you might trust the power of God rather than human wisdom.” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5, NLT)

I respect and admire the creativity and passion of many of my peers in ministry and do not wish to dampen or diminish the exercise of such gifts for the glory of God. I only want to raise a warning that the gospel does not need hype to be effective, and that when the gospel or our presentation of it is hyped, it may do more harm than good in the long run by feeding our lust for entertainment (which will never be satisfied) rather than focusing on the reality of Christ, faith and truth. It may also further diminish the Church in the eyes of the world by enhancing negative stereotypes.

Besides, if we are honest, this disciple-of-Christ gig is not really as fun, exciting and cool as we sometimes advertise. We know that spiritual life is challenging, often difficult and always involves the denial and sacrifice of self. No matter how you slice it, it is hard to put a positive spin on that. But then again, it is not our job to put a positive spin on the gospel. Our job is to merely speak the truth in love and help those who receive it embrace it and grow therein. Their desire to do so is not our responsibility. In other words, we can lead a horse to water, but no amount of hype will make it thirsty. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…” (John 6:44, NIV).

Somehow, we and those in our care must learn to be satisfied with the simplicity of the gospel and life in Christ. We should also realize that we will never make Jesus, the gospel, or the church as appealing to people as many other things in life and the world which vie for their attention. And that is not our fault.

T. K. Weber, 02/26/10

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