Saturday, June 14, 2008

Fear and Faith

For those of you who have followed Zion Beckons with regularity over the last year you will recall several testimonies of faith in the presence of God in my daily life. He has, as He has promised, been there for me in restoration of health and critical direction for my life. I recognize His divine intervention and freely acknowledge it. In fact I am extremely eager to share these events with anyone who cares to take the time to listen. When God becomes a personal friend and benefactor and one has the evidence at hand how can one not share?

Does this mean I have a special relationship? No, there is nothing extra special about me. And that is precisely why our relationship is so remarkable. It may be that I truly believe that not only “God is” but that He will fulfill His promises and offer the gifts He has outlined in the scriptures. When sought in absolute faith He responds.

I vividly recall a day I spent in Phoenix, AZ in 1977. A man, steeped in sin, confusion, fear and at wits end; I finally called upon God to intervene and set me straight. I had parked on East Van Buren and walked aimlessly for the better part of the day trying to sort through the events of the last few months. In a short six months I had managed to destroy decades of marriage, alienate my children, lose my job, and generally rid myself of all the vestiges of civilized behavior. I had no goals or prospects and I was desperately trying to sort things out for myself. Shortly before dark I stood on a street corner in downtown Phoenix and prayed aloud to my God for relief. I acknowledged my separation from Him, stated my clear understanding that He could help and vowed to do that which would be pleasing to Him.

The next five minutes were the most transformative of my life. My depression suddenly dissipated. My appetite returned—I hadn’t eaten in a couple of days. I took notice of my surroundings and realized I was about three miles from where I had parked. I now understand that He had entered my life and we commenced the struggle together to make me whole. I would like to tell you that it happened overnight. Together we fought for my sanity over the next three years. Every crisis I have faced since I have recalled that golden experience in Phoenix to reinforce my faith. In the interim, He has given me relief from alcoholism, found me a loving wife, and healed a broken body more than once. He has given me vital direction in life choices and through discernment has allowed to see the truth and the falsehood in matters both sacred and secular.

In a library of testimony why do I single out this particular event? The reason should be clear. I had found the depths but for the first time, had the wholehearted belief that God could and would help me if I asked. In my clouded mind I had managed to maintain the belief in His ability to provide relief. I have since learned that constant contact with God is much easier and probably more pleasing to Him than asking Him for help as a last resort. It is difficult to relate the despair which so quickly evaporated on that street corner.

The title of this entry is Fear and Faith. Where is the fear? Now that faith has brought the richness of life and demonstrated the benefit of the protection of the Almighty it has also brought understanding of failure to please Him. Do I fear Him? Yes!

It is not that I fear that He will do me harm intentionally. My fear serves as a constant reminder that I must serve Him and do my level best to do His will. A quick trip to Strong’s Concordance will verify the importance of fear. Fear and various formulations of the word make up four and a half columns of scriptural references. That amounts to nearly 644 entries. I gather from that preponderance of usage that God places a high priority on the necessity of fear. Faith and related words have about 400 references. I have clearly seen His strength and power operative in my personal life. Given that level of demonstrable might could I sanely ignore that the same power could be utilized to show his displeasure.

We have all read in the bible of the calamities which have befallen those who choose to place themselves athwart the intention of God. If we decide to join those folks should we expect any less? If through personal testimony and that of others we see the supernatural ability of the Almighty and add to our knowledge of Him and still persist in separating ourselves from him then fear would be an appropriate response.

One of the pitfalls of being human is maintaining concentration on being in harmony with God at all times. Surrounded by the world we live in, the presence of evil is everywhere and easily available. When we reject the temptations of the flesh the tendency might be to experience a moment of pride for our righteousness. Righteousness should be normal and not a singular happening worth isolating for praise. I sincerely believe that to understand God requires faith in the extreme and constant fear; fear of the loss of His guiding hand and the protection only He can provide on a daily basis.

Were it not for that moment in Phoenix and the recognition of the fear of God I would not have been able to raise “mine Ebenezer” three years later. Lacking fear, my testimony of faith would be valueless.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Windfall Profits

With all the hand wringing in the congress over the possibility that someone other than they would have some control over money one has to seek answers to some critical questions. Why is the profit structure of any American corporation the business of the United States Congress? Where in the statutes or the constitution is any mention of regulating the amount of profit any business might seek? Personally, I am outraged that these paid servants of the people would be wasting time considering this. If a business is operating within the law and pays the stated tax rate, there is no reason for the congressional concern.

