Daily Briefing: March 24, 2017

Posted by    |    March 24th, 2017 at 6:42 am

T O P   N E W S

My Way or The Highway

Nick Note: Perhaps it was fate that Mr. Trump welcomed truckers to the White House the same day he issued a “my way or the highway” ultimatum regarding the health care bill. Nevertheless, let’s get to the most interesting part first – the pictures and video of President Trump behind a huge truck. President Trump issued an ultimatum yesterday to recalcitrant Republicans to fall in line behind the health insurance overhaul or see their opportunity to repeal the Affordable Care Act vanish, demanding a vote today. Through the night, lawmakers continued to struggle to come to an agreement on a pillar of the Affordable Care Act: the requirement that most insurance policies cover a basic set of health services, including such items as maternity and mental-health care. Here are nine bill changes aimed at the moderates and the far-right. But there appears to be no winning over leading conservative thinkers. Rich Lowery noted: “If anything resembling the current bill passes and is signed into law, Republicans will spend years trying to fix it and live it down. If the bill fails, the rest of President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda may sink with it.”Conservative women are chiming in, noting the lack of females in the room as pictured here. And then there is Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. Yesterday he called on Democrats to block the Gorsuch confirmationbecause he feared that Gorsuch was insufficiently independent of the Trump administration. For the past year, the waves of populism and the anti-establishment cries have proven to be quite powerful and exceedingly loud. Yet, as health care legislation and the Gorsuch hearings indicate, the checks and balances in our country remain strong. As conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer writes this morning: “[Gorsuch] He’s a slam dunk, yet some factions have scraped together a campaign to block him. Their ads are plaintive and pathetic. Yet I find them warmly reassuring. What a country — where even the vacuous have a voice…Taken together — and suspending judgment on which side is right on any particular issue — it is deeply encouraging that the sinews of institutional resistance to a potentially threatening executive remain quite resilient.” For the Christian, we don’t always get what we want, yet with God, we always get what we need (Philippians 4:19). He never withholds any good thing (Psalm 84:11). If Tom Cochrane was right in that life is a highway, we may want to go our way (Proverbs 14:12) but his plans are always better than our dreams (Jeremiah 29:11).

‘We Are Not Afraid’: London Stands Defiant After Parliament Attack (Time)

“Authorities identified a 52-year-old Briton as the man who mowed down pedestrians and stabbed a policeman to death outside Parliament in London, saying he had a long criminal record and once was investigated for extremism— but was not currently on a terrorism watch list.
“As millions of Londoners returned to work a day after a rampage that killed four victims and injured at least 30, British Prime Minister Theresa May had a message for other attackers: “We are not afraid.”

Nick Note: Here is what we know about the attacker. And here is a video of why an attack in the heart of London was so significant. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the terror attack. In London, four times as many Muslims go to Mosque on Friday than Christians go to church on Sunday. Yet tragedy knows no bounds, striking both Muslims and Christians. In such times, we are reminded of our frailty and oftentimes question God’s goodness (James 4:10, Psalm 119:68). In the wake of tragedy, we are changed – seeing and hearing things differently. You hear truth in lyrics you never heard before. You experience things in such a way that triggers you back to the loss. Essentially, the loss is always before us. The loss may be close, God is closer (Psalm 34:18).

Hosni Mubarak Is Freed, Crushing Egyptians’ Fading Hopes of Justice (NY Times)

“Six years after baying crowds ousted him at the peak of the Arab Spring, former President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was freed on Friday from the Cairo hospital where he had been detained, capping a long and largely fruitless effort to hold him accountable for human rights abuses and endemic corruption during his three decades of rule.
“Mr. Mubarak faced accusations of conspiring with the police to kill 239 protesters in Tahrir Square; of siphoning tens of millions of dollars from the state coffers; and of cutting off the country’s internet during the 2011 uprising, among other crimes. But what astonished Egyptians most was the sight of a man many had long feared, scowling in a courtroom cage.”

Nick Note: “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them (Isaiah 61:8-9).”

C U L T U R A L   N E W S

Most young people don’t use Tinder for love or sex — here’s why they really use it (Market Watch, h/t: Chris H)

“LendEdu, a consumer finance comparison site, asked more than 3,800 millennials aged 18 to 22 if they used Tinder and a staggering 72% of them said they did. When the researchers asked them why, 22% of those Tinder users answered that they are “looking for a hookup” and 29% percent said they use the location-based app for other reasons, which likely include friendship and curiosity. And only 4% said they were “looking for a relationship.” Meanwhile, more than 44% said they were swiping for “confidence-boosting procrastination.” (A spokeswoman for Tinder said its own research found 80% of the site’s users of all ages are seeking a meaningful relationship.)”

