One of the Greatest Days of our Lives

I don’t tend to post much about my family on the blog but today I have to make an exception because yesterday we had the enormous privilege of attending my son’s graduation from Marine Corps bootcamp in San Diego. To top it all off, Allan also became a US citizen during a deeply moving naturalization ceremony (first photo). The rest of us hope to follow suit by the end of the year — as citizens, not Marines! Here’s a video and a few photos to give you a flavor of one of the greatest days of our lives.

Allan’s in the middle with the glasses.

IMG_0386 IMG_0394 IMG_0398 IMG_0405 IMG_0409 IMG_0430 IMG_0432 IMG_0456 IMG_0463 IMG_0466 IMG_0477

And here’s the whole gang, left to right: Joni (14), Shona (?), Allan (20), me (49), Scott (2), Angus (18), and Amy (12).


Time to Clear Out the Pundits

One benefit of elections is that every few years there’s a clear out of politicians and their staffs. It doesn’t matter whether they are Republican or Democrat, the regular electoral purge keeps the process from rotting too much on both sides of the aisle. Even those who start out with the purest principles and motives can stay too long and end up being infected with the corrupting power of power.

But there’s one class of people in the political process who never seem to get cleared out; the pundits and opinionators. No matter how long they stay, how corrupt they grow, how out of touch they become, how wrong they are, the electoral brush never sweeps them out the stable. But, if anything’s clear from the past year, large tracts of the commentariat are past their smell-by date. Multitudes of them have utterly failed in their duty to the public and yet none of them will lose their jobs.

I’m not speaking of ordinary journalists and reporters here — although it’s increasingly hard to separate them from the pundits these days. I’m referring to the talking heads, the op-ed columnists, the “experts.” The majority of them have failed dismally in their basic duties to us for a long time, but especially in the past year A.D. (After Donald).

Job Description
Think about their basic responsibilities. They are paid to identify important events and trends in public opinion and interpret them. They are paid to invite, interact with, inform, and influence public opinion. How few have done this well in the past twelve months, or even the past ten years or so. Isolated from ordinary Americans and their everyday struggles, their world and their minds have shrunk to the tiny artificial world of their home offices and their regular commute to the TV studios in New York and Washington.

The only part of their job description they’ve worked at is “influence public opinion,” but even that has been ineffective because they are not doing the much harder work of getting out of their electronic bunkers and meeting public opinion in the flesh. As a result, they’ve failed to identify important events and trends, they’ve failed to interpret them, they’ve failed to interact with public opinion, and they’ve failed to accurately inform public opinion. That’s why their attempts to influence public opinion have so dismally failed.

They’ve laughed at Donald Trump. They’ve dismissed Donald Trump. They’ve lambasted Donald Trump. They’ve enjoyed 65,000 negative ads against Donald Trump. They’ve assured us of his demise and defeat. And now Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, having steamrolled over sixteen GOP candidates in four short months of primaries.

“How come no one listened to us?” they protest. Because you’re not living their lives and you’re not listening to their opinions.

Isolated and Insulated
I remember an amazing journalist I used to know quite well. He was an incredibly gifted writer who had won a number of awards early in his career. He used to be required reading. But he moved to an extremely isolated part of the country in order to get away from the distractions of city living and write more. However, although his words multiplied, his influence diminished. His writing lost touch with reality; it lacked authenticity; his commentary was like someone trying to understand the world through postcards. His columns were still interesting and even entertaining; but they were not influential. Cut off from the influence of public opinion, he had cut off his influence upon public opinion.

Though most of our punditocracy live in and around the bustling metropolises of Washington and New York, they are no less isolated and insulated from the ordinary daily lives of ordinary Americans. What they say and write is still interesting, and sometimes entertaining, but they’ve lost their power to influence because they’ve lost contact with reality. Their columns and opinions feel out of touch, artificial, unreal.

For years they’ve ignored mighty economic, social, moral, cultural, and spiritual events and trends impacting tens of millions of Americans. They’ve failed to interpret these events and trends. They’ve failed to identify massive shifts in public opinion. They’ve failed to invite and interact with public opinion. And they wonder why their golden words aren’t valued any more! If you don’t know what’s happening, how can you hope to tell us why it’s happening, or how to change it.

The Trump Train
I was watching CNN on Tuesday night when Donald Trump knocked out the last two men standing. The studio was subdued. The chattering class were still chattering but they were clearly flummoxed and discombobulated. The Donald Trump train had just rampaged through their universe leaving their prestigious opinions in a tangled mess. Alternating between holding their heads in their hands and wringing their hands, they wondered, “How did we not see this coming?”

You only need to spend regular time in McDonalds (not Starbucks, pastors!) to understand why this train has so many passengers on it. Look at the people serving there — and eating there. Listen to the conversations. Look at their faces and their postures. Instead of insulting them, listen to their stories. Or drive an hour from most major cities and take a look and listen around.

Too Little, Too Late
Now a few professional pundits, like David Brooks at the New York Times, admit they need to get out more and actually talk to at least some of the Americans that don’t inhabit news rooms and TV studios most of their lives. But it’s too late. We need a clear out. We need new blood and new brains. In no other profession would so many people make so many serious mistakes and suffer no serious consequences.

Pundits and commentators serve a useful public purpose in the democratic process. We need them to help us make sense of our world and our lives. However, they cannot do that unless they are living in our world and living our lives. We need intelligent commentators. But we also need real-life people, people who are a fair representation of the population in age, class, color, religion, background, region, education, etc. Otherwise we just end up with the current complacent and dangerous groupspeak and Donald Trump one step from the presidency. Or worse.

Pundits, do the honorable thing. Resign and relocate as a public service, as your contribution to homeland security. Live among us for ten years and you may be qualified for your posts again. You need to be influenced by us, if you are ever going to influence us. You cannot move public opinion unless you are moved by public opinion.


Check out

Blogs

4 Approaches to a Balanced Complementarianism | Reformation21 Blog
“I would offer the following four approaches that will help us practice the Bible’s gender teaching while avoiding harmful and unbiblical excesses: ”

50 People 1 Question | Challies
“If you could be any age, what age would you be?”

The Right Kind of Atheist | Desiring God
“Books, albums, and movies rarely make me weep, but my eyes were wet when I came to the final pages of the new book, The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist”

7 Troubling Questions About Transgender Theories | TGC

Is Multitasking Preventing Us From Being Faithful Stewards?
What if tackling multiple tasks at once hinders our ability to be good stewards in the workplace?

Counselors Need Conscience Protections Like Tennessee’s
A new law protects counselors who want to practice without violating their consciences.

Kindle Books

Bit of a feminine flavor today.

Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home by Gloria Furman $3.99.

50 Women Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Heroines of the Faith $0.99.

Joni and Ken: An Untold Love Story $1.99.

Understanding Sexual Identity: A Resource for Youth Ministry by Mark Yarhouse $3.99.


“I’m Winning With Evangelicals”

Last September, I wrote Why is Donald Trump Winning Over Evangelical Voters? In view of last night’s stunning victory, I thought I’d post an updated version of that post. THIS IS NOT AN ENDORSEMENT BUT AN EXPLANATION!


In almost every speech Donald Trump says, “I’m winning with Evangelicals.” He did the same in his Indiana victory speech last night. Although there is some debate about whether he really is winning a majority of Evangelicals, he’s clearly won a lot of them and in my conversations with Christians, I’ve been surprised at how many are secretly (very secretly) supporting him.

Why?

It certainly can’t be his Christianity. Despite his protestations, he doesn’t have much of that. Consider the following:

  • He’s on his third marriage.
  • He runs the Miss World contest.
  • He boasts continuously about his self-made-ness.
  • He can’t name a favorite Bible verse.
  • He says he doesn’t ask God for forgiveness.
  • He takes communion because it makes him feel cleaner.
  • He says he’s a church-goer but his church says he’s not an active member.
  • He regularly insults people who disagree with him.
  • He is rude towards women and minorities.
  • “He personifies greed, embodies pride, radiates lust.”

As New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, put it, “I don’t see someone interested in serving God. I see someone interested in being God.”

On top of all that, many of the other candidates, including the last one to fall, Ted Cruz, were evangelicals and had a record to prove it.

Why? Why? Why?

So why the increasing levels of support for Trump while “evangelical” candidates have sunk? Columnists of every stripe and hue are struggling to answer this question, (just Google “Evangelicals and Trump” to sample the media disarray on the question).

In a previous article I wrote about how much of his support is coming from Republicans who have come to despise the political class. As Peggy Noonan put it recently: “His rise is not due to his supporter’s anger at government. It’s a gesture of contempt for government, for the men and women in Congress, the White House, the agencies.”

Americans want to punish the political establishment, both red and blue, for their multiple failures and are looking for someone, anyone, to be a battering ram through politics as usual. As someone said, trying to explain Trump’s popularity, “He’s giving voice to what millions of Americans are yelling at their TVs every night.”

Within a few weeks of Trump’s campaign launch last week, it was obvious to me that this guy could make it all the way. I saw the widespread frustration with the political culture, especially the disconnect between elite politicians and ordinary people, and the ever-rising taxes and living costs for the squeezed middle-class. There was a deep longing for an outsider to come in and shake things up. Conservatives were fed up with the Republicans’ cowardly surrenders to the slightest media criticism, and admired Trump’s disregard for what mainstream journalists thought of him. They were sick of all the promises that never seemed to produce any action, and angry at the use of political correctness to silence debate and sideline Christian views.

Anti-politician and Anti-media

But anti-politician feeling can’t explain all of Trump’s support. In talking to people, I’ve heard some Christians express an additional thought, and that’s anti-media sentiment. As one woman put it to me, “People are fed up with journalists choosing our candidates and presidents.”

That might explain why Trump’s support surged even after he feuded with the popular conservative journalist, Megyn Kelly. It also explains why the more the media hammer Trump, the more his support grows. People want to send a message not just to the politicians but to the media that it’s “we the people” who choose our leaders not “you the media.” People are sick and tired of the media spinning, the utter dishonesty of so many journalists, the bias, the prejudice, and so on, and want to communicate how much they despise their opinions and practices.

Honesty or Hypocrisy

Although there were Christian alternatives for Republican nominee, I believe many Christians were thinking, “Well, every President for the last 40 years has said “I’m a Christian” and where did that get us?” Maybe it’s better to have someone who doesn’t pretend to be a Christian but who is not afraid of the media, who is not in it for personal enrichment, who is competent, and who is able to get things done. Someone who just does what he says he will do. Better honesty than hypocrisy.

The results and exit polls show that Christians are clearly prepared to risk sacrificing some previously important priorities for the possibly greater end of striking a hopefully fatal blow to the almost omnipotent and corrupt political and media establishment. They are taking a massive risk, but people, especially the middle class, have been driven to desperation by the Republicans giving their money to big business, by the Democrats giving their money to big welfare, and by journalists who have got way too big for their screens.

To put it simply, Christians, like much of the general population, are fed up with the lies and falsehoods of politicians and the media, and they want a clear out. Trump is their way of saying to all of them at once, “You’re fired!”


Check out

Blogs

Bringing Our Children to Jesus | Rick Phillips
“So how do parents foster a close relational bond that results in their children following in our ways? I would offer parents four commitments designed to build a strong discipling relationship with their children. I base it on four easy-to-remember words: Read – Pray – Work – Play. ”

From Blueprint to Building in Your Bible
“As an Old Testament professor I often get asked, “How does the Old Testament relate to the New?” Here’s an analogy I like to give in response: The Old Testament is the blueprint; the New Testament is the building.”

A Missing Ingredient in Good Preaching | TGC
“Could it be that simply being happy in being a pastor is one of the missing i ngredients in your preaching ministry and in your pastoral work?”

7 Preacher Landmines | Biblical Preaching
“In the path of the preacher there are many landmines – hidden explosives that can do untold damage to your ministry.”

13 End Times Errors to Avoid | Chris Brauns
“These mistakes discredit gospel proclamation and rob Christians of the blessings and wisdom God gives from meditating on this area of truth.”

Is Multitasking Preventing Us From Being Faithful Stewards?
“What If Tackling Multiple Tasks at Once Hinders Our Ability to Be Good Stewards in the Workplace?”

Embracing the Grief of Miscarriage | True Woman Blog | Revive Our Hearts
“I was twenty-one, a year into marriage, when those two pink lines first appeared. We rejoiced at the precious life entrusted to us. But soon after, I started bleeding and eventually miscarried in a crowded airport bathroom waiting to board a plane for Houston. I will never forget the excruciating emotional ”

Four Ways to Comfort a Grieving Friend | True Woman Blog | Revive Our Hearts
“In yesterday’s post, I shared a bout our three miscarriages and offered encouragement to those walking through similar seasons of suffering. Today I hope to share a few practical things you can do for a loved one who is grieving.”

Kindle Books

Sexual Fidelity: No Compromise by Mike Abendroth $2.99.

Lincoln’s Battle with God: A President’s Struggle with Faith and What it Meant for America by Stephen Mansfield $1.99.

Scientific Creationism by Henry Morris $2.99.

Video

Why Science Turned Alister McGrath away from Atheism
Click through for two other videos of McGrath lecturing on the bankruptcy of scientific atheism.


The Gospel Goes Viral

Viral videos are marketing gold in the new economy. In the old economy, you paid a fortune to produce a 30-second TV commercial, then paid even more for a few peak-viewing slots, and you had no guarantee that your target audience would see it; and even then there was no way for them to share it if they like it.

In the new economy, viral videos cost little to produce, and nothing to distribute, as people do it for you by sharing with their friends and followers on social media, who then share it with their network, and so on. No wonder there are now companies specializing in viral videos.

But the Gospel can also go viral, as John 1:36-51 demonstrates. Here are five lessons we can learn about making the Gospel infectious from that passage.

Social Networks
The closer the relationships in any social network, the more powerful the recommendation. For example, a restaurant review on Google or Yelp is more helpful than the impersonal marketing blurb on the restaurant website. But a personal recommendation on Facebook is even more influential than a Google or Yelp review.

The two social networks in John 1 are effective because of the closeness of the relationships. The first one goes from John the Baptist to two of his disciples (36); then one of them, Andrew, spreads the message to Simon (40-41); and, of course, Peter became the great Pentecostal preacher who saw thousands converted, and the great letter writer who has edified millions through the centuries.

The second social network goes from Jesus to Philip (43) to Nathaniel (45), whose story continues to be communicated from pulpits to this day.

Challenge: What is your social network and what are you doing to use these relationships to spread the Gospel?

Simple Message
Although corporations often think that the more information they pack into a video, the more successful it will be, viral marketers emphasize the need for a short and simple message, ideally with a human touch. That’s exactly what we see here.

  • Five words: Behold the lamb of God (36)
  • Five words: We have found the Messiah (41)
  • Two words: Follow me (43)
  • Six words: We have found the predicted Messiah (45)
  • Three words: Come and see (46)

Note how short, how simple, and how personal the messages are. All of them are so focused on Jesus.

Challenge: Are you excusing yourself from witnessing because you don’t know all the arguments, or can’t speak eloquently and persuasively? Look at how short, simple, personal, and effective the Gospel message can be!

Selfless Messengers
Viral marketers tell us that the best way to get people to enjoy your video, share your video, and respond to your message, is not to try and get money from them for your product, but to try and give them something that will benefit them.

That’s what we see here too: John the Baptist, Andrew, Peter, Jesus, Philip, Nathanael — all of them wanted to give something to people rather than get something from them.  They were not focused on their own gain but on the gain of everyone else

Challenge: Andrew is mentioned three times in the Bible, and all three times he is selflessly bringing people to Jesus (John 1:40-41;  6:8; 12:22). Are we motivated by a desire to bless others and give to others?

Satisfies Need
It’s always easier to market a product to an existing need rather than try to create a new need that a product or service meets. And the more widespread and common the need, the better. Again, notice how the Gospel satisfies such common needs: 

  • The need for a satisfying sacrifice: Behold the lamb of God (36).
  • The need for a satisfying teacher: The two disciples were looking for a trustworthy rabbi to live with and follow (37-39).
  • The need for a satisfying purpose: Jesus gave Peter a new purpose in life — to be a rock for the future infant church (42).
  • The need for a satisfying relationship: “Follow me” (43) meant walking in Christ’s footsteps in the closest possible connection with him.
  • The need for satisfying fulfilment: Jesus was the climactic consummation of all Old Testament prophecy (45).
  • The need for satisfying answers: Jesus answered and satisfied Nathanael’s skeptical and suspicious questions (46).
  • The need for heavenly communication:  Jesus would open heaven to enable maximum communication from heaven to earth, and from earth to heaven, all via the medium of Christ’s person (51).

Challenge: Identify your needs, and the needs of those around you, and meet that need — no matter how many or how great — with the all-sufficient and all-suitable Gospel.

Significant Impact
The more impact a video makes on a person the more likely they are to share it. Same with the Gospel; the more impact it makes on us, the more likely we are to share it. John the Baptist, Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael were powerfully transformed by the Gospel and could not help but share it. They were contagious Christians full of Gospel enthusiasm.

Challenge: Pray that God would deeply infect you with the Gospel so that the health-giving contagion of grace will touch others in a life-changing and eternity-changing way.