If the electorate or for that matter their legislators were educated anywhere other than in government schools they would know certain truths. Corporations are not owned by a tiny cabal of greedy men. They are in fact owned by you. If you are retired under just about any pension plan, participate in a 40lk, belong to a union, or have mutual funds and you don’t have an interest in oil company’s profits, your managers are asleep. Oil industry stocks have represented one of the very best long term opportunities for the last few years. The bulk of the share holders (read that, the bosses) are folks of average income. Average shareholder annual income is reported to be $69,000 per household. If that “average Joe” has a kid or an aged dependent, that amount won’t really spread too far.

In any business, the goal of management and the shareholders is gaining a return on investment. There is a term which defines this return; it is net profit. It is expressed as a percentage of the gross revenue. The net is obtained by figuring the total revenues, deducting all of the costs of purchase or manufacture and the myriad other legitimate expenses and then stated as a percentage. A 10% return in most businesses is considered outstanding. In low margin items, like groceries, which have the advantage of high turnover and higher gross sales a margin of 4% would be great. From these net profit margins comes the wherewithal for dividends to shareholders, research and development, capitol improvement and prior debt service. Obviously if your revenues are measured in billions, so are your profits.

The greatest threat to a profit margin is in the cost of operation. If the raw product rises in price then the resultant sale price must immediately reflect that increase. Whether it’s groceries or oil, the necessity is the same. Given the law of supply and demand, decreased material availability requires an increased acquisition cost. If the market is flooded with product then the cost will diminish. It requires expert management to constantly adjust to these changes to maintain net profit levels. What happens to managers who fail to respond to market variance, miss opportunities and don’t get a grip on market changes? They get fired!

The demagoguery for those in congress who are constant critics of the American capitalist system is scapegoating, pure and simple. By misrepresenting the system they are attempting to find a palliative cure for a complex problem. The three factors at work here are the ignorance of the average American of the workings of corporations; the legislator’s unwillingness to endorse those things which would actually provide a solution to our energy problems; plus, that age old failing, covetousness

Our lawmakers have constantly thrown up roadblocks to further exploration for energy on the North American continent. They fought off attempts to construct new oil refineries yet despite their best efforts we finally have a new one approved to be constructed in North Dakota. It will be the first new facility built in over thirty years. They are willing to subsidize any and everything which doesn’t actually have a meaningful response to the energy crisis we have. We recently covered the costs of subsidizing wind and solar energy. At the same time they have effectively declared nuclear energy off limits in regard to new construction.

We are constantly reminded that drilling in ANWAR would not result in pumping actual crude until at least ten years. Thanks to a complicit media, what we don’t hear about is the affect that positive action would have on the oil futures market. That, after all, is what determines the spot price. If the coast lines were included plus further development of oil shale deposits which is now available, we would be in a commanding position. The oil is there in abundance and the technology to recover it is available. What is missing is a congress with the will to solve the problem. They will go to any lengths to convince you, the citizen, that the government is the only available solution and that the corporations who have done a masterful job of bring product to the people are villains. One of the loudest protestors of ANWAR drilling is our very own Claire McCaskill, right here in the Show Me state.

The device used to cover up this entire charade is that which we were warned of in Exodus 20:17. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house; thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maid servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.” Does “anything” include the profits of the oil companies? By blaming our current problems on others who produce what we require by the use of class envy is not only stupid but also contravenes the laws of God. The entire business of inciting anger and envy toward those who for whatever reason have more than we have is in reality just an attempt to divert us from their own incompetence.

We have learned just this week that the Senate dining room has decided to privatize because it has run at a loss for several years. By allowing an independent entrepreneur to run their food service, they understand they can eliminate the excessive costs of government operation. Thus, they are effectively saying: “we can’t run a dining room at a profit but we are capable of running Exxon/Mobil.”

