Daily Briefing: June 21, 2017

Posted by    |    June 21st, 2017 at 6:31 am

T O P   N E W S

In Georgia, Karen Handel staves off national Democratic challenge (Politico)

“Tonight I stand before you extraordinarily humbled and honored at the tremendous privilege and high responsibility that you and the people across the 6th district have given me to represent you in the United States House of Representatives,” Handel told supporters at her victory party Tuesday night. CNN called the race for Republican Karen Handel shortly after 10 p.m. ET, with her holding a lead of more than 10,000 votes over Democrat Jon Ossoff.”

Nick Note: Winning isn’t everything in politics; it is the only thing according to Chris Cillizza. Like Ray Charles, we all had Georgia on our mind last night. Handel is the first Georgian Republican woman elected to Congress. Mr. Trump only won the district by one point. Ossoff lost by a bigger margin than Hillary Clinton and spent $25 million doing it. Special elections almost always are battles of the bases. Both Ossoff and Handel tried to distance themselves from their party leaders (Pelosi and Trump). It was a clash of moderates, harkening back to the Clinton/H.W. Bush era. Yet it appears as though Mr. Trump still has the ability to turnout/not turn away voters, essentially firing up the base. In other election news, Republican Ralph Norman won South Carolina’s special House election to replace Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney in Congress. This race was closer than expected. And finally, speaking of close, President Trump tweeted yesterday that China was close to working out a resolution with North Korea, but ultimately failed to achieve success. Mr. Trump tweeted: “While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!” I don’t think anyone likes to fail or lose, but to a certain degree, failure and losing is a form of success. Thomas Edison noted that he never failed, he just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. The only true failure is not trying. Don’t be Jonah or Barack (Judges 4). As William Carey said: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”

Dash cam video shows officer shooting Philando Castile (USA Today)

“The video, released Tuesday, comes days after ex-Officer Jeronimo Yanez was cleared of manslaughter and other charges in the July traffic stop in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul. Castile was pulled over for a broken tail light, but radio transmissions later revealed that the officer thought Castile resembled a suspect in the robbery of a convenience store just days earlier.
“The video was the centerpiece for both prosecutors and the defense team in the trial. The verdict set off a weekend full of protests.”

Nick Note: Here is a link to the video, but know the footage is graphic and absolutely tragic. Yanez was cleared of charges, but in Baltimore, a jury recently awarded $1.26 million to a family whose dog was shot and killed by a police officer. Please know I am so grateful for police officers. Some of my best friends in the world are police officers. They walk into the breakdowns of society and seek to restore the peace. But something needs to be addressed (Proverbs 27:6). David French is right: “In recent months we’ve seen a number of cases where courts have excused police for shooting citizens even after the police made mistakes — and the citizens were doing nothing wrong — simply because these citizens were exercising their Second Amendment rights…This is unacceptable, and it represents the most extreme possible deprivation of civil rights and civil liberties. I’m aware of no evidence that Yanez panicked because Castile was black. But whether he panicked because of race, simply because of the gun, or because of both, he still panicked, and he should have been held accountable. The jury’s verdict was a miscarriage of justice.”

Uber Founder Travis Kalanick Resigns as C.E.O. (NY Times)

“Travis Kalanick stepped down Tuesday as chief executive of Uber, the ride-hailing service that he helped found in 2009 and built into a transportation colossus, after a shareholder revolt made it untenable for him to stay on at the company.
“Earlier on Tuesday, five of Uber’s major investors demanded that the chief executive resign immediately. The investors included one of Uber’s biggest shareholders, the venture capital firm Benchmark, which has one of its partners, Bill Gurley, on Uber’s board. The investors made their demand for Mr. Kalanick to step down in a letter delivered to the chief executive while he was in Chicago, said the people with knowledge of the situation.”

Nick Note: Dan Primack of Axios likened Kalanick’s situation to Steve Jobs being kicked out of Apple.  In other Uber news, starting June 20, drivers will earn an extra $2 when they pick up teenagers who book rides through Uber’s “teen accounts” feature. Also, the ride-hailing company said yesterdaythat it is introducing a tipping option for rides. Riders can choose from pre-set tip amounts (in dollars) or input a custom value. Are these latest changes a result of the internal change-up? Regardless of the rationale that brought about these changes, from the Scriptures, we know that we are to give to others what they are due (Matthew 22:21, 1 Corinthians 9:9, Romans 13:7).

Chelsea Manning leaks had no strategic impact on US war efforts, Pentagon finds (The Guardian)

“The publication of hundreds of thousands of secret US documents leaked by the Army soldier Chelsea Manning in 2010 had no strategic impact on the American war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, a newly released Pentagon analysis concluded.
“The main finding of the Department of Defense report, written a year after the breach, was that Manning’s uploading of more than 700,000 secret files to the open information organization WikiLeaks had no significant strategic effect on the US war efforts.
“On Afghanistan, the review finds that there was no “significant ‘strategic impact’ to the release of this information”.

