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The Wildly Profitable Gift Shop on the Titanic: The Dilemma

The Wildly Profitable Gift Shop on the Titanic: The Dilemma

The Wildly Profitable Gift Shop on The Titanic-Part 1

“A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”  Proverbs 27:12 NLT  

It was April 14, 1912, day 4 of Margaret Fuller’s virgin voyage on board the Titanic. Things could not be better. Her bid to open the only gift shop on the new mega-ship had been accepted three months earlier. She had operated other shops on several ocean liners during the past decade.  As a result, she had achieved some degree of success and affluence from those years of hard work, sacrifice and optimism. 

RMS_Titanic_3 (1)But none of those other shops had begun with such a burst of passenger excitement, which directly translated to record setting sales. In the first three days of the voyage, her shop’s revenue had already surpassed the sales of the last two transatlantic voyages combined. Margaret could not be more pleased. 

As she rose early to head up for a quick breakfast before opening her shop, Margaret walked by one of the twenty lifeboats that were stowed securely on the boat’s deck.  For a brief moment her mind flashed back to some reports she had read prior to their departure.  Some had expressed concern that there were more passengers on board than the lifeboats could carry.  But Margaret quickly pushed the thought from her mind, fully confident that a ship the size of the Titanic, with all its safety systems, was completely secure.  It was certainly too big to falter along the 3000 mile journey.  

Sales were strong again on that fourth day of the voyage.  The passengers seemed eager to spend.  Their excitement and mood could not be more upbeat.  There were other small business owners and entrepreneurs on board who all seemed to be experiencing the same results that Margaret was realizing. 

That evening, Margaret sat down to write down her thoughts in her journal, as she had been doing for several years now:

Day 4:  Life is great.  Another record day.  Sales are phenomenal.  People are happy.  The only concern I have is whether I will run out of inventory on our return trip to England.  Not that such a problem would be bad.  Who would have ever imagined I would sell out my entire inventory?  This new venture on board one of the greatest sea-going vessels of our time is something I could have never imagined.  And the likelihood that anything could go wrong at this point is beyond my wildest imagination.  Well, I better get some sleep.  Tomorrow will be another busy day, no doubt.  Good night diary…

Margaret readied herself for bed, said a quick prayer, and was soon in a deep sleep.

As Margaret slept, she began dreaming that she was hearing sirens going off.  The more she tried to ignore the sirens, the louder they seemed to get.  Soon the sirens were accompanied by a jolting and lurching and she then realized: This isn’t a dream!  The sirens were really going off.  The articles on her dresser had just been thrown across the room onto the floor.  She heard glass breaking in her bathroom as the mirror fell off the wall.  Down the hall, outside her door, she could hear people screaming. 

Margaret was now wide awake.  This was no dream.  Rather, it was a real nightmare. As she grabbed her housecoat, and dashed out her cabin door, Margaret’s mind flashed back to the lifeboat she had walked by the day before.  She tried to control a panicked and sinking feeling as she considered the fact that if the lifeboats were needed, she might not make it onto one of them. 

Leaving_the_sinking_linerAs she shot up the stairs to the main deck, her panic suddenly turned to terror.  Crew members were yelling to everyone to head for the lifeboats, screaming to them that the ship had struck an object of some sort. There was little time before the unthinkable would happen, they were warning.  It was clear the unsinkable ship was going down, and only those who were fortunate enough to scramble onto one of the lifeboats would survive.  

As she ran towards one of the lifeboats, the ship suddenly lurched violently, and Margaret was thrown several yards into the air before she  slammed back down onto the deck.  She was dazed and shaken.  Her entire body ached.  But she had enough presence of mind to realize she had to make it to a lifeboat. 

Margaret half crawled and half ran to the nearest lifeboat and began to fight her way through the others who were all trying to board it.  She was ashamed of her actions as she clawed her way past other screaming and terrorized passengers.  But Margaret knew that if she were courteous, she would not make it.   As the lifeboat began to swing over the side and above the freezing dark waters below, Margaret lunged for it, barely grasping the edge of the small boat, as a strong arm dragged her aboard.   And then, everything grew pitch black as they descended into the ocean below.

