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2021:  Same Old Song? Just Another Verse?

2021:  Same Old Song? Just Another Verse?

2021 is here. Another year in a string of years that, when bookended together, represent your life, and mine. Just two days ago a friend of mine passed away. Unexpectedly. The final bookend to his life was 2020. I was profoundly saddened for him and his family. 

But if you’re reading this, you made it through 2020, and have once again begun what you’ve done for a number of decades now. Another year. If your life were a song, 2021 could be just another verse in that song. 

But, should it be?  Should your life be characterized year after year with sameness?  Should the tune others have come to recognize when they encounter you or me, continue to be the one we play as each new year creeps closer to our final one?  

Resolutions are something many of us make when a new year rolls around. I suppose the reason we make them is because we want the new year to be different than the prior one.  We make them because we think back over the verse of last year’s song and we recognize things we don’t like, or we don’t see things we wish had been there.  And so, we rise up, for a day or two, with a feeble attempt to change the song, not merely add another verse to the same old tune.

As I considered these thoughts, and the many years I have struggled with simply repeating the same old song, decade after decade, I went to the actual definition of resolution.  Of course the conventional definition of the word in the context of a new year is generally “the act of determining; firmness or resolve.”  But there was another use of the word resolution that, in the context of our theme of a song, seemed to be right on point.  

Resolution in a musical context means, “the progression of a chord from dissonance to consonance.”  With music, when you have dissonance you have “a mingling of sounds that strike the ear harshly; a clashing or unresolved music chord.”  But dissonance also means, “inconsistency between the beliefs one holds or between one’s actions and beliefs.”  

The second word in the definition of a musical resolution though is “consonance” which simply means “harmony or agreement among components.”  In music, “notes that sound good together when played at the same time are called consonant; one can listen to them for a long time without a feeling that the music needs to change.”

So a musical resolution is transitioning from sounds that are harsh and clash and suggest a need for change, to notes that are pleasant, stable and do not require change.”

What an interesting analogy of what so many of us do each new year.  We look back at our lives in the previous year(s) and we see a life of dissonance.  We recognize that many of the things we profess to believe, or we know to be true, are not evident in our lives.  We see inconsistency in our example.  And that inconsistency often strikes others harshly, even those we love.

So we “resolve” to move away from personal dissonance towards consonance.  We thus seek a life in the new year where our lives are in harmony with those deep values and beliefs we say we hold to.  Whether it’s something as simple as eating what we know to be healthy, to reconciling our outward actions with what we know to be true inwardly, we all seek to harmonize our lives.  

But if your past decades will predict your future course, then it’s safe to say that whatever you resolve today, will soon be another dissonant conclusion.  Even though the definition of “resolution” includes the word “firmness,” it’s likely that your life and mine will lack resolve in 2021.

So why is this?  Fundamentally, because we are frail.  I know I am.  Over and over and over I say I will do “x” and then I don’t.  At least not permanently.  

The Apostle Paul, perhaps one of the most resolute Christians ever, had this to say about this struggle:

“And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.” Romans 7:18-19

In a sense, Paul was acknowledging the dissonance that existed in his own life.  He too struggled with doing (actions) versing knowing, or his beliefs.  But…

Yes, thankfully there is the word “but” to offer us Hope.  Note what Paul said just a few verses later:

“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.” Romans 7:21-25 

I too struggle with the very things Paul was talking about.  It can be something as simple as eating healthy.  Or it can be something as serious as aligning my daily walk for Jesus, with what God’s Word says it should be.

But the greatest secret I have ever found to instilling “firmness and resolve” into my resolutions has been what Paul disclosed above.  If I want to be “free” from the song of prior years, if I want to move from dissonance to consonance, and if I want my life to reflect a new song, “the answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”  

It’s oh so simple, and oh so hard.  My life’s ruts, the harsh, dissonant chords I’ve gotten used to playing, are such a part of my life that it’s impossible for me to permanently change them.  But there is Jesus.  And He can literally transform your life and mine from one that is harsh, unresolved, and clashing, to one that is pleasant, appealing, and others desire to listen to.  And it’s not you or me.  But Him.  If I ever forget this, my life will once again be dissonant.