Nick Note: Kierkegaard noted that we live life looking forward but we understand life looking backwards. In this particular instance, just because there was no strategic impact does not make it any less wrong. “Shall we continue to sin so that grace may abound? By no means (Romans 6:1-2)!”

C U L T U R A L   N E W S

Opioid-related hospital visits up 99% in less than a decade, US data shows (The Guardian)

“Opioid-related hospital visits in the US rose 99% and inpatient stays increased 64% in less than a decade, according to government data released on Tuesday. Each day, US hospitals received 3,500 people for opioid-related issues in 2014, compared with 1,800 in 2005, a new report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reveals.
“Of the 43 states where data was available, Georgia saw the highest increase in opioid related inpatient stays between 2009 and 2014. Hospital stays increased 100% in Georgia, compared with an average rise of 24% across the country. In Kansas, Maryland, Illinois and Louisiana, inpatient stays fell across the six-year time period.”

Nick Note: Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently estimated that prescription opioid abuse, dependence and overdoses cost the public sector $23 billion a year, with a third of that attributable to crime. Death rates now rival those of AIDS during the 1990s,and with overdoses from heroin and other opioids now killing more than 27,000 people a year. Such overdoses often start from legitimate pain and subtly turn into addictions. “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming (1 Peter 1:13).”

The Paradox of American Restaurants (The Atlantic)

“Food has replaced music at the heart of the cultural conversation,” wrote Eugene Wei. For the first time in US history, Americans are spending more money dining out than in grocery stores…Restaurants have grown from 25 percent of food spending in the 1950s to more than half, today. The shift has been accelerating: In the last decade, spending at restaurants and bars has grown twice as fast as all other retail spending, like clothes and cars.
“But today there are simply too many places to eat, according to Victor Fernandez, executive director at Black Box Intelligence, a restaurant data firm. “Half of our food dollar is now going to restaurants, but we have more supply than we have demand,” he said.”

Nick Note: Did you know the average drive-through order at McDonald’s takes 208.2 seconds to complete? But according to a new report by Reuters, some customers are tired of waiting the extra time it takes to cook a fresh patty, and they’re considering taking their business elsewhere. Research shows that dinnertime conversation boosts the vocabulary of young children more than being read aloud to does. Regular family meals have been shown to lower the risk of teenage smoking, binge drinking, marijuana use, eating disorders, and sexual activity. However, it does increase their chances of attaining a higher grade point average and better self-esteem. There is something sacred about the breaking of bread, squabbling among siblings, and the sharing of a meal. Jesus even used this illustration when discussing a relationship with himself(Revelation 3:20).

You’re sharing your cell phone number too frequently (USA Today)

“Our cell phone numbers are being used increasingly by information brokers as the window to personal information that’s kept by nearly all corporations, financial institutions, and, yes, social media networks…Among those sounding the alarm bell is private investigator and former FBI agent Thomas Martin, who recently wrote a blog post titled, “Your cell phone number is your new Social Security number.” Martin’s message was clear: We are way too lackadaisical about keeping our numbers private.”

Nick Note: Someone call Jenny at 867-5309 and tell her to stop giving out her number! But in all seriousness, the phone number has always been a highly sought after commodity. This number allows you to communicate in an intimate and private fashion. To a certain degree, the gospel shares similar characteristics. The good news of Jesus is highly sought after, to the extent that even the angels yearn to hear (1 Peter 1:12). And the gospel allows for an intimate relationship with the Creator of the world (Romans 8:15).

Old dads produce ‘geekier’ sons, research shows (USA Today)

“To determine what factors lead to a geeky child, researchers tested 15,000 sets of British twins, taking note of their geek-like characteristics. These traits included IQ, focus on subjects, social aloofness, whether one activity takes up much of their time and how much they care what their peers think of them.
“Each child got a “geek index,” a measurement of their geekiness. Those born to older fathers had the highest geek index scores.
“That means they’re more intelligent, have more focus and tend to worry less about fitting in than other kids. It’s a silver lining for older fathers, who have been tied to autism and schizophrenia in children…Researchers said one possible reason for this phenomenon: Older dads are more rooted in careers and have higher socioeconomic status, meaning their kids are likely to grow up with a better education and in a more enriching environment.”

Nick Note: Move over Guns N’ Roses! Sweet Child O’ Mine? More like geeky child of thine. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).”

N E W S   Y O U   C A N   U S E

Woman mistakes rattlesnake for dog toy, inspires nation to stay indoors forever

Nick Note: Watch it here. I don’t know whether to laugh at her reaction or be stricken with fear at the possibility. Perfect love may cast out fear but oh how I long for the time when he will come and crush the head of the serpent (1 John 4:18, Genesis 3:15).

