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Room in My Heart for You

Take Time to Be Holy
by William D. Longstaff

Take time to be holy,
Speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always
And feed on His Word.
Make friends with God’s children,
Help those who are weak;
Forgetting in nothing
His blessing to seek.

Take time to be holy,
The world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret
With Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus,
Like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct
His likeness shall see.

The distractions of life are many and demanding.  There is always something ready and eager to grab our attention and carry our minds away on endless wings of hurry.  All too often we find ourselves running around like madmen, trying in a vain to get the next thing crossed off our to-do lists. 

But as always, God’s ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts are wiser than ours.  He says to us, “Be still.  Be still!” (see Psalm 46:10). What an almost antiquated idea that seems in our society these days!  And yet, the Psalmist confirms it again when he says, Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.”  (Psalm 4:4)

So look up to Heaven, and be still!  Yes, it is true that this blessed, “old-fashioned” idea is still more than relevant and achievable today – even in the midst of this crazy, media-driven, get-to-the-next-thing society.  The world isn’t going to slow down to accommodate our efforts; but nonetheless, it is time.  It is time to make time for God.

Besides, when the all noise and bustle fades away and nothing at all is left of this frenzied, sinful world, HE IS and forever shall be!  So find your time; find your spot, and stop.  Simply stop and say, “Lord, this is my time for YOU – only You. There is room in my heart and my busy schedule for You.”

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Copyright © 2021

Paying Too Much for Your Coffee?

With a brilliant sunset fading behind him, Tom pulled off the road and into an unfamiliar fast-food restaurant to grab a quick cup of coffee on the way home.  The parking lot was full, and from all appearances it had the look of a new establishment.  Tom headed for the nearest door, thankful he had found a place so near the interstate exit where he could take a quick break and shake himself fully awake before needing to make the rest of the drive.  

He walked directly to the counter to order.  “A small coffee, please.  To go.” 

“No problem.  That’ll be $37.50, please.”

Tom looked incredulously at the young cashier.  Surely he had heard wrong.  He knew he’d been getting drowsy.  “I’m sorry.  Could you repeat that?  I only ordered a small coffee, and I thought sure you said $37.50.”

“Yes, sir.  That’s correct.  $37.50.”

Stunned and thinking he’d walked into a more upscale establishment than he’d realized, he made his apologies, cancelled his order, and stepped to the side to collect himself.  While standing there, the man behind him in line ordered four burgers, four drinks, and four large fries.  Tom hung around a little longer than necessary just out of curiosity, wondering how much all that could possibly cost.  Expecting to hear a total in the hundreds, Tom was surprised to hear the cashier pleasantly say, “That’ll be $24.00, please.”

At that point, Tom could no longer contain himself and asked to speak to a supervisor.  After a brief wait, he was able to express his concerns to the shift manager.  “Thank you so much for coming over.  I’m confused about the pricing, and I think there must have been some kind of error.  This young man said my cup of coffee was going to be $37.50, and yet the man behind me in line got four full meals for only $24.00.”

“Yes, sir.  We base our pricing not on what you order but on the value of the car you drive.  Your order is then charged using a mill rate of 1.”

Tom looked at the man in disbelief and began to lean more heavily on the counter.  “I don’t understand.”

The shift manager looked sympathetically at Tom.  It was a question he heard occasionally, and he patiently began his standard explanation.  “The mill rate is just the number of dollars we charge per $1,000 that your vehicle is worth.  So, our mill rate of 1 would be the same as 0.1% of a car’s value.  Your cashier looked out and estimated your car’s value at $37,500.  So, 0.1% of that is $37.50.  The other gentleman’s car was estimated at $24,000, so he paid $24.00 for his order.  Simple enough?”

Tom’s head began to whirl, myriad thoughts struggling for preeminence.  The first one to rise to the top was Tom’s pride, unfortunately.  He blurted, “Well, that cashier was wrong!  I paid $50,000 for my car, after adding all the upgrades and special detailing.”

“Oh, thank you for telling us!  That’ll be $50.00 for your coffee now.  And I’ll make a note in our records so we don’t make the same mistake in the future.”

Realizing his error and watching the other customer happily eating with his family at a nearby table, Tom turned and scanned the rest of the room.  After clearing his throat rather too loudly, he posed the question, “Is there anyone who finds this pricing fair?”  A roomful of hands shot quickly into the air.

The manager looked pityingly at poor Tom.  He offered, “With your $50.00, you can get as much food as you want.  Your payment lets you freely partake of our offerings.”

Tom wasn’t hungry.  He wasn’t even particularly thirsty anymore, nor was he drowsy any longer.  Just embarrassed.  And humbled.  “No, thanks, I don’t need any food, but I’ve taken a lot of your time and disrupted your business.  I’ll take the coffee.  Here’s the $50.00.”

Defeated, Tom shuffled over to the counter to grab a napkin, a sugar packet, and a coffee stirrer.

“Sir, those will add another $5.50.”

Tom reflexively dropped them back where he got them and turned to face the manager.  “What?”

“Yes, sir.  Only the meals and drinks are included.  Napkins, condiments, and plasticware are extras, so they have an additional charge.”

What kind of oddball world is this?  Tom thought.  Not finding the words to say and having already cost himself an extra $12.50 by bragging about his car, he closed his eyes tight and bit his tongue to keep from saying too much too soon.

And when he did, the pain in his tongue was enough to bring Tom back to his senses.   He opened his eyes to see the morning sun streaming through his bedroom window.  He smiled, sighed contentedly, and thought, I’m glad that was only a bad dream!

But was it only a bad dream?  Unfortunately, no, for such is the reality of the property tax in modern America.  It is assessed to property owners based on the value of their land and any buildings on it.  The rate is assigned in mills, which is a number of dollars charged per thousand dollars of property value.  Much like Tom’s $50.00 coffee charge, the property tax has no relevance whatsoever to the amount of services a landowner desires or receives.* 

Even scarier than Tom’s dream, if a landowner cannot (or does not) pay his taxes for three years, the municipality can confiscate his land without any remuneration and sell it to someone else who will pay the taxes on it.  But who owns the land?  Who owns the buildings on the land?  Who may have even built those buildings with funds scrupulously saved for years?  And who pays to maintain them?  The landowner.

