June 2005

A way out for America : Tuesday, June 28, 2005

June 28 2005 by

A way out for America : Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A way out for America

In several days we will be celebrating July 4th, Independence Day. Independence - what a beautiful word. With all the upsetting news we hear today, I pray that America will always be an independent nation.

In the book "The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire," there are five reasons for the fall of the empire:

1. Lack of sanctity of the home

2. Higher taxes wasted on frivolous things.

3. An insane craze for sports, becoming more violent every year.

4. Building up of great reserves of arms; and the real enemy is lack of individual responsibility.

5. Religion becoming more form and not having power to help people.

How does America compare with this? I shudder to think.

But, God has given us an out. In 2 Chronicles 7:14, He gives us this promise. "If my people who are called out by my name shall, humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin."

There is a way out for America, if we heed God's message.

Ellie Vickers

Hamilton, N.C.

6/28/2005 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



The 54 percent solution : Monday, June 27, 2005

June 27 2005 by Vic Ramsey

The 54 percent solution : Monday, June 27, 2005
Monday, June 27, 2005

The 54 percent solution

By Vic Ramsey

When I was 10 years old, I was saved in Las Vegas. For the last fifteen years, I've lived within a stone's throw of the most lucrative lottery outlet in Virginia. So, I have a pretty unique perspective when it comes to the proposed lottery in North Carolina.

Here's what I know: a lottery is a tax. Specifically, it's a sales tax. A 54 percent sales tax.

How's that, you ask?

Consider a $1 scratch-off ticket. Fifty cents will be used for prizes, and another fifteen cents will pay for the administrative costs, reimburse the vendor, and provide a profit for the game designers.

So, the "product" of a $1 lottery ticket is worth 65 cents, assuming, generously, that all the administrative costs are part of the product.

The remaining 35 cents, the part that ends up in the state coffers, is the tax.

And the tax rate? Well, a 35-cent tax on a 65-cent product is a tax rate of 53.8 percent!

That's right. Buy a lottery ticket, anywhere, and you pay a tax of 54 percent.

Of course, this tax is hidden in the ticket price, in a manner that is illegal for private businesses selling other products. It has to be, of course, because, after all, who in their right mind would buy a product that's taxed at 54 percent?

Imagine for just a moment the public outcry if our political leaders, of either party, proposed paying for something as admittedly worthy as new schools, college scholarships, and smaller classes by imposing a 54 percent sales tax on any other product.

Who will pay this tax?

The most vulnerable of our fellow citizens: the poor, the desperate, the unsophisticated, the statistically challenged.

A lottery entices the least prosperous of our citizens to pay for that which the well to do, and well educated, are unwilling to pay for. Given the odds of winning a significant lottery prize, no one with a passing knowledge of high school statistics would think of playing. Lottery officials know this, which is why studies in other states show a substantially higher number of lottery outlets clustered in communities of poor and working class families.

Sadly, the lottery proposal comes during the same legislative session when the income tax rate for our wealthiest citizens is being reduced. And when corporate income taxes are being cut.

But that's the hidden agenda of a lottery: make the tax look like a game, entice the poor to pay, so the rich won't have to. It's Robin Hood in reverse.

Our legislators justify this by saying, "Yes, yes, the lottery is awful, and I wish people wouldn't play, but our citizens are spending so much money in other states' lotteries, educating other peoples' kids, that we simply have to follow suit."

To which, I reply, "Your revenue estimates can't be met just by attracting current, cross-border players. You'll have to entice millions of our citizens who presently don't play at all."

And, "if educating other people's children is such a bad thing, why aren't we abolishing our occupancy taxes in our beach towns? After all, it's really unfair to folks who live in Virginia or Pennsylvania to pay for the education of our kids, just because they want to spend a week at the beach in Nags Head." (Paging Sen. Basnight)

The irony is this: the government hopes to use the proceeds to advance education, but educated people don't play lotteries. So, the extent that the lottery is "successful" in better educating more of our citizens, fewer and fewer of them will play. How's that for "Catch-22"?

It really boils down to this: gambling is either a morally suspect activity or it is harmless entertainment.

If gambling is morally suspect, then the state properly bans it, and thus, has no business promoting a lottery simply because it is profitable.

If gambling is, as lottery proponents say, "harmless entertainment", then why can't I run a lottery on my own? I'll be happy to pay the standard sales tax on all the tickets I sell. I can't, because the state depends on having a lottery monopoly, in order to get away with that outrageous tax rate.

Instituting a lottery, therefore, moves the government away from the position of a defender of moral principles and a sound work ethic, and toward the position of an organized crime boss protecting his turf.

One final observation, a true story, actually.

Fifteen years ago, when Virginia instituted its lottery by selling $1 scratch-off tickets, I happened to be visiting with a family in the surgical waiting room at Chesapeake General Hospital. I overheard the following conversation:

A: Did you play the lottery?

B: Yes, I did.

A: Did you win anything?

B: Yeah, I won $2.

A: How many tickets did you buy?

B: Five.

If you're tempted to play a lottery, I'd advise you to bank the money instead. In the long run, you'll be a lot better off.

But if you simply must play a game of chance, I wish you could call me. I'd be happy to trade you $2 in winnings, for $5 in tickets, for as long as you wish to play.

Of course, the powers that be in Raleigh won't let that happen. It would ruin their 54 percent solution.

6/27/2005 12:00:00 AM by Vic Ramsey | with 0 comments



Embracing temptation : Monday, June 27, 2005

June 27 2005 by

Embracing temptation : Monday, June 27, 2005
Monday, June 27, 2005

Embracing temptation

I believe the lottery is an issue of temptation not legislation. Jesus found himself is somewhat the same situation during His "wilderness experience". When first tempted with His physical hunger by Satan, He responded by saying, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4)

When faced with temptation Jesus chose to rely on the instructions of God, rather than bow down to the weak attempts of Satan to "regulate Him."

Now whether a man be noble or serf, he will always find himself in a situation of temptation. He can choose whether or not to embrace it.

God knew we would have difficulty with this item called "temptation" so He offered His Only Son as a sacrifice to remove its influence.

I am constantly confounded by the futile efforts of good Christians to legislate "temptation" when all we (including me) have to do is live the life Jesus expects us to.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, "temptation" has been with us since the Garden of Eden and will continue to present itself. We can present real Christianity by living lives of " salt and light " in the world around us and thereby foil Satan's efforts to "tempt" us. It worked for The Son of God, why not us?

Let us (Christians) not be so interested in our own egotistic self-righteousness by putting forth legislation. Instead, let us get busy showing our world around us how Jesus, the Son of God, fortifies us to resist temptation.

H. Lucas Lloyd

Fayetteville, N.C.

6/27/2005 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



Poetry focus of web site : Monday, June 27, 2005

June 27 2005 by

Poetry focus of web site : Monday, June 27, 2005
Monday, June 27, 2005

Poetry focus of web site

I have started a poetry web site with inspirational, patriotic and other types of poems. The site is at www.handandheartpoetry.com. I was born and raised in North Carolina and have much love for my God, my state, and my country.

My main goal in life is to help spread the good news of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.

Delores J. Newcomb

Rocky Mount, N.C.

6/27/2005 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



The 54 percent solution : Friday, June 24, 2005

June 24 2005 by Vic Ramsey

The 54 percent solution : Friday, June 24, 2005
Friday, June 24, 2005

The 54 percent solution

By Vic Ramsey

When I was ten years old, I was saved in Las Vegas. For the last fifteen years, I've lived within a stone's throw of the most lucrative lottery outlet in Virginia. So, I have a pretty clear view about the proposed state lottery in North Carolina.

Here's what I know: a lottery is a tax.

Okay, so what's the lottery tax rate?

Consider a $1 scratch-off ticket. Fifty cents will be used for prizes, and another fifteen cents will pay for the administrative costs, reimburse the vendor, and provide a profit for the game designers.

So, the "product" of a $1 lottery ticket is worth 65 cents, assuming, generously, that all the administrative costs are part of the product.

The remaining 35 cents, the part that ends up in the state coffers, is the tax.

And the tax rate? Well, a 35-cent tax on a 65-cent product is a tax rate of 53.8 percent.

That's right. Buy a lottery ticket, anywhere, and you pay a tax of 54 percent.