How one Mormon girl’s brave coming out started a national conversation (Mashable)

Nick Note: Watch it here. “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers (1 Timothy 4:16).”

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Navy sailor gave his life to save his ‘kids’

Posted by    |    June 21st, 2017 at 5:49 am

Gary Rehm was three months shy of retirement when he died on the USS Fitzgerald last Saturday. At thirty-seven, he was by far the oldest of the seven sailors who perished. According to his uncle, Rehm called the other sailors on the ship his “kids.” When the ship docked stateside near his Virginia home, he invited those who were far from home to join him on holidays.

When the USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship, Rehm said, “If my kids die, I’m going to die.” By various accounts, he saved at least twenty of them. He then went down to save more and perished with six others.

Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The sailors saved by Gary Rehm will spend the rest of their lives knowing that someone loved them enough to give his life for them. Imagine the sense of personal worth and significance such knowledge would bring.

Actually, you can know the feeling personally: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Now we have a choice: we can assess ourselves by what we do or by what God has done.

We live in a culture that measures us by our performance. Commenting on the special election in Georgia, today’s Washington Post says of Republican Karen Handel, “She won, so she’s a winner.” You probably remember that the Cubs won last year’s World Series. Do you remember the team that lost?

Sociologist Charles Horton Cooley unfortunately spoke for many of us when he stated, “I am not what I think I am. I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am.” But there’s a better way.

Our Father wants nothing more than he wants an intimate relationship with us. In a recent First15, Craig Denison observed, “If God considers restored relationship with you worth the death of his only and blameless Son, he must place his highest value on total communion with you.” When I read this sentence, I noted in my journal, “Intimacy with God cost him everything, so it must be worth everything.”

Consider this Puritan prayer: I think of thy glory and my vileness, thy majesty and my meanness, thy beauty and my deformity, thy purity and my filth, thy righteousness and my iniquity. Thou hast loved me everlastingly, unchangeably, may I love thee as I am loved; Thou has given thyself for me, may I give myself to thee; Thou hast died for me, may I live to thee, in every moment of my time, in every movement of my mind, in every pulse of my heart.

Would you make his words your prayer right now?

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How power hurts your brain

Posted by    |    June 20th, 2017 at 1:32 pm

Lord Acton once famously said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Those sentiments exemplify the reason our founding fathers worked so hard to create a system of checks and balances within our government. It seems people have long known that those in power have a tendency to lose touch with the people below them and to act in ways that can prove counterproductive to the greater good. Perhaps it’s not all their fault though.

As The Atlantic‘s Jerry Useem writes, a recent study found that people who have experienced long stretches of power “acted as if they had suffered a traumatic brain injury—becoming more impulsive, less risk-aware, and, crucially, less adept at seeing things from other people’s point of view.” It seems, according to neuroscientist Sukhvinder Obhi, that people in positions of power—or even just those remembering an experience in which they felt powerful— experience physiological changes that make them less able to understand what others are going through or view life through a lens other than their own..

To make matters worse, those results remained the same even when participants in the study knew it was going on. Obhi found that asking people to make a conscious effort to see things from another’s perspective made no difference in their ability to do so while remembering a time in which they felt powerful.

So does that mean that all powerful people are destined to become egocentric and disconnected from the concerns of the world around them? Not necessarily. It turns out that the most reliable cure is a healthy dose of humility. Remembering a time in which you did not feel powerful, or even when you felt helpless, can restore much of the brain activity lost while on a power trip.

Of course, that’s been Scripture’s answer for thousands of years. Proverbs, for example, is filled with warnings about the dangers of pride and the importance of humility. We’re told that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18), and that disgrace accompanies pride while humility results in wisdom (Proverbs 11:2).

Those sentiments should make an even greater impact when we remember that they were uttered by Solomon, a man credited with divine wisdom but also one who allowed the prideful machinations of his heart to lead him down the path to destruction. Let’s face it, anyone who thinks they can handle 700 wives and 300 concubines probably thinks a bit too highly of himself.

If Solomon’s wisdom was not sufficient to overcome the consequences of his pride, it’s a mistake to think ours will be. Fortunately, we serve a God in Jesus whose response to absolute power was to give it up so that he might provide us a path to salvation and restored relationship with the Father (Philippians 2:6–8). Now he calls us to model that humility in our lives as well.

If the lost look at us and see a conceited, arrogant people who think that we’re better than them because we’ve found Jesus, they’re far less likely to desire a relationship with him than if we convey his generosity and love through a humble spirit. That doesn’t mean thinking less of ourselves or denigrating all that the Lord has done and can do through us, but it does mean, as Charles Hodge put it, embracing the truth that “what we have of good is due to the grace of God.”

