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News That Illustrates: June 18, 2012

Commencement Speaker Blasts Students
During this season of nice, predictable commencement addresses (largely about self-esteem and our unlimited potential to change the world), David McCullough Jr. shocked his audience of high school seniors with an unpredictable theme: "You're not special." He went on to say, "You've been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped. Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth … trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again …. You've been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie …. But do not get the idea you're anything special. Because you're not." McCullough pointed the students to what he called "the great and curious truth of human experience"—namely, "that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself. The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you're not special. Because everyone is." There's definitely some good and biblically-centered food for thought in this speech.

PREACHING ANGLES: Humility; Pride; Self-image; Service

Soccer Fans Clash in Warsaw
Here's an interesting story about how old unhealed wounds can quickly resurface and lead to conflict. During the 2012 Euro football (that's soccer for us Americans) tournament clashes broke out between rival Russian and Polish fans in Warsaw. Over 6,000 Polish police had to use tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons to keep the two groups of angry fans from assaulting each other. There's a long, painful history between the two groups: Russia conquered and then occupied Poland for more than a century. This conflict, like the conflicts between two individuals, shows our need for the healing that only comes through forgiveness and reconciliation.

PREACHING ANGLES: Bitterness; Conflict; Forgiveness; Resentment

Hip Hop Artist Tackles Father Absence
"Be the last of a dying breed, it's time that we man up." That's the last line from a song from the Christian rap group 116 Clique led by rapper Lecrae (see info on him here). Father absence runs deep across our nation, especially in urban contexts. According to a "This Is Our City" article, "As of 2007, the national rate of children born to single mothers was 40 percent …. [and] 24 million American children—one in three—live in homes without their biological fathers." So Lecrae is using his music to address this issue from a Christian perspective. Lecrae himself bore the marks of a fatherless life. Living with his single mom in the south side of Houston, he got involved in drugs, theft, and gang activity before meeting Christ at the age of 19. He said, "I had strains with other men in my family as well, and just didn't have a lot of healthy mentoring relationships as a young man. I grew up and still didn't know what it meant to be a man."

PREACHING ANGLES: Fatherhood; Mentoring; Popular Culture

Sci-fi Legend, Author, Ray Bradbury's Views on God
On June 5, 2012, legendary sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury died at the age of 91. But before he died he expressed his interesting views on God and spirituality. According to a CNN article, Bradbury's stories were filled with references to God and Christianity. Bradbury was raised in a Baptist home in the Midwest, but in his later years he called himself a "delicatessen religionist," drawing from different religious sources. But he also knew his talent came directly from God. He told a friend that at times he would sometimes open one of his books late at night and say, "I sit there and cry because I haven't done any of this. It's a God-given thing, and I'm so grateful, so, so grateful. The best description of my career as a writer is, 'At play in the fields of the Lord.'" And although Bradbury called Jesus just "a remarkable person," one of his biographers wrote about his ongoing fascination with Jesus: "The guy keeps writing about Jesus, but he doesn't consider himself a Christian."

PREACHING ANGLES: Gratitude; Jesus Christ, uniqueness of; Spirituality

Baseball, Steroid Use, Cheating, and Denial
Here's a long but utterly fascinating article from Sports Illustrated about the scandal of steroid use in Major League Baseball. The story focuses on four young pitchers with the Minnesota Twins farm club. One of the young recruits chose to use steroids—a guy named Dan Naulty. It's a gripping story with some wonderful twists and turns and some great preaching quotes. On the power of rationalizing sin, Naulty says, "I was a full-blown cheater, and I knew it. You didn't need a written rule. I was violating clear principles that were laid down within the rules. I understood I was violating implicit principles." But he used steroids anyway. At one point Naulty's life unraveled. He said, "I had no hope, I had sold myself that bill of goods so long that I believed it. But I realized at that moment I had totally destroyed my life. And I had destroyed countless other people's lives. I was ready to die." (NOTE: Here's a spoiler alert: Naulty became a Christian and a pastor—but you have to read the article to get the whole story.)

PREACHING ANGLES: Denial; Rationalization; Sin; Sin, destructive

That'll Be 20 Bucks for Swearing in Public
Here's an interesting story to set up a sermon on grace versus law or conversion versus human effort. The residents of Middleborough, Massachusetts, voted 183-50 to impose a $20 fine for swearing in public. The article noted, "Officials insist the proposal was not intended to censor casual or private conversations, but instead to crack down on loud, profanity-laden language used by teens and other young people in the downtown area and public parks." Certainly, laws may curb behaviors, but only Christ can change the human heart.

PREACHING ANGLES: Conversion; Law; Legalism

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