Category Archives: Denison Forum

Denison Forum – Amazon cancels evangelical book on the transgender issue: A “digital book-burning” and the power of holiness

 

Ryan T. Anderson is one of the most perceptive writers and thinkers in the evangelical world. His research has been cited by two US Supreme Court justices. A magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University with a doctoral degree in political philosophy from Notre Dame University, his work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, and numerous other outlets.

His book on the transgender issue, When Harry Became Sally, is one of the foundational works on the subject. I have found it enormously helpful in my work. I agree with Anderson’s description of his book as “a thoughtful and accessible presentation of the state of the scientific, medical, philosophical, and legal debates.” In 2018, it hit No. 1 on two of Amazon’s bestseller lists before it was even released.

However, you can no longer order his book on Amazon. If you search for it there, you’ll see “Sorry, we couldn’t find that page” and a picture of a dog. You can, however, find Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber Manifesto on Amazon. Both have an average rating of 4.5 stars.

John Stonestreet and David Carlson explain why Anderson’s book is so important and compelling, perhaps the very reasons Amazon blocked it. The Federalist calls Amazon’s cancelation of Anderson’s book a “digital book-burning.” The Wall Street Journal responds to Amazon’s action by warning that “tech censorship is accelerating.”

 

Bill Hybels’ daughter apologizes for her silence 

Willow Creek Community Church Senior Pastor Bill Hybels stands before his congregation, Tuesday, April 10, 2018, in South Barrington, Ill. (Mark Black/Daily Herald via AP)

Amazon clearly intends fewer people to read Anderson’s seminal work on the transgender issue. To the degree that their intention becomes reality, their sin will affect far more people than the sinner.

That’s how sin always works.

No pastor in the evangelical Christian world was better known or more trusted than Bill Hybels. Hybels founded Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago, creating a model for relevance in ministry that has been studied and emulated around the globe. Then came the horrible news: Hybels was accused of sexual misconduct three years ago and forced into early retirement.

Now Bill Hybels’ daughter, Shauna Niequist, has apologized for her silence following the allegations against her father. Niequist explains that they “shook me to the core, & I shut down.” Since then, she has been “trying to find the words to write about my dad & our church.” She was taking time to “grieve & listen & recover,” but stated, “I now understand that my silence communicated to many that I defend my father’s actions and his ongoing silence. I don’t. I grieve both of those things.”

She is just one of the innocent people who have been injured by sins they did not commit.

Restitution and Step Nine 

How should Christians respond when Christians sin?

As I noted yesterday, we need to separate the message from the messenger, hold each other to the standards of Christ, and balance grace and consequences. To the last point, I wrote that “sinners can be forgiven, but they must seek restitution.”

Let’s expand on that fact.

We know that God will forgive all we confess (1 John 1:9). Why, then, should we not simply sin and confess, sin and confess, sin and confess? One reason is that God also calls us to make restitution to those we have harmed.

Jesus taught us, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23–24). As an example of such restitution, when the notorious tax collector Zacchaeus came to repentance and faith in Jesus, he announced: “If I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” (Luke 19:8; cf. Exodus 22:1).

Of course, there are circumstances where seeking restitution may harm further those we have hurt. Step Nine of Alcoholics Anonymous’ famous Twelve Steps is to “make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” We should seek the wisdom of God and the counsel of others in knowing how best to help those we have harmed.

Our works “will be revealed by fire” 

Restitution is one aspect of repentance. The loss of rewards is another.

While God forgives all we confess, he cannot reward sinful behavior. His word is clear: “Each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on that foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:13–15).

Every hour we spend in sin is an hour we lose forever. Every time we refuse to obey Jesus, we forfeit the eternal reward we would have received for such obedience.

So, the time to refuse sin is before we commit it. The next time you are tempted, turn immediately to your Lord. Ask him for the strength to defeat your enemy (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13Philippians 4:13), then join him in choosing the holiness that leads to freedom and joy.

If you are living with unrepented sin, the time to repent is now. The cancer will only spread; more innocent people will be hurt; more restitution will be owed; more reward will be lost. Turn to God now, knowing that he has already turned to you.

 

The hand that held the nail 

The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson’s deeply moving depiction of Jesus’ trials and crucifixion, opened on this day in 2004. Gibson personally invested millions of dollars in the movie and directed it. His face nowhere appears on screen, but he does make a very strategic cameo: his hand holds the nail driven into Jesus’ hand on the cross.

His point was simple: Jesus died for his sins. And for yours and mine.

Will you choose holiness in gratitude to your Savior today?

 

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Denison Forum – Tiger Woods is recovering from surgery: The uniqueness of Christian hope and three responses when Christians fail

 

Tiger Woods is awake and recovering from surgery, according to a statement posted this morning on his official Twitter account. The golf legend was involved in a serious car accident yesterday near Los Angeles, where he suffered multiple leg injuries. He was trapped but conscious when emergency responders reached the scene.

According to Golf Digest, Woods suffered fractures in his right leg as well as damage to his ankle. His right leg was stabilized by inserting a rod into the tibia. Surgeons used screws and pins to stabilize the bones in his foot and ankle.

Jack Nicklaus spoke for golf fans everywhere when he responded, “We want to offer him our heartfelt support and prayers at this difficult time.”

Magneto hydrodynamic explosive munitions 

Woods’ accident yesterday was one of the six million car accidents that occur in the US each year. While Tiger Woods is one of the most famous athletes in history, he is as susceptible to the laws of physics as anyone else.

Technology changes our circumstances but not our character. Soldiers in the biblical era fought with slingshots, swords, and arrows (1 Samuel 17:40Matthew 26:521 Samuel 31:3); we fight today with camouflaged tanks and magneto hydrodynamic explosive munitions. But no matter how it is fought, as Gen. Sherman said in the Civil War, “War is hell.”