Of course, this tax is hidden in the ticket price, in a manner that is illegal for private businesses selling other products. It has to be, of course, because who in their right mind would buy a product that's taxed at 54 percent?

Imagine for just a moment the public outcry if our political leaders, of either party, proposed paying for something as admittedly worthy as new schools, college scholarships, and smaller classes by imposing a 54 percent sales tax on any other product. Not pretty.

Who will pay this tax?

The most vulnerable of our fellow citizens: the poor, the desperate, the unsophisticated, the statistically challenged.

A lottery entices the least prosperous of our citizens to pay for that which the well-to-do, and well educated, are unwilling to pay for. Given the odds of winning a significant lottery prize, no one with a passing knowledge of high school statistics would think of playing. Lottery officials know this, which is why studies in other states show a substantially higher number of lottery outlets clustered in communities of poor and working class families.

Sadly, the lottery proposal comes during the same legislative session when the income tax rate for our wealthiest citizens is being reduced. And when corporate income taxes are being cut.

But that's the hidden agenda of a lottery: make the tax look like a game, entice the poor to pay, so the rich won't have to. It's Robin Hood in reverse.

Gambling is either a morally suspect activity or it is harmless entertainment.

If gambling is morally suspect, then the state properly bans it, and thus, has no business promoting a lottery simply because it is profitable.

If gambling is, as lottery proponents say, "harmless entertainment", then why can't I run a lottery on my own? (I'll be happy to pay the standard sales tax on all the tickets I sell.) I can't, and neither can you, because the state depends on having a monopoly on the operation of lotteries, in order to justify that outrageous tax rate.

Instituting a lottery, therefore, moves the government away from the position of a defender of moral principles and a sound work ethic, and toward the position of an organized crime boss protecting his turf.

Makes you wonder what other forms of "harmless entertainment" the government intends to monopolize and then, tax the stuffing out of.

Seventeen years ago, when Virginia instituted its lottery by selling $1 scratch-off tickets, I happened to be visiting with a family in the surgical waiting room at Chesapeake General Hospital. I overheard the following conversation:

A: Did you play the lottery?

B: Yes, I did.

A: Did you win anything?

B: Yeah, I won $2.00.

A: How many tickets did you buy?

B: Five.

I'd advise you to bank the money. In the long run, you'll be a lot better off.

But if you simply must play a game of chance, I wish you could call me. I'd be happy to trade you $2.00 in winnings, for $5.00 in tickets, for as long as you wish to play. In that case, I'd be a lot better off.

But, of course, the powers that be in Raleigh won't let that happen. It would ruin their 54 percent solution.

6/24/2005 12:00:00 AM by Vic Ramsey | with 0 comments



Akin's leadership needed : Friday, June 24, 2005

June 24 2005 by

Akin's leadership needed : Friday, June 24, 2005
Friday, June 24, 2005

Akin's leadership needed

Recent opinion letters have been in rebuttal to Dr. Danny Akins remarks to conservative Baptists. I would like to mention that recently Dr. Akin was guest lecturer of the Stephen F. Olford School for Biblical Preaching, which I attended. I was very impressed with him as a person and preacher. He certainly has strong beliefs and not afraid to express them.

We have needed leadership of this type for sometime. Even though I do not agree with all he said I certainly believe that we should be strong in our defense of the inerrant word of God.

At times leaders will make mistakes in how they address some issues. Perhaps as Dr. Akin grows in his leadership post he will see ways that are more effective to lead N.C. Baptists. Let us pray for him daily.

Ken Day

Morganton, N.C.

6/24/2005 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



SBC culture cause of youth exodus : Friday, June 24, 2005

June 24 2005 by

SBC culture cause of youth exodus : Friday, June 24, 2005
Friday, June 24, 2005

SBC culture cause of youth exodus

I am appalled to read that Grady Arnold, executive of director of GetTheKidsOut.org, attempted to use the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Council on Family Life Report of 2002 to justify his organization's attack on public schools. The fact that 88 percent of students do not return to the church upon graduation should be a wake up call. However, instead of utilizing the statistic to accuse public schools, it should be an impetus for the SBC to examine its practices to determine what it is doing to drive young people away.

