Thursday, December 31, 2009

What I Read Today - Thursday December 31, 2009

From: Our Daily Bread

Point Of No Return

READ: Deut. 11:7-12

The eyes of the Lord your God are always on [the land], from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year. —Deuteronomy 11:12Longtime California pastor Ray Stedman once told his congregation: “On New Year’s Eve we realize more than at any other time in our lives that we can never go back in time. . . . We can look back and remember, but we cannot retrace a single moment of the year that is past.”

Stedman then referred to the Israelites as they stood on the edge of a new opportunity. After four decades of desert wanderings by their people, this new generation may have wondered if they had the faith and fortitude to possess the Promised Land.

Their leader, Moses, reminded them that they had seen “every great act of the Lord which He did” (Deut. 11:7) and that their destination was “a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year” (v.12).

On New Year’s Eve, we may fear the future because of events in the past. But we need not remain chained to our old memories because we can move ahead focused on God. Just as the Lord watched over the land and His people, so His eyes will be upon us.

God’s faithful care will extend to every day of the new year. We can count on that promise. — David C. McCasland

God holds the future in His hands
With grace sufficient day by day;
Through good or ill He gently leads,
If we but let Him have His way. —Rohrs

The “what” of our future is determined by the “Who” of eternity.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What I Read Today - Tuesday December 29, 2009

From: Our Daily Bread

In Which Realm Do You Live?

READ: Romans 8:1-10

The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. —Romans 8:2I was working with a petroleum company in Singapore when an inspector from another country visited. He came to check on a cargo of oil destined for his country, which was at war. When he heard the shriek of fighter planes overhead, he instinctively ran for cover. Embarrassed, he explained, “Sorry, I thought I was back home.” He did what he would have done had he been in his war-torn country.

For the Christian, it’s easy to dive back into old ways of sin out of sheer habit because of the many temptations in this world. Even though we are “in Christ Jesus” as Romans 8:1 says, we sometimes live as if we are “in sin.”

God paid a very heavy price to take us out of the realm of sin. He did so by “sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering” (v.3 niv). We are now to be governed by “the law of the Spirit of life,” not by “the law of sin and death” (v.2). The apostle Paul urges us to “set” our mind according to “the things of the Spirit” (v.5). This means that we take our direction from God’s Word as guided by His Spirit.

When you’re tempted to dive back into old sinful ways, will you instead allow the Holy Spirit who resides in you to help you live more consistently with your standing “in Christ”? — C. P. Hia

Born of the flesh, conceived in sin,
Then born of the Spirit, new life to begin;
I’ve been washed in Christ’s blood and this will suffice,
Praise God I’m His child, I’ve been born twice! —Brandt

When you are born again, you become a citizen of heaven.

Monday, December 28, 2009

What I Read Today - Monday December 28, 2009

From: The NY Times

Op-Ed Columnist

The Copenhagen That Matters


As I listened to Denmark’s minister of economic and business affairs describe how her country used higher energy taxes to stimulate innovation in green power and then recycled the tax revenues back to Danish industry and consumers to make it easier for them to make and buy the new clean technologies, it all sounded so, well, intelligent. It sounded as if the Danes looked at themselves after the 1973 Arab oil embargo, found that they were totally dependent on Middle East oil and put in place a long-term strategy to make Denmark energy-secure and start a new industry at the same time.

The more I listened to the Danish minister, Lene Espersen, the more I thought of my own country, where I’ve been told time and again by U.S. politicians that proposing even a 10-cent-a-gallon increase in gasoline taxes to make America more energy independent and to stimulate fuel efficiency is “off the table,” an act of sure political suicide.

Not in Denmark. So I asked the Danish minister: “Tell me, what planet are you people from?”

Espersen laughed. But I didn’t. How long are we Americans going to go on thinking that we can thrive in the 21st century when doing the optimal things — whether for energy, health care, education or the deficit — are “off the table.” They’ve been banished by an ad hoc coalition of lobbyists loaded with money, loud-mouth talk-show hosts who will flame anyone who crosses them, political consultants who warn that asking Americans to do anything important but hard makes one unelectable and a citizenry that doesn’t even ask for optimal anymore because it believes that optimal is impossible.

Sorry, but there are no good ideas proven to work in other democratic/capitalist societies that we can afford to shove off our table — not when we need to build a knowledge economy with good jobs and everyone else is trying to do the same.

“Already the green taxes here are quite high,” said Espersen. “And even though we know this is not popular with business and industry, it has made all the difference for us. It forced our businesses to become more energy efficient and innovative, and this meant that, suddenly, we were inventing things nobody else was inventing because our businesses needed to be competitive.”

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute, a nonpartisan research center, and the Embassy of Denmark recently held a briefing on how Denmark is working to become a low-carbon economy. Here are some highlights:

Although it still generates the majority of its electricity from coal, “since 1990, Denmark has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 14 percent. Over the same time frame, Danish energy consumption has stayed constant and Denmark’s gross domestic product has grown by more than 40 percent. Denmark is the most energy efficient country in the E.U.; due to carbon pricing, through energy taxes, carbon taxes, the ‘cap and trade’ system, strict building codes and energy labeling programs. Renewable resources currently supply almost 30 percent of Denmark’s electricity. Wind power is the largest source of renewable electricity, followed by biomass. ... Today, Copenhagen puts only 3 percent of its waste into landfills and incinerates 39 percent to generate electricity for thousands of households.”