As I noted yesterday, Christianity offers the hope of moral transformation for those who follow Jesus and submit to the Spirit. To this I would add that Christianity offers a unique hope of such transformation.

The natural cannot change the natural. Humans cannot change human nature. The prophet was right: “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).

Look across our history: Are we not still dealing with the same mistakes, failures, and problems as our ancestors?

 

Why I cannot pay your debt 

This is why natural transformation requires supernatural agency. In theological terms, someone must pay the penalty for our sins before a holy God can forgive them. Since Jesus is the only sinless person who ever lived, he is the only person who does not owe the debt of sin and thus the only person who can pay the debt we owe (Romans 6:23).

If I have $100 in my pocket, I cannot pay your $100 debt and mine at the same time. Only if I owe no debt can I pay your debt.

This is what Jesus uniquely did for us (Romans 5:8). With all due respect, no other religious leader ever claimed to be sinless or to atone for the sins of others. Jesus did what Muhammad, Buddha, Confucius, and every other religious leader could not. This makes the salvation he offers unique (John 14:6).

In addition, his Spirit inhabits those who trust him as Lord. The Holy Spirit lives in us as his temple (1 Corinthians 3:16). He makes us a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and begins the process of internal sanctification that makes us more like Jesus (1 Peter 1:2Romans 8:29). This, again, is a promise no other religion or worldview makes or can make.

Three biblical responses 

However, when we claim that Christianity changes Christians, we must answer this question: Why do so many Christians act in such sinful ways? Reports of horrific sexual abuse surfaced after Ravi Zacharias’ death last May. World-renowned pastor Bill Hybels took early retirement after allegations of sexual abuse were made against him. Doesn’t this contradict the truth they proclaimed?

Let’s close with three biblical responses:

One: Separate the message from the messenger. 

When doctors fail us, we don’t reject medicine. When lawyers act corruptly, we don’t reject the law. Christianity never promised that Christians would be perfect. Our hope is not in the preacher but in the One being preached. We are saved not by Bill Hybels or Ravi Zacharias but by Jesus (Acts 4:12).

Two: Hold each other to the standards of Christ. 

Our message changes the messenger if the messenger is willing to be changed. God respects the freedom he gives us so much that he will not force us into repentance and godliness. But if we cooperate with him, his Spirit will make us the kind of people our Father intends us to be (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

Three: Balance grace and consequences. 

We do not want to be the army that buries its wounded, but we also do not want to offer what Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace” that ignores accountability and the consequences of sin. If I drive a nail into a piece of wood, you could remove the nail but the hole remains. Sinners can be forgiven, but they must seek restitution (Matthew 5:24Luke 19:8). (I plan to say more about confession and the consequences of sin in tomorrow’s Daily Article.)

 

What Satan put into our heads 

How does today’s conversation relate to you? Do you need to seek forgiveness from God and/or from someone your sin has harmed? Do you need to offer forgiveness to someone who has harmed you? Do you need to renew your commitment to seek the holiness our Father requires and empowers? Do you need to share the unique hope of the gospel with someone today?

  1. S. Lewis observed in Mere Christianity: “What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

Who or what is the source of your happiness today?

 

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Denison Forum – Cocaine on corn flakes: Our moral crisis and our nation’s only hope

 

US Customs and Border Patrol recently seized a forty-four-pound shipment of corn flakes from South America. The reason: its flakes were covered in cocaine instead of sugar. Bico, a narcotic detector dog, flagged the shipment in Cincinnati, Ohio.

As long as there have been laws, humans have attempted to break them. The first humans broke the first law in human history (Genesis 2:173:6–7). The first child ever born murdered the second child ever born (Genesis 4:1–8).

From then until now, our story is one of laws and lawbreakers. Criminals are sometimes caught, as with the ninety-five-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard who was deported from Tennessee back to Germany last Saturday. Many are not: according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, fewer than half of crimes in the US are reported; according to the FBI, fewer than half of reported crimes are solved.

Every day’s news brings further proof that our secular culture desperately needs a great spiritual awakening. This is why, as I noted yesterday, you and I need to live in submission to the Holy Spirit out of a passion for Christlike character (Romans 8:29). And why we need to pray and work with urgency to help everyone we influence do the same.

The hour is later than we know. But the hope we offer is the hope our nation needs today.

The only nation founded on a creed 

Britannica defines “government” as “the political system by which a country or community is administered and regulated.” It lists monarchy (rule by a monarch), oligarchy (rule by a small group), and democracy (rule by the people) as the main approaches across history. For most of Western history, the first two forms were predominant.

In fact, the article states that the Constitution of the United States “opened the door to modern liberal democracy—democracy in which the liberty of the individual is paramount.” As British writer G. K. Chesterton noted on his first visit to our shores in 1921, “America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed.” That creed is contained in five words enshrined in our Declaration of Independence: “All men are created equal.”

Because we are all “created equal,” none of us has the right or the capacity to rule another. The American solution is to enact laws by the consent of the people, then to elect leaders to enforce them, again by the consent of the people. If we see that our laws need to be changed, we amend our Constitution or otherwise enact legislative remedies. If we see that our leaders need to be changed, we elect new ones.

The entire enterprise rests upon the belief, radical and nearly unprecedented in history, that people can govern each other.

However, we cannot govern each other if we cannot govern ourselves.

 

Abraham Lincoln predicted our future 

Abraham Lincoln gave his first major speech on January 27, 1838, shortly before reaching his thirtieth birthday. In it he asked, “At what point shall [America] expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?”

He expanded his question: “Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years.”

Lincoln continued: “At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

He claimed that “general intelligence, sound morality, and, in particular, a reverence for the Constitution and laws” would be essential to our survival. Then he closed: “Upon these let the proