Monday, March 31, 2008

Quote for the Day

From the editorial page of yesterday's Kalamazoo Gazette comes this pair of gems (from the same writer):

"Hillary Clinton claims she has experience because she was in the White House for eight years. The pastry chef has been there 16 years."
"The Democrats can't even run their own party—how do they expect anyone to believe they can run the country? Democratic planning is an oxymoron."
Nicely put.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Hymn of the Week: Rejoice, the Lord is King

There are two simple things worth meditating upon here:

  1. The Lord Jesus Christ is the King of Everything.
  2. Therefore, Rejoice!
Not all theology is complicated. What this song celebrates is quite simple to understand. What He has done for each of us—particularly those of us who have accepted His gift of salvation—merits our total, complete, and genuine praise and rejoicing.

Mediate on these words of Charles Wesley, and rejoice at all the Lord has done.

Rejoice, the Lord is King

Rejoice, the Lord is King! Your Lord and King adore;
Mortals give thanks and sing, and triumph evermore;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Jesus, the Savior, reigns, the God of truth and love;
When He had purged our stains He took His seat above;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

His kingdom cannot fail, He rules o’er earth and Heav’n,
The keys of death and hell are to our Jesus giv’n;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

He sits at God’s right hand till all His foes submit,
And bow to His command, and fall beneath His feet:
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

He all His foes shall quell, shall all our sins destroy,
And every bosom swell with pure seraphic joy;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice,
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Rejoice in glorious hope! Jesus the Judge shall come,
And take His servants up to their eternal home.
We soon shall hear th’archangel’s voice;
The trump of God shall sound, rejoice!

Democrats and the "Stupid People"

From state GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis came this little factoid in an e-mail a couple days ago:

"So the Democrats are losing the stupid people, and that's kind of scary because we always used to do very well with them."

Who said that??? Democrat Mark GREBNER of Practical Political Consulting in discussing recent demographic numbers that show the Democrat Party gaining in popularity with college-educated voters, but losing ground among the working class.

Welcome home…Reagan Democrats! What an insult. As someone who grew up in a working class, union household in Detroit, I shouldn’t be surprised by the arrogant characterization of the liberal elite, “smart” Democrats. If that’s the Democrat’s get out the vote effort, it sounds like President McCain in the making!

And what does that tell you?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Congratulations to Bill & Tammy!

Bill and Tammy, friends of mine, have now been married ten years. They are the parents of two lovely girls who are models of courtesy and kindness.

Bill and Tammy did not have a church wedding. Ten years ago, they would probably admit that although they loved each other and wanted to have a good marriage, they were not the kind of people whose lives were entirely pleasing to God.

A lot has happened in the past ten years. Salvation. Surrender to God. Lifestyle changes. Regular church attendance is now part of their schedule. Today, they reaffirmed their vows in the presence of family and friends at our church, not just to finally have a church ceremony, but also to reaffirm to their loved ones their love for each other and the love of God for them.

Far too many people today forget (or ignore) that God's commands regarding marriage involve complete commitment and deep love for one's spouse. Bill and Tammy have done their part, in life actions as well as a special ceremony, to model that.

For this they are to be congratulated. And they're doing well loving and rearing their children, too.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

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You can use the 50 minutes all at once, or you can use 8 minutes in geometry, 17 in essay writing, 12 in physics, and the rest in algebra. It's up to you and your student. Once you have tried it, you may choose to purchase more minutes of tutoring time at the competitive rates offered.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

And, Speaking of the Rich and the Poor....

Ever wonder what happened to the Jackson Five...or the rest of the family, for that matter? Twenty years ago they were the most popular family of singers in the land. This New York Post article gives a much fuller story, but it also included this summary [the girls, on the whole, are doing far better than the boys financially]:

Joseph Jackson, 79 and Katherine Jackson, 77

Dad hustles various girl groups in Las Vegas. Mom is still a stay-at-home housewife and the only family member in contact with Michael. Both have previously filed for bankruptcy

Janet Jackson, 41

The current family breadwinner. She bought her mom a Vegas home in anticipation of losing the family's mansion, Hayvenhurst, to foreclosure. Like their Neverland colleagues, workers at Hayvenhurst have not been paid for months.

La Toya Jackson, 52

Family turncoat who declared Michael guilty during the 1993 molestation case, she earns a living mostly in Europe and in the UAE judging beauty and singing contests. She lives with a wealthy boyfriend in Beverly Hills and has little contact with her siblings.

Rebbie Jackson, 57

The oldest, she's married to successful businessman Nathaniel Brown.

Tito Jackson, 55

Formed a blues band several years ago and plays at small venues for $500 to $1,500 a gig.

