Monday, June 13, 2016

Monday Morning Reminders for Pastors

Yesterday’s message wasn’t as bad as you thought it was. Someone in the congregation was spiritually fed, so rejoice in that.

Yesterday’s message wasn’t as good as you thought it was. There were some things that would have made your message more clear and more precise and more connected to the people you spoke to. So work on that.

You get another chance next week, so stop fretting and get busy. Don’t get to Saturday and wish you had started on Monday. Start on Monday, even if it’s only a small start.

All the things you wish you had said yesterday? Say them next week, or trust the sovereignty of God even over our speech.

All the things you wish you hadn’t said yesterday? Forget it because everyone else already has forgotten it. Have more self-control in your speech next, and trust the sovereignty of God even over our speech.

Spiritual growth does not stem from a single incredible meal. It is the result of a lot of ordinary meals over the course of years. So don’t evaluate your ministry on the basis of one message, however good or bad you thought it was. Just get a solid meal ready for next week.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Around the Horn – 6/10/16

At first is an interesting article about how LGBT activism is changing our moral consciousness. It draws out some interesting implications about how things that have been historically considered wrong by virtually everyone suddenly are considered virtuous if connected to LGBT. To leave your wife and children has, historically, been wrong. But now, it is courageous if you are admitting you are gay. To cheat in athletics by using PEDs or hormones is wrong, unless you are transgendered. It is a good article about the world we are now living in.

At second is an article on the same theme, questioning whether Title IX actually matters anymore. Title IX was an act that essentially required men and women to have equal opportunity in sports. If boys are allowed to participate in girls sports, girls will be in the same place they were before Title IX, standing behind boys in athletics.

At third is an article about the funeral of Mohammed Ali that unwittingly highlights the problems of a works-based salvation.  Ali had been on the way to buy some Bibles and Qurans for a project. He picked up a hitchhiker who, when hearing of Ali’s trip to the store, offered him a Bible from his own home. Ali tried to give the man some money for the Bible, but the man refused. The article continues,

Ali says, 'Take the money, man, I'm trying to get into heaven.' And the man replies, 'So am I.'

Ali is not taking 'no' for an answer. He says, 'If you don't take the money, I might not get in.' And the man replies, 'If I do take your money, I might not get in.'

If you have a way of salvation other than Jesus Christ, what you need to do to get into heaven might be the same thing that prevents someone else from getting into heaven. And then what? Do you give up your place for theirs? Wouldn’t it be better to abandon both ways and just lean on Jesus?

Last today is a parody of a TED Talk. It might as well be a parody of a lot of preaching. If you don’t like that one, then try this one. I fear that the art and science of communication, even in its homespun iterations, has taken precedence over the simple act of preaching the Bible. Be wary of presentation. That is not to say ignore it. It is only to say don’t lean more heavily on the method of communication than on the content of the text.

Saturday, March 19, 2016


These two statements are from two different published sources. Is this plagiarism? Maybe some of my more educated friends can weigh in here.

“Their former life and works had caused the very predicament from which they needed to be delivered.”


“Our former life and works only contributed to the predicament from which we needed to be delivered.”

Friday, March 04, 2016

Sad, Disturbing, and Confusing

A rather sad, disturbing, and confusing story brings the week to a close. The Detroit Free Press reports that a 25-year old mother was convicted of first degree murder and child abuse for having her baby in a garage and then letting it die.

It’s sad because a mother killed her baby. It’s disturbing because a mother killed her baby.

it’s confusing because I am not sure why it matters. (Don’t leave me yet.)

Isn’t this the natural end of being pro-choice? If, as the Supreme Court ruled forty-three years ago, it is okay for mothers to kill their babies, then why is this mother being charged for it? Is it the location that makes it a crime (i.e., it was in a garage rather than a clinic)? It is timing (i.e., had she done this just minutes before the baby emerged it would have been okay but she wait a few minutes too long)?

In a related story, this week, the Supreme Court is considering an abortion case regarding a Texas law that requires abortion clinics to have some basic medical standards in place such as the doctor having admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles and the clinic meeting standards for ambulatory medical centers. It’s difficult to see the problem with this bill. It’s hard to imagine these weren’t already requirements.

We have been routinely told that abortion is a medical procedure, a matter between a woman and her doctor.

In a strange twist, abortion supporters are now arguing that this medical procedure should not be required to be treated like an actual medical procedure.

Let’s tie these two stories together: Abortion supporters are arguing that mothers have a right to kill their children, that those who perform abortions do not need to admitting privileges at a hospital, and that abortion clinics do not need to meet ambulatory surgical center requirements.

This young mother meets all three parts of this argument.

So why is she charged with murder?

The fact that I even raise the question might be considered wrong. I am sure that everyone agrees that her act was heinous. It was. Heinous and heartless.

But why would a pro-choice person support the prosecution and conviction of this young mother? Why was there not a demonstration outside the courtroom protesting this prosecution?

She is what the abortion movement is about—a young woman who is pregnant and unable to care for another child. That’s why abortion exists—because young women should not be required to to be a mother if they don’t want to. And why should the state put undue burdens on her, like leaving her garage or something.

This young lady simply exercised her constitutional rights.

