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The Virus Came

The Virus Came

The virus came  
With stealth unknown  
No ear could hear 
Nor eye could see 

Our lives untouched 
Or so it seemed 
We lived as if 
No threat was near 

The streets were full 
And shops packed out 
Let’s eat and drink 
Be merry too 

The Parties fought 
And neighbors too 
The trivial 
Did so consume 

While death did lurk 
Our minds ignored 
We lived as if 
Life ne’er would end 

But virus still 
Advanced its course 
It had one goal 
To so disrupt  

And while it lurked  
So many scoffed 
They did not give 
It second thought  

But soon just one 
Did become two 
And two was ten 
Then thousands more 

But we are fine 
Too big to fail 
Our genius sure 
Our nation strong  

Advance it did 
The virus sure 
Its mission clear 
Though not to us 

The cries were faint 
At first it seemed 
But faint did grow 
And tears did flow 

The old and weak 
Were first to go 
But soon the young 
Would fall as well 

Our leaders knew 
Not what to do 
From day to day 
Their minds did change 

The streets grew still 
And shops did close 
The air now clean 
While homes did fill 

As virus struck 
We did retreat  
Our lives transformed 
To test our truth 

We found that all 
We did pursue  
While it was good 
Was not the best 

The virus struck 
With fury full 
Soon we did bow  
And called above 

Our minds transfixed 
From stuff below 
And that of worth  
Became so real 

Our eyes grew moist  
And hearts did fall 
Our minds did turn 
To God’s dear Son 

As death consumed 
The ones we loved 
Our love did grow 
For those in need 

Those ones we ne’er 
Reached out or touched 
Were now the ones 
We wished to hold 

For God at work 
Was changing me 
His power to work 
Such good through bad 

And then it dawned 
As bright as morn 
All things do work 
For good to them 

To them who love 
Our God above  
Who’re the called 
His Purpose theirs 

So even if 
This virus claims 
My life or yours 
It will not change 

I’ll trust in Him 
I will not fear  
For God is mine 
And He is near 

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 

There is No Fiscal Solution, But There is Hope

There is No Fiscal Solution, But There is Hope

The government has been talking about fiscal responses and solutions to the nightmare the coronavirus pandemic is wreaking in our nation and world.  Those responses include multi-trillion dollar price tags.  Given the panic and hysteria that we see from across this nation, does anyone really know whether such responses will help, or just postpone the inevitable collapse of an economy that has been propped up, for too many decades, by destructive credit policies?  Is it possible that the coronavirus is simply the proverbially, “straw that finally broke the camel’s back?” 

A couple of weeks ago, in a knee-jerk response, the current administration offered a $1 trillion “mini solution” and the markets tanked as it was being announced.  Then, a week ago, the President suggested the idea of stimulus checks of $1,000 to every American, with a price tag of approximately $1 trillion dollars.  But Trump had no more gotten that idea out of his mouth, when others were suggesting that wasn’t enough.  Now, that “measly” trillion dollars has ballooned to $3-4 trillion and the individual stimulus checks are several thousand dollars for most citizens.  And if I were a betting man, I’d wager we still haven’t seen the upward limit of the free money that is going to be printed up and distributed to a populace in need. 

There is no doubt that our families, neighbors and citizens are in need. Consider that 80% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and millions of our neighbors have now lost their jobs for an indefinite period of time because of the closure of their employers by our government.  The ability for these unemployed families to even pay for toilet paper (if it were available), but more importantly bread, eggs and milk, is not just limited, but unlikely.  

▪️Is Government Liable? 

So, if the government, in its estimation, believes that shutting down businesses is the best course of action to protect lives, then it seems that government is liable for making the affected workers (and perhaps businesses) whole.  Without debating the decision itself, I believe under any other circumstances, this would likely be the conclusion of any court were it to be adjudicated in front of a judge. 

There has never been a scenario like this in our history, of which I’m aware.  But the bigger issue is this.  Even if the government is liable to the individuals it is harming by its efforts to protect lives, how does our government cover its liability?  In an ordinary situation between two parties, if one party harms another, the offending party must make the offended party whole, OUT OF ITS OWN RESOUCES.   

In this case, the government is the offending party (in an effort to save lives, which I happen to agree with).  The unemployed citizens are the offended party.  So what are the government’s resources?  Resources equal assets.  But one cannot ignore liabilities when discussing resources.  In the case of our nation, not only do we have a current national debt of $23,000,000,000,000 (that’s trillion), but we have additional unfunded liabilities for things like Medicare, Medicaid, and such, that total over $150 Trillion in debt.  We don’t have the ability to pay the $23 trillion in current debt, so do you think we can pay the $150 trillion that is coming due in the upcoming years?   