We serve an amazing God who fashioned us in his image. There’s a lot about who we are of which we should be legitimately proud. The difference between those who serve the Lord well and those who don’t, however, is often the direction in which that pride is directed. Does power and acclaim stop with you or will you direct it back to the Lord? How you answer that question will go a long way towards determining your effectiveness for the kingdom.

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Daily Briefing: June 20, 2017

Posted by    |    June 20th, 2017 at 6:19 am

T O P   N E W S

Otto Warmbier dies less than a week after being returned from North Korea (The Guardian)

“Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old student who was returned to the US in a coma last week after 17 months as a prisoner in North Korea, has died in a Cincinnati hospital, his parents announced. “It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home. Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died today at 2.20pm,” Fred and Cindy Warmbier wrote in a statement on Monday.”

Nick Note: North Korea tortures Otto to the point of death, sends him back to the states, and then he passes into eternity. President Trump was right in calling North Korea a “brutal regime.” The evil of North Korea is only exceeded by the beauty of the Warmbier family, exhibited in their handling of the loss of their son. Our loss is heaven’s gain (2 Corinthians 5:8). Click here to read the bizarre history of how North Korea treats Western prisoners.

Republicans Prepare for a Vote on Health Care Next Week (NBC News)

“Republicans are preparing for a series of votes next week on a plan to overhaul the nation’s health care system. There is no GOP bill yet for the public to see and even rank-and-file Republicans have yet to see any text of legislation. There isn’t even an agreement that has leadership confident that they have 50 votes to pass a bill. But the expectation on Capitol Hill is there will be an outline of a proposal as soon as Wednesday, according to two Republican aides, aiming for a vote next week.
“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been pushing for a vote before June 30th, the beginning of the one-week July 4th recess.”

Nick Note: Is Leader McConnell doing the very thing he said he wasn’t going to do back in 2014? Read his comments here and decide for yourself. This vote could happen quickly but White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s transition is happening slowly – if it is happening at all. For the past two months, speculation has swirled regarding Spicer’s job security. Talks have heated up yet again as a transition is expected to happen to a more behind-the-scenes role overseeing communications strategy. According to Politico, Mr. Spicer and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus are interviewing candidates for the role. Among the candidates are said to be Laura Ingraham, the Fox News personality, and David Martosko, the editor of the Daily Mail.However, this is not the only thing heating up. The tension between the US and Russia escalated on Monday when Russia threatened to track American warplanes in Syria after a U.S. pilot shot down a Syrian jet. Anne Barnard writes that the U.S. is on a “collision course” with Iran and Russia in a key territory of Syria once the battle to root ISIS out of Raqqa is complete. In both of these stories, communication plays a crucial role. Domestically, the role of the press secretary is essential in order to bring along the populace, keeping them informed. Without proper communication the leader is not leading but taking a lonely walk. Internationally, audible communication attempts to bridge the cultural chasms, addressing the different assumptions implicit within one’s societal mores.  As God so ably demonstrated at the creation, there is great power in words. Can you imagine what kind of world we would live in if God did not clearly communicate in the first six days?

Supreme Court sides with The Slants, rules ban on offensive names is unconstitutional (Fox News)

“The Supreme Court ruled Monday that a federal trademark law banning offensive names is unconstitutional, siding with a rock band whose name had been deemed racially disparaging by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. In an 8-0 ruling, the court determined the law’s so-called “disparagement clause” violates the free speech clause of the First Amendment.
“The case centered on Oregon-based, Asian-American band The Slants, which was denied a trademark because its name was considered offensive. The band countered that the 70-year-old law at issue violates free-speech rights —  and Justice Samuel Alito, in the court’s opinion, agreed.”

Nick Note: George Washington noted, “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” French writer Alexis de Tocqueville said, “Nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn how to use than freedom.” This freedom makes America great according to de Tocqueville: “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.” By eliminating free speech, the government “compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.” For better or for worse, the ability to speak freely can enlighten us so that our footsteps may move toward a more perfect union. However, free speech may also mar the silence, proving Proverbs 10:19 true: when words abound, transgressions are inevitable. In Christ, we have been set free (Galatians 5:1). We have great freedom but an even greater responsibility – especially in our conversations. 

C U L T U R A L   N E W S

China, Where the Pressure to Marry Is Strong, and the Advice Flows Online (NY Times)

“Although women in their 20s are greatly outnumbered by men in the same age group in China, a product in part of the since-abandoned one-child family policy and a cultural preference for sons, they face enormous pressure to marry. Those who do not have a husband by the age of 27 are routinely branded as “leftover women,” with diminishing value in the dating market.
“Many of these “leftover women” are well-educated urban professionals in a society where men prefer women who are younger and less successful than themselves. The surplus of bachelors shows up mostly on the other end of the spectrum, poor rural men, prompting the state-run All-China Women’s Federation to urge women to lower their standards, lest they, too, end up as “leftovers.”
“The stress surrounding the search for a suitable partner has given rise to highly rated television dating shows and public matchmaking events. And to advice columnists like Ayawawa, who can detail the techniques for dating and marrying a man.”

