Thursday, December 10, 2009

We're going to fight it

As promised, here's my take on the upcoming alcohol referendum for Jacksonville. For the record, let me say I'm not opposed to someone having a drink. If someone wants to drink, that's between them and the Lord. The Bible only proclaims not to get drunk. My problem is saying we want to bring it into our city as an endorsed revenue stream. Enough precursor - here goes.

On Wednesday of last week, I met for an organizational meeting for those of us opposed to the Jacksonville beer/wine referendum coming to us this spring. If there's one thing we DON'T need in Jacksonville, it's more beer and wine. People can already get it at least at Chilis, etc. - why do we need to enable them to bring it home with them too?

Please don't tell me about tax revenue. I lived in Corsicana when the same referendum passed there in 2004. We were assured there would be "huge" financial benefits. It would aid the city in many ways. There would be no "down side". That was five years ago. Although we don't live there anymore, many of our friends do and here's what we've learned since 2004. It's been such a "blessing" to the city, they are running a deficit budget this year and next. Meanwhile, the cost of having has been more than the benefit. It does NOT pay.

I'm also well aware of famed economist Mr. Ray Perryman's statistics showing the financial benefit of beer / wine sales. But I've learned that some things aren't worth the trouble - this is one of them. If no other reason, those who will be most directly affected by this are those who can least afford to spend their meager income on beer and wine. What about our children? Who wants to explain all those cases of beer and wine stacked like mad at Wal-Mart? Anyone believe our teenagers won't find a way to purchase beer / wine from one of our local vendors? What about the people in low-income brackets who can't afford to drive to Cuney or Rusk but can afford to walk to the convienence store? Who'll be there to help them when the rent money is spent on beer / wine and they are evicted? The alcohol related domestic abuse? Alcohol related child abuse? Anytime a business like Brookshire Brothers spends $23,000 (in Rusk) to see a measure passed, we can be sure they aren't spending money but making it. They'll earn that back in a month. But we'll be stuck with it, good and bad.

But at what cost to the quality of life in Jacksonville? I read with interest the column on the Daily Progress front page last week proclaiming "Cuney has seen no negative impact from alcohol." So Cuney is what we aspire to? Have you been to Cuney? Without disparaging our neighbors, I drive through there twice a day and it's not the kind of place I would want to live. If you want to buy alcohol, it's a great place to go. If you want ANYTHING ELSE, you've got to leave Cuney because alcohol is all they sell. Literally, there are no other business of merit there.

I have no doubt there's money to be made in alcohol sales. The problem I have is the cost of selling it. Some will say "But our tax dollars are driving out of town to get it - why not have it here and keep that money at home?" To that, I say let someone else / another town pay for the additional cost of increased police controls, increased jail space, etc.. Furthermore, if we're going to use that argument, let's apply it to other venues like these: let's legalize and tax gambling since so many people drive to Shreveport. Let's legalize and tax prostitution since so many are going to go out of town to find that as well. Let's legalize and tax drug use. . . . You get the idea. The argument is simply not sustainable.

I know we've got some church members who want beer and wine sales in Jacksonville. Respectfully, I love them and ask you to do the same despite our disagreement. But on this matter, for the first time since 2004 in Corsicana, I'll speak openly and throw whatever I can toward seeing this matter defeated. I don't have another viable solution to increase tax revenues, but I'm firmly convinced on this: we don't need it and it won't help us live better lives in Jacksonville.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Reflections