Yet what was Karl Marx’s first plank of the Communist Manifesto?  “Abolition of private property in land and application of all rents of land to public purpose.”  If the city or town can seize your property for non-payment of property taxes—forcing you to pay for services you may not use and you may even find morally objectionable—then who really controls the land?  The town.  The landowner simply pays for the privilege of keeping it.

As well, the property tax is progressive.  That is, more is charged to those perceived to have more to spare, even if they get no more benefits or services (and often fewer ones) than those who pay less.  The scheme mirrors the “heavy progressive or graduated income tax” that Marx proposed in his second plank.  Both property and income taxes are based on the idea of class warfare, which is itself based on jealousy.  As a people, our natural desires have been cultivated to want things and to want others who have “more” to pay for them.  It is what R. J. Rushdoony referred to as “larceny in the heart.”  What we would hesitate to take from others’ pockets ourselves, we are more than happy to have the government reach in and take for us.  It is why democracy has sometimes been referred to as two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner, and it is why our Founders instead established a republic for us—most distinctly not a democracy.  They understood human nature, and they established a government with limited powers and with protections for the rights of the individual.

What is fair in taxation?  It depends on whose definition is used.  The Marxist train of thought is for those with more means to foot the bill, because they can handle it.  Or because they’re thought to have gained their wealth unfairly.  Or because they’ve supposedly persecuted the poor.  Or any of a host of other excuses to pit the people of one economic stratum against another.  What that leaves, however, is a society in which many pay little and few pay much, while each has the same size vote  . . . basically allowing the many to decide how to divide the spoils from the few.

I would propose that we eliminate the property tax entirely, not jeopardizing the land of property owners or the inheritance of their children.  Instead, we should reduce town expenditures to only those services absolutely necessary for all, then divide the bill evenly across the number of households.  That would cover the basic services from which all benefit (such as road maintenance, trash disposal, fire and ambulance services), and all town residents would have an equal incentive to keep those expenses low.  Any additional services are then optional (such as schools, parks, libraries, etc.) and could be supported by those who choose to benefit from them.**

Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless:
For their redeemer is mighty; he shall plead their cause with thee.
Proverbs 23:10-11


Copyright © 2021

* For example, in our town last year, 72% of the property tax went to support the public school, meaning that those without children in the public schools received precisely zero benefit from nearly three-quarters of their property tax bill.  That’s a terrible deal.  What else would you choose to pay for, knowing that you’d only receive one quarter of the benefits for the cost?

**  There are already extra charges for some things, like getting a birth or marriage certificate from the town office or having a clerk process yearly vehicle registrations even though we already pay for the town office facility and staffing through the property tax.  Reminiscent of Tom’s napkin, sugar packet, and coffee stirrer, isn’t it? 

Lost Hours and Missed Opportunities

Claude Renoir, Peintre by Renoir, 1907 Two Young Girls at the Piano by Renoir, 1892

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”  Ecclesiastes 9:10

I was reviewing some of Renoir’s images yesterday in connection with a project when I happened upon Claude Renoir, Peintre after having just been regarding Two Young Girls at the Piano.  Immediately I was struck by the fact that these children were happily pursuing cultural activities without the use of electronic devices, screens, or pre-programmed content.  I am blessed to live in a home with creative children like these. 

On any given day, their father and I may hear strains of piano, violin, harp, or mandolin wafting from various rooms.  Or we may walk by a table to see busy heads bent over colored pencils, watercolor sets, sketch books, craft supplies, and blank cards.   Or we may be drawn to the kitchen by the odor of delicious cooking experiments such as new breads, casseroles, and candies underway.  Or we may step out to the car only to find that the walkway has been neatly lined with small rocks, the front lawn is decorated with a village comprised of scrap lumber and acorns, and there are new seedlings growing in the small flower bed.  Or, upon returning to the house, we may find a child or young adult settled into the corner of a couch reading a good book or scribbling song lyrics, poems, journal entries, or short stories in an open notebook—dictionary, thesaurus, and concordance close at hand. 

Are our children unusual?  Maybe by today’s standards.  But in Renoir’s day, children were expected to be accomplished.  They learned languages, painted pictures, filled nature journals, played instruments, cared for animals, knit scarves, built scientific models, conducted experiments, harvested crops, wrote letters, and learned a thousand different hands-on skills because they were in training to become adults who were expected to preserve all that was good and worthy in civilization and pass it on to their own children, who would learn to do the same.  

It is not that our children never use a computer or other electronic device, because they do – especially those who are now grown.  But the younger our children were, the less time we allowed them to spend in front of a screen (and when we did make allowance for it, the screen time was largely limited to productive time – learning to type or use an image editing program, for example, as opposed to watching hours of cartoons).  If we can teach the next generation to produce rather than to consume, to think rather than to be amused, to create rather than to mimic their peers, and to give rather than to take, we will have equipped them to thrive in whatever work and outreach God has for them to do.

If your children are still living under your roof, you have a tremendous opportunity (not to mention duty) to encourage them to grow their minds and their abilities for the Lord’s service—now and in the future.  If they are among the many children spending too much time playing computer games, streaming movies, or following social media, do all in your power to redirect their attention now while there’s still time to save them a lifetime of lost hours and missed opportunities.  Introduce them to the wide world God made and the multitude of interests they can pursue in it.  Read books together, plant a garden, visit a museum, find a widow who needs a friend, take a walk together, purchase a gently used instrument and encourage your child to play around with it, set aside a place for mess making with paints, clay, and building blocks, listen to some beautiful music, put out birdseed and keep track of any little visitors, bake a meal and invite friends to share it, or start some new family endeavor together. 

Above all, teach your children to approach each new day with this thought, “This is the day that the Lord hath made—what does He want me to do with it?”

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Copyright © 2021

Why Janet Couldn’t Buy Oranges

Janet stood in front of the display of oranges in the grocery store, two preschoolers at her side and her youngest child contentedly sitting in the cart.  As she mentally juggled her grocery list to try to get the highest priority items to fit within her family’s budget, she lamented what had happened to prices in the past few months.  Orange prices had been so low last year that her family had even started buying extras to enjoy their own fresh-squeezed juice.  Her husband and children had loved it.  And now here she was only a year later, deciding whether she could justify purchasing even a few oranges for breakfast.

