Here’s an explanation of the plan.
The daily Bible Studies gathered into individual Bible books.
Here’s an explanation of the plan.
The daily Bible Studies gathered into individual Bible books.
What’s a NEET?
Someone who’s Not in Employment, Education, or Training.
And, as you might expect, they don’t feel they have much to live for.
In the Prince’s Trust survey of 16-25 year-olds in the UK, 9% of all youngsters agreed with the statement, “I have nothing to live for.” If the figures hold true for the rest of the UK, that works out at 750,000 suicidal young people.
For NEETs, the percentage of those agreeing with the statement rose to 21%. One in three long-term unemployed young people have contemplated taking their own lives. One in four have self-harmed.
Charities like the Prince’s Trust, set up by Prince Charles in 1976 to help disadvantaged young people, do a fine job in helping NEETs. The UK government also has various initiatives in place to reduce long-term unemployment and equip young people for the workplace. I’m sure there are similar charities and government policies addressing similar problems in the US. But what can the Church and the individual Christian do?
Surely, the first thing is to lend an ear. The most shocking statistic of all in this research was that 72% of long-term unemployed young people did not have someone to confide in. It’s agony to think of that basic need of human friendship going unmet. No, we may not be able to give dollars or jobs, but we can give something even more valuable – time and a listening ear.
And once we’ve invested in these previous lives, we then have Gospel gold to give them:
What a difference the Good News of all that Jesus Christ is and does would make to these needy lives. We can give them something to live for. More, we can give them everything to live for. Ultimately, we can give them something to die for.
The Best Things That Happened in 2013 – According to Bill Gates
Although there were a number of disaster and tragedies in 2013, Bill Gates reminds us of some areas where humanity made some progress. For example:
What’s Out and What’s In: Washington Post’s Annual List
You realize how “out” you are when you hardly recognize what’s in or out. But anyway, scanning the list some good “Outs” include: Hilary 2016, Brussell Sprouts, The Justins. The “Ins” list is totally depressing. “Fancy lady hair for men!” Come on! I think I may sit out 2014.
The end of traditional religion?
We see versions of this article almost every year. Maybe it’s the same journalist who just keeps recycling in different venues for another payday. If not, they all seem to have a fervent desire to see their question mark become an exclamation point!
The author ends by asking, “Is this the dawning of a new, liberal age, in which America finally starts to look a little more like the rest of the Western world?” You can’t help but sense the disappointment as he reluctantly answers:
Don’t count on it. American religion is nothing if not resilient. It is malleable enough to change with the times, and if anyone ever does declare war on Christmas, they will lose. We remain a weirdly religious country.
There are signs of innovation and renewal, too — forms of religion which focus on the pastoral and the personal, rather than the dogmatic. And these values are timeless. No matter how shopworn and threadbare our religious language sometimes becomes, the mystery and tragedy of human experience still remains — and so religion endures.
The Gender Battlefield in 2013: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Cathy Young says women made remarkable progress in 2013:
Women claimed leadership at General Motors and Lloyd’s of London, the world’s top insurance market; Angela Merkel was reelected to a third term as German chancellor while widely recognized as Europe’s leader. The Pew Research Center reported that women made up 40 percent of America’s breadwinners in families with children—and nearly 40 percent of those were married mothers with median household incomes of about $80,000 a year.
However, she also says that “the state of feminism in 2013 may have hit a new low, with much of its energy spent on battles that are either trivial or destructive. Between gender-war feminism on the left and old-fashioned sexism on the right, picking the year’s worst in relations between the sexes in easy; picking the best is much harder, but worth the effort.”
This rather “gritty” article turns out to be a fairly balanced look at the best and the worst, the heroes and the villains in the so-called “gender wars.” Glad to see my heroine Margaret Thatcher got an honorable mention. She’s described as “a model of a truly liberated woman who did not conform to traditional or feminist scripts.”
Young closes with a wish for true equality in 2014. “Perhaps the next year will see more calls for a balanced approach that promotes fairness and goodwill toward both sexes. That would make a good, if optimistic, New Year’s resolution.”
