Want To Persuade? Do it Right.

If you would persuade someone, or convince them that the idea they are putting forward is not true, you must be honest about what they say they believe.  If you are, then you can logically lay out your case.  If you are not, the possibility of changing their way of thinking is over.  If you are purposely dishonest about or distort what someone else believes, you will not win them over.  And those others that you may win over will be because of deception, not truth.

I see this played out in the political world every day.  One side will grossly exaggerate or even lie about what the other believes in an effort to…well, I’m not quite sure what the effort is really for, honestly.

For example, it’s often said that conservatives oppose immigration.  We do not.  We oppose illegal immigration.  Those who would seek to come here in the manner that our law specifies are welcome.  It’s the blatant breaking of the law that bothers us.  To say there’s no difference is as illogical as to say there’s no difference between driving the proper speed and in speeding while driving intoxicated.  One is right, the other is blatantly against the law.

Another more recent example is the debate over the tax bill that recently passed.  I read a little bit about it, and I liked what I saw.  Lower income and middle class people get some much needed tax relief.  Not only is the tax rate going down for most people, the standard deduction and child tax credits are nearly doubling.  It can mean a family who earns $30,000 a year can see several hundred dollars of tax savings this year.  Pretty cool.  But depending on who you listen to, you wouldn’t know it.

In fact, if you listened to certain folks, you’d think the poor and the middle class are being drastically hurt by this bill.  Take these headlines for example:

CNN Money: “One-Third of Middle Class Families Could End Up Paying More Under the GOP Tax Plan”

New York Times: “Paul Ryan’s Middle-Class Tax Hike”

Washington Post: “Senate tax bill would cut taxes of wealthy and increase taxes on families earning less than $75,000 by 2027”

And this quote from Democrat House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi:

“Today, we face a GOP tax scam that raises taxes on 86 million middle-class families,”

I guess it shouldn’t be surprising then that a lot more Americans think their taxes will actually be going up, not down.

It’s an example of those who are opposed to something being dishonest about what their opposition believes and the legislation they have put forth.  It shows an unwillingness to debate, and really, it sends a signal that they know they would lose said debate.

“But why would they do that?” you may ask.  Here’s the main reason: the tax bill also benefits the wealthy and corporations, by lowering their taxes as well.  Now, if we want to debate whether that is a good idea, then let us debate that.  But saying that the Republicans will raise taxes on the middle class with this tax bill, that they want to benefit the rich and harm the poor, is not true.

And yet, you see this message repeated practically everywhere in the media.  And depending on who you trust to report the news, you could believe something that’s untrue.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand it when I believe something that I later find out to be false.

I would encourage you to understand the position of those you would disagree with.  At the very least, it will help you present your case more compellingly.  It can also lead you to understand why the other person came to their conclusion and what is behind that, which can lead to other conversations.

But as you understand their position, be honest about it.  The alternative will get you nowhere if you want to change minds.

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Why I Don’t Drink

I have to admit this a bit of a departure from the normal type of post.  It’s less political in nature, which is fine.  It’s also quite personal.  It will let you know a little more of what I believe, and while I can guarantee it will not be a popular opinion, that’s alright.  Sometimes what you believe isn’t shared by the majority.  Yet, I trust you’ll consider what I write and maybe understand where I’m coming from.  The subject today is simply: “Why I Don’t Drink.”

In today’s culture, I dare say that if you don’t drink alcohol, you’re considered strange.  It seems booze is everywhere, at every event, on every occasion.  It seems like everyone’s doing it, seeing no problem with it, and marveling at those who do.  It seems the number of those of us who refrain is shrinking.  It seems society (and even the church) has become much more accepting of it than it once did.  But let me say at the outset – and please hear me on this – if you drink, I don’t think any less of you.  Nor do I think I’m somehow better because I don’t.  I hope you extend the same courtesy to me.  This is about why I don’t drink, not why you shouldn’t.  These are simply my convictions, and the reasoning behind them.  There are actually several reasons I don’t partake.

