Saturday, January 17, 2015

Around the Horn–1/16/15

At first, JD Greear brings it strong here on evangelism. It is one of the calls of pastoral ministry, and yet it seems like a lot of pastors ignore it in favor of other things. We need to consider the priority of evangelism in our lives as Christians, and especially as pastors.

At second, Christian hip-hop personality Lecrae confesses to an abortion. As we approach another anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the plight of the unborn should weigh heavily, as should the plight of the already born. But I wonder how much public confessions like these help. Perhaps for some it gives them the encouragement that they are not alone. But I also wonder if it gives some “street cred” in some sense. I am quite sure Lecrae is ashamed of it. But I admit to not knowing how to process testimonies like these. It seems like there is the attitude that if someone big or important or notable says something, it carries more weight than if someone else says it. Maybe it’s the clergification of the confession. 

At third, here’s an article asking “Does missions separate families?” He gives a longish answer. The short one is “Yes,” and the reason has to be “Because Jesus is worth it.”

Lastly, the book, The Boy Who Came Back from the Dead (about about a boy who died and went to heaven) is in the news for being fiction. The boy and his parents have now admitted it. Of course anyone with an ounce of discernment would have known it was false. But it speaks to the incredible naiveté of the Christian buying public (and it is a huge market). Be wary of things sold in the name of Jesus.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Around the Horn – New Year’s Edition – 1/2/15

At first, Paul Tripp talks about why New Year’s resolutions usually don’t work. Life change usually doesn’t come in one moment of crisis. It comes through the thousands of little things. So do a lot of little things. After a while, they add up.

At second, for those who love to see success stories and are motivated to dream and to act by them, here is a great one about a guy who climbed a really big mountain one day at a time. His issue might not be your issue, but the process of life change is largely the same for all. A lot of people want to be different, but few want to change. As a result, dreams die in the reality of daily life. If you want to be different, then change … and start with the little stuff.

At third, here’s an interesting article on why college students lose their faith. It has some helpful insights that should give us some insight in ministry. The preacher is, at least on one level, an interpreter of reality. It is our job to help people interpret the world around them through the authoritative lens of Scripture. Hiding from hard questions won’t suffice, and neither will pat answers.

For the homerun today, the two semi-final games for the college football playoff took place yesterday. I don’t know if anyone predicted that outcome, but my new year’s resolution is to bet on myself more often.

Monday, December 29, 2014

This and That

Sounds like Jim Harbaugh is going to Michigan to coach. Michigan fans should brace themselves for another two to three years of mediocrity as Harbaugh tries to rebuild and convince recruits that he will be there to coach them. That will be followed by another coaching search when Harbaugh bolts for the NFL, leaving the players he recruited high and dry. Once you have been to the Super Bowl, it seems doubtful you will be happy coaching college again.

Speaking of mediocrity, the College Football Playoff starts this week. The committee got it mostly right, given the hand they were dealt, having to choose only four teams. The miss is Florida State. A team that wins that many close games by so small a margin has no business being considered in the national championship picture. For those who say, “Winning is the name of the game and they were undefeated,” remember Boise State when winning wasn’t the name of the game. I imagine Oregon will beat FSU pretty handily, and OSU will beat Alabama. That will set up the Ducks and the Bucks for the national championship which will be an entertaining game. Put your money on the Buckeyes.

The CFP needs to go to eight teams. That would remove a lot of controversy. It’s hard to argue that TCU or Baylor aren’t as good as FSU. They certainly belong in the conversation.

But at four teams, Florida State doesn’t belong in that conversation.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Santa for (Some) Christians

Christmas always brings out the best in some people. And I mean that in the most sarcastic way.

It seems there are always some people every year who feel it is their job to rid the world of the idea of Santa Claus. They want to protect kids from the enormous evil of thinking that there is a fat guy in a red suit who brings children presents, somehow making it to all the houses via a sled being pulled by reindeer through the sky, landing on roofs, and sliding his little fat self down the chimney into a roaring fire without even getting his long white beard dirty.

Spoiler Alert: I am about to reveal that Santa is not real. Kind of … If you don’t want to know that, please turn away from the screen. And now would not be too soon.