Nick Note: As the memorable Stuart Smalley noted: “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.” Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found that increased social media use is linked to higher levels of perceived social isolation. Though social media isolates you, it also provides a dopamine hit – like a hug. In essence, social media can function like a vicious cycle. When you get a like, a retweet, etc., you get a rush of dopamine to your system – an atomic hug. But yet we know that an actual hug is far greater than a virtual like. French writer Montaigne acknowledged this, writing that the very first clasp of future lovers hands caused arms to go numb. Today, the desire for connection is great and the yearning for affirmation is astounding. Christians should seek to connect and appropriately affirm, but ultimately only the Lord can fill and satisfy these yearnings (Hebrews 10:24-25, Ephesians 5:18-21, Ecclesiastes 3:11). They don’t need to swipe right but rather look up.

The Video Game That Claims Everything Is Connected (The Atlantic)

“Everything certainly goes deeper. The game sports thousands of unique, playable things, promising players that anything they can see, they can be. To “be” something in Everything means binding to and taking control of it. Once accomplished, the player can pilot that object around.
“Everything’s tagline promises that everything you can see, you can be, which has led some to conclude that the game is a “universe simulator,” along the lines of No Man’s Sky.”

Nick Note: History is littered with those that tried to make sense of everything. Shakespeare wrote: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts.” But Paul, divinely inspired, offered a perceptive thought regarding how everything is connected: “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:16-17).”

The idea of monogamy as a relationship ideal is based on flawed science (QZ)

“Researchers from the University of Michigan set out to determine whether the ways psychologists and other scientists study relationships are geared up to deliver results that—even unconsciously—promote monogamy. They concluded that the very way we study intimacy is problematic.
“Terri Conley, the study’s lead author, said that our attitudes to monogamy are “so ingrained as to be invisible.”
“The researchers also point out that in relationship surveys non-monogamy is often referred to using language that isn’t neutral: Asking people about “infidelity,” or “cheating” is directive, they say; as is referring to one person as the “offended party” or the “betrayed partner”—all terms that have appeared in academic studies.”

Nick Note: Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage, or so Frank Sinatra crooned in his 1955 hit. Dan Savage argues that the greatest problem with the institution of marriage is not infidelity, but rather truth telling. He believes we need to be transparent and truthful in our unfaithfulness. In other words, lie in your vows, but be truthful in your unfaithfulness. He tells the New York Times we need “monogamish” relationships. But as a society, do we need weaker marriages? According to the research – no. Marriage is a “seedbed” of prosocial behavior that fosters social connections, civil and religious involvement, and charitable giving. A marriage is the greatest social educator of children. And children raised in intact families are more likely to attend college, are physically and emotionally healthier, are less likely to be physically or sexually abused, less likely to use drugs or alcohol and to commit delinquent behaviors, have a decreased risk of divorcing when they get married, are less likely to become  pregnant/impregnate someone as a teenager, and are less likely to be raised in poverty. Marriage quickens you to selflessness and blesses the community in turn (Ephesians 5:21-33). This is ideal.

‘Deaths of despair’ fuel rising midlife mortality for white Americans (CNN)

“It’s a midlife crisis of a different sort: “Deaths of despair” — due to drugs, alcohol and suicide — are largely responsible for rising mortality rates among middle-age white Americans. And a new analysis by Princeton economists delves into what they believe is behind this trend.
“The new analysis builds on their 2015 study that identified an upward trend in mortality for white 45- to 54-year-olds starting in 1998….Premature death was on the rise for Native and white Americans, with drug overdose and suicide contributing heavily to the increase.”

Nick Note: Henry David Thoreau found that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. Unfortunately, drug use has been shown to cause and exasperate isolation. “Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:7-8).”

When Couples Divorce, Who Gets to Keep the Dog? (Or Cat.) (NY Times)

“Courts have traditionally treated pets as personal property in such cases, but that is starting to shift as some state lawmakers and advocacy groups promote the notion that the legal system should act in the best interests of the animals.
“Courts have awarded shared custody, visitation and even alimony payments to pet owners, and starting about 15 years ago, more states began allowing people to leave estates or trusts to care for their pets.”

Nick Note: We went from who let the dogs out to who gets to keep the dog. In 2014, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reported a 27 percent increase in pet-custody cases over the five previous years. The Scriptures are relatively silent on dog matters in divorce proceedings, but they are clear as to how you are to treat each other (Luke 6:31).

N E W S   Y O U   C A N   U S E

‘You’re almost men’: Watch this man brilliantly break up a street fight between two teenage boys (WaPo)

Nick Note: Watch the video where he broke up the fight here. And this is his video giving honor to God before officials. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9).”

Girl sell record 100,100 boxes of Girl Scout cookies

Nick Note: I probably bought at least 782 boxes of Tagalongs from her. Here is a ranking of the most healthy Girl Scout Cookies – if there is such a thing. (Titus 2:14)

Military son surprises mom at her graduation

Nick Note: Watch it here. I never tire of watching these videos. The surprise return of our soldiers always reminds me of Luke 15:7.