So as you consider your resolutions for 2021, why not begin with the one that is the foundation for every other one.  Resolve to pursue a new song.  Let Jesus be the conductor of your life.  Let Him write the music.  And let Him take total control of your life.  

You might ask, “how do I do that?”  1 John 2:6 tells us how:

“Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” 

“Live your life as Jesus did.”  That’s the secret.  And finding out how to do that requires, or I should say, it “demands” that I find out just how Jesus lived by daily investing time in God’s Word, since we are told that Jesus is the very “Word of God.”  So to know Jesus means to know the Bible.  That is the foundation.

If you will resolve to reading the Bible in 2021, then your life this year will take on a new song.  The dissonance will become consonance.  And regardless of what goes on in the world this year, it will be the absolute best year of your life, as 2020 was mine.  

Below are some thoughts on how you can make the Bible the foundation of your life, which will in turn strengthen you in every other resolution you might make:

🔹Practical Reading Suggestions

  • Download the YouVersion Bible App on your phone.  (With the Brown Holy Bible icon).
  • Go to “Plans” and click on “Find Plans”
  • Go to “Through the Bible”
  • Click on “Whole”
  • Find “Read Through the Bible” Plan (It’s a one year plan)
  • Click “Start Plan”
  • My favorite version is the New Living Translation (NLT).  Not only is it in modern vocabulary, but it has a great Audio option.
  • I both read (with eyes) and listen (with my ears) via the Bible App.  Even when I’m reading with my eyes, I have the audio playing, so I can see and hear simultaneously.  It helps me to better understand and retain what I’m reading. 
  • Regarding the “Audio” option, it’s pretty much all I listen to anymore when I’m driving, walking/exercising, etc. It connects well with any Bluetooth device.  Also, the NLT audio is by far the most pleasant to listen to, in my opinion.  It also includes dramatization where various voices are used to “act out” the stories in the Gospels and Acts.
  • I recommend you Register with “You Version” so you can track your Bible reading, interact with friends and so much more.  If you do, please send me a friend request so we can encourage each other via the app.
  • If you start on this journey, and have any questions whatsoever, please reach out to me. There’s nothing more important to me than encouraging others to read the Bible. So if I can help in any way, including questions or problems with the Bible app, please let me know. 
  • There is one other Audio Bible that actually has become my favorite and it’s the NIV Audio Bible Dramatized.  If you’re interested in this one, it can be purchased online or listened to for free here:  https://classic.biblegateway.com/audio/dramatized/niv/Gen.1

So I pray that these meager thoughts will in some way, encourage, inspire, or motivate you to pick up God’s Word and begin afresh in 2021. Let this particular resolution be the one that enables you to succeed beyond anything your heart can imagine.

Begin a new song… by reading God’s Word, everyday, for the rest of your life!

“When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God of Heaven’s Armies.”  Jeremiah 15:16

The Storm Clouds Gathering from COVID-19

The Storm Clouds Gathering from COVID-19

For years now, many in our nation have been warning of the coming collapse of our nation’s economy.  The signs were easy to see.  But most were unaware, or didn’t take the time to understand them. I’ve written a lot over the last number of years about the coming economic collapse.

At the same time as many were warning about the economy, others were warning about the potential of a pandemic.  History teaches us that pandemics are a reality of our fallen world.  Sooner or later these global events appear, and when they do, many lives are lost and the entire world is disrupted.  

Whether this pandemic and the associated disruptions are natural, or self-inflicted, is beyond my ability to know for certain.  While I may have my own views, at the end of the day, my little place in this world is of such inconsequence to something as pervasive as the COVID-19 pandemic and its far-reaching effects, that my theories about it’s origination are meaningless.  Furthermore, you and I have zero potential to redirect the path our nation and world are speeding down. 

But that’s not what I wanted to discuss today.  Rather, I wanted to address the principle that is taught in a verse from Proverbs, the book of wisdom in the Bible.  Note what Solomon had to say:

💡”A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”  Proverbs 22:4

Approximately 1,000 years after Solomon penned the above principle, one of Solomon’s descendants, the King who will ultimately sit and rule the world from the throne that Solomon occupied, had this to say about how we know when storms are threatening:

💡”Then Jesus turned to the crowd and said, “When you see clouds beginning to form in the west, you say, ‘Here comes a shower.’ And you are right.”  Luke 12:54

When you look out your window and see dark clouds gathering, the wind picking up, animals scurrying about, and other such signs, you can normally predict that there is a storm coming.  From the place where we live, up atop a hill that sees miles off into the horizon, we regularly see this happening.  It’s quite easy to predict what will occur in the next few moments when we see the band of rain headed our direction.

In a way, I believe the responses that we take when we see a physical storm is coming, can be applied to the current COVID-19 crisis.  Let me explain.

If you could go back 90 days, prior to the escalation of the COVID-19 crisis, and you knew then what you know now, would you do anything differently then?  I have no doubt you would, just as I would.  I’d be willing to speculate that you would have at least purchased more toilet tissue, or some other consumable.  Right?  But there are probably other steps you would have taken then, that today you are incapable of addressing.

So let’s look at where we are today and then try to fast forward a few weeks or months into the future.  Are there any dark, ominous storm clouds on the horizon that warn of some difficult times ahead?  Are there signals that the worst could still be yet to come?  Do you believe that opening up the economy is just going to magically bring back to reality what we might have been enjoying just a few short months ago?

The answers for me to all of those question are resoundingly clear.  Additionally though, my gut, along with so many of the reports I read, are warning that the clouds are bringing an even more ominous storm.  Is it possible I could be wrong?  Absolutely.  But when your smartphone alerts you to a “Tornado Warning” and you take cover, are you angry afterwards if the tornado did not materialize?  Or are you simply thankful that the plan you put in place was sufficient to protect you, had the tornado destroyed your home?

From an early age I was taught that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  In this case, “a prudent person forsees danger and takes precaution.”  There are strong indications that what is to come in the remaining chapters of this COVID-19 crisis, and beyond, could be worse.  If so, what should you do?

Well, only you can decide what are the appropriate steps that you should take for you and your family.  But at the very minimum, consider what you wish you would have done 90 days ago.  If you have not yet addressed those steps, then what about starting there?  Is it possible that over the next 30-60 days you could formulate a plan to check off those items?

Beyond that though, here are a few other ideas that I shared previously, in another article I penned four years ago.  In this article, I offered a number of practical steps you and I can take and should be taking immediately, to respond to the storm clouds we all see.

If the last 60+ days should convince us of one thing, it should be that the unimaginable can in fact occur.  To delay today is to be sorry tomorrow.  Today you can act.  Tomorrow may be too late. 

Noah, The Ark, & a Rowboat

Noah, The Ark, & a Rowboat

As I was reading the story of Noah recently, a few verses jumped out at me as to why God used Noah to build the ark. Note what God had to say about this man, who would build the most famous boat ever, one that was much larger and more capable than the Titanic: 

“This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.” Genesis 6:9 

Imagine having the above said about you. But wait. There’s more: 

“So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.”  Genesis 6:22 

When God saw all the evil that filled the earth, He gave Noah very specific instructions on what he should do to save his life, his family, and a remnant of God’s animal creation. Noah’s obedience was critical if they were all to be protected from the impending flood that would soon cover the entire earth.  

Noah obeyed God. Period. But Noah’s obedience wasn’t just for a few weeks, or a year or two. Rather Noah’s obedience was for many decades, as Noah and his sons labored to build the vessel that would save their lives… and ultimately yours and mine. (Think about that for a minute. Aren’t you glad Noah was obedient?) 

So you may be wondering, where does the rowboat come in to Noah’s story?   

