Good Reasons for a Black Eye

I love cowboy movies; they are just plain fun to watch.  Westerns always have a few necessary components.  Obviously there is always the climatic gunfight.  There usually is a break-neck horse chase.  There should always be a woman worth fighting for, and generally there is a bar room brawl in which the hero gets badly beaten.  One of the best lines I ever heard in a movie occurred when a kid asked the hero “Hey, who gave you that black eye?”  The hero stared at the boy with an unflinching gaze and forcefully said, “No one gave it to me, I earned it!”  I guess one of the reasons to like western movies is that the line between right and wrong is clearly drawn in the sand, and when it’s crossed then the time has come to take a stand and let the chips fall where they may.  Regrettably churches today are losing their capacity to not only draw lines in the sand on moral issues in society, but to even take stands for doctrinal issues within the church.  Many seem to believe that “tolerance” and “peace” are the most important things for a church to hold to, and under no circumstances should anyone endanger them.  Well, there are times when we should take public stands in our churches—even at the expense of unity and peace, and below is a list of some non-negotiables.

*    The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  Paul said that if Jesus has not risen from the dead then Christianity is a vain faith and we are still in our sins (1 Cor. 15.12-19).  The doors of every church should be locked if Jesus has not bodily risen from the dead.  But he has risen, and he now sits at the Father’s right hand mediating on our behalf.  The bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead is a non-negotiable for anyone who would call themselves a Christian.

*    The divinity and incarnation of Jesus Christ.  The apostle John stated that anyone who denied that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh was of the spirit of anti-Christ (1 Jn 4.1-3).  The scriptures are clear; Jesus is literally the incarnation of God in the created realm (Jn 1.1-18; Col 1.15, 19; 2.9; Phil 2.5-11; Heb 1.1-3).  The confession that Jesus is fully man and fully God is a non-negotiable for any claiming to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.

*    The Trinity.  If you review the doctrines of any major historical Christian denomination you will notice that they all have a Trinitarian declaration.  Christianity confesses and proclaims that there is one God who has revealed himself in 3 persons who are united essence, nature, and being.  This unity and diversity within the Godhead is a mystery that is hard to fathom, but there are other complex truths that are also hard to fathom but they exist nonetheless.  For example, take “love” and “justice”; we know that they exist, but can you explain how they exist?  You cannot, and so it is with the Trinity.  Christians do not profess that God is one person who reveals himself in 3 different ways at different times, but that God is one who co-exists in 3 persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—all are equally divine and perfectly one while sharing the same essence and purpose (Matt 28.19).  Although each member in the Godhead simultaneously functions differently in the created order, they all are nonetheless equally divine.  True believers can accept no less; consequently, neither should they tolerate any fellowship that would promote anything contrary to this essential truth.

*    That Salvation is through faith alone in Christ alone by God’s grace alone.  Salvation is not received or earned by humanly participating in the ordinance of a church (i.e., baptism or communion); neither is it the reward of human effort or endurance. It is only received after one repents from his or her sin and personally entrusts themselves and their sin debt to the Lord Jesus Christ through his substitutionary death on the cross. This redemption is a gift that God freely offers to all who would receive it, and his offer is completely a gift of his grace.  In other words, it is a gift that is completely undeserved, and its reception by the desperate sinner can in no way be perceived as a meritorious act (Eph 2.8-10).

The above 4 doctrines are non-negotiable for anyone who would call themselves Christian.  There are others, such as that God exists, that there is an afterlife, a final judgment, etc., etc.  But these confessions are so fundamentally self-evident that to mention them would be elementary.  Indeed, even the ones listed above are elementary, but the fact is that some churches and denominations are beginning losing sight of their significance.  Nevertheless, Evangelical churches in America are beginning to function more like community centers instead of a communities of believers who adore and worship the risen Savoir of the world.  Consequently, below are 3 more items that I argue are doctrines worth fighting for as well; regrettably however, there are many that are not sure that these are also worth defending publically.

 *   The exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Jesus claimed to be the only person through which anyone could be reconciled to God (John 14.6).  Paul wrote that if there was another way to God then Jesus died needlessly (Gal 2.21).  And John wrote that if anyone does not confess personal trust in the Lord Jesus Christ then they do not know the Father (1 Jn 4.1-6).  If someone professes that there are “many” ways to be saved other than placing one’s personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ then he or she is misguided and needs to be discipled into the truth, or they are false believers and should be rebuked and avoided.

*    The inspiration and authority of the Gods word, which is the Bible.  The division of the Christian church between Protestantism and Catholicism largely rests on this one issue.  It is ironic that the Roman Catholic Sir Thomas Moore once said “I never intend, God being my good Lord, to pin my soul to another man’s back, not even the best man that I know this day living: for I know not where he may happen to carry it.”  Believers must not abdicate their consciences to the decisions of others no matter what positions they may hold in a church.  Our sole authority for the rightful belief and practice of the Christian faith is the Bible and not submission to the offices of man-made religious institutions, whether they are local churches or worldwide denominations. The freedom of conscience to follow God’s word is a doctrine referred to as “the priesthood of the believer.”  It simply means that each believer has the capacity through the indwelling Holy Spirit to rightly discern God’s will for himself or herself, so long as their decisions do not contravene God’s revealed written word.  Consequently, if someone demands that you submit to any doctrine, profession, or behavior contrary to God’s word then it is your duty to respectfully resist and/or rebuke them irrespective of what office they may hold.

*    The security of the believer.  I hold this doctrine as something worth fighting and possibly “loosing” for because to proclaim otherwise is to rob the gospel of its glory and to suggest that human will is greater than the capacity and power of God.  Jesus himself said that anyone who has received eternal life through faith in him will never again suffer the threat of eternal damnation (John 5.24).  Paul clearly promised that there is no longer any condemnation for those who have been justified through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 5.1, 8.1).  And Peter wrote that through Christ’s finished work we have been “born again” into an imperishable eternal condition, and that we are keep in that state by God’s own power (1 Pet 1.3-5).  If salvation can be lost by an act of human volition then it cannot under any pretense be described as “imperishable,” “eternal,” or under the control of the “power of God.”  Consequently, this is a doctrine worth taking a public stand for against those who would declare otherwise.

