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The Truth About Social Security

Social Security

There are so many rumors and so much misinformation about Social Security today. Here is the truth. No, Social Security is not going broke, but it will be out of reserves soon if not modified. Yes, Social Security future benefits will be reduced if something isn’t done. No, your Social Security payments have not been used for other government programs or wars.  Here are some myth busters and warnings you need to know about your Social Security.

In 2018, America’s workers paid in $965 billion into Social Security, and beneficiaries paid $36 billion in income taxes on benefits for a total of about $1 trillion in payments. All this went into the U.S. treasury earmarked for Social Security. The treasury paid out $998 billion in retiree benefits. The other $3 billion went into the Social Security trust fund, or as some call it, the “lock box.” The trust fund also earned $85 billion in interest last year. So, all pay-ins and pay-outs are accounted for. They always have been and always will be. Not a dollar of your hard-earned payroll taxes has been used for anything but to pay qualified beneficiaries. No, illegal immigrants don’t get Social Security. And, yes, Congressmen and Senators pay into Social Security just like the rest of us. But there is reason for great concern for the program.

I recently attended the annual conference for the Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC) congressional delegates. Serving as an AMAC delegate for Arkansas’s Congressional District 4 has been a joy and an education for me. Congressman Bruce Westerman is a pleasure to work with. One of AMAC’s principal efforts right now is lobbying Washington for its sensible reform plan to keep Social Security solvent for present and future retirees. The program is rapidly approaching the end of its reserves and will soon be on a strictly pay-as-you-go basis. This will reduce benefits by 20% or more.

Social Security was designed in 1935 for contributions to equal withdrawals. That was when life expectancy was 61 years. Most people didn’t live long enough to collect benefits. Each person who lived long enough had many workers paying for his or her benefits. In the 60’s the ratio of contributing workers to retired recipients was around 5 to 1. Today it is close to 2 to 1 and trending lower. The good news is there is about $3 trillion in the Social Security trust fund today. The bad news is it will all be gone by 2034, because there will not be enough workers to support the longer-living retirees. Most retirees now collect more in their lifetime than they have paid in. If we don’t make adjustments, or even if we wait too long to start making adjustments, benefits in 2034 will be limited to what is being paid in–about 21% less than current benefits.

I urge you to get smart on Social Security and put pressure on your Congressman and Senators to have the courage to do the unpopular and reform the program well before reserves are depleted. Congressman Westerman supports the AMAC plan for saving Social Security and believes it is the best plan in Washington. Click here to learn about the plan. Also, if you need personal advice about anything concerning Social Security, ask America’s best and friendliest advisors at ssadvisor@amacfoundation.org. You can also call them at 1-888-750-2622. It’s free, even to non-members. It could save you a lot of money. For instance, they will calculate whether it would be best to begin drawing at age 62 or later based on your individual situation.

If you’re over 50 and not a member of AMAC, you’re missing out. It’s the same price as AARP with the same benefits, but it is a conservative organization. Click here for their website.

Please share this post with your friends and family who have questions about Social Security.

 

 

God in a Bluebird

It takes a lot of faith to be an atheist. One must believe in the impossible. The evidence of God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence in all things great and small is overwhelming. Consider just one of millions of observances that is inexplicable other than through the Creator. I reference the bluebird. Animal instinct cannot have developed through any kind of random evolution theory. That is inherently obvious in the bluebirds nesting in my back yard.

A few years ago, Linda and I ordered one of those little bird houses that sticks on the outside of a window. The bird house has no back wall, so we can observe the nesting and hatching process from inside our house. Each spring, a bluebird couple arrives and begins fluttering around the yard. In just a few days, we start seeing them busily carrying little twigs to the bird house and arranging them neatly into a perfectly crafted nest. Soon, we wake up to a few little blue eggs in the nest. Then, we watch for several days as the plainly feathered mama sits dutifully on the eggs while her brightly feathered hubby brings her periodic helpings of worms and bugs. Mamma leaves her nest only for short periods for water and a little fresh air. Daddy never leaves the back yard, but is constantly foraging for food or just standing guard in a nearby tree.

We celebrate with the proud couple when we peak through the glass to see a few of the eggs cracked open and tiny naked babies appear with beaks open wide. For the next several days, mamma and daddy alternate in bringing the babies worms and bugs pureed in their mouths and deposited in the babies’ wide open begging mouths. Gross, but sweet. We witness the babies grow little feathers until one day we find the nest empty. The parents have released them to the challenging environment of the natural world. Sometimes this process is repeated once or twice over the summer months. All this is exhilarating to observe, but the greatest fascination is in pondering the miracle of it all.