An Open Letter to The Wolf of Wall Street
By all accounts, this is one of the most horrific films made in recent times, with almost every sin in the book glamorized and glorified for viewers’ entertainment. It centers upon the lifestyle and exploits of one of Wall Street’s most notorious conmen, Jordan Belfort.
Now the daughters of one of Belfort’s partners in crime has written to Belfort, Martin Scorsese, and Leo DiCaprio, who plays the Wolf, to give them a behind-the-scenes look at the consequences of the sins that they’ve painted in the best possible colors. She says:
You people are dangerous. Your film is a reckless attempt at continuing to pretend that these sorts of schemes are entertaining, even as the country is reeling from yet another round of Wall Street scandals. We want to get lost in what? These phony financiers’ fun sexcapades and coke binges? Come on, we know the truth. This kind of behavior brought America to its knees.
And yet you’re glorifying it — you who call yourselves liberals. You were honored for career excellence and for your cultural influence by the Kennedy Center, Marty. You drive a Honda hybrid, Leo. Did you think about the cultural message you’d be sending when you decided to make this film? You have successfully aligned yourself with an accomplished criminal, a guy who still hasn’t made full restitution to his victims, exacerbating our national obsession with wealth and status and glorifying greed and psychopathic behavior. And don’t even get me started on the incomprehensible way in which your film degrades women, the misogynistic…message you endorse to younger generations of men.
Interpret the Bible
Want to understand the Bible better? Here are some superb articles from this month’s edition of Tabletalk to help you.
How to Change Your Mind
Here’s Joe Carter’s four-step method.
Anthony Carter on Writing and Ministry
Check out getting a bit heavy on the cerebral today, but this article on whether and how pastors should write books contains good advice. And here’s Al Mohler on reading.
Anti-Calvinist No More
Jared Moore explains why and how he repented of his anti-Calvinism.
Teaching with Twitter
Some good ideas here.
Should Everyone Go to College?
Clare DeGraaf continues to challenge our unthinking defaults.
Reuters blogger Zachary Karabell has never had so much hate mail in his life. His offense? Highlighting some good news here and there which may indicate the US and World economy is turning the corner.
His “pen-pals” don’t just disagree with him. They hate him. He says he wouldn’t mind people saying he’s wrong, or even ridiculing him, but it’s the rage he was unprepared for. He tries to explain this inexplicable hostility:
1. The online world of comments and commentary does skew negative.
2. People who agree and support his view are less likely to express that compared with those who oppose it; agreement is more passive whereas anger is more active.
3. It contradicts what many people believe and experience. “Positive views on the present are seen as a slap in the face by people who have negative experiences, which, according to some polls, is the majority of Americans.” As an aside Karrabel notes:
4. Americans of the past few years are less positive about the future than they have been at any point since the 1970s.
5. The losers in any changing economy are going to be more vocal that those who have made gains.
If it bleeds, it leads
I’d add a couple more reasons. First is that bad news sells better than good news. “If it bleeds, it leads” is the mantra of so much of our media. As Dr. Bradley Wright explains in Upside: Surprising Good News about the State of our World:
The media sells negative worldviews. It’s not that reporters, writers, and editors are pessimistic people; rather, they have a strong incentive to tell us about the fearful, scary, and dangerous happenings in our world. The media is a business, and it succeeds by attracting viewers and readers. With hundreds of television channels and even more online news sources, how can they do this? One way is to offer something that is truly frightening. If watching a story can save us from some imminent danger, then maybe we’ll stop channel surfing long enough to watch it. If reading a report can protect us from a health scare, maybe we’ll pick the magazine off the rack. Sensationalism and fear sells—this is a fact of life that won’t change anytime soon. (Upside, 36)
We then get so used to the daily diet of disaster, decline, destruction, and death, that when someone tries to feed us something good and healthy, we often choke on it.
Second, there’s our fallen human nature which is warped towards the darkness (John 3:19). Gretchen Rubin calls this our “negativity bias”:
Our reactions to bad events are faster, stronger, and stickier than our reactions to good events. In fact, in practically every language, there are more concepts to describe negative emotions than positive emotions… It takes at least five positive marital actions to offset one critical or destructive action (The Happiness Project, 48).