Well, that’s my list.  I’m sure there are others, however, that I have failed to consider. Nevertheless, it is time to take a public stand for these fundamental truths when confronted in our churches by others advocating contrary doctrines.  Some may ask is this really necessary?  Yes it is!  One of the least known scriptures in the New Testament is 1 Corinthians 11.19, in which Paul wrote that “there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.”  Thus Paul explained that there will always be conflicts within congregations, and that they are a necessary part of protecting the flock and identifying those who are truly in the faith.  Did Paul want Christian fellowships to experience harmony and unity?  Of course he did—but never at the expense of the truths concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and his promises.  Just a word of warning, don’t be surprised when after taking a public stand for the correct doctrine there will be times that you “lose.”  It will happen and it will bother you, but don’t let it do so for long.  Jesus took your lashes and your nails in order to hang on your cross and save you from your sins; consequently, the very least you can do is to earn a black eye for him.

Monte Shanks, Copyright © November 17, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC.

 

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Interview with a Pastor: The Making of an American Pastor

I most recently had a candid interview with a pastor about his ministry and what it was like leading a church. My questions are in BOLD TYPE. His answers are in regular font. The name of the pastor has been omitted as well as the church. If you are thinking of going into the ministry as a pastor, the answers to these questions may help you with your decision. I hope that you enjoy this article.

Tell me about your call to pastoral ministry. I surrendered to Christ at age six through a desire to be a part of God’s family. Earlier than that, I longed to preach because my Dad was a preacher. At age twelve, I came to an understanding and asked the Father, “Is this what you want or what I want? If this is what you want, then speak to be as clearly as you did for salvation and make me miserable again like that.” And he did, and at age thirteen, I surrendered to ministry. I was fortunate to have a Dad who would honestly mentor me in real time of the things he was going through.

Which pastoral responsibility do you enjoy the most and why? I would say the preaching, because of the deep passion for scripture. I would say the leading, because of the longing to follow Christ. I would say the disciple making because of the pouring into others and seeing the transformation that only happens in them but also happens in me when we have those discipling times. Any other ones? Because of our services, I don’t get to do this as much, but I enjoyed doing baptisms. That is a sweet moment with God smiling on an individual for their obedience in baptism.

Which pastoral duty do you enjoy the least and why? Anything dealing with confrontation. One of the things in ministry that drains the most is disappointment. You must weigh through the disappointing responses, disappointing perspectives, where you realize it’s not a biblical perspective or response. It’s not a response that’s a surrender to Christ. It’s not a humbled response. And when you see that among God’s people, that’s one of the hardest things to wrestle through. I talked with and read Macel Falwell’s biography of her husband Jerry Falwell. And she rightly said, He could handle the push back and the criticism by those who had no relationship with Christ. What wounded him the most was heavier and harder for him to carry were the negative comments of those who were followers of Christ.

Describe the amount of time you spend each week in ministry preparation. The average week is about twenty hours. Other times it could get heavier and be more intense. That’s a lot of hours. Yes, but that is the key moment that you must minister to everyone. And you can have counseling moments. You can have committee meeting moments. But the one moment where you pastor and minister to everyone is that sermon. And furthermore, it must be a message from the Father and not your message to the people. So, you have to be with the Father as the herald to hear the message. To pray it through with Him so to make sure that it’s His message, not yours.

Describe the amount of time you spend in the week in administrative responsibilities.  Oh goodness! Probably almost all the time, isn’t it? Yes. And particularly at our church. You also have ministries connected to you beyond our church. I would say forty hours. Wow! No, let’s make that thirty because you have moments like this as well. And we will say another twenty in pastoring with one on one. This is just a rough estimate.

Describe the amount of time you spend each week in personal devotions and prayer. Here’s the thing. It has to be every day. And I would say every day, at least an hour. I imagine that you are praying without ceasing too. There you go. There you go! Everyone that comes into my office, they don’t come in without prayer and they don’t leave without prayer. That’s the same truth for every meeting that we have, administrative meeting. But that’s beyond what I need to have in the morning and what I need to have at night, and during the day. Like yesterday, I had to get away and get into the sanctuary and just pray.

What is the area of pastoral ministry that you wish that you had been taught in school? Pain management. The reason I say that was my Dad was very honest when he mentored me. He said, I want to tell you what I am going through in real time. When you are knocked into the same ropes, you know that your Dad has survived and so can you. The ropes that I am getting hit against are not unfamiliar because I saw that happen to Dad. But one thing Dad could never convey was how hard the punches are, when you are getting knocked against the ropes. In my opinion Joe, if time is short, and I think it is, Satan is going to ramp up his attack on the Bride, and try to keep us less effective as possible. So, there is more spiritual attack and spiritual oppression that adds to that pain, that you have to learn how to manage, as Ephesians Six says, to stand.

Describe your ordination council. First of all, we want to make certain that they have displayed a call to ministry. There must be evidence that they have. When we have seen that, then we can put together an ordaining council that will be of pastors and ministers who are also ordained. And they will meet with the individual. The first one is to be ordained or licensed to ministry. We are going through theological things to determine if they can be licensed to ministry. After, there is an approval, then the church votes on whether to license to ministry. That gives you a window to watch whether they continue to display the characteristics to be licensed into ministry. Then we will convene the ordaining council. The ordaining council consists of pastors, ministers, and sometimes deacons. This council asks theological questions as well as the pastor-elect asks questions. This creates a mentoring moment as well, but through that time, the ordaining council must recommend to the church if the pastor-elect is to be ordained into ministry. This is a careful and cautious process before we recommend a man for ministry. How long does the ordination process take from the time the process is started until the time the pastor is ordained? If you go from the process of licensing until ordination, it could take a couple of years.

What is the one piece of advice you give to someone aspiring to become a pastor? Make certain the Father has called you. That is the very first thing my Dad said when I surrendered to ministry at age thirteen. We were in the car and he said, “Son, if there is anything else you can do, do it. But if you can’t, you know the Father has called you.” Make certain above all things that the Lord has called you, because it’s that calling that becomes the “not at the end of the road,” that causes you to hang on when you would love to let go.

 In conclusion, I was made aware of the struggles of this pastor and what he goes through not only daily, but weekly, as the head pastor of his church. It was interesting to hear a pastor state that he surrendered to ministry when he made up his mind that he wanted to be a minister at the age of thirteen. One has heard the term surrendering to Christ, but I have never heard the term surrendering to ministry. I guess it is the same as “The Call.”