These bluebirds get no education or training in marriage and procreation. They have little or no capacity for logic or deductive reasoning. Everything they do is driven by a mysterious inner “voice” that we humans call animal instinct. Webster defines instinct as, “a largely inheritable and unalterable tendency of an organism to make a complex and specific response to environmental stimuli without involving reason.” This instinct is what causes certain fouls to go south for the winter, spiders to build artistic and symmetrical webs, ants to engage in intricate construction projects, and water turtles newly hatched on land to crawl immediately toward a distant body of water. It is what compels the bluebirds to prepare an architecturally correct nest to support the babies they somehow know are coming. It makes the mamma sit on eggs for days. And it tells the new parents what and how to feed and water their offspring. It assigns the daddy to be ever-present as protector of his family. It appoints the time to kick the little ones out of the house.

So, what is this enigma called instinct in animals. Author Randy Alcorn suggests that non-human animal instinct is the “soul” God puts in every animal. It is not like the human soul that lives eternally and in which the Holy Spirit dwells. But, like the human soul, God’s Spirit indwells the soul of animals to direct them above their level of consciousness. How else could animals do these supernatural things? Humans are created in the image of God to posses logic and reason which guide our actions in coordination with Him. We humans don’t need, and therefore don’t possess, animal instinct. The Spirit of God in us works through our heart, mind, and spirit to guide us on a much higher plain than that through which He guides animals. There is absolutely no other explanation for what drives natural animal behaviors other than through the power of God instilled in every animal of His creation.

So, when I watch my bluebird family, I am enjoying a worship experience of seeing the undeniable hand of Almighty God. It is everywhere!

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Romans 1:18-20.

Don’t Miss the Movie, “Unplanned”

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The movie, Unplanned, opens in theaters this Friday, March 29th. As many of you know, it is a true story that boldly confronts every viewer with the raw realities of abortion. It is a rallying point for staunch pro-lifers and a call to action for those on the fence who have never taken up the mantel against abortion. If you’re not a movie goer, be one for this.

The movie is about Abby Johnson who had aborted two babies and was passionate about helping other women through the abortion process. She became the youngest Planned Parenthood clinic director in the nation and oversaw 22,000 abortions. She lobbied for legislation fostering women’s right to choose, the cause she so deeply believed in. Then, one day as she was assisting in an abortion of a 13-week-old baby, she surprisingly became overwhelmed with guilt and walked out. Since leaving, she has convinced nearly 500 former abortion workers, including seven doctors, to leave the abortion industry. She joined her former enemies at “40 Days for Life” and has become one of the most ardent pro-life speakers in America.

Abby Johnson is played by Ashley Bratcher (War Room). Other prominent stars include Robia Scott (CSI), Emma Elle Roberts (Hunger Games), Kaiser Johnson (Sleepy Hollow), and Jared Lotz (Thanksgiving). After Ashley Bratcher began filming the movie, her mother confessed to her that she almost aborted Ashley, deciding against it after she was already in the clinic prepped for the abortion. “I was shocked,” Bratcher said. “But, that means I was born for this role.”

The movie is written, produced, and directed by Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman (God’s Not Dead, God’s Not Dead 2, Do You Believe) and produced by Daryl Lefever (I Can Only Imagine). With this star line-up and the successful producer and directer, I believe it will be an under-the-radar box office smash like I Can Only Imagine which caught the industry totally off guard. It will certainly cause many Americans to rethink their position on abortion.

A caution: it is rated R. It has no nudity, no foul language, no gratuitous sex, nothing that usually warrants the exclusion of children under 17 without parents. The Motion Picture Association of America, the rater of movies, claims the movie shows some “disturbing images.” Well, yeah. Abortions are definitely disturbing, so the rating actually advocates for pro-life. Motion picture industry conservatives (a rare find) have described the rating decision as purely political and seeking to scare away some in the Christian community.

