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.

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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.

Critical Thought

Stuart Shepard adds some insights to the aforementioned Dave Ramsey video in this short Stoplight. And he cites a couple of points I’ve run into in debating with people about the healthcare law. Sadly, people who I know are intelligent, almost seem to cover their ears to the opposition when it comes to Obamacare. Is it because they just don’t want to hear anything that might change their mind? Or is it because deep down they know there are big problems on the horizon, and don’t want to admit it? I trust that if you’re reading this, you are open to new information and critical thought. And especially if you tend to disagree with me, please consider what Dave and Stuart have to say.

Math

You may have seen this video recently on social networks or blogs.  Dave Ramsey lays out a very reasonable, rational explanation of what Obamacare is going to do to insurance rates.  And he does what I seek to do, but oftentimes fall short of.  He doesn’t start with the political angle.  He looks at an issue critically and describes what he sees will be the logical result.  Such is what I have been trying to do in telling others of Obamacare’s effects on their lives and the country.  Putting aside the political ramifications, this law will do incredible harm to people, even those we claim to want to help.  It’s not a political argument.  It’s simple math.

The disaster is almost here

Do you have health insurance? You will soon be required by law to have it. And its cost may be more than you can afford to pay.

Beware of government promises, and promises by politicians seeking your vote. Those promises have a funny way of evaporating before you get what you thought you would. And don’t we usually decry this? We disparage smooth talking politicians who make promises they cannot possibly deliver. Yet we continue to believe them, and to elect them.

I believe we are headed for a disaster very soon because of Obamacare. As people begin to realize that the law says they must buy health insurance or pay a fine, and as the cost of insurance continues to rise, the economy will take a major hit. As the economy slows down, more people will be out of work, yet still be required to buy insurance.

I know there are many who have the absolute best of intentions when it comes to their support of the “Affordable Care Act.” They genuinely care about helping the poor and needy, and they think laws like this will help. But my contention from the time this bill was being debated is that it will do far more damage to those less fortunate, to the sick, to the elderly, and even to the middle class than it will ever do to help them.

Some saw problems with our healthcare system and automatically believed that any proposed fix would be a good one. Especially one that supposedly promises to provide health insurance to those who don’t have it. But Obamacare doesn’t do that. It simply says you have to buy health insurance. “If a mandate was the solution, we could try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody buy a house,” argued…Barack Obama during the 2008 democrat primary. “In some cases, there are people [in Massachusetts] who are paying fines and still can’t afford [health insurance], so now they’re worse off than they were. They don’t have health insurance, and they’re paying a fine…” And he had a good argument. Yet this is the centerpiece of his own healthcare law, its funding mechanism, and the chief reason the law was challenged all the way to the Supreme Court last summer.

And the scenario Mr. Obama pointed out in Massachusetts will be happening across the country, as many will lose their existing health insurance plan from their employer. Either through having their hours cut to part-time or through their employer dropping coverage, many will have to go to the exchanges, where they may or may not be able to afford to buy. Should they not buy, they must pay a fine, and now they are – as our President said – “worse off than they were”.

To be fair, there will be some who will be helped by the law; some whose situations will – in the short term at least – be improved. But the reason I opposed the bill, and why I still support the law’s repeal, is that the bad will far outweigh the good. In a nut shell:

– It will dramatically drive up the cost of insurance for families already struggling to make ends meet.
– It will result in many people’s jobs being cut to part time or eliminated entirely.
– It will result in less available care and poorer quality care for Americans.
– It will cause the rationing of care, meaning many sick or elderly will be denied access to healthcare that could improve their quality of life, or save it entirely.

We have already seen the first two in action. Companies across the nation have been cutting employees’ hours to avoid the heavy cost of Obamacare. I personally know a young man whose hours were cut in half directly because of the law. And the cost of insurance is going through the roof. President Obama often likes to cite individuals’ situations when showing why laws he’s signed are good things. I’d like to cite one family’s current situation.

Andy and Amy Mangione of Louisville, KY are a middle class family with two boys. Because of Obamacare, their premiums are tripling next year, from a little more than $300 a month to nearly $1,000 a month. And their plan includes a high deductible, meaning they are assuming a good amount of risk as it is. Now they are going to have to find a way to cut over $600 from their budget each month just to afford the insurance that the law now says they must have. May I ask, could you afford an extra $600 a month out of your pay check?

As this kind of situation happens more over the country in the coming days, can you imagine the affect it will have on the economy?

In a move to limit costs, many insurance companies are beginning to limit the number doctors a patient can see. This gives less freedom to patients and limits their options.

And finally, Obamacare created the a bureaucracy known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). These 15 people have been given the power to essentially say what care can be given to whom, and by default what care can be withheld from whom. Simply put, these will be the people in charge of health care rationing. The ones that will be affected most by this horrible system are the most vulnerable: the sick and the elderly. Even advisers to the President have been public in their call for these “death panels” (as they call them) as part of a solution to the high cost of healthcare. I think it is despicable for the government to have the power to deny someone life saving or life improving care.

Why do so many oppose this law? It’s not because we’re just meanies who don’t want to help the poor. On the contrary, we see this disaster making many more people poor, and keeping the ones who are already poor from getting out. Get prepared, this could be a very rough ride.

Freedoms

The freedoms we enjoy in America are unbelievably wonderful.  Our Constitution and Bill of Rights are nothing short of a miracle.  Yet our perspective has led to a lack of appreciation for them.  Having known them all of our lives, many of us don’t understand what we have.  And that will continue until they are gone.  The movement to remove them is underway.  Our post modern culture, where there is no right and wrong, and the only standard we should all live by is to issue no moral restrictions on anyone’s behavior, will soon lead to societal collapse.

Stuart Shepard very clearly and succinctly explains what true freedom and opportunity – guaranteed by the First Amendment – looks like in this video.

Let’s be clear

This is Stuart Shepard’s latest “Stoplight” commentary. I want you to focus not so much on the words of the President, but on the struggle by so many companies to be allowed to live their convictions.