Many educated young adults have a difficult time buying into SBC culture. It is a culture that promotes men as superior and women as inferior. It is a culture that promotes the teaching of absolutes over the teaching of moderation and common sense. It is a culture that promotes myths. It is a culture that often does not allow for a middle ground between religion and science. And, it is a culture that on many levels promotes separation from the lost rather than the idea that, as one missionary stated, we are to "walk with Jesus and hang out with the lost."

When the SBC begins to offer a less extremist culture in which women are openly embraced and welcomed as deaconess and pastors; in which children are taught historically, scientifically and biblically accurate information; and in which youth are taught the reasoning behind our beliefs rather simply given a list of "dos and don'ts," then this mass exodus from the SBC will end. As a twenty-something myself, I have witnessed friends leave SBC churches and choose other denominations for these reasons. It is something that I have often contemplated myself. I have chosen to remain out of a love for my church family, not an affinity for the SBC.

Jennifer E. Smith

Concord, N.C.

6/24/2005 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



Make .xxx web extension mandatory : Friday, June 24, 2005

June 24 2005 by

Make .xxx web extension mandatory : Friday, June 24, 2005
Friday, June 24, 2005

Make .xxx web extension mandatory

Every fence has two sides. You can't remain in the middle for long without falling to one side. This is true even in the argument about the recent decision of the Top-Level Internet Web Domain Extension of .XXX for pornography. This is good news, but this good news also brings serious problems.

This will be a voluntary migration for porn websites. Those that do move will probably remain as .COM websites as well. Moving to .XXX must be a mandatory action.

Many Christian/Family groups are asking us to contact the FCC and the DOC opposing .XXX. My opinion is that having .XXX in place will make it easier for Congress or one of the other Federal agencies to make this a mandatory action.

It is like discovering that you have cancer and making the decision not to treat it. That is what is happening when we allow our children and even adults to be placed at risk of addiction, prostitution or even worse when we continue to allow them to stumble across these websites accidentally. This will continue to happen if they remain as .COM websites and we not seek treatment for this cancer.

Just as movies and TV are regulated, porn websites must be held accountable. God expects us to be responsible for our children. There is much in this world that is not good - even evil. I don't believe God intended for us to do nothing to change that. Ask Congress and the federal agencies to make .XXX mandatory.

Mary B. Conyers

Knightdale, N.C.

6/24/2005 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



Teens need training in apologetics : Thursday, June 23, 2005

June 23 2005 by

Teens need training in apologetics : Thursday, June 23, 2005
Thursday, June 23, 2005

Teens need training in apologetics

As a youth minister for more than a dozen years now, I have listened with interest in the discussions regarding the 88 percent of college students who do not attend church. I believe one way to help this number go down is to train our youth in apologetics. We do a good job of telling them what to believe but do not spend enough time telling them why we believe the things that we believe.

Most teens (or adults for that matter) do not have a clue as to basic things such as where the Bible came from and how we know we can trust it, or of the evidence for Jesus' resurrection. Our students then enter college and are bombarded by Universalism.

They are told that they are narrow-minded and merely byproducts of their upbringing. It is at this point that many students began to doubt their faith and quite naturally stop going to church.

Thankfully many do return as they grow into adults and have families of their own. However, this fact does not let us off the hook.

This generation has many voices and lifestyles vying for their attention. We must give teens real answers and reasons as to why Christianity is true.

In my own experience, I have found that youth are very interested in learning such things and not just skimming the surface. After all, they are learning things everyday in school that are so complex that it makes my brain hurt just thinking about it. So why do we oversimplify the most important things like theology?

It is my hope that more youth pastors will seek real answers and take this challenge head on - I know I have.

Chris Partin

Apex, N.C.

6/23/2005 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments



Video can help facilitate worship and ministry : Thursday, June 23, 2005

June 23 2005 by Otis Hamm

Video can help facilitate worship and ministry : Thursday, June 23, 2005
Thursday, June 23, 2005

Video can help facilitate worship and ministry

By Otis Hamm
BR Intern

On Sunday, March 6, members of Memorial Baptist Church in Buies Creek heard a message about stewardship unlike any they'd heard before. Rather than a sermon series or committee report, church leaders used video to show, as well as tell, members about the ministry made possible by their gifts through the church budget.

