Every marriage is either Christian or idolatrous. And two married Christians can be idolatrous, without even realizing it.
The difference between Christian and idolatrous is giving versus demanding, enjoying versus using, sharing versus manipulating. It’s the difference between humbled gratitude versus undiscerned selfishness. But every marriage, injured by unfair expectations, can be healed through the grace of awakened sensitivity. Every marriage can become honoring to Christ and life-giving to the husband and wife.
Two biblical insights open up new possibilities for every marriage.
Privilege of Marriage
One, the privilege that marriage is: “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
That is the biblical definition of marriage, from all the way back in the garden of Eden. “One flesh” is one man and one woman, walking hand in hand through their life in this world, sharing together an all-encompassing union of total belonging. No other relationship is like this. Healthy friendships have boundaries, but marriage brings a man and woman together in complete vulnerability with no shame (Genesis 2:25).
“Every marriage is either Christian or idolatrous. And two married Christians can be idolatrous, without even realizing it.”
I want you to see the glorious privilege of marriage — your marriage. When God expelled us from the garden after Adam sinned, he didn’t take his gift of marriage back. He let us keep it. And even though a long time has elapsed since then, our marriages today are not ninety-ninth-hand, at best. Jesus saw our imperfect marriages as sacred and inviolate, at the same level as the perfect marriage of Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:3–6).
So, your marriage is your little remnant of the garden of Eden. Inside the circle of your one-flesh union, where only you and your spouse completely belong, God wants you to cultivate your own personal outpost of Eden into something beautifully Christian in the world today.
But how can we do that, especially long term over the years? That leads us to the second insight.
Resource of Christ
Two, the resource that Christ is: “In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Life is not in you. Life is not in your spouse. The life we all long for is in Christ alone.
His life is our light, illuminating our otherwise dreary existence. His life is more than a bare power surge; his life awakens us to purpose, hope, wisdom. In Christ, we stop dying so much and start living more. In Christ, we stop being so clueless and start growing in awareness. This is just who he is and what he does.
If we believe he is our life, and open ourselves up, our marriages will change. We will stop loving our spouse too much — which, in reality, isn’t too muchbut rather wrongly, like an idol — and we will start loving Christ more. When that happens, we actually start loving our spouse better.
His Love Through Hers
The reason your spouse is not your life and your light is that he or she cannotbe those things. That wonderful person you married is, and can only be, secondary, derived, contingent, dependent, and easily exhausted — like you.
Only Christ is, and always will be, primary, original, free, powerful, and eager — unlike you both. When two sinners step inside the circle of the one-flesh union and cultivate there an even deeper union with Christ, they become relaxed about themselves and each other, they become happy about Christ, and Eden reappears in the world today — a Christian marriage.
Here is one way this insight opens my eyes. When I take my precious wife in my arms, the love I experience from her is not from her alone. It is also the love of God through her. The fact that the love of God is coming down to me through her doesn’t mean that that love stops being divine. It is still the love of God — which makes my wife all the more wondrous in my eyes.
Her love is the moment-by-moment gift of his life, and his life is the light that floods each moment with meaning I never would have grasped if the experience were limited to and defined by the human only. Realizing this, I am moved toward gratitude for her and worship of him, and I find myself on holy ground — Eden today.
First Things Put First
Not only does Christ himself make a marriage truly Christian, as we look to him, but he also guards a marriage against idolatrous instincts and impulses.
As I remember that it is Christ alone who gives my wife and me all our life and light, I don’t need my wife to be more than she can be. I can receive our life together as the glorious miracle it is, and marvel at how present Christ is with us. Our imperfections are the very place where he dwells the most meaningfully.
“Every marriage can become honoring to Christ and life-giving to the husband and wife.”
A marriage is not Christian because two Christians get married. A marriage becomes truly Christian as two Christians keep looking to Christ for the wherewithal each needs moment by moment. It isn’t a matter of practical tips, though I suppose there is a place for that — like training wheels on a child’s bike. But far more, it’s a matter of seeing him, with the eyes of faith, real-time as a husband and wife walk together through each day. It’s a matter of rejoicing that he is present with you, he is sharing his life with you, his light is banishing the darkness from the sacred circle he has given the two of you.
I’ll let C.S. Lewis have the last word: “When I have learned to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. . . . When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.”
Hackers have breached over 50,000 servers across the world to mine cryptocurrency using unusually sophisticated tools, according to a new report.
Cybersecurity firm Guardicore Labs said on May 29 that the large-scale malware effort – dubbed the “Nansh0u campaign” – has been ongoing since February, and had been spreading to over 700 new victims a day. The attack mostly targeted firms in the healthcare, telecoms, media and IT sectors.