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The health care controversy: 3 biblical priorities

Posted by    |    March 24th, 2017 at 6:03 am

House Republicans are set to vote this morning on legislation that would replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). They hoped to vote on their bill yesterday, but too many conservatives and moderates opposed it. Even if they prevail, their legislation faces an uphill battle in the Senate.

Why is this issue so complicated and divisive?

As one medical ethicist explains, we insist on four values that are difficult to reconcile: high quality of care, freedom of choice, affordability, and a system in which everyone shares both costs and benefits.

Contrast our social values with those of other countries. Nearly all the world’s highly industrialized nations—including Canada, Japan, Australia, and western European countries—have health care systems that provide universal access at significantly less cost than in the US. However, to pay for their health care, these societies typically limit insurance options. The UK also restricts the adoption of high-cost medical innovations. And these nations generally impose limits on fees providers can charge and on pharmaceutical prices.

For many Americans, the system prior to the ACA worked well. It offered a wide range of medical options and excellent care at a price they considered affordable. However, this system was too expensive for many others. As costs escalated, the gap between those with coverage and those without health care continued to grow.

The ACA sought to balance our four priorities, ostensibly providing choice and care while driving down costs and expanding coverage. However, opponents claim that it restricted choice, limited care options, and expanded coverage by imposing a financial model that was unfair and untenable. Now critics of Republicans’ attempt to repeal and replace ObamaCare are making similar allegations against their legislation.

This debate will continue because our democratic culture especially values freedom of choice. We are consumers in a consumption-based economy. Yet we believe that “all men are created equal” with equal rights to effective health care. As medical costs grow, balancing our cultural priorities is a true Gordian knot.

Three biblical priorities will help.

One: God values our health.

God made us in his image (Genesis 1:26–27) and has made our bodies the temple of his Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Jesus healed “every disease and every affliction among the people” (Matthew 4:23). Medical care, when practiced within biblical guidelines, is an extension of Jesus’ healing ministry today. Efforts to provide medical care to all Americans are biblical.

Two: We must care for the poor.

We should meet our own needs if we can: “Each will have to bear his own load” (Galatians 6:5). However, God told us how to treat our “poor brother”: “You shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need” (Deuteronomy 15:7,8).

Three: What is good for one of us is good for all of us.

Describing Christians as the “body of Christ,” Paul noted: “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Ethicist Bruce Jennings: “No individual, no matter how wealthy or powerful, can really be free except in a context of social justice and the common good.”

John prayed for his people “that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul” (3 John 2). Let’s join him.

NOTE: I invite you to join me for a seminar I am teaching on how to engage the culture for Christ. You can register here for the four-week course. The class meets from March 30 to April 20, 6:30 to 8:30 PM on Thursday nights at Dallas Baptist University. We will develop a Christian worldview, understand trends in the culture, and learn how to speak the truth in love on topics from medical ethics to the LGBTQ community. The class is almost full, so sign up today.

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Why Geno Auriemma’s comments resonate beyond sports

Posted by    |    March 23rd, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Geno Auriemma is the head women’s basketball coach at the University of Connecticut. If that name sounds familiar but you aren’t quite sure why, it probably has something to do with the fact that his team hasn’t lost in over two years (109 games straight, and counting) while currently pursuing their fifth consecutive national title. That kind of success is unprecedented in the modern era and has garnered him a level of influence and respect that far surpasses his own sport. For those reasons and more, when he speaks people tend to listen.

Recently, a video from a news conference he gave at last year’s Final Four went viral after professional baseball hitting coach Matt Lisle posted it on his Facebook page. It was viewed more than twenty-four million times in the first twenty-four hours and was picked up by outlets ranging from ESPN to Forbes. The reason for the video’s popularity is that there’s just something about Auriemma’s message that resonates with people regardless of their opinions on women’s basketball.

In it, the coach talks about how difficult it’s become to recruit players “that are really upbeat and loving life and love the game, and have this tremendous appreciation for when their teammates do something well, that’s hard.” This is the coach of the most successful team his sport’s ever seen. If someone like him, who can walk into the home of any recruit in the nation and garner immediate consideration, has trouble finding that kind of player, it’s because there just aren’t that many of her out there.

He would go on to talk about how the problem stems in large part from the fact that kids are “allowed to get away with just whatever, and they’re always thinking about themselves . . . ‘Me, me, me, me, me. I didn’t score, so why would I be happy?’ ‘I’m not getting enough minutes; why would I be happy?’ That’s the world we live in today, unfortunately. Kids check the scoreboard sometimes because they’re going to get yelled at by their parents if they don’t score enough points.”

While Auriemma was speaking specifically to women’s basketball, the problem is not limited to a particular gender or sport. Lamenting the way that many professional and, increasingly, college athletes play without an apparent love of the game is a common refrain from fans of every sport. Most are aware that the problem started long before that, however, with roots running all the way back to YMCA and youth leagues. Ultimately, it’s on coaches and parents to steward their kids well, since children, most often, are only responding to the environment in which they’re raised.

Does it help to see players showboating on Sundays or caring more about their stat lines than the win-loss column? Of course not, but that cycle won’t be broken by changing how the pros play. As John O’Sullivan, a former college and professional soccer player, put it, the problem “started with parents and coaches at age twelve looking the other way because a kid happened to be a good player. That is our outcome-driven youth sports system in a nutshell.”

Can you think of any other parts of our culture where that description would apply? Perhaps an easier question would be can you think of anywhere it wouldn’t. It’s still a sin to take the wrong path to the right destination, but far too often we focus so much on the end that we completely miss all that God might want to do in our lives along the way. We struggle to help our kids see a bigger picture because we’ve missed it ourselves.

Scripture is clear that, while we are meant to raise our kids in community with others, each of us ultimately bears the responsibility for helping them understand the proper way to live (Deuteronomy 6:7). The culture around us can make that job easier or harder, but it never absolves us of that responsibility. And if you don’t have kids, pray and ask God how you can help those who do. Often times, it’s in helping others walk closer with him that the Lord shows us how to do the same.

Geno Auriemma’s words resonate with us because we see those problems play out in our own lives just as often as in the lives of our children. But if we can’t fix ourselves, how are we ever going to help them? That’s an important question for each of us to consider, whether we have kids or not. How would you answer it today?

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Princeton reverses decision to honor Tim Keller

Posted by    |    March 23rd, 2017 at 1:30 pm

Princeton Theological Seminary recently invited Tim Keller, perhaps the best-known Presbyterian pastor in America, to receive its annual Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Witness. We would not expect this to be a controversial decision. But it was.

Keller is a leader in the Presbyterian Church in America, which has taken stands against the ordination of women and of LGBTQ persons. As a result, the uproar against his recognition at Princeton was deafening. One critic spoke for many: “We are honoring and celebrating a man who has championed toxic theology for decades.” As a result, the seminary has rescinded its decision to give Keller the Kupyer Prize, though it has invited him to give the lecture associated with the award.

Conservatives see Princeton’s decision as another example of liberal intolerance and prejudice against conservative values. Owen Strachan, director of the Center for Public Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, observes: “Those who promote tolerance in our time show so little of it; those who call for charitable dialogue do so little to extend it. Biblical sexual ethics is where this take-no-prisoners battle is the fiercest.”

But progressives should be equally troubled by Princeton’s decision. Jonathan Merritt, who calls himself “more progressive than Keller on these issues,” asks, “How does marginalizing Tim Keller make this world a better place? How does it promote unity among disparate churches?” Merritt knows Keller and calls him “eminently reasonable, thoughtful, kind. Tim Keller is no extremist. He is no misogynist. He is no bigot. He is not hateful. Anyone who has paid attention to his Manhattan ministry can attest to this.”

I know Tim Keller as well. It has been my privilege to join him in speaking on behalf of Movement Day in New York City and in Dallas. He is one of the most thoughtful, grace-giving people and ministers I have ever met. I agree with Merritt: “If Christians like Tim Keller are unworthy of honor and deserve to be marginalized, American Christianity is in serious trouble.”

Those who truly follow Jesus have seldom been in the cultural majority. Our Lord warned us: “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). The Greek word translated “tribulation” is thlipsis, a term which designated the massive stone used to crush grain into flour. In other words, we should expect the culture to crush those it opposes.

Jesus was clear: “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). At the same time, he called us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). We are to defend our faith, but we must do so “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). We are to speak the truth, but we must do so “in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

Princeton’s treatment of Tim Keller is not the last time conservative Christians will be treated ungraciously by those who disagree with our values. Now it’s our turn to choose how we respond. For those who champion tolerance above all other values, we have an opportunity to demonstrate a tolerant spirit even as we “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

If Jesus could wash our feet, we can wash one another’s feet (John 13:14).



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Daily Briefing: March 23, 2017

Posted by    |    March 23rd, 2017 at 6:39 am

T O P   N E W S

London attack: Eight held after armed police raids (BBC)

“Eight arrests have been made in raids in London, Birmingham and elsewhere following an attack in Westminster that left four dead, police have said.Hundreds of detectives worked through the night, carrying out searches at six addresses, Acting Deputy Commissioner Mark Rowley said. The dead are PC Keith Palmer, Aysha Frade who worked at a London college, a man in his 50s and the attacker. A further 29 had been treated in hospital, Mr Rowley added. In the attack on Wednesday afternoon, a man drove a car along a pavement on Westminster Bridge knocking down pedestrians, creating panic and leaving dozens injured.”

Nick Note: Out of respect for the victims, the Eiffel Tower in Paris turned off their lights last night. This first person account is quite shocking: “I had come to work that day expecting to sketch prime minister’s questions and had ended up as one of many witnesses to a terrorist attack.” The Islamic State has a highly advanced social media strategy, allowing them to train individually from afar and under the radar. This despite the fact that Twitter suspended 376,890 accounts last year because of posting terrorist-related material. When tragedy appears, questions arise – namely where is God and why would God? We may never know why (Deuteronomy 29:29) but we can know where (Psalm 115:3) – on his throne.

