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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.  

The Wildly Profitable Gift Shop on the Titanic – Part 2: Our Response

The Wildly Profitable Gift Shop on the Titanic – Part 2: Our Response

Wildly Profitable Gift Shop on Titanic - Part 2

Last week I shared a fictional story about an entrepreneur on the Titanic and how, despite the overwhelming success this businesswoman was having, when the mega-ship struck the iceberg, her wildly profitable business meant very little as the ship succumbed to its watery fate.  Sadly, hundreds of lives were lost as the ship’s captain failed to heed the many warning signs that were provided to him.

Similarly, our nation is barreling down on its own iceberg and like the Titanic’s crew, those we have entrusted to guide the American ship are negligently steering us towards a direct hit.  Just as the passengers on board the Titanic, all too many Americans are either oblivious, careless, or are in disbelief about the coming disaster.  

In my post last week, I highlighted just a few warning signs that point to an upcoming catastrophe:   

$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

For those of us who see the catastrophic iceberg front and center, is there a way to avoid its destruction?  And if not, what should we be doing to prepare our lifeboat for that coming reality?

As a follower of Christ, I seek to approach life through the prism of the spiritual.  I cannot separate what is going on in America and our world from God.  So it’s through that paradigm that I seek solutions.  But I realize that everyone does not share that same view.  So my thoughts that follow will be broken into two categories:   General & Spiritual.  

While this is not an exhaustive list of suggestions, it is provided in the hopes that it will spur you and I to take action to prepare for the potential that our “captains” will not or cannot take the corrective measures that are necessary.

General Preparation

I believe our Federal Government is gone.  It has grown so large, so corrupt, and so far beyond the scope of its duties as outlined in the Constitution, that it is lost, but for a miracle from God Himself.  The potential that the Courts, Congress, the President and the multitude of behemoth federal agencies can be reformed is irreconcilable with reality.  So we must turn our attention closer to home, to our state and local governments, our families, neighbors, friends and local alliances and groups.  At the end of the day, this is where we will find the relationships that will sustain us and our communities and will be what we will look to, as the federal beast either dies in one calamitous event, or it simply become unable to meet the strain and stress of the mounting obligations it has created for itself.

State & Local:  Our local officials are still accessible, unlike our Federal “representatives.”  We can drive to the state capitol and sit down with them.  We can interact with them when they are in our communities.  We can attend a local county commission or city council meeting.  We can rally our networks to support initiatives that are good or oppose legislation that is harmful.  And because we can still do this, we can still have a voice in our government.  If you have not engaged in this manner, I strongly encourage you to do so.  We’ve all heard the age-old adage: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”  For too long, good men have done little in Washington and so we have lost our country at the federal level.  But we can still affect our local reality.  So be one of the good guys, step forward, engage, and make a difference, while you still can.

Hamilton County SheriffMeet your Sheriff:  If there is one position in your local elected government that is likely the most important of all, it is your County Sheriff.  Many have argued that the power of the sheriff within the boundaries of his jurisdiction is greater than that of the President of the United States.  That may come as a surprise to many, and some will certainly dispute it, but there is no doubt that your sheriff has immense power, for good or bad.  So it is crucial that you get to know him, influence him, and support him when he upholds the Constitution and Liberty, which he has sworn to protect.  Likewise, you should correct him when he veers off course.  The federal government is already tilting to the side of tyranny and as it continues in that direction, the role each county sheriff will play in protecting the unalienable rights and liberties of his constituents will be crucial.  But the time to prepare for that day is not later, but now.

Local Groups:  Engage in local groups and organizations that share your values.  Become an active participant.  Whether it’s a local political group, religious organization, farm group, prepper group, or some other civic organization, it’s critical that you establish networks with those you trust and value.  The time to develop relationships is before the stuff hits the fan.  Afterwards it will be too late.

Educate & Inform:  With the power of the internet, the world is at your fingertips.  The ability to get unfiltered information from sources other than the biased Main Stream Media (MSM) has never been better.  But your education is up to you.  Turn off the tube and set aside some time each week to become informed on topics of interest to you.  And then begin to share that information with others in a collaborative manner.  

Prepping:  While some view the concept of prepping as a tin-hat mentality, truthfully, we all prep to one degree or another.  If you doubt me, just wait until the next time a snow storm is forecasted in my home state of TN, or a hurricane or some other severe weather is predicted in your state.  Notice how quickly the food shelves are left bare at the local grocery store.  But there are smart and foolish ways to prep.  I would strongly encourage you to go to my friends at Patriot Post to access their Disaster Preparedness Page for an extensive list of guides and resources.  Not prepping for some kind of emergency is, in my view, foolish given the threatening clouds that we can all see all around us.

Personal Health:  It’s really sad but our personal health seems to mirror our nation’s health.  We have a nation that is sick financially, politically, morally, and spiritually and I don’t believe it’s any coincidence that the same applies to many of our citizens.  But you can defy the norm.  There are multiple opportunities and programs you can work with to improve your health, including a company I am affiliated with, Hope 80/20.  If things go south in our nation, those who are healthy will be in a much better position to weather the uncertainties we could be facing.