Margaret could hear screams from above.  It was sheer terror and no doubt they were the last sounds that many who were still on board would make.  She was told that the lifeboat they were on was the last one.  There were no more.  Those left behind were no doubt destined for a horrendous fate.  

Briefly, Margaret thought about her gift shop, her livelihood, her fortune and her dreams.  They were all going down with the ship.  Just hours earlier she couldn’t have been more upbeat, more optimistic, more confident of the profitable future that was in store for her.  Now, it all seemed so meaningless, so short-sighted, and so mundane.  She hauntingly remembered the warnings some had made prior to the Titanic’s departure about the inadequate number of lifeboats.  She thought about the hundreds of poor souls who were even then sinking to the depths of the Atlantic.  And then she realized the truth. 

The Titanic was not too big to falter. It was not too big too fail.  And yet, it took a catastrophic loss of life for that reality to set in.

It was 130 years earlier, during the Revolutionary War, that George Washington commented, in strong disapproval, about how many of our early countrymen put private gain before “the essential rights and liberties of the present generation, and of millions yet unborn.”   Our first President was concerned that a short-sighted focus by citizens could lead to a long-term loss of our most sacred values: Life, Liberty and more.  

Like Margaret on board the Titanic, in my fictional story, today’s entrepreneurs, corporate executives and managers are busy about the business of making money, turning a profit and increasing their own personal fortunes.  Obviously, in and of itself, this is not a bad thing.  But as our first President noted, we can often pursue our own private gain at the expense of our “essential rights and liberties.”  Sadly, because of this tendency by too many today, our nation is bearing down on its own iceberg.

In our hearts we all know this.  The sirens are going off.  The warnings are everywhere.   

$150 trillion in debt

a collapsing political system

extreme societal polarization and division

rampant corruption in Washington and our state houses

greed has infected our populace

unrest and violence is growing

ethics and morals have all but disintegrated

religion has little influence in our society

terrorism is rising

And there are innumerable more warning signs.  And yet, it appears that so many of us are so disengaged.  We ignore the obvious. We are more focused on seeking the profit of our “gift shops” than heeding the perilous warnings.

But unless we wake up before it’s too late, there will be a catastrophic event that will make that last sale, that last promotion, that last quarter’s results, seem so mundane, so futile, so meaningless.  

Have we reached the point of no return?  I do not know.  

I pray that we can avert the iceberg that appears to be directly in our path.  But you and I will determine whether or not we do. Will we prioritize our private gain?  Or will we, like our founding fathers, prioritize the “essential rights and liberties of the present generation and of the millions yet unborn?”  Our actions today and tomorrow will reveal our priorities, and the destiny of America.

Next week, in Part 2, we’ll explore some practical steps that we can take to avert the iceberg, or, if the worst should happen, what we can do to prepare for such a disastrous event.  But I’d love to hear your thought before then as well so shoot me an email and post a comment and let me know what you’re thinking.  Until then…

Mark

To Judge or Not to Judge?

To Judge or Not to Judge?

To Judge or Not to Judge

 

In this day in time, there’s hardly a week that passes where some major moral issue isn’t being debated in the court of public opinion.  Whether it’s via the courts, primetime TV or social media, it seems more and more of the values that many of us and our parents and grandparents grew up with are now on trial and under full attack.  From marriage and abortion, to homosexuality and transgender facilities, the standards that have been in place for generations are now being undermined in an ever more intense manner.

At the same time as these cultural and political battles are taking place, there is an effort by the same elite to stamp out all dissent, whether via political correctness, so-called tolerance, or even through courts, legislation and government regulation. One other popular method that those attacking our most fundamental values are fond to employ is by using the Bible itself to silence Christians.  In particular, those who frequently despise the Holy Book, are all too eager to use select passages to either advance their agenda or hush poorly informed Christians, who may not dust their Bible off that often. 