The fact that she chose to do it in a particular way should not really matter, should it? After all, doesn’t she have a right to choose what to do with her body?

There is something about this case that destroys the pro-abortion argument. It is simply this: Everyone knows this mother’s actions were morally wrong and reprehensible.

Why do they know this?

Because they know that that “thing” living inside of her was a baby and it didn’t change into a baby in that Eastpointe garage when it suddenly met the cold December air.

Nope. It was a baby in her body and it was a baby outside of her body.

And everyone knows that.

We are truly a corrupt and calloused people, not because we prosecute this young woman, but because we don’t see the intense irony of prosecuting her for doing exactly what she chose to do, to exercise her constitutional rights as a woman.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Privacy vs. Life and the “Dilemma” of Apple

The news is that the federal government has compelled Apple to break their inscription that ensures the privacy of Iphone users. Apple is refusing.

Which reminds me that civil disobedience isn’t what it used to be.

But I digress.

Who’s right? Apple or the government?

Let me pose a thought experiment: Let’s say that someone has kidnapped your child and hidden her somewhere. And let’s say that the police surrounded the kidnapper who, after a standoff, killed himself. The police break down the door and find only the kidnapper’s dead body and an Iphone that has been secured which the police have reason to believe contains data that reveal the whereabouts of your child. There is no one else that is suspected of having any information that could lead to your daughter. In the meantime, you don’t know if she is hurt, if she is being raped by accomplices, if she is unconscious and bleeding out. You don’t know anything, but the Iphone may have some clues.

Do you believe that Apple should refuse to provide a means to break the encryption?

If your answer “Yes, Apple should refuse,” I question your sanity; I question your humanity; I question your parenting skills and your heart.

What does it say about a person who would sacrifice the life of his or her own child in order to protect Iphone encryption?

I would suggest it says a lot, and none of it very good. In fact, if you believe that, I would keep it to yourself so no one else finds out how calloused you are towards life, particularly of your own family?

Strong words? Yes. So tell me why I am wrong. Explain to me why Iphone encryption is of greater importance than life.

In the current case, the phone belongs to one of the San Bernadino shooters who killed fourteen people and wounded twenty-two more. The phone could provide information as to other plans for mass murder, or provide information as to other people involved in terrorism plots.

Now, in case I have been too subtle, I will go ahead and put my cards right out on the table: I am of the mind that life is more important than privacy of an Iphone using criminal who is endangering the lives of others. I cannot think of a good reason that Apple should refuse provide to the government the means by which to break the encryption. I have seen a lot of handwringing and fearmongering about it. But rational arguments? I haven’t seen any of those yet. And I can’t imagine what rational argument there is.

The government has a long history of being to perform, with legal approval, reasonable searches and seizures. It was written right into the Constitution that all states agreed to to join the union. And it seems entirely reasonably (no pun intended) that such searches fit that category.

Such searches are reasonable, based on the facts as known at the time. They are not guarantees of success. They are not without danger.

Sure, a government might hatch a pretense of an argument that can unreasonably invade the privacy of its citizens. It already happens. It’s not new. It’s not good. But it’s rare.

I believe the use of such encryption breaking ability should be used as it is in any other investigation—with a demonstrable probable cause approved by a dispassionate judge and a limited scope of searching. It’s not a ticket to an open-ended fishing expedition.

Those who say that Apple should refuse may be endangering the lives of others. Notice, I said “may be.”

Let’s pose another thought experiment: Let’s say that, God forbid, there is another terrorist attack which kills a dozen or so people, and wounds another two dozen. In the aftermath, it is discovered that the new terrorists had connections to the San Bernadino shooters, connections that would have have been uncovered with access to the Iphone. Such access would have provided information that could have stopped the shootings.

Does that change your mind?

What if one of those dozen fatalities is your spouse? Or your parent? Or your child? Or your neighbor?

Does that change your mind?

It shouldn’t take a close friend dying to make us think about this.

If we are pro-life, then let’s be pro-life all the way. Let’s not be pro-life after we are pro-privacy. That was the basis of Roe v. Wade—that a right to privacy supercedes whatever life may be extinguished in the meantime. In other words, your privacy with your doctor was more important than your child.

And that’s why the initial thought experiment is not far off from reality. It’s just an Iphone instead of a doctor.

I understand privacy concerns. I am not wild about the government, or anyone else for that matter, rifling through my phone or my computer. I would be mortified for people in authority to find out how boring my life actually is. I would prefer to keep the sad state of my existence to myself.

But frankly, I find the right to life more important.

Ben Franklin is reported to have said that those who give up freedom for security deserve neither. It may be that that those who refuse to give up some freedom for some security shall soon have neither.

I think many Christians—evangelical, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians—have bought into the God of America. That our constitution is sacrosanct, and that our rights to certain things go hand in hand with the Bible, and may, in fact, go ahead of the Bible.

America isn’t God’s chosen people. And the Constitution didn’t come by divine inspiration.

Yes, the government may one day decide to outlaw Christianity. But if it take a violation of my privacy to find me guilty, I have bigger problems than constitutional ones.

My friends, let me urge us to take life seriously. If we are going to be pro-life, let’s be pro-life even it means giving up something else.