Well, God gave Noah an ark-sized mission, because the “master ship builder” had proven to God over time that he could be trusted, that he was “righteous and blameless.” 

But what about you and me?  Or maybe I should just say, what about me?   

Is there a reason my mission hasn’t risen to the size of an ark, or even a yacht?  Is it possible that God is still waiting for me to complete the mission of simply constructing a rowboat?  I believe this may be true for many of us. Until we’ve proven ourselves as ready, reliable, or consistently obedient in the little things, we can only dream about building an ark.  

God needs faithful servants first and foremost. And only then will He elevate the mission He has for us. The parable of the three servants that Jesus relays in the Gospels affirms the concept that connects increasing opportunities to faithful stewardship. The servant who proved he was capable to handle greater resources was given even more. Meanwhile, the servant who was unreliable was given less, and even had those resources eventually taken away altogether.  

So, if you and I want to build an ark for God, we must first prove we can build the rowboat He’s asking us to tackle. And the only way we can build the rowboat is by simply obeying the Truth God has already revealed to us. When we do so, we will be given more.  

So let’s go build a rowboat today. Who knows, maybe God will use our rowboat to simply save some folks who are struggling to keep from drowning in the lake of life. And if so, we will have served an eternal purpose for God.  

“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities.’” Matthew 25:23 

The Sands of Time

The Sands of Time

The sands of time
So quickly pass
In the slender neck
Of our hour glass

Our life ahead
At two score and five
With dreams intact
We feel so alive

As life grows busy
The sand keeps beating
But we pay no thought
To the years now fleeting

We’ve known others younger
Whose sand drew still
Their premature death
Briefly testing our will

But our own life plans
We are confident yet
Will align in due time
With our diminishing grit

For surely our grains
Will continue to fall
Until the time of our choosing
Has arrived with a crawl

But when will we realize
That it’s God who allows
For the number of grains
That remain in our vials

May we refocus our thoughts
To what really will count
When the sands in our glass
Do finally run out.

 

Psalm 90:12 “Teach us to number our days…”

 

Tennessee Republicans Tout #FakeTaxCut

Tennessee Republicans Tout #FakeTaxCut

This last year has been a year in which the term #FakeNews gained prominence in America.  It seems that everywhere you turn, false reports are regularly popping up as fact. Amazingly, Wikipedia even defines #FakeNews as this:

Fake News is a type of hoax or deliberate spread of misinformation, be it via the traditional news media or social media, with the intent to mislead in order to gain financially or politically. It often employs eye-catching headlines or entirely fabricated news-stories. They have no basis in fact, but are presented as and believed to be factually accurate

Pathetically though, Republican politicians are now getting in on the #FakeNews trend in Tennessee and here’s the background.

The Background

Republican Governor Bill Haslam proffered a bill he entitled the IMPROVE act (Improving Manufacturing, Public Roads and Opportunities for a Vibrant Economy).  The bill, as modified, would increase gas taxes in Tennessee over $300 million per year to fund road repairs across the state.  However, in order to “offset” the tax increase that Tennesseans will see at the pump and feel in their wallets, the bill would also reduce taxes on groceries, but not by an equivalent amount.  In fact, less than half of the increase is offset by the grocery tax decrease.  

To make up the difference, Haslam, bolstered by Republican “yes-men” legislators, cobbled together a tax decrease via two other taxes.  The first decrease is in the Franchise & Excise Tax, exclusively a business tax.  The second decrease is in the Hall Income Tax, a tax on certain investment income, that only a very small percentage of individuals in Tennessee pay.  Furthermore, legislation was passed last year, before Haslam’s 2017 Gas Tax proposal, that agreed to phase out the Hall Tax over several years, with a full repeal by 2022.  

So, if you consider the details of Haslam’s proposal, it’s clear that the vast majority of hard-working Tennesseans will never benefit from the F&E Tax decrease or the Hall Income tax phase out.  And the marginal decrease in their grocery tax will not even come close to offsetting the increase they will see when they fill-up each week at the pump.  So the truth is most Tennesseans will see a drop in their disposable income if Governor Haslam’s IMPROVE “Gas Tax” bill is passed by the Tennessee legislature.