Spiritual Preparation

Because I believe that all of life’s significant struggles can ultimately be traced back to a spiritual cause, I believe we must actually start with the underlying spiritual flaws we see in ourselves, our communities and our nation.  So again, while this is not an exhaustive list, it is one that I believe includes some of the critical issues we must address as Christians in our nation.  

Local Church:  Become actively engaged in your local church.  Seek out those within your church who, like you, believe that there is serious trouble ahead for our nation in general, and Christians specifically.  As religious liberty is under attack at an ever increasing rate, it is critical that followers of Christ not be surprised.  Rather, we should fully expect this since Jesus foretold that these times would come.  Meet with your pastor to engage him in dialogue about your thoughts and concerns.  Determine whether he shares your concerns and if so, encourage him to devote some future messages to the “last days” and what that means for members of the church.

Read this bookImplosion: Can America Recover from Its Economic & Spiritual Challenges in Time? by Joel Rosenberg.  Joel, a NY Times Best Selling author, has written a masterpiece about the threats our nation faces, the potential repercussions that we may face if we do hit the “iceberg” and what Christians should be doing in the event the worst happens.

Prayer:  Pray for our nation, our elected officials and our fellow citizens.  If you are a believer, then you understand the power of prayer.  Our nation faced similar threats at least two other times in our nation’s history, in the 1700’s and again in the 1800’s, but God was merciful in answering the earnest prayers of believers and He sent the First and Second Great Awakenings.  These two movements resulted in millions of Americans turning to God and there is no doubt that these spiritual awakenings “saved” our nation.  It could happen again, but it will not without prayer.  So begin praying not only individually but join with other believers in small groups and earnestly seek God.  Whether a third awakening occurs or not, we know that the Effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

Develop Plans:  Enlist others, who share a similar biblical worldview, to join with you in developing plans for mutual caring and collaboration should the worst occur.  The plans should not only include our families and friends, but should also take into account the potential that many of your neighbors might be caught without their own lifeboat, physically and spiritually.  There is never a better time to share the love of God than in a person’s time of crisis. 

God’s Word:  Spend more and more time in God’s Word.  We know that the Bible has the answers for life. There are dozens of examples in scripture of believers who faced insurmountable odds, and life threatening circumstances.  Yet, with God’s strength they stood and persevered.  While such biblical scenarios are incomprehensible to us, as we enjoy the relative peace and security we have come to expect, the world can turn upside down in an instant.  Studying God’s Word will not prevent catastrophic events, but it can prepare us if those events occur.

DeltaAs I close, it’s possible that you might be thinking I’ve gone over the edge and lost my mind.  Who in their right mind would believe that America, the most powerful nation in the world, could ever lose such status?  Yet, just this week, we saw Delta Airlines, one of the world’s largest carriers, be brought to its knees, as a simple power failure in Atlanta grounded hundreds of flights for multiple days. While lives were not lost, the completely unexpected occurred and the lives of millions were significantly impacted.  Now, let your mind wander, for just a moment, to the vast number of other potential destructive scenarios that could occur, and one can realistically see how that iceberg could in fact be staring us down.

So I close this 2 part series in the same way I opened it, and I trust you will begin to take the necessary precautions that you deem appropriate.  If I can help in any way, whether individually or in your group or organization, please don’t hesitate to contact me.  

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

Mark

No Greater Love

No Greater Love

No Greater Love

On this Memorial Day, our collective thoughts as Americans turn to those men and women throughout the history of our nation who gave their all so that we might continue to enjoy the “blessings of liberty.” Whether those unselfish patriots laid down their lives in 1776 as a result of “the shot heard ’round the world” or perhaps more recently as our fellow citizens gave their lives half way around the world, or even here in Chattanooga last July, there is no greater act of love, sacrifice or commitment than the one they demonstrated. 

Clearly on this Memorial Day, there is no more fitting act of honor or tribute than for each of us to take some quiet time to reflect on their lives, their heroism and their legacy. 

As I’ve reflected about these gone but not forgotten patriots, their acts of sacrifice should cause us to feel a sense of great responsibility and accountability.  Should we not then respond in some deliberate manner to acknowledge the worth of their lives and the value they placed on our country?   

One life is of immeasurable worth.  Exponentially though, over a million lives, sacrificed for our nation over these 240 years, demand our attention and our action.  We must go beyond an annual recognition that honors our fallen heroes and make our own “sacrifices.”

While most of us will never be called to lay down our lives for our nation, surely we can lay down a TV remote, or a golf club and at least give back a few hours a month to the nation in which we have been so blessed to live.  There are hundreds of ways that you and I can rise up to defend and protect our nation’s future on a daily basis but we must be intentional about doing so.  As you do so though, I encourage you to share your commitment and your plans with a friend or family member and then together, step up and give back to this wonderful nation.

Finally, this day of reflection reminds me of another Truth expressed 2,000 years ago by a man whose life exemplifies love, sacrifice and commitment.  This God-man we know as Jesus, left the blessings and comforts of heaven and declared this Truth:  

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

But Jesus did not just speak this Truth.  He too sacrificed His life for you and me, so that we could also enjoy the blessings of liberty by embracing Him and His message. 

On this special day, as we remember and honor our fallen service men and women, let’s also honor the One to whom we ultimately owe the blessings of liberty: Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Mark