A passage that is continuously misquoted, perhaps more than any other in the Bible, is in Matthew 7 where we read, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”  And so it would seem that with one short verse, the entire Christian argument on any of today’s difficult issues is silenced.  As the passage goes on to say, “why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Hypocrite!  First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

No one wants to be a hypocrite, even though, if we are honest with ourselves, there are areas in our lives where we all say one thing and sadly live another.  So doesn’t this passage clearly say we must remove the plank out of our eye before we can remove the speck out of someone else’s eye?  So how can we ever speak out or “judge” any matters of any importance that involve our “brothers” or even our friends or neighbors?  

The truth is that if you and I are the judge and it’s our own law, then we clearly cannot judge others.  If the standard by which we evaluate others and their actions is a subjective, personal standard, then who are we to tell someone else what is right or wrong?  In fact, if the standard is my own, and thus subjective, then you likely have your own as well.  And so then there is no objective, absolute standard, and thus no right or wrong.

But there are in fact absolutes, contrary to today’s prevailing philosophy.  We all know this both inherently and because we have experienced these absolutes.  The law and even nature are both quick to remind us of them.  Break the speed limit, and blue lights will remind you of certain absolutes.  Leave a few dollars off your tax return, and the nation’s favorite governmental agency will send you a bill with interest and penalties for forgetting that income.  Strike someone with malice, and a man in a black robe may sentence you to years behind bars.  Walk off a building, and you’ll quickly learn that nature itself attests to absolutes.  So it’s clear we live accountable to absolutes all the time, whether we like them or not.  

But back to the “judge not” passage.  The Bible is a book of history, prophecy, morality and spirituality, but it is ultimately God’s message to mankind.  The Bible instructs mankind on matters of morality and from those precepts, man is then able to discern right and wrong.  He is not the judge, as God established the law.  Man is simply one who discerns right from wrong, good from evil, based on God’s absolute standard.  So God judges.  Man discerns.

When you or I speak out on a moral issue that is delineated in Scripture, the judgment being made is not merely our own, but it is one based on a moral standard that supersedes our own.  In this case, it is God’s.  The Bible is clear in its admonition to reject evil, embrace good and expose darkness, as these passages clearly illustrate:

Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”  Ephesians 5:11

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.”  Isaiah 5:20

Depart from evil and do good.”  Psalm 37:27

Putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor.”  Ephesians 4:25

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Romans 12:21

Finally, we are called in John 7:24 (just a few verses after the “judge not” passage) to actually “judge with righteous judgment.”  This passage clearly suggests that when “judging” is done righteously, meaning according to God’s perfect standard, then that judgment is not only appropriate but it is commanded.

So the next time you hear someone misquote Matthew 7:1 by telling you to stop judging, consider that they are doing so out of either ignorance, or worse, they seek to simply silence you.  But now you know better.

I’m Mad As Hell so I’m voting for…

I’m Mad As Hell so I’m voting for…

Mad As Hell


In 1976 the film Network featured a scene in which a fictional TV anchor, in response to the overall decline in America due to inflation, unemployment, crime and a recession, encouraged his viewers to stand up, go to their windows, stick their heads out and yell, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”  While the movie was a fictional story, the plot highlighted the mood of a large number of Americans at the time.  The relevant scene can be viewed here in case you’ve never seen it. (warning: some strong language)

Similar to the movie Network, if there’s one word that describes many voters 30 years later, it is anger.  From the outset of this latest Presidential cycle, we’ve seen poll after poll affirm that voters are absolutely disgusted with politicians in Washington, and the sentiment isn’t limited to one party.  

On the Democratic side, we have seen Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, garner 41% of the vote to date, as democrat voters dismiss the heir apparent, Hillary Clinton.  Meanwhile, on the Republican side we’ve witnessed voters reject candidates who have any ties to the elite establishment, opting to support Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.  In fact, these two candidates have garnered two thirds of the votes cast to date in Republican primaries and caucuses.