The Surplus

As a backdrop to the whole debate over Governor Haslam’s Gas Tax is the fact that Tennessee has enjoyed a record $2 billion budget surplus this last year.  Additionally, the surpluses are projected to continue for the next several years.  Consider though that the source of government receipts is predominantly from taxes.  

So, in simple terms, Tennessee overtaxed its citizens $2 billion last year, and it projects to continue overtaxing them for the foreseeable future, upwards of at least another billion dollars.  But worse, rather than use those surpluses, Governor Haslam and many Republican legislators want to raise taxes even further via Haslam’s Gas Tax bill.

As a result of these surpluses, a number of alternate proposals have been offered to simply divert for road repairs a portion of the surpluses in a similar amount to what Governor Haslam is requesting.  This would not only replace Governor Haslam’s proposal but it would also eliminate any need for a tax increase.  

The #FakeTaxCut

But here’s where things cross the line from just a bad policy decision to a purposeful act of deception. Governor Haslam’s “yes-men” in the legislature have been pulling out all the stops to push the Governor’s IMPROVE bill through, by hook or crook.  But because of the constant efforts by grassroots activists to expose the truth that the flawed bill will raise taxes on most Tennesseans, according to the Tennessee Star, Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. Barry Doss (R-Leoma) and Rep. Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) led the effort to rename the IMPROVE act to the “Tax Cut Act of 2017.”  

Yes, you read that correctly.  By falsely applying tax cuts that 1) apply solely to businesses (F&E Tax), and 2) were agreed to in a prior year and do not apply to the majority of Tennesseans (Hall Income Tax), Rep. Doss, Rep. McCormick and a host of other Republican Representatives are deceptively pronouncing that a bill that increases taxes on hard-working Tennesseans, will actually cut taxes on them.

Can someone say #FakeTaxCut?

What’s next?

So is this #FakeTaxCut a foregone conclusion?  Not hardly.  If there is a lesson in Trump’s victory in November, it is that the People can still determine the outcome of their government.  But Trump only won because people showed up and let their voices be heard.  And that’s the only way that Haslam’s #FakeTaxCut will be defeated — if Tennessee voters pick up their cell phones, and take 60 seconds to let their voices be heard.  If you’re willing to do so, then the price of gas at the pump may not go up.  But if you won’t invest a minute of your time, then you can count on Republicans, the party of “lower taxes,” to raise your taxes.

The choice is YOURS.

Click here to contact your Tennessee State Representative and Senator

Is $10 Trillion in New Debt Coming as Republicans Take Control?

Is $10 Trillion in New Debt Coming as Republicans Take Control?

As Donald Trump readies to take the oath of office next week, he will not only assume charge of the most powerful nation in the world, but he will also oversee the world’s largest economy.  And Trump will be aided in his oversight of our economy by a Congress controlled by a Republican Senate and Republican House. 

It’s been ten years since our nation was led by a Republican-controlled trifecta (Presidency, Senate & House). The last time this occurred George W. Bush was President.  When the “conservative” Bush left office in 2009, with Republicans having controlled the Senate and House for half of Bush’s eight years in office, our 43rd President had doubled the national debt to just over $10 trillion with his deficit spending policies. 

Eight years later though, as Barack Obama is leaving office, our published national debt is on the verge of surpassing $20 trillion. (I say “published” debt since our unfunded liabilities exceed $100 trillion, a topic that I discussed in my previous article, American: The Point of No Return?)  If ever there was a financial house that is spinning out of control, it is ours.  

Many in America are hopeful with our new President about to take office.  Trump’s no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is attitude attracted tens of millions of voters to support him.  His willingness to say what many were thinking no doubt won him the election.  Further, Trump’s 50 year track record in business convinced many voters that he was the man to turn around our economy and create a thriving, fiscally sound America.

