Monday, March 22, 2010

Something Close to Nothing!

People will no doubt continue to remain bitterly divided of the health care debate despite the new law/reform Congress passed last night. Good and honest people can and will arrive at different conclusions and have vastly different viewpoints as to what is best for this nation.

I have no doubt President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and the rest of their cohorts who voted in favor of Obamacare yesterday think they are making a more perfect union.

But, in my opinion, I think Congress has done something close to nothing to reform America’s health care system.

The sad reality is that for those of us who think the ballooning national debt is a key indicator of our nation's health and prosperity, the country is in desperate straits carrying a sense of falling that is undeniable. The continued expansion of government control and intervention coupled with massive spending increases make it difficult to be optimistic about our country's future.

The financial facts of this bill were continually ignored by the 219 members of the House who voted on this massive entitlement bill. Read at the bottom the Op Ed piece in the New York Times (of all sources) which laid out the truth about this bill. (“The Real Arithmetic of Health Care Reform”)

Given the government's history or grossly underestimating the actual costs of entitlement programs, I don’t know about you, but I know I don’t trust the government to hold my money.

Now, one last point, while everyone has an obligation to help those who are less fortunate, it is important how that duty is fulfilled. I simply believe that President Obama's desire for the government to carry out that responsibility is misguided and will lead to more government waste and neglect of the very ones they claim to want to help.

If you remember the Parable of the Good Samaritan, there's a priest and a Levite who use their freedom in different ways than the Samaritan did. They chose not to help the man who was lying by the side of the road. But the Samaritan used his freedom, and Jesus encouraged his followers to use their freedom to help the poor and the sick. And when you do that, the care that they receive ends up being better.

Many are predicting that the government's effort to provide medical care to the poor will be an “administrative and bureaucratic nightmare" because of the all the politicking and litigation involved.”

This country has a lot of soul searching to do when it comes to what's best for our nation's health care needs

People are afraid that this new health care law will lead to socialized medicine, no choice of doctors or hospitals, and their list goes on and on.

It is indeed a time of reflection and prayer. In the end, We must always remember what the God of heavens says about Himself and about the righteous and wicked,

"Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men who cannot save. When their spirits depart, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them--the Lord, who remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the alien, and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. The Lord reigns forever

Psalm 147:3-10a (NIV).


The Real Arithmetic of Health Care Reform
Published: March 20, 2010

ON Thursday, the Congressional Budget Office reported that, if enacted, the latest health care reform legislation would, over the next 10 years, cost about $950 billion, but because it would raise some revenues and lower some costs, it would also lower federal deficits by $138 billion. In other words, a bill that would set up two new entitlement spending programs — health insurance subsidies and long-term health care benefits — would actually improve the nation’s bottom line.

Could this really be true? How can the budget office give a green light to a bill that commits the federal government to spending nearly $1 trillion more over the next 10 years?

The answer, unfortunately, is that the budget office is required to take written legislation at face value and not second-guess the plausibility of what it is handed. So fantasy in, fantasy out.

In reality, if you strip out all the gimmicks and budgetary games and rework the calculus, a wholly different picture emerges: The health care reform legislation would raise, not lower, federal deficits, by $562 billion.
Gimmick No. 1 is the way the bill front-loads revenues and backloads spending. That is, the taxes and fees it calls for are set to begin immediately, but its new subsidies would be deferred so that the first 10 years of revenue would be used to pay for only 6 years of spending.

Even worse, some costs are left out entirely. To operate the new programs over the first 10 years, future Congresses would need to vote for $114 billion in additional annual spending. But this so-called discretionary spending is excluded from the
Congressional Budget Office’s tabulation.

Consider, too, the fate of the $70 billion in premiums expected to be raised in the first 10 years for the legislation’s new long-term health care insurance program. This money is counted as deficit reduction, but the benefits it is intended to finance are assumed not to materialize in the first 10 years, so they appear nowhere in the cost of the legislation.

Another vivid example of how the legislation manipulates revenues is the provision to have corporations deposit $8 billion in higher estimated tax payments in 2014, thereby meeting fiscal targets for the first five years. But since the corporations’ actual taxes would be unchanged, the money would need to be refunded the next year.

The net effect is simply to shift dollars from 2015 to 2014.
In addition to this accounting sleight of hand, the legislation would blithely rob Peter to pay Paul. For example, it would use $53 billion in anticipated higher Social Security taxes to offset health care spending. Social Security revenues are expected to rise as employers shift from paying for health insurance to paying higher wages. But if workers have higher wages, they will also qualify for increased Social Security benefits when they retire. So the extra money raised from payroll taxes is already spoken for. (Indeed, it is unlikely to be enough to keep Social Security solvent.) It cannot be used for lowering the deficit.

A government takeover of all federally financed student loans — which obviously has nothing to do with health care — is rolled into the bill because it is expected to generate $19 billion in deficit reduction.

Finally, in perhaps the most amazing bit of unrealistic accounting, the legislation proposes to trim $463 billion from Medicare spending and use it to finance insurance subsidies. But Medicare is already bleeding red ink, and the health care bill has no reforms that would enable the program to operate more cheaply in the future. Instead, Congress is likely to continue to regularly override scheduled cuts in payments to Medicare doctors and other providers.

Removing the unrealistic annual Medicare savings ($463 billion) and the stolen annual revenues from Social Security and long-term care insurance ($123 billion), and adding in the annual spending that so far is not accounted for ($114 billion) quickly generates additional deficits of $562 billion in the first 10 years. And the nation would be on the hook for two more entitlement programs rapidly expanding as far as the eye can see.

The bottom line is that Congress would spend a lot more; steal funds from education, Social Security and long-term care to cover the gap; and promise that future Congresses will make up for it by taxing more and spending less.

The stakes could not be higher. As documented in another recent budget office analysis, the federal deficit is already expected to exceed at least $700 billion every year over the next decade, doubling the national debt to more than $20 trillion. By 2020, the federal deficit — the amount the government must borrow to meet its expenses — is projected to be $1.2 trillion, $900 billion of which represents interest on previous debt.

The health care legislation would only increase this crushing debt. It is a clear indication that Congress does not realize the urgency of putting America’s fiscal house in order.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who was the director of the Congressional Budget Office from 2003 to 2005, is the president of the American Action Forum, a policy institute.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Gospel and ‘Social Justice’…

In light of the highly publicized politic debate taking place right now concerning “Obamacare” (i.e., national government health care), I have been thinking about how all this relates to the subject of social justice and whether or not the church should involve itself in such things. This has really become a hot topic these days, especially amongst younger Evangelicals.

A few examples are………

Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC. Tim has been speaking about justice for many years but has just recently put his insights into a new book coming out in October of this year entitled Generous Justice. Here is the publishers description:

It is commonly thought in our secular culture that the Bible is one of the
great hindrances to doing justice. In Generous Justice, Timothy Keller
illuminates a life of justice empowered by an experience of grace: a generous,
gracious justice.

Generous Justice is a book for believers who find the Bible a trustworthy
guide, as well as for those who suspect that Christianity is a regressive
influence in the world.

Keller calls upon life-long Christians to deepen their faith by
understanding that justice for the poor and marginalized is central to the
Scripture’s message and challenges skeptics to recognize that the Bible is
actually the basis for the modern understanding of justice.

Like all of Tim’s books, this one promises to be thought provoking and generate lots of good healthy discussion and debate.

But it illustrates the debate about the social justice and gospel.

It doesn’t take a one long to realize that the so called “emerging church” which crosses a number of theological boundaries and the participants can be described as evangelical, post-evangelical, and post-liberal. They are very concerned with the planet, with the ecosystems, pollution and the environment; so much so that apparently in some sense Christ died for the physical planet and it is the job of the follower of Christ to help restore and protect this world. He is also troubled with injustice.

One of the leading voices of this movement is Brian McLaren. He asks, “And could our preoccupation with individual salvation from hell after death distract us from speaking prophetically about injustice in our world today?”( The Last Word and the Word After That, p. 84) .Emergent leaders have a deep concern that if we are preoccupied with who is “in” and who is “out,” who is going to heaven and who is not, we will ignore present physical needs of the planet and social issues like injustice, poverty and AIDS.

McLaren argues, “When Matthew, Mark, and Luke talk about the Kingdom of God, it’s always closely related to social justice…. The gospel of the kingdom is about God’s will being done on earth for everybody, but we’re interested in getting away from earth entirely as individuals, and into heaven instead.”(ibid 149) Martin Luther King is given by McLaren as an example of one who had the right gospel emphasis.[ibid 153) They fault the evangelical church for being too wrapped up in eternity to care about what is happening right now on planet earth and with being too anxious over who is saved from sin to notice who is suffering from man’s inhumanity to man.

It does not seem to be an option to the emergent church that both social injustices and eternal redemption can be and have been attended to by God’s people. But, despite opinions to the contrary, the priority of Scripture is on man’s relationship to God. It is because men are alienated from God that they mistreat one another. The spiritually redeemed and transformed person should and will care about social sins.

But, again, the gospel is about man’s alienation from God and what He has done through Christ to reconcile us to Himself (Romans 5:6-11), not about the ozone layer and elimination of poverty. Neither Jesus nor the apostles made these latter things the focus of their ministries; it was the reconciliation of souls to God that was at the heart of their message. Once we begin to draw our gospel from the culture, no matter what culture that might be, we have altered the true gospel. Emergent leaders are not wrong to be concerned about the environment and social injustice; they are wrong to confuse it with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

For me, the issue is not an “either/or” scenario. I like the way Jonathan Leeman put it recently, suggesting that evangelism and social involvement are “not at odds with each other, but that social involvement is a subsidiary part of evangelism but we shouldn’t get our priorities confused.”

Again, to me, the question to me is we will be emphasizing evangelism and reaching out with the proclamation of the Gospel at the same time, just as strongly how we as Christians live that out? The reality is that in our culture today, especially among the younger generations, they respond to social justice issues and move from that to hearing the Gospel, rather than hearing the Gospel and moving to social justice.

Again, it is good and proper for us to attempt to alleviate the suffering of anyone, in whatever form that is: feeding the hungry, healing the broken, freeing the slaves, redeeming those in prostitution, loving the orphan and the widow, etc.

But the truth of the matter is that if we do not preach the gospel, we are, in essence, simply putting a band-aid on a bullet wound. In the end, that does not address the real issue, and that is giving people life. One can be freed from forced prostitution but still a slave to their sin nature. It is better for one to remain in slavery and come to know Christ than it is for one to never hear of Christ and be freed from slavery. Of course... it is best if one knows Christ and is freed from slavery... but I believe it is our best practice to address the former sooner than the latter, if at all possible.

I greatly desire to see a resurgence of evangelism in the body of Christ today. But evangelism that is rooted in and focused on the gospel.

For a much better and compelling argument read the one made by Kim Moreland in the following article:

In Christ,
Robert Prater

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Where is this Global Warming?

Propelled by the threat (perhaps hysteria) of supposed man-made global warming, the American culture has been convinced to "go-green." From political statements, marketing tactics (remember the Audi “Green Police” commercials for the Super Bowl?)and even one church I read about installing an earth-friendly heating system, we now seem to be much more conscious of protecting our environment. The advocates of global warming have cooled down in recent weeks as a massive cold front and record snow has held an icy grip on much of the Mid-West (including Dallas!), South-eastern states. As a result, one top United Nation's global warming proponent is now going to the opposite extreme and is predicting the beginning of a "mini ice age" (see's report "30 Years of Global Cooling Are Coming, Leading Scientist Says" on January 11, 2010).

The increased concern of protecting and preserving our environment is a good thing. In fact, it is a divine directive. One of the responsibilities given to mankind is to be a steward and keeper of our earthly abode (see Genesis 2:15). God has given this environment, its creatures, and natural resources for mankind's use (cf. Genesis 2:11-12, 16-17; 3:21; 9:3). Yet, God is displeased when we blatantly abuse his creation (cf. Deuteronomy 22:6-7; Exodus 23:11).

We must be good stewards of the earth and not abuse God's provisions for us. However, we must not fall victim to the doomsday predictions and hysteria of the environmental prophets. Man can abuse the earth and even do great harm (remember the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989?) However, we do not have the power to destroy the earth. God has reserved that exclusive right having promised that he will be the one to personally destroy the earth and man cannot subvert his plan (2 Peter 3:7, 12). God has personally "reserved" the destruction of the earth with fire for himself on his predetermined day (2 Peter 3:7). Man cannot preempt God's predetermined plans. Even after the oil spill of the Exxon Valdez, scientists were amazed at the "rapid recovery" of the environment which demonstrates that God has designed the earth as a "resilient ecosystem" and not a "fragile environment" (Doughty, Heaven, pg. 48).

From the beginning God designed the environment and weather patterns of the earth to be cyclical in nature (Genesis 1:14). We should expect that there will be cycles of cold weather and decades of warmer temperatures. In fact, God made a promise concerning this after he destroyed the earth by water in the days of Noah. God said, "While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease" (Genesis 8:22).

While we should be very conscious of the fact that we must be responsible stewards of God's creation, we should not be fearful that we will destroy the earth. God holds that exclusive right. We must be personally prepared for that day (2 Peter 3:11-13). In this way, maybe we should be more concerned with heaven than with earth!

God bless,
Robert Prater