The Danish government funnels energy tax revenue “back to industry, earmarking much of it to subsidize environmental innovation,” wrote Monica Prasad, a faculty fellow at Northwestern University’s Institute for Policy Research, in a March 25, 2008, essay in this newspaper. Therefore, “Danish firms are pushed away from carbon and pulled into environmental innovation, and the country’s economy isn’t put at a competitive disadvantage.”

It’s why Denmark, with only five million people, boasts some of the leading wind, biofuel and heating, cooling and efficiency companies in the world. Energy technologies are now 11 percent of Denmark’s exports. Oil exports and energy taxes also subsidize mass transit and energy efficiency, keeping bills low for Danish consumers.

Where do Danish politicians get the courage to do the right things — even if painful?

“We don’t have a lot of resources,” said Ida Auken, a spokeswoman for the Danish green/socialist party, S.F. “We have a welfare state that we have to keep up, so we have to think forward all the time and not get stuck in the past. That is where we get the courage. And we have seen it work for 30 years. It is good business. Danish contractors are begging for strict standards on buildings because they know that if they can become efficient and meet them here, they can compete anywhere in the whole world.”

My fellow Americans, the fact that the recent Copenhagen climate summit was a bust in terms of solving our energy/climate problems doesn’t mean that we can ignore those problems — or that we can ignore how individual countries, like Denmark, have effectively addressed them. With unemployment in Denmark at about 4 percent, compared with our 10 percent, maybe we should at least consider putting a few of its ideas on our table.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

What I Read Today - Thursday December 24, 2009 - Christmas Eve

From: Our Daily Bread

God’s Special Place

READ: Luke 2:1-7

[Mary] brought forth her firstborn Son, . . . and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. —Luke 2:7As a young girl in the late 1920s, Grace Ditmanson Adams often traveled with her missionary parents through inland China. Later, she wrote about those trips and the crowded places where they stayed overnight—village inns full of people coughing, sneezing, and smoking, while babies cried and children complained. Her family put their bedrolls on board-covered trestles in a large room with everyone else.

One snowy night, they arrived at an inn to find it packed full. The innkeeper expressed his regret, then paused and said, “Follow me.” He led them to a side room used to store straw and farm equipment. There they slept in a quiet place of their own.

After that, whenever Grace read that Mary “brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7), she saw the event differently. While some described the innkeeper as an example of uncaring, sinful mankind who rejected the Savior, Grace said, “I truly believe that Almighty God used the innkeeper as the arranger for a healthier place than the crowded inn—a place of privacy.”

Through eyes of faith, we see God’s provision for Mary. Look for the ways He provides for you. — David C. McCasland

Wait on the Lord from day to day,
Strength He provides in His own way;
There’s no need for worry, no need to fear,
He is our God who is always near. —Fortna

Those who let God provide will be satisfied.

Monday, December 21, 2009

More of What I Read Today - Monday December 21, 2009

From: The NY Times (Sunday December 20, 2009)

Op-Ed Columnist

Off to the Races


I’ve long believed there are two basic strategies for dealing with climate change — the “Earth Day” strategy and the “Earth Race” strategy. This Copenhagen climate summit was based on the Earth Day strategy. It was not very impressive. This conference produced a series of limited, conditional, messy compromises, which it is not at all clear will get us any closer to mitigating climate change at the speed and scale we need.

Indeed, anyone who watched the chaotic way this conference was “organized,” and the bickering by delegates with which it finished, has to ask whether this 17-year U.N. process to build a global framework to roll back global warming is broken: too many countries — 193 — and too many moving parts. I leave here feeling more strongly than ever that America needs to focus on its own Earth Race strategy instead. Let me explain.

The Earth Day strategy said that the biggest threat to mankind is climate change, and we as a global community have to hold hands and attack this problem with a collective global mechanism for codifying and verifying everyone’s carbon-dioxide emissions and reductions and to transfer billions of dollars in clean technologies to developing countries to help them take part.

But as President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil told this conference, this Earth Day framework only works “if countries take responsibility to meet their targets” and if the rich nations really help the poor ones buy clean power sources.

That was never going to happen at scale in the present global economic climate. The only way it might happen is if we had “a perfect storm” — a storm big enough to finally end the global warming debate but not so big that it ended the world.

Absent such a storm that literally parts the Red Sea again and drives home to all the doubters that catastrophic climate change is a clear and present danger, the domestic pressures in every country to avoid legally binding and verifiable carbon reductions will remain very powerful.

Does that mean this whole Earth Day strategy is a waste? No. The scientific understanding about the climate that this U.N. process has generated and the general spur to action it provides is valuable. And the mechanism this conference put in place to enable developed countries and companies to offset their emissions by funding protection of tropical rain forests, if it works, would be hugely valuable.

Still, I am an Earth Race guy. I believe that averting catastrophic climate change is a huge scale issue. The only engine big enough to impact Mother Nature is Father Greed: the Market. Only a market, shaped by regulations and incentives to stimulate massive innovation in clean, emission-free power sources can make a dent in global warming. And no market can do that better than America’s.

Therefore, the goal of Earth Racers is to focus on getting the U.S. Senate to pass an energy bill, with a long-term price on carbon that will really stimulate America to become the world leader in clean-tech. If we lead by example, more people will follow us by emulation than by compulsion of some U.N. treaty.

In the cold war, we had the space race: who could be the first to put a man on the moon. Only two countries competed, and there could be only one winner. Today, we need the Earth Race: who can be the first to invent the most clean technologies so men and women can live safely here on Earth.

Maybe the best thing President Obama could have done here in Copenhagen was to make clear that America intends to win that race. All he needed to do in his speech was to look China’s prime minister in the eye and say: “I am going to get our Senate to pass an energy bill with a price on carbon so we can clean your clock in clean-tech. This is my moon shot. Game on.”