As Janet considered what might have caused this, she remembered reading that favorable weather last year had brought a bumper orange crop to the southern United States, flooding the markets with oranges.  And as the supply increased, the prices decreased.  But this year late frosts had decimated the orange crop to the point that stores had had trouble stocking their shelves, and prices had gone through the roof.  Janet sighed and passed by the oranges, instead heading for the freezer section where she hoped frozen juices left over from last year’s crop might not have seen the same price jump yet.

Janet’s observations were simply confirming the law of supply and demand.  As any desired item becomes scarce, its price goes up because there is more competition to get those few items.  And when there is a surplus of an item, compared with the number of people desiring it, its price goes down. 

Could it be that there’s a similar effect when the government increases the money supply?  Yes!  As more dollars are created (whether printed on paper or fictionalized digitally), they flood the market, and the value of each individual dollar decreases.  And it’s not just the new dollars, but all dollars become devalued.  Just like the bumper crop of oranges.  Just like the Continentals that were printed during the Revolutionary War.  And just like German marks after World War I when that country printed massive amounts of money to pay its post-war reparations. 

Imagine life in Germany over the course of only three years.  In January of 1921, it took 215 marks to equal one British pound.  Only one year later in January 1922, it took 790.  The next January it took 32,000 marks.  And in January 1924, the count was 19 billion marks to equal one British pound.1  Year by year German citizens watched prices rise astronomically and saw their meager savings disappear, regardless of how much they started with.2  It all became wheelbarrow money.

But that was a long time ago, you might think.  They were without computers and calculators and high-tech communications.  Surely it couldn’t happen in our modern economy in the twenty-first century. 

For a more recent example, consider the past few decades in Venezuela.  From 1985 to 2013, inflation in Venezuela ranged from a low of 11.4% to a high of 99.9% and averaged 33.3%.  Those numbers are concerning enough, but in the following years—almost one hundred years after Germany’s hyperinflation— it grew even worse:  62% (2014); 121% (2015); 255% (2016); 438% (2017); 65,374% (2018); 19,906% (2019); and finally an estimated 6,500% (2020).3 

Since those numbers are hard to ponder; let’s bring it to a concrete example.  Back in 1985 one Venezuelan bolivar was roughly equal to $133 US.4  Let’s say that was the amount of groceries for one family for two weeks.  Ten years later in 1995, following Venezuela’s yearly inflation rates, that same amount of groceries would have required $4,020.  By 2005 the cost would have been $59,881.  By 2013 when inflation began to take off, those same groceries would have cost $368,298.  And by 2020, two weeks’ groceries would have cost over $218 trillion.5  Any savings of money from earlier decades would have been long-since wiped out . . . regardless of how much the family had to begin with.

So what does it mean that the U.S. government is giving out trillions of dollars of new money in Covid relief?  And that in 2020 we saw the largest increase (26%) in the money supply in U.S. history?6  It means every dollar in your wallet, in your bank account, and in your retirement fund is suddenly worth less.  Not worthless . . . yet.  But worth less than it was previously.  Because the supply of dollars has been inflated, and the law of supply and demand still holds true.

Who benefits most from this “relief”?  Those with no saving and no assets (because even having something that is devalued is better than having nothing).  For those with some resources—including homes, vehicles, savings and investment accounts, or business equipment—careful years of toil, planning, and saving were just devalued.  And every time additional money is printed, it further devalues them.  That’s why even average inflation is said to cut the value of money in half every twenty years.7  This hidden tax known as inflation is planned and executed by the government and its agents (like the Federal Reserve).8  Compared to tax-and-spend programs, inflation is a slightly subtler means of transferring wealth from the “haves” to the “have nots” or (in the words of Karl Marx) from the “bourgeoisie” to the “proletariat.”  In the end both are redistributive . . . and both serve the same goals.

What does this mean for Janet’s family?  When Janet and her children passed by the fresh oranges and moved on to find frozen juice concentrates, they were able to exercise a choice in how to spend their family’s hard-earned dollars.  They could look for other items where the supply was closer to the demand—or maybe in some cases where the supply exceeded the demand—thus yielding lower food costs for their family.  However when the dollars themselves are what has flooded the market, it affects all buying and selling, not just an item here or there.  Not just oranges.  Not just Janet’s family. 

Frankly, such policies are not enacted by a just government.  Money-printing (and its resultant inflation) is a seductive means of creating an impoverished, dependent, and easily manipulated people, all while convincing them that life is good because they have more money in their pockets.  More paper, yes.  More value, no.

A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.
Proverbs 11:1

Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the LORD.
Proverbs 20:10

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Notes:

1. Harold Marcuse, “Historical Dollar-to-Marks Currency Conversion Page” http://marcuse.faculty.history.ucsb.edu/projects/currency.htm

2. Wikipedia.org, “Hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic:  Causes” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperinflation_in_the_Weimar_Republic#Causes

3. Statista.com, “Venezuela: Inflation rate from 1985 to 2022”  https://www.statista.com/statistics/371895/inflation-rate-in-venezuela/

Please note that while these percentages may look like costs peaked in 2018, instead it was the inflation rate that peaked.  Costs were still increasing.  The cost of goods in 2019 was roughly 200 times those of 2018, and in 2020 they were estimated to be 66 times those of 2019.  So while the rate of growth had slowed, even those lesser amounts of growth were enormous.

4. FxTop.com, “Historical Currency Converter with official exchange rates from 1953”  https://fxtop.com/en/historical-currency-converter.php?A=1&C1=VEB&C2=USD&DD=01&MM=01&YYYY=1985&B=1&P=&I=1&btnOK=Go%21

5. Computed by author with inflation rates from https://www.statista.com/statistics/371895/inflation-rate-in-venezuela/

6. Jose Karlo Mari Tottoc, “Money Supply Is Up 26%, Inflation Coming? Cathie Wood’s Bitcoin Comments and Stock Picks” https://finance.yahoo.com/news/money-supply-26-inflation-coming-043054524.html

7. Tim McMahon,“Long Term U.S. Inflation”  https://inflationdata.com/Inflation/Inflation_Rate/Long_Term_Inflation.asp

8. Joshua Hendrickson, “The Fed Changed Approach to Inflation.  Will It Change Its Policies?”  https://www.nationalreview.com/2021/01/average-inflation-targeting-and-this-pesky-thing-called-implementation/

It’s Not Mine to Keep

What do you do when the government drops money into your bank account uninvited? If you’re like me, you become exasperated by the fact that lawmakers in Washington D.C. thought they had the right to meddle with your bank account at all. Then you set about looking for the quickest way to send it back. Because whether it comes from a Republican, a Democrat, or any other stripe of politician, it isn’t theirs to give, and it isn’t mine to keep.