It’s understandable that voters have grown angry and frustrated with politicians, particularly on the Republican side.  When candidates at all levels campaign on principles that support limited government, promote fiscal responsibility, and champion life and family, voters expect them to govern according to those values, which are affirmed in the Republican platform.  Yet, it has become the norm for politicians, once elected, to quickly turn their backs on their campaign promises. Shamefully, these men and women chose the party elite, special interests and big business over the will of the voters who elected them.

While anger is an understandable reaction to these self-serving men and women, is anger in and of itself a reliable response to such betrayal by politicians?  Should we trust anger to guide us in our selection of the individual who would lead our nation, and even the free world, in some of the most crucial matters of our time?

There is a proverb that states, “A quick tempered man acts foolishly” and another warns, “Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.”  No doubt anger is a natural response when those who should be accountable to us show us such little respect while they trample our Constitution and seek their own self-interest.  But it’s one thing to get angry and quite another thing to respond in anger.

Responding in anger leads to many unintended consequences, and as the verses above indicate, it places us in the company of fools, or at least leads to foolish behavior.  Throwing a hammer after accidentally hitting your thumb might be a natural response, but it will likely damage a nearby wall.  Likewise, choosing a presidential candidate who claims he’ll build a wall, just because we’re angry, without scrutinizing the substance of that candidate, borders on the same foolish behavior.  Worse though, the repercussions of such an uninformed decision could prove catastrophic for our nation.

There are a host of decisions of much lesser consequence that we spend hours and even days, at times, deliberating over.  When I recently purchased a television, I spent time on the internet researching which brand and features were the best and then made two trips to Best Buy before selecting the TV.  And you no doubt have done the same when you purchased your last car, home or perhaps even a toaster.  Yet it’s amazing, if not sad, that many in this election cycle are simply selecting a candidate that pushes all the right buttons and says all the right things, because they’re “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

The challenge for all of us who are angry over what is taking place in Washington is to use our logic rather than anger to make choices.  Logic can guide while anger seeks to mislead.  Reason will prevail while rage simply destroys.  But will Americans discipline themselves to resist their inner urge to simply “burn it down and start over” as the mantra of some is these days?  Will anger reign or reason prevail?  The answer to this question may determine what kind of nation we have a year or two from now.

Mark

Photo courtesy of Network movie
A Vote for Trump is a Vote for Hillary — Why I will never vote for Donald

A Vote for Trump is a Vote for Hillary — Why I will never vote for Donald

Trump-Clinton

As I’ve begun to share with folks that if Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee I will NOT vote for him, the standard response I hear is: “if you don’t vote for Trump you are voting for Hillary!” The intent with such a statement is to either 1) shame or coerce me into voting for Trump or 2) demand that I fall in line with the party nominee.

I find it ironic though that as Republicans have grown increasingly upset over their party and its unwillingness to live by its own principles, many are now embracing a man whose track record is the antithesis of the foundational values of the Republican party.

Contrary to the shallow argument that “a vote for anyone but Trump is a vote for Hillary,” one should consider this truth: A vote for Trump is actually a vote for Hillary. You might find your head swimming after that last statement so hang on and let me explain.

I contend that a person’s track record will always reveal the truth of who that person is and it will predict how that individual will act in the future. In the case of a politician, his words should be carefully examined and compared, with great skepticism, against his actual record. So when it comes to Donald Trump, let’s see if my theory holds any truth: that a vote for the Donald is in fact a vote for Hillary. Below are more than 30 examples where both Trump and Hillary are identical in their views on a number of key issues:

Of course there are areas in which their records diverge but when one considers the myriad of consistencies in the positions of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the only conclusion I can come to is that Trump is no conservative. But even worse, the man is a faux Republican. If ever there was a RINO (Republican In Name Only), Trump is such a candidate, but on steroids. Truthfully, Trump is simply a liberal democrat who has deceptively embraced the Republican label, with nothing to justify his conversion.

