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Weekly Briefings with Dr. Nick Pitts

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1. Trump and Congress eye shutdown showdown over border wall
“The face-off comes as lawmakers return to Washington following a two-week Easter recess. Government funding expires Friday, leaving Congress little time to strike a deal. A White House push for progress on repealing Obamacare will also consume energy on Capitol Hill, even as a vote on legislation this week appears unlikely.

“In the meantime, both sides are puffing up their chests, refusing to budge from their hard-line positions on one of Trump’s most famous campaign pledges. Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly both reiterated during Sunday interviews that Trump would need a down payment on his wall as part of a government funding package.” READ THE FULL STORY

Nick Note: The Field of Dreams taught us that if you build it, they will come. Well apparently they weren’t talking about a border wall. The government shuts down on Friday unless Congress can forge a deal. The wall has caused some divisions (pun intended). Here are the dividing lines concerning the government shutdown. Speaking of lines, Mr. Trump delivered quite a line over the weekend. Regarding the job security of his Press Secretary Sean Spicer, he said: “I’m not firing Sean Spicer…that guy gets great ratings. Everyone tunes in.” In an article that is making its way around the internet, Ashley Parker and Robert Costa note: “For Trump…television is often the guiding force of his day, both weapon and scalpel, megaphone and news feed.” Also happening over the weekend, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis continued his whistle-stop tour through the Middle East. He is stressing shared interests with international leaders (like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel), such as fighting terrorism. Mattis continues to strengthen ties with international leaders and today Mr. Trump will have lunch with ambassadors from countries on the U.N. Security Council. Hopefully these conversations with global leaders can continue with Congressional leadership throughout the week. In the Scriptures, working out disagreements is often hard but always good (Acts 15). “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).”

2. Trump seeks 15 percent corporate tax rate, even if it swells the national debt
“The president has instructed advisers to propose cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, according to White House officials who said they were not authorized to speak publicly about the plan. The rate reduction — which independent budget experts say could cost the federal government $2.4 trillion over a decade — is larger than what House Republicans had proposed in their own plan.”

“He told aides it was less important to him that such a plan could add to the federal budget deficit, though that might make it difficult to sell to GOP lawmakers who are wary of such a large tax cut. Mr. Trump told his team to “get it done” in time to release a plan by Wednesday, the people said.”

Nick Note: Do most US businesses even pay the corporate tax rate? Not according to the WSJ. Here are 5 other roadblocks concerning the corporate tax cut according to The Journal. In other news dealing with the looming government shutdown, Mr. Trump hosted last night a reception with conservative media at the White House. He indicated that he is open to waiting until later this year to secure funding for a wall along the border. The wall can wait but not a religious liberty executive order. A group of 51 members of the House wrote to Mr. Trump to “request that you sign the draft executive order on religious liberty…in order to protect millions of Americans whose religious freedom has been attacked or threatened over the last eight years.” No word on whether he will sign such an order but he does plan to sign at least four other orders before Saturday’s 100-day marker. They include everything from easing regulations on offshore oil and gas exploration to protecting whistleblowers at the Department of Veteran Affairs. There will be no easing or protecting certain Syrians. Yesterday, the administration imposed sanctions on 271 employees of the Syrian government agency it said was responsible for producing chemical weapons and ballistic missiles. These employees are responsible for their past actions and former President Obama appeared before students yesterday to encourage them to assume responsibility for the future. In his first post-presidency public appearance, Mr. Obama told an audience of mostly college-age students that he planned to dedicate much of his energy in the first chapter of his post-White House life to working with young people “to take up the baton and take their crack at changing the world.” Traditionally, the former president refrains from offering critical remarks on the current president. Yesterday, Mr. Obama stuck to tradition and operated out of a new role – private citizen. He encouraged other citizens to know their role and act accordingly and optimally. Do you know your role in the community (Jeremiah 29:7)? In the body of Christ (Romans 12:6, 1 Timothy 4:14)?

3. Will the high-tech cities of the future be utterly lonely?
“Humans are inherently social animals, and our health suffers if we’re cut off from social ties. So it’s no wonder the so-called loneliness “epidemic” is being called a public health crisis. But as we sit on the cusp of massive technological advances, the near future could exacerbate this growing problem.
“By 2050, more than 66 percent of the world’s population will be living in so-called “smart cities.” These are metropolitan areas where everything will be digitally connected.” READ THE FULL STORY
Nick Note: Celine Dion is not the only one feeling All By Myself. In Britain, one in eight people say they don’t have a close friend. In America, 25 percent said they had no close friend to discuss important matters. Just having a phone close by, even without checking it, can hinder connections with others according to researchers at the University of Essex. The church can and should be leading and providing a solution to this increasingly prevalent problem. The church is a thick community that seeks to know one another completely and love each other generously (Hebrews 10:24-25, Proverbs 27:17, James 5:16, John 13:33-35).

4. For older people living alone, daily automated calls can mean safety
“Advocates for older people say telephone check-in programs can help seniors remain independent in their homes and give them — and their family members — peace of mind….“It helps ensure for the elderly person or their family that a phone call is being made every morning, that everything is okay. We’ve gotten incredible feedback on this program,” said Cmdr. Jack Vaccaro of the Lighthouse Point Police Department in Florida, which has nine seniors in its automated daily-call program.” READ THE FULL STORY

Nick Note: The senior population is expected to grow to 65 million by 2025. Almost half of women age 75 and older live alone. People are living longer and also living lonelier. 1 out of 2 people don’t know their neighbors’ names. In 2004, 25 percent of people said they had no close friend to discuss important matters. That number was 10 percent in 1985. Isolation is fed by distrust. A generation ago, almost half of all Americans felt they could trust the people around them, but now less than a third think other people are trustworthy. Only 19 percent of millennials believe other people can be trusted. Are these machines doing what our neighbors were intended to do (Matthew 22:36-40)?

5. Gym Removes Mirrors to Make LGBTQ People Feel Good About Themselves
“The Perfect Sidekick, a “queer gym” in Oakland which claims to be America’s first LGBTQ fitness center, removed its mirrors to allow its members to feel more confident in their gender and sexual presentation….The removal of mirrors is important for people obsessed with how others perceive them…The Perfect Sidekick offers a gym that allows people who feel “excluded or marginalized” by their aesthetics to alleviate anxieties prompted by seeing themselves in the mirror. As if their workout partners in the gym don’t already notice.” READ THE FULL STORY

Nick Note: Magic mirror on the wall, who is the weakest of them all? That would be me. I don’t exercise my second amendment right to bear arms because they are more like cub arms but they do go well with my chicken legs. I digress. As a private business, The Perfect Sidekick is free to do whatever it wants. However, the gym provides an opportunity for comparison. And as the saying goes: comparison is the thief of joy. If you want to feel good about yourself, read the Scriptures. Consider this: at your worst, God sent his best (Romans 5:8). You are the apple of God’s eye (Psalm 17:8). You are his treasured possession (Deuteronomy 7:6). You’ve done nothing to earn this, but as a result of this you should want to work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Ephesians 2:8-9, Philippians 2:12).

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