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Monday, March 30, 2020

Quite the Revelation

There is a line to be drawn, and I’m not sure where it should be. The line is one of reason and response. Determining where we fall on each side of that line positions us as biblical extremists and worry warts or as watchful spiritual stewards as Jesus told us to be.

The line has crystalized some with the advance of the COVID-19 virus. In many minds, the reactions of governments to control the epidemic are eerily tampering with our freedoms. We are seeing in real time the impact of massive closures in the business world. Unemployment. Controlled living conditions. A new reliance on various governmental programs to sustain life. This could continue until we may owe these masters even life itself.

Take, for example, Italy. The virus has done its share of killing there. Hospitals and doctors are overwhelmed. As columnist Jonathan S. Tobin wrote, “Their prescription for coping with the crisis is utilitarian. Their conclusion is as shocking as it is obvious: ‘It may become necessary to establish an age limit for access to intensive care.’ Those who are too old to have a good chance of recovery or with few years left to live will be allowed to die.”

Life and death decisions on caring for people are the most serious to weigh. Or are they? What if all this leads to a long held desire by globalists to unite behind a more singular style of leadership?

What if this crisis changes the way we do financial transactions? As CNBC recently reported, “The coronavirus outbreak is prompting second thoughts about reaching for cash.” Makes sense. Think of all those germs that can be passed around on those bills. Merchants are even advising customers not to use cash.

The Wall Street Journal portends that a new currency could be coming. In a September 22nd, 2019, article it is said, “The future of money might be a digital version of the cash that’s already in people’s wallets—potentially upending the currency system that the world has known for many decades.” How long might it be before we have a new world monetary system?

Then there’s Bill Gates and his partners working toward ID2020. Directly from the website we read, “Identity is vital for political, economic, and social opportunity. But systems of identification are archaic, insecure and lack adequate privacy protection, and for over a billion people, inaccessible. Digital identity is being defined now—and we need to get it right.” Where in the spooky surveillance world does THAT take us?

Some believe the COVID-19 virus is the ticket to require a new kind of people watching. One article I read claims your mobile phone can already define whether you are cooperating with stay-at-home directives. Knowing where you are at any time allows the societal managers control to punish the violators.

As for businesses that don’t buy in to new directives, look out. Last Tuesday, the mayor of Los Angeles announced pending actions against nonessential businesses that don't close. He said,“This behavior is irresponsible and selfish.” If they remain open, the mayor warned “the Department of Water and Power will shut off services for the businesses that don't comply with the ‘safer at home ordinance.’”

Yes, a line is being drawn. People of faith find they must decide whether these are true signs of what are called, “the end times.” Jesus said to keep our eyes open. The book of Revelation lays out dark days are ahead with economic crises coming and the eventual call for a “one world government.”

Just stop. Look. And listen to all that is being said about the necessary controls and changes on our lives that are unprecedented. They would be easily rejected if they didn’t seem so…so reasonable.

COVID-19 has indeed produced many interesting revelations. I’m wondering if the virus is also leading us toward a world where people of faith land on one side or the other of the ultimate dividing line. Paranoids? Or astute end times observers.

That would be quite the revelation.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

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Monday, March 23, 2020

Fields of Screams

This is normally a big season for screamers. Spring ritual sports usually has umpires screaming, “Play ball!” Fans of hockey, basketball, soccer, and other lesser known sports have a fair share of screamers as well. Even the more sedate sport of golf has certain events with lots of screamers present. Plus the occasional nut job who screams to be heard on national telecasts.

Sports stadiums and fields may be quiet. The games may have ceased. The wild anticipation of exciting competition has subsided. But not all the screams.

This time, they are the screams of every sports lover, concert, or event-goer who has had their ticket cancelled. It is the common scream of “NOOOOOOO!!!” And it’s resounding right down to the Las Vegas bookmakers.