Unplanned can be seen in many theaters. However, as expected, some theaters have chosen to not show it because of its controversial subject matter. These theaters will just stay with blatant sex, murder by the minute, incessant foul mouth, horror, and satanic obsession–you know, entertainment that has redeeming value. In my town of Hot Springs, Arkansas, Unplanned is not on the schedule in either of the two theaters. It is playing in Little Rock and other nearby cities. However, I have contacted one of the local theaters, Behind the Mall Cinema, and they said they could offer it on short notice if enough interest was shown. I urge anyone and everyone around Hot Springs to contact Behind the Mall Cinema (cinema8@cswnet.com) and tell them that, if they show it, you will come. Everyone whose favorite theater is not showing the movie should hold them accountable for making it a part of next weekend’s line up. This movie could literally save many lives. Please share this post.

 

 

The Threat of the Equality Act

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With celebrity crimes, Democrat primary candidates, the wall, and the weather dominating the media, the looming Equality Act is probably far off your radar. This misguided and toxic proposed legislation, especially from the perspective of conservative Christians, will be introduced in Congress within the next few weeks. Here is why it is bad policy and would establish a dangerous precedent.

The Equality Act, as introduced and defeated in both 2015 and 2017, would expand the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ban discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Well, who could be against equality? Truthfully, the seemingly positive title, “Equality Act,” is everything but positive for those who believe in biblical sexuality. The Act includes areas of education, public accommodation, employment, and federal funding, but is much further reaching than those areas imply.

Certainly, Christians reject all forms of discrimination for all persons created in God’s image including those who identify as LGBT. All people are worthy of our love, respect, and fair treatment. However, this act would codify and essentially guarantee equal access for LGBT persons to all venues in our schools, work places, public facilities, and, yes, churches (think bathrooms, dressing rooms, sports participation, etc.). The 1964 Act guarantees equal access to all races which is clearly advocated in the scriptures. The 2019 Act would provide the same access for homosexuals and transgender people which is certainly not the intent of God as indicated in the Bible. God created male and female with certain natural functions, roles, and helpful partnerships for fulfilled lives. He instituted marriage for a man and a woman. He made it perfectly clear that these relationships were not to be corrupted. The Equality Act would blur if not ignore these principles.

The act would almost surely lead to criminal prosecution of religious leaders and other Christian who speak or write in opposition to homosexuality, transgender, or gay marriage. The courts, in deference to the act, would not likely distinguish between illegal discrimination based on sexual orientation and objection to the LGBT lifestyle, although the distinction is obvious. A restaurant owner refusing to serve a biological male dressed in drag is discrimination; my writing a blog post criticizing that person’s lifestyle is not. The Equality Act’s sweeping impact on religious liberty, free speech, and freedom of conscience would be historic.

Schools, businesses, and all other institutions would likely have to mandate training and programs that would teach LGBT lifestyle acceptance. The law would force a cultural change to sexuality in practice having no core ethical limits other than consent, and to male and female definitions being psychologically based rather than biologically based.

The 2015 bill had the financial support of three corporations–Apple, Dow Chemical, and Levi Strauss. Today, the 2019 proposed bill has 161 corporate sponsors with a combined annual revenue of $3.7 trillion. Obviously, the lobbying efforts of this one will be brutal with unprecedented momentum and funding. The 161 supporting companies include the social media giants of Twitter, Google, and Facebook, so posts in strong opposition to the bill may be taken down. I anticipate television and all other media outlets being bombarded with ads promoting the act. If you show active opposition to the Act, you will be demonized. But it will be the right thing to do.

I urge all those concerned about the Equality Act to be alert for its introduction in Congress and prepared to oppose it aggressively in every area of influence you have at your disposal.

Is Lent Important?

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I am posting this on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of a 46-day period culminating with Easter Sunday. These 46 days, minus the six Sundays, are observed by many Christians as Lent. Evangelical Christians who have not practiced this tradition, and those not claiming any religious affiliation, may wonder just how important Lent is. Well, let’s consider its importance with a quick overview of the observance.

First, what is Lent? It is 40-days of personal sacrifice including repentance, fasting, prayer, giving to others, and reconciliation of relationships with God and others. It was established by the Catholic Church Council of Nicaea in the 4th century AD for personal preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus to be observed on Easter Sunday. Easter would subsequently be held on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox. The word, “Lent,” is a shortened form of the Old English word “Lenten,” which meant “spring.” The Council believed this period to be a reflection of the Old Testament practice of repenting in sackcloth and ashes. Thus, the practice of applying ashes to the forehead on Ash Wednesday. The six Sundays of the period would be days of relief from the personal sacrifices for worship and celebration. Therefore, the Lenten season would actually be 46 days.