Michael Jackson, 49

On the verge of losing Neverland ranch as well as the family's Encino, Calif., home. He's hiding out in Las Vegas and repeatedly makes promises to his brothers while sabotaging any attempts by them to ply their musical trade.

Randy Jackson, 46

Does odd jobs like changing tires to support himself. He was Michael's business manager during the 2005 molestation trial but ran into serious problems with friends after he persuaded three people to take out lines of credits against their homes to help Michael pay his attorney fees and Michael stiffed them.

Marlon Jackson, 51

Lives in San Diego, where he works stocking groceries at a Vons supermarket. He fell on hard times three years ago when he was forced to leave his foreclosed home and move into an Extended Stay America hotel with his wife, Carol.

Jackie Jackson, 56

The oldest son started an Internet clothing business and is trying to produce records by his sons. Nothing has panned out.

Jermaine Jackson, 54

Splits time between the parents' Hayvenhurst mansion and his girlfriend's home in the San Fernando Valley. With more than $5 million in federal, state and other liens against him and a 1995 bankruptcy filing, he doesn't work or have a regular income.

By my calculations, the six Jackson brothers' combined net worth is less than my own.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Soak the Rich? Soak the Poor!!

What would provoke a nice person like me to put such a provocative title on a blog entry?

Glad you asked. It's very simple: I am really irritated at the propaganda in this nation that says the rich are getting by paying little or no taxes while the "little people" are shouldering the burden. This is nowhere near truth. Consider the following:

  • A single person with no dependents (and who is not a dependent), has AGI of $20,000, who does not itemize, pays about $1296 in federal taxes (about 6½% of AGI). A single person, same data, AGI of $60,000—this person pays $9236 in federal taxes (over 15% of AGI).
  • A married couple with three dependents and AGI of $30,000, who does not itemize, pays about $230 in federal taxes (under 1% of AGI). Change the AGI to $90,000, and they pay $8563 (about 9½% of AGI). Furthermore, the first married couple would get an Earned Income Credit of potentially $1500. Both couples would also receive Child Tax Credits if the dependents were under the age of 17.
Many similar statistics could be listed. The vast majority of people classified as "lower-than-middle-class" pay little or no income tax...period. The "middle class" certainly pay enough, but the vast majority of "rich people" pay plenty—they are already getting soaked!

And I certainly don't fit into the "soaked" category myself.

The federal income tax system, as it now stands, is complex, unfair, and unnecessarily burdensome. Our federal government needs to learn to live with a lot fewer dollars, and needs to tax its citizens more simply and equitably.

Hopefully Mr. McCain will realize this and push for it once he becomes president.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Hymn of the Week: Christ the Lord is Risen Today

An Easter song with "Alleluia" four times in every verse seems highly appropriate! The mere thought of Christ's resurrection should give us cause to praise God and thank Him for His gift of salvation to us—made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This hymn was written by Charles Wesley, except for the last three stanzas, which date to the 14th century. There are actually three hymns with this same title (according to, written by different authors—evidence that to some, the resurrection brings both joy and a creative pen.

Christ the Lord is Risen Today

Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Lo! the Sun’s eclipse is over, Alleluia!
Lo! He sets in blood no more, Alleluia!

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal, Alleluia!
Christ hath burst the gates of hell, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Hail, the Lord of earth and Heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail, the resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

King of glory, Soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, Thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing and thus to love, Alleluia!

Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
Unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
Sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!

But the pains that He endured, Alleluia!
Our salvation have procured, Alleluia!
Now above the sky He’s King, Alleluia!
Where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Michigan Democrats: An Illustration of Ineptitude

The facts in review: After the Michigan legislature and governor passed a generally bi-partisan bill to move the state's presidential primary up to January 15, the national Democratic party held to their promise [much to the surprise of some of us] of denying Michigan's delgates to the national Democratic convention later this year. Obama and some of the other candidates removed their names from the ballot; therefore, Hillary Clinton won by a fairly wide margin.

Other state primaries also took place in the following weeks, and still to this day, Obama and Clinton remained deadlocked in the delegate count. Therefore, Michigan's delegates [such as there might potentially be] would matter. This brings us to the present discussion, which appears to be dying out, of a "do-over primary" here in Michigan.

Hillary Clinton, currently trailing in the delegate count, really wants a do-over in the hope that she can cut into Obama's lead. And Obama, not surprisingly, supports nothing that would allow this to happen.