Nick Note: A place where the pressure to marry is strong and dating advice flows freely? Is this article talking about China or the South? Kidding…kind of. Here is a map of the average age to marry according to state. The average age of the first marriage has changed over the years, but the value of women has not. A woman’s value and identity does not stem from their marital status. There is no such thing as “leftover women.” All women are the apple of God’s eye (Psalm 17:8), treasured possessions that God sent his only son to die for (Titus 2:14, Deuteronomy 7:6).  Phil Collins is right in that You Can’t Hurry Love and you shouldn’t want to rush it. This Will Be An Everlasting Love according to Natalie Cole. However, everlasting increasingly has later start date. But take heart: God has made all things beautiful in his time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Madrid Transit Officials Tackle ‘El Manspreading’ (NY Times)

“This month, public transportation officials in the Spanish capital are telling passengers to, literally, keep their knees together instead of letting them drift apart. In doing so, they joining cities from New York to Seattle, and countries from Japan to Australia, in trying to battle the impulse that, let’s face it, mostly men have perpetuated.
“The new campaign in Madrid employs an image of a little red figure with legs splayed, taking up two seats, with a slash mark across it, the universal symbol for “don’t do this.” It is part of a lineup of other common antisocial breaches of commuting etiquette, such as smoking and propping feet on seats, that are discouraged in a small, enclosed space shared by dozens of people.”

Nick Note: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves… (Philippians 2:3)”

It’s so hot in Phoenix, they can’t fly planes (USA Today)

“The extreme heat forecast for Phoenix on Tuesday has caused the cancellation of 20 American Airlines flights out of Sky Harbor International Airport.
“According to a statement from American Airlines, the American Eagle regional flights use the Bombardier CRJ aircraft, which has a maximum operating temperature of 118 degrees. Tuesday’s forecast for Phoenix included a high of 120 degrees, and the flights that are affected were to take off between 3 and 6 p.m. MT. Customers affected were told to contact American Airlines for rebooking options or to request a refund.”

Nick Note: Similar to Lenny Kravitz, “I want to get away, I want to fly away!” You may want to get away, but God wants to fix your broken ways – including your patience. God has a way of using less than desirable circumstances to shape us for the better (Romans 8:28-29, 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5, Romans 12:12, Ephesians 4:2).

One in six young people are Christian as visits to church buildings inspire them to convert (Telegraph)

“One in six young people are practising Christians, new figures show, as research suggests thousands convert after visiting church buildings.
“The figures, show that more than one in five (21 per cent) people between the ages of 11 and 18 describe themselves as active followers of Jesus, and 13 per cent say they are practising Christians who attend church. Around 13 per cent of teenagers said that they decided to become a Christian after a visit to a church or cathedral, according to the figures. The influence of a church building was more significant than attending a youth group, going to a wedding, or speaking to other Christians about their faith.”

Nick Note: Augustine noted that the mind was particularly delighted when truth was presented to it in an indirect way, through symbols or spaces. When the mind’s front door of logic is locked, the back door of beauty tends to be open. Beauty never forces itself upon us, but allures us into a time of reflection. When we enter a sanctuary, the difference can be palpable. “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple (Psalm 27:4).”

Family hiring nanny to look after their two children and haunted house (WFAA)

“We have lived in our home for nearly 10 years. We were told it was ‘haunted’ when we bought it, but kept our minds open and decided to buy the house regardless,” the post says. “5 nannies have left the role in the last year, each citing supernatural incidents as the reason, including strange noises, broken glass and furniture moving….The job includes a £50,000 salary (which converts to $63,795 U.S. dollars), 28 vacation days, and possibly ghosts.”

Nick Note: I am assuming this is not Casper the Friendly Ghost. When I was a kid, Jurassic Park scared me and the donut lady caused anxiety within me. Needless to say, I will not be applying for this job. But if you are interested, remember this: a house divided cannot stand (Matthew 12:22-28). Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

N E W S   Y O U   C A N   U S E

4-year-old is adorably extra at preschool graduation

Nick Note: Watch it here. Whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do (including singing), do all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Costa Rican President ate an insect while giving an interview

Nick Note: Watch it here. This makes Senator Rubio’s water bottle debacle and Howard Dean’s carnal scream seem like slim pickings. Nevertheless, I refer you to the above verse, this time with an emphasis upon whatever you eat (including bugs), do for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

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‘Democrats seek first big win of Trump era’

Posted by    |    June 20th, 2017 at 6:00 am

That’s how CNN describes today’s special election in Georgia, which has become “the most expensive House race in history.” Today’s Washington Post has a headline story on the death of American college student Otto Warmbier, who was released in a coma from North Korea a few days ago. And NBC News warns that “dangerously hot temperatures” are forecast for California and the desert Southwest today.

