Friday, August 12, 2016

Around the Horn – 8/12/16

At first, in honor of “back to school” is an interesting article on the uselessness of homework for elementary age students. Reading the article spurred this thought: Kids go to school for seven hours or more. They come home to an hour or so of homework plus instrument practice. (If your child isn’t taking piano lessons by the second grade, repent and start now. He or she needs it badly. You can add another instrument later. Piano comes first.) That means our children in elementary school have the equivalent of a nine hour work day. And many are not even in double digits agewise. I believe teaching kids to work young, but I am not sure elementary age kids are ready for an eight or nine hour workday that mostly involves sitting. Maybe homework is a good thing to change, and shortening the school day probably won’t kill anyone.

At second is a NY Times article about the vanishing jury trial. It remarks that justice frequently takes places behind closed doors with (overzealous) prosecutors and no arbiter of actual facts. They offer plea deals that are guarantees while threatening long prison sentences if the accused goes to trial. The article says that jury trials were designed to protect against prosecutorial abuse and the decline in jury trials is increasing the danger. One judge says that because plea deals are prepared before a case is prepared for trial, the evidence against the defendant is never scrutinized by anyone objective to the case. A prosecutor threatens and a defendant weighs the risk of a short guarantee vs. a long risk. I am not sure what the answer is, but I would hate to be tried before a jury of my peers.

At third is an open letter to Hillary Clinton. It is a good read about the kind of image that is being put before our young ladies today. There are a lot of women that I would love for my daughter to grow up and be like. They are found in all kinds of fields in life. But there are a lot of women I hope she never follows, and Hillary Clinton is one of them. It is a dreadful shame that in a country of about 150,000,000 women, she is the one chosen. Of course, it is a dreadful shame that in a country of 300,000,000, Clinton and Trump are ones chosen. But I will save that for another day. As parents, we need to be reminded that parenting is like politics. Remember the old saying, “All politics is local”? Well, parenting should be all local. Don’t outsource your modeling to anyone, least of all politicians. And perhaps pray often the parent’s prayer: “Please don’t let me children turn out to be criminals, or worse yet, politicians.” (Though perhaps it would be hard to tell which is which.)

And last, speaking of politicians, much is being made by some of Trump’s comments about the NRA and Clinton’s threats about guns. (It was a dumb comment, whatever he meant by it.) But someone dredged this up today: Biden threatening Obama with a Berreta. I don’t remember this getting a lot of press coverage. You probably don’t either.  Let’s face it: People who talk a lot say a lot of dumb things. If you doubt that, just read Facebook. But it’s a good reminder to guard our tongues. Speaking fewer words is a good way to minimize the risk of saying stupid things.


Monday, August 01, 2016

I Had No Idea

“A person with a felony record can become an attorney, but is barred for life from becoming a security guard at a mall.”*

There is a joke in there somewhere, but knowing I might get sued by someone unqualified to be a mall security guard is preventing me from telling it.

*Miriam Aukerman, “Criminal Convictions as a Barrier to Employment” in Michigan Bar Journal, Nov 2008, p. 33; MCL 338.1056; MCL 338.1067.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Around the Horn – 7/29/16

At first is a political speech worth hearing or at least reading. Governor Rick Perry of Texas delivered this speech to the American Legislative Exchange Council. In it, he speaks of the failure of conservatives to reach out to Black Americans, to show that “it is Republicans—not Democrats—who are truly offering black Americans the hope of a better life for themselves and for their children.” It is filled with stories of Texas. It also notes the reality that in “the cities where the left-wing solutions have been tried over and over again…places like Detroit and Chicago and Baltimore…African-Americans are falling further behind.” What’s the solution? I am guessing “more of the same” is what many people think. I am not sure why. If it hasn’t worked yet, why will it work now? Perry has some good ideas, IMO. I don’t know why he didn’t get more traction in the presidential race.

At second Matt Walsh talks about why the nomination of Hillary Clinton sends a horrific message to the women of this country. Walsh is a strong writer, sometimes caustic, usually very pointed, and like many a preacher, one-third to one-half as long as he needs to be. But his point should be acknowledged. The nomination of Hillary Clinton sends all the wrong messages to the women and particularly the young women of our society. Walsh, like me and many others no doubt, says, “Call me sexist, but I don’t look at my little girl and think, ‘I hope you grow up to be just like Hillary Clinton.’” The question is who, knowing just what is available to be known, would say that? And why? What kind of person do you have to be to honor what Clinton has revealed about herself over forty years of public life?

At third, continuing on the theme of the election, Wayne Grudem lays out a case for Why Voting for Donald Trump is a Morally Good Choice. You might disagree but Grudem makes some reasonable arguments. It’s worth considering. I continue to think the strongest issue in presidential campaigns are judicial nominations. Grudem makes a strong point about that issue.

Last today is an old virtual symposium of commentary on the pro-life movement and the killing of abortion doctors. No doubt most of us would consider it wrong to kill abortion doctors though we might make a philosophical case for it. Here are sixteen people who discuss it from various angles.

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.