Guardicore found 20 different malicious payloads in the malware over time, with new ones created “at least once a week” and put into use as soon as they were created. The package also installed a rootkit that prevented the malware’s removal.
The firm said it contacted the hosting provider of the attack servers and the issuer of the rootkit certificate.
“As a result, the attack servers were taken down and the certificate was revoked,” it said.
Notably, the cybersecurity firm said the attack used sophisticated tools like those used by nation states, a factor that indicates elite digital weaponry is becoming more readily accessible to cyber criminals.
The package was also written using Chinese language tools and placed on Chinese language servers, according to the firm.
“The Nansh0u campaign is not a typical crypto-miner attack. It uses techniques often seen in APTs [advanced persistent threats] such as fake certificates and privilege escalation exploits. While advanced attack tools have normally been the property of highly skilled adversaries, this campaign shows that these tools can now easily fall into the hands of less than top-notch attackers.”
The firm said the campaign demonstrates that strong credentials are vital in protecting companies’ assets.
“This campaign demonstrates once again that common passwords still comprise the weakest link in today’s attack flows. Seeing tens of thousands of servers compromised by a simple brute-force attack, we highly recommend that organizations protect their assets with strong credentials as well as network segmentation solutions,” the report concluded.
Unai Emery’s side had two golden chances to secure Champions League football, but they fluffed their lines in dramatic fashion on each occasion.
And now the post-mortem is already well underway. Is Emery the right man? How can Arsenal close the gap on the likes of Manchester City and Liverpoolwith a limited budget and just what should be done with Mesut Ozil?
Those are all questions being asked as the dust settles from a disastrous end to the 2018-19 season. It is shaping up to be a very difficult summer at the Emirates and sorting out the issues surrounding the north London club will be far from easy.
Below are Arsenal’s five biggest problems, with explanations as to why they will be so tough to solve.
An absent owner
The problems at any club always start at the top – and at the top at Arsenal there is an absent owner who has been a disaster for the Gunners.
Stan Kroenke has still not put a single penny of his own money into Arsenal since arriving on the scene in north London and his lack of ambition is seeping into every orifice of the club.
There is a lack of leadership at all levels inside the Emirates and that all stems from the way Kroenke is allowing things to be run.
Arsenal are failing off the pitch, just as much as they are on it – yet the 71-year-old billionaire just sits across the Atlantic allowing it to happen.
Kroenke has made hundreds of millions on his investment since first buying into Arsenal and none of that has been put back into the club.
During that time he has forcibly hovered up all remaining shares, shunning the offer of major investment from Alisher Usmanov, one of the world’s richest men, in the process.
The fact Kroenke didn’t even bother to attend last week’s Europa League final in Baku summed him up. Yes, his son Josh was there, but Stan’s lack of attendance was an insult to those fans who had spent so much money to follow their team.
When Kroenke arrived at Arsenal, they had reached the Champions League final a year earlier. Now, 12 years on, they are a club who very much belong in the Europa League.
Standards have been allowed to slip and that’s what happens when you have an absentee owner.
In the past 12 months Arsenal have seen their chief executive, who had just replaced manager Arsene Wenger after 22 years, jump ship a few months into the season and leave for AC Milan.
That led to the club’s highly-valued head of recruitment, Sven Mislintat, leaving because he was overlooked for the technical role in the power vacuum that followed.
Raul Sanllehi was the big winner from Gazidis leaving but since he has taken charge, Arsenal have failed to land Monchi as technical director and now look set to have to wait until the the final month of the summer window to appoint Edu to the role.
It’s a situation which someone needs to get a firm grasp on, but it’s clear Kroenke will not be the man to do that.
The current set-up at the Emirates feels rudderless and with Kroenke continuing to focus on his interests in the United States, there is no sign of that changing any time soon.
A failing business model
Arsenal’s business model is based around the Champions League.
With Stan Kroenke not putting his own money in, the club has relied on Champions League funds to keep things ticking over.
But having spent the past two years in the Europa League, the coffers have run dry, very dry.
The club is now working to a failed business model. Whereas before Arsenal used to be able to celebrate the publication of their accounts, now the club will be happy that they are not so easily accessible following Kroenke’s full takeover.
It’s estimated that Arsenal’s financial performance for the year 2017-18 saw a £40 million drop in revenue from 2016-17 – with £35m of that being put down to a lack of Champions League football.
At the same time the wage bill spiralled by nearly 18 per cent, rising from £200m to £235m – a figure that takes into account the pay-offs for Arsene Wenger and his coaching staff.