- Welcome Ticer family! They are our newest CBC members and we're thrilled to have them!
- When you see Stefanie Robison, hug her warmly! The water we used to baptize her was frigid! If she hadn't had so many family members present, I would've pulled the plug and done her another time. Thanks for being such a trooper Stefanie - you won't soon forget it!
- Thanks to Sheryl Hanna, Steve Edwards and all of our choir and musicians for their exceptional work in the Hanging of the Green service Sunday night! It was awesome!
- A special word of thanks to Doug Ilsley, our tech guy. He had a big job on Sunday, both morning and evening, and pulled both off well! Even with the trouble in Brandon finding a working microphone, Doug works at his task seriously and with great effort. Pray for him and the others on our tech team.
- This Sunday is our Christmas program entitled "A Splash of Christmas!" Trust me - I've heard parts of it - you will not want to miss this!
- I read with great interest over the last several days about how an local option alcohol election is being planned for us in Jacksonville. That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. I've got some thoughts on the issue and, later in the week, I'll address that issue right here - check back with me.
- MISSIONS - I love MISSIONS! We're more than halfway to our goal of $110,000 for our mission offering this year. Thanks for your generosity and faithfulness in supporting missions across the world and across the street. Steve Edwards and I met for nearly two hours yesterday discussing missions in 2010 (and beyond!). We'll be talking about more in the coming weeks as we get our plans finalized.
- I've got no good reason to feel this way, but I've always sort of felt like I'm really a part of a church once I've celebrated Christmas with them. Thanks to each of you who have made our first Christmas at Central so wonderful! We've been to a couple of parties thus far and have several more coming - and we're thrilled about that! Thanks for your kindness, warmth, love and friendship this Christmas season as we welcome Christ.
- How's your fast doing? I've chosen three things to fast from and let me tell you - it's been harder than I thought! Thanks to those who are encouraging each other to continue on! It's only two more weeks till Christmas!
- Ruby Staton is retiring next week. She's been our financial secretary for more than 20 years and has decided the Lord is leading her to spend some time with her husband, Gene (aka Mean Gene! :-) ) . Pray for her transition. Pray for the CBC office as we seek a new secretary. We'll be moving some of our existing staff around so pray for that as well. We'll honor Ruby's service to our church after evening worship on Dec 20th.
- Ray Vardaman is also leaving his position as a our interim music leader. We'll honor Ray following our morning service on Dec 20th.
- I'm beginning to think I'm no fun to work with! Do have BO? Or halatosis? Or, more likely, the Lord is simply guiding people where He would choose for them to serve Him best and it has nothing to do with me. Pray for these transitions, wont' you?
- This Sunday, we'll be talking about Luke 2:8-20 - the Shepherds and their role in the Christmas story. They are among the least like heroes of the story and yet God chooses them (THEM!) to be the first who hear the good news. Pray for Sunday's message and worship time.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

I'm an outlaw

The Manhattan Declaration
I did something today I never thought I would - I signed a document declaring that I would be openly and civilly disobedient to the laws that speak against (1) The sanctity of human life (2) The re-definition of marriage and (3) the rights of conscience and liberty. The document is called the Manhattan Declaration. Read more about it (or sign it yourself) here. I've never been a political machine on any level, but I've grown weary of being told what and how I may speak to issues. For example, every so often, I get what I call a "threat letter" from a group like the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (what they REALLY mean is they are trying to FORCE the separation of church and state). These letters usually warn me against speaking to any political issue or candidate, no matter the grounds from which the issue springs. If I speak out and get caught (not terribly hard given we're on the radio and TV!), my church will lose our non-profit status. I've never really worried about it, but it's become clear in the last few years that I should. Not in fear mind you - rather in the realization that we are far from home. We're just passing through in bodies that weren't meant for us to keep forever (2 Corinthians 5). The Manhattan Declaration was written for those same reasons. There can only be ONE final authority. For me, that authority is God himself, expressed through His word. If there's a principle that violates the character or God or His word, I'll speak against. Not in anger, but definitely with clarity. I'd rather agree with God on issues than have men's applause. Consider signing the document. Consider being a part of the solution instead of just a bystander.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A recommendation

I don't often recommend sites. Therefore, when I do, they're well worth your time. The site / widget you see below is one of those that's well worth your time. A few weeks ago, I mentioned Dr. James Denison in one of the illustrations I used on a Sunday morning. Although he's no longer pastoring a specific church, he's still very active in ministry. Presently, he is theologian in residence at the Baptist General Convention of Texas headquartered in Dallas. He also directs the Center for Informed Faith and writes a daily column called "God Issues". Below is the widget he's just released for use with his site. Take a look - it's outstanding stuff!