In reference to the pastor’s passion for preaching, he spends about twenty hours in preparation each week on average. It is evident that he pours into others when it comes to discipleship. Unfortunately, because of his schedule, he does not perform baptisms anymore.

It is evident that he does not enjoy confrontation. Confrontation can drain a pastor and they face disappointment almost on a weekly basis. He referenced Macel Falwell’s biography about the late Jerry Falwell and how Jerry could take the criticisms of unbelievers better than those who were followers of Christ. What can wound a pastor the most is the ugliness of those who are supposed to love you when they criticize. I see this constantly in ministry where Believers who may mean well constantly criticize and ultimately push pastors out the door of their churches because of the constant attacks. Although these people may not understand what they are doing, if not caught and these people counseled with, this can cause division in the church.

The pastor wished that he had been taught pain management in seminary. He gave an analogy of his Dad in a boxing ring, fighting with those who hurt pastors. He stated that “when you are knocked into the ropes that your Dad had survived, then you realize that you can survive as well (paraphrased).” This pastor feels the punches and they hurt when it is delivered from the loved ones, the congregants that are beating you up in the church. He feels that we are in the last days and that Satan is stirring up hate and dissention among the followers of Christ. The spiritual warfare adds to the pain. But the rewards can be sweet when those who he is pouring into comes to Christ and he can see heart transformations right in front of his eyes.

Pastoring and shepherding is a lifelong commitment that is not for the faint in heart. It is a tough job and one that may not be highly paid. Many times, it goes without thanks and one can see that it could be a lonely occupation as to whom does the pastor trust? Besides his relationship with God and his wife and family, one can understand why pastors keep a distance from congregants in their church. That is why the pastor must stay in prayer and seek the Father’s will so that he can preach the message that is God inspired. It is only through this close relationship with God that the pastor can be successful in leading the lost to Christ.

If you love your pastor and care about him, please pray for him and his family. Please allow him the time he needs and give him and his family privacy. Do not be so demanding on him. God has called pastors to shepherd, but Christians are called to love one another as well as love their neighbor. Consider being a servant in your church by helping the pastor out instead of draining him dry. Consider praying for him before he gives his sermon so that God will speak through him. You can get engaged in your church and then see where God leads this ministry.

Joseph T. Lee © November 16, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC

 

 

 

Defeating The Adversary

The following is a discussion about Jerry Rankin’s book, “Spiritual Warfare: The Battle For God’s Glory.” The discussion pertains to how Satan tries to use one’s past and old nature to destroy a Christian’s walk with Christ and their testimony.

According to Jerry Rankin, our old nature is what comes natural for us. Our nature before Christ, our human and carnal nature loves satisfaction and gratification. We want what makes us happy and what feels good in the flesh. That is our old self, our old sinful nature, which is about our self. Suffering occurs because we must die to self and put on a new attitude, which is enriched in Christ. Satan loves to use our certain weaknesses to ensnare us in sin and make us feel defeated. Rankin quoted Romans 13:14, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no plans to satisfy fleshly desires.” We are to surround ourselves with Christ-like attitudes and remove ourselves from things that would temp us to sin. An example would be if a person had a problem with sex. Before Christ, one with this problem may have been indulged in numerous affairs or potentially had many sexual partners. The person may also have been addicted to pornography. After Christ, this same person should not want to continue with his or her illicit behavior. They should concentrate on Christ and strive to live for Christ everyday by praying and reading the Bible. But Satan knows their weakness and will try to destroy their witness by attacking them with opportunities to sin. A person who was addicted to pornography should not be watching television where nudity is included in the program. That in itself is like pouring gasoline on a house fire. Because people are human and have no power to save themselves, they must put on the full armor of God to avoid the traps and the fiery darts of Satan as described in Ephesians 6. If people do not want to fall back into a sinful lifestyle, they must change their habits and not watch or look at things that can cause temptation to sin and fail.

Rankin quoted a youth evangelist he knew as a child. The youth pastor stated, “If you don’t want your passions aroused in a way that would lead to hard-to-resist temptation, don’t put yourself in a situation where that is likely to happen by parking with your date in a dark car at a drive-in or anywhere else.”[1] “It comes down to the choices we make. If we desire to walk in the Spirit, then we have to choose to avoid situations that would cause the flesh to be tempted.”[2] People need to avoid situations that would lead them to lustful thoughts, which in turn may excite them or lead them to seek gratification. Of course, in the old nature, it is natural to want to do these things, but doing so is against God’s Law, principles, and will. That is why Jesus Christ came to take our sins, burdens, and our filthiness, and those sins and actions were already nailed to the cross with Christ. Jesus bore our sins and when we asked Jesus to come into our hearts and forgive us of our sins, He forgave us. God has forgiven us. But once we accepted Christ and started living for God, Satan was furious and wants to destroy our testimony so that we will become ineffective in the Great Commission. Therefore, Satan uses every means to attack us because we are representatives of Christ. Rankin states, “In emphasizing the victory of which we are assured, we must not diminish the reality of the warfare. There is an ongoing battle between the flesh and the Spirit. Satan is opposed to our doing anything that glorifies and exalts Christ. He uses that self-centered nature of the flesh within us and the carnal values of the world around us to defeat us and cause us to sin.”[3]

Rankin quoted 1 Peter 5:10, “Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Jesus Christ, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little.”[4] Peter states that we suffer a little in contrast to Christ suffering to the point that His blood was spilt which lead to His death and resurrection. Our sufferings pale compared to giving up one’s life for the sins of the world. We will suffer if we follow Christ because the world, in which Satan currently has dominion over, will see to it that we are tempted and that we will struggle for the cause of Christ. “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:13-14). Living for Christ is hard because of our old sinful nature. The road traveled for Christ is narrow and few will find it. The road to the wide gate of worldly pleasures is easier to follow because one does not have to make any sacrifices and give up their old nature. But if we stand firm in our faith, Christ will deliver us. “Be sober! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your brothers in the world.” (1 Pet. 5:8-9)

I agree with Rankin that if we put to death deeds, inclinations, and desires of the flesh, then we will suffer because this is not easy. Self-denial does cause suffering because of our old nature and the wants of self-centeredness. If we concentrate on serving Christ and loving others, then the desires of the flesh are greatly diminished. Getting serious about serving God means that one sets aside time everyday to pray and seek the face of God. Then we must also study God’s Word. To fight against Satan, we must get into God’s Word and really study. We must seek a relationship with God. We must walk in the Spirit and live our lives in a manner that is pleasing to God, in public, in private, and in secret. Our lives should be the same in all three categories. God sees all, even what is done in secret. Putting on Christ means that we are living our lives for Christ everyday in all that we do. We are to show love to everyone and grant grace and forgiveness. If not, Satan will use that as a foothold to try to destroy our lives and our testimony for Christ.