US Officials: Info suggests Trump associates may have coordinated with Russians (CNN)

“The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.
“The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings, according to those U.S. officials. The information is raising the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, though officials cautioned that the information was not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing.”

Nick Note: Whiteboards are remarkable, as was yesterday. Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Representative Devin Nunes suggested that American intelligence agencies monitoring foreign officials may have “incidentally” picked up communications of Trump transition team members. This means Americans were not the targets, foreign officials were but intelligence officials just happened to overhear. So on Monday, Nunes said the “big, gray cloud” was over the Trump White House. Two days later, it is over the Obama White House. This back and forth has caused Time Magazine to put this question on it’s cover: is truth dead? At the NY Times, Nicholas Kristof writes that there is a “smell of treason in the air.” This morning, I think we can all agree that truth is alive and a person, treason is a pretty large claim, and “the big, gray cloud” is now over Rep. Nunes. Read four reasons here. In other news, the spotlight continues to shine on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manfort and his ties with Russian officials. Read Manafort’s response is here. Speaking of responding, House Republican leaders met with members of their party late into the night on Wednesday as they struggled to gather support for the health care bill, scheduled for a vote on the House floor on Thursday at 7 EST. In a last-minute effort to sink the Republican health care bill, a powerful network of conservative donors (headed by Charles and David Koch) said Wednesday they would create a new fund for Republican 2018 reelection races — but they’ll only open it up to Republicans who vote against the bill. And since we are talking about opening it up, the Senate Judiciary Committee will open it up Thursday by hearing testimony from outside witnesses. Perhaps the most ‘bigly’ moment yesterday in Mr. Gorsuch’s hearing was here. Enjoy. Yesterday was a bigly day, and if the schedule is any indication, today will be one as well. But don’t let the day slip away without remembering this remarkable truth: you are greatly loved by the Father. In the midst of the craziness of Daniel’s life, three times God uttered this reminder to Daniel (9:23, 10:11, 10:19).

AT&T, Verizon Pull Ads From Google Over ‘Hate’ Videos (WSJ)

“The crisis has created an opening for some advertisers to press Google for long-sought changes, while highlighting its complicated relationship with some of its customers. AT&T and Verizon, for example, in addition to being big advertisers, are building online video and ad services to compete with Google.
“We are deeply concerned that our ads may have appeared alongside YouTube content promoting terrorism and hate,” AT&T said in a statement, adding that its move would last “until Google can ensure this won’t happen again.” AT&T declined to disclose how much it spends on YouTube, but a person familiar with the matter said AT&T is among the video site’s top customers.”

Nick Note: “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm (Proverbs 13:20).”

Starbucks Doubles Down on Military Hiring After Boycott Threats (Bloomberg)

“Starbucks Corp., after facing a backlash for promising to hire refugees, plans to employ more U.S. military veterans….The coffee retailer will hire 25,000 veterans and their spouses by 2025, it said. Starbucks already has brought on 10,000 of them, ahead of a previously set goal. As part of its global expansion, more than 240,000 new jobs will be created globally over the next five years.
“The chain drew boycott threats earlier this year after saying it would hire 10,000 refugees globally — a response to President Donald Trump’s proposed ban on travelers from certain nations. It’s also facing a sales slowdown.”

Nick Note: Is it too late now to say sorry? The unemployment rate for Afghanistan- and Iraq-era veterans stands at 5.7 percent. Currently, the national unemployment rate is 4.7 percent. Isn’t it interesting how companies are increasingly becoming more political in nature, feeling the need to respond? Starbucks, seeking to appease alienated and frustrated customers, isn’t giving up on them but rather reaching out to them. Does this sound familiar (Hosea 1-3)?

C U L T U R A L   N E W S

Americans are dying with an average of $62K of debt (USA Today)

“In fact, 73% of consumers had outstanding debt when they were reported as dead, according to December 2016 data provided to Credit.com by credit bureau Experian. Those consumers carried an average total balance of $61,554, including mortgage debt. Without home loans, the average balance was $12,875.
“Among the 73% of consumers who had debt when they died, about 68% had credit card balances. The next most common kind of debt was mortgage debt (37%), followed by auto loans (25%), personal loans (12%) and student loans (6%)..These were the average unpaid balances: credit cards, $4,531; auto loans, $17,111; personal loans, $14,793; and student loans, $25,391.”

Nick Note: We read in Proverbs that, “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous (Proverbs 13:22).” But isn’t it fascinating how Jesus became poor for our sake so that we might be rich in him (2 Corinthians 8:9)? Could an inheritance be more than money (Proverbs 22:1)?


“A general manager and former player have both claimed that NBA players are performing better on the road in the modern NBA, in part, because they can use dating apps and social media to meet potential sexual partners rather than staying out late in clubs, according to Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com.
“An anonymous general manager described it as the “Tinderization of the NBA.”
“Tin-der-i-za-tion,” he told Haberstroh, “like the dating app. No need to go to the clubs all night anymore.”

Nick Note: The average user gets on Tinder 11 times a day and spends 90 minutes a day on it. There are 1 billion profile swipes per day, with men swiping right three times as much as women. Among the 1 billion swipes, there are 12 million matches per day. So that means there are 988 million rejections each day on Tinder. This is a level of rejection that only Bachelor contestants know very well. But to use Tinder to hook up? In the Scriptures, Christians are to flee sexual immorality, not welcome it (1 Corinthians 6:18).

Maybe the Economy Isn’t the Reason Why So Many American Men Aren’t Working (The Atlantic)

“In 1957, 97 percent of men in America ages 25 to 54 were either working or looking for work. Today, only 89 percent are.
“But there’s another theory that deserves mentioning, especially because it fits with recent research about the declining health outcomes among American men. That theory suggests that American men are dropping out of the workforce because they are suffering from serious health conditions that make it difficult for them to work. As their health deteriorates, they’re getting on pain medications, which then make it even more difficult to re-enter the workforce.”

Nick Note: 12 percent of men 18 years and over are in fair or poor health. Obviously, there are circumstances that keep you from working. But in the Scriptures, there is a call to work (1 Timothy 5:8, Colossians 3:23, 1 Corinthians 10:31). I am making my way through a great book called Visions of Vocation right now. I loved this quote: “That is the best part of a vocation – to learn and love with gladness and singleness of heart. When we take the wounds of the world into our hearts – not just for a day, but for a life – we long to see the work of our hands as somehow, strangely, part of the work of God in the world, integral to the missio Dei, not incidental to it.”

N E W S   Y O U   C A N   U S E

Eurovision 2017: Ukraine bars Russian singer Samoilova from contest (BBC)

Nick Note: I echo One Direction: Story of my Life. I think I sound like a combination of Michael Buble and Ed Sheeran. But others say I am more like a sick cat and an angry elephant. Agree to disagree. Do you know your gifting (1 Peter 4:10)? Are you using your gift(s)?

The ‘Wheel of Fortune’ Epic Fail Everyone is Talking About

Nick Note: Watch it here. I imagine the only thing worse than getting this wrong is living with yourself after you got it wrong. If you are your own worst critic, incidents such as this produce shame that eats away at you. Whereas guilt says I did something wrong, shame says I am wrong. But in the Bible we read something different. Guilt says I did something wrong, shame says I am wrong, but Jesus says I bore all your wrongs to make you lovingly right(Romans 8:1, 1 Peter 2:24, Titus 3:5).  “For the righteous falls seven times and rises again (Proverbs 24:16).”

Over-excited little girl steals the Pope’s hat off his head

Nick Note: Watch it here. This little girl stole the Pope’s hat and his heart. Her confidence with His Holiness shocked her father but blessed Pope Francis. Just as she approached the Pope like a child, we are to relate with the Father in a similar manner. “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me (Matthew 18:2-5).”  

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Daily Briefing: March 22, 2017

Posted by    |    March 22nd, 2017 at 6:07 am

T O P   N E W S

Judge Neil Gorsuch to Contend With Another Day of Grilling, Avoiding Missteps (WSJ)

Nick Note: “How in the world is Gorsuch able to go so many hours at a time without peeing?” It was the question heard around the world and emanated from Senator Ben Sasse’s wife. Click here to watch the Senator ask Mr. Gorsuch. Who knows how he can do it, nor do many Americans know who their Supreme Court Justices are. 57 percent of Americans can’t name one court justice. 43 percent said they could and then actually named one.Nonetheless, here are some highlights from Day 2 of the Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Here is great exchange with Senator Feinstein. And here is GIF of Senator Cruz – I think he likes Mr. Gorsuch. Cruz likes Gorsuch but President Trump does not like some House Republicans this morning. Members of the House Freedom Caucus are threatening to derail the repeal and replace legislation, saying revisions announced on Monday night don’t go far enough. Some other moderate Republicans are also balking at the Trump-backed measure because they are worried about damaging themselves politically by voting for a proposal that will never make it through the Senate. Mr. Trump warned House Republicans that they risked losing re-election next year if they failed to get behind legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. They may not get behind the legislation but many will be literally getting behind a wall. The order has been issued for the immediate construction of a Mexico border wall. The 30 feet high wall will be “aesthetically pleasing.” The Trump administration will soon begin the process of hiring more lawyers for a potentially long and expensive battle over private land. Both the Supreme Court hearings and the health care legislative process reveals that change often happens slowly and not overnight. This is true of the Christian life as well. We are all being changed, transformed from one degree of glory to the next (2 Corinthians 3:18). This happens through God’s spirit and our faithfulness. Commenting on faithfulness, Eugene Peterson likened faithfulness to obedience in a long direction. But take heart: God started the work, and he will see it through (Philippians 1:6) – bathroom breaks optional.

Tomi Lahren ‘suspended over pro-choice comments’ (The Hill)

“US conservative political commentator Tomi Lahren has reportedly been suspended from her talk show after saying she holds pro-choice views on abortion. The 24-year-old pundit hosts Tomi on the conservative US network TheBlaze. She rose to prominence during the 2016 US election for her provocative and energetic online political monologues.”

Nick Note: Today, we live in a mic-dropping, hot take offering, meme making epoch. Me over we; build bases instead of bridges. With her hot takes and mic dropping final thoughts, Lahren captivated conservative millennials that were weary of the politically-correct culture. She told it to you straight and no one was off limits. From the Clock Boy to Meryl Streep, Lahren’s bombastic, non-politically correct statements caused some to applaud and others to be appalled. Bashing political correctness is like duct tape in today’s world. We blame political correctness for problems and apply duct tape thinking that it will solve the problem. Duct tape may be valid in certain situations, but is it necessary for the majority of society’s problems? In an attempt to eradicate the problem of political correctness, did she exasperate other problems and further divide the United States (Ephesians 4:15, Proverbs 15:1)?

Women paleontologists are donning fake beards because of sexism (QZ)

“In 2014, Currano, Marsh, and photographer Kelsey Vance started the Bearded Lady Project….Sexism in science is nothing new—prominent male scientists have called women in the lab distracting and in recent years, allegations have arisen in a number of cases of researchers sexually harassing their female students. Women with advanced degrees also make up less than half of the academic and industry workforce in scientific disciplines, with the exception of behavioral sciences, where women make up 62%.
“Only about 16% of geoscience professors are women, and under a third of all the members of the American Geophysical Union are women. Women also make up 20% of the organization’s peer reviewers.”

Nick Note: Women make up 53 percent of the American workforce. More than three-quarters of public school teachers are women. 58 percent of family doctors are women. Thirty-six million volunteers would no longer volunteer. In the biblical narrative, Deborah was a great military leader (Judges 4-5). Esther’s cunning and courage saved her people from annihilation. And what would Aquila be without Priscilla (Romans 16:3-5)? “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Transgender Weightlifter Wins Women’s Competition (Australia News)

“Hubbard lifted about 591 pounds, compared to runner-up Iuniarra Sipaia, who lifted approximately 572 pounds.”

Nick Note: I don’t want to brag, but I almost got kicked out of school for carrying around a 6-pack and two guns. But in all seriousness, is this fair? Or maybe the better question: is this good? Researchers note that physically undergoing a transition may be detrimental to your health. These individuals may be changing, but our love for them should not (1 John 4:7-21). They may be competing in contests, but Christians should be seeking to outdo one another in showing honor and sharing truth (Romans 12:10).

C U L T U R A L   N E W S

Why Kids Shouldn’t Sit Still in Class (NY Times)

“A report from the Institute of Medicine concluded that children who are more active “show greater attention, have faster cognitive processing speed and perform better on standardized academic tests than children who are less active.” And a study released in January by Lund University in Sweden shows that students, especially boys, who had daily physical education, did better in school.
“Activity helps the brain in so many ways,” said James F. Sallis, a professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California, San Diego, who has done research on the association between activity breaks and classroom behavior. “Activity stimulates more blood vessels in the brain to support more brain cells. And there is evidence that active kids do better on standardized tests and pay attention more in school.”

Nick Note: A Stanford study found that volunteers who walked briefly through a lush, green portion of the Stanford campus were more attentive and happier afterward than volunteers who strolled for the same amount of time near heavy traffic. Another Stanford study found that creative thinking improves while a person is walking and shortly thereafter. Aristotle created the peripatetic school, where students could walk with teachers as they discussed matters. In the Scriptures, we read that Jesus often used the world as his classroom, taking objects and events and turning them into object lessons. From fig trees to flowers in the field, his renewed mind found the fingerprints of his father everywhere (Mark 11:12-25).

In Maine, Portland Tries a New Tactic With Panhandlers: Hiring Them (NY Times)

“So starting in April, Portland plans to try a new tactic. The city will hire a few panhandlers a day, pay them $10.68 an hour, the city’s minimum wage, and assign them to clean parks and public spaces.
“The Portland city manager, Jon Jennings, said it was time to think of another solution and believes this one will help everyone. He hopes to eventually be able to convert some of the jobs into full-time work with the city, he said, and Portland’s parks will be more beautiful.”

Nick Note: Give a man of fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime. But why not both? 564,708 people in the U.S. are homeless. In Steve Corbett’s phenomenal book When Helping Hurts, he writes: “Until we embrace our mutual brokenness, our work with low-income people is likely to do more harm than good. I sometimes unintentionally reduce poor people to objects that I use to fulfill my own need to accomplish something. I am not okay, and you are not okay. But Jesus can fix us both.” (Matthew 25:36-40)

It should be illegal to be a stay-at-home mum (Daily Telegraph)

“So the outcry has been predictable in the wake of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) recent report which had the audacity to suggest stay-at-home mums would be better off putting their skills to use in paid employment.
“One of the areas of greatest untapped potential in the Australian labour force is inactive and/or part-time working women, especially those with children,’’ concluded the landmark study. “There are potentially large losses to the economy when women stay at home or work short part-time hours.’’

