“All within the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State,” declared Benito Mussolini.

This directive is further expounded on by Josh Barro at the New York Times, as he instructs us to view stay-at-home parents as tax cheats, because the work they do for themselves doesn’t involve the sort of financial transaction the all-consuming State can take a piece of:

President Obama’s proposal to expand a tax break for working parents with children under 5 has some conservatives criticizing it for discriminating against stay-at-home parents.

Those parents wouldn’t be able to take the proposed tax credit equal to 50 percent of child care expenses, up to a maximum of $3,000 per child. What the critics fail to see is that the playing field wasn’t level to begin with. The tax code is already hugely distorted in favor of stay-at-home parenting: Labor outside the home is taxed; household work, such as stay-at-home parenting, is not.

I realize that sounds like a bizarre thing to say. Why would there be a tax on parenting, and why would the lack of such a tax constitute a tax preference? But productive activities within the home are not especially different from the taxable work we do outside the home. We labor, and instead of receiving a cash wage, we receive something else we value: a clean house or a mowed lawn or a well-behaved child. In 1973, the economist John Kendrick estimated that unmeasured and untaxed household activities like child rearing amounted to about a quarter of the size of the whole economy as measured by gross national product.

When we hire people to come into our homes to do these things, the labor is counted as part of the economy and subject to tax. If I pay you to watch my child and you pay me to watch your child, we both owe income tax. If you and I each watch our own children, the I.R.S. collects nothing — even though we have done substantially the same work for the same benefit. This tax preference for housework over paid work creates a significant distortion: Some people (mostly women) choose to stay home when, absent tax considerations, they might work outside the home instead.

Stay-at-home parents will be relieved to know that Barro doesn’t want to figure up the value of everything they do for themselves and sock them with a fat new tax in the name of fairness and equality, because “efforts by the government to measure how productive we are at home would be intrusive and inaccurate, not to mention politically toxic.”

On second thought, homemakers might not take much comfort from that assurance, because the mega-State sets an increasingly high bar for what it considers unacceptably intrusive or inaccurate, not to mention politically toxic. Luckily, at least for the time being, you just need to shut up and let your rulers decide how much of a tax credit working parents should receive to offset your unfair advantages. The rest of Barro’s column involves him trying to figure out how many hours of unpaid, untaxed labor stay-at-home moms are hiding from his beloved State, while praising Obama for working to “replace the current system in which the strong tax incentive is in favor of stay-at-home parenting,” so it sounds like maybe he’s not so worried about inaccurate unfairness after all.

Class warfare is surely one of the forces in play here, as anyone who remembers the Obama campaign flipping out over stay-at-home moms after Ann Romney took the national stage should know. There is a strong belief on the Left, which is now heavily dependent on the support of single women, that stay-at-home motherhood is either a ridiculous extravagance available only to the rich, or a form of indentured servitude inflicted upon captive rural women by their hillbilly husbands. At the very least, they don’t see much net political loss from taking potshots at full-time parents.

There’s an ideological factor here, too, because the Left believes deeply in government over family. The State should be your family. Traditional families are a source of independence and resistance against the State. Full-time parents ask a lot of uncomfortable questions about what public schools are teaching their kids. The Left’s hostility toward inherited wealth is an aspect of its disdain for traditional families. Liberal policies have destroyed the family structure in many communities, replacing it with toxic government dependency. That’s why people who think marriage is an irrelevant, outmoded religious obsession spend so much time talking about taxpayer-funded benefits for parents and children. The single greatest weapon against poverty and social dysfunction, marriage, has been disabled, so we’ll have to settle for billion-dollar social programs that don’t work, but make the people in charge of them feel very good about themselves.

Barro’s line of thinking is one of countless examples of how the concept of taxation has been turned completely on its head. A cash-starved government is trying to stick its feeding tubes into every remaining vein of free-market blood. The State is supposed to get a big piece of every dollar that changes hands, frequently taking more than one bite of the same dollar. The idea that some form of productive activity might be taking place without Big Uncle Sam getting his cut drives liberals to distraction. We should be looking for the most fair and even way to disperse the modest cost of a restrained government across the entire population, allowing the burden of government to rest lightly upon the shoulders of the productive. That would involve some very dramatic reforms, and result in quite a few empty bureaucratic palaces along the Potomac. So instead we’ll be told to gratefully accept the sort of “tax relief” that requires us to jump through ever more hoops to claim. In that way, even when the State makes do with bit less revenue, its power is not diminished, and that’s what really matters.