So, is Lent biblical? As a specific ritual, no. Jesus fasted for 40 days, but did not command us to do so as a sacrament. However, the personal sacrifices of the season are very biblical and are to be practiced by Christians year-round, not just during the 40 days. There is nothing wrong with setting aside these particular days to discipline oneself to be be more sacrificial and to draw more closely to the Lord. It can be much like a time of personal revival–a time for special focus on our relationship with Jesus and His death, burial, and resurrection. However, all Christians should be careful not to just go through the motions in deference to the season without a true change of heart and a spiritual renewal. The elements of Lent should be a constant and life-long lifestyle.

The Bible is specific about praying and fasting discreetly so as not to gain the attention of others. We should be a testimony and an example to others of our faith in Christ. But we must always test ourselves ensuring that we are not “performing” for others to gain their respect or favor.

So, to the question of whether Lent is important, I believe the objective of the tradition is important. What is most important, though, is that we maintain a heart for that objective constantly, not just during the 46 days before Easter.

 

Why America Must Stop Courting Socialism

The internal threat of socialism in America must be stopped now. The Democratic party has gone from flirting with this political cancer to inviting it into their ranks. A socialist America would be a lost America. Calling it Democratic Socialism is deceptive. There is no legitimacy in applying any label of socialism to our capitalist economy. Let’s look at how socialism is already threatening your income and quality of life.

Socialism has been categorized into four main levels. The traditional Marxist-Leninist socialism of communist countries, e.g., China and Cuba, is what many of us grew up despising. Non-communist socialist countries such as Greece subscribe to Marxist-Leninist tenets, but without the aggressive dictators. Then there is 21st Century socialism which has recently popped up in countries through radical upheavals of the democratic process. Most of these governments are in Latin America and are crumbling after just a few years. More recently, several governments have begun to call themselves Democratic Socialists. That is, there is a semblance of  governing by the people through elected representation and personally owned property. However, Democratic Socialist laws support socialist concepts such as wealth distribution through taxation, universal health care, free college, guaranteed income, prolific labor unions, production controls, etc.  I believe the Democratic Socialism moniker is no more than an attempt to soften the depressing nature of the system. It is a way to pass it off as not-your-grandfather’s Marxist-Leninist government. We must understand socialism for what it is regardless of the adjective placed before the name.

Whatever the title, socialism is woefully inferior to capitalism on every level and a dangerous system. Due to the expected brevity of a blog post, I will withhold comment on the immoral, oppressive, and disincentive aspects of socialism and address just the economics of the beast. I believe economics is the practical measure of a government system, since it affects about every other quality of life element. Socialism fails miserably in the economics test.

The long-proven success of capitalism has made America the most prosperous nation on earth. Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, is the accepted measure of a nation’s economy. It is the total dollar value of all goods and services produced within the country in a year. It is also essentially the total income of all Americans during the year. America’s projected GDP for 2018 is just over $20 trillion. The best measure of the quality of life for a country’s citizens is per capita GDP, or each person’s share of the GDP. It also roughly equates to average yearly individual income. America’s current per capita GDP is $56,432. In comparison, the UK GDP per capita is $39,720, and Japan’s is $38,428. Russia (technically not a socialist country anymore) has a per capita GDP of $10,743.

Now, let’s look at the per capita GDP of those “enviable”  26 countries that proclaim themselves socialist. You know, the one’s the Democrats are showcasing. The six Marxist-Leninist countries have an average per capita GDP of $3,638 (China, the highest, is at $10,099). The five non-communist socialist countries average $5,700. The three labeled 21st Century Socialist average $4,834. Twelve Democratic Socialist countries average $4,494. These current numbers are about what Americans were earning in the 1950s.

Socialism has never in history improved the economy or quality of life for its subjects. It kills economies. Not one Democrat in America can justify his or her socialist leaning economically. They are simply interested in growing a big government that takes resources from the people and gives them goods and services based on needs of the government. Voters for Democratic candidates need to either learn some basic economics or be satisfied with a per capita GDP of less than $10,000.

A few years ago, I would have never believed Americans would elect a declared socialist to Congress. Now, we have four, three of which are card-carrying members of the Democrat Socialists of America (DSA). We all know about Senator Bernie Sanders. Then, last November, Americans elected to the House of Representatives Rashida Tlaib , a Muslim and DSA member and, of course, DSA member and smash hit, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The other Muslim and DSA sympathizer elected last November is Ilhan Omar who is also an outspoken anti-Semitic. Furthermore, there are 66 other Democratic members of Congress who openly claim ties to DSA.