I know almost everybody else in America is keeping “theirs.” I also know it doesn’t seem like it could possibly make a difference to send it back. But it lets me sleep at night. And it’s not so much about one person being able to make a significant fiscal difference as it is about one person being able to take a stand for what is right, to set an example and hope that others will care enough about their liberty, their posterity, and their republic to follow suit.

We the people have to remember that the government doesn’t actually own a benevolence fund.* In order for bureaucrats to give money away, they either have to take it from somebody else or print some more (which, in effect, takes from everybody anyway because it devalues the dollars we’re currently holding). We also need to remember that our help comes from the Lord — not from Uncle Sam. God can bless us more than the government ever could; and He won’t steal from our neighbor to do it. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and His ability to prosper His people extends even beyond the wallet, beyond the temporal into such intangibles as health, peace, opportunity, and favor.

I’m going to put the body of our two letters to the President below, not for pride’s sake, but for precept’s sake. The New Testament instructs us, “If you can be free, be free.” (I Cor. 7:21) Don’t sell yourselves, your children, and your grandchildren into slavery. If you know of an area in your life where you are depending on government rather than God, ask Him to lead you out of bondage and into freedom. Then show your broken shackles to your neighbor and lead him directly to the feet of the Master that can break his chains as well.

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Copyright © 2021 (including original images)

p.s. Lately there has been an increase in talk of “basic income payments” which could be deposited monthly in the bank accounts of all eligible Americans. The same principle applies to basic income payments or to monthly stipends as to one-off stimulus payments: “Be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Gal. 5:1) The money may look “free” on the surface, but once you have become dependent upon it, you can be sure any continuation of your benefit will come with strings.

p.p.s. A further update to this article follows:

* See Davy Crockett’s “It’s Not Yours to Give” speech at fee.org.

What if that talent were used for God?


Frames from an early animated film, Felix the Cat.

We don’t watch movies very often for two reasons – firstly, we want to be good stewards of the time God has given us to use for Him, and secondly, it is difficult to find excellent material that we are comfortable sharing with our children. But about a week ago, we decided to rent an animated film made a couple decades ago and watch it with our adult children who are still at home. The film was a relatively harmless diversion (especially considering that the children we watched it with are grown) even if it wasn’t particularly edifying, but I had only one thought when I lay down to bed after viewing it: What if the talent that went into writing, animating, and producing that film had been used for God?

God has given each person on earth specific abilities and talents. Even those who don’t know Him or recognize Him as Lord and Savior have been blessed with giftings in music, writing, film, art, construction, farming, medicine, technology, and so on. Imagine the world we would live in if all those abilities were being employed for His glory!

While the unsaved are unlikely to use their giftings expressly to honor God, those of us who are Christians shoulder a weighty responsibility to use our health, our finances, our talents, our time, our very lives for Him. In I Timothy 4 Paul reminded Timothy, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee.” It is possible to bury our talents, to allow the good things to push out room for the best things, to use our giftings in ways that please ourselves rather than our Creator.

As we begin this new year, let’s take a few moments to reflect on the special talents God has given to us as individuals. Are we using them for Him? Are there gifts that we’ve neglected? Are there things we are doing to please ourselves that are using up our energy to work for the Lord? Let’s ask God for the wisdom to pursue the endeavors He would have us pursue and let’s purpose to improve and exercise our gifts so that He may be glorified and we may experience growth.

A special note to wives, mothers, and grandmothers: Please remember that home-making (and all that goes into it) is itself a gift — a beautiful gift that God wants to use to sanctify you and to bless your family and others. The home is a much-neglected place of ministry. Any interests and abilities that He has given you as an individual can be woven into the fabric of family life, hospitality, outreach, and entrepreneurship over the years. Satan may tempt you to look at what other women are doing to try to make you feel like you are not doing “enough” or that your gifts are being “wasted” in the home, but if you are being a faithful wife, training your children to love the Lord with all their hearts, reaching out to your brethren and the community, and setting an example for the younger women and coming alongside them, you are being a nation builder. Bless you, faithful wife. Bless you, sacrificing mother. Bless you, praying grandmother. May God be pleased to raise up many more like you in the years to come!

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* Because the term “nation builder” can have various shades of meaning, I should clarify that I am using it as I first heard it used by Nancy Campbell of Above Rubies magazine. A strong nation begins with strong homes, churches, and communities. As wives, mothers, and grandmothers, we have the opportunity to build each of these up or to tear them down. (See Proverbs 14:1, Romans 12:4-18, James 2:8.)

Thank you, God . . . again!

The night before last one of our daughters had a sudden allergic reaction to we-know-not-what.  Immediately we put in a call to the pediatrician, treated her with appropriate medicine, and stopped to pray as a family and ask the Lord to protect her and keep it from becoming a full-blown emergency.  And He did—again.

I wondered the next morning:  How many nights of her life has this child not had an allergic reaction and not had to go to the emergency room?   The answer:  approximately five thousand, two hundred ninety-two!  And that was just one child and one possible crisis averted.  That realization made me very thankful for the multitudinous times His hands have been upon us that we may not have even noticed. There’ve been so many moments over the years when things haven’t gone wrong or when little things could easily have become big things but didn’t by His grace alone.

As we enter Thanksgiving week, let’s be thankful not only for the obvious things that we can see and hear and taste and touch and smell, but let’s make a special effort to be thankful also for all the ways God protects and sustains us when we’re not even paying attention.   I’m including a few ways that I thought of below, but I hope you’ll take time to add some personal ones of your own to the list – whether you talk about it at the table as a family or whether you quietly reflect and offer Him gratitude and praise in your own heart.  Either way, may our eyes be opened anew to the many reasons we should be saying, “Thank you, God . . . again!” every day.