Associate pastor Keith Abernathy said the church's finance committee came up with the idea. They contracted with Mark Barbar, a Campbell University journalism student, to film and edit the 15-minute production.

"People have said that it was a great way to recognize and celebrate the ministry which goes on here," Abernathy said. "Video was a great means for us to see everything quickly and to realize the amount of varied ministry and service being done by our congregation. Sometimes we get caught up in our individual area of ministry and don't think about all the other wonderful things happening around us."

Abernathy said church leaders also have plans to make DVD copies of the video to be used as an outreach tool. "New families in the community can learn more about what's important at Memorial from that 15 minute video than from attending a few worship services as a visitor," he said. "My hope is that it really shows what we are about as a congregation."

The project at Memorial is one of several ways churches are using video in their ministries. The use of video images in worship services is also growing in popularity and relevance.

But these videos aren't just a gimmick to reach people raised in front of television sets. They are used to illustrate God's message and thus make the message more understandable.

Videos can also be used for an outreach ministry to those unable to attend a worship service. Instead of making audiotapes, the church can make videos available for shut-ins to watch.

The potential of video technology for churches is tremendous, but taking shortcuts to reach that potential won't get a church to its destination.

In Your Church Magazine, Kent Morris gives three vital criteria for a successful use of video.

1. The video display must be sharp and viewable from all seats.

2. The video components (cameras, screens, etc.) must be aesthetically integrated into their surroundings.

3. The system must be operated in a professional, non-distracting manner.

Choose a professional

The first step toward a successful video ministry is consulting a professional.

Just because someone in the church likes to shoot video footage of church events doesn't mean they have the knowledge to set up a video ministry. A simple error could shut down the video system and distract rather than facilitate God's people in worship.

A trained professional can provide the expertise needed to get a system operating smoothly.

The consultant not only helps with the set up, he or she helps with training operators of the equipment as well. Even the smallest projects, such as using a camcorder to record a special service, needs the touch of a person who knows how to properly operate the camera. Without the training, the ministry product could be less than desirable.

Buy the right equipment

The second step for a successful video ministry is purchasing the right equipment.

Even though a simple-to-operate camcorder can be used to accomplish much, many factors must be considered before purchasing equipment.

Compatibility with other equipment the church already is using is crucial and a trained professional can check to see that everything works together.

Another factor, of course, is cost. Electronic stores offer an assortment of camcorders and related products. Camcorders range from $300 to $5,000. Accessories such as tripods range from $28 to $74. Keep in mind that other accessories such as cables, additional memory, and software may be needed as well.

Live broadcast challenges

For the church prepared to enter into the more complicated world of video and television production, additional professional advice and training is required.

Many companies specialize in helping businesses and churches by providing an array of packages designed to meet the specific needs of the customer.

A huge challenge of video production is cost. Setting up a live broadcast studio can cost about $10,000, not including cameras or post-production editing. Camera prices can range from $5,000-$14,000. The cost of a post production studio can be more than $10,000, depending on options selected.

In addition to getting advice on purchasing equipment and setting up a studio, training is also important for keeping the system operating well. Seek a company that will provide training and support because equipment will break down.

In addition to equipment, broadcasting worship services requires the expense of airtime. Live airtime can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Cable television, however, is more reasonable. The church needs to contact the local provider to determine pricing and scheduling.

Use knowledgeable operators

This leads to the question of who in a church will take on such a responsibility. Tech-savvy people are required for this duty. Some churches have knowledgeable volunteers. A video ministry can be a way for some people to use their talents as gifts.

Other churches have recognized the time commitment required for a video ministry and have decided to hire a part or full-time person to serve.

Facilitate worship and community

Video technology has much to offer congregations. Whether simply sending video taped services to shut-in members, using pre-produced clips to enhance worship or airing live broadcasts to reach the community, churches can make use of ever advancing technology. Careful research, detailed planning and consultation with qualified professionals can equip congregations to use video technology to facilitate worship and enhance community.

6/23/2005 12:00:00 AM by Otis Hamm | with 0 comments



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