1. Family History

I tend to think how people view alcohol stems strongly from how their parents viewed it.  If they grew up in a home where it was accepted and consumed in moderation, they will tend to have a favorable view of it.  If someone had an alcoholic parent, that may change their view of booze.

In my case, I had parents who had deep convictions against the consumption of alcohol.  My mother’s father was a drunk who ruined her childhood, and abused his wife and children.  One of his sons also became an alcoholic who drank himself to death.  One of his sons struggles with it to this day.  It has been a generational curse.  My father meanwhile was raised in a conservative family, and so hated the stuff that as a broadcaster he refused even to advertise it.  He turned down prestigious job opportunities because he would not compromise.  These were incredibly influential in forming my own convictions.  But they are far from the only reasons.

2. Practical Reasons

There are many things you don’t have to worry about if you never consume alcohol.  Doing things in public you will regret, doing things you won’t remember, the misery of hangovers, even putting yourself or others in danger while intoxicated are among them.  There are detrimental effects to the body by consuming alcohol.  Of course there are the dangers of drinking and driving which not only puts you at risk but other innocent people as well.  A close friend of mine in college was put in the hospital, suffered long lasting injuries, as well as the total loss of his new car because someone else decided to drink to excess and get behind the wheel.  It wasn’t fair, but it’s the kind of thing that happens when you consume a mind-altering drug.

Then there is the very real danger of becoming addicted.  At one time the statistics said that one out of every eight people that takes that first drink will have lifelong problems with alcohol.  I do not wish to play with such fire.  If I were to order a glass of water at a restaurant, and the waiter told me that one out of every eight contained poison, I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t drink the water.

3. Biblical Reasons

I’m an evangelical Christian and as such I regularly read the Bible, and I believe what it says.  Over the years I’ve found that it has much to say on the subject of alcohol.  And almost none of it is good.

“Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” – Proverbs 20:1

“Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.” – Proverbs 23:30-31

“[I]t is not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.” – Proverbs 31:4-5

“Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish! Let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.” – Proverbs 31:6-7

It has even stronger warnings for those who make a habit of drinking to excess.

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,” – Ephesians 5:18

“Do not be deceived…drunkards [among others]…will not inherit the kingdom of God.” -1 Corinthians 6:9-10

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.– Galatians 5:19-21

One might take issue and say, “What about all the other references to wine throughout the Bible?  Jesus even turned water into wine!” If you study the subject closely, you will find that the word wine was used both for juice that was fermented and juice that was not.  The wine of the old and new testaments that was fermented had very low alcohol content compared to what is consumed today.  So strong is the drink of our day that even the most pagan individuals in Biblical times wouldn’t touch it.  But don’t take my word for it.  Look it up for yourself.  The late Pastor Adrian Rogers outlined this quite well.

Again, I feel the need to pause and to repeat myself.  I’m not trying to preach to you, not pointing a condemning finger in your direction.  I’m simply giving you what I know and what I believe.  This is a first person account.  Ok? Ok…

4. Seeing what it has done to society

How many families have been broken up over alcohol?  How many marriages ended, wives abused, childhoods ruined?  How many lives have been lost to drunken driving?  How many lives lost to liver cancer, and other diseases caused or made worse by alcohol consumption? (An estimated 88,000 people die each year in alcohol-related causes according to the NIH.)  How many people have thrown away their lives and destroyed others because they couldn’t control their cravings for alcohol?  So I say to myself: “Why would I want to have anything to do with a substance that would do that to people?”  Why?

5. Temptation

I don’t know about you, but I’m tempted to do enough wrong things.  I don’t need one more.  The aforementioned Dr. Rogers once said that he was asked in a restaurant if he would like an alcoholic drink.  Rogers replied, “No thank you.  I’m in danger of becoming an alcoholic.”  The waitress was taken aback and apologized profusely.  Rogers added that he didn’t drink and never had.  That if he did, he may want more and more, and eventually become an addict.  Not surprisingly, the waitress went away offended.  But that illustrates one major reason why I don’t drink.  I never have to worry about drinking too much, and eventually ruining my life or someone else’s.

It’s not that I’m against having fun.  Far from it.  I’m just against doing foolish things.  And based on what I just laid out, for me to drink would be foolish.  I want to enjoy this life I’ve been given, living it to the fullest and living for the One who gave it to me. I don’t want it to be cut short or ruined so much as I can help it.  You can call me old fashioned or even needlessly fearful, but this is one area in which I don’t see eye-to-eye with the culture.

I have friends I’ve discussed this with, and while they patiently listen, they tell me that they don’t have a problem with drinking and can’t imagine ever having one.  I certainly hope they are right, as I remind them that most likely no one who has developed a problem thought they would either.  But it may not be them; it may be their children, or friends who took their first drink at their own influence.  I don’t think I could ever be comfortable with that scenario.  If those I love go down that road, may it never be because I led them.

Hopefully in this post I’ve given you an accurate picture of what I believe, and also maybe something to think about.  I hope that you can at least look at what I’ve laid out and say, “You know, that at least makes a lot of sense.”  Perhaps you’ll consider it and maybe even wrestle with the question, “Is it worth it?”  If nothing else, I hope you can now understand why I don’t drink.

In Pursuit of a Civil Pursuit of Truth

Is it just me, or does it seem like political discord is at an all-time high? Even after the election last fall, after most of us vowed to forget it and move on with our lives, we can’t seem to stop arguing and bickering. Pointing fingers of blame at our political opponents, and in a passive-aggressive way, at our friends, family and others who support those politicians or their political party.

But I think we may be able to move past this, and probably not in the way you think I’m going to say. Because here’s the thing: it’s OK to disagree. It’s OK to debate. It helps us learn more about those we disagree with, their positions, our own positions and the issues we’re discussing. I don’t believe you should simply not talk about politics or controversial issues. But the key is that we have to get past the disrespecting and maligning of those with whom we disagree. The election of 2016 perhaps helped me understand this in a more real way. Because there are people I know, love and respect who hold to positions I could not agree with less. I think they are good people, who want good things, despite believing what I see as antithetical to what they say they desire.

If you disagree with me, I am so thankful that you are reading this, and that you would consider my point of view. Because I have been reading and listening to yours, and it helps me understand better what you believe and what has led you to the conclusions you have made.

Here’s another key point: I believe we almost all ultimately desire the truth. If we don’t, then there really is no reason to have a rational discussion. But if the truth is what we want, then we should desire to seek it out, and have the courage to engage in honest discussion to help us get there. Because, as fallible human beings, we may not have arrived at the truth, no matter how much we say we want it.

But we have to stop disrespecting and dismissing those who don’t agree with us. To say that those who see it a different way want dirty water and starving children, or communism and the destruction of the country doesn’t help anyone. It’s also not true. Our friends from the opposite political side likely want a lot of the same things we want. It may be, though, that the positions they hold and those they support will not take us there. It may be that they have been deceived by those they are listening to. And there’s where learning needs to take place.

That’s really what this blog is all about: to help contribute to finding the truth. I’m not here to malign anyone or to be combative. I write to use what I know to logically, rationally and respectfully persuade. It does no one any good to yell and scream, and make outlandish accusations. Even if you are right, you will not win anyone to your position.

So know that I respect you if you don’t agree with me. And I will do my best to present my point of view in a way that you can at least understand and consider, even if you decide to reject it. Let’s continue to pursue the truth together, even if, and especially if we don’t agree.

A Tough Choice but One We Have to Make

This election is, without a doubt, the hardest to stomach in my lifetime.  Aside from the bitter debate and rhetoric, the two major party candidates do not appeal to me.  It makes one ask “Could we not have done better than this?”  And yet, in a way these two candidates reflect who we are as a country.  From the say and do anything to get ahead, the corruption and lack of respect for the rule of law of the democrat nominee, to the brash, arrogant, disrespectfulness of the republican nominee, this is who we’ve become.  While we cry out for better candidates, we need to become a better people.

Still, we must make a decision.  It’s one I’ve wrestled with, but have reached a conclusion.  Let me say that I understand if you decide simply not to vote.  I considered it for a while, even voting 3rd party.  But allow me to make the case that one presidency will be better for the country than the other, and significantly so.  And as such, I encourage you to cast a vote.

Whether we want to believe it or not, the Supreme Court has become as important as the Presidency.  Liberals have found a way to put into law that which the elected representatives of the people would reject, and that is through the courts.  That is why it is of utmost importance for justices to be nominated who will interpret law by the Constitution, rather than make law that they feel is right.  With an expected 3-4 Supreme Court nominees, we are looking at swaying the country’s future in two very different directions based on who will make those nominations.

While Donald Trump has promised to nominate justices who adhere to the Constitution, Hillary Clinton has made no secret that she will nominate those who would actively seek to make law, and only those who adhere to the pro-abortion position.

This ties into my second main concern.

A Clinton presidency would ensure that abortion remains settled law for another generation.  I’m not saying a Trump presidency would necessarily mean a reversal of Roe vs. Wade, but that possibility would at least exist.  We know that it wouldn’t with a Clinton presidency.

A liberally packed Supreme Court could very well strike down every state restriction on abortion, if the recent Texas case is an indication. All the small gains the pro-life movement has made over the last 40 years would be gone.  And millions of innocent children would continue to be killed in the womb every year.  Is this something you are comfortable with?  As for me, I cannot sit by and allow that to happen.

Another concern is over the investigations into Hillary Clinton’s email use and the practices of her and her husband’s charity.  Though the FBI has said their investigation is finished, they were outspoken that she was extremely careless in handling classified information, and that she lied to the American people on multiple occasions regarding the investigation.  Here is a short clip illustrating this.

Someone so dishonest, who will lie to your face, and who has been involved in numerous scandals throughout her public life is not someone I want to be President.

Donald Trump is not a man I really wish to see become President.  From his character, his past, his temperament and more, I would really rather not support him.  His opponent, however, is one I feel would be far worse as a President.  So, what do I do?

Daniel Darling wrote an excellent article on why Christians should vote.  He made two outstanding points on this very issue.  The first is that voting does not mean that you’re putting “your full faith and power in a candidate or movement.”

“We vote, not because we believe our man or woman will usher in the Kingdom, but because we are fulfilling a God-given stewardship.”

And at a time when neither candidate truly appeals to many of us, he reminds us that:

“even in the best election with the most inspiring of choices, we are choosing between two fallen sinners. Every election is about the lesser of two evils.”

Folks, it is this simple: if we lose the Supreme Court, we will lose our freedoms as well.  So I encourage you: vote.  And not just for President.  Vote for the court.  Vote for unborn lives.  But vote.

The Search

It was an unexpected discovery.  Definitely not something I had imagined writing a blog post about.  Well, at least not what I originally set out to look for on Google.  But maybe I should have.  And maybe this was just what I needed to make me decide to put this out there.

This is going to be two stories in one.  The first should be the most powerful and garner the most attention.  However, it will likely be the latter that will do so.  Let me explain.

Two weekends ago I was sitting on the porch relaxing, when I remembered a story I heard several years ago about a man who had lost his voice because of an illness that attacked his vocal cords.  His prognosis was not good, and he anticipated being without a voice for a long time, if not the rest of his life.  The man was a Christian, who had been a pastor and was forced to leave that position because he was unable to preach any longer due to his voice.  It was some time later that his new church’s Sunday School class asked him to teach the lesson one morning.  After being very hesitant, he agreed, and with the help of a special microphone was able to emit enough sound that the class could hear and understand him.  The class taped each week’s lesson to give to those who were sick or otherwise unable to attend.  It was during this lesson that the former pastor’s voice was completely healed – in mid-sentence!  He was teaching on Psalm 103, about God’s incredible power to heal.  Not that He always heals our physical ailments, but He is able and is sovereign.  And He did heal this man in awe-striking fashion, and on tape for many to hear!