— all the nights we have slept undisturbed

— all the heartbeats and the breaths we have taken for granted

— all the bills that haven’t “broken the bank”

— all the clothes and meals and heating we haven’t had occasion to worry about

— all the mornings we have woken to find our homes still standing

— all the accidents we haven’t been in

— all the bones we haven’t broken

— all the days of peace we have known (as opposed to days of wartime)

— all the fears that haven’t come to pass

— all the hours we have had sufficient strength and health to do our work

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises
unto thy name, O most High:
To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning,
and thy faithfulness every night. Psalm 92:1-2

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Copyright © 2020

The Blueberry Story

An Indictment of the Graduated Income Tax, Welfare, and Inflation

Blueberry painting is Copyright (c) 2014 L.E. Beal

Andrew stood up slowly, letting the muscles in his back and down the backs of his legs relax.  For hours he had been bent over, sweeping his blueberry rake from side to side, pulling the tiny fruits from their bushes and often working to free the rake from the ferns and other plants that conspired to hinder his progress.  He had filled bucket after bucket with berries and leaves, then dumped them into the winnowing machine that used a large fan to blow away the chaff, letting the berries drop unhindered into one large plastic box after another.  His crew chief, Ted, dutifully recorded the incoming boxes for each of the rakers, then tallied them up at the end of their full day of work—and a full day it was, stretching from early morning when rakers’ feet are wet with dew until late afternoon when their necks are burned from the intense heat of the sun.

While Andrew walked stiffly, empty buckets and rake in hand, toward a shaded area, Ted scanned down his list.  Andrew had the best day overall with 120 boxes.  His younger sister Janet did nearly as well with 100.  He looked down toward the bottom and saw William’s and Archie’s names.  The crew chief liked William’s determination.  He worked as hard as he could, but he walked with a severe limp and was missing his left arm from the elbow down.  He still ended the day with 40 boxes, all of them well earned in spite of his physical challenges.  And Archie…well, he hadn’t shown up the last three days in a row, but he had just called with another excuse and an apology and said he intended to be back at work tomorrow.

Seeing the inequality evident in his numbers, Ted took his pencil and crossed out Andrew’s 120 boxes, instead writing down 90 and adding the other 30 to Archie’s previous zero.  He looked at Janet’s 100, crossed that out too and wrote down 80, adding her boxes to William’s to bring him to 60.

Upon hearing his new total, William was thankful, but he didn’t realize that his boxes had been taken from his friend Janet.  And when Ted called to tell Archie, Archie simply wondered why the chief hadn’t given him more as he had intended to get up and go to work each of the last three days, but something always seemed to come up.  He didn’t particularly care that his boxes had been taken from Andrew—since Andrew had more than he needed anyway.  He was mostly concerned that Andrew still had 60 more boxes than he had himself.  Andrew is no better than I am, Archie thought.  Why should he have more boxes credited to his account?  There must be some inherent bias in the system.

Andrew and Janet knew how hard they’d worked, and they’d both kept careful track of how many boxes they’d raked.  So they recognized immediately that they had been cheated.  The siblings were disgusted and wondered why they had spent those extra hours in the hot sun just to receive no benefit from them.  They had noticed William’s diligence through the day and would have been happy to share out of their abundance if they had thought he had a particular need.  And they had noticed, too, Archie’s repeated absences, but they had no inclination to help him until he had learned to help himself.  Andrew and Janet were outraged that Ted presumed to know better than they how to allocate the fruits of their labors, both in deciding how much to give and to whom.  After pleading their case with Ted to no avail, and after consulting their parents, they went to visit Ted’s supervisor and then headed home for the night.1

Because Andrew and Janet had reported Ted’s theft to his supervisor, Ted was given a stern warning the next morning, but it was not stern enough to make him give up his shenanigans.  He decided instead that he would take a different tack in trying to help out William and Archie.

Archie still didn’t make it out to the fields that day, but William, Janet, and Andrew again worked hard and matched their actual totals from the day before (40, 100, and 120 boxes, respectively).  Rather than take any boxes from Andrew’s and Janet’s totals, however, the crew chief opted instead to just add 35 boxes for William (since he had shown up and worked diligently) and 30 for Archie (since he reportedly would have worked if he hadn’t lost a shoe), bringing them up to 75 and 30 boxes.  Ted figured that since there was no loss to Andrew and Janet, there would be no reason this time for them to complain.  Unfortunately, however, when the day’s boxes of berries were processed, there was only the same weight of berries as there had been the day before, so management decided that the boxes must not have been full.  Being fairly astute, the factory’s owner had no desire to pay a full wage for partial work.  Since the reported 325 boxes only weighed as much as the previous day’s 260 boxes, the factory paid 20% less for each box, leaving Andrew and Janet to receive only 80% of what they were expecting for the second day’s work. 

On the third day, Archie neither showed up nor called to explain.  William still raked his 40 boxes.  As for Andrew and Janet. . . they each raked 40 boxes, then walked off the fields at noon and headed for home.2

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Notes:

1. In the first part of our story, we see the wonders of the progressive income tax and the welfare system.  Andrew raked the most, so he had the highest percentage taken.  Janet was second and lost a bit less than her brother.  William and Archie lost nothing.  And, of what was taken, it went to subsidize those who either earned less or didn’t work at all.  And in reality, if he had been a government bureaucrat, Ted would have also skimmed off a fair share to cover the costs of administering his program of taxation and redistribution.

2. In the second part of our story, we see the effects of inflation.  Because more boxes were recorded than fruit that was harvested, each box was worth proportionately less.  It reduced the value of each the workers’ boxes and became just another avenue of wealth redistribution.  Likewise, when currency is printed and injected into the economy far faster than excess new goods are produced, each dollar in circulation suddenly becomes worth less—whether it is in your purse or wallet, hidden in your mattress, or even saved for the future in your bank account.  Just like Ted’s addition of fictional boxes, inflation (whether called “quantitative easing” or “increasing the size of the money supply”) is simply a more covert form of theft—hidden, but still insidiously devaluing others’ property.

How does God feel about government-driven inflation?  He tells us in Leviticus 19:35-36,  “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure.  Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt.”

What Can I Do?

Kudos to our youngest daughter for drawing the political cartoon for this article
after the style of Vic Lockman.

