Bill O’Reilly, the Fall & Proverbs 16:18

Bill O’Reilly, the Fall & Proverbs 16:18

The O’Reilly Factor and FoxNews.  Over the last two decades, these two entities became household names for literally millions of Americans. Holding the top spot in the prime time cable ratings is something most TV personalities would aspire for and, if achieved, would no doubt boast of. Bill O’Reilly was no exception. The fact is, Bill was never shy to remind his viewers of his unparalleled success.

Over the years I have watched my share of the O’Reilly Factor. And while I have agreed more often than not with many of the positions Bill would take, I found myself regularly perturbed with the man.  There is something about watching someone spout off braggadociously, night after night, that can turn a person from a follower to a critic.

More than once during the last decade I’ve thought of Proverbs 16:18 when listening to O’Reilly pontificate about his infallible views on nearly any subject under the sun.  That verse asserts:

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

It’s likely that we all struggle with that five letter word:  Pride.  And perhaps the more successful one becomes, and the more he or she is in the public eye, the greater the temptation is to think highly of oneself.  

I’ve often heard the expression “a self-made man” used of those who achieve some level of success.  But I’ve always been deeply troubled by such a view.  If one affirms God and His sovereign role in our world and lives, then I would suggest it is pride-gone-wild to assert one is a self-made anything.  True, we play a part in our future, with every choice we make.  But I believe it is dangerously wrong to buy into the notion that we are the reason for our success.

The truth is there is a greater Power at work.  I liken it to a farmer who sows his fields.  Sure, he planted the seed, but God gives the rains, sun and the ultimate increase.  And even further, God gives the farmer the resources, health and strength to even plant the seed.  

Likewise, in our lives, we can plant seeds of success by the choices we make.  But it is ultimately God who honors those choices.  Only God can bless us with successes beyond our wildest dreams.  But when those dreams come to fruition, here are some questions that, depending on our answer, will determine whether pride has entered into our lives.  

What do we think? How do we act? What do we say to others? Whom do we thank? Is it ourselves or God?  

Deuteronomy 8:18 answers the last question with this affirmation:

“Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful…”

So as I think about Bill O’Reilly’s fall from the pinnacle of success to the depths of shame, I am saddened to see such a loss. Whether Bill is guilty or not of the charges leveled against him is beyond the scope of this article. But Bill’s arrogance and pompous attitude loom large for anyone willing to see them.  And sadly, I believe they drove the reason for his fall.

More important than Bill’s fall though, is this.  His failures force me to look in the mirror and test my motives, my attitudes, and my beliefs.  

Is there Pride in my life?  Do I possess a haughty spirit?  If so, then there is a fall and destruction in my future.  

What about you?  Have you considered these questions?  If not, I would challenge you to do that same.

At the end of the day, all that is good in our lives and all that we might accomplish or accumulate is only by God’s abundant blessings. Any explanation beyond that should cause us to seriously consider Proverbs 16:18… before it’s too late.

Epilogue:

One final thought.  As Bill O’Reilly falls, Tucker Carlson rises, being offered Bill’s former prime-time slot at 8pm.  It’s noteworthy to mention that Tucker Carlson is moving from his short stint at 9pm, after replacing Megyn Kelly, to the 8pm hour, the top slot in prime-time.  Will Tucker though, learn from Bill O’Reilly’s mistakes and resist the temptation to credit himself for his sudden success?  Time will tell.  And let’s hope humility reigns.  

Thanksgiving in Nepal

Thanksgiving in Nepal

Earlier this week I returned from a two week trip to Nepal with a team of five guys.  Our adventure flew us from Atlanta to Doha, Qatar and on to Kathmandu, Nepal.  I’ve been to quite a few countries over the years, and oftentimes my travels have taken me to a number of places with very low standards of living.  But as soon as we ventured from Tribuhaven International Airport into the streets of Kathmandu, I knew that I was in for an experience like none other.  

While cell phones were everywhere, basic standards of living, like flushing toilets, potable water, dependable electricity, paved roads, and even something as ordinary as hot water in hotels were rare in Kathmandu, even more so in the mountains, where we were headed the following day.

The next morning, we boarded a short flight from Kathmandu to Tumlingtar, a very small town sitting alongside the Arun River.  Out the left side of the plane, as we flew east, rose the Himalayan Mountain Range, with its crown jewel, Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world at 29,029 feet.  In fact, eight of the ten tallest mountains in the world reside in Nepal.  

The following days would test our bodies and psyche as we departed Tumlingtar.  With backpacks on our shoulders, we headed for a canoe ride across the Arun River, a jeep ride we’ll never forget over some of the dustiest, deeply rutted roads imaginable, and many miles of hiking up mountains and through tiny little villages in some of the remotest parts of Nepal.  Everywhere we went over the next several days we were met with continuous stares, acknowledging the fact that in some of these little villages, no American had ever been seen.

As we traveled throughout Nepal over the near two weeks we were there, the word “thanksgiving” came to mind over and over.  As I compared my life back in the United States with that of the Nepalis, I couldn’t help but thank God for His providential blessings.  Whether it was our standard of living, the liberties our Constitution affirms to us, or the spiritual truths that were a part of our nation’s DNA, the American experiment is something we all too often take for granted.  