-Hayward

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On Tuesday’s broadcast of the Family Research Council’s “Washington Watch,” host Tony Perkins asked guest Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) to revisit remarks he made regarding Muslims and the threat of radical Islam.

In his discussion with Perkins, however, he warned of the dangers of immigrants not assimilating to American culture.

“[O]ne of the great about America is it doesn’t matter if you’ve been here five minutes or a hundred years, we have folks that come here, want to be Americans,” Jindal said. “They join our military, they start companies, they work to create a better community. And that’s wonderful. What’s not acceptable is people that want to come and conquer us. That’s not immigration, by the way, that’s colonization. If someone wants to come here and change our fundamental culture and our values. If they want to come here and they want to set up their own culture and values that’s not immigration, that’s really invasion — if you’re honest about it. Of course, the politically correct crowd when you say things like they’ll call you racist — but this is a particular threat we face. And if we’re not serious about this we’re going to see more lone wolf actors. We’re going to see more folks come into our country just like you’ve seen in other countries — the horrific shootings in Paris.”

Idolatry

January 23, 2015

FearCropped
Idolatry is a horrible, dangerous thing.

Sadly, far too many Christians are so very guilty of it.

You can see it in the way they complain on social media, in the way they comment on the news of the day; in the defeatist, alarmist language that they use as to describe the world.

You see it in the way they furrow their brows, and throw-up their hands, and slam their pulpits.

It shows-up in the lazy stereotypes and the religious rhetoric that flows so easily in church lobby coffee chats and extremist blog rants.

It’s as if everything has now become an imminent threat: Muslims, Atheists, Gays, The President, inner city criminals, Hollywood, illegal immigrants, The Government, school hallways.

The world outside the church building is broadly painted as a vile, immoral war zone, with “God’s people” hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned.

Parroting the politicized talk show hosts and reposting the latest terrible news stories, they perpetuate the now comfortable, largely White Evangelical Christian narrative of impending destruction, and they make it clear at every opportunity: The whole damn sky is falling.

Though they loudly, repeatedly, and confidently proclaim Christ as Lord, in reality they no longer practice faith in a God that has any real power, any true control, and inherent God-ness. They seem to have little more than a neutered figurehead Deity, who doesn’t seem to be able to handle much at all anymore.

He’s lost his Old Testament swagger.

Dig just beneath the sunny “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Bible covers, and the shouted “God’s judgment is coming” bullhorn warnings, and you can see that the Emperor is buck naked.

For far too many Christians, all that flowery, blustery spiritual talk is a loud paper tiger dressed-up as religion.

The truth is, Fear has become their false God, one they worship with complete and undying devotion.

The symptoms of Fear Idolatry are pretty easy to spot.

When you’re not sure that God is there or that He’ll really come through, you start to spend most of your time defending Him in absentia. You become a self-appointed Crusader of Truth, whose mission is to do the holy work of policing the world, (just in case God can’t or won’t).

You spend a lot of time calling out evil, forecasting disaster, and predicting damnation.

When Fear is your God, you start majoring in Exterior Sin Management. You slowly yet ultimately turn all of your attention to the things in other people that you’re certain really tick God off, and you make it your sacred business to modify their behavior in the name of Jesus.

When your God isn’t big enough, you’ll try to do in others what you’ve decided He wants, instead of actually trusting Him to do it Himself.

I really feel for Christians whose Jesus seems so integral to personal salvation in the afterlife, and so useless for the life we live now.

He may be able to save souls, but He’s apparently freaked-out by a Muslim prayer breakfast or gay marriage vote or school prayer policy.

Is that really God? Is that Divinity?

Is that the One about Whom the psalmist wrote: The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1

Is that the God who spoke the world into being, and calmed the seas, and healed the blind, and raised the dead?

I’m praying for so many of my brothers and sisters in Christ, to stop worshipping the false idol of Fear.

I’m praying that they recapture a God Who is worthy; not just of defending and quoting, but trusting.

I’m praying for the rest, joy, and humility that comes from putting faith in something greater than themselves and in the things they fear.

Every day, even with the mystery that grows on my journey, my security grows too.

I know how big my God is.

Do you?

Cable Gouging

January 23, 2015

According to a recent Nielsen study the average American watches 40 hours of television a week. That includes live and recorded television. Since there are hour and half-hour series, it is more than reasonable to assume that those 40 hours equal 65 television shows. That means that through the legal racket that is bundled cable you are paying for 1650 series you don’t watch.