As we have lately seen American heroes being torn from their pedestals, have watched the rioting, looting, and destruction in the streets, and have witnessed the call for anarchy from a relative few result in the disarming of our police, there is an uncomfortable heaviness that has fallen upon many, a sense of hopelessness, a realization that there seems little we can do to right the wrongs.  In one sense that is true—there is little we can do.  Marxist and Communist ideals have been embraced by the politicians and by the populace for a long time, and it is the culminating of those ideals that we are seeing played out today on the American stage.  But if there is yet a little we can do, let us at least do that.  Let our legacy as individuals and as families be that while all Hell moved to destroy our nation, our people, and our founding principles, there were a few godly men, women, and children who cared enough to stand, to intercede, to be willing to lay down their lives in trying to restore morality and liberty for their posterity (for of course, one cannot have liberty without morality—that has become self-evident at this point in our history).

Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. 
(Proverbs 31:8)

The place that we have the most power to change anything and to influence those around us is in our own lives and the lives of our families, our neighbors, and our friends.  Let us begin, then, where we can actually make some progress.  Let us begin by taking a long look in the mirror.  Where do I find Marxism and Communism in my life, in my home, in my community?  Don’t be tempted to believe that you won’t find it there, friend.  It’s there.  We are the people.  If it wasn’t in our hearts and in our lives, it wouldn’t be the strong force that it is in America today.  It is real, it is there, and it must be rooted out. 

How do I identify it?  How do I know what I need to change?

I think for many of us, “Communism” and “Marxism” are vague ideologies.  We might know that they are wrong and sound un-American, but we don’t really know how to define them.  Because we cannot define them, we cannot identify their tenets either.  And if we cannot identify something, we do not know when it has become part and parcel of our own thinking.  Karl Marx, the Father of Communism, laid out “ten planks of Communism” in his book The Communist Manifesto.   There are many articles online which list the ten planks with examples of how we have implemented them in American society.  I am not going to list all ten in this article but just point to a few areas where we are living as Communists and need to learn to live again as free men and women.  What follows are summary points (in bold) from several of the basic tenets of Communism so that we may see how they are very much alive and well in America (including in our own communities) and that we need to get serious about “unplanking” them if we are going to reclaim our liberty and have anything left of our godly heritage to pass on to our children and our grandchildren.

1.  Abolition of private property – There are at least three ways you can fight locally to re-establish private property rights.  The first is to retain control of your own property and its management and refuse to try to control your neighbor’s property.  In other words, let’s rethink all those building permits, zoning laws, sundry permissions, setbacks, and other forms of top-down control that keep a man from doing as he sees fit with his own land.  Oh, I know, our minds will immediately jump to “Yes, but if we don’t do such and such to make sure he uses the land rightly, he could use it wrongly!  Why, what if he ________?”  Well, what if he does?  Whose property is it?  Yours or his?  Who paid for it?  Under whose charge did God give it?  And if he uses his property wickedly, do we not already have sufficient laws on the books to combat his folly?  If you are honest, you will see right off with this first point that you have been trained to think like a Communist.  You have been trained to see your neighbor as the problem rather than totalitarianism as the problem.  Liberty is a scary proposition, friend.  Just realize that you cannot have your liberty if you will not allow your neighbor his

A second way to combat the abolition of private property is to fight the land tax.  The time to pay for the land is when we purchase it.  If the town can take our property someday, then we do not own it; we rent it.  Of course, taxes must be raised for necessary expenses in a community, but they should not be based on what we have in our possession, what we have been entrusted with and are attempting to steward, but rather should be equal among the people.  You can see the class warfare bred in this line of “progressive tax” thinking—they have more; they should pay more!  I must ask you, why?  Do they get more services?  If you go to the grocery store with five dollars in your wallet, should you pay more for your quart of milk than a shopper who comes in with only three dollars in his?  The apportionment of a head tax rather than a property or income-based tax means that everybody pays equally for the services available to them—and the fact that everyone would be required to pay an equal portion would keep taxes low enough for the poorest to afford.  That would mean drastic tax cuts, you say?  Many lost services?  So be it.  Let the people decide how many services they want by how much they are all willing to pay.  Why should those who are paying less (by far the majority) decide for those who are paying more?  Marxism rears its ugly head again!

Of course, in order to bring taxes to a level that everyone can afford, services need to be stripped back to those which are essential (think of things that are life-sustaining but virtually impossible for households to afford individually—ambulance and fire service, for example, or the construction of the roads and bridges they travel on).  Thomas Jefferson said, “To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”  There are many philosophies taught at our local public school which run completely counter to Christianity, yet we receive a bill every year for land taxes—seventy-three percent of which goes directly to funding the local school.  We can pay it, or we can ultimately lose our property—even though the school is using our dollars to teach a worldview contrary to our own.  That’s tyranny.  So a third thing we can do to fight the abolition of private property is to question all local expenditures and stop believing the lie that the public school system is necessary in order for the children in the community to obtain a good education.  We were a more literate people once, and we were a thinking people.  Public education has led us far from where we once were even with such promises as “no child left behind.”  For those who cannot afford private schooling or who cannot home educate, I think we would find an abundance of community members with generous hearts who would gladly give of their own time to act as tutors or who would give out of their own wallets for truly needy children to receive scholarships.  The difference is large—if I am giving by choice from my own wallet, I have a measure of control over the type of education being purchased and its ultimate success.  But if the money is taken from me in taxation, I have no check against its being misused.  In one fell swoop, I am stripped of my money and my voice.

2.  A heavy progressive/graduated income tax – While we see this at the local level as the land tax, we see it at the state and national levels as the income tax.  The same arguments apply here as in the point above.  If I make $50,000 a year, I should be paying the same tax as someone making $75,000 a year or $150,000 a year.  Why?  Because that’s what is fair and just.  The person making $75,000 does not receive more services for paying a larger share of the tax burden.  Obviously we need to fight this at local, state, and national levels politically, but I would submit to you that first we need to fight and win this bloody battle in our very hearts.  The only possible reason that I could want someone else to have to pay more taxes than I do would be greed.  I want something my neighbor has.  I don’t truly believe he has a right to steward or to enjoy what God has given him.  I want “my share” of his stuff, and I want it now.   (While we’re right on it—why should income be taxed at all?  The Scriptures say the laborer is worthy of his hire.  Did you know that personal incomes weren’t taxed in America until the early days of the Civil War?)