This was all covered though by player sales, with the club recouping big fees for the likes of Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
That all meant that despite Arsenal’s drop in revenue, the club made a pre-tax profit of around £70m, but given the lack of player sales this time around it’s forecast that the club could be heading towards a loss of between £60m/£70m for 2018-19.
And that is not a figure that is going to improve any time soon, with this season’s run to the Europa League final only earning the club £32m. When you compare that to what Manchester United earned from reaching the Champions League quarter-finals (£82m), it shows how costly missing out on the top four has been once again for the Gunners.
It also means that the only way the club will be able to break even going forward is by selling some of their top talent, something which will alienate an unhappy fanbase even more.
The main problem with the finances is the wage bill, which is running at unprecedented levels – with Mesut Oil the top earner on £350,000-a-week.
Without Champions league football, that wage bill is massive problem – and it was the reason why the new offer which was on the table for Aaron Ramsey was dramatically withdrawn.
Arsenal have started to reduce it, with Ramsey, Petr Cech and Danny Welbeck leaving this summer, but they are well aware that further cuts must be made.
Trying to find some sort of resolution to the Mesut Ozil situation is key to Arsenal’s short and long-term future.
Without Champions League football, the wage bill is completely unsustainable and at £350,000-a-week, Ozil is the club’s highest earner by some distance.
If he was playing at the top of his game and delivering on a weekly basis, that would at least be a passable situation. But the fact is Ozil is a shadow of the player he once was.
Whether that is down to Emery’s management and his style of play is up for debate, but for whatever reason the German is simply not proving to be worth the incredible amount of money that he is being paid.
He is a drain on Arsenal’s resources and there is a good chance Aaron Ramsey would still be at the Emirates right now had Ivan Gazidis not caved to Ozil’s wage demands last January.
That decision to hand Ozil a new deal has proved to be a dreadful one and Arsenal must now try and find some way of resolving a situation which is damaging for all parties.
It’s been clear for some time now that Ozil does not fit into Emery’s plans. The Spaniard’s decision to replace the 30-year-old with teenager Joe Willock in the Europa League final spoke volumes.
But the fact that Willock offered more in those last 13 minutes than Ozil did in the previous 77 showed just where the former Real Madrid man is right now.
Since signing his new contract, Ozil has contributed just two Premier League assists in open play in 18 months – all that time with strikers of the quality of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette playing in front of him.
For a player earning the amount of money Ozil is, that is just not good enough. Arsenal need more and deserve more.
Without Champions League football, Arsenal can’t sustain the type of wages they are paying their No.10. It impacts any future contract renewals and limits what they can offer any signings.
The big issue is, Ozil has stated several times he does not want to leave. He is happy in London, he will soon be marrying his girlfriend and now has more than one business interest in the capital.
So how do you get a player out who does not want to leave?
It’s a massive problem for Arsenal but one that Emery, Sanllehi and Vinai Venkatesham must find a solution to over the coming months because if Ozil starts next season as an Arsenal player, it will not be a good situation for anyone.
Arsenal conceded 51 goals in the Premier League last season – that was the second successive season that they have shipped 50 goals or more in a league campaign.
When Unai Emery arrived it was assumed that one of the first things the Spaniard would do was fix the leaky defence that Arsenal had become known for under Arsene Wenger.
But so far, Emery has been unable to do that and until he finds a solution – either through coaching or new signings – then his side are always going to fall short, as they did in Baku when they let in four second half goals against Chelsea.
Individually, Arsenal have some good defenders. Sokratis has had a good first season, while Laurent Koscielny has shown at times that he can still be a top Premier League centre-back following his return from injury.
Bernd Leno has also impressed in goal following his move from Germany last summer.
But collectively, Arsenal are still poor at the back – with the midfield still struggling to offer the sort of protection you need to be a successful side.
Improving the goals against column has to be a priority for Emery going into the new season but as was shown during his first year in charge, that is far from easy.
Unlike in attacking positions, there are not really any young players who appear ready to make the step up in defence at Arsenal – although Zech Medley has shown promise and Daniel Ballard has his admirers at the Emirates.
So you would think a large chunk of the transfer budget this summer has to be spent on bringing in better defenders who Emery can then work with at London Colney to make Arsenal a far tougher nut to crack
Pass the Books. Hold the Oil. Thomas L. Friedman
EVERY so often someone asks me: “What’s your favorite country, other than your own?
I’ve always had the same answer: Taiwan. “Taiwan? Why Taiwan?” people ask.
