Things I Should Teach My Son III

As I age, it’s becoming more interesting to watch my sons’ trials, especially comparing their reactions to mine. Here’s one: a painful social situation that gives rise to a temptation to remonstrate with a former friend or acquaintance. In the short run, giving in to the temptation feels good. But in the long run, it’s terrible choice.

Angry words about past hurts are a waste of time for the hurt party; the better choice is the uncomfortable and lonely high road. This looks like:

  1. Forgiveness, even if that is never asked for by, nor expressed to, the other party. Forgiving and forgetting past hurts is better; this is science.
  2. You’re likely to see this person again in a social context (reunion, Christmas party, etc.) At a minimum, offer a friendly hello. He or she should walk away believing you want to maintain friendly terms. Silence = hostility in this situation. “Hi, great to see you,” is a good start. See here.
  3. Never gossip. If you need to talk about the painful situation, talk only to family or to the most trusted friend.

This is all type 1 advice. I never received it but wish I had (I probably wouldn’t have listened.) Acting out on a grudge has never produced any kind of good result.

Ab Initio Pilot Training in America

JetBlue has requested authorization to launch an ab initio pilot training program in the United States. I’ve written about ab initio training before (see here, here and here.) The main difference between this proposal and the European practice is that JetBlue will send their candidates out to fly at a smaller airline until they get the required hours (1,500.) That matches the minimum time requirement for pilots at U.S. carriers; most applicants exceed that number. The candidates in this program might gain a leg up on their competition by securing an job at the minimum level.

The company attempted to justify the request by citing a pilot shortage (see here.) If you don’t click through, here’s the summary: airlines have thousands of applicants for pilot jobs if the jobs pay well. If not, as in the case of regional airlines, pilot shortage. JetBlue starting pay for pilots is about $44,000/year. Starting pay at a typical regional airline (e.g., Mesa) is about $20,000/year.

A McDonald’s cashier makes about $17,500/year.

So why? Under the plan, pilots could get hired onto the JetBlue seniority list at a younger age than otherwise. They would enjoy a permanent lifestyle benefit at the expense of their peers; and thus the creation of a cadre of grateful pilots. That difference would be an exploitable wedge between union members, potentially useful during contract negotiations. In fairness, unions also create wedges between members over time.

Things I Should Teach My Son II

Usually advice is too general. The previous post, Pay Yourself Second, was a good example. It promoted the idea that a young person should save regularly but didn’t show how.

You could set up automatic distributions, from your paycheck, to a savings account in a bank ($100 per paycheck when starting out) to build up an emergency fund. What could be more accessible than money you could easily transfer to your checking account? Also: how much? Let me … If that’s too much just save $1,000.

After that, how do you save money? Here’s a specific answer: put money regularly into a Dividend Reinvestment Program (DRIP.) The key quote: “The compounding interest of DRIPs allows investors to purchase additional shares of stock at little or no cost …” (emphasis added.) That zero-to-low cost is a big deal in terms of compounding over time.

Not specific enough? Click here and sign up with Realty Income. This company pays dividends so incredibly regularly that it trademarked “The Monthly Dividend Company” as its slogan. Assuming all else is equal, a higher frequency of dividend payments is better. And, if you’re bored, here’s another article on Realty Income.

$100 a month. Increase this when you can afford it. Never decrease. Do this and be rich when you’re middle aged.

Things I Should Teach My Son

My oldest son is in college. He is studying engineering. His first semester was unremarkable; we were surprised how quickly he took to social life there, but not much because his university attracts young people exactly like him – on the serious side, but with some sense of humor. Not a party school. But that first semester was all about school.

His second semester, he decided to say “yes” to everything. He joined the school ensemble choir, began competing in a club sport, and joined an engineering fraternity. This has continued into his second year, with the addition of military training in place of the singing. He is also carrying 20+ credits. When he comes home, he buries my wife under a mountain of laundry, then spends most of his time sleeping with occasional breaks for a meal. We don’t bug him about this.

Obviously, we should be telling him to manage his time.

But advice given to college students, especially the fatherly variety, comes under 3 categories: advice I was never given, but wish it had been; advice I was given, but that I ignored; and advice that I received and applied. There are no entries under the last category.