But what about those who are poor?  What about the widow?  What about the lonely?  What about the “disenfranchised”?  Don’t we need all these social programs to care for them?  God has a plan for the poor, the downtrodden, the burdened, and the distressed.  His plan is for the individual, the family, and the church to reach out and help them in the name of Jesus Christ.  His plan is not that what He has given us be taken by the heavy hand of the government and redistributed without accountability but that individuals across this land would see the needs they believe God would have them to meet and have the means to meet them.  We still have the responsibility as Christians to meet legitimate needs, by the way—the theft that is being perpetrated upon us does not relieve us of our duties before God—but it isn’t as easy as God meant it to be because we have allowed our wealth (our resources) to be eaten up by an ever-growing socialistic system whose ultimate aim is notto care for people but to control them.

So while we are looking in the mirror, let us look long and hard and honestly at this important question:  Am I receiving money in my bank account that is being taken from my hardworking neighbors or being borrowed against my children’s and grandchildren’s futures?  Maybe if I am honest, I will see that I am.  But maybe I won’t know what to do about it.  The first thing to do about it is to be humble, to admit that you have been duped.  You were raised in a Communist system, and you have been taken in a Communist trap.  A trap?  Yes, verily.  For I daresay that even if you now realize the duping, you see no way out of the result of it.  If you are a senior adult, be still.  You paid into a rotten system for a lifetime.  You believed the government would be there for you in your old age.  We, your neighbors, understand that.  I think most of us would be hesitant to take that from you at this point.  But, friend, you have children and grandchildren who are young enough to avoid being deceived by and taken in the system if you will only warn them.  They may have to pay into the system (for now) as a “tax” so that they can keep out of jail, but they don’t ever have to apply to receive from the system.  They can learn to save, to do without now so to have later, to go to family and the church with their needs rather than the local welfare office.  I understand that I am saying a hard thing.  Our forefathers were willing to lay down their lives, their possessions, their sacred honor for our (now withered) liberty.  What are we willing to lay down for our descendants?  I don’t mean “we” the nation.  I mean “we” as in you and me.  What am I willing to suffer to try to preserve the right of my children and grandchildren to be free men and women someday?  What are you willing to suffer to save yours from the bondage you find yourself in?

If you are a middle-aged or young adult, think seriously about the future you desire.  Do you want to find yourself in thirty years where the majority of seniors are today?  Does the promise of future “security” mean more to you than the promise of true liberty?  Does getting what you can from a myriad of programs seem only “fair” because you pay taxes after all?  Does taking from others seem insignificant because everybody’s doing it?  Let’s stop looking for excuses to live the Marxist way and start looking for ways to live as patriots.  Stop spending money you don’t have (living on credit) or didn’t earn (living on welfare in any of its forms).  Start saving for your own future and as much as possible for the futures of your children as well.  Stop using other people’s money to feed your family so that you can use your money to feed your vices.  Stop expecting other people to take care of you and start taking care of yourself.  And when you find you have a need that you can’t meet—and we all will at some point because that is one of the ways God gets us to see that we ultimately need Him—get on your knees and ask God for help (but realize that if you want Him to hear you then, you should be talking with Him now).  Go to the local church body and ask them for help as well (but realize that they are going to first be inclined to help their own brethren, so you should be in fellowship with them now and helping to bear the burdens of others).  If you are thinking you don’t need that kind of help because it comes with accountability, just realize that these same people you scorn are paying your way already.  You are taking from them using the strong arm of the government rather than asking for help honestly, and you will answer for that someday.

3.  Equal obligation of all to work – It should not take two salaries to raise a family, so we should question what is going on in America today that makes it hard for husbands or fathers to bring home “enough” and encourages wives and mothers to seek full-time careers.  Marx viewed women as cogs that needed to be plugged into the industrial machine and do their part to contribute to society (not for the good of the woman or her family but for the good of the State).  God beckons Christian women to a more important sphere of influence—the home.  While at first glance work done in the home may not seem to matter as much as work done outside the home, that is due to our warped understanding (evaluating circumstances with a temporal perspective rather than an eternal one).  What do we look at to define success in our culture?  We generally look at how much money somebody is bringing in.  Yet what is money but pieces of paper?  (And I mean that quite literally—especially under our fiat system!)*  Truly, how much a woman makes in her lifetime serves as a poor indicator of how much lasting good she has done.  Remember the old saying “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”?  It points directly to a woman’s influence beginning in the home and then extending outward.  We have a very small view of the home today.  We do not see it as the center of hope, help, hospitality, healing, education, ministry, and industry that it was meant to be.  (Matter of fact, much of what the home was meant to do has been usurped by big government—we need to get serious about calling upon our legislators to stop rolling out new legislation and start rolling back the multitudinous onerous regulations that are curtailing our ability to act as free men and women and build thriving communities.)

God is not looking to shut up half of the redeemed behind walls and keep them from doing anything meaningful—rather, He has given them the high calling of training up the next generation to know and to follow Him.  He asks that Christian women be faithful in marriage, do good works, care for the brethren and the stranger, relieve the poor and afflicted, look to the needs of the household, and be creative and industrious with the unique gifts that He has given each of them.  (Proverbs 31 and I Timothy 5)   And in response to their obedience, He can multiply their reach and their reward.  If you view this as a small work, friend, take it up with the Lord.  The shards that society has been shattered into today are indicator enough that we threw out something important without understanding its worth.  Being equal with men should never have to mean that we have to be the same as men to have any value.  On the contrary, God made two distinct genders to fully reflect His image.  Men don’t apologize for their role as providers; women shouldn’t have to apologize for embracing the work (and work it is) of running a home, raising a family, and reaching out to the community.  I’ll warn you it’s countercultural and extremely underappreciated in our day, but it’s vital to the healing of our nation nonetheless.  Why?  Because God created three foundations for a functional society:  the family, the church, and the civil government.  If any one of them is broken (and all three are broken in America), that society cannot long endure.  So regardless of what everyone else on your block may choose to do, you can choose to prioritize strengthening your marriage, nurturing your children, honoring and caring for your parents and the elderly, passing on the faith to your descendants, ministering to those with a variety of needs in your church and community, and rebuilding Western civilization by employing the distinct talents God has given you.

Because of the socialistic system we are laboring under, choosing to focus on home and family may require great sacrifice (but then, it required tremendous sacrifice for the Pilgrim mothers and maidens as well).  It may mean living very simply, foregoing things that others take for granted, learning to find joy in serving God together rather than in things, stepping back from the media and advertising that bombard us continually with how we (in their minds) should live or what we should have, being willing to receive help (of a non-governmental nature) when we need it, being ready to share out of our resources when others have needs, and committing to steward well the household income we have—even supplementing in whatever way we can without abandoning the home front or our primary duties—and  trusting God to supply beyond that.     

