While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
The Apostle Paul ––Letter to the Romans
There are two views of humanity in circulation today. The first claims we are nothing more than the accidental exhaust of the collision of space, time and chance. Those in this camp argue we are: hairless apes, carbon-based bipeds, and the temporary pinnacle of the evolutionary process. There is no design behind us. We have no purpose or dignity. There is no such thing as good or evil. We need to grow up and realize we are alone in a universe of blind, pitiless indifference. The other message says the opposite. It argues that we are special and worth it. And it proclaims that we are not only beautiful – no matter what anyone says – but also that we are winners who can do anything we set our minds to. Ironically, many people simultaneously embrace both views. As Christ-followers we are called to see things differently – and it is not some middle ground. We are not asked to walk a path between pessimism and utopianism. Nor may we fall for either one. Indeed, as Christians we are to be both more pessimistic than the pessimist and more utopian than the utopian – pessimistic because we recognize that our sin cannot be expunged by education, social reform or medical intervention. And utopian because we believe that the transformation of our human heart that is begun in this life will be completed in the next. The cross teaches us two things: We are so valuable that God sent his Son to die for us; and we are so broken that the Son of God had to die for us.
Predicting Anger: A while back I drafted an Update entry predicting that some (many?) of the young women medically subverting their ability to have children in order to embrace their identity as a male will regret it. More than that, they will become profoundly angry. For various reasons (cowardice?) I did not run it. I raise it here because I suspect the CDC’s report about the epidemic of sadness among teen girls is related. Though it is unpopular to say so, reality wins. It is like a beach ball that can only be held under water for so long. Eventually it pops up. God have mercy.
TikTok Tics: This report notes the spread of tics among the young frequenting social media. It makes me wonder, given that we now know that digital technology fuels the spread of disinformation, political polarization and mental illness (especially among children), do we have the inner strength to dial things back?
One Hour: I’ve read a lot of personal productivity material, so trust me when I say, the easiest way to save time is to not bother reading much of it. There are a few insights – and here is one of the most helpful: You will be miles ahead if you free up one hour of uninterrupted time every day to work on your high-priority-but-not-urgent matters. Where do you find this hour? Although China has a good idea how you are spending your time, I do not. But I suspect you are wasting at least one hour a day in front of a screen.
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Five Keys: While I’m peddling advice, let me forward the five key “needs” a friend sought to instill in his kids. The need to: 1) Delay gratification; 2) Cultivate gratitude; 3) Remain humble; 4) Serve others; and 5) Finish what we start.
Wordle: The most interesting thing about Wordle is not that it’s swept the nation, given rise to new social protocols – woe to anyone who mentions the Wordle word out loud – or provides a daily touch point for millions of geographically disbursed families. The most interesting matter about Wordle is how hard it is to remember the word three hours later.
Asking Why: Given my growing number of friendsnow retired (or retiring), I find myself in more conversations about loss. FWIW, the most profitable of these conversations move past asking, “What is missed?” to asking, “What does what I miss say about me?”
2 Chronicles 7:14: If you’ve not heard, goods things are happening at Asbury College in Wilmore, KY. You can read reports about it here or here. You can also read Tim Keller’s Atlantic article noting that America is due for a revival here (although it’s behind a pay wall). Better yet, meditate on 2 Chronicles 7:14, where we are told that “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Quotes Worth Requoting: 1) You either win or you learn, that’s how I feel. Jalen Hurts, QB for the Philadelphia Eagles after their loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII. Hurts was citing Nelson Mandela, who said: “I never lose. I win or learn.” 2) When you think you know everything, they give you a bachelor’s degree. When you realize you don’t know anything, they give you a master’s degree. And when you realize you don’t know anything – and neither does anyone else – they award you a doctorate degree. Skye Jethani
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Without Comment: 1) Half of Americans say they are worse off than a year ago, the most since 2009; 2) California’s legal marijuana growers – unable to compete with the black market – are asking the State for help; 3) Last weekend’s Super Bowl was the third most-watched TV program ever; 4) For a $10 donation, the San Antonio Zoo will name a cockroach after someone you dislike and then feed it to an animal. (Their annual “Cry Me a Cockroach” campaign is intended for “exes who just won’t bug off.”); 5) Given that 3 in 4 college students believe that jokes may constitute hate speech, Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld will no longer perform on college campuses; 6) Now that Japanese declutter guru Marie Kondo has children, she talks here about giving up on extreme tidiness; 7) Thanks to AI, the hottest new programming language is English. In addition, conspiracy theories and disinformation campaigns can spread even faster due to AI; 8) Fewer than 2 percent of NCAA student-athletes go on to the professional level; 9) One-third of adults still sleep with a comfort object; and 10) According to this WSJ piece, out of 46 countries surveyed, the U.S. comes in dead last (29%) when asked, “Do you trust the media in your country?”
Housekeeping: As the readership of The Update has grown, I’ve been fielding more requests for me to cite my sources. I have resisted in order to keep the newsletter as short and casual as possible, but I’ve been worn down. Changes are coming. Stay tuned.
Podcast: Click here to access my interview with Dr. Chris Ganski about the Ascension of Christ.
Closing Prayer: How can we love life, when it holds so much bitterness and brings so much sorrow? Indeed, how can we call the daily struggle true life, when it brings physical pain and spiritual sadness in equal measure? Yet people cling to sinful activities as a source of comfort. They grasp desperately at the passing pleasures and vanities of the world. They do not readily abandon the desires of the body and the lusts of the eye. Lord, strengthen me with heavenly courage, that I may fight against pleasures and vanities that harm the soul. I do not expect or ask that trials and sorrows should cease. I ask only that, in your strength, I resist the temptations to seek consolation in sin. For I know that only by clinging to the gospel of righteousness, and by grasping at your eternal grace, can I ever experience true and lasting joy. Amen. (Thomas a Kempis 1380-1471)