How was it for you?

So, how was 2013 for you?

Pretty bad, if the latest Economist/YouGov poll is to be believed.

  • 69% called 2013 a “bad year” for the world.
  • 15% called it a “very bad year.”
  • 3% called it a “very good year.”
  • 29% said it was a “good year.”
  • 41% called 2013 “a bad or very bad year” for their families.

The pollers and statisticians conclude: “There are almost no issues where a majority of Americans have seen improvement…Put simply most Americans are happy to see 2013 go.”

The only consolation is that people are happier this year than they were last year. Wow! We were even more depressed a year ago? Is that possible?

Some interesting (though somewhat predictable) variations in the stats:

  • Young adults are more positive with 75% saying this year has been a good year for their families, and 50% think it was a good year for the world.
  • Less than 50% of those who earn $40,000 a year said this was a good year for their families, compared with 72% of those earning $100,000 plus.
  • Although all groups are more negative than positive when assessing the state of the world, only 13% of Republicans say 2013 has been a good year for the world.

In other words, if you’re over 30, Republican, and earning less than $40,000, you’re probably on Prozac.

Christians too?
Seriously though, I hope these statistics don’t accurately represent the Christian population. If so, it’s a disgrace and a shame upon us. Sure, this year has been challenging – morally, politically, culturally, and economically. We don’t need to look far for discouragements and downers: gay marriage victories, Miley Cyrus, the Obamacare debacle, Miley Cyrus, un- and under-employment, Miley Cyrus, Boston bombings, Washington overspending, etc. Oh, did I mention Miley Cyrus?

But is that it? All of it? There’s nothing to balance it or even counter balance it? Of course there is. We just need to work harder to find it, think about it, appreciate it, and talk about it. Somehow, it’s much easier to default to the negative rather than the positive.

Search for Inspiration
Why don’t we follow Peggy Noonan’s example, who, recognizing the gloomy political scene, asked “some smart, accomplished people: What was the best thing that happened this year, some breakthrough, some joy, some encouraging sign.”

Many of those asked found joy in the personal and the close to home: Chris Christie’s daughter admitted to Notre Dame, Mike Huckabee rejoiced in being a grandfather, Matt Drudge discovered prayer(!).

Others found joy even in the political rubble:

  • Two possible 2014 government shutdowns prevented.
  • Some basic bi-partisanship beginning to emerge.
  • Progress degrading Syria’s chemical weapons and Iran’s nuclear capability without having to go to war.
  • A record-high Dow.
  • Pakistan didn’t fail.
  • China and Japan didn’t go to war.
  • The euro didn’t unravel
  • Jordan didn’t collapse under the weight of refugees
  • The U.S. didn’t default.

We can also celebrate the technological advances in multiple fields or look ahead to 10 Amazing Science and Technology Innovations in 2014. 

Theological and Spiritual Joys
The Christian will take all of that – the blessings of providence in our personal lives; national and international progress; scientific advances, etc. – but will also add multiple more theological and spiritual reasons for gratitude in 2013 and hope in 2014. For example:

  • We love and are loved by the one true and living God.
  • God is our perfect Father.
  • We know Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
  • The Holy Spirit is sanctifying and empowering us.
  • Our sins are forgiven.
  • We are justified and adopted into God’s world-wide and heaven-wide family.
  • We have all the promises of God.
  • Everything is working together for our good.
  • God is our guard and guide.
  • God lives in our hearts.
  • Jesus has prepared a place for us in heaven and will welcome us there.

All these things are true regardless of Obamacare, Miley Cyrus, or shrinking paychecks. Another year of life, another year of grace, another year of preservation and perseverance, and so on.

So, let’s fight for joy, let’s live a counter-cultural, hope-filled, light-giving life in the midst of a dark and darkening world.

This is a day of great opportunity to demonstrate the difference that faith in Christ makes to our lives, and even to our sufferings and sorrows. Shine, Christian, shine!


Worldview

Cord Cutters and the Death of TV
If “Video Killed the Radio Star,” Wifi killed the video star. In fact, TV and cable really committed suicide by creating programs and films that the vast majority of people do not want to watch. As Rod Dreher says in Duck Dynasty Mess Revealed that not all Fundamentalists Live in the Bible Belt, the elites who decide our media diet failed to realize that “the moral framework they impose on human thought and behavior is radically alien to the moral perceptions of the overwhelming majority of humanity.” The result? Statistics like these from Cord Cutters and the Death of TV:

  • The pay-TV industry has reported its worst 12-month stretch ever.
  • All the major TV providers lost a collective 113,000 subscribers in Q3 2013.
  • In all, about 5 million people ended their cable and broadband subs between the beginning of 2010 and the end of this year.
  • Cable TV is dying but people are also pulling the plug on broadband internet.
  • But ratings for both cable and the broadcast networks are down.
  • Facebook and Google have created an audience that’s about to overtake all of TV in terms of reach.
  • Major historical shift from watching TV to watching video — including TV shows and movies — on the internet or on mobile devices.
  • The number of cable TV-only subscribers remaining could sink below 40 million later this year.
  • For the first time ever, less than half of subscribers at the major broadband companies now subscribe to cable TV.
  • The amount of video seen on mobile devices is going through the roof. About 40% of all YouTube traffic comes from mobile.
  • Even though cable TV has had its worst year ever, cable TV revenues are still rising because companies are charging the dwindling number of customers more in subscription fees.
  • For some people, there is just no need for a cable or pipe to deliver the internet or TV to their residence specifically, as long as they are within range of a free wifi hotspot.

Maps of Seven Deadly Sins in America
I think this is more of a fun item, but Geographers from Kansas State University have created a map of the spatial distribution of the Seven Deadly Sins across the United States. How? By mapping demographic data related to each of the sins.

  • Wrath was calculated by comparing the total number of violent crimes — murder, assault and rape — reported to the FBI per capita.
  • Envy was calculated using the total number of thefts — robbery, burglary, larceny and stolen cars.
  • Gluttony was calculated by counting the number of fast food restaurants per capita.
  • Greed was calculated by comparing average incomes with the total number of inhabitants living beneath the poverty line.
  • Lust was calculated by compiling the number of sexually transmitted diseases — HIV, AIDS, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea — reported per capita.
  • Sloth was calculated by comparing expenditures on arts, entertainment and recreation with the rate of employment.
  • And pride, lastly, is most important. The root of all sins, in this study, is the aggregate of all data.

On the last point, I think the practical difficult of measuring pride rather than theological insight drove the method. Looks like Grand Rapids is sinless!

Camille Paglia: A Feminist Defense of Masculine Virtues
‘What you’re seeing is how a civilization commits suicide,” says Camille Paglia.” The military is out of fashion, Americans undervalue manual labor, schools neuter male students, opinion makers deny the biological differences between men and women, etc.”

The military:  ”The entire elite class now, in finance, in politics and so on, none of them have military service—hardly anyone, there are a few. But there is no prestige attached to it anymore. That is a recipe for disaster,” she says. “These people don’t think in military ways, so there’s this illusion out there that people are basically nice, people are basically kind, if we’re just nice and benevolent to everyone they’ll be nice too. They literally don’t have any sense of evil or criminality.”

Boys at school: ”Primary-school education is a crock, basically. It’s oppressive to anyone with physical energy, especially guys,” she says, pointing to the most obvious example: the way many schools have cut recess. “They’re making a toxic environment for boys. Primary education does everything in its power to turn boys into neuters.” She sees the tacit elevation of “female values”—such as sensitivity, socialization and cooperation—as the main aim of teachers, rather than fostering creative energy and teaching hard geographical and historical facts.

Masculinity: Politically correct, inadequate education, along with the decline of America’s brawny industrial base, leaves many men with “no models of manhood,” she says. “Masculinity is just becoming something that is imitated from the movies. There’s nothing left. There’s no room for anything manly right now.” The only place you can hear what men really feel these days, she claims, is on sports radio. No surprise, she is an avid listener. The energy and enthusiasm “inspires me as a writer,” she says, adding: “If we had to go to war,” the callers “are the men that would save the nation.”

College: ‘Everybody must have college.’ Why? Why? What is the reason why everyone has to go to college? Especially when college is so utterly meaningless right now, it has no core curriculum” and “people end up saddled with huge debts,” says Ms. Paglia. What’s driving the push toward universal college is “social snobbery on the part of a lot of upper-middle-class families who want the sticker in the window.”

Cultural Shift Seen in 2013 Abortion, Death Penalty Data
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the number of U.S. executions this year will total 39. For only the second time in 19 years, fewer than 40 people were executed. In addition, the number of new death sentences issued is near a modern low.

The number of legal, induced abortions nationally in 2010 declined 3 percent from 2009. From 2001 to 2010 the number, rate and ratio of reported abortions decreased 9 percent, 10 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Abortion numbers have fallen in 18 of the past 20 years. The total number of abortions has declined by approximately 25 percent since 1990.

Reasons for the reduction in death sentences include lethal drug shortages, publicity for wrongful convictions, and shifts in public opinion. While Gallup polling found 80 percent of Americans favored the death penalty, by 2013 support had declined to 60 percent.

For abortion, there’s also evidence of increasing public discomfort. In the mid-1990s, Gallup found that 56 percent of people called themselves pro-choice, with just 33 percent choosing the pro-life label. In recent years, the share identifying as pro-choice has fallen as low as 41 percent, while pro-life identifiers have hovered around 50 percent.

Mohammed Most Popular Name for Glasgow Babies in 2013
Sad news from my home city, a city that used to have as its motto “Let Glasgow Flourish by the Preaching of the Word and the Praising of His Name.”


Children’s Bible Reading Plan

Here’s this week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first year of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

The second year of morning and evening readings in Word and pdf.

The first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

Here’s an explanation of the plan.

The daily Bible Studies gathered into individual Bible books.

Old Testament

New Testament


Religion Newsmakers of 2013

RealClearReligion has compiled a list of the biggest religious newsmakers (not newsworthies) of 2013. Newsworthies would be another list altogether, and would probably be full of people we’ve never heard of, men and women laboring for Christ’s kingdom in obscure places all over the world but making a bigger spiritual and eternal impact than any or even all of those named below. But God alone could compile such a list, for He alone knows what is really worth something in His kingdom. In the meantime, we have to make do with the newsmakers.

1. Pope and Change
If nothing else, a contender for the headline of the year. It’s quite remarkable how the Catholic Church turned it around with Pope Francis after the shock resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.

2. Oxbridge’s Finest
For someone who expected to be forgotten 5 years after his death, C. S. Lewis’s influence continues to grow. The 50th anniversary of his death, new movie deals and biographies, kept him in the news. But number 2 on the list? Fanboy writing this one, I think.

3. Born Again, One Last Time
Billy Graham’s last sermon and poignant last message to America.

4. Binders Full of Women
I must have blinked because this one passed me by. 2013, The Year of the Mormon Woman? Who would have thunk it?

5. Reza Aslan’s Zealot
This story really annoyed me at the time. Apart from that infamous FOX interview, Aslan’s book would have rapidly faded together with all the other hostile re-writes of Jesus’s life.

6. God, Guns, and Ganders
Even before the Phil Robertson GQ interview, the Duck Dynasty family had five books on the New York Times bestsellers list.

7. Rebranding Southern Baptists
Southern Baptist Russell Moore makes the list for his winsome cultural engagement. Speaking the truth in love, with equal weight being given to the “love.” Difficult line to walk, but his warm smile and general happiness with life has helped smash many caricatures.

8. Cauldron of Controversy
I don’t suppose any list would be complete without Driscoll on it somewhere for some reason. But his clothes? Seriously?

9. Atheism’s Old Man
Richard Dawkins, the Driscoll of New Atheism, lost a few arguments and a few media fans this year.

10. Aqua Buddha Strikes Back
I have no idea what Aqua Buddha is all about but the piece is about Rand Paul and his question to Obama: “Did You Seriously Spy on the Pope?”

11. Bombed in Boston
The Boston marathon bombing by two USA-based Muslims.

12. Still Prosperous
Joel Osteen gets on the list for a hoax story that many Christians hoped was true.

13. Tips Against Jesus
Still not clear whether the truth or falsehood of this was ever established.

14. Love Loses
Rob Bell gets on the list for all the wrong reasons, not least causing 1000+ people to leave his church. That won’t burnish the brand.


Check out

Infographic (Download)
Josh Kwekel put together this one page Christ-centered summary of the Old Testament.

5 Things Christians Should Stop Saying
“We mean well, don’t we? But sometimes our attempts to say something spiritual actually come out unbiblical, or at a minimum, not very helpful. Here’s the 5 I hear the most…”

Joel Osteen talks Preaching Sin, Materialism, and Gay Marriage
It’s as bad as you think it will be.

Communicating with People who Have Dementia
Very helpful counsel from Chris Bogosh.

Can You Trust The Bible?
Todd Pruitt has put together a list of resources to help people understand and embrace the doctrine of the Scripture’s inerrancy.

How to Read the Whole Bible in 2014.
Justin taylor must have spent the whole of 2013 putting this resource list together.