The entire concept of a "do-over primary" is inherently problematic. Who votes? Just Democrats? In Michigan, a voter can vote in only one primary—so some Republicans probably did vote in the Democratic primary, whether on a whim or for some concrete reason. Who pays for it? All Republicans and many Democrats agree firmly that the citizens of the state should not. Furthermore, state law, passed just a few years ago, only allows elections on specified dates of the year. In order to get this done before democratic-imposed deadlines, new legislation would have to be passed to change this (not likely). And then there's the whole mail-in idea; a brief bit of logical thinking will uncover several potential problems with that issue, too.

So what we Michiganders have witnessed is a petty, inept struggle that has ended in...nothing. There will be no "do-over." I offer two reasons for this:

  1. The lack of leadership among Michigan democrats. Compounded, of course, by their own petty infighting.
  2. The fact that a "do-over" is completely outside the rules! What sort of mentality is it that says, if we don't like the way things are going, we change the rules?!? And, of course, they'd have to get Republicans to agree to this...and they are far less likely to be so cavalier with the rules.

An Easter-related Sermon: Acts 13

In Acts 13:14, Paul arrives at Antioch in Pisidia and proceeds to share the gospel with the Jews in the synagogue. It is probably a classic and typical example of his preaching to the Jews who have not yet heard the gospel message. And in his sermon (vs. 16-41), we have these verses:

27 For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.
28 And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.
29 And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.
30 But God raised him from the dead:
Considering that tomorrow is Easter, that last verse is exceptionally appropriate. Those seven simple words, stated as plain fact (because it is a fact!), are the absolute bedrock of the Gospel Message. As Paul also wrote in 1 Cor. 15:12-19, if there was no resurrection of Christ on that blessed day two millennia ago, our faith in vain; we are in our sins; there is no hope of heaven or blessing after this earthly life.

But God raised Jesus from the dead! And because of this, our faith is not in vain! We can have hope of heaven after this earthly life!

And if you do not have this faith, but want it, please get in touch with me.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Good Friday Thought

Jesus paid it all.....All to Him I owe.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

And Are We Being Too Hard on John Mark?

(Also see previous post)

The other related point is that John Mark usually is painted as a quitter, because it says in Acts 13:13, "and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem." Of course, the fact that Paul didn't want to take him along on the next journey (Acts 15:36-40) seems to add a deeper tone of negative color to his decision.

Seems to. But once again, the premise is: We can't be sure.

The Bible's silence on John Mark's reason for returning to Jerusalem cannot be implied as condemnation. The Scriptures neither say "John was led of the spirit to return to Jerusalem" nor "John gave up the work of the spreading of the gospel." He is only mentioned twice again in Scripture: In Acts 15, where he may not have been present at the dispute; and in 2 Timothy 4:11, where Paul desires his company many years later. (If Col. 4:10 is referring to him also, then he was the nephew of Barnabas. This would also add some information about the dispute.)

Furthermore, it is possible—although the Bible is silent about this, too, so we should classify it as speculation—that John Mark had indeed quit, but later repented; and that Barnabas for this reason thought it good to bring him with them on a second missionary journey. Presumably he wanted to go with Barnabas and Saul (if he didn't, the dispute becomes foolish).

I already discussed that both Paul and Barnabas were strong-willed leaders. If John Mark was indeed Barnabas' nephew, that would also add another layer to the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas. [Aside: We who are Baptist have probably all seen disputes involving a pastor, one of his relatives, and someone else in the church—regardless of who was right in the dispute. Nepotism seems to be universal.]

In short, it seems reasonable that John Mark may have quit, but we cannot be certain; it is equally reasonable that if he did quit, he repented and wanted to go again; and if we know anything, it is that in later life he was a useful servant of God. The moral of the story: We need to be careful about condemning John Mark in this situation. Perhaps he was wrong. But we do not know...and as Christians, we must be careful about passing judgment when we are not in possession of adequate knowledge of the facts of the matter.

Didn't I say that once before?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Barnabas and Saul; Paul and Barnabas

One of the interesting stories of the Scriptures is the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15:36-40. They disagree over whether to bring John Mark along with them on a second missionary journey; eventually they go in different directions.

I have heard preachers preach with vigor that, to put it bluntly, Barnabas was wrong. They cite that Paul was "recommended by the brethren" (vs. 39) and that Barnabas is not mentioned again in the text of Acts. They also cite Paul's apostolic authority, which seems to mean that his decision trumped Barnabas's. Galatians 2:11-14 is also used.

But was Paul right in this contention between them? My premise is this: We can't be sure.

Silence on the subject of Barnabas is not automatically evidence of censure. He and John Mark may have had many years of fruitful ministry after the split with Paul...we simply do not know.

Taking Barnabas's side for the moment, I want to posit three points:

  1. Cutting to the chase: Barnabas is never censured in Scripture for his decision to take John Mark with him. And John Mark, of course, is desired by Paul many years later (2 Tim. 4:11).
  2. Until Acts 13:9, when "Saul" is referred to as "Paul," Barnabas is frequently seen as the probable leader of the pair. It is interesting to notice that in all references prior to this verse, when the two of them are named together, it is always "Barnabas and Saul"—even by the Holy Spirit in Acts 13:2, at the outset of the first missionary journey. It is also interesting to notice that in all references after this verse, when the two of them are named together, it is always "Paul and Barnabas" [Exception: In Acts 15, when the two of them went to the council in Jerusalem, they are twice referred to as "Barnabas and Paul" (vs. 12, 25); this might have something to do with the fact that in this peer group, Barnabas may still have been perceived as the more "senior" member]. It was Barnabas who "introduced" this former persecutor of the saints to the Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 9:27). Barnabas, clearly, exhibits leadership in the early church.
  3. Without ignoring that God chose Paul as an apostle, we see at the human level that a mentor and leader [Barnabas] sees his charge [Saul/Paul] exalted to a level of leadership that, in a sense, exceeds his own. This is no way diminishes Barnabas' leadership—if anything, Barnabas should have been thrilled to see one whom he knew as a "young Christian" become such a strong leader, used of God in the church. Paul's ascendence did not necessarily come with corresponding subordination for Barnabas. Furthermore, it is possible (though speculative) that Barnabas may have been an older man than Paul, making it difficult for him to submit to the leadership of one both younger in age and in faith than himself.
One other possibility has come to mind: It is highly likely (to me) that both men were strong-willed (and possibly stubborn) leaders with a strong desire to do the work of God. Consequently, neither was likely to give in if convinced that his was the way God wanted. Paul also evidenced a strong will (stubbornness?), even in the face of prophecy, concerning his desire to travel to Jerusalem in Acts 21.

We need to be careful about condemning Barnabas in this situation. Perhaps he was wrong. But we do not know...and as Christians, we must be careful about passing judgment when we are not in possession of adequate knowledge of the facts of the matter.

Democrat Disagreements Becoming Disputatious?

It is as obvious as the sunrise that many Republicans and Democrats do not enjoy discussing/debating/arguing political subjects with each other. (Others, of course, do. So be it.) But in this Newsweek article, The Deep Blue Divide, found here and written by Julia Baird, it appears that Democrats who support Hillary Clinton and other Democrats who support Barack Obama are experiencing growing tension between themselves.

Here is a part of the article:

For the past five years, a group of friends, mostly military wives or retired government workers, have been meeting for lunch at an Italian restaurant called Amici's in a strip mall in Stafford, Va. All Democrats, they don't come just for the wood-fired pizza or $8.99 lunch buffet. They come to talk about their beloved party. But lately, the air has chilled in the Tuscan-themed room.

At the lunch after Clinton's loss in Virginia, Alicia Knight, 49, a Hillary supporter, came in late. The only spare chair was between two Obama supporters, both old friends of Knight's. "I was so angry, I didn't want to sit between them, so I sat by myself at another table," she says. "It's become like the cold war: in order to maintain the relationship, you don't talk to each other." Recently, the Clinton and Obama groups began lunching separately. "We couldn't take the bashing, the smirkiness of the Obama fans," says Linda Berkoff, 63.

It's unclear exactly when the primaries stopped being a joyous occasion for the Democrats. But as the weeks have ground on, the intensity between Democrats who disagree has calcified, the vitriol grown fiercer. According to exit polling in the Texas primary, 91 percent of Clinton supporters said they would be dissatisfied with Obama as the nominee; 87 percent of Obama fans said they would be dissatisfied with Clinton. Nationally, a quarter of those who back Clinton say they'd vote for John McCain if Obama won the nomination (while just 10 percent of Obama supporters would do the same if he lost).

For many Democrats, what started out as a glowing opportunity for a historic presidency has become a depressing display of division and anger trumping reason. Because the policy differences between Clinton and Obama are minor, the debate is not about substance; it's been mainly about character and identity in a contest between a black man and a white woman. Historians insist that intraparty bitterness is nothing new. But growing anger about perceived racism and sexism is souring what was once excitement among Democrats about an embarrassment of riches. Now many are embarrassed that the party which prides itself on diversity is battling its own prejudices. Unaffiliated Democratic strategist Donna Brazile believes it has become "a brewing internal civil war."

The interesting thing about this (to me) is that the Republicans had far more potential to splinter into acrimonious camps. But now that McCain has become the nominee, most of us (me included) have reached agreement that he is now the best hope and the preferred remaining candidate in the race. And so we civilly rally around our candidate.

Will the Democrats do the same once one of them is the nominee?

Hymn of the Week: There's Room At The Cross For You

Today is Palm Sunday. It is appropriate and proper to remember that we are commemorating the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. And as the week progresses, we must also remember why he went there: To die, for our sins.

Specifically, to die for the sins of all mankind—yours, mine, and everyone else's—and to redeem us to Himself, so that we may be His children and live with Him eternally. God "is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). He wants every man and every woman and every child to accept His offer of salvation.

Some think that their sins are too awful or too numerous to allow God to save them. This is not so. He saved Paul, who called himself "chief" among sinners (1 Tim. 1:12-16); and He has saved many more from every walk of life and every type of background in the two thousand years since. This hymn beautifully portrays God's power and desire to save.

If you have not accepted the gift of salvation—for which Jesus went to Jerusalem, to be crucified, for you—you can accept it today. Ask Christ to forgive your sins and put your faith in Him. If you have any questions about salvation, please leave me a comment so I can get in touch with you.

There's Room At the Cross For You

The cross upon which Jesus died
Is a shelter in which we can hide
And its grace so free
Is sufficient for me
And deep is its fountain; as wide as the sea

There's room at the cross for you
There's room at the cross for you
Though millions have come
There's still room for one
Yes, there's room at the cross for you

Though millions have found Him a Friend
And have turned from the sins they have sinned
The Saviour still waits
To open the gates
And welcome a sinner before its too late

The hand of my Saviour is strong
And the love of my Saviour is long
Through sunshine or rain
Through loss or in gain
The blood flows from Calvary to cleanse every stain

Words and music by Ira F. Stanphill

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The IRS's 2008 "Dirty Dozen" List

Apparently, the IRS produces an annual list of the twelve "most egregious tax schemes and scams." What follows is the list, including some of the IRS commentary on it:

The IRS urges taxpayers to avoid these common schemes:

1. Phishing

Phishing is a tactic used by Internet-based thieves to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal information they can then use to access the victims’ financial accounts. These criminals use the information obtained to empty the victims’ bank accounts, run up credit card charges and apply for loans or credit in the victims’ names. Phishing scams often take the form of an e-mail that appears to come from a legitimate source. Some scam e-mails falsely claim to come from the IRS. To date, taxpayers have forwarded more than 33,000 of these scam e-mails, reflecting more than 1,500 different schemes, to the IRS. The IRS never uses e-mail to contact taxpayers about their tax issues. Taxpayers who receive unsolicited e-mail that claims to be from the IRS can forward the message to a special electronic mailbox,, using instructions contained in an article titled “How to Protect Yourself from Suspicious E-Mails or Phishing Schemes.”Remember: the only official IRS Web site is located at

2. Scams Related to the Economic Stimulus Payment

Some scam artists are trying to trick individuals into revealing personal financial information that can be used to access their financial accounts by making promises relating to the economic stimulus payment, often called a “rebate.” To obtain the payment, eligible individuals in most cases will not have to do anything more than file a 2007 federal tax return. But some criminals posing as IRS representatives are trying to trick taxpayers into revealing their personal financial information by falsely telling them they must provide information to get a payment. For instance, a potential victim is told by phone or e-mail that he or she is eligible for a rebate but must provide a bank account number (or similar information) to get the payment. If the target is unwilling, the victim is then told that he cannot receive the rebate unless the information is provided. Individuals should remember that the only way to get a stimulus payment is to file a 2007 tax return. The IRS urges taxpayers to be extra-vigilant. The IRS will not contact taxpayers by phone or e-mail about their stimulus payment.

3. Frivolous Arguments

Promoters of frivolous schemes encourage people to make unreasonable and unfounded claims to avoid paying the taxes they owe. Most recently, the IRS expanded its list of frivolous legal positions that taxpayers should stay away from. Taxpayers who file a tax return or make a submission based on one of these positions on the list are subject to a $5,000 penalty. The most recent update of the list of frivolous positions includes: misinterpretation of the 9th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution regarding objections to military spending, erroneous claims that taxes are owed only by persons with a fiduciary relationship to the United States, a nonexistent “Mariner’s Tax Deduction” related to invalid deductions for meals and the misuse of the fuel tax credit (see below). The complete list of frivolous arguments is on the IRS Web site at

4. Fuel Tax Credit Scams

5. Hiding Income Offshore

6. Abusive Retirement Plans

7. Zero Wages

8. False Claims for Refund and Requests for Abatement

9. Return Preparer Fraud

Dishonest tax return preparers can cause many problems for taxpayers who fall victim to their schemes. These scam artists make their money by skimming a portion of their clients’ refunds and charging inflated fees for return preparation services. They attract new clients by promising large refunds. Some preparers promote the filing of fraudulent claims for refunds on items such as fuel tax credits to recover taxes paid in prior years. Taxpayers should choose carefully when hiring a tax preparer, especially one who promises something that seems too good to be true.