However, if you were reading the news on the other side of the world, the headlines would be very different. The Jerusalem Post reports on yesterday’s meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and Jordan’s King Abdullah in Paris. China Daily tells us about an anti-smog campaign in Beijing and other northern cities. And The Korea Times reports on a water shortage crisis in southern Korea.

The Greek philosopher Anaximander is credited with drawing the first map of the world. He lived in Miletus, on the western coast of modern-day Turkey. Unsurprisingly, Miletus was at the center of his map.

Wherever you are, you seem to be in the center of the world. What leads the news depends on where you’re reading the news. But God has a different perspective.

According to his prophet, “All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness” (Isaiah 40:17). That’s because “it is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers” (v. 22). It is God “who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness” (v. 23).

Consider an analogy. My wife wrote a blog recently on the barn swallows who built a nest on our porch. We waited until their chicks had hatched and left, then we knocked down their nest. When the swallows returned, they seemed most indignant. Clearly, they thought the porch was theirs since they lived there for a short time. But it was there before they arrived and will be there after they leave.

So much of what matters so much on earth is of little consequence in heaven. Even Christians are tempted to make more of the church than we do of Christ. That’s because our culture measures success by what it can see—buildings, programs, activities. But God measures success by what he can see—”man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Oswald Chambers: “We count as service what we do in the way of Christian work; Jesus Christ calls service what we are to him, not what we do for him” (my emphasis). Imagine a bride who focused on learning about her groom, talking about him, and serving his family and causes, but spent little time with him. What kind of marriage would theirs be?

God’s word calls us the “bride” of Christ (Revelation 19:7). How is your marriage today?

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10 Things You Should NEVER Say To Your Spouse!

Posted by    |    June 19th, 2017 at 9:14 am

Whoever said, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” didn’t know what they were talking about! The truth is that our words can make or break our relationships and we need to commit to using our words wisely. Never say the following…

1. “YOU’RE SO STUPID.” (or a jerk, or idiot).” Name-calling shouldn’t ever be a part of marriage.

2. “MAYBE WE SHOULD JUST GET A DIVORCE.” Never threaten divorce because you’re angry. Removed the divorce word from your marriage.

3. “IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT.” Blaming 100% of the problem on your spouse isn’t fair. Don’t blame, look for ways to fix.

4. “I NEVER LOVED YOU.” There is no bigger lie uttered by people. There was love when you married, or you wouldn’t have married. If the flame has died, work to reignite it.

5. “MARRYING YOU WAS A MISTAKE.” Not a phrase that builds up your marriage, it simply tears down.

6. “WHY CAN’T YOU BE MORE LIKE SO-IN-SO’S HUSBAND OR WIFE.” It’s totally unfair to compare your mate to what someone else might be.

7. “MY MOTHER WAS RIGHT ABOUT YOU.” or “YOU ARE JUST LIKE YOUR MOTHER.” No, just no! Don’t bring outside family into it.

8. “I TOLD YOU SO.” Even if you did, don’t rub your spouse’s nose in it. A good rule to remember in arguments is, if you’re wrong apologize, and if you are right then shut up.

9. “I’M SORRY, BUT…” Don’t ever include an excuse with a sincere apology. When you do, it makes the apology not seem legit.

10. “FINE, BUT DON’T EXPECT SEX FROM ME.” Whether it’s communication, affection, time spent together or sex, withholding needs from your spouse because you are made … is wrong. Just don’t.

Daily Briefing: June 19, 2017

Posted by    |    June 19th, 2017 at 7:00 am

T O P   N E W S

Van rams worshippers leaving London mosque, injuring 10 (Reuters)

“A van plowed into worshippers near a London mosque on Monday, injuring 10 people in what police said was a deliberate attack on Muslims that was being treated as a terrorist incident. Shortly after midnight, the hired vehicle swerved into a group of people leaving prayers at the Muslim Welfare House and the nearby Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, one of the biggest in the country, witnesses said.
“In a statement, Finsbury Park Mosque said it was a “callous terrorist attack” and noted it had occurred almost exactly a year after man obsessed with Nazis and extreme right-wing ideology murdered lawmaker Jo Cox, a former humanitarian aid worker.”

Nick Note: Ghandi said that an eye for an eye will only make the world blind. London has endured three terrorist attacks over the past six months. This time, a witness said the driver shouted, “I want to kill all Muslims,” before onlookers pinned him to the ground. Through Ghandi’s eyes, we are becoming blind. According to the biblical narrative, this world is growing louder with cries rising from the earth (Genesis 4:8-12).

Pentagon: U.S. shoots down Syrian aircraft for first time (Politico)

“The U.S. had not shot down a Syrian regime aircraft before Sunday’s confrontation, said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. While the U.S. has said since it began recruiting, training and advising what it calls moderate Syrian opposition forces to fight IS that it would protect them from potential Syrian government retribution, this was the first time it resorted to engaging in air-to-air combat to make good on that promise.”