Because once we get America racing China, China racing Europe, Europe racing Japan, Japan racing Brazil, we can quickly move down the innovation-manufacturing curve and shrink the cost of electric cars, batteries, solar and wind so these are no longer luxury products for the wealthy nations but commodity items the third world can use and even produce.

If you start the conversation with “climate” you might get half of America to sign up for action. If you start the conversation with giving birth to a “whole new industry” — one that will make us more energy independent, prosperous, secure, innovative, respected and able to out-green China in the next great global industry — you get the country.

For good reason: Even if the world never warms another degree, population is projected to rise from 6.7 billion to 9 billion between now and 2050, and more and more of those people will want to live like Americans. In this world, demand for clean power and energy efficient cars and buildings will go through the roof.

An Earth Race led by America — built on markets, economic competition, national self-interest and strategic advantage — is a much more self-sustaining way to reduce carbon emissions than a festival of voluntary, nonbinding commitments at a U.N. conference. Let the Earth Race begin.

What I Read Today - Monday December 21, 2009

From: Our Daily Bread

God Alone

READ: 1 Corinthians 3:1-9

We are God’s fellow workers. —1 Corinthians 3:9On May 29, 1953, New Zealander Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, became the first people to reach the peak of Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. Since Tenzing did not know how to use the camera, Edmund took a photo of Tenzing as evidence that they did reach the top.

Later, journalists repeatedly asked who had reached the summit first. The expedition leader, John Hunt, replied, “They reached it together, as a team.” They were united by a common goal, and neither was concerned who should get the greater credit.

It is counterproductive to try to determine who deserves the most credit when something is done well. The church at Corinth was split into two factions—those who followed Paul, and those who followed Apollos. The apostle Paul told them, “I planted, Apollos watered . . . . Neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters” (1 Cor. 3:7). He reminded them that they were “God’s fellow workers” (v.9), and it is God who gives the increase in ministry (v.7).

Our concern about who deserves the credit serves only to take away the honor and glory that belong to the Lord Jesus alone. — C. P. Hia

Let others have the honors,
The glory, and the fame;
I seek to follow Jesus
And glory in His name. —Horton

Jesus must increase; I must decrease.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What I Read Today - Thursday December 17, 2009

From: Our Daily Bread

The King Of Fruits

READ: Luke 19:12-26

Present your bodies a living sacrifice, . . . which is your reasonable service. —Romans 12:1The durian, a tropical fruit, is often called The King of Fruits. Either you love it or you hate it. Those who love it will do almost anything to get it. Those who hate it won’t get near it because of its pungent smell. My wife loves it. Recently, a friend, who was grateful for what my wife had done for her, sent her a box of the finest quality durians. She took great pains to ensure that they were the best.

I asked myself, “If we can give the best to a friend, how can we do less for our Lord who gave His very life for us?”

The nobleman in Jesus’ parable in Luke 19 wanted the best from 10 servants to whom he gave money, saying, “Do business till I come” (v.13). When he returned and asked for an account, he gave the same commendation “Well done!” to all those who had done what they could with the money entrusted to them. But he called “wicked” (v.22) the one who did nothing with his money.

The primary meaning of this story is stewardship of what we’ve been given. To be faithful with what God has given to us is to give Him our best in return. As the master gave money to the servants in the parable, so God has given us gifts to serve Him. It is we who will lose out if we fail to give Him our best. — C. P. Hia

Give of your best to the Master,
Give Him first place in your heart;
Give Him first place in your service,
Consecrate every part. —Grose

We are at our best when we serve God by serving others

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What I Read Today (more) - Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It’s Cold. It’s Icy. It’s Tax Extender Time

by Howard Gleckman

One cheer for the House. In what’s become a dreary annual dance, it agreed to extend, for yet another year, 48 special interest tax breaks worth $23 billion in 2010-2011. Why the cheer? At least it is proposing to—sort of-- pay for them.

One of these days, the Senate will stick these extenders on a bill of its own—probably on a budget resolution needed to keep the government going. And, as it does each winter, the upper chamber will strip out all of the revenue-raising measures. This will be especially ironic this year, since the Senate has spent months arguing with itself over the cost of its health bill.

When it comes to paying for insurance subsidies for low- and moderate-income people, lawmakers are quite insistent on not increasing the deficit. But when it comes to faster investment write-offs for movies, Nascar tracks, and restaurants, not so much. I'm waiting to hear the first tearful speech about the debt we are passing on to our children.

How ingrained have these “temporary” goodies become? Well, the Ways & Means Committee summary description now refers to them as “traditional tax extenders.” You know, here in America we love our traditions: fireworks on the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving turkey, Christmas sales beginning on the day after Halloween, and now, December tax extenders. I can’t wait for the Hallmark Sunday movie. A five-hankie film for sure (and eligible for special expensing at that).

Last year, former Joint Committee chief of staff George Yin and I got into a debate on TaxVox about the benefits of extenders. George argued that treating these tax provisions like appropriations and requiring Congress to review them every year or two is better than making them permanent. In theory, he is exactly right. But in practice, these goodies are extended mindlessly, and in a way that masks their long-term costs. For instance, the price of this bill is often described as $31 billion over 10 years. But if these subsidies are extended for a full 10 years (as they probably will be), the real cost would easily exceed $100 billion.

The extenders are also, not incidently, the gift that keeps on giving for lawmakers seeking campaign contributions and the tax lobbyists who dispense them.

This crop is a mess of tax breaks that never provided any economic benefit or might have once served some purpose but no longer do. Others appear to flatly conflict with one another.