This mindset is not the exclusive property of either party even though it does “seem” to be held more often by one. Apparently they confuse the power of the office with the actual capability to manage. There is a growing consensus that the two are mutually exclusive. It is extremely important that each elector have knowledge of his representative’s actions and attitudes. We have an opportunity every two to six years to replace those who are more interested in their own job security than the interests of the American people. My prayer is that you will examine yours more critically.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Moses at the Bat

In the Big Inning...

by Hyman Baras

This piece was taken from the “After Him” website. It was then attributed to The Smithsonian Magazine. Since there are many repetitions of the work that were reprinted by the son of Hyman Baras we have decided it is too important not to share. Enjoy, all you baseball fans.

“While baseball is generally considered a “modern” sport, there are references in the Bible that could lead one to deduce that, in fact, there were Giants in those days as well:

And Abner said to Joab, “Let the young men...arise and play before us” (2 Samuel 2:14)...[and] all the people rose up... (Exodus 33:8 )And Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was the recorder; and Sheva was scribe... (2 Samuel 20:24-25)And they said unto Jephthah, “Come and be our [Captain]” (Judges 11:6)...and he measured two lines... (2 Samuel 8:2)And he set the bases... (1 Kings 7:39)

And they stood every man in his place round about the camp (Judges 7:21)...behold, Rebekah came forth with her pitcher... (Genesis 24:45)Ehud...the Benjamite, a man left-handed ... (Judges 3:15)...the children of Israel ...said “Who shall go up for us first...?” (Judges 20:18 ) out a man who is a skillful player... (1 Samuel 16:16)...Judah [shall go up] first... (Judges 20:18 )

[And] Judah took... (Judges 1:18 )Three times... (Exodus 23:14) was good. (Genesis 1:10)...and Abram went down... (Genesis 12:10)...out at the base... (Leviticus 4:18 )And Moses...smote... (Exodus 7:20)...and... [it] became foul... (Exodus 7:21)And Moses went out... (Numbers 11:24)...and none came in. (Joshua 6:1)And there was not a man left... (Joshua 8:17)And Miriam was shut out... (Numbers 12:15)And the children of Benjamin went out... (Judges 20:31)...and went into the field ... (Numbers 22:23)

And...Aaron waved... (Leviticus 9:21)And he looked this way and that way... (Exodus 2:12)...and [he] delivered up... (Numbers 21:3)...and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand... (Joshua 8:19)...and they fell on their faces to the ground... (Judges 13:20)Get thee up; wherefore now art thou fallen upon thy face? (Joshua 7:10)...for it was an error... (Numbers 15:25)...second and third... (Genesis 6:16)

And Joseph [spoke]... (Genesis 45:3)...concerning the error which he committed... (Leviticus 5:18 )...make [an] atonement for thyself... (Leviticus 9:7)Thou shalt fan them... (Isaiah 41:16)Then Joseph commanded to fill their...sack[s]... (Genesis 42:25)and...all the people saw it [and] they shouted... (Leviticus 9:24)“Who can stand before the [Giants]?” (Deuteronomy 9:2)and...Aaron waved... (Leviticus 9:21)...and pitched on the other side... (Numbers 21:13)...and suffered not a man to pass... (Judges 3:28 )...but....the seventh... (Exodus 31:15)Gideon...smote... (Judges 8:11) (Jeremiah 33:7)And Noah went in... (Genesis 7:7)And there ran a young man ... (Numbers 11:27)...he turned and went back... (Judges 18:26)...unto the base.... (Numbers 8:4)...Noah walked... (Genesis 6:9)Let us go and sacrifice... (Exodus 5:8 )

And Moses lifted up his hand and smote... with his rod... (Numbers 20:11)...the...hide... (Leviticus 20:4)...a long blast.... (Joshua 6:5)...[outside] the camp... (Judges 7:17)...[for] an ‘omer... (Exodus 16:36)And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted... (1 Samuel 17:52)”

Since the proprietor of the site is originally from Cooperstown, New York, it was easy to slip this one by her. Once she stopped laughing that is.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Monday Morning Rant 41

An important part of writing a general interest blog is reading a wide variety of entries from individuals with specific expertise. Among them are the blogs produced by law professors—Eugene Volokh, Ann Althouse, and Glenn Reynolds to name a few—which take a critical look at various issues currently before various courts. In this reading we find the importance of words.

In each aspect of law the words must be dissected to ascertain their exact meaning to support contract language, allegations of wrong doing, and form legislation. Argumentation frequently centers on definitions of the words which carelessly lack exactitude to state the case. The general agreement tends to criticism of the framers of legislation in the first place. The final arbiter in most cases in the United States is our Constitution. The wording which contravenes the intent of the founders of the nation in that sacred document is the one most frequently under assault before the bar.