Nick Note: Happy Technology Week! The week got off to a rather hot start yesterday. Perhaps the most heated exchange involved Jay Sekulow of Mr. Trump’s legal team going back and forth concerning the Trump investigation with Chris Wallace of Fox News. Watch it here. “The president is not and has not been under investigation for obstruction,” said Sekulow on Meet the Press, despite Mr. Trump’s tweet on Friday that some believed communicated the opposite. Nevertheless, President Trump will host tech leaders throughout the week to discuss drones, the internet of Things, and the future of the US workforce. Today, President Trump will meet with Apple leader Tim Cook. Mr. Cook is expected to lend his voice to the importance of immigration within the tech world, as well as advocating for strong encryption protections for tech companies. Mr. Trump will also meet with Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela to discuss the fight against transnational organized crime, illegal migration, and drugs. The need to strengthen ties with allies is essential in today’s world. The horrors in Syria will continue to bring together the most disparate parties to address one of the more tragic situations. The fact that there are 65.6 million people displaced from their homes (the highest since World War II) will require different countries to work together to contribute uniquely to the situation. Essentially, teamwork will be necessary. As Jim Kwon noted: “One piece of log creates a small fire, adequate to warm you up, add just a few more pieces to blast an immense bonfire, large enough to warm up your entire circle of friends; needless to say that individuality counts but teamwork dynamites.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14-22)

Deadly Collision Crushed Captain’s Cabin of USS Fitzgerald (WSJ)

“In a period of seconds, a 29,000-ton cargo ship loaded with containers plowed into its right side, crushing a large section of the destroyer’s main structure, including the captain’s cabin and sleeping quarters for 116 sailors below the waterline. Seawater flooded in through a large gash.
“The U.S. Navy on Sunday identified the seven victims as Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19 years old, from Palmyra, Va.; Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego; Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Conn.; Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas; Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, Calif., Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Md.; and Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio.”

Nick Note: “The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example.” — Benjamin Disraeli (Romans 13:7)

NBC’s Megyn Kelly grills ‘radical conspiracy theorist’ Alex Jones (USA Today)

“NBC’s News’ Megyn Kelly took conservative conspiracy theorist and Infowars broadcaster Alex Jones to task on Sunday, calling his allegations that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings never took place “outrageous.”
“Asked if he still believes the shootings were a hoax, Jones said, “I tend to believe that children probably did die there, but then you look at all the other evidence on the other side, I could see how other people believe that nobody died there.”
“Calling the shootings a “horrible tragedy,” Jones offered the parents “my sincere condolences” and said he wanted to open a dialogue with them as way to combat misrepresentations by mainstream media.”

Nick Note: Voltaire famously wrote, “I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.” Today, we live and move in a social media world where there are less gatekeepers of information and more microphones to disseminate information, which in turn has coincided with a drop in trust of institutions and among individuals. One question I often think about is what are the implications of sharing the good news in a fake news world? But nevertheless, in this quasi brave new world, the Christian should be keenly aware of at least two truths: your resources, attention, and clicks reward particular behavior and practices. Coupled with this is the truth that you have been called to steward those resources well (Matthew 10:16, Luke 16:11).

Hiding Christians in the Basement: Fear and Heroism in a Philippine War Zone (NY Times)

“Three Christian civilians said they had cowered in a basement for weeks while militants inspired by the Islamic State went door to door killing non-Muslims in the southern Philippine city of Marawi before fleeing for their lives at dawn on Tuesday.
“We heard them shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ and asking neighbors about religion,” said Ian Torres, 25, a house painter who had come to Marawi for a job. “We could only hear them. If they could not answer questions about Quran verses, gunfire immediately followed.”
“Their account, and others from people who have fled the battle zone in Marawi, starkly illustrate the brutal religious calculus of the militants as well as the heroic efforts of local Muslims who risked their lives to protect Christian friends and workers.”

Nick Note: This news is coupled with the news that hundreds of Iraqi Christians could be deported back to Iraq. To give you an idea of what is happening over there, watch this video of this hero saving a child in the middle of gunfire with ISIS.  “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body (Hebrews 13:3).”

C U L T U R A L   N E W S

Oregon to begin offering non-gender option on driver’s license (Fox News)

“In a move hailed by LGBT rights groups, Oregon became the first state in the US to allow residents to mark their gender as “not specified” on applications for driver’s licenses, learner’s permits and identity cards.
“Under the new rule approved by the Oregon Transportation Commission, Oregonians who select the new option will have an X appear instead of M or F on those cards. The rule, which takes effect on July 3, is a first for the U.S., David House, spokesman for Oregon’s Driver and Motor Vehicles Division, or DMV, told The Associated Press.”