Free market capitalism, the economic experiment spanning over two centuries, has produced the greatest economy in the history of the world leading to the greatest quality of life in history for us Americans. We of the present generation are extremely blessed to have inherited this phenomenal advantage from the sacrifices of our predecessors. Any movement that would threaten that way of life must be stopped for the sake of our children and grandchildren. Listen closely to every word that proceeds from the mouths of Democrats. Their socialist agenda is obvious. Remember that at the voting booth.

 

What About the Women in White?

Why did the Democratic Congresswomen wear white at the State of the Union address? They said it was to commemorate the suffrage movement of the early 20th century and to show economic solidarity for women everywhere. I believe it goes much deeper than that attempting to whitewash shameful pursuits by dressing in the color of innocence. Let’s look at the duplicity of the pure white attire.

White has represented purity and virtue throughout history. In the Bible, white is the sacred color. At the transfiguration, Jesus’ clothes became dazzling white. Angels are described in the Bible as wearing white. In the Book of Revelation, the saints and the army of heaven are all dressed in white. Christians often dress in white for baptisms, confirmations, first communions, and weddings. Being dressed in white is a sign of new life, new beginnings, being born again, being redeemed.

Wearing white can also be an attempt to appear pure when it covers up what is not pure. The Bible warns us to watch out for wolves in sheep clothing–ravenous false prophets dressed in white. The Ku Klux Klan dressed in white to try to appear virtuous. Granted, the suffrage movement claimed white dress as their symbol, but today’s liberal feminists dressed in white represent a quest for power and self gratification more than a celebration of women’s rights.

Their white clothes could not hide their true hearts as they sat stone-faced while others stood in rousing support of the President’s call for laws prohibiting late-term abortions and post-delivery infanticide. The same posture followed the President’s vow that America will never be a Socialist country. Nancy Pelosi sat stoically through most of the speech modeling her white garb as she chewed on her cheek and fumbled a stack of cardboard.

The white dressers were apparently planning to avoid any standing in support of anything the President said. But, when he surprised them with comments on more women in Congress than ever and women doing better in their careers than ever, they looked at each other awkwardly, then stood and shared high-fives. They stood for themselves, but not for their country.

I thought the State of the Union address was one of the best I had ever heard with encouragement, hope, and inspiration. The down side was having to endure the sea of white in the chamber. I will be watching them closely for the next couple of years hanging on their every word and deed. I hope you will do the same. Nothing good for America will come from them.

We Must Recognize the Democratic Party for What It Is

I have disagreed with the Democrat party for years, but have tried to accept it as a legitimate alternative voice in our government. However, I can no longer stomach its determined pursuit of socialism, devaluation of life, disdain for biblical truth, disruption of family, and disregard for civil order. The party has institutionalized evil. I am uncomfortable using that word, but darkness can only be overcome by light.

I first realized the Democrats’ blatant secularism during the 2012 Democratic convention when the DNC chairman proposed to reinsert the word “God” into the Democratic Platform. The chairman attempted three voice votes from the floor, and each time the vote was overwhelmingly against including “God.” The chairman finally ignored the obvious nay votes from the majority and declared the proposal as passed. The convention floor roared with shouts of anger. Now this week we learned that a key Democratic House committee has drafted new rules for the swearing in of investigation witnesses that leave out “so help me God.”

The character of a nation is largely defined by its spiritual awareness reflected in its politics. America is polarized between two philosophies of life or world views–Republican and Democratic. The Republican party is far from perfect and certainly has its share of moral lapses and wayward players. But as an institution, it generally holds to the biblical principles of freedom, peace, moderation, free market, patriotism, law and order, sanctity of life, and traditional family.

Conversely, the Democratic party has a history of promoting bondage, anarchy, extremism, socialism, rebellion, lawlessness, abortion, and LGBT activism. Although these characteristics of the party were evident as far back as the Kennedy era, they have become much more predominant in recent years. Just in the last decade, under President Obama, gay marriage became law, wealth was forcefully redistributed, our military served as the laboratory for radical social experiments, law enforcement was demonized, and thousands violently rioted in the streets over a legitimate election. Democratic obsession with so-called gender dysphoria created rampant confusion in children and young adults.