From the reading, one application I can implement into my prayer and ministry is to start fasting and praying more in order to get to know God better and to seek a closeness with Him. I have fasted in the past and did see answers to prayer, but Rankin indicated that fasting can bring us closer to God and “…demonstrate our longing and need for God through the denial and sacrifice of normal fleshly desires in our battle and victory over the flesh.”[5] This in turn could bring an outpouring of God’s blessings. I desire to be closer to God and want that intimate relationship with Him.

What about you? Do you desire a personal walk with the Savior, Jesus Christ? If so, then stop right where you are. Talk with the Father. That is called praying. Pray to Him and ask forgiveness of your sins. Ask Jesus to come into your heart and live in you. Then seek out a Bible believing church. Get involved in a church and in a Bible study so that you can be discipled in how to live a Christian life.

[1] Jerry Rankin, Spiritual Warfare: The Battle For God’s Glory (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2009), 140.

[2] Ibid., 140.

[3] Ibid., 141.

[4] Ibid., 155.

[5] Ibid., 164.

Joseph T. Lee, © November 14, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC.

Christian Free Speech Is Being Silenced by the Politically Correct!

I just learned recently that a conservative Christian political journalist has been silenced by the Political Correctness Police on certain social media websites. Yes, it is true! If you are a Believer in Jesus Christ, and you are a conservative, and you post your true beliefs on certain social media sites, you may find your account blocked because your message may differ from their political agenda. The truth is that evil continues to prevail in our society. And it will only get worse when American’s continue to cave in to those who are pushing their unholy agendas down our throats.

So, how do we combat this? How can we overcome? The first way is to become grounded in the Word of God. Look at Ephesians 6:10-20 (English Standard Version). It reads, “10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”

Once one has put on the whole armor of God, they can withstand the fiery darts of Satan, which, in my opinion, are not only the attacks of the Politically Correct, but any temptation that can cause you to stumble. Becoming grounded in God’s Word can help you when you are being spiritually attacked. Praying to God on a regular basis helps to overcome evil as well as it builds a stronger relationship with God. Prayer does work and the Holy Spirit will intercede for us.

We should also live our lives in a manner pleasing to God. Let’s look at Ephesians 5:1-21 (English Standard Version). It reads, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Following these instructions will help you live a life of Christ. There are many other Scriptures I could mention, but these are great guidelines to start with. Therefore, do not allow the Politically Correct perversions to overcome you, but stand firm in God’s Holy Word. Continue to practice by loving your neighbor as yourself as well as praying for one another.

Stand firm and walk steady with Christ. Jesus Christ will never fail you or leave you! Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one shall come to God the Father, except through me.”

Just remember, as a Christian, you still have rights  in our great nation. If you feel your rights have been violated, then you should consider contacting The American Center for Law and Justice to see if your religious freedoms have been violated. Christians, do not allow the politically correct to silence your message. You have rights under free speech as well as freedom of religion. Stand firm in God and continue to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Joseph T. Lee, © November 11, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC

Why Managing Climate Change Won’t Save Humanity

Hurricane season is almost over, and this year’s season was particularly eventful with Harvey, Irma, and Maria all causing significant damage. Consequently, there is a worldwide clamor about the sustainability of our world. In particular, a major focus is on a heightened fear over “man-made” climate change. Governments and private industries are spending billions on research in hopes of discovering cleaner energies that are renewable, but neither has garnered much for this investment. Sure, our cell phone batteries are smaller and last longer, but that’s about it. Don’t get me wrong. If someone discovered how to turn seawater into clean affordable energy, then I would be one of the first to sign up. However, our planet’s greatest threat has nothing to do with the energies we currently consume.

Before explaining what this threat is, a quick theology about our planet is in order. God designed Earth to support human life. At the beginning of human history he commissioned the first two people to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the Earth, while also properly managing it (Gen 1.26-28). The only creatures that God commissioned to inhabit this entire planet are humans, and we are daily succeeding in making it smaller and less foreign. You don’t find penguins on the Serengeti nor gazelles at Antarctica. There aren’t any camels in the oceans and you don’t find whales in the Sahara. Turtles are not found high in the Himalayas and mountain goats don’t do so well in the bayous of Louisiana (probably because of the gators). While every other animal has its designed habitation, man can be found all over the face of the globe—even in the most inhospitable places. We even live for months at a time in mobile cities scattered across the world’s oceans. They are called aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines. Although apes have not mastered the skies, we have. It is now possible to take a non-stop commercial fight of more than 9000 miles, all within about 16 or 17 hours—there’s no bird that can do that. Also, lest we forget, the only footprints on the moon don’t belong to cows. They are human. God created and designed this planet for human population. Psalm 104.5 states, God “established the Earth upon its foundations so that it will not totter forever and ever.” Throughout the Psalm, the author described how God engineered this world to be beautifully durable. God made us in his image and called us to inhabit this entire planet, and he created it to sustain us as we set about fulfilling his will for humanity. The Earth is our “safe space,” but instead of coloring books, God gave us a water park and it’s called the Pacific Ocean.  Instead of dolls and teddy bears, He gave us a real rock-climbing wall we call Mt. Everest.

Nevertheless, there is one real and very great threat to humanity and our planet, and it has nothing to do with fossil fuels or the misuse of natural resources. Instead, it has everything to do with humanity’s attitude towards the one true God. God promises fruitful lives for those who devoutly obey him. Near his death, Moses explained that if Israel wholeheartedly obeyed God then he would cause them to prosper in the land (cf. Deut 28.1-14). Even the Lord directed us to look to God for our daily provisions as we obey his will (Matt 6.8-13, 6.25-34). Moreover, should anyone assume that the promises of prosperity in Malachi 3.10-12 are reserved only for Israel? Will not God also bless any nation that sincerely loves and obeys him? The problem is not with the availability of the resources on this planet, it is with humanity’s attitude towards God. If something doesn’t begin to change and change quickly, then things will only get worse for planet Earth.