So here’s some category 2 advice: Pay Yourself First. To a Christian, the advice reads badly. We’re not supposed to do anything for ourselves first … God has to come first, so the tithe is critical. OK: Pay Yourself Second (after God, but ahead of everybody else.) Rather than attempt to prove why this is important, I’ll just link this.

To that good advice, I’ll add this: never sell. Whatever you invest in, keep it in there until you can look at the compounding balance and conclude: “Wow, I can pay off my house/investment real estate/retainer for my defense lawyer!” Keep it in there until the balance gives you some real relief and financial peace. Warren Buffett said, “Lethargy, bordering on sloth, should remain the cornerstone of an investment style.” So just keep adding and don’t sell.

Future Robot Jobs

This is an interesting YouTube video about the top 10 jobs most likely to be outsourced to a robot or other technology. The part I found most interesting was #9, Drivers. The narrator states that “Those who make a living ferrying people and cargo around in vehicles could one day have their livelihood [sic] taken from them.” This will eventually apply to pilots in a limited way; from two person cockpits to one-person cockpits with a Skype-like video link to another pilot or dispatcher (or both) on the ground.

Psalm 28 Study Question 4

Sycamore Presbyterian Church Friday Men’s Bible Study Psalm 28 (see notes)

Question 4. What seems to happen in verse 6? Has this ever happened to you? Should we expect this every time? Why or why not?

6 Blessed be the Lord! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.

David was praying for salvation; he was praying for membership in God’s people. He certainly was leading the congregation to ask for this salvation because it’s a psalm (a point I’ve belabored.) David praises God because God answers the prayer (“has heard.”) The remainder of the psalm lists the benefits of God’s favor only His people enjoy.

One pastor I knew once taught about the “unpardonable sin” (blaspheming and lying about the Holy Spirit) that Jesus warned the Pharisees against. He (the pastor) criticized the tendency to generalize all sins as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (the generalization states: if you claim to be a Christian, you will have power to fight off your sins, so any sin you commit makes Him a liar; you are blaspheming the Holy Spirit, which is unpardonable … see here for a good refutation.) Obviously, this is junk theology: perfectionism. But our pastor dismissed it quite elegantly: “If you ever worry about this sin, you don’t have to worry about this sin.” His meaning was that only someone with the power of the Holy Spirit could ever be sensitive to the words of Jesus on this point. I was grateful for this assurance, because early in my Christian walk, I was briefly susceptible to this worry. I outgrew it because I recognized the perfectionism, but it would have been fun to listen to this error get crushed by that line when I was in its grip.

Another story: I visited a friend’s church in Santa Clarita, California where they used a high church liturgy. This liturgy included a corporate confession and forgiveness of sins. The pastor ended the forgiveness of sins part by saying, “1st John 1:9 tells us that ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ So based on this objective testimony, you are forgiven. It doesn’t matter if you ‘feel forgiven.’ Even if you’re depressed right now, you’re still forgiven!” This was another pithy and unexpected assurance.

I reminisce about these points of assurance because they came so subtly, unexpectedly and powerfully. I know the Holy Spirit was making me pay attention to these (and other) events and filling my heart up with them. I know God has forgiven me my sins; I don’t deserve it, but I’m overjoyed to have it. This is how David felt when he wrote verse 6.

Perhaps Rev. Keller was asking about whether we should expect our petitions for everyday things to always be answered in the affirmative: “God, please give me a good day at work;” “God, please help me fix this thing;” “God, please don’t let the 49ers lose to the Seahawks;” etc. He doesn’t always say “yes” to these petitions. I think that if He answers No to these kinds of petitions, we have to try to see how the “no’s” line up with His plan for us. That may only happen in retrospect.

I do know that He always forgives.

Notes:
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Psalm 28 Study Question 3

Sycamore Presbyterian Church Friday Men’s Bible Study Psalm 28 (see notes)

Question 3. We have seen what David was petitioning for. What do we learn in the psalm about how we should petition God? (a) What attitudes or beliefs underlie his requests? (Think especially of what “uplifted hands” (v. 2) symbolize. Why is each attitude/belief important for petitioning? (b) The word for “anointed one”’ in Hebrew is “Messiah” and in Greek is “Christos.” How does David unwittingly point us to Christ here?