Very simple: Because Taiwan is a barren rock in a typhoon-laden sea with no natural resources to live off of — it even has to import sand and gravel from China for construction — yet it has the fourth-largest financial reserves in the world. Because rather than digging in the ground and mining whatever comes up, Taiwan has mined its 23 million people, their talent, energy and intelligence — men and women. I always tell my friends in Taiwan: “You’re the luckiest people in the world. How did you get so lucky? You have no oil, no iron ore, no forests, no diamonds, no gold, just a few small deposits of coal and natural gas — and because of that you developed the habits and culture of honing your people’s skills, which turns out to be the most valuable and only truly renewable resource in the world today. How did you get so lucky?”
That, at least, was my gut instinct. But now we have proof.
A team from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or O.E.C.D., has just come out with a fascinating little study mapping the correlation between performance on the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, exam — which every two years tests math, science and reading comprehension skills of 15-year-olds in 65 countries — and the total earnings on natural resources as a percentage of G.D.P. for each participating country. In short, how well do your high school kids do on math compared with how much oil you pump or how many diamonds you dig?
The results indicated that there was a “a significant negative relationship between the money countries extract from national resources and the knowledge and skills of their high school population,” said Andreas Schleicher, who oversees the PISA exams for the O.E.C.D. “This is a global pattern that holds across 65 countries that took part in the latest PISA assessment.” Oil and PISA don’t mix. (See the data map at: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/43/9/49881940.pdf.)
As the Bible notes, added Schleicher, “Moses arduously led the Jews for 40 years through the desert — just to bring them to the only country in the Middle East that had no oil. But Moses may have gotten it right, after all. Today, Israel has one of the most innovative economies, and its population enjoys a standard of living most of the oil-rich countries in the region are not able to offer.”
So hold the oil, and pass the books. According to Schleicher, in the latest PISA results, students in Singapore, Finland, South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan stand out as having high PISA scores and few natural resources, while Qatar and Kazakhstan stand out as having the highest oil rents and the lowest PISA scores. (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Algeria, Bahrain, Iran and Syria stood out the same way in a similar 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, or Timss, test, while, interestingly, students from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey — also Middle East states with few natural resources — scored better.) Also lagging in recent PISA scores, though, were students in many of the resource-rich countries of Latin America, like Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. Africa was not tested. Canada, Australia and Norway, also countries with high levels of natural resources, still score well on PISA, in large part, argues Schleicher, because all three countries have established deliberate policies of saving and investing these resource rents, and not just consuming them.
Thomas L. Friedman Josh Haner/The New York Times Add it all up and the numbers say that if you really want to know how a country is going to do in the 21st century, don’t count its oil reserves or gold mines, count its highly effective teachers, involved parents and committed students. “Today’s learning outcomes at school,” says Schleicher, “are a powerful predictor for the wealth and social outcomes that countries will reap in the long run.”
Economists have long known about “Dutch disease,” which happens when a country becomes so dependent on exporting natural resources that its currency soars in value and, as a result, its domestic manufacturing gets crushed as cheap imports flood in and exports become too expensive. What the PISA team is revealing is a related disease: societies that get addicted to their natural resources seem to develop parents and young people who lose some of the instincts, habits and incentives for doing homework and honing skills.
By, contrast, says Schleicher, “in countries with little in the way of natural resources — Finland, Singapore or Japan — education has strong outcomes and a high status, at least in part because the public at large has understood that the country must live by its knowledge and skills and that these depend on the quality of education. … Every parent and child in these countries knows that skills will decide the life chances of the child and nothing else is going to rescue them, so they build a whole culture and education system around it.”
Or as my Indian-American friend K. R. Sridhar, the founder of the Silicon Valley fuel-cell company Bloom Energy, likes to say, “When you don’t have resources, you become resourceful.”
That’s why the foreign countries with the most companies listed on the Nasdaq are Israel, China/Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, South Korea and Singapore — none of which can live off natural resources.
But there is an important message for the industrialized world in this study, too. In these difficult economic times, it is tempting to buttress our own standards of living today by incurring even greater financial liabilities for the future. To be sure, there is a role for stimulus in a prolonged recession, but “the only sustainable way is to grow our way out by giving more people the knowledge and skills to compete, collaborate and connect in a way that drives our countries forward,” argues Schleicher.
In sum, says Schleicher, “knowledge and skills have become the global currency of 21st-century economies, but there is no central bank that prints this currency. Everyone has to decide on their own how much they will print.” Sure, it’s great to have oil, gas and diamonds; they can buy jobs. But they’ll weaken your society in the long run unless they’re used to build schools and a culture of lifelong learning. “The thing that will keep you moving forward,” says Schleicher, is always “what you bring to the table yourself.”