Thus we extend the research and experimentation tax credit at a cost of $4 billion over 2 years although there is little or no evidence that it results in greater innovation (except, perhaps, among the tax lawyers). Then, there are the multiple credits for development in empowerment zones, renewal communities, and new markets. Evidence here is pretty clear: Developers move their projects to the tax-subsidized side of the street but net investment doesn’t increase at all. Besides, know anybody in the commercial real estate business looking for tax credits these days?

Finally, there are my favorites—the contradictory energy breaks. The bill tries to encourage the use of alternative fuels by extending a subsidy for hybrid trucks at the same time it attempts to keep the cost of fossil fuels low by continuing breaks for marginal oil wells. This, I guess, is symbolic of the entire exercise. It only makes sense if you are in Congress.

What I Read Today - Tuesday December 15, 2009

From: Our Daily Bread

God’s Remarkable Word

READ: Psalm 119:89-96

Forever, O Lord, Your Word is settled in heaven. —Psalm 119:89The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 has been called the greatest archaeological find of the 20th century. The ancient manuscripts hidden in the caves near Qumran are the oldest known copies of key Old Testament books. In 2007, the San Diego Natural History Museum hosted an exhibition featuring 24 of these scrolls. One often-repeated theme in the exhibit was that during the past 2,000 years the text of the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) has remained virtually unchanged.

Followers of Christ who believe that the Bible is the eternal, unchanging Word of God find more than coincidence in this remarkable preservation. The psalmist wrote: “Forever, O Lord, Your Word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness endures to all generations” (119:89-90). Jesus said: “My words will by no means pass away” (Matt. 24:35).

The Bible is more than a historical relic. It is the living, powerful Word of God (Heb. 4:12), in which we encounter the Lord and discover how to live for Him and honor Him. “I will never forget Your precepts,” the psalmist concluded, “for by them You have given me life” (119:93).

What a privilege we have each day to seek God in His remarkable Word! — David C. McCasland

I have a companion, a wonderful guide,
A solace and comfort whatever betide;
A friend never-failing when others pass by,
Oh, blessed communion, my Bible and I. —Knobloch

To know Christ, the Living Word, is to love the Bible, the written Word.

Friday, December 11, 2009

What I Read Today - Friday December 11, 2009

From: Our Daily Bread

Tears Of Repentance

READ: Luke 22:54-62

Peter went out and wept bitterly. —Luke 22:62My husband, a self-proclaimed computer illiterate, purchased a computer to help him with his business. After giving him a few pointers, I left him alone to do some experimenting. It wasn’t long, however, before I heard a slightly panicked voice from the office: “Hey, where’s that ‘uh-oh’ button?”

What he had been looking for, of course, was the “undo” key that lets you backtrack when you’ve made a mistake. Have you ever wished for one of those in life? A provision to reverse, repair, or restore what’s been broken or damaged by sin?

After Jesus’ arrest, Peter, one of His beloved disciples, denied three times that he knew Him. Then, we read, “the Lord turned” and simply “looked at” him. Peter “went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61-62). His tears were most likely tears of shame and repentance. No doubt he wished he could undo his actions. But Peter wasn’t left in his misery. After Jesus’ resurrection, He restored Peter, giving him opportunity to reaffirm his love (John 21:15-17).

When you sorrow over sin in your life, remember that God has provided a method of restoration. “If we confess our sins,” He will “forgive us” and “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). — Cindy Hess Kasper

We’re thankful, Lord, that when we fall
We can begin anew
If humbly we confess our sin,
Then turn and follow You. —Sper

The way back to God begins with a broken heart.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

More What I Read Today - Thursday November 10, 2009

From:  The New York Times December 9, 2009

Op-Ed ColumnistGoing Cheney on Climate


In 2006, Ron Suskind published “The One Percent Doctrine,” a book about the U.S. war on terrorists after 9/11. The title was drawn from an assessment by then-Vice President Dick Cheney, who, in the face of concerns that a Pakistani scientist was offering nuclear-weapons expertise to Al Qaeda, reportedly declared: “If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping Al Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response.” Cheney contended that the U.S. had to confront a very new type of threat: a “low-probability, high-impact event.”

Soon after Suskind’s book came out, the legal scholar Cass Sunstein, who then was at the University of Chicago, pointed out that Mr. Cheney seemed to be endorsing the same “precautionary principle” that also animated environmentalists. Sunstein wrote in his blog: “According to the Precautionary Principle, it is appropriate to respond aggressively to low-probability, high-impact events — such as climate change. Indeed, another vice president — Al Gore — can be understood to be arguing for a precautionary principle for climate change (though he believes that the chance of disaster is well over 1 percent).”

Of course, Mr. Cheney would never accept that analogy. Indeed, many of the same people who defend Mr. Cheney’s One Percent Doctrine on nukes tell us not to worry at all about catastrophic global warming, where the odds are, in fact, a lot higher than 1 percent, if we stick to business as usual. That is unfortunate, because Cheney’s instinct is precisely the right framework with which to think about the climate issue — and this whole “climategate” controversy as well.

“Climategate” was triggered on Nov. 17 when an unidentified person hacked into the e-mails and data files of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, one of the leading climate science centers in the world — and then posted them on the Internet. In a few instances, they revealed some leading climatologists seemingly massaging data to show more global warming and excluding contradictory research.

Frankly, I found it very disappointing to read a leading climate scientist writing that he used a “trick” to “hide” a putative decline in temperatures or was keeping contradictory research from getting a proper hearing. Yes, the climate-denier community, funded by big oil, has published all sorts of bogus science for years — and the world never made a fuss. That, though, is no excuse for serious climatologists not adhering to the highest scientific standards at all times.