It will get worse because we will continue experiencing more and more environmental catastrophes such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and plagues.  These disasters won’t come because we don’t drive enough hybrid cars or ride bicycles. For example, if by tomorrow we discover how to turn sand into clean energy so that we never again have to use another ounce of fossil fuels, it will still not prevent the ecological Armageddon that awaits the human race. The apostle John prophesied of the plagues, earthquakes, famines, droughts, and pestilences that will someday befall humanity in the book of Revelation (Rev 6.7-8; 16.1-12). We don’t know when these disasters will happen, but if we don’t take seriously the church’s responsibility to spread the gospel to every tribe and nation on earth, then they will certainly occur a lot sooner than we think.  And for the record, hurricanes and tornados are natural weather phenomenon.  Generally speaking, they are not signs of God’s judgment; they occur every year.  Moreover, the scriptures do not specifically name these regularly occurring weather events as indicators of God’s displeasure.  Can God use them as an instrument of judgment? Of course he can.  That being said, however, the scriptures never point to these specific normal weather events as signs of God’s wrath.  They happen all the time. Therefore, if God did use them to enact judgment, it would be a very ineffective way to communicate his displeasure simply because they regularly occur.  Consequently, no one would “get the memo” concerning what specifically God wanted us to stop doing.

Nevertheless, if we could turn our world into a new Garden of Eden by using environmentally friendly policies and ecologically neutral cars, trains, planes, industry, and cities, it will not matter a single iota if humanity continues to reject the Lord Jesus Christ and blaspheme God. Jesus explained all this during his earthly ministry (Matt 24.4-42). The ironic thing about what he said was that no matter how hard humanity tries to live in peace or find ways to responsibly manage our planet, it will not stop the coming global strife and natural disasters that are merely “the beginning of birth pangs” (Matt 24.6-8). These catastrophes await our planet not because we don’t enforce ecologically friendly policies or provide universal healthcare, but because humanity is losing interest in the concept of being accountable to a personal God, while also displaying abject hatred for the name of Jesus Christ, who is Savior and Lord over all (Matt. 24.9; 2 Thes. 1.6-10). And therein is the greatest tragedy. God sometimes uses geological catastrophes and ecological disasters to turn us back to him.  Atheists and human secularists are brainwashing us into believing that not only is this planet fragile, but, if we aren’t careful, then we will inevitably make it uninhabitable. Therein lays the big lie.  They want us to believe that the only important issue facing humanity is how we treat this planet instead of how we relate to our Creator. For example, if tomorrow we awaken to discover that Mount Vesuvius suddenly wiped out Naples, and then next week the “big earthquake” occurred and San Francisco fell into the Pacific Ocean, and then the day after a freakishly large hail storm wiped out all of the crops of the Ukraine, and then a couple of days later a tsunami engulfed Sydney, what do you think the media would report? Would we be blasted with how we are harming the planet or would they suggest our need to repent before a holy God that we have ignored for far too long? Ironically, our world will not experience environmental disasters because we have mistreated it, but because we have irreversibly rejected the very God that literally rained down manna from heaven. God is powerful enough to provide for our every need; the issue is do we believe that he exists, and if so are we humble enough to worship him through the Lord Jesus Christ.

If we truly want our world to flourish or if we are concerned about our families, friends, and neighbors, then the first thing we should do is commit ourselves to sharing the gospel. Jesus died not only to save us from this decaying sinful world, but ultimately from eternal separation from God and the inevitable judgment that awaits all who have rejected him. Can man inevitably save our planet while continually rejecting God? Jesus said no (Matt 24.22). Someday, Earth will experience global catastrophe and judgment, and it will happen because humanity hates Jesus. But if we commit ourselves anew to proclaiming His gospel, then there is the possibility that more and more people will receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. As more people begin to live for Christ, then our planet will become healthier and a more prosperous place, making sudden universal judgment less likely. Therefore, if you are primarily worried about rescuing our planet from ecological disasters through using only sustainable resources, then you are focused on the wrong thing. I’m not saying you shouldn’t guard against oil spills, nuclear waste, and toxic dumpsites—that would be irresponsible. If you call yourself a Christian, then your primary goal should be to achieve that for which Jesus is most passionate, which is the salvation of souls. Jesus died and rose again to provide eternal life for all. Consequently, he wants us to be his witnesses for him and his gospel (Acts 1.8; 2 Cor. 5.17-21), and to create true worshipers (John 4.23-26), and to make authentic disciples from all of the nations across this globe (Matt. 28.18-20). Proclamation of the gospel should be our primary concern, for only with that focus can we truly fulfill the Lord’s will for humanity and our planet.

Monte Shanks, Ph.D. © November 11, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC.

What Is Marketplace Evangelism and the Power of One?

Someone recently asked me what Marketplace Evangelism was? This is my definition, but first, let me tell you what it isn’t. Marketplace Evangelism is not standing on the street corner and preaching to people in the street. It is not forcing Jesus Christ down people’s throats. Marketplace Evangelism is loving people at the job, career, or workplace; by living your life in a manner that is pleasing to God. It is espousing the love of Christ so that others will see something different in you. An example of this is going to see a co-worker or client who is hospitalized and visit and pray for them. It is opening yourself up, in faith, and only when truly led by the Holy Spirit, accept divine appointments to share your faith and how Christ has helped and changed you with those in your environment. It’s living your life in a manner, striving to be Christ incarnate, so that others may see Christ in you, because you may be the only Jesus anyone will ever see. It is making a difference in people’s lives one life at a time!

I know many people will not want to stand out in a crowd because of ridicule. I know this personally, because I have lived 59 years, being afraid to share my faith because of rejection. Being afraid because I did not want to “offend” anyone or I did not want to say the wrong thing. I know what other Christians think, because I have lived a lifetime not sharing the most wonderful gift that God has ever given to me, from His Son, Jesus Christ. That gift was forgiveness of all the terrible and sinful, dark, sins that I have ever committed or thought. That gift made me whole and changed my life. That gift is still changing my life every day. Do I still sin? Yes, I do. I am human and live in the same dark world as before. There is one exception. I have God’s forgiveness, have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of me, and have conviction when I sin, which tells me that I need to stop and ask forgiveness from the one I sinned against and to God.

A few years back, when I finally got serious with what God had been calling me to do, my life changed dramatically. It changed in a way where my eyes were opened wide to the “TRUTH.” That “TRUTH” helped me to overcome my fears, so that I could do the work that I was called to do, right here in my own town. But God wants all Christians to get serious with what He has called all of us to do. Look what it says in Matthew 28:16-20, “16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus gave us something called the “Great Commandment.” According to Matthew 22:36-40, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love your neighbor as yourself. What does that mean? It means that we are to care and treat our neighbors the way we would want to be treated by doing for them when we see their time of need. Who is our neighbor? Our neighbor is everyone who we encounter. Our neighbors are our co-workers, managers, employees, customers, waiters, waitresses, dry cleaner employee, anyone in the marketplace, the vagrant on the corner, everyone.

When we understand that our Christian walk is not only how we live our life in a pleasing manner to God, but we are to also step out on faith and tell someone about that saving grace that rescued us from a burning hell, then we are fulfilling the other commandment that Christ gave to us. Look at Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Our Jerusalem is our own neighborhood. Our Samaria is our own town or city. Our Judea can be our state or nation. These places can also be in the marketplace, where we live, work, and play. Don’t you see what Christ and our heavenly Father is asking us to do?

Have you ever heard of the power of one? I will post the excerpt from “Evangelism Is” written by Dave Earley and David Wheeler.

THE POWER OF ONE

“One Samaritan woman testified to her town, and many believed in Jesus.

One man, Noah, built a boat that saved the human race.

One man, Moses, stood up to Pharaoh and delivered the Hebrews from Egypt.

One woman, Deborah, delivered Israel from the Canaanite oppression.

One man, David, defeated the Philistines when he killed their champion, Goliath.

One woman, Esther, had the courage to approach the king and see her nation spared from extermination.

One man, Peter, preached a sermon that led 3,000 to be saved.

One salesman and Sunday school teacher, Edward Kimball, led a young man named Dwight to Christ. Dwight Moody became a blazing evangelist who it is said, led one million souls to Christ in his short lifetime. Wilbur Chapman received the assurance of his salvation after talking with Moody and went on to become a noted evangelist himself. The drunken baseball player Billy Sunday was an assistant to Chapman before becoming the most famous evangelist of his day. One of the fruits of Sunday’s ministry was the forming of a group of Christian businessmen in Charlotte, North Carolina. This group brought the evangelist Mordecai Ham to Charlotte in 1934. A tall awkward youth named Billy Graham was converted during those meetings. According to his staff, as of 1993, more than 2.5 million people had “stepped forward at his crusades to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Millions of souls trace their spiritual lineage back to the influence of one man, a simple Sunday school teacher, Edward Kimball.

Someone said, “To the world you may just be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” To this we might add, to you they may seem like just one lost soul, but to God that may be a soul who can shake the whole world.” ~ Dave Earley & David Wheeler

Let me ask you one last question. Why are you not sharing your faith? You never know. You may be the only “Jesus” anyone will ever see. You may be the one who shares your faith and the love Christ has given to you to a lost person who may become the one who God will use to shake the world! When I realized this, that was the turning moment in my life where I could no longer be a bench seat player in the “World Series” of our Christian faith! I could no longer sit still. I had to do something. What will you do to help spread the love and saving grace of Jesus Christ? When I think of all the time I have wasted in life and not have done what God called me to do so long ago, I grieve and become emotional. I have realized that although I have been a bench seat Christian all my life, and the time God has given me for the remainder of my life, I am to serve Him and be the evangelist He has called me to be. What about you? When will you get off the bench and get into the game?

Excerpt Credit:

Dave Earley and David Wheeler, Evangelism Is: How to Share Jesus with Passion and Confidence, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2010) 133-134.

Joseph T. Lee, © November 10, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC

 

 

Reflections on Virginia Governor’s Race

Prior to moving to Georgia this Spring, I was a Virginia resident for about a half-a-century. I was born at the Medical College of Virginia and other than living several years in Ohio and North Carolina, I lived in Virginia and know its history very well.

The Democratic party was king for over a century, dating back prior to the Civil War. The well-known Byrd Machine was made up of Democrats.

The state flipped red for a few decades after voting for Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Linwood Holton was the first Republican Governor elected, which occurred in 1969. In the governor’s race, usually there would a reaction to the President’s party for a number of decades. After Jimmy Carter’s election in 1976, Governor John Dalton, a Republican, was elected in 1977. When the U. S. would elect a Republican, Virginia would follow with a Democratic Governor in the next year’s election.

In recent years Virginia has been a much bluer state, partly due to the influx of people into Northern Virginia. But in addition to those factors, I think something else was at work in this election. Governor elect Ralph Northam is a real Virginian. His eastern shore accent gives him away.

Northam is not the wild-eyed liberal that is frequently seen today. Northam, according to Huffington Post, voted twice for President George W. Bush.

Northam is a U. S. Army veteran and a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, where Stonewall Jackson taught and Robert E. Lee is buried.

A majority of Virginians want Confederate monuments left in place. Whom would voters trust?

The out-going governor, Terry McAuliffe, was born in New York State. McAuliffe had New York values, not Virginia values. Southerners are cultural conservative. It certainly rubbed Southerners the wrong way when McAuliffe would assert his liberal Northeast values as Virginia values.

The Republican candidate for governor, Ed Gillespie, is a native of New Jersey.  Knowing that, whom would traditional Virginians be more likely to trust. Another Northeasterner, or a true native born Virginian.

Virginia did not go for President Trump in the election last year. The gubernatorial election certainly was not a reaction to that.

Things are not always as they seem. I don’t know how Governor elect Northam will govern. Some liberals may be very disappointed with the man who opposes sanctuary cities. And governors are not as ideological on average as those who are elected to serve in Washington, DC.

Dr. Ashton C. Smith, © November 8, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC.

Espousing Hatred Versus Love

November 8, 2017: Just recently, a woman was seen riding by President Trump’s motorcade as he was in route to a meeting. The woman then stuck her middle finger up at the President of the United States of America. I must say, one must have a lot of guts to do that! Either they do not respect the office of the President of the United States or they are filled with so much hatred, that they just want to tell the President to go to hades!

I visited her Facebook page and she has this picture posted as her Cover Picture on her wall. She apparently is very proud of this because she appeared to enjoy the kudos from her friends and fan base. So many people congratulated her on her actions to the President. Unfortunately, we are seeing this behavior all over the nation. What is so appalling is that this woman was the former Community Liaison Officer for the United States Embassy in Riga, Lativa from September 2007 to May 2009; which was found on her Facebook “About” page.

According to Curt Autry’s NBC12 Facebook page of Richmond, Virginia; this picture was captured by a White House Photographer, which ultimately went viral. It was reported that the bicyclist posted this picture on her Facebook and Twitter accounts and then her employer found out about it. Autry reported that her employer fired her over it because they are a government contractor. She embarrassed them with this gesture. Although she may have had the right to make gestures, she embarrassed her employer, which they in turn terminated her employment.

What would make this woman do this? Hatred is being espoused and spewed from peoples lips every day. It is apparent that the ways of God are not the ways of our nation. People place their political candidates on a higher level than they place God. People have fallen away from the ways of God. I see no love being espoused from the lips of the generation we are living in today. I see  brothers turning on brothers and sisters turning on sisters. What has happened when the man or woman in the highest office on earth has become the most despised and hated?

Isn’t it wonderful that we can live in a country and can say the hurtful and mean things about the President and other political leaders and not worry about losing our lives over what we say. After all, we are protected by free speech, right? Why not vomit hatred and disparaging remarks on social media? After all, it is free speech, right? You know, I believe it just shows the true “heart” and a dark heart that has no love. I am tired of seeing people post hateful things on social media that are hurtful all for the sake of a political agenda. But I guess the people who do this feel that their political beliefs outweigh their Spiritual beliefs. You would be surprised to see what some people write.

The very freedoms a US Citizen has in America was won on the deaths and sacrifices of the US Armed Forces. Before criticizing your President and other political leaders with hateful remarks, why not consider praying for him? After all, we are called to pray! We are called to pray for our neighbors and get this, even our enemies. Regardless of your political stance, why not consider espousing LOVE as opposed to hate? It is easier to forgive than to carry the burden of a grudge.

What is even more startling is proclaimed Believers are participating in this type of behavior. This means that they still have a heart problem. Maybe they truly are not “real Christians.” Maybe they are even using “Christianity” as a political tool. Whatever their motive, by speaking “evil words” against a man or a woman means that one does not have the Love of Christ in their heart.

Last night, in Virginia, the Democrats won in all three of the highest offices, which are Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General. This is what the people asked for and what most Virginians wanted. But instead of Republicans being angry and throwing hateful and mean spirited slurs at them, they must come together and pray for our leaders. We must all come together and pray. Whether you are Republican, Democrat, or Independent; prayer will make a difference.

I don’t know what kind of god you worship or affiliate with? But my God can heal hearts! My God can forgive trespasses! My God can help people to overcome! Why should we pray for a man or woman in leadership whom we do not care for? Because by praying for them, we are asking God to intervene for us that they will do the right thing. My God can change hearts and can save people from their sins.

Why pray for leaders to fear God? When someone leads and lives fearing God, they experience:

1. Wisdom
2. Knowledge
3. Understanding
4. Eternal Praise
5. Victory
6. God’s Protection

7. A Blameless Walk
8. Length of Life
9. Wealth and Honor
10. Humility
11. The Avoidance of Evil
12. Being Untouched by Trouble
13. The Saving of a Crushed Spirit
14. A Life That Lacks Nothing

(Credit: Dr. Mark Becton taken from sermon preached on 01/22/2017, The Victory Hour, Grove Avenue Baptist Church.)

These fourteen points is all the reason to pray for your leaders, regardless of whether you like them or not. We are called to pray and to show the love of Christ to those who do not know Him, even if it is the President of the United States of America, Governor, Lt. Governor, or the Attorney General.

By praying for them, we are asking God to guide them and lead them to make the correct choices. By praying for them, God can change their hearts and hopefully, they will lead the people in a way that is honorable.

James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

1 Timothy 2:1 says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.”

Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Matthew 18:19, “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”

Matthew 6:9-13, “Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

Remember, before criticizing others, look at your own life. If you are without sin, then cast the first stone! But in reality, your life is just as filthy as the life that you are criticizing. Look at Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We all have sin in our own lives. So, before you criticize the President, Governor, Lt. Governor, the Attorney General, or any other leader; consider cleaning up your own life before trying to straighten out the lives of others! This is exactly why we must be praying for others as well as have others to pray for us!

 

References:

Dr. Mark Becton taken from sermon preached on 01/22/2017, The Victory Hour, Grove Avenue Baptist Church.

Joseph T. Lee Blog, WordPress, “My God Can!”

Curt Autry NBC12, Facebook Page, November 6, 2017.

© November 8, 2017, Joseph T. Lee, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC.

Breaking: Ralph Northam has Won the Governor’s Race in Virginia

Fairfax, Virginia: According to the Associated Press, CNN, NBC, and other news outlets, Democrat Ralph Northam has defeated Republican Ed Gillespie for the Virginia gubernatorial race. Although Gillespie has not conceded to Northam, he is expected to deliver his concession speech within the hour. 78% of the vote is in with Northam having 52% of the vote and Gillespie having 47%.

President Donald Trump tweeted, “Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for. Don’t forget, Republicans won 4 out of 4 House seats, and with the economy doing record numbers, we will continue to win, even bigger than before!”

Photo Credit: Twitter

In addition, Justin Fairfax (LT. Governor) and Mark Herring (Attorney General), both Democrats have won. This was a clean sweep for the Democrats in Virginia.

Joseph T. Lee, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC, © November 7, 2017.

 

Trump Takes on Taxation in Bold New Plan

The first draft of House Republicans’ new tax bill, the Tax Cuts, and Jobs Act, was released last Thursday and marks the first step in the GOP’s journey to provide large-scale tax relief to the American people.

The bill is mainly designed to afford an across-the-board tax cut to individuals and businesses, and simplify the tax code by lowering the number of tax brackets and eliminating certain taxes and deductions.