Nick Note: According to one survey, the typical stay-at-home mom works almost 97 hours a week, spending 13.2 hours as a day-care teacher; 3.9 hours as household CEO; 7.6 hours as a psychologist; 14.1 hours as a chef; 15.4 as a housekeeper; 6.6 hours doing laundry; 9.5 hours as a PC-or-Mac operator; 10.7 hours as a facilities manager; 7.8 hours as a janitor and 7.8 hours driving the family car. The significance of women in the biblical narrative cannot be overstated. Lydia was a successful businesswoman who brought the gospel to Europe (Acts 16). Mary was a courageous mother that was equally strong and gentle (Luke 1-2). 

Who shares the story, not who reports the news, is what counts for casual readers (QZ)

“They were then asked to describe the piece of news. Half the respondents said the story got the facts right when it was shared by a public figure they trusted, compared to 35% who said the same when they didn’t trust the sharer. And the pattern held true for those who said the story was well-reported.”

Nick Note: Only 32 percent of Americans say they have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust and confidence in the media “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly”—the lowest in Gallup’s polling history. Only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question. Despite historic low levels of trust with people and media, individuals still place a greater weight on what friends recommend. Steward wisely like Hushai and not like Ahithophel (2 Samuel 15-16).

N E W S   Y O U   C A N   U S E

Fake strongman duo pranks local morning shows and the results are glorious comedy

Nick Note: Watch the video here. You may be able to fake out some morning show producers, but there is no faking it past God. “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:13).”

Terrified child has a priceless reaction to a very hungry, harmless llama

Nick Note: Watch the video here. I absolutely love this video for a few reasons. Partially because it reminds me of myself (I was a bit of a cry baby growing up), but mainly because the child’s crying is only exceeded by the parent’s laughing. The child, terrified by the llama, causes him to forget the closeness and the strength of his parents. Such is life, right? What llama is attacking you right now, causing you to forget how close and powerful God is? Do you have a llama that is eating your lunch right now, causing you to feel out of control and under attack? Take heart, the cross reminds us that God cares about both our salvation and our situations (Romans 8:32).

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One-legged wrestler seeks state title

Posted by    |    March 22nd, 2017 at 6:06 am

Today’s headlines are dominated by Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination hearings and the ongoing debate over health care. Meanwhile, an unusual high school wrestler interests me so much that I’d like to focus on his story this morning.

“He’s been very vocal about his goals: wrestling in a national championship, becoming an NCAA champ, not just a state champ.” That’s how Kobey Pritchard’s wrestling coach describes his protégé’s motivation in the Iowa state wrestling tournament. What makes Pritchard different from his competitors? He wrestles without a left leg.

Kobey was five years old when he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in his left femur. Doctors removed the leg when he was six. Now he’s ranked number four in the state in his weight class. His drive and determination are inspiring his teammates and his fellow competitors.

In other news, Norway has taken over the top spot in the World Happiness Report. This despite the fact that oil, a key part of its economy, has plummeted. What accounts for Norway’s happiness? The report’s lead author explains: “It’s the human things that matter. If the riches make it harder to have frequent and trustworthy relationship between people, is it worth it? The material can stand in the way of the human.”

Martin E. P. Seligman is a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the bestseller, Authentic Happiness. Dr. Seligman describes three kinds of “work orientation”: a job, a career, and a calling.

A job earns you a paycheck and nothing more. A career entails a deeper personal investment in your work. But a calling is a passionate commitment to work for its own sake. According to Dr. Seligman, finding your “calling” is the key to authentic happiness.

Whatever your physical or financial challenges, you can choose to live a life that matters. You can chase the fickle applause of our culture or live for the eternal affirmation of your Father.

I hope Judge Gorsuch is confirmed by the Senate. I hope effective health care legislation is passed by Congress. But if neither takes place, eternity will still beckon. What we do today for Jesus will matter forever. Ten thousand millennia after the last Supreme Court ruling is handed down, the Judge of the universe will still be on his throne. And health care will be the last thing we’ll be thinking about in heaven.

My point is not that the Supreme Court, health care, or other pressing issues of our day are insignificant. I’m not advocating for a Christ-against-culture mindset that keeps our salt in the saltshaker and our light under a basket (Matthew 5:13–16).

But I am suggesting that taking the long view is the pathway to peace in the short view. While the Bible never says, “This too shall pass,” the sentiment is biblical: “The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever” (1 Peter 1:24–25). The old chorus is still true: “Kings and kingdoms shall all pass away, but there’s something about that Name.”

Paul testified, “We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2 Corinthians 4:18). Why do you need to join him today?

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