Here is the story with the actual audio recording.  Check it out- it will give you goose bumps!

Ok, so a pretty cool story, right?  What in the world could be the 2nd story I referenced?  It centers on how I found the story on the pastor.  I couldn’t remember his name, nor many of the details, but I did recall that I had heard the story on a Focus on the Family radio program.  So I typed this search into Google: “Focus on the Family Sunday School teacher voice healed as he spoke”.

I didn’t find what appeared to be any helpful links on the first two pages and was about to try a different search term when I happened to glance at the “related searches” section at the bottom of the page.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Here were things Google told me were related to what I searched for:

Homosexuality in the church both sides of the debate
Homosexuality in the church today
How should the church deal with homosexuality
Gays in church leadership
Pastors who accept homosexuality
Mega pastor comes out
Megachurch pastor comes out of the closet
Homosexuality in the church statistics

“What in the world?!?” I thought as I read them.  Incredulously, I slowly moved to the search bar to change my search term, and as I began to make my revision, I looked at the autocomplete results that populated, and they included four of the same things I just listed.

Now, I don’t have to tell you that these things have absolutely nothing to do with what I searched for.  So why in the world would Google suggest them?  Why, indeed.  If they were a collection of random search terms even loosely related to my query, I could dismiss it as either a fluke, or that my search just didn’t match much of what others before me had searched for.  But these suggestions obviously all had something in common.

This was agenda-driven.  There is no way you can convince me that these suggestions were organic.  People searching for the story of God’s miraculous healing of a pastor’s voice are not at the same time searching for churches and pastors that embrace homosexuality.  No, this was bias, plain and simple.  And it is certainly not unheard of for Google.  You may have seen the recent credible accusations by one media outlet of Google’s manipulation of search results to benefit Hillary Clinton.  But I don’t think this really ought to be such a surprise.  Google is widely considered to be a very left-leaning company; and companies – and even search algorithms – are controlled by people.  People who have their own opinions, ideas, goals and political leanings.

Manipulation of public opinion by information sources that people trust should not shock us.  It’s what the mainstream media has been doing for years.  It’s just that we’ve come to rely so heavily on things like search engines that we may not notice the subtlety with which they attempt to shape our opinion.   And so, I say again, be on guard and check things out for yourself.  Do not blindly trust any source of information, be it the news, talk shows, comedy shows or even search engines.  The truth is discoverable for anyone who truly wishes to find it.  Do you?

With that, let’s return to the original story for a moment.  Such an awesome and inspiring event is not one you hear about every day.  But the truth of this man’s story, and the story of the One he credits for his healing is out there, too.  It’s one you can find if you are willing to search for it.  And it is far more valuable than any political information ever could be.

“The Program”

What would you say about a proposed program that would take money from the poor and use it to fund college scholarships for middle class kids?  Now wait a minute and hear me out.  The results of this program could be really good.  For instance, what if I told you it would help make sure millions of kids could get needed scholarships to further their education?  Kids that would have had to take out loans otherwise, and who knows how long it would have taken them to pay it back.  “But, taking money from the poor?!” You might say.

Well, what if I told you that this program to take money from the poor and give it to the middle class would not be forced on anyone, but be completely voluntary?  The government would not take money by force from the poor and pass it on.  They would do it voluntarily.  You’re probably shaking your head and thinking I’m nuts.  “That would NEVER happen!”

Now, what if I told you this program is already in place, is accepted and even celebrated by society?  This “program” that annually takes millions from the poor to fund college for the middle class has a name: The Lottery.