Nick Note: Over the weekend, the NY Times ran a feature that highlighted a pastor dealing with his father’s transition to live as a woman. This transgender transition is largely spurred by a desire for the external to match the internal. For the transgender person, something does not seem right, thus they want to make it right through surgery. Despite medical evidence proving that this will only exasperate the problem, transgender individuals are receptive to change during this time and obviously willing to change. How might you, as someone who is also undergoing a type of change (2 Corinthians 3:18), be a force for good in their life?

Amazon Said to Plan Cuts to Shed Whole Foods’ Pricey Image (Bloomberg)

“Amazon expects to reduce headcount and change inventory to lower prices and make Whole Foods competitive with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and other big-box retailers, according to a person with knowledge of the company’s grocery plans. That included potentially using technology to eliminate cashiers. An Amazon spokesman denied any job cuts were planned.
“Whole Foods has already been reducing prices to try to turn around its worst sales slump since going public in 1992. It has four “365 by Whole Foods Market” stores that are cheaper to build and operate than a traditional location and offer lower-priced items aimed at younger shoppers.”

Nick Note: Amazon did more than purchase Whole Foods, they also purchased approximately 460 stores that could function as small warehouses. Jeff Bezos, a few days prior to the purchase being announced, was interviewed by the NY Times concerning his philanthropic activity/philosophy. Can you imagine the good Bezos could do for the 23.5 million Americans who live in food deserts? Leveraging the fresh fruits and veggies from Whole Foods at low prices with the superb shipping ability of Amazon? (Matthew 25:35-40)

Left handed people are more likely to be geniuses (QZ)

“Hand preference is a manifestation of brain function and is therefore related to cognition. Left-handers exhibit, on average, a more developed right brain hemisphere, which is specialized for processes such as spatial reasoning and the ability to rotate mental representations of objects.
“The results, published in Frontiers, show that left-handers outperformed the rest of the sample when the tasks involved difficult problem-solving, such as associating mathematical functions to a given set of data. Left-handers seem to have, on average, an edge when solving demanding mathematical tasks – at least during primary school and high school.”

Nick Note: Are you left-handed? I swing a golf club right-handed, throw a baseball left-handed, but can eat with either hand. We may have different gifts but the same admonition to steward them well (Romans 12:6).

Power Causes Brain Damage (The Atlantic)

“When he put the heads of the powerful and the not-so-powerful under a transcranial-magnetic-stimulation machine, he found that power, in fact, impairs a specific neural process, “mirroring,” that may be a cornerstone of empathy. Which gives a neurological basis to what Keltner has termed the “power paradox”: Once we have power, we lose some of the capacities we needed to gain it in the first place.
“…power functions as “a sort of tumor that ends by killing the victim’s sympathies.” But that’s not far from where Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley, ended up after years of lab and field experiments. Subjects under the influence of power, he found in studies spanning two decades, acted as if they had suffered a traumatic brain injury—becoming more impulsive, less risk-aware, and, crucially, less adept at seeing things from other people’s point of view.”

Nick Note: Lord Acton famously noted that absolute power corrupts absolutely. 90s German electronic pop group Snap! proclaimed “I’ve Got the Power!” With their electronic pop hit, they not only provided a listening audience with a song that captivated their attention, but they caused skeptical minds to reflect on who really does have the power. In the phenomenal book Playing God, Andy Crouch contends that “the deepest form of power is creation.” Tracing it back to the genesis, Crouch writes that exercising power is a part of our image-bearing vocation. He invites the reader to re-imagine power as “creative love”—multiplied when shared, a type of power that empowers. As image-bearers of the One who is all-powerful, we have been given the admonition to “have dominion” over creation, as well as fill the earth by “subduing” it. Power is the good tool used to till and tend the earth in order to bring about the potential and promise God has stored within it (Genesis 1:26-28).

N E W S   Y O U   C A N   U S E

Iran Bans Zumba, and Its Fans Fume (NY Times)

Nick Note: This ban probably resulted from Iranian officials watching me try to Zumba. They wanted to protect their people from the horror (Romans 13:1-6).  My hips don’t lie and unfortunately they don’t move with the beat either.

Deaf Boy Meets Disney Characters, But When He Notices Mickey’s Gesture His Heart Melts.

Nick Note: Watch it here. “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known (Jeremiah 33:3).”

Justin Bieber might want to learn ‘Despacito’ lyrics (CNN)

“At the recent Summerburst Festival 2017 held in Stockholm, Sweden, Bieber told the crowd he couldn’t sing the song.
“I can’t do ‘Despacito,’” Bieber said on stage. “I don’t even know it.” The song is sung in Spanish, and it recently hit number one on Billboard’s Hot 100.”

Nick Note: Watch the awkward breaking of news here. Mr. Bieber can’t give the people what they want, but our God always gives us what we need. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).”

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