The math is simple.

The Daily Beast reports that a breathtaking total of 1715 TV series aired in 2014. Subtract the 65 TV series the average American watches, and you arrive at 1650. Through your cable bill — through the fact that you are forced to pay somewhere around $100 a month for upwards of a hundred channels you neither want nor watch, you are being conned into paying for a large part of the freight for 1650 series you do not watch.

Personally, I watch about 4 series currently on the air.

This is just a fact: the viewership ratings for probably more than 1500 of these series is too low for these series to sustain themselves through advertising, DVD sales, and other ancillary markets. In other words, if these series were forced to survive on only popularity, they would not survive. It is also a fact that the ratings for most of the cable networks that broadcast these shows are too low for the network itself to survive on popularity alone.

So where does the money come from?

A big heaping helping of it comes from a sucker I like to call You.

No one watches CNN. Nevertheless, the left-wing cable network makes hundreds of millions per year from You. Because Your cable or satellite company forces You to get CNN (and dozens of other channels) in order to get the few channels you actually watch, along with dozens of other low-rated networks, a nice chunk of your cable bill goes to CNN.

Yes, that’s correct, a dishonest, race-baiting, anti-gun, anti-Christian network is making money off of You.

How rigged is this swindle? This rigged:

The average cable bill in the United States has increased about 4.5 percent annually over the past 15 years to more than $90 today, according to the Federal Communications Commission. One major reason is the increase in the prices networks charge cable providers to carry their programming — known in the industry as carriage fees.

But those fees don’t always correlate to networks’ popularity.

You are not only paying for shows you don’t watch, You are funding the toxification of our culture and, if You are not vigilant, Your own family.

The giant, wealthy left-wing multinationals that own most of Hollywood and the news media have this scam so perfectly rigged that NOT watching a show means almost nothing to the bottom line. Popularity is not where a huge chunk of the money comes from. It comes from You, whether you watch it nor not.

The only way to make a statement and to stop getting screwed is to cut the cord. Kill your cable or satellite package, completely. If you can live on Netflix and Amazon Streaming, you should. It’s 80% cheaper, good for America, and good for The Children.

Hyp-O-crite

January 23, 2015

“The federal government should not be injecting itself into decisions best made between women, their families, and their doctors,” O said. What the F?!?! Then what is O-care doing? What a freaking hypocrite.

Heaven?

January 21, 2015

Alex Malarkey, who co-authored The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, publicly confessed his story is malarkey. He and his mother had been saying so for some time, but few noticed until last week.

His admission left me wondering why heavenly tourism gets so much attention. Christians might be less obsessed with heaven if we better grasped four things.

1. We were never supposed to go to heaven.

God created Adam and Eve to live on Planet Earth. Genesis 2:7 says, “Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground.” The Hebrew word for man is ’ādām, and the word for ground is ’ādāmâ. God wanted to emphasize our connection to the earth, so he said our name is dirt. If this is true, then the most theologically accurate name you could ever give your child is “Clay.” Or “Dusty.” If you have a girl, try “Sandy.” God made us from the dust of this world. We are earthlings, for heaven’s sake.

If Adam had passed his probation, we assume God would have cut to the end of the story and come down to live permanently with us (Rev. 21:1–3). Adam and Eve would have continued to live here, for there would have been no reason to go anywhere else. But Adam rebelled, and brought sin and death on the human race.

What happens when people die? Their bodies and souls are unnaturally torn apart; their bodies stay here while their souls go to either heaven or hell. Praise God that those who die in Christ go to heaven, but never forget that this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. The only reason anyone ever goes to heaven is because of sin.

2. Scripture says little about heaven.

The Bible tells of one person who went to heaven and back. He claimed he “heard inexpressible things” that he was “not permitted to tell” (2 Cor. 12:2–4). This leaves me skeptical about those heavenly pilgrims who tell all, especially when there is money involved.

In Scripture we learn about heaven from Luke 23:43 (“Today you will be with me in paradise”); 2 Corinthians 5:6–8 (“be at home with the Lord”); Philippians 1:21–23 (“depart and be with Christ”); and 1 Thessalonians 4:14 (“God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him”).