So where are the trillions going to come from to cover these stimulus checks and bailouts that are forthcoming?  Yes, I’ve read that some of the amounts extended by the Feds will be in the form of loans, but that begs the question.  Where do all the trillions of dollars come from?  The answer is they will come from the same unsound credit policies as the Feds have used for years to cover their previous trillion dollar deficits.

▪️Your Rich Uncle 

Consider this though.  If you were living lavishly for decades off of a credit card that had an unlimited credit line from your rich uncle, and your uncle finally stepped up and said, “No More!” what would that do to your lifestyle?  Particularly, what would you do when the uncle demanded you pay the credit card balance, when you had no ability to do so?  Can you say BANKRUPTCY?   

In this case, the “rich uncle” for America has been the exceptional privilege America has profited off of as the world’s reserve currency.  Other nations and investors have extended credit to us for decades because we were perceived to be a better risk than any other option out there.  But more and more, our stellar credit status has been dropping.  And again, if I were a betting man, I would wager that this vast Ponzi scheme that our Federal government has been engaged in for years, with the help of both political parties, is about to come to an end.   

Am I a doomsday prophet?  No. I’ve been writing about this coming collapse for years. And it’s not because I have the mental wherewithal to figure it all out, but rather because there are people much smarter than me who have been warning of this for decades as well.  But no one is listening.   

▪️Where is the Hope? 

But you may ask, “so if there’s no fiscal solution, where is the Hope?”  

Well, while I don’t believe there is a permanent solution to the fiscal nightmare we are now living through, I do believe there is Hope for each of us individually.  But it will require each of us to think outside the box; to consider options we haven’t considered before; to prepare for what could happen.  And if, by some providential move, we are granted another brief period of reprieve from the inevitable coming economic collapse, we should not be lulled into believing that our genius leaders have saved the day.  When a doctor causes a fatal wound, but he then puts a bandage on the hemorrhaging gash he caused, you wouldn’t then sit back and start enjoying your “bon-bons” believing that the negligent doctor saved the day, would you?  You also wouldn’t congratulate the doctor on a job well done.  

▪️What to do? 

So what should you and I do?  In a minute I’ll share what my first step would be.  But here are a few suggestions: 

I would prioritize the welfare of my family and loved ones, and then my neighbors, if possible. If you could rewind your life 30-45 days, knowing what you know now, what would you have done then to prepare for where we are today?  Likewise, if you took a few minutes to consider where things might be in 30-90 days, if things not only don’t get better, but rather they get exponentially worse, what would you wish then that you would have done today?   

In other words “Prepare.”  The old “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” should guide your steps.  

Nearly a decade ago a group of my friends and I began meeting over the course of a year or so to “Prep” for the possibility of an economic collapse. We put together checklists and discussed steps we should all take in the event that something like we are seeing actually occurred. At the time many would have suggested we were alarmists or worse. But those meetings were extremely helpful in preparing us for what did finally occur these last few weeks. (See the three hyperlinks above for the documents we prepared then.)

Now I don’t share this to suggest that all the items on my checklists in 2011 and 2012 were addressed. I wish I had some more toilet paper perhaps!  But the “ounce of prevention” philosophy is one I can encourage you to consider as well.  If you’re stuck at home, you now have time to consider what you would do for your family to prepare for what could occur in the future.  

Our nation’s fiscal situation has not improved in the last 8 years. In fact, it has gotten exponentially worse. And that was before another several trillion dollars is being borrowed, printed, or created out of thin air, by the big spenders in Washington. So, if the coronavirus is in fact the straw that’s finally exposing our fiscal foolishness as a nation, what could that next straw be?  I don’t know. But I also don’t want to be unprepared.  

▪️Our Ultimate Hope 

So I mentioned I’d share what my first step would be and here it is. I would turn my heart and mind to God during this dire crisis. The greatest threat to you and me today isn’t the COVID-19 virus. Rather, it’s the universal virus that we all share, one that entices us to replace God our Creator, with our own false gods. The gods of wealth, sports, entertainment, politics, pleasure, career, business, travel, or whatever else might be in the forefront of your life and mine. It’s a universal temptation to elevate something temporal, that does not satisfy, in place of the One who is eternal, and completely satisfies.  

God is speaking through this crisis. In fact, I would suggest this is God’s crisis. Throughout the Bible we see that it is God that brings both “calamity and good” and “He controls the course of world events.”  He does so to get our attention, to disrupt our lives, in order to turn our hearts back to Him. We are a proud people and an even prouder nation. But God resists the proud and even humiliates them. But He also elevates the humble. Could there be any greater example of God humiliating a proud nation and even world than what is happening now as all those “gods” we worshipped are crumbling before us? 