Americans like to acknowledge our many blessings annually on the 3rd Thursday of November with turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie and football.  But truthfully, as we look around the world, we should celebrate Thanksgiving this very day, for our blessings are too numerous to count.  Whether one lives in a penthouse overlooking Manhattan, in a suburban middle class neighborhood, or subsidized housing in an inner city, each one of us is part of an elite body of citizens, even with our diverse socioeconomic levels.  As “Americans” we are all afforded unlimited opportunities and the freedoms to pursue them.  But lest we become puffed up, we should remember that the status we enjoy has been bestowed on us by a merciful and loving God, and that there is nothing inherent in us that would merit such blessings.

As we think of the many nations of the world, we should remember that God established the times and boundaries of each nation (Acts 17:26), and He also blesses those nations who affirm Him as their God (Psalm 33:12).  But as I was abroad these last couple of weeks, I came across this verse in Psalm 9:17“The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.”  There is no doubt in my mind that America is rapidly forgetting God, and the division, turmoil, instability, and even violence we are seeing across our land suggests that we are beginning to reap the consequences of such forgetfulness.  

There is really only one solution to restoring our Republic.  And it begins with thanksgiving and humility.  I pray that we will all begin to reassess our relationship to Almighty God, and as we do, also count our many blessings.  And let’s make everyday a day of thanksgiving.

Footnote:

I recently purchased a DJI Mavic Pro drone, a state-of-the-art technological wonder.  It’s a unique compact drone, designed so that the arms can be folded down and transported with ease, but still possessing some of the most highly sophisticated features available.  I was able to take the drone on the trip to Nepal and captured many incredible aerial views.  Below are just a few of the videos that will give you just a little sampling of our team’s experience.  I trust you enjoy them.

 

 

 

The Blessings of Family, Friends & Future

The Blessings of Family, Friends & Future

With Christmas just over and New Year around the corner, it’s a week when so many of us enjoy time reminiscing with family and friends, while planning for the year ahead.  Christmas, the day that begins the week, is all about family when you consider the reason for the day.

Two thousand years ago, a divinely chosen couple in Bethlehem became a family when the Creator Himself chose to enter this world as an innocent child.  The purpose of that child, Jesus, was to regather His spiritual family that had been lost because of the choice of the very first family thousands of years earlier in the Garden of Eden.

So I thank Jesus for the family He has given me.  From my wife and two sons and daughter-in-law, to my father, mother, brother, sister and all of their extended families, I am truly blessed.  But there is another family that dwarfs my physical family in size.  It is my spiritual one, that extends from Tennessee to the four corners of this world, from the present to the past and into the future.  This spiritual family is one that includes so many brothers and sisters that it will take an eternity to get to know them all.  And so this, yet unmet family, is also someone I am deeply grateful for.

But along our journey during our “three score and ten” years on earth, we all have the opportunity to make so many friends along the way.  Some we enjoy for years.  Others for a few moments.  But the blessings and words of truth we experience through these friends can deeply impact our lives in a way that often changes its trajectory.  And for this I am deeply grateful.  

But with a New Year just moments away, we must consider the future.  2017 is full of the unknown and will undoubtedly include many joys but heartaches as well.  Our future is largely like a lump of clay, without form but able to be shaped into whatever object we desire.  Will the object it becomes be one resulting from little thought and simply coincidence?  Or will 2017 be a year in which its outcome is one of deliberate planning, choices and consideration of God’s purposes for our lives and His plans?  

I trust your New Year is one that is thoughtful, deliberate and includes the blessings of God in all that you do as you seek to honor Him.  

Will the Trump Presidency Touch Down or Crash Land?

Will the Trump Presidency Touch Down or Crash Land?

will-the-trump-presidency-touch-down-or-crash-land

As I peer out the window at the terrain below, jetting over the heartland of America, I cannot help but ponder the future for our nation following the unexpected and historical win by Donald Trump.  

We saw so many “firsts” during Election 2016.  The first billionaire to win the Presidency.  The first woman to ever receive the nomination for President of a major party.  The first election where both candidates’ unfavorable ratings were at historical highs.  And so many more.

Today I am indeed grateful to God that we are not referring to Hillary Clinton as President-elect.  If you believe that God is still intimately engaged in His creation, then you understand that Daniel 2:21 was once again affirmed in this election in which we were all given the privilege and responsibility to participate:  “And He changes the times and seasons; He removes kings and raise up kings.” 

While I am thankful that Hillary Clinton did not prevail, admittedly I remain a skeptic as to Trump’s veracity, trustworthiness and character.  My concerns will either be affirmed or invalidated in the months and years to come.  And honestly I pray they are proven wrong.  But one thing is certain.  As Donald Trump transitions from candidate to President, some very distinct realities will set in.

If you’ve ever flown, as I am doing today, you know that there can be something magical about soaring 30,000 feet above the earth at 600+ mph, seeing the earth below you whiz by.  The details of all that lies below is indistinguishable from that altitude. Similarly though, if one is glancing up from the ground into the atmosphere, the specifics of an aircraft is also unknown.