As an example we find “hate speech.” In his immensely popular blog, The Volokh Conspiracy we find his opinion expressed in total. If interested, you will find the entire discussion at the previous link. Otherwise, consider this quote from the piece:

"I often hear people arguing that some speech is unprotected under current First Amendment law because it's 'hate speech,' or asking 'Is [X] free speech or is it hate speech?' That, it seems to me, is a mistake. 'Hate speech' is not a legal term of art under U.S. law, nor an exception from First Amendment protection. "

I must agree with Professor Volokh that it is a mistake. While I view much of the speech in public and private discourse as offensive to me personally, I agree with the founders that the speech, no matter how hurtful, must be protected. In all fifty states it is commonly agreed that words which incite public disruption – falsely yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater—are not “free speech.” “Hate speech” on the other hand is an attempt to insert into the law an enhancement of penalty based on some personally held views of the severity of the crime. Murder is murder. Assault is assault. There is no need for redundancy in laws to prosecute that which is already a crime.

Speaking of speech...

In an interview with one of the presidential candidates recently, I found this insightful exchange:


Do you believe in sin?




What is sin?


Being out of alignment with my values.”

This is a serious disconnect for me to contemplate. My reading of the Scriptures has led me to believe that sin is best defined as separation from God. For me to look over my life and the values I have at sometimes entertained would constitute blasphemy of the highest order. I suppose it is possible that the candidate is so in tune with God that their values have merged. Would that it were the case with each and every one of us. I’m not sure I would be comfortable facing my Maker at judgment having made that assumption.

Dr. R.C. Sproul, who coined the phrase: “Sin is cosmic treason” quoted in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations points out that it “encompasses debt, an expression of enmity and a crime.” The crime is the failure to conform to or transgress the laws of God. By not following His laws and will, we then do what He prohibits and thus sin breaks His law. Serious violation of the law is then a crime. Therefore to sin requires we be fully familiar with God and know He is not represented by the culture around us. It is not measured by our relationship with other human beings but rather but rather with Him.

Dr. Sproul maintains: “Not until we take God seriously will we ever take sin seriously. But if we acknowledge the righteous character of God, then we, like the saints of old, will cover our mouths with our hands and repent in dust and ashes before Him.”

Abridgement of freedom ……

In a drastic move in the District of Columbia, the local police have isolated certain neighborhoods for exceptional surveillance in response to soaring crime rates. The outward manifestation is the establishment of manned “check points” where entry in to and exit from the area is reserved for those who can establish their business there or residency. This abridgement of freedom is allegedly to restrict the movement of drugs and guns.

I am in sympathy with law enforcement in the nation’s capital in their effort to stem the tide of lawlessness which exists there. In spite of draconian gun control laws, they have the worst homicide rates of any city in the country. Perhaps I should rephrase the last sentence. Because of draconian gun laws which leave the citizenry defenseless, they have the worst homicide rates of any city in the country. In areas away from the public buildings in downtown and the National Mall, crime is rampant.

This is reminiscent of travels outside the United States where check points manned by armed personnel were routine. On my last trip to Mexico after clearing the customs in Ciudad Juarez I was stopped at a check point on the southern outskirts of the city. About thirty miles later, there was another in the wilds of the Sonoran Desert. Each time I crossed a border into another state, there they were again.

While I understand the necessity, I am also offended by the check points on my routine trips to Nevada and Arizona to see my grand kids. There is a checkpoint before crossing Hoover Dam, one on I-10 between Tucson and El Paso and another on US 70 just west of White Sands and Alamogordo, NM. The first serves the purposes of homeland security and the others are for the interdiction of illegal immigrant traffic. I nearly got in trouble at the last one in the middle of the night. I made the mistake of making friends with their dog and rendered her assigned duties absolutely useless. She was an irresistible German Shepard, bored on that lonesome highway and eager to make a new friend. After “tossing” the car, they allowed me to proceed.