President Trump applauded the Act in a statement on Thursday, outlining his priorities in regard to tax reform:

 bringing tax cuts for hardworking, middle-income Americans; eliminating unfair loopholes and deductions; and slashing business taxes so employers can create jobs, raise wages, and dominate their competition around the world.

 

The Numbers:

(Source: https://taxfoundation.org/details-tax-cuts-jobs-act/)

The Act reduces the number of tax brackets to four from seven:

Single Married Head of household
12.0% > $0 12.0% > $0 12.0% > $0
25.0% > $45,000 25.0% > $90,000 25.0% > $67,500
35.0% > $200,000 35.0% > $260,000 35.0% > $230,000
39.6% > $500,000 39.6% > $1,000,000 39.6% > $500,000

Under the new tax brackets, everyone making less than $200,000 a year will see a decrease in the amount of taxes they pay regardless of what bracket they’re in.

 

The Act also raises the standard deduction by almost double the current amount.

Single Married Head of household
$12,000 $24,000 $18,000

The child deduction is also raised from 1000 to 1600 dollars.

 

The bill eliminates a number of taxes, including estate and gift taxes and the Alternative Minimum Tax, as well as most local and state tax deductions. It should be noted that the estate tax is only eliminated after the year 2024, though it will only apply to estates over 11 million dollars for those six years. Mortgage, charitable, and property tax itemized deductions remain, although the property tax deduction is limited to $10,000. The property tax limitation, as well as the elimination of the local and state tax deductions, is most likely an attempt by Republicans to force states with high taxes (like California and New York for example) to lower them. This also prevents states from essentially taking tax revenue meant for the federal government and keeping it in their state.

The corporate tax rate is set at 20 percent, down from 35 percent and many business deductions are eliminated.

How does the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Compare?

 

The Tax Foundation found (https://taxfoundation.org/tax-cuts-jobs-act-state-impact/) that the new tax plan would create close to a million jobs in the United States over a 10-year period and would “significantly lower marginal tax rates and the cost of capital, which would lead to 3.9 percent higher GDP over the long term [and] 3.1 percent higher wages.”

This is an obvious consequence of the reduction of the corporate tax rate, letting businesses keep more of the wealth that they create. If businesses make money off 65 percent of their profits, would they not make more with 80 percent of it? More money left in the hands of businesses translates to higher wages and more jobs. When businesses make a profit that money doesn’t go into the dusty coffers of a wealthy executive’s bank account. Unless one’s goal is indefinite stagnation, that money is immediately invested back into the business. For example, let’s look at a large business, like Walmart. Walmart makes money from consumers purchasing products from their stores. Therefore, it is in Walmart’s best interests to operate as many stores as possible. For Walmart’s stores to operate, Walmart needs to first purchase products from a supplier, transport the products to their stores, and run their stores, providing jobs for everyone involved in this process. Walmart isn’t taxed on the money they use to pay for the products they sell in their stores or the money they use to pay their employees.

This in a way encourages large salaries for CEOs and other executives, since money is worth more in the form of a large bonus to an executive than it is as profit as a consequence of taxation. Walmart is, however, taxed on their profits, which is the money the company uses to build new stores, distribution centers, etc. If Walmart is able to keep more of their profits, Walmart will open more stores, thereby employing more people. Walmart knows that it needs to open more stores to make more money, so it has already dedicated a percent of its profits to go to opening said stores. If they are able to keep an increased percentage of their profits, they will have more money available to pay employees as well, leading to an increase in employee pay. Walmart can also afford to lower its prices since lower taxes on profit leads to increased profit margins.

 

Taxes on businesses also lead inherently to a decrease in production. This idea is explained in the book “Economics in One Lesson” by Henry Hazlitt:

 “When a corporation loses a hundred cents of every dollar it loses, and is permitted to keep only fifty-two cents of every dollar it gains, and when it cannot adequately offset its years of losses against its years of gains, its policies are affected… In brief, capital to provide new private jobs is first prevented from coming into existence, and the part that does come into existence is then discouraged from starting new enterprises. The government spenders create the very problem of unemployment that they profess to solve.”

Hazlitt describes more extreme circumstances than what currently exists, but the idea that a high corporate tax keeps businesses from expanding and investing holds true. Currently, the United States has the highest corporate tax rate among the world’s developed countries (although it should be noted that businesses don’t pay the amount in full because they are able to make deductions from that rate). This acts as an obstacle for businesses to compete in a global market and results in companies moving more of their operations overseas.

This idea also applies to high-income taxes among the wealthy. When people have a large percentage of their income taken from them, their incentive to work and invest diminishes as does the return on their work and investments. This is the idea behind the Laffer curve, which basically states that

  1. Taxation discourages production
  2. Once taxes rates get too high, the government starts to lose money.

This tax theory made up a large part of “Reaganomics” (the name coined to encompass the economic policies of the Reagan administration), which proved to be widely successful since one of the largest tax cuts in modern history yielded almost a doubling of government tax revenue. In fact, the Tax Foundation found that the tax cuts would lead to an increase of nearly one trillion dollars over the next 10 years due to an increase in business revenue.The Laffer curve shouldn’t be solely relied on to determine the optimum tax rate though since it should not be the aim of the government to rid its citizens of the most money possible but to determine the least amount of money the government needs to operate.

An argument against the tax plan is that it would lead to a decrease in government revenue and therefore an increase in debt. This claim in itself is debatable, but even if it were true it ignores the fact that debt isn’t efficiently decreased by an increase in taxation, but by a decrease in spending. For the last two years, the US government has taken in around 3.5 trillion dollars in tax revenue. If we just did away with social security, stopped paying people for not working, and privatized the healthcare industry we’d be well into paying off the looming monstrosity that is the national debt. Unfortunately, Congress is replete with ineffectual politicians who revere reckless government spending and succumb to the fallacy that they, in their infinite wisdom, can conjure the antidote to all of life’s problems. The reality is that government is sluggish, wasteful, and inefficient, but exists as a necessary evil, and when curtailed effectively, can serve to protect the life, liberty, and property of its citizens.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a step in the right direction for US tax policy and does a good job of achieving the president’s goals of simplifying the tax code, eliminating unnecessary deductions, and lowering corporate tax rates. If this bill goes through it would mean higher wages and more jobs for American citizens.

Hazlitt, Henry. Economics in One Lesson. Crown Business, 1988.