What do all these passages say about heaven? Nothing more than we are with the Lord. That is enough, because being with Jesus makes heaven “heaven.” If heaven by itself is so great, then Jesus pulled a dirty trick on Lazarus when he raised him from the dead. Why didn’t Lazarus complain, “Aww, Lord! I was in heaven! Why did you bring me back here?” Lazarus was glad to come back because Jesus was here, and his presence made their corner of Bethany a heaven on earth.

3. Heaven is not the goal.

Heaven is not where the Bible ends. Isaiah, Peter, and John all promise that our final destiny is a “new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1; cf. Isa. 65:17; 2 Pet. 3:13). The term “heaven” here means the sky, where airplanes fly. The point of these prophecies is that God will restore his originally good creation. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1), and in the end he will create a “new heaven and a new earth.” Creation, then new creation. Unfortunately, many Christians never reach the “new earth” end of this phrase. They stop at “new heaven” and, assuming it means the celestial abode of God, mistakenly think their destiny is to fly from this world and live with God somewhere above the clouds.

We take immense comfort from knowing our redeemed loved ones are in heaven. But we must remember that they aren’t yet entirely satisfied. They still long for something more (cf. Rev. 6:10, where heavenly saints “called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord?’”). As great as it is to be a disembodied soul in heaven with Jesus, there’s something even better: enjoying Jesus as a whole person on earth, where resurrected bodies are meant to live. So praise God that those who die in Christ go to heaven. And praise God even more that they’re on the first leg of a round-trip journey.

Do you feel the tension? We must not minimize the comfort and glory of heaven, but we also must not so praise our condition there that we minimize the return of Christ and our resurrection. The apostle John shows us how to put this together. In John 14:1–3, Jesus promises to “go and prepare a place” for us. Too many Christians stop there and miss that John later completes this thought. In Revelation 21:1–3, John sees that place, “the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” so that “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.” Jesus does temporarily take us to be with him. But in the end, Jesus comes to earth to live with us. He is Immanuel, “which means ‘God with us’” (Matt. 1:23). Let’s stop reading that name backwards.

4. Fixation on heaven can forfeit the gospel.

It’s no accident that in our heaven-obsessed culture, nearly half of “born again” Christians don’t believe their bodies will rise again.1 How can such persons be saved? As Paul told the overly spiritual Corinthians, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Cor. 15:13–14). You can be more spiritual than God, who raised his Son from death. You can be so spiritual you’re no longer Christian.

The Christian faith is earthy, physical, and, in the best sense of the word, materialistic. Our story begins in a sensual garden of delight and then tells how a nation was delivered from physical bondage into a land overflowing with milk and honey. It turns on an embodied God who physically died and rose again, whose sacrifice is remembered in the physical waters of baptism and the bread and the cup. The story consummates on a new earth where, in the presence of God, we will celebrate the marriage supper of the Lamb, bite into fruit from the Tree of Life, and gulp handfuls from the River of Life. From beginning to end, the material world matters. The gospel of redemption may be more than creation, but it is not less. Redemption can’t get started without it.

Malarkey’s book may be full of what his name suggests, but the title got something right. Christians will go to heaven when we die, and we all will come back. We don’t believe in the Platonic dream of an eternal, disembodied heaven. We believe in the resurrection!

Heart

January 21, 2015

If there were a world record for the “number of times asking Jesus into your heart,” I’m pretty sure I would hold it. I’ve probably “prayed the prayer” more than five thousand times. Every time was sincere, but I was never quite sure I had gotten it right. Had I really been sorry enough for my sin that time around? Some wept rivers of tears when they got saved, but I hadn’t done that. Was I really sorry? Was that prayer a moment of total surrender? Did I really “get” grace?

So I would pray the sinner’s prayer again. And again. And again. And maybe get baptized again. Every student camp, every spring revival. Rinse and repeat.

I used to think I was alone in this, that I was just a neurotic oddball. But when I began to talk about this, I would have such a slew of people tell me they had the same experience that I concluded the problem was endemic. Countless people in our churches today are genuinely saved, but they just can’t seem to gain any assurance about their salvation.

The opposite is the case, too. Because of some childhood prayer, tens of thousands of people are absolutely certain of a salvation they do not possess.

Both problems are exacerbated by the clichéd, truncated, and often sloppy ways we present the gospel in shorthand. Now, shorthand is fine insofar as everyone knows what the shorthand refers to. It is obvious, however, that in the case of “the sinner’s prayer,” most people don’t anymore. Surveys show that more than 50 percent of people in the U.S. have prayed a sinner’s prayer and think they’re going to heaven because of it even though there is no detectable difference in their lifestyles from those outside of the church.