Swallowed and Succumbed
With a few happy exceptions, Christians in general have also swallowed our culture’s negative narrative and have succumbed to our innate negativity bias. We seem to be addicted to bad and sad news, and have become so used to feeding on it that we don’t even realize it. In fact, in some circles, happiness has almost become synonymous with heresy. “He’s happy? To the stake!”
How then to recover a more balanced view? First, as Karrabel suggests, without closing our eyes to faults and failings, we must stop focusing relentlessly on what isn’t working:
Every society must find some balance between addressing real shortcomings and building on real strengths. The United States in particular oscillates between excessive self-congratulation (“the indispensable nation,” “the freest nation on Earth”) and extreme self-criticism.
Christians have to work harder at feeding upon (and feeding to each other) the good news that God is filling the world with.
Second, we have to read our Bibles and change the narrative from one of pessimism to one of optimism. No, we don’t believe in the inevitability of evolutionary progress. But we do believe in a sovereign and good God though, who makes His sun to shine and His rain to fall on the good and the evil, and whose tender mercies are over all His works. We do believe in God’s common grace witnessing to Him and making hearts glad (Acts 14:17). Above all, we believe in the power of the Gospel, way more than in the power of the American Presidency, to change our lives and to change our world.
If we’re going to be hated, let’s be hated for being Christian optimists.
The conclusion she’s arrived at while researching her new book is not, technically, that we’re not talking to each other. We’re talking all the time, in person as well as in texts, in e-mails, over the phone, on Facebook and Twitter. The world is more talkative now, in many ways, than it’s ever been. The problem, Turkle argues, is that all of this talk can come at the expense of conversation. We’re talking at each other rather than with each other.
She says that real conversations are messy, awkward, dull, boring, and full of pauses – just the kind of communication e-conversations are not where constant showmanship and excitement is the only way to get and sustain attention. She wants us to reclaim the permission to be, when we want and need to be, dull.
She advocates limiting our device usage in “sacred spaces” like the dinner table, the places where phones and their enticements may impede intimacy and interaction. She wants us to look into each other’s eyes as we talk. She wants us to read each other’s movements. She wants us to have conversations that are supremely human.
If Christians lose this art, we lose the ability to witness. But if Christians could reclaim and excel at this in a culture where it’s getting rarer, we have a huge opportunity for doing good to others and advancing the Gospel
Year of the Sinner
There’s been a bit of an outcry over Pope Francis’s reply to the question: “Who are you?” ”I am a sinner,” he said, “This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”
That’s not gone down too well with some people who want to believe in Papal perfection. They yearn for a perfect man. Others, like the Huffington Post’s Rea Martin, wrote:
Sure we all sin to varying degrees and frequencies, depending on our definitions of sin…But while this is true, sort of, a sinner is not who I am, or for that matter, who he is. Or anyone.
In fact identifying ourselves as sinners is unhealthy, and when you think about it, has gotten us absolutely nowhere in the last few millennia or so, except into a lot of trouble.
It’s amazing how desperate people are to resist being identified as a sinner. “I sin, but I’m not a sinner.” I remember an old pastor who visited prisoners on death row, saying: “I met many men there who said, ‘Yes, I committed murder, but I’m not a murderer!” The Bible’s teaching is, “I murder because I’m a murderer. I sin because I’m a sinner.”
Also, as for confessing sin being unhealthy and getting us into a lot of trouble, the wisest man that ever lived said, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Prov. 28:13).
Why Has Republican Belief in Evolution Declined So Much?
48% of Republicans believe in creation, a 9% increase in the last 4 years. The number of Democrats who believe in creation has declined a little to 27%.
Statisticians are struggling to explain the drop in Republican support for evolution. Some think that scientists are leaving the Republican party due to its perceived anti-science stance.
Another possibility is the rise of “intelligent design” education has helped to swing younger Americans against evolution.
Interestingly, and worryingly, respondents ages 18 to 29 most likely to believe in evolution. Maybe that’s explained by the educational indoctrination that takes a decade or more to fade.
If you want a job rather than a debt, Codeacademy’s Zach Sim says you might want to learn how to code. He goes on:
We’re lying to ourselves about [a four-year] college being the only form of postsecondary education. People who end up at vocational schools and associate degree programs might be making the right educational decisions.