Trigger Alert: If hearing that stories of Santa are mostly made up and grossly over-exaggerated will send into a holiday depression or other traumatic decline, please stop reading here.

I will give you thirty seconds to move away from the screen.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Okay, now that the crowd has dwindled, let me continue.

Santa (as in the fat guy in red who brings presents down the chimney) is not actually real. There are some fat guys out there, some who even wear red. And I imagine there are some people in chimneys. (Check yours now.)

But there’s no need to clean our your fireplace because he won’t be there tonight.

In the spirit of Christmas cheer and giving, I am going to let you in on a little secret. Your kids will not be forever warped if they don’t know that yet. In fact, it is highly likely they won’t even be temporarily warped. The chance your children having issues from a belief in Santa Claus is pretty small. They are in more danger standing out in a thunderstorm.

You aren’t lying to them by allowing them to have a little imagination. The older I get, the more I am inclined to let kids be kids for a bit. They will grow up all too fast. But for now, in the right proportion, there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of fun and imagination at Christmas.

Poor Santa is the subject of an awful lot of folklore, mostly found in Christmas songs.

The truth is that Santa’s not making a list, and he most certainly is not checking it twice. He doesn’t particularly like being called “Santa Baby.” He puts up with it for the sake of holiday cheer. (He told me that once in an unguarded moment.) He also thinks that being called jolly and old is putting his man-card at risk.

But the kids who “… Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” weren’t quite as traumatized as one might have imagined. It has a lot more truth in it than most kids realize. I have it on good authority that mommy kisses Santa Claus. And he doesn’t mind.

My kids used to ask me, “Is Santa real?” I always responded with either “What do you think?” or “Of course he is.”

My oldest recently said to me, “Santa Claus isn’t real.” I said, “Really? Why do you think that?” He told me it was because he knew who Santa was at the library.

I told him, “If you think that, that’s fine. As a family, we do some things that are fun for all of us, so don’t ruin it for other people.”

In the end, they will find out all too soon that Santa is real, and that he is not nearly so impressive as they thought. The sleigh is actually a well-traveled minivan with six cylinders instead of eight reindeer. It won’t fly though it has been known to try when a few kids have made it almost impossible to be on time for school.

But Santa loves them a lot, and loves to see them having fun, even if an imaginary fat guy in a red suit gets the credit for it.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Around the Horn – 11/14/14

At first, former major league baseball player, 1948 Rookie of the Year, world champion as both a player (1954) and a manager (1974), and guest of honor at my 16th (or 17th) birthday party Alvin Dark died this week. I, along with a dozen or so other high school boys and one lone girl, talked baseball with Mr. Dark for several hours that night. He was a scout for the White Sox in those days, and back then I was a baseball nut. It was a very memorable evening. A friend who was there texted me about his death last night and remembered that party. Ironically, Dark was fired as manager of the Padres during spring training in 1978, in part, because he wanted to move Ozzie Smith to shortstop. Of course, Dark lost his job and the Wizard went on to become one of the greatest defensive shortstops of all time. Dark had a solid Christian testimony and that was a memorable night for me.

At second, an interesting article that reveals just how insensitive, and frankly, how evil some people can be. The idea that disabled people of whatever sort are things to be dispensed with is a tragic statement on the image of God in man. Human dignity that derives from the image of God in man belongs to every person, and we must insist that all people be treated with such dignity.

At third, is an article about running late. An old definition of being punctual is “showing high regard for other people and their time.” It is a thought worth having, and living by. It’s one thing to have the occasional disaster on the way out the door. It is another thing to be consistently behind schedule.

And the home run (literally), is the video of Bobby Thomson’s Shot Heard Round the World. It is the home run that won the pennant for the Giants in 1954.  In light of my earlier link to the death of Alvin Dark, Dark is the one who started the rally with a single and scored the first run of the inning ahead of Thomson’s home run.

Detroit folks might enjoy this short segment with long-time Tiger play-by-play man Ernie Harwell who was calling the game on TV that day. Of course, no one remembers him. Russ Hodges line, “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” is the one that people remembered. It was even the focus of a MASH episode.