Over the years I’ve heard the following statement made about those professing to be Christians:  “If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you as one?”  Perhaps though we should modify that statement slightly and apply it to Mr. Trump as follows:  “If Donald Trump were put on trial for being a Republican, would there be enough evidence to convict him as one?  Or would the evidence suggest he is something else, say a liberal progressive Democrat?” Follow the evidence and you’ll have the answer.

There’s a verse of Scripture that states, “By their fruits you will know them.” In the case of Donald Trump, his fruit of over 50 years is well known and if we are willing to objectively examine it, there can be no question as to his liberal bona fides. But will Americans care? We shall know soon enough… but it may be too late.

Mark

Election 2016: The Most Critical one of Your Lifetime?

Election 2016: The Most Critical one of Your Lifetime?

Cruz, Trump, Rubio, Carson, Bush, Kasich? What’s a conservative to do? Who is the right pick? How can one determine which politician to trust?

As I’ve thought about, studied and researched each of these candidates, I’ve certainly seen strengths and weaknesses in all of them. But at the end of the day, you and I can only pick one for our preferred nominee (assuming you’ve already ruled out the two socialists in the other party). So what is the best way to winnow out the candidates who are either not who they say they are or are ill-equipped to lead our nation back to our founding principles?

Over time, what a person does will accurately reveal who they are and what they value. As the saying goes, “you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.” So if one is willing to be objective and truly evaluate a person’s track record, one can very safely predict the future actions of that person. At the end of the day, when we are faced with difficult decisions or stressful scenarios, we will all default to the core of who we are. And so it is with all six of the remaining Republican candidates for President.

If we understand this truth and are willing to objectively apply it, we can rationally mark off those candidates whose track records will not live up to scrutiny. Of course, it will also require us to set aside our own biases, preferences and even the temptation to believe what they claim. But what do we value most, simply being told what we want to hear, or searching for truth and acting out of reason versus emotion? Consider this. When you go to a doctor, would you trust one who is charismatic, handsome, and/or winsome, but he does not tell you the truth of your illness, choosing rather tell you what you want to hear?

So as I evaluated the remaining candidates, I have done what I’m suggesting you do as well. I evaluated each of these candidates, and slowly, deliberately and comprehensively, I concluded that Senator Ted Cruz is the candidate whose track record is the most consistent and verifiable over the course of the last 30 years. While not perfect, Cruz is not simply a “campaign conservative” but rather he is the consistent conservative.

I write this article for two reasons. First, I’m seeking to provide those who are still struggling to select their candidate with some of my reasons for selecting Ted Cruz. And secondly, to encourage others who might be supporting a different candidate to at least reconsider their choice.

The Constitution

If there is one document that separates us from every other nation in the world, it is our Constitution. Our nation’s founding document contains not only the principles that created the most exceptional nation in world history, but it established a form of government that has enabled We the People to govern ourselves through men and women who were to remain accountable to the People. Because of the greatness of this document and the role it is meant to play in constraining the passions and mischief of men, the reverence and allegiance any politician reflects to this document should be of paramount importance to all Americans.

This perhaps is one of the greatest strengths of Ted Cruz. During his years as a teenager, Ted Cruz memorized the Constitution, and its values have guided his political views and ideologies throughout his entire adult life. His years in front of the US Supreme Court as Texas Solicitor General led to many victories for the Constitution on matters that are foremost to conservatives including the 2nd Amendment, US sovereignty, and religious liberty.

Life & Marriage

In an era when the biblical values of life and marriage have been under extreme attack, Ted Cruz has been a stalwart voice to support life and defend marriage. As the murderous policies of Planned Parenthood have been exposed, Cruz has continued to call for the defunding of this organization that profits from the taking of innocent life.

Religious Liberty

As Christians in particular come under greater attack in our nation, Ted Cruz has been a steady and consistent supporter of religious liberty. Cruz successfully defended the public display of the Ten Commandments and the words “under God” in our nation’s pledge before the SCOTUS, kept the cross standing at the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial, defended Hobby Lobby against Obamacare’s contraception mandate, and so much more.