So, if there is one silver lining in all this, it is that we all have time to turn back to Him. We have time to open His Word. We have time to fall on our knees. And as we do, we will begin to hear what it is God is speaking to us individually, so that we can repent and turn to Him. As we do, we will find the Hope and Encouragement that is so desperately needed “for such a time as this.” 

💡“God controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars.” Daniel 2:21 

💡“Who can command things to happen without the Lord’s permission? Does not the Most High send both calamity and good? Then why should we, mere humans, complain when we are punished for our sins? Instead, let us test and examine our ways. Let us turn back to the Lord.” Lamentations 3:37-40 

Daniel, Government, God and You

Daniel, Government, God and You

The book of Daniel in the Bible contains many examples of how a follower of God should comport himself in the midst of a culture or nation that is at odds with God’s values.  Here are a few lessons we can learn.

Don’t Compromise

Of course there’s the familiar story of the three young Hebrew men, who were also government officials. When they were commanded to bow to a statue of the king, they refused to do so, even though it would result in a fiery furnace, from which they were miraculously rescued. 

Speak Truth Always

And then there’s the story of Daniel who, as one of the highest government officials in the land, was asked to interpret a dream for the king. Recall that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream revealed the king’s haughty and prideful spirit and predicted his downfall. Although there was tremendous risk on the part of Daniel in rebuking the king, Daniel did not falter in speaking truth to power, and Daniel challenged King Nebuchadnezzar to change his ways (which the king ignored).  

God’s Laws Trump Man’s

Several years later, various government officials sought to persecute Daniel, who reported directly to the king. Daniel was equivalent to the Prime Minister of the nation. The only way these scoundrels could achieve Daniel’s demise was to attack his religion directly. Note what they concluded:

“Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the rules of his religion.”  (Daniel 6:5)

And so they made sure that laws were passed that would be in direct violation to the religious values by which they knew Daniel lived. Sound familiar?

So they outlawed prayer, to any god except the king. 

But notice how Daniel responded:

“But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.” Daniel 6:10

Daniel not only ignored the law, but he did so publicly, with his window open so that there would be no doubt about whom Daniel would obey.  You’ll recall that the rest of this story involved a lions den, God’s miraculous deliverance, the defeat and death of Daniel’s adversaries, and a proclamation from the king affirming Daniel’s God as the one true living and eternal God. 

So, you may say, “Yeah, I know all those stories but what do they have to do with me?”

And I say, “A lot!”

The book of Daniel is not just full of a lot of cute bed time stories. Rather it is a book with deep, powerful truths, with principles that apply to the very era in which we a living. 

Anti-Christian Bias

Our culture and government is no longer friendly to Biblical values. In fact, whether it’s a school board, or a city, state or federal government, or agency, the antagonism and animosity towards Christians and the values taught by Jesus are under vicious attack… and it will only grow worse. 

If you are a government official or employee who claims to follow Jesus, you have been or will be called to make a choice, when man’s laws and regulations conflict with God’s laws and values. (Remember Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who refused to issue marriage licenses?)

But most of you are private citizens so you may say, “I’m exempt” from having to make such a choice. But don’t be deceived. Your day is coming… or is already here. 

If you own a business, and attempt to abide by biblical values, there is a bullseye on you and your business.  (Remember the cake maker, photographer and florist who were singled out and attacked for their Biblical beliefs?)

If you’re not a business owner, you have been (or will be) confronted with a myriad of choices, whether it’s your kids’ education, how your tax dollars are used, your selection of political candidates that may not affirm biblical values, and a host of other choices. (Remember the coach who was recently attacked for his decision to pray with his team?)

But first, will you and I even recognize it when we are confronted with these choices?  And secondly, will we cave under pressure, or will we follow the examples from Daniel?

In the final moments of the life of Joshua, we see this great warrior for God and hero of our faith presenting his nation and fellow citizens with this choice:

“But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

Who will you and I choose?  The god of our culture or our government?  Or the God of the Ages, whose values and truths never change?

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.

 

 

 

Protecting a Billionaire President: ISIS & the Trump Empire

Protecting a Billionaire President: ISIS & the Trump Empire

protecting-a-billionaire-president

On November 8, 2016 America entered a new era.  The Trump era.  And while there are many “firsts” with the election of President Donald J. Trump, there is one in particular that poses a significant challenge for our nation.

Donald Trump is the wealthiest individual ever elected President.  In fact,  Trump’s reported net worth of somewhere between $4-10 Billion is up to 100 times the size of the next wealthiest President during the last 100 years, John F. Kennedy.