(a) When I think of uplifted hands, I think of children raising their hands to their parents. I don’t think that this means that children can’t have a conception of God outside their parents. I do think this means that parents represent God to their children as they grow – and what could be more appropriate, since God the Father reveals Himself to us as – a father. It’s also appropriate given the fact that human beings are a natural revelation of God. Since human beings are the only part of the created order to bear God’s image, one has only to look at a human to see something of God. For these reasons, when we think of David raising his hands to God, we should think about children, not teenagers, (parents of teenagers, you’re with me on this one right?) looking up with uplifted hands at Mommy or Daddy asking for something. Usually with iron-clad confidence. Maybe this is the reason Jesus said this. This represents a belief by the child in the parents’ ability (or power) to satisfy the request.

Similarly, I don’t think a small child would normally approach a stranger this way. A child’s wariness of a stranger is a contrast to the trusting familiarity he shows to his parents, which represents his belief in his parents’ goodness (or righteousness.)

As with any analogy, this one can be taken too far and falls apart at the point where parents aren’t as powerful or good as their young children think they are. It is here that the child has to grow, and start raising his hands toward God.

So David prayed to God in this psalm with a strong belief in God’s power and righteousness. These are important to the petitioner because it defies logic for him to pray for something that he doesn’t expect to happen – that would be a waste of time. Eventually the petitioner would stop praying. “What’s the use?” But there is more. We have been taught through further special revelation that God is not a gumball machine and our prayers are not quarters. God instructs us in prayer to be careful to pray for His will and not our own, and to be careful to sort out our motivations when we pray. But since God always hears the petitions of His people, and also instructs us to pray without ceasing, we can conclude that sometimes He simply says, “no.” There are times when parents say “no.” This is not unanswered prayer.

(b) I got nothing. This doesn’t mean I’m not going to try to dazzle you with brilliance baffle you with something other than brilliance. To do this, I have to deconstruct the question. Rev. Keller asks how David “unwittingly point[s] us to Christ” in verse 8b (“he [the Lord] is the saving refuge of his anointed”.) In this sentence, the Lord (not LORD, or YVWH, but Lord, Adonai, I believe) is the subject who is the “saving refuge” of someone else. That someone else is “his anointed.” If Rev. Keller is asking how “his anointed” points to Christ, it can’t, because Christ did not receive salvation but gave it. I think that since “his anointed” is the recipient of salvation in verse 8, David may have been referring to himself. The context seems to support this, as David recounts many of the benefits of being found in the Lord in verses 7-9.

Of course, since David is a Christ type, pointing at himself is pointing at a Christ type. Perhaps that’s how.

Another line of reasoning would look at the objects of God’s favor in verses 8-9: His people. Plural. There are two references to “people,” one to “heritage,” and the use of “their and “them” as pronouns for His people. In the midst of all this, we have “his anointed.” There was only one individual in Israel who could claim to be the “anointed.” That was David. However, David may have been, even unwittingly, identifying God’s people with Himself. This idea would seem to find its apotheosis in Paul, who calls the church Christ’s body.

I guess the only way to conclude that David was giving a messianic shout-out is to just say, “Look, he wrote ‘anointed one!’ That’s what makes it messianic! Because Psalms.”

I told you I got nothing.

Notes:
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Psalm 28 Study Question 2

Sycamore Presbyterian Church Friday Men’s Bible Study Psalm 28 (see notes)

Question 2. Now look at David’s definition of “wickedness” in verses 3-5. (a) Define and describe the “wickedness” that so concerns David (v. 3 and v. 5). (b) How is verse 3b a complete reverse of what our relationships should be with others? (c) How do you measure up to this definition of wickedness?

(a) So we’ve established that the “wicked” are first “unbelievers.” Then what? (a) The “wicked” engage in behavior that indicates a love of and nurture for their sin. These people work their sins hard. First they speak peace with their neighbors while plotting evil in their hearts. The language makes it sound as if these people plot against those they are speaking with. There is a double-mindedness in this that takes effort. Think of the last time you, dear reader, had to carry on a conversation while actively plotting something else. If you could pull it off it was difficult. Plotting anything takes mental effort; plotting evil while speaking peace takes work at being evil. Only one who really values evil would do such a thing.