Repeal ObamaCare

Senator Ted Cruz stood alone in September 2013 in his 21-hour marathon anti-Obamacare “filibuster.” While several other Senators chimed in, Cruz’ has remained the foremost voice in repealing Obamacare seeking to replace it with “common sense health care reform that makes health insurance personal and affordable and keeps the government from getting between Americans and their doctors.”

Illegal Immigration

In 2013, Ted Cruz led the fight in Congress to defeat the Gang of Eight amnesty bill, which would have extended amnesty to over ten million illegals. Democrat Chuck Schumer (D) and Republican Presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio were the key sponsors and spokesmen for the Gang of Eight bill. One of the bill’s most outspoken critics, Senator Jeff Sessions credited Cruz with the ultimate defeat of the bill saying, “I believe without the vigorous opposition from Ted Cruz, this bill very likely would have passed.” The Cruz plan to stop illegal immigration includes securing the border, restoring the rule of law, and reforming immigration to protect Americans.

Abolish the IRS / Replace with Flat Tax

The Cruz simple flat tax plan would establish one flat 10% tax rate for individuals with a postcard being used to file one’s taxes. A family of four would pay no taxes on their first $36,000 of income. Additionally, the business flat tax would abolish the corporate income tax and payroll tax, and replace them with a 16% tax. The death tax, Obamacare taxes and more would also be eliminated. The IRS as we know it would be abolished.

Flat Tax Postcard

Defeat ISIS & Secure our Nation

Believing that America is an exceptional and unique nation, Ted Cruz has proposed a six-point plan that would position the US as a shining beacon, to exert world leadership, rebuild our military, defeat ISIS, protect the homeland, and rip up the Iran deal. American Spectator recently stated, “Cruz presents a well-thought out, foreign and national defense policy based on the original, Reagan conservatism. One that focuses on advancing America’s security interests around the world, not on sacrificing American lives and treasure on replacing foreign dictators… birthing new democracies, or building jobs and prosperity in foreign lands.”

Appointment of Supreme Court Justices

Justice Scalia’s death over the weekend has highlighted the strong likelihood that up to four Supreme Court Justices could be replaced by the next President. Given the razor-thin 5-4 decisions that have been rendered on issues as foundational to our nation as religious liberty, abortion, 2nd Amendment and more, the judicial philosophy of the next President’s is critical. Ted Cruz has praised Scalia for his efforts in “returning the focus to the original meaning of the text (of the Constitution) after decades of judicial activism.”

Stand Against the Washington Establishment

Ted Cruz, while only one of 100 Senators, has consistently stood firm for the values he campaigned on, and this has frequently exposed the political schemes and corruption by congressional leaders in both parties. While the Washington establishment has rejected Cruz for his principled stands, this firmness of conviction will bode him well were he to lead from the Oval Office in 2017 as he continues to stand with the People vs. the Establishment. His Five for Freedom plan would eliminate the IRS, and the Departments of Education, Energy, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development.

Man of Faith

Too many politicians speak of faith, but their walk and particularly their policies are at odds with the faith they claim. Ted Cruz not only professes a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but his walk aligns with one who is truly a Christ follower. The policies he pursues are ones that both affirm the values of our Constitution while respecting the values of his faith. Hundreds of faith leaders have examined Cruz and have endorsed him for President.  At the same time, though Cruz has been quick to acknowledge he is not running as “Pastor in Chief.”

In closing, America is at a seminal moment. We are at a crossroads. The choice we make in 2016 will determine whether we will travel to a point of no return, leaving forever the Judeo/Christian principles of our founders. Will we embrace a candidate who quickens our base emotions or uses eloquent phrases, or will we examine the candidates’ track records to validate whether their talk matches their walk? We may not have another chance. This could be our last opportunity to restore the Constitution, the rule of law, and to call on God’s mercy and grace as we seek to restore our Constitution and the Creator to the rightful place in our nation. I pray you will join me in prayerfully supporting Ted Cruz for President.

Mark

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey. Used by permission.