That said, be serious: The evidence that our planet, since the Industrial Revolution, has been on a broad warming trend outside the normal variation patterns — with periodic micro-cooling phases — has been documented by a variety of independent research centers.

As this paper just reported: “Despite recent fluctuations in global temperature year to year, which fueled claims of global cooling, a sustained global warming trend shows no signs of ending, according to new analysis by the World Meteorological Organization made public on Tuesday. The decade of the 2000s is very likely the warmest decade in the modern record.”

This is not complicated. We know that our planet is enveloped in a blanket of greenhouse gases that keep the Earth at a comfortable temperature. As we pump more carbon-dioxide and other greenhouse gases into that blanket from cars, buildings, agriculture, forests and industry, more heat gets trapped.

What we don’t know, because the climate system is so complex, is what other factors might over time compensate for that man-driven warming, or how rapidly temperatures might rise, melt more ice and raise sea levels. It’s all a game of odds. We’ve never been here before. We just know two things: one, the CO2 we put into the atmosphere stays there for many years, so it is “irreversible” in real-time (barring some feat of geo-engineering); and two, that CO2 buildup has the potential to unleash “catastrophic” warming.

When I see a problem that has even a 1 percent probability of occurring and is “irreversible” and potentially “catastrophic,” I buy insurance. That is what taking climate change seriously is all about.

If we prepare for climate change by building a clean-power economy, but climate change turns out to be a hoax, what would be the result? Well, during a transition period, we would have higher energy prices. But gradually we would be driving battery-powered electric cars and powering more and more of our homes and factories with wind, solar, nuclear and second-generation biofuels. We would be much less dependent on oil dictators who have drawn a bull’s-eye on our backs; our trade deficit would improve; the dollar would strengthen; and the air we breathe would be cleaner. In short, as a country, we would be stronger, more innovative and more energy independent.

But if we don’t prepare, and climate change turns out to be real, life on this planet could become a living hell. And that’s why I’m for doing the Cheney-thing on climate — preparing for 1 percent.

What I Read Today - Thursday December 10, 2009

From: Our Daily Bread

A Mere Happening?

READ: Ruth 2:1-12

In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. —Proverbs 3:6Huang, a nonbeliever, was a visiting scientist at the University of Minnesota in 1994. While there, he met some Christians and enjoyed their fellowship. So when they learned he would be returning to Beijing, they gave him the name of a Christian to contact who was also moving there.

On the flight back to Beijing, the plane encountered engine trouble and stopped in Seattle overnight. The airline placed Huang in the same room with the very person he was to contact! Once they arrived in Beijing, the two began meeting weekly for a Bible study, and a year later Huang gave his life to Christ. This was not just a mere happening; it was by God’s arrangement.

In Ruth 2, we read that Ruth came “to the part of the field belonging to Boaz” (v.3). Boaz asked his servants who she was (v.5), which prompted his special consideration toward her. When Ruth asked him the reason for such kindness, Boaz replied, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law . . . . The Lord repay your work, and a full reward be given you” (vv.11-12).

Did the events in the lives of Ruth and Huang just happen? No, for none of God’s people can escape God’s plans to guide and to provide. — Albert Lee

I know who holds the future,
And I know who holds my hand;
With God things don’t just happen—
Everything by Him is planned. —Smith

A “mere happening” may be God’s design.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What I Read Today - Wednesday December 9, 2009

From: Our Daily Bread

When Life Is Too Big

READ: 1 Kings 3:4-14

O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. —1 Kings 3:7As a young man, Jimmy Carter was a junior officer in the US Navy. He was deeply impacted by Admiral Hyman Rickover, the mastermind of the US nuclear submarine fleet.

Shortly after Carter’s inauguration as President, he invited Rickover to the White House for lunch, where the admiral presented Carter with a plaque that read, “O, God, Thy sea is so great, and my boat is so small.” That prayer is a useful perspective on the size and complexity of life and our inability to manage it on our own.

Solomon too knew that life could be overwhelming. When he succeeded his father, David, as king of Israel, he confessed his weakness to God, saying, “O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in” (1 Kings 3:7). As a result, he asked for the wisdom to lead in a way that would please God and help others (v.9).

Is life feeling too big for you? There may not be easy answers to the challenges you are facing, but God promises that, if you ask for wisdom, He will grant it (James 1:5). You don’t have to face the overwhelming challenges of life alone. — Bill Crowder

Each day we learn from yesterday
Of God’s great love and care;
And every burden we must face
He’ll surely help us bear. —D. De Haan

Recognizing our own smallness can cause us to embrace God’s greatness.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What I Read Today - Tuesday December 8, 2009

From: Our Daily Bread

A Legacy Of Repentance

READ: Psalm 51

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart. —Psalm 51:17All nations have heroes, but Israel may be alone in making epic literature about its greatest hero’s failings (Ps. 51). This eloquent psalm shows that Israel ultimately remembered David more for his devotion to God than for his political achievements.

Step-by-step, the psalm takes the reader through the stages of repentance. It describes the constant mental replays, the gnawing guilt, the shame, and finally the hope of a new beginning that springs from true repentance.

In a remarkable way, Psalm 51 reveals the true nature of sin as a broken relationship with God. David cries out, “Against You, You only, have I sinned” (v.4). He sees that the sacrifices God wants are “a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart” (v.17). Those, David has.