4.  Free education for all children in government schools – When all is said and done, the biggest investment you can make, the most important thing that you can do today to give hope to the next generation, is to educate your own children and grandchildren to recognize and reject Marxism and to choose to live as free men and women before God.  If somebody else is training your children and the taxpayer is funding it, know that they are receiving a Marxist education—yes, even in your tiny little “all-American” town.  They are receiving a godless, socialistic education that is designed to prepare them to be dependent upon and easily managed by the state in adulthood.  But don’t take my word for it; do the research yourself.  Look into the names behind the development of the public school system and its teachings in America (Rousseau, Horace Mann, Darwin, John Dewey, and B. F. Skinner among others).  Find out what they truly believed.  Investigate the powerful teachers’ union (NEA) and look for the agenda behind their positions and decisions.  And understand that while that sweet lady who teaches your kindergartner and that very nice gentleman who teaches your second-grader might not seem like they wish them any harm (why, you’ve known them for years after all), they are being paid to indoctrinate all the children in the classroom, including yours.  There are even myriad Christians still working in the system across the land.  I understand that they didn’t go into teaching to train up Communists.  They just wanted to be salt and light and reach children for Jesus.  But how can they point children to Jesus when they’re no longer allowed to so much as whisper His glorious name and when all the words they do get to say and all the textbooks and take-home papers they do hand out preach a message and a worldview contrary to His own?

Bring your children home, friend.  Get them out of the system and get them into the Word.  Learn our true, providential history for yourself and teach it to them.  And don’t stop with history—share with them the truth about origins (we are not animals—we are made in the image of God) and art and music and beauty (there are objective standards) and math and language (our thoughts do matter, and our words do have meaning) and a thousand other things!  Only by immersing ourselves in all that is good and holy and godly do we learn to identify and reject all that is not.  I heard a song on the radio a week or so ago which was sung by a husband-and-wife duo—Joey and Rory.  Called “Gotta Go Back,” it reminisces about “the good old days” when life was simpler and not so scary.  It’s all very nice for us to say we’ve got to go back; I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment.  But I fear that the American public is almost beyond caring.  We are daily sacrificing our children to our gods—prosperity and pleasure being chief among them. 

Do you care?  Or are you reading this article and making excuses, thinking I must be talking about somebody else’s school and somebody else’s children and grandchildren?  I’m not.  I’m talking about yours.  If you’re the parent, bring them home.  If you’re the grandparent, urge your children to bring them home—and if they won’t, spend your afternoons and evenings and weekends doing your best to unteach the Marxism and humanism your grandchildren will be spoonfed daily.  One hour of Sunday School a week isn’t going to do it.  Education is “little by little, bit by bit” every day of a child’s life.  British educator Charlotte Mason once said, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”  Children need to breathe the very words of life daily.  They need to learn to recognize all that is false by being immersed in all that is true and righteous and holy.

I’ve only touched on four of the planks of Marxism in this article.  It would take pages more to introduce such disturbing matters as the centralization of credit and how our wealth is being stolen through inflation, the takeover of private industry by the government, the abolition of our rights of inheritance, and more.  Please take time to check out the resources in the endnotes and learn more about recognizing Marxism and its tenets yourself.  If we can recognize Communism, we can fight it.  And it is not as easy as playing red team/blue team at the polls.  There are many Republicans who are socialists and purveyors of godlessness as well.  By all means, go vote.  But don’t think it’s going to save America.  Getting in the right politicians isn’t going to do it—the majority of them become corrupt and obtain and maintain power by promising constituents more money (socialism alert—it’s not just “more money,” it’s more of somebody else’s money).  The only way to bring America back to where she started is to rebuild the foundation she had.  She was largely built by individuals and families who loved God and His Word, loved their neighbors, and embraced a multi-generational vision of faithfulness (unlike many modern-day Hezekiahs who are happy enough so long as things are tolerable in their day).  She can only be rebuilt by individuals and families who are willing to sacrifice everything to be and do the same. 

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Note:  I was prompted to write this article because I heard three different Christian women ask the title question within the space of one week, and I know that the answer that the Christian community at large tends to give to this question is “pray.”  Yes, friend, repent and pray, for without God and His mercy, there is no hope for America.  But once you have gotten up off your knees, consider what else God might have for you to do.  The work is large, and the laborers are few. 

Given below are some of my “top picks” for accessible resources on Communism, Marxism, socialism, humanism, and governmental overreach.   Remember, we must begin with our own households and communities and work outward, employing the mote-beam principle of Scripture.  (Matthew 7:3-5)     

  1. As I Read It: One Man’s Understanding of the Constitution by Jonathan S. Beal
  2. A Word in Season (Volumes 1-7) by R. J. Rushdoony
  3. Biblical Economics in Comics by Vic Lockman
  4. When a Nation Forgets God: 7 Lessons We Must Learn from Nazi Germany by Erwin W. Lutzer
  5. Agenda: Grinding America Down and Agenda 2: Masters of Deceit by Curtis Bowers
  6. IndoctriNation: Public Schools and the Decline of Christianity in America by Colin Gunn and Joaquin Fernandez
  7. Select videos from PragerU, such as Who is Karl Marx? by Paul Kengor and Was Jesus a Socialist? by Lawrence Reed

* I do not wish to be flip about money or the necessity of having enough to take care of our families, but I do desire to challenge the commonly accepted narrative that the best we can hope for in life is to grow up, marry (or not), make enough money to be “happy,” and then die…only to be quickly and easily replaced by another well-trained cog.  There is no hope for the individual or for the family in that scenario; there is only ever the relentless machine operating seamlessly with its barely indistinguishable parts.  We do labor in a fallen world; our lives here can never be perfect, but we can do better than that.  We can reject man’s utopian plan (which hasn’t yet resulted in “Heaven on earth” in any nation where it’s been tried) and embrace instead the promise of abundant life in Jesus Christ—first in finding salvation, then in learning to do God’s will (not only in obeying the universal commands which apply to all Christians—those summarized in “love God, love your neighbor”—but also in fulfilling the distinct plans He has for each of us as individuals and as families).