What airline is it?  What is its tail number?  Is it a Boeing or Airbus?  Who is inside?  There’s no telling until the plane lands. 

But when that silver capsule finally touches down, the answers will become clear.  If there are defects in the plane, they will be exposed. And as the passengers disembark, their true identity will be revealed. 

Over the last year, the Trump campaign has been like the jet cruising at 30,000 feet. Its flight plan has been purposefully one of generalities with limited substance dealing in poll-tested, populist issues.  But to an angry and disgusted populace, the vague flight plan proved wildly popular, with statements like these fueling Trump’s flight:

“I will build a great wall on our southern border and I will make Mexico pay for that wall.  Mark my words!”

“Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the US until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”  (Interestingly this statement was removed from Trump’s website 11/09/16, the day after his election.  See here.)

“I’m going to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

“We’re going to have a special prosecutor for Hillary. If I were President, Hillary would already be in jail.”

But the Trump campaign is now descending from its year-long high altitude voyage, to the reality of a Trump administration.  As the implementation of the billionaire’s vision proceeds, which was strong on emotionally charged rhetoric but soft on specifics, any blemishes in Trump’s policies and flaws in his style and guiding philosophies will quickly be tested and revealed. 

Fortunately for Trump, he is landing his Presidency on a “Republican-friendly” runway, given the reality that our new President will be advantaged with a GOP-controlled Senate and House. And while there are many Republicans in Congress who are not fans of Donald, the way in which Trump won will give him the gravitas that many of his predecessors lacked. 

So will President-elect Donald Trump touch down in Washington, prepared to govern and deliver specific solutions that are as popular and successful as his campaign rhetoric was in its lacking of those same specifics? Can the reality TV star be accountable to voters to follow through in the drudgery of day to day governing?  Will Trump’s decisions over the next four years remain in alignment with the positions he claimed he supported during his campaign?  Or will President Trump revert back to the antithetical views and values he embraced during the many decades leading up to his Republican “conversion.” Will the dozens of campaign promises Trump made, many outrageous in nature, be fulfilled?  And if not, will his supporters even care?

The answers to these questions will determine whether President Trump’s arrival and tenure in Washington will be a successful and controlled touch down or a disastrous crash landing. For the sake of our nation, our communities and our loved ones, I pray our new President is not only wildly successful, both politically and personally, but that the man who disembarks in Washington is a man of great character and integrity. 

“What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?”  Mark 8:36

Mark
Hey Kaepernick: Gratefulness is a choice

Hey Kaepernick: Gratefulness is a choice

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Why is it that some who possess the greatest this world has to offer are the most ungrateful, while some who have the least in terms of worldly possessions are the most grateful?

Specifically, I’ve watched the antics of Colin Kaepernick over the last several weeks and been amazed at the choices and behavior of a man whose life could only be characterized as a dream beyond one’s wildest imaginations.  With a stratospheric compensation contract totaling over $100 million, adoring fans, celebrity status, health, youth, a lifetime of opportunities ahead of him, and so much more, Kaepernick is blessed with an elite status that 99% of the billions of people around the globe cannot even begin to comprehend. 

Colin’s biological mother is white and his father is black.  But his mother, destitute and single, gave Kaepernick up for adoption to white parents.  No one could have imagined that this child, who was likely destined for a very ordinary life at best, would achieve the status he has attained.  Consider that Colin’s weekly compensation of nearly $300,000 is approximately six times the US annual median household income, and his annual compensation is nearly 300 times that same number. 

Blessed?  Unquestionably!

I have always subscribed to the biblical principal that “To whom much is given, much is required.”  And the truth is that just about any American has been given much, when compared with the other 7 billion citizens of our globe.  Yet, there are a few ultra-elite who have been blessed with unfathomably more than their fellow Americans.

The opportunities that are available to them to use their status and the platform they enjoy is exponential, with the ability to speak positively about the struggles plaguing our society and culture as well as engaging in uplifting meaningful activity.

Yet, all too often, their approach is one of condemnation versus uplifting.  Rather than playing a positive role model, they epitomize what is actually wrong with our society and culture.

There is a verse in scripture that says, “I have found that whatever state I am in, to be content.” 

In this passage, we read that the Apostle Paul was an elite of his society, in terms of education, status and as a citizen of Rome.  Despite his status, Paul often found himself maligned and persecuted, enduring oppression, injustice, incarceration, and actual personal harm.  Yet he made a choice to be grateful and content, in spite of his circumstances.  

Of course, Paul offers his secret as to how and why he was able to make such a choice two verses later when he notes: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Therein lies the secret.  It is not in our own strength that we can exhibit gratefulness.  But rather through Christ.  And when we do so, we can truly begin to peel back the deception that can so often lead us to false conclusions about our status.

As Americans we truly are blessed, despite whatever circumstances in which we might find ourselves.  This is not to say that we must simply roll over and accept unacceptable scenarios including injustice.  However, we also should not become ungrateful for all the blessings that are available to us.  But when we are tempted to resort to the negative, we can always seek Christ’s strength to express the proper gratefulness, regardless of our circumstances.

Mark