There’s another whole group of screamers not on the front line. Think of all the restaurants and stadium workers who were counting on income this spring. And those parking attendants. Actually, the collective group of screamers is too large to even measure. Especially the suddenly unemployed.

The next decision forces some really difficult thinking. It’s played out in trying to answer this question—often screamed—“Now what am I going to do?”

Right. We’ve come to build our calendars around events. Whether attending in person or watching on the 105 inch latest television mega screen, we plan our lives based on entertainment choices.

The agonizing decision of “what am I going to do now?” hits all screamers alike. Television networks are airing sports reruns. Restaurants have to beef up pick up and delivery services. Seasonal workers and entertainers need to plan for a monetary adjustment…or find another income source. Brutal.

Even churches are scurrying. Governments have either put the lid on the number of people who can “congregate” in a given place, or souls are being told to “shelter in place.” Thus, many churches have to forego their normal worship services. By God’s grace, and significant technology advancements, we can now “video stream” and video conference everything from meetings to weekly gatherings of any type.

There are certain groups who will feel this COVID-19 related pain more deeply than others. First and foremost, there are those families who will lose loved ones to the virus. Other losses will result—not life threatening, but hugely disappointing. There are students planning events, including trips, concerts, productions, and sports related contests that cannot be made up. It may be the only time these students have these opportunities. Family reunions, weddings, anniversary celebrations will all be impacted.

So now it’s time to get creative. Let’s find ways to redeem the time we have available. As an example, outdoor and indoor family games might become the new in vogue thing. Go out and scream with siblings, or your kids, in some outdoor sports!

Or…come up with a new form of fantasy competition that does not require real life players! Maybe a John Madden video game fantasy league could be formed. Or…maybe not.

This COVID-19 ordeal might well produce a new family tradition. One unlike any other. It might bring fathers back together with their children! New ways may arise to hold those weddings and other celebrations.

But let’s agree not to sulk. Or complain. Let’s put our ingenuity to work and use this season to make our world a better place!

I’m even recommending a different kind of screamer for our church. These would be “shouters.” The Bible is certainly in favor of them. Psalm 66 states, “Shout for joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious.” vs 1-2 (NIV) In an earlier Psalm we read, “Come, everyone! Clap your hands! Shout to God with joyful praise!” Psalm 47:1

These may seem like desperate times. Enough to make you want to scream. Take control of that urge and learn to shout for joy! The God of the universe is listening.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

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Monday, March 16, 2020

Survivalism of the Fittest

Who among us has not seen some television commercial or paid short program hawking survivalist kits? The kits can be either basic or elaborate. Frankly, the majority of us do not invest in these. Maybe we should start.

We are on the verge of a unique kind of survivalist paranoia. And it is striking deep into the mindset of Americans. In fact, it’s EVERYWHERE. It’s built from a foundation of fear over COVID-19. The Great Virus Scare of 2020.

Make no mistake. I choose neither to underestimate the significance of this pandemic nor to increase the amount of paranoia that stems from it. My observations are only built on the shutting down of most forms of business and social life occurring in our land (specifically the US).

While Wikipedia is not always the most reliable source for information, their definition of “survivalism” is as follows:

Survivalism is a movement of individuals or groups (called survivalists or preppers) who actively prepare for emergencies, including possible disruptions in social or political order, on scales from local to international. Survivalism also encompasses preparation for personal emergencies, such as job loss or being stranded in the wild or under adverse weather conditions. The emphasis is on self-reliance, stockpiling supplies, and gaining survival knowledge and skills. Survivalists often acquire emergency medical and self-defense training, stockpile food and water, prepare to become self-sufficient, and build structures such as survival retreats or underground shelters that may help them survive a catastrophe.

Stockpiling supplies. Self defense training. Like…for fighting over toilet paper? Yes! Aggressive shopping mania is certainly happening in America.