This ghettoization of certain parts of America may serve a worthwhile purpose but any restriction of liberty is at the same time oppressive.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Kapitan Khlebnikov

With a name which seems more appropriate to a former NKVD official in the old USSR, we actually find a Finnish made ship which is a polar class icebreaker. One of three in its class, it has sailed the polar regions since its launching in 1981. The Khlebnikov was the first vessel to circumnavigate Antartica, with passengers in the 1996-1997 season.

Designed specifically for polar exploration with 108 eco-travelers, it was on a recent (late May 2008) foray across the Bering Straits, around the northwest tip of Alaska, Point Barrow, headed for Resolute Bay in Nunavut, Canada. Yes, that is the name of the Canadian province wedged in between Northwest Territory and Hudson Bay. If you are little fuzzy on this geography, you should either break out your globe or turn to page 117 in your Rand-McNally. This map of Canada shows the US Border to nearly the North Pole. At the top of the page near the time zone indicator (Central) is the Island called Resolute (Qausuittuq) and the destination for the Russian icebreaker. A reminder here that the the map as shown is not a transverse mercator projection and therefore the distances at the top of the page are exaggerated compared to those at the bottom
Mariners have sought the fabled Northwest Passage since the initial discovery of North America. For commercial traffic, the shortened route would be a God send. The folks on the Kapitan Khlebnikov were on a different errand. Reports indicated the “receding” sea ice was such that the so called bane of the polar bears would open the lanes to easy traffic. They believed the global warming prognosticators and set off for Resolute Bay. While crossing the Beaufort Sea just north of Prudhoe Bay, AK they discovered the folly of listening to Algorists. The 24,000 horsepower state of the art ice breaker was stuck in the ice!

A reporter for the Globe and Mail was on board to report on the situation: “I am on the bridge of the massive Russian icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov, and the tension is palpable. We have hit ice—thick ice.

The ice master studies the mountains of white packed around the ship while the 24,000-horsepower diesel engines work at full throttle to open a path. The ship rises slowly onto the barrier of ice, crushes it and tosses aside blocks the size of small cars as if they were ice cubes in a glass. It creeps ahead a few metres, then comes to a halt, its bow firmly wedged in the ice. After doing this for two days, the ship can go no farther.

The ice master confers with the captain, who makes a call to the engine room. The engines are shut down. He turns to those of us watching the drama unfold, and we are shocked by his words: 'Now, only nature can help this ship.' We are doomed to drift.

What irony. I am a passenger on one of the most powerful icebreakers in the world, travelling through the Northwest Passage - which is supposed to become almost ice-free in a time of global warming, the next shipping route across the top of the world - and here we are, stuck in the ice, engines shut down, bridge deserted. Only time and tide can free us.”

I have listened to this blather about reduced sea ice over the last few months and feel justified to comment. In June of 2006, in response to claims of dispoiling Arctic wilderness to search for oil on the North Slope of Alaska I decided to go have a look for myself. I left the Ozarks on the 15th and arrived in Deadhorse (Prudhoe Bay) on the 21st of June, the summer solstice. Because of tight security, I could drive (!) no further, I took the tour bus the last eight miles to the Arctic Ocean. After a tour of the “oil patch” we parked on a rocky spit of land and were given time enough to dip our tootsies in the Arctic Ocean. Not only was it the fulfliment of a lifelong dream, it provided first hand information of what that place was actually like. The air temperature was 38º, breezy, and the ice pack was roughly 100’ off shore. Despite being bathed in sunshine for some thrity plus days, twenty-four hours a day, the air was chilly and the ice unrelenting.

At Prudhoe Bay, verified estimates place the depth of the frozen muskeg at 2000’. It is a hostile environment. One of our party stripped to his swimming trunks, tried a brief dip and assured us that it was, indeed, an unpleasant experience. Other than “being there”, there is little reason to linger so I turned the Ford around and drove the four hundred miles of gravel back to Fairbanks. The following evening I was enjoying a round of golf at the North Star Golf Club (North America’s northernmost) with a 9pm tee time. I holed out on eighteen at about 12:15 am.

It appears that a great thaw can occur and then be followed the following season by extreme cold which replaces the melted pack ice. It is the way it works. It has been this way for millenia and will continue. The cyclical nature of the rhythms of the earth is a fact of our existance. Destruction of the global economy will find our planet indifferent. It will continue to function in the same manner until the Creator decides otherwise. That is the only consistancy we can depend upon.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon