Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
John the Baptist, Matthew 3:8
When religious leaders showed up to monitor John the Baptist’s preaching, he called them snakes and challenged them to prove their spiritual maturity. What did the “baptizer” demand they produce as evidence of their relationship with God? “Fruit in keeping with repentance.” We would do well to reflect on that statement. John 15 and Galatians 5:22 both come to mind, as does the word humility. But maybe the more profitable question to ask is, “If John the Baptist asked me to provide evidence of my faith in Christ, what would I point to?” What would you point to? If being a Christ-follower was suddenly declared illegal, would there be enough evidence from your life to lead to your arrest?
My Soapbox: Though segments of the press still warn that the world has too many people, there has been a spike in the number of articles sounding the alarm about the world’s lack of babies. Ross Douthat opens this NYT piece by stating, “There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who believe the defining challenge of the 21st century will be climate change, and those who know that it will be the birth dearth.” And in this WaPo piece, Nicholas Eberstadt talks about China’s headaches as they plunge into a population implosion. The ebb and flow of demographics are massively complicated. I call it out here to say that at some point we need to see the lack of babies as a symptom of deeper ills.
AI: Those who are worried that students will use AI to cheat on their homework need to realize that if they do not learn how to use AI to write their papers, they will have a hard time getting a job. As an aside, ChatGPT has cemented its place as the fastest spreading tech platform in history. It picked up 1M users in the first week, and 100M in the first two months. Some think its spread is creating another “iPhone moment.”
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Perspective: The rise in our standard of living over the last 100 years is so significant, that Larry Summers – a former Treasury Secretary under Clinton and a past President of Harvard University – argues that a poor college student today lives better than John D. Rockefeller did 100 years ago
He Is: I have really been enjoying this song by Chris Tomlin. It does a great job reminding us just how worthy the Son of God is of our worship and love. He alone is able break the seal and open the scroll (Rev. 5:2).
Quotes Worth Requoting: 1) In an age of distraction, focus is the new superpower. Cary Nieuwhof; 2) The journey of self-awareness is one of the longest journeys we take. Craig Smith; 3)Wrong does not cease to be wrong because the majority share in it. Leo Tolstoy
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WOTW: Two weeks ago – after Biden snuck into Ukraine on a train – I missed the chance to select Rail Force One as the Word Of The Week. Likewise, though I did select gobblefunk last week – a Roald Dahl creation meaning “to play around with words” – I missed the chance to select the more ominous term sensitivity editor. (Cue references to Brave New World and The Twilight Zone.) Who knows what word I am missing this week. That aside, I have made a selection: In thisHBR study I was introduced to context switching – which is what you call it when you toggle between apps, your inbox, a spreadsheet, a phone call and your email. Apparently you are doing it 1,200 per day. (Never, I trust, while reading The Friday Update.)
This Week: Click here to listen to my interview with Dr. Evan Hunter about the church in Russia and Ukraine, and here for last week’s sermon on John 15 – which explores three approaches we can take to better navigate the challenges of the moment.
Remember the Beach Ball: You can hold a beach ball underwater for a long time, but eventually it pops up. The same is true of reality. False ideas may be popular for a season, but the beach balls of truth, beauty and goodness eventually pop up.
FWIW: I continue to hear good things about the prayer revival that started at Asbury University. Kudos to the school’s leaders who allowed it to remain a student movement while also ensuring that there was no hero other than Jesus. I have also heard good things about Jesus Revolution, the Lionsgate film that has a 99% rating from Rotten Tomatoes and earned more than double its domestic debut weekend projections.
Closing Prayer: Pardon us, O Lord, pardon us. We beg to shift the blame for our sins, we make excuses. But no one can hide himself from the light of your truth, which both enlightens those who turn to it, and exposes those who turn away. Even our blood and our bones are visible to you, who created us out of dust. How foolish are we to think that we can rule our own lives, satisfying our own desires, without thought of you. How stupid we are to imagine that we can keep our sins hidden. But although we may deceive other people, we cannot deceive you. And since you see into our hearts, we cannot deceive ourselves, for your light reveals to us our own spiritual corruption. Let us, therefore, fall down before you, weeping with tears of shame. May your judgments give new shape to our souls. May your power mould our hearts to reflect your love. May your grace infuse our minds, so that our thoughts reflect your will. Amen. (William of Saint Thierry 1065-1148)
 Lawrence Summers, “Liberty, Optimism and Superabundance,” Cato’s Letter, Winter 2023, Vol. 21.