Donald Trump: The $10 Trillion Man?

But this last week, Senator Rand Paul took to the Senate floor to rail against his own Republican colleagues as seen in this powerful video.  According to Paul, under the plan to repeal Obamacare, Republicans will likely be voting in favor of a budget that would increase the nation’s debt by another $10 trillion over the next ten years, matching Obama’s own dismal performance.  This slide from Paul’s presentation illustrates the point the Senator was making.  

Senator Paul began his speech with the famous lines, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”  And he could not be more accurate.  For all the talk of “draining the swamp” in Washington, what may stay the same, based on Republican’s track record, is the unwillingness of Republican politicians to stem the growth of our dangerous national debt.  (To be fair, some are suggesting that this “shell” budget will be replaced with a second one in the not too distant future, which will bring spending down and ultimately balance our nation’s budget.  But that remains to be seen and should be viewed with extreme skepticism.)

Republicans were fond of lobbing threats of government shutdowns, making incessant demands for balanced budgets and excoriating Obama and Democrats for their own deficit spending during the Obama era.  And rightly so.  But now that they are in the drivers seat, is it actually possible that Republicans will do no better?  Will they maintain the fiscally ruinous course upon which our nation is set?

Where are the Tea Party & Fiscal Conservatives?

Eerily silent as the Republicans take control of Washington, are the groups that heretofore have been the voices of fiscal reason, and have historically led the way in demanding that our elected officials spend no more than they collect in revenues.  And their silence is deafening.  

The tea party movement, of which I have been an active part since its founding in 2009, all but abandoned its defense of fiscal soundness, during the general campaign in 2016.  Tea Party Patriots, the nation’s preeminent coalition of tea party members and groups, and many other conservative watchdogs, said nothing about Trump’s calamitous economic plan.  This despite the fact the new President’s plan could add up to $20 trillion to our nation’s debt, according to a recent study by Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.  Their report revealed that our nation’s federal debt would soar to $39.5 Trillion by 2026, double the current debt.  

But now the day has arrived and Donald Trump and his Republican allies have been handed Washington to them on a silver plater by frustrated and angry voters.  Those voters elected Trump because of their disdain for politicians who consistently promise one thing but deliver something altogether different.

A Call to Action

We’ve all been told, “it matters who governs.”  But it will only be true if grassroots Americans do more than simply vote.  They… or we must remain engaged.   Our voices must be heard in an unprecedented, unmistakable, and unambiguous manner!  Trump and our Senators and Representatives must know that they were not elected to maintain the fiscal status quo.  

The Tea Party, and all fiscally conservative Americans, must, like Rand Paul, call out Republicans and Donald Trump. We must warn them that they were not elected to put the final nail in our fiscal coffin.

Trump cares not about the media, the social elite, the Hollywood snobs, or the connected wealthy, as he once again reaffirmed this week in his most recent press conference and barrage of tweets.  But I do believe there is one demographic to whom Trump will listen: the grassroots, the blue collar workers, the forgotten middle class, and the traditional American, who still believe that if you work hard and play by the rules, you will be rewarded.  

So it is incumbent on you and me to reach out… once again, to an elite ruling class.  It is necessary for us to remind them that we sent them to Washington to repudiate the status quo by restoring fiscal responsibility; honoring the Constitution; and empowering the free market.  Reestablishing these three pillars, which are the core values of the tea party movement, will enable our great ship of state to slowly but surely reset its course in the direction of real prosperity, the kind that our Founding Fathers envisioned.  But as we do the work to reshape our nation, let us never forget that fiscal prosperity will only flow from men and women of decent, moral character.  And we will only “Make America Great Again” if we first Make America Good Again, as I discussed in my previous article of the same title.  

So will you join me in engaging with our elected officials?  Will you pick up the phone and call, or fire off an email to Donald Trump, your Senators & Congressman to express your views about the upcoming budget battles?  I trust you will.  (Click on the highlighted links for their contact info.)