10. Diguised Corporate Ownership

11. Misuse of Trusts

12. Abuse of Charitable Organizations and Deductions

The IRS continues to observe the misuse of tax-exempt organizations. Misuse includes arrangements to improperly shield income or assets from taxation, attempts by donors to maintain control over donated assets or income from donated property and overvaluation of contributed property. In addition, IRS examiners are seeing an upturn in instances where taxpayers try to disguise private tuition payments as contributions to charitable or religious organizations.

This last sentence particularly concerns me as I was once contacted by a church/school in Dayton, Ohio, that overtly did something like this.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Obama's Pastor: Man of God?

In a word, No. Unlike the IRS, I have no problem with a pastor making biblical comments on the issues or candidates of the day. (Stump speeches on Sunday mornings are irritating and generally out of place, but they should not be criminal.)

But what this man has been recorded as saying is unfitting and inappropriate for a man who is to "lead the flock." According to a story and other sources, the following things are on the record as coming from his mouth in recent days:

From April 2003: "The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes three-strike laws and wants them to sing God Bless America."

“No! No No!

“God damn America … for killing innocent people.

“God damn America for threatening citizens as less than humans.

“God damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God and supreme.”

From Late 2001: “We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki. And we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye,” Wright said.

“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because of stuff we have done overseas is now brought back into our own backyard. America is chickens coming home to roost.”

And from another sermon (at least, I'm assuming that is what it was): “The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color. The government lied.”

At long last, Senator Obama has distanced himself from his "friend," "mentor," and pastor's comments. At least, officially. And this man has recently retired from his pastorate.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Time To Remember Ronald Reagan Again!

The following quotes come from the website and an e-mail I received from that website today. If only our next president could be the leader that Reagan was!

In two powerful speeches that took place twenty-five years ago this March, President Ronald Reagan dealt what would ultimately prove to be lethal blows to the moral and material foundations of the Soviet Union.

On March 8, 1983, Reagan described the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” and as “the focus of evil in the modern world,” and fifteen days later, on March 23, Reagan unveiled his vision for the research, development, and ultimate deployment of a missile defense shield that would one day end the vulnerability of America and her allies to Soviet nuclear attack.

While both speeches were widely ridiculed at the time, they are today rightly hailed as having made decisive contributions to bringing about the eventual dissolution of the Soviet Union a little less than nine years later.

In 1980, the United States was losing the Cold War. Under President Jimmy Carter, the American economy had become a disaster -- featuring 13% inflation, 22% interest rates, gasoline lines and shortages, and the beginning of the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Our national security situation was verging on the catastrophic. The anti-military left had cut the Defense budget. The Soviet Union was subsidizing massive appeasement marches in Western Europe (secret documents released after the fall of East Germany confirm that Soviet front-groups were behind the demonstrations). Soviet forces were on the offense in Afghanistan, Angola, Mozambique, Grenada, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

The most public humiliation was the illegal seizure of the American Embassy in Iran in 1979. Iranian militants held American diplomats as hostages in total violation of international law for 444 days. In the face of this assault on America and American citizens, Carter's policy was one of weakness and appeasement. The result was a national sense of humiliation and impotence.

The only political leader who understood how big the change needed to be was Ronald Reagan.

Before Reagan took office, the national establishment favored a policy of "reasonableness" -- that is, they accepted the existence of the Soviet Union as a given and believed it had to be accommodated.

In contrast to the "realpolitik" of the national establishment, Ronald Reagan outlined a simple, clear alternative. When asked by a reporter of his vision of the Cold War, Reagan said simply, "We win, they lose."

On March 8, 1983, Reagan offered his most forceful moral claim for this new strategy of victory in the Cold War. In a speech calling the Soviet Union an "evil empire," he defined the illegitimacy of the Soviet dictatorship. It was a speech that Natan Sharansky, then a prisoner in the Soviet Gulag, said galvanized the hopes of the prisoners and raised their morale while demoralizing the Soviet guards and undermining the authority of the Soviet system.

Two weeks later, on March 23, President Reagan outlined in a second speech the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) that was designed to begin a science-and-technology race that the Soviets could not win.

America's elites were shocked by these two speeches. They ridiculed and attacked them. The State Department professionals and the foreign policy elites opposed Reagan. They were all horrified that an American President could be so bold and provocative.

They would be almost as unhappy four years later when President Reagan went to Berlin and demanded, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

Less than nine years after Ronald Reagan's "Evil Empire" and "SDI" speeches, the Soviet Union disappeared.

The scale of this strategic victory and the role of President Reagan in defeating the Soviet Union are ignored by most of academic America and much of the news media.

The 25th anniversary of these two speeches is a good time to set the record straight.

They were wrong, and Reagan was right.

Texas Democrats Quitting in the Face of Difficulty?

In this article on, it was reported that Texas state democrats have given up their efforts to get a proper tally of the caucus results following last week's primary election, won by a small 51%-to-47% margin by Hillary Clinton.

The problems included the following:

  • Just over 40% of the precinct caucus results were actually reported to the state by the volunteers who are supposed to account for the tally.
  • Barack Obama led the caucus count, incomplete though it was, 56% to 44%. This is inconsistent with the primary results, which seems to me to be a potential source of political strife.
  • The local issue here seems to be a matter of (1) getting a proper caucus vote count, (2) recording this count accurately, and (3) submitting it on the proper paperwork to the folks up the ladder. This is not difficult, even for Democrats. So how on earth can the problems be so widespread, in so many counties? Should we ever trust Democrats again with voting apparatus of any kind? [Read the article for several examples.]
  • Does anybody remember Democrat complaints about the 2000 Florida presidential results?
Houston’s 857 precinct results are still coming in, said Harris County party chairman Gerald Birnberg, but when precinct convention chairmen ran out of official sign-in sheets last Tuesday night, they tore the “Democrats Vote Here” signs off the wall and scrawled the preferences of caucus-goers in long hand, slowing down the count this week.
  • And just so you don't think I'm making this one up, I'll quote from the article again:
In Hidalgo County, a border stronghold for Clinton, the count has been stymied by the disappearance of county Democratic chairman Juan Maldonado, who changed his cell phone number after losing re-election and hasn’t shown up at his business, a bail-bonds office that also offers state teacher certification.
How many problems do you see in that sentence?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Hymn of the Week: Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed?

Also known as At The Cross, this classic hymn of Isaac Watts is especially appropriate at this time of year. Easter is only two weeks away, and every one of us would be wrong to forget, or to fail to meditate upon, what actually happened on that cross two thousand years ago.

He died for sinners like me. My crimes put him there. My Sovereign shed His own blood for my sins. And my heart should be thankful!

And thankfully, when each of us comes to the cross in faith, the burden of our heart can roll away, our eternal destiny can be made secure, and we can indeed be happy every day!

It should sadden us that the cross was necessary, but praise the Lord that He suffered in our place!

Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed?

Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For sinners such as I?
[originally, For such a worm as I?]


At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!

Thy body slain, sweet Jesus, Thine—
And bathed in its own blood—
While the firm mark of wrath divine,
His Soul in anguish stood.

Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker died,
For man the creature’s sin.

Thus might I hide my blushing face
While His dear cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt my eyes to tears.

But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give my self away
’Tis all that I can do.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

What Does God Love? What Does God Hate?

Last Wednesday evening these two questions were explored at our church. What follows is a partial list of what God declares that He loves:

  • Cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7)
  • The world (1 John 4:9)
  • Obedience (1 Sam. 15:22)
  • Broken and contrite heart (Ps. 51:17)
  • The nation of Israel (Deut. 7:6-8)
  • His people/children (Hosea 3:1)
  • Righteousness (Ps. 11:7, 33:5)
  • Judgment (Ps. 33:5, 37:28)
Here is a partial list of some things God declares He hates:
  • Workers of iniquity (Ps. 5:5)
  • Divorce (Mal. 2:16)
  • Sin/Evil (Prov. 8:13)
  • And of course, we read the list of things in Proverbs 6:16-19:
    • Proud look
    • Lying tongue
    • Hands that shed innocent blood
    • Heart that devises wicked imaginations
    • Feet that are swift in running to mischief
    • False witness that speaketh lies
    • He who sows discord among the brethren
If God loves it, should we? If God hates it, should we? Of course. More on this topic later.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Once Upon a Time, There Was a Bird Feeder....

This text comes from an e-mail sent to us today from a friend. Very, very applicable....

I bought a bird feeder. I hung it on my back porch and filled it with seed. What a beauty of a bird feeder it is, as I filled it lovingly with seed. Within a week we had hundreds of birds taking advantage of the continuous flow of free and easily accessible food.

But then the birds started building nests in the boards of the patio, above the table, and next to the barbecue. Then came the poop. It was everywhere: on the patio tile, the chairs, the table everywhere! Then some of the birds turned mean. They would dive bomb me and try to peck me even though I had fed them out of my own pocket. And others birds were boisterous and loud. They sat on the feeder and squawked and screamed at all hours of the day and night and demanded that I fill it when it got low on food.

After a while, I couldn't even sit on my own back porch anymore. So I took down the bird feeder and in a few days the birds were gone. I cleaned up their mess and took down the many nests they had built all over the patio. Soon, the back yard was like it used to be ... quiet, serene and no one demanding a free meal.

Now let's see ..... Our government gives out free food, subsidized housing, free medical care, and free education and allows anyone born here to be an automatic citizen. Then the illegals came by the millions. Suddenly our taxes went up to pay for free services; small apartments are housing 5 families; you have to wait 6 hours to be seen by an emergency room doctor; your child's 2nd grade class is behind other schools because over half the class doesn't speak English. Corn Flakes now come in a bilingual box; I have to 'press one' to hear my bank talk to me in English, and people waving flags other than 'Old Glory' are squawking and screaming in the streets, demanding more rights and free liberties.

Just my opinion, but maybe it's time for the government to take down the bird feeder. If you don't agree, continue dealing with the poop.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Thought For Today

There is a Name I love to hear,
I love to sing its worth;
It sounds like music in mine ear,
The sweetest Name on earth.

O how I love Jesus, because He first loved me!

These words are by Frederick Whitfield (1855). The entire text can be read here—and it's worth reading. Remember how much Jesus loves you (at least, to the extent you can even understand such unbounded love), and strive to love Him more.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Time To Face It: McCain Wins the GOP Nomination

He wasn't my choice. Not initally, anyway. But to compare him to Clinton and Obama is to believe that he is vastly superior to his remaining opposition. And he should win in November.

Earlier, I noted an article about The Five Stages of McCain. I think I have now reached the gray area between stages 3 and 4.

Go Republicans!

What Does The Lord Require of You?

Two times in the Bible God's people are asked, perhaps rhetorically but certainly in all seriousness, what the Lord requires of them. And then God answers His question:

And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:8)
Certainly these are very general and pervasive statements. We Christians tend to forget that the Christian walk is a serious, day-in and day-out affair, affecting every dimension of our lives. As the soldier is to remain ever-vigilant, the Christian is to remain ever-serving, always striving to meet the high and righteous standards God righteously expects of His children. And which, it must be remembered, are commanded for our good.

The first verse uses the word all three times. Certainly nothing in these verses suggests a temporary, ephemeral, or inconsistent state. Every day we are to be meeting God's requirements.

Each of us, today, must examine ourselves to see if we are living up to what is required of us.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Hymn of the Week: Wonderful Grace of Jesus

God's grace is wonderful! Meditate on that today. Without it we have no salvation, no hope.

This is one of those classic hymns with a wonderful, memorable tune....but don't let the tune drown out the wonderful words. How shall my tongue describe it? Where shall its praise begin? I have been pardoned! I have been saved to the uttermost! Let us magnify the precious name of Jesus!

The words and music were both written in the 20th century by Haldor Lillenas.

Wonderful Grace of Jesus

Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it,
Where shall its praise begin?
Taking away my burden,
Setting my spirit free;
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.


Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,
Deeper than the mighty rolling sea;
Wonderful grace, all sufficient for me, for even me.
Broader than the scope of my transgressions,
Greater far than all my sin and shame,
O magnify the precious Name of Jesus.
Praise His Name!

Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Reaching to all the lost,
By it I have been pardoned,
Saved to the uttermost,
Chains have been torn asunder,
Giving me liberty;
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.


Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Reaching the most defiled,
By its transforming power,
Making him God’s dear child,
Purchasing peace and heaven,
For all eternity;
And the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.


Substitute Teaching: End of February Update

Since beginning with H&R Block in early January, I have only substituted three times—all at Mattawan. Two were in the MS, and one in the HS.

So through 2/29/08, here is where I have been so far:

  • Mattawan (23; 12 in HS, 10 in MS, 1 in Elem.)
  • Decatur (5; 1 in HS, 2 in MS, 2 in Elem.)
  • Paw Paw (5; 4 in HS, 1 in Elem.)
  • Gobles (5; 4 in HS, 1 in MS)
  • Lawrence (4; 2 in HS, 1 in MS, 1 in Elem.)
  • Bloomingdale (3; 2 in HS, 1 in Elem.)
  • Lawton (2; 1 in Alternative Ed., 1 in MS)
  • Howardsville Christian (2, HS)
I still have so many interesting stories to tell....