But his wealth is not the real challenge.  Rather, the nature of his wealth is what poses a monumental security challenge for our nation.  Consider that Trump’s wealth is predominately comprised of a high profile real estate portfolio.  From the five star, elite Trump Hotels, located around the country and in several foreign countries (including Islamic ones), to his corporate office complexes and skyscrapers, these properties could offer a high profile target for some of America’s worst enemies.

trump-worldwide-properties

During the campaign, Trump repeatedly singled out ISIS and other terrorist enterprises, making it clear that he would use the full force of the US military to defeat them.  “I’m going to bomb the s*** out of them… and knock the hell out of them,” Trump promised.

Following the election, ISIS cheered the results, flooding Twitter with taunts, jeers and threats:

“Don’t try to hide, Donald.  The mujahideen are ready.”

“Trump’s win of the American presidency will bring hostility of Muslims against America as a result of his reckless actions…”

The clear intent of ISIS all along has been to draw the world’s lone superpower into a head to head confrontation.  This leading terrorist enterprise believes that drawing the US into a war will assist them in their recruiting efforts, while appealing to Allah to assist them in defeating the Great Satan. 

So is a showdown coming?  

If Trump is to be believed, he will be taking the fight to ISIS.  But if ISIS is to be taken seriously, they are likely strategizing on ways to inflict maximum harm and devastation in unconventional but media rich ways, as they have often done in the past. Clearly they cannot take on the US military directly.  So what could their targets be?  Can we make some informed observations based on the previous methods ISIS has deployed?  I believe so.  And because of this, I see a dangerous threat to Trump and his related properties, and those individuals who might work at or visit them.

Obviously, Trump will be surrounded by the world’s finest detail, our US Secret Service professionals.  And no doubt they are already preparing for every kind of threat and developing active contingency plans.  But there’s one thing we should have learned by now, following hundreds of terrorist attacks around the world and many right here on our homeland.  Protecting not only our billionaire President but also his expansive network of high profile assets, in a post 9/11 world, presents a new and unprecedented challenge for our nation.

This is just one more reason to offer up prayer for Donald Trump, his family, his team, and the entire Trump empire.  

#PrayForTrump

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.  I Peter 2:1-2

Mark

The Drought Offers Common Ground: #PrayForRain

The Drought Offers Common Ground: #PrayForRain

the-drought-offers-common-ground

Photo credit: Derek Daniel http://bit.ly/2fFj186

Democrats/Liberals and Republicans/Conservatives can’t seem to agree on much these days. And probably a lot of the reason for that is because we are so focused on all the things that divide us, and many of those issues are in Washington. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have served to drive a wedge further into a division that was already deep to start with.

But, I believe that a time of crisis can, or perhaps should, drive us to find what unites us, rather than belaboring what divides us.

There is a dire crisis our community is facing. It is a crisis of rain, or lack thereof. We are facing one of the worst drought in years. This is a crisis that affects us all.  

Black. White. Democrat. Republican. Woman. Man. Rich. Poor. Gay. Straight.  

It matters not who you are, where you live, or the balance in your bank account. While Obama winds down, Trump revs up, and Hillary moves on, we have an urgent need for rain in our region.

So in this time of crisis, where neighbors’ properties are consumed, health is impacted, agriculture and farming are threatened, and first responders are working feverishly, can we as a community draw together? Can we begin to call out to God? Can we reach out to our friends, neighbors and co-workers, regardless of our backgrounds or political views, and drop to our knees, bow our heads and #PrayForRain?

Can we focus on that which we agree? Can we as Chattanoogans (or whatever town you live in) come together on this issue? Can you imagine if we all began doing this as a community? Singularly, then in small groups, in our churches, and perhaps even across our entire community? What if our elected officials, on both sides of the aisles, came together to pray? What if pastors of all denominations, including the black and white community, united in prayer? What if corporate executives and front line workers began to pray together? What if those neighborhoods that are being shattered with violence came together to pray? What if broken families were reunited in prayer?

What if we are experiencing this drought to unite us in prayer? To turn our hearts and minds back to God. To seek God’s forgiveness where we have failed Him. To find God’s strength and direction to move forward. To break down the walls that have divided us for too long.

If so, then what could we expect, if we turn to God in prayer?

Perhaps we could see God smile as we work to unite versus remaining so divided. And perhaps God’s pleasure might be revealed as His tears of joy flowed down in showers of blessings.

I am reminded that God said in Psalm 133, “How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” And just two verses later in the same passage we read this relevant description of unity: “It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion.”

Do we want unity that is like dew in this time of drought?  

Then why don’t we as a community draw together in unity to #PrayForRain?  

And as we do, perhaps the unity that so many of us seek will be revealed as we see God work in a mighty and powerful way, because we know that #PrayerChangesThings

Will you join me?

If so, then begin praying, and inviting others to join you. And share this article with others, using the hash tag #PrayForRain, as we acknowledge God’s omnipotence and seek His forgiveness and blessings in our community.

Mark

Photo credit:  Derek Daniel:  http://bit.ly/2fFj186