Many ungodly cultural shifts are being fostered through the liberal-leaning courts. The majority of current federal judges were appointed by Presidents Obama or Clinton, and the Senate Democrats are obstructing the confirmation of President Trump’s judicial appointments. The confirmation process for Judge Kavanaugh was a shameful spectacle of demonic-like behavior and contempt for law and order by Democrats on the Judicial Committee.

Just in the last few months, the mostly Democratic news media have made a celebrity of a socialist activist elected to the House of Representatives. Other newly elected Democratic Representatives spewed obscene hostilities against the President publicly. The early announcers for the 2020 presidential campaign are the most radically liberal candidates ever, making Bernie and Hillary seem angelic in comparison.

The Democratic personification of evil is not just in Washington. Hollywood, Broadway, and Nashville stars give us a daily dose of obscene hate speech against rightfully elected government officials. Some have threatened bodily harm or death. Almost all of these miscreants proudly claim allegiance to the Democratic party.

The five highest crime-rate cities in America–Detroit, St. Louis, Oakland, Memphis, and Birmingham–all have a long history of Democratic mayors. America’s highest poverty levels are almost all in cities led by Democrats. Again, leadership depravity results in the darkest environments.

These examples barely scratch the surface of Democratic iniquities. However, in my opinion, the epitome of evil acts by Democrats was the New York Assembly’s late-term abortion bill enacted just last week. New York joined seven other states, all with Democratic governments, in legalizing abortions up to the moment of birth. The assembly celebrated by standing ovation, and the governor lit up the new World Trade Center in honor of the “victory.” This law means a mother can go into labor and then decide to kill the baby just before delivery. Of course, that is no more despicable than a first trimester abortion, but it would have to require more emotional and spiritual numbness on the part of the mother and the abortionist. What possible sense does it make that, if a baby were born at 4:35, willfully killing him or her at 4:36 would be capital murder, but willfully killing him or her at 4:34 would have been perfectly legal and even applauded by many? New York’s legislature is 71% Democratic.

I believe many silent Americans see the lunacy in the Democrat party, but are afraid of being labeled politically incorrect. They are mesmerized by the liberal media’s promotion of the Democratic world view and fear being rejected by their peers. The heart of America is crying out for courageous men and women to stand up and be counted among those who truly love our country and who will fight to preserve all that is right, just, and good.

In labeling the Democratic party evil, I have had a few friends respond that some Democrats are moderate and do not agree with all of the party’s philosophy and platform. My retort is, if one identifies with any organization, he or she is supporting that organization’s values and principles. I believe the Democratic party has institutionalized evil and is destroying America from within. It is becoming the nation’s worst enemy. Democrats should be loved unconditionally as precious fellow men and women, but recognized for who they are and called out accordingly. There is a cultural war in America, and the battle is at the ballot box, not in violent reaction. We need to pray that America will come together in a spirit of civility recognizing our roots and faith that made us the greatest country in history. As for my fellow citizens associated with the Democratic party, I urge you to choose this day whom you will serve.

 

 

 

 

 

Among America’s Best, but Least Known, Theaters: Sight and Sound

Ranked as the top faith-based live theaters in America, Sight and Sound Theatres are in two locations: Strasburg, Pennsylvania, and Branson, Missouri. With combined annual sales of over 1.3 million tickets, these entertainment jewels are still unknown to most Americans. My wife, Linda, and I have experienced every production in Branson. We highly recommend both theaters. Here is a bit more about them and their rather short but amazing history.

Glenn Eshelman (below left) grew up on a farm in rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Infatuated with the beauty of creation, he began painting landscapes as a boy. This passion expanded to photography in his teen years. After marrying Shirley (right), he sold his artwork out of the trunk of his car. In 1964, he began presenting his narrated photography slide show in churches across the country. Although responses were overwhelmingly positive, the travel became a burden. The couple set up Living Waters Theatre in 1976 in Strasburg, near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for the nightly presentation of their slide show. In 1987, they transitioned to live stage production of Bible stories and opened The Entertainment Centre in 1991. These shows received rave reviews until 1997 when their theater burned to the ground. Devastated, they prayed for guidance, and God led them to rebuild, this time a 2,000 seat, state-of-the-art theater with a 300-foot wrap-around stage four stories high. By the early 2000’s, sell-out crowds convinced the Eshelmans to expand to a second location. Hot Springs, Arkansas, was among the few cities considered. Branson, Missouri was chosen.