David also refers to the “work of their hands,” showing that whatever they plotted or considered, they carried into action. It was instructive for Jesus to explain that even a mental “You’re an idiot,” is murder enough to condemn a man. However, to take this thought-murder and then turn it into the “work of [one’s] hands” implies a radically unrepentant, high-handed series of thought, word and deed murders. To make any sin the “work of [one’s] hands” requires a massive escalation of scale if not type.

Lastly, the wicked did not regard the works of the Lord. This is about as good a definition of unbelief as is available. It also happens to bear repetition. Any person whose view of God is so low that he withholds his regard for Him is really imagining a false god and denying the real God, whose works are wondrous.

(b) Verse 3b is a reverse of how we are to treat our neighbors because we are to love them not only in speech but in thought and deed. Example: Jesus taught that we are to love our enemies, and pray for them. Jesus also taught us to pray in private. We can conclude that the two will sometimes go together; and this amounts to loving our neighbor in our thoughts (albeit prayerful thoughts.) The reason I use the teachings about loving and praying for enemies to answer a question about neighbors is that I assume we will be at least as solicitous for our neighbors before God as our enemies. The other indication that this is the reverse is that we are to perform deeds of love for our neighbor. Jesus commanded us to go the extra mile for our neighbor, and to literally give one’s shirt to someone who needs it. Today, neither seems like a big sacrifice if you can hop into your climate-controlled SUV and just drive your neighbor the extra mile, and then drive to Walmart to buy a t-shirt for yourself. But in that day, walking an extra mile cost a good amount of time, and it was clear that many of the people Jesus preached to were poor; that tunic was possibly the hearer’s last one. Today? give your neighbor your car keys for the day, and buy him a nice $500 gift card at Macy’s and tell him to get what he needs for himself. More painful? Yes. But we see that Jesus required his people to love their neighbors in thought, word, and deed, without double-mindedness or evil plotting.

(c) I don’t remember ever actively plotting this kind of evil against a neighbor. I do know that I should love my neighbor more and that comfort and convenience are too important to me. After writing the lines about giving my car keys to my neighbor and buying him a $500 gift card (to make my illustration more powerful,) I realized that I haven’t “taken one for the team” as often as I should have done. This may not be evil plotting, but the sin of omission related to it.

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Psalm 28 Study Question 1

Sycamore Presbyterian Church Friday Men’s Bible Study Psalm 28 (see notes)

Question 1. This psalm is a prayer of petition. (a) What two things is David asking for with regard to the wicked (v. 3 and v. 4)? (b) Why do we have more assurance than David did that the petition of verse 3 will be answered?

3 Do not drag me off with the wicked, with the workers of evil, who speak peace with their neighbors while evil is in their hearts.
4 Give to them according to their work and according to the evil of their deeds; give to them according to the work of their hands; render them their due reward.

In verse 3, David is asking for a different fate than that given to the wicked, the workers of evil. In verse 4, David asks that the wicked receive their due reward; he wants God to repay them according to their evil work.

I always have trouble with “reward” verses in the Bible. I know that I am a sinner, and if I were to be repaid according to my sins I wouldn’t be able to stand before God. The flow of this particular doubt goes like this:

I’m a sinner … sinners do evil … the evil that sinners do deserves punishment by a righteous judge … God is the holy judge of the world … He has promised to judge all evil … I’m screwed.

Again, this is a doubt, not the truth. If it were not possible for a believer to have a doubt, it would not have been possible for the a believer to cry out “Help my unbelief!” to Jesus. (Note on the phrase “cry out”: it means “yell.” The man in the passage yelled at Jesus.) Still, it’s bracing to read David, a man after God’s own heart, asking God to drag the wicked away. That’s not a pretty image.

It’s important to remember that David knew he was also a sinner, yet felt confident to ask God to distinguish him and his fate from the wicked and their fate. The only way this can be squared is to read “unbeliever” for “wicked” (I think this is true of the whole Old Testament.) Maybe the Jews used “wicked” to describe those without the Law because they lacked relationship with God and so had no divine moral compass. In other words, God first created a relationship with His people and then gifted them the Law; to those with whom He did not make a relationship, He did not give his Law so clearly (however, He did write it on their hearts.) All this is to say that the category “wicked” presupposes a lack of a relationship with God.

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