Let’s raise millions of memorials

“It is the duty of the Lord’s people to keep the memorial of the experience which they have of the Lord’s helping them.” So says the old Scottish preacher Thomas Boston.

He bases this upon 1 Samuel 7, where Israel raised a monument of thankfulness for God’s great and glorious deliverance of them, and called it Ebenezer, “Stone of Help,” saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

The stone, says Boston, “is a grateful acknowledgment of the Lord’s help for the time past, and to raise their confidence in him for the time to come.” You can read this deeply edifying sermon here, or if you’re short of time, have a look at Boston’s outline below.

But whether you read or not, let’s use this day to raise millions of memorials to the Lord’s help in 2013 all over the world.

I. The Lord’s Helping of His People

A. How does the Lord help his people

  • By working all for them, without any contribution from them.
  • By assisting his people in working.
  • By appointing means.
  • Sometimes without means.
  • Sometimes by contrary means.

B. Why does he help his people?

1. Because they are in covenant with Him

There is a league offensive and defensive betwixt Christ and His people. They have common friends and common enemies. Hence all the attributes of God are engaged for them and their help.

2. Because of their special relation to Him

Christ is the believer’s head. Hence if the foot be hurt, the head in heaven cries out (Acts 9:4). He who is their maker is their husband, their father, and elder brother; in a word, they are one with him, one spirit. This is the ground of sympathy betwixt Christ and his people and secures their help. ‘For he that touches them touches the apple of his eye.’

3. Because they look to Him and trust in Him for their help

4. Because he brought them into trouble to display His glory and to give them greater experiences of His kindness.

II. The Memorial of the Experiences of His Help

A. What is it to keep up the memorial of the Lord’s helping us?

  • An observing of the events and experiences we meet with in life.
  • A discerning of the Lord’s hand in the help we receive.
  • Laying up these experiences in a book or in a faithful memory.

B. What of these experiences of the Lord’s help should be recorded and kept in memory?

  • Record the timing or seasonableness of them.
  • Record the effects of them upon our spirits.
  • Record their harmony and agreement with God’s promise.
  • Record their agreement with their prayers.
  • Record the place of our experiences.

C. Why should we keep up such a memorial?

  • We owe this to God as an act of obedience.
  • We owe this to ourselves out of self interest.
  • We owe this to others as a witness.

III. Uses

A. To Christians

1. Record your experiences to keep up the memory of them, make you strong, and make you ready to suffer and venture for Christ.

2. Improve your experiences for strengthening your faith and hope for the future.

B. To all – Let God be your helper

  • You have many and strong enemies.
  • He is a present help,
  • He is willing.
  • He is able to help you in all cases and at all times.

Worldview

10 Good News Stories in 2013
Try to put Philippians 4:8 into practice and end 3013 on a bright note. I’d agree with 9 out of 10. Clue: it’s got something to do with wolves and sheep’s clothing.

It’s the Gospel Truth – So Take it or Leave it
A N Wilson argues that despite Christianity fading in the UK 50% faster than was thought, it still retains the power to transform lives. He concludes:

The paradox is that growing or shrinking numbers do not tell you anything. The Gospel would still be true even if no one believed it. The hopeful thing is that, where it is tried – where it is imperfectly and hesitantly followed – as it was in Northern Ireland during the peace process, as it is in many a Salvation Army hostel this Christmas, as it flickers in countless unseen Christian lives, it works. And its palpable and remarkable power to transform human life takes us to the position of believing that something very wonderful indeed began with the birth of Christ into the world.

5 Higher Education Trends for 2014
The two that intrigued me most were:

Earning College Credit for What You Know: The pressure on colleges to graduate students faster is forcing colleges to advance students based on mastery (competency-based learning) and giving students credit for prior work experience.

Career and Technical Education: After years of being pushed aside to free time for academics, career-focused learning is back. High schools, community colleges, and companies are banding together to help increase the opportunities students have to gain technical skills—often spurred by new state laws, like those in Texas and Georgia, that put a bigger emphasis on career and technical education.

The World braces for Retirement Crisis
“Most countries are not ready to meet what is sure to be one of the defining challenges of the 21st century,” the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, concluded in a report this fall.

Islam? AIDS? Weapons of mass destruction? Nope. Retirement.

A global retirement crisis is bearing down on workers of all ages. Spawned years before the Great Recession and the financial meltdown in 2008, the crisis was significantly worsened by those twin traumas. It will play out for decades, and its consequences will be far-reaching.

Many people will be forced to work well past the traditional retirement age of 65 – to 70 or even longer. Living standards will fall, and poverty rates will rise for the elderly in wealthy countries that built safety nets for seniors after World War II. In developing countries, people’s rising expectations will be frustrated if governments can’t afford retirement systems to replace the tradition of children caring for aging parents.

UK Politician Urges FIght Against Anti-Christian Persecution
The Labour Party has admitted that politicians should stop feeling a “sense of embarrassment” about discussing God. Douglas Alexander, a senior frontbencher, suggested that public figures have allowed “political correctness” to prevent them talking about faith and the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.

In a thinly-veiled attack on the Tony Blair era, when Alastair Campbell, the then communications director in Downing Street, said “we don’t do God”, Mr Alexander warned that people should have the courage to speak up for Christians without fear of causing offence…He warns that the mounting persecution of Christians is a “story that goes largely untold”, describing those who have spoken out on the issue, including the Prince of Wales, as lone voices.


Check out

Withdrawing Life Support
Chris Bogosh gives us three factors Christian’s need to consider when it comes to withdrawing life support.

Totes Magotes
I have no idea what this title means but the article makes some good points about the direction of social media and blogs.

4 Godly Disciplines Unique to This Decade
Clint Archer: “There are no new sins, only more diverse and efficient ways of committing them…Here are four godly disciplines to pursue in 2014 that have taken on a unique significance in the last five to ten years.”

Clergy Have 50% Higher rates of Anxiety and Depression
“Several extrinsic demands (job stress, life unpredictability) and intrinsic demands (guilt about not doing enough work, doubting one’s call to ministry) significantly predicted depression and anxiety, as did rewards such as ministry satisfaction and lack of financial stress.”

Is it Wise to Encourage Your Kids to Attend College Straight Out of School?
Read about the brave Dad who encouraged his daughters to drop out of College because spending $25,000 per year so that they could find themselves was not money well spent.

5 Prayers for the Church in 2014
I’d add, “Send Holy Spirit-led Revival.” Or maybe these five prayers would be a revival.


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.”