On this issue—the most important issue on earth—we have to be absolutely clear. I believe it is time to put the shorthand aside. We need to preach salvation by repentance before God and faith in the finished work of Christ.

This does not mean that we stop pressing for a decision when we preach the gospel. The greatest Reformed evangelists in history—such as George Whitefield, C.H. Spurgeon, and John Bunyan—pressed urgently for immediate decisions and even urged hearers to pray a prayer along with them. Each time the gospel is preached, that invitation ought to be extended and a decision should be called for (Matt. 11:28; John 1:12; Rev. 22:17). In fact, if we do not urge the hearer to respond personally to God’s o‰ffer in Christ, we have not fully preached the gospel.

Furthermore, repentance and faith in Christ are in themselves a cry to God for salvation. The sinner’s prayer is not wrong in itself—after all, salvation is essentially a cry for mercy to God: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). In Scripture, those who call on God’s name will be saved. I’m not even categorically opposed to the language of asking Jesus into your heart, because—if understood correctly—it is a biblical concept (Rom. 8:9–11; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 3:17).

For many, however, the sinner’s prayer has become a Protestant ritual they go through without considering what the prayer is supposed to embody. God doesn’t give salvation in response to mere words; faith is the instrument that lays hold of salvation. You can express faith in a prayer, but it is possible to repent and believe without a formal prayer, and it is possible to pray a sinner’s prayer without repenting and believing.

This finally clicked for me when, almost in desperation, I read Martin Luther’s commentary on Romans. Luther points out that salvation comes by resting on the facts God revealed about the death of Christ. Just as Abraham was counted righteous when he believed that God would keep His promise, we are saved by believing that He has done so in Christ.

The gospel is the declaration that Jesus is Lord and has made an end to our sins. We are saved by submitting to those two truths. Conversion is a posture we take toward the declarations that Scripture makes about Jesus. The point is not how we felt or what we said at the moment of conversion; the point is the posture we are in now.

Think of conversion like sitting down in a chair. If you are seated right now, there was a time at which you transferred the weight of your body from your legs to the chair. You may not remember making that decision, but the fact you are seated now proves that you did. Your decision was necessary, but when trying to discern where your physical trust is— legs or chair—present posture is better proof than past memory.

Does this mean that backsliding Christians are not saved? No, believers can still backslide. Technically, any time you sin you are backsliding. As a believer, you will struggle with indwelling sin for the rest of your life. You will fall often, and sometimes you will fall hard.

But each time you fall, you get up again, looking heavenward. A person in the midst of a backslide may be saved, but assurance is only the possession of those in a present posture of repentance and faith (Heb. 6:9–10).

Ultimately, the world is divided into two categories: many are “standing” in rebellion against the lordship of Jesus, standing in hopes of their own righteousness to merit favor with God; others are “seated” in submission, resting on His finished work. So when it comes to assurance, the only real question is: Where is the weight of your soul resting? Are you still standing in rebellion, or have you sat down in the finished work of Christ?

This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.

A Nation of Foolishness

January 19, 2015

Why is O proposing “free” college and not forgiving Americans that already have college debt? Oh, wait…it’s the same philosophy as Amnesty, O-Care, 2nd amendment advocates. Give to the lazy and needy and then tax and burden the hardworking and law-abiders and more will realize why do anything when the govt will bail me out and give to me.

Jesus>Avengers

January 14, 2015

I’ve enjoyed my superhero movies (i.e. Captain America, Superman, Thor, etc.) and this one (Avengers-Age of Ultron) looks great.

I especially like this quote as a Christian, “The world needs something more powerful than any of us,” says Tony Stark in the trailer’s opening seconds, giving one of few precious indications of the actual Age of Ultron plot: in the film Stark creates Ultron, a self-aware piece of artificial intelligence (voiced by James Spader), to help the Avengers combat evil in the world.”

Yes, we need more than a superhero or even a mess of them, we need Jesus, period.

He Ain’t No Leader

January 12, 2015

The terrorists in Paris:

“…the president is not confronting the matter as Islamic terrorism. 

“Last time I checked we’re at war. I wouldn’t send my attorney general if I were president to deal with Islamic radical terrorists. We’re at war here,” Graham said. “[Obama] thinks it’s a crime out of control.” 

Wake up America! He’s not for us, he’s against us.