Statistics show that the vast majority of money spent on the lottery comes from those with the least amount to spare.  Dave Ramsey describes it this way: “The lottery is a tax on poor people and people who can’t do math.”  It is a scheme that makes a huge amount of money for the people who set it up, while helping to keep the poor from rising from poverty.  On its face, it is insidious, even despicable.  Which is why the lottery folks give so much of it to a cause people find noble: education, and why they make such a big deal about it.

I recently heard a commercial talking about how successful the “program” has been in one particular state, how much money it has raised for education, and how much good it has done.  “Everybody wins!” the commercial said.  Except the poor, who gave up money they couldn’t afford in hopes of getting out of their circumstance.  At the end, the ad gave a slogan:  “Encouraging imagination, furthering education.”  Imagination that by gambling what little you have that you’ll strike it rich.  How sad.

The “program” is real.  But it doesn’t have to continue.  Think we can do better than such a “program”?  Me too.

Plans and Promises

When I first heard President Obama say, “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan,” I did a double take. Because when a politician begins to say things like that, you’d better take notice, and be on guard. My first thought was, “I’m sorry, what right does he have to say whether I can or can’t keep my health insurance?” Further, “What business is it of his what my health insurance looks like?” But then I began to look into that claim and found that it was not going to be true for a whole lot of people.

So when the news began to break last month that many, many people are not able to keep their health insurance plans, I was not surprised. Because – and this is key – I actually read the what the law said. I didn’t just rely on talking points or media spin; I read the actual law. And I saw that it directed health insurance companies to nix policies that changed after the law was passed (and what policy never changes year to year?). I saw that many Americans’ health insurance plans would be canceled, specifically due to the Affordable Care Act. I read the estimates by government agencies that predicted scores of millions would lose their coverage and be forced into the Obamacare exchanges. It was all right there. I was aghast that so many seemed to not believe it or not care. That was until now.

But since people are now beginning to notice and to speak up, since they are losing the coverage they liked and wished to keep, let us take a look at what the President promised, and what he is saying today. And I dare say that you should be frightened by what you see from the most powerful man in the country.

I must pause here to make an appeal to those who are supporters of the President. Perhaps you voted for him. Perhaps you are a democrat who thinks Mr. Obama is a good leader. Please allow me to ask of you a simple question: Do you have the courage to disagree with him? I ask this because I faced a similar challenge during the Bush years. I was a Bush supporter, who twice voted for him, and generally agreed with him. But there were things he did that I had to have the courage to look at and to say, “No, that’s not right.” Will you look into it? Do you have the courage to speak up and to say, “This is not right”?

“If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.” said President Obama in 2010. Sounds pretty straight forward. Sounds simple to understand. It does not sound ambiguous. In fact, the President repeated this claim so often that he seemed angry that he had to keep saying it, that anyone would be skeptical. And he said this for a reason. Polls showed the vast majority of people liked their health insurance, and it would be reasonable that they would resist a plan that told them up front they would lose their coverage and be forced into a more expensive plan.

Thing is, the President – and the entire administration – knew this wasn’t true. Because, well, it was written into the law. But do you expect a sitting President to ever say to the nation, “I lied to you”? No, what they will do is spin. The lines from the White House now include:
“Oh no, you’re not having your policy cancelled. You’re getting an upgrade!”
“We didn’t cancel your insurance, those mean insurance companies did.”
And probably the worst is what the President himself recently said:
“If you had or have one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law, and you really like that plan, what we said was, you could keep it… if it hasn’t changed since the law’s passed.”

No sir, you didn’t. What you said was, “If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period.”

I won’t discuss here why I think President Obama said what he did, and why his party wrote the law as they did – that is a subject that deserves much more space and a lot of care. But what I will say is what I’ve said many times. Go check things out for yourself, and don’t rely on what the media – or even a President – tells you.