As for the rest of the world, Australia has been taking it on the bum. As the BBC reported, "Police were even called to a dispute on Wednesday, with reports saying a knife was pulled out in an argument over toilet roll between panic buying shoppers. On social media, #toiletpapergate and #toiletpapercrisis were top trending on (last) Wednesday. Rolls were being flogged for hundreds of dollars online, while listeners were calling into radio stations to win packs of 3-ply loo roll.”

Similar antics were seen in places affected worse by the virus. Places like Singapore, Japan, and Hong Kong. In fact, in February armed robbers confiscated pallets of TP in Hong Kong after shortages resulted from panic buying.

And right here at home, a nurse in my doctor's office told me she went to Sam’s Club and the toilet paper shelf was wiped clean! One of my coworkers discovered the same problem at Walmart. And Target just sent out an email saying, in essence, they were going to have to ration various “essentials” because of the gobbling-up crowd.

What causes this mania? According to Associate Professor Nikita Garg from the University of New South Wales, it’s FOMO syndrome. You know, Fear of Missing Out. She explained to the BBC, people "think if this person is buying it, if my neighbor is buying, there's got to be a reason and I need to get in too.”

Panic buying is truly driven by FOMO. Right now, the reality of a pandemic has fueled that fear. But if you want to be a true “prepper” in a time of crisis, I’d recommend you think a whole lot more of spiritual preparation.

The Bible predicts a day is coming when seemingly all hell breaks loose on this earth. As it is written, “This will be the worst time of suffering since the beginning of the world, and nothing this terrible will ever happen again. Matthew 24:21 (CEV)

Eternal survivalists will be those who prepared by putting their faith in God. It will be a person’s only hope.

I suggest you stock up on faith now.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

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Monday, March 9, 2020

Unrequited Love

The first girl who ever invited me to a dance has died. Finding details of her passing has been difficult. Apparently, she had fallen ill recently.

We met in my sophomore year of high school in Montana. It was the late 60s and she was determined to be a Sixties child. Her lime green car had stickers with daisies and perhaps a peace symbol or two. She seemed to love the free wheeling spirit of the age.

I’d fill in more details, but the last time I saw her was at our 40th high school reunion. That was ten years ago. She was in a relationship at that time. But she had been in at least one before. The name I knew her by in high school was apparently not her birth name. I was made aware of that only recently. She left a family of older children behind.

Of course I can’t speak for this departed soul. But I surmise she might well have been able to sing the old spiritual, “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.” The haunting lyrics of this slave song go, “Nobody knows the trouble I've seen. Nobody knows my sorrow. Nobody knows the trouble I've seen. Glory hallelujah!”

The spiritual life of my first dance date is also unknown to me. Between our junior and senior years, my mother and I visited a Seattle Bible college where I was interested in attending. This young girl asked if she could travel with us and visit the school as well. I would end up attending. She did not.

Even on that excursion, I sensed she had a lingering crush on me. It was not mutual. Our life views were quite different. Yet high school is that time when you have a lot of friends, and she was simply one of mine.

The musical family “The Corrs” released a song years ago titled, “I Would Love to Love You.” The lyrics don’t precisely fit my situation, but they do for many. One stanza says…

You recognized my barrier to love
I know there's nothing worse than unrequited love
So I prayed to God that I could give the love you gave to me
But something's lying in my way, preventing it to be

There’s much truth in the lyric, “I know there's nothing worse than unrequited love.” Many a crush has gone unfulfilled because the feeling wasn’t mutual. It’s also painfully true that long term relationships can fall apart “after the love is gone.”

Perhaps the saddest form of unrequited love occurs in a marriage. Here we find a couple who previously experienced deep, emotional connections. They may have brought children into the world. Then the nasty disease of drift began to attack that emotional and complete marriage bond. You can likely finish the story for many couples.

Love truly is a complex aspect of life. It is much more than an emotional state. It involves the will. The heart. The mind. Indeed, the soul. That is why the words “I love you” are so difficult for many to say. Deep down, we all realize that loving another person is a rich form of commitment.