In 2008, Branson’s new Sight and Sound Theatre opened with the initial production of Noah. Multiple levels of live and mechanical animals encircled the audience. Live animals on the main stage, very talented performers, and phenomenal stage settings made this a “must see” performance. Since then, Branson has hosted two-year stints of Joseph, Jonah, Moses, and Samson. Samson continues its second year this March. The Strasburg theater has produced these same shows plus Daniel, Ruth, Jesus, and is beginning this year with Esther. Between productions, the biennial performance of The Miracle of Christmas is presented in November and December at both theaters. I’m amazed that almost every matinee and evening show enjoys a sell-out audience for the nearly two year run. All productions use impressive special effects, live animals, and quick-change stage sets that will blow you away. The Bible stories are embellished with fictional portrayals, but the spiritual inspiration is always present. The gospel is communicated very effectively. I believe it’s as entertaining as anything you will see on Broadway.

The Eshelmans have recently passed the baton to their two sons-in-law. Matt Neff (below right) is now CEO, and Josh Enck (below left) is now president. These new leaders complement each other perfectly with Matt being more administrative and Josh being more creative. They have wasted no time in improving the company by adding personnel to ensure shorter production cycles and greater technology in special effects and sets. They both are passionate about maintaining the priority of glorifying God through their mission of bringing Bible stories to life on stage.

I encourage everyone to make a commitment to never miss a Sight and Sound production. It is a destination attraction well worth the trip. Tickets are around $50 each, and some hotels offer package deals on accommodations and tickets. Click here to learn more about show times and tickets. You’ll thank me later.

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Immigration Standoff: All Politics, No Logic from the Liberals

The government is at a showdown. Both sides claim to support increased border security. The Democrats just a few years ago advocated $25 billion to fund it including $8 billion for the wall. Somehow, now that the President wants some kind of barrier, it is immoral and ineffective. The American family household is perfectly analogous to the country when it comes to neighborly benevolence and security. Here is a brief comparison.

The character of America is a conglomeration of the character of 126 million households. Almost all of those households have a heart for others–family, friends, acquaintances, even strangers. By and large, we are all benevolent people willing to help others when they communicate a need. However, we all have doors on our houses or apartments. All of us have locks on the doors, and many have security systems to ensure safety. The more affluent have security fences or walls or live in gated communities. No sane person would live in a house without a lockable door leaving it vulnerable to the unrestricted entry of all outsiders.

If a stranger outside those doors or enhanced protective barriers communicated to us a legitimate need, almost all of us would be open to satisfying that need according to our ability to do so. If it were a dire emergency need, and we could verify the situation and integrity of the victim, most of us would even open our house for his or her immediate shelter and security.

On the other hand, if a stranger busted down our locked door, entered our living room, and demanded that we give him or her immediate protection, shelter, and resources, we would take drastic measures to get that person out of our house. If we had the capability, we would probably eliminate them as a threat to our family. They might have a legitimate need, but without time and ability to determine that, we could only assume they meant us harm. We would have every reason to expect such an intruder, if having an honest need, to receive our help through proper channels. Anyone crashing through a locked door has to be considered a personal threat.

To expand on this analogy, what if we left our door wide open? A stranger walking through the open door into our living room is still just as much a threat, but shame on us for being so naive as to leave the door open.

America is, without a doubt, the most benevolent nation in the world now and has been throughout history. We give $50 billion every year to other nations for the care of their people. About one million legal immigrants are processed and welcomed into our country each year. These recipients knock on our door and provide legitimate evidence that convinces us to share our resources with them out of sympathy and kindness.

However, about a half-million foreigners cross our borders illegally each year. Another half-million enter on legal visas, then overstay their limited time and become permanent illegal residents. Thus, a million illegal immigrants enter our country each year. Those million people bust down our locked doors, or walk through our open doors, with no invitation or documented reason to do so. Every one is a threat as if he or she showed up in our living room unannounced and unexpected.

Yet, the liberal faction of our society calls our doors immoral and ineffective. Here is the truth. They don’t really believe the wall is wrong. No one can really deny its logic. Their objective is solely to deny the President the realization of his top campaign promise to the American people. Their hope is to convince Americans that he is not strong enough to get the job done. Playing such a political game is total disregard for the safety and welfare of the American people they represent. Their obstruction is 100% politics with no logic.

 

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