In his prayer, David looks for possible good that might come out of his tragedy and sees a glimmer of light. Perhaps by reading this story of sin others might avoid the same pitfalls, or by reading his confession they might gain hope in forgiveness. David’s prayer is answered and becomes his greatest legacy as king. The best king of Israel has fallen the farthest. But neither he, nor anyone, can fall beyond the reach of God’s love and forgiveness. — Philip Yancey

How blest is he whose trespass
Has freely been forgiven,
Whose sin is wholly covered
Before the sight of heaven. —Psalter

Repentance is the soil in which forgiveness flourishes.

Monday, December 7, 2009

More of What I Read Today - Monday December 7, 2009

War . . . Then Peace

READ: Luke 23:32-43

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. —Philippians 4:7On December 7, 1941, a Japanese war plane piloted by Mitsuo Fuchida took off from the aircraft carrier Akagi. Fuchida led the surprise attack on the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Through the war years to follow, Fuchida continued to fly—often narrowly escaping death. At war’s end, he was disillusioned and bitter.

A few years later, he heard a story that piqued his spiritual curiosity: A Christian young woman whose parents had been killed by the Japanese during the war decided to minister to Japanese prisoners. Impressed, Fuchida began reading the Bible.

As he read Jesus’ words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34), he understood how that woman could show kindness to her enemies. That day Fuchida gave his heart to Christ.

Becoming a lay preacher and evangelist to his fellow citizens, this former warrior demonstrated “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7)—a peace enjoyed by those who have trusted Christ and who “let [their] requests be made known to God” (v.6).

Have you found this peace? No matter what you have gone through, God makes it available to you. — Dennis Fisher

There is peace in midst of turmoil,
There is joy when eyes are dim,
There is perfect understanding
When we leave it all to Him. —Brown

True peace is not the absence of war; it is the presence of God. —Loveless

What I Read Today - Monday December 7, 2009

Pearl Harbor Day

NOTE:  In this article Friedman quotes from an interview that Walter Cronkite had with JFK on 9/2/1963.  You can read the transcript of the entire interview at

From the NY Times
December 6, 2009

Op-Ed Columnist
May It All Come True

President Obama certainly showed leadership mettle in going against his own party’s base and ordering a troop surge into Afghanistan. He is going to have to be even more tough-minded, though, to make sure his policy is properly executed.

I’ve already explained why I oppose this escalation. But since the decision has been made — and I do not want my country to fail or the Obama presidency to sink in Afghanistan — here are some thoughts on how to reduce the chances that this ends badly. Let’s start by recalling an insight that President John F. Kennedy shared in a Sept. 2, 1963, interview with Walter Cronkite:

Cronkite: “Mr. President, the only hot war we’ve got running at the moment is, of course, the one in Vietnam, and we have our difficulties there.”

Kennedy: “I don’t think that unless a greater effort is made by the [Vietnamese] government to win popular support that the war can be won out there. In the final analysis, it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them; we can give them equipment; we can send our men out there as advisers. But they have to win it, the people of Vietnam, against the Communists. We are prepared to continue to assist them, but I don’t think that the war can be won unless the people support the effort and, in my opinion, in the last two months, the [Vietnamese] government has gotten out of touch with the people. ...”

Cronkite: “Do you think this government still has time to regain the support of the people?”

Kennedy: “I do. With changes in policy and perhaps with personnel I think it can. If it doesn’t make those changes, the chances of winning it would not be very good.”

What J.F.K. understood, what L.B.J. lost sight of, and what B.H.O. can’t afford to forget, is that in the end it’s not about how many troops we send or deadlines we set. It is all about our Afghan partners. Afghanistan has gone into a tailspin largely because President Hamid Karzai’s government became dysfunctional and massively corrupt — focused more on extracting revenues for private gain than on governing. That is why too many Afghans who cheered Karzai’s arrival in 2001 have now actually welcomed Taliban security and justice.

“In 2001, most Afghan people looked to the United States not only as a potential mentor but as a model for successful democracy,” Pashtoon Atif, a former aid worker from Kandahar, recently wrote in The Los Angeles Times. “What we got instead was a free-for-all in which our leaders profited outrageously and unapologetically from a wealth of foreign aid coupled with a dearth of regulations.”

Therefore, our primary goal has to be to build — with Karzai — an Afghan government that is “decent enough” to earn the loyalty of the Afghan people, so a critical mass of them will feel “ownership” of it and therefore be ready to fight to protect it. Because only then will there be a “self-sustaining” Afghan Army and state so we can begin to get out by the president’s July 2011 deadline — without leaving behind a bloodbath.

Focus on those key words: “decent enough,” “ownership” and “self-sustaining.” Without minimally decent government, Afghans will not take ownership. If they don’t take ownership, they won’t fight for it. And if they won’t fight for it on their own, whatever progress we make will not be self-sustaining. It will just collapse when we leave.

But here is what worries me: The president’s spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said flatly: “This can’t be nation-building.” And the president told a columnists’ lunch on Tuesday that he wants to avoid “mission creep” that takes on “nation-building in Afghanistan.”

I am sorry: This is only nation-building. You can’t train an Afghan Army and police force to replace our troops if you have no basic state they feel is worth fighting for. But that will require a transformation by Karzai, starting with the dismissal of his most corrupt aides and installing officials Afghans can trust.

This surge also depends, the president indicated, on Pakistan ending its obsession with India. That obsession has led Pakistan to support the Taliban to control Afghanistan as part of its “strategic depth” vis-à-vis India. Pakistan fights the Taliban who attack it, but nurtures the Taliban who want to control Afghanistan. So we now need this fragile Pakistan to stop looking for strategic depth against India in Afghanistan and to start building strategic depth at home, by reviving its economy and school system and preventing jihadists from taking over there.

That is why Mr. Obama is going to have to make sure, every day, that Karzai doesn’t weasel out of reform or Pakistan wiggle out of shutting down Taliban sanctuaries or the allies wimp out on helping us. To put it succinctly: This only has a chance to work if Karzai becomes a new man, if Pakistan becomes a new country and if we actually succeed at something the president says we won’t be doing at all: nation-building in Afghanistan. Yikes!

For America’s sake, may it all come true.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What I Read Today - Friday December 4, 2009

From: Our Daily Bread

What You Can Do

READ: Ephesians 3:14-21

[I pray that] He would grant you . . . to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man. —Ephesians 3:16Are you getting what you want out of life? Or do you feel that the economy, your government, your circumstances, or other outside factors are robbing you of value and joy?

Recently, a polling agency asked 1,000 people what they most desired in their lives. One fascinating result was that 90 percent of Bible-believing Christians said that they wanted these outcomes: a close relationship with God, a clear purpose in life, a high degree of integrity, and a deep commitment to the faith.

Notice that these heartfelt desires are all things we as individuals can do something about without outside human help. No government program will assist here, and tough economic times cannot steal these ideals. These life goals are achieved as we allow God’s Word to rule in our hearts and as we receive the Spirit’s strength to build up “the inner man” (Eph. 3:16), resulting in true joy.

In our complicated world, it’s tempting to put our quest for what we desire into the hands of others—to expect an outside entity to fulfill our desires. While we sometimes need help, and we cannot live in isolation, it’s not outside sources that provide true happiness. That comes from within—from letting Christ be at home in our hearts (v.17). — Dave Branon

Holy Spirit, all divine,
Dwell within this heart of mine;
Cast down every idol throne,
Reign supreme and reign alone. —Reed

If a troubled world gets you down, look up to Jesus.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What I Read Today - Thursday December 3, 2009

From: Our Daily Bread

Finding Jesus

READ: Romans 8:27-39

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? —Romans 8:32After someone stole a valuable ceramic figurine of Baby Jesus from a nativity scene in Wellington, Florida, officials took action to keep thieves from succeeding again. An Associated Press report described how they placed a GPS tracking device inside the replacement figurine. When Baby Jesus disappeared again the next Christmas, sheriff’s deputies were led by the signal to the thief’s apartment.

There are times when difficult circumstances or personal loss can cause us to feel that Christ has been stolen from our Christmas. How can we find Jesus when life seems to be working against us?

Like a spiritual GPS, Romans 8 guides us to God’s never-failing love and presence with us. We read that the Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses and intercedes for us (v.27). We know that God is for us (v.31). And we have this grand assurance: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (v.32). Finally, we are reminded that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus (vv.38-39).

Look for Jesus in the manger, on the cross, risen from the dead, and in our hearts. That’s where we can find Jesus at Christmas. — David C. McCasland

But what to those who find? Ah, this
Nor tongue nor pen can show,
The love of Jesus, what it is
None but His loved ones know. —Bernard of Clairvaux

If we focus only on Christmas, we might lose sight of Christ.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What I Read Today - Wednesday December 2, 2009

From: The New York Times

Op-Ed ColumnistThis I Believe


Let me start with the bottom line and then tell you how I got there: I can’t agree with President Obama’s decision to escalate in Afghanistan. I’d prefer a minimalist approach, working with tribal leaders the way we did to overthrow the Taliban regime in the first place. Given our need for nation-building at home right now, I am ready to live with a little less security and a little-less-perfect Afghanistan.

I recognize that there are legitimate arguments on the other side. At a lunch on Tuesday for opinion writers, the president lucidly argued that opting for a surge now to help Afghans rebuild their army and state into something decent — to win the allegiance of the Afghan people — offered the only hope of creating an “inflection point,” a game changer, to bring long-term stability to that region. May it be so. What makes me wary about this plan is how many moving parts there are — Afghans, Pakistanis and NATO allies all have to behave forever differently for this to work.

But here is the broader context in which I assess all this: My own foreign policy thinking since 9/11 has been based on four pillars:

1. The Warren Buffett principle: Everything I’ve ever gotten in life is largely due to the fact that I was born in this country, America, at this time with these opportunities for its citizens. It is the primary obligation of our generation to turn over a similar America to our kids.

2. Many big bad things happen in the world without America, but not a lot of big good things. If we become weak and enfeebled by economic decline and debt, as we slowly are, America may not be able to play its historic stabilizing role in the world. If you didn’t like a world of too-strong-America, you will really not like a world of too-weak-America — where China, Russia and Iran set more of the rules.

3. The context within which people live their lives shapes everything — from their political outlook to their religious one. The reason there are so many frustrated and angry people in the Arab-Muslim world, lashing out first at their own governments and secondarily at us — and volunteering for “martyrdom” — is because of the context within which they live their lives. That was best summarized by the U.N.’s Arab Human Development reports as a context dominated by three deficits: a deficit of freedom, a deficit of education and a deficit of women’s empowerment. The reason India, with the world’s second-largest population of Muslims, has a thriving Muslim minority (albeit with grievances but with no prisoners in Guantánamo Bay) is because of the context of pluralism and democracy it has built at home.

4. One of the main reasons the Arab-Muslim world has been so resistant to internally driven political reform is because vast oil reserves allow its regimes to become permanently ensconced in power, by just capturing the oil tap, and then using the money to fund vast security and intelligence networks that quash any popular movement. Look at Iran.

Hence, post-9/11 I advocated that our politicians find sufficient courage to hike gasoline taxes and seriously commit ourselves to developing alternatives to oil. Economists agree that this would ultimately bring down the global price, and slowly deprive these regimes of the sole funding source that allows them to maintain their authoritarian societies. People do not change when we tell them they should; they change when their context tells them they must.

To me, the most important reason for the Iraq war was never W.M.D. It was to see if we could partner with Iraqis to help them build something that does not exist in the modern Arab world: a state, a context, where the constituent communities — Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds — write their own social contract for how to live together without an iron fist from above. Iraq has proved staggeringly expensive and hugely painful. The mistakes we made should humble anyone about nation-building in Afghanistan. It does me.

Still, the Iraq war may give birth to something important — if Iraqis can find that self-sustaining formula to live together. Alas, that is still in doubt. If they can, the model would have a huge impact on the Arab world. Baghdad is a great Arab capital. If Iraqis fail, it’s religious strife, economic decline and authoritarianism as far as the eye can see — the witch’s brew that spawns terrorists.

Iraq was about “the war on terrorism.” The Afghanistan invasion, for me, was about the “war on terrorists.” To me, it was about getting bin Laden and depriving Al Qaeda of a sanctuary — period. I never thought we could make Afghanistan into Norway — and even if we did, it would not resonate beyond its borders the way Iraq might.

To now make Afghanistan part of the “war on terrorism” — i.e., another nation-building project — is not crazy. It is just too expensive, when balanced against our needs for nation-building in America, so that we will have the strength to play our broader global role. Hence, my desire to keep our presence in Afghanistan limited. That is what I believe. That is why I believe it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

more of What I Read Today - Tuesday December 1, 2009

From:  (The Tax Policy Center)
and then to their taxvox blog

Happy Act: The Poster Puppy for What's Wrong with the Tax Code

by Howard Gleckman on Tue 01 Dec 2009 04:12 PM EST

Nothing I have written in more than two years at TaxVox has attracted more attention than my August, 2009 piece on the Happy Act. This bill, sponsored by Representative Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), would allow people to deduct up to $3,500 from their taxes to subsidize the cost of, no kidding, pet care.

The issue has since gone viral. TaxVox has received dozens of comments—most of which strongly support the bill but a few that see it as just about the dumbest idea in the world. Over the weekend, the Sunday supplement Parade magazine published a piece. USA Today has written about it and the ASPCA recently asked its members to write their representatives in support of the bill.

I am the owner of, you’ll pardon the expression, a very happy dog we rescued about four years ago. She brings us great joy. There is absolutely no way the government should be subsidizing this joy.

The Happy Act is, in fact, the poster puppy for all that is wrong with the tax code. It is the most ridiculous use of tax dollars to promote social policy I can imagine. It will add billions of dollars to an already out-of-control budget deficit. Other than that, it is a terrific idea.

To understand why the Happy Act is so wrong-headed, consider the following:

First, Americans will spend more than $45 billion this year on their dogs, cats, and iguanas, according to the pet products industry. Remarkably, only about 5 percent will be to buy the animals. And only about one-quarter will be spent on vet services. The rest goes to food, clothes, toys and other supplies, and grooming and boarding.

Second, the revenue loss to the Treasury of targeted tax subsidies like the Happy Act—what are usually called tax expenditures—will soon exceed $1 trillion-a-year, according to TPC. These are no different from government spending, except that many Americans somehow feel better thinking of them as tax cuts. And most are well-intentioned efforts to improve access to health care, savings, housing, and the like. The trouble is, they are almost always a very inefficient use of dollars and often lead to nasty unintended consequences.

Third, the budget deficit this year is expected to exceed $1.5 trillion. The Happy Act would give away more money we don’t have.

And there is something else to keep in mind. With tax subsidies will inevitably come regulation. Just imagine:
What is a qualified pet? Should allegedly dangerous dogs such as pit bulls be eligible. How about animals some consider endangered?

What owners should get the deduction? The tax break won’t help those who take only the standard deduction, and even among itemizers, high-income families would get a much bigger tax break than those with lower incomes. And it won't do a thing for most people who are at risk of giving up pets because they lose their jobs. If you make no money, you pay no tax, and deductions do you no good.

And how about those who rescue dogs? Shouldn’t they get a bigger subsidy than those who spend thousands of dollars on some purebread? And what about people who abuse their pets? Tax subsidies will only help them acquire more. Do we want the IRS checking on how we treat Fido?

The Happy Act may be the best reason I know to toss out these targeted tax breaks with the kitty litter and use the money to reduce tax rates and cut the deficit. Lower rates allow taxpayers to decide what they want to do with their money, without government interference. We—and our pets—would all be better off that way.

What I Read Today - Tuesday December 1, 2009

From: Our Daily Bread

The Best Of Gifts

READ: John 1:10-13

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! —2 Corinthians 9:15Having trouble selecting that perfect gift for someone? A friend shared with me a few suggestions:
• The gift of listening. No interrupting, no planning your response. Just listening.
• The gift of affection. Being generous with appropriate hugs, kisses, and pats on the back.
• The gift of laughter. Sharing funny stories and jokes. Your gift will say, “I love to laugh with you.”
• The gift of a written note. Expressing in a brief, handwritten note your appreciation or affection.
• The gift of a compliment. Sincerely saying, “You look great today” or “You are special” can bring a smile.

But as we begin this special month of celebration, why not pass on the best gift you’ve ever received? Share the fact that “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:23). Or share this verse from John 1:12, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” Remind others that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

The best gift of all is Jesus Christ. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15). — Cindy Hess Kasper

The greatest Gift that has ever been given
Is Jesus Christ who was sent down from heaven.
This Gift can be yours if you will believe;
Trust Him as Savior, and new life receive. —Hess

The best gift was found in a manger.