In the spiritual life, one can then see why our great God, Who commits to us every blessing, would be hurt by unrequited love. When He finds a soul who responds with deep affection and appreciation—a longing for His embrace and fellowship—it touches His heart. Jesus came to give us a glimpse of that love on this side of heaven.

As Jesus told Nicodemus, “God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die.” John 3:16  (CEV)

Truly amazing.

I hope you have found somebody to love. And that it’s returned.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

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Monday, March 2, 2020

Why did the Chicken Change its Tune?

I have to admit—it hurt. From the late 1980s, I have been a real fan of Chick-fil-A. When they opened a new store in a mall in Arlington, Texas, I was invited to join in a dinner celebration and sat at the table with Dan Cathy, son of company founder Truett Cathy. Years later, I would have the privilege of spending around 45 minutes with the senior Cathy at the company headquarters near Atlanta.

When stories surfaced in 2019 about the change of giving strategy for the Chick-fil-A Foundation, it was shocking to many. Seemingly abandoning their giving relationship with the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes could not have been more of a surprise. Truett Cathy allowed his faith to dictate his business practices. And that included his attitude of generous giving.

Truett passed away in 2014. He was 93. His family still has the reins of the company. Certain changes were to be expected. And they came, including changes in where donations were made. At least one of the organizations where funds had been redirected had questionable policies that did not seem to align with the Cathy life philosophy.

Many spiritual leaders wondered if the company was a bit adrift. Franklin Graham reached out to Dan Cathy and was told their mooring was strong. Chick-fil-A devotees—including me—were not so sure.

Truett Cathy’s daughter, Trudy, recently had a new book published. It’s titled, A Quiet Strength, and pays tribute to Trudy’s mom, Jeannette Cathy. Jeanette passed away in 2015. She was 92.

In a recent interview with Christian Headlines, some honest admissions were made about the new giving strategy of Chick-fil-A. One notable statement Trudy made was that had her mother been alive, Mom would have told her children to pray about the change of strategy by the Chick-fil-A Foundation. Trudy believes the changes were costly.

She told Christian Headlines, “My mom was really good about telling us to always learn from our mistakes. And I think in these last few months with some of things we've walked through, we've realized that we've made some mistakes. We're trying to make some corrections in those. We discredited maybe some really outstanding organizations that needed recognition. And so we're learning from those things.”

Rarely do you hear such admissions in the corporate world. She added some thoughts that clearly indicate how Bible truth influences stewardship decisions. It certainly has impacted the way the company treats customers.

Said Trudy, “We're really wanting to make a difference in this world. We're wanting to sell good chicken, but the Lord is using that chicken sandwich as a tool to allow us to have a positive influence on our culture.” I have convictions that this commitment has seen much good fruit.

Hearing about the shift made in giving tainted my perception of Chick-fil-A. This has played out as I drive past their restaurants in recent months. It feels like a bit of a dark cloud has settled there. I know it hasn’t, but it feels that way. And as a consequence, I am less motivated to pay a bit extra for that chicken sandwich. Public trust has been a bit broken.

Regarding corporate trust, The Washington Times reported on a white paper shared at the recent World Economic Forum. It was co-authored by David W. Miller, director of the Princeton University Faith & Work Initiative. The Times noted, “Public surveys show a precipitous drop in trust among Americans for public institutions ranging from government to the media to corporations, along with a decline in religious observance.”

Miller believes spiritual wisdom can have significant impact in helping institutions restore public trust. According to Miller, “religious traditions have amassed extraordinary wisdom and learning about human nature, brokenness, and healing.

That “extraordinary wisdom” has to come from somewhere. King Solomon wrote, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6 (NIV)

So why did the chicken company change its tune on giving? I’m sure it’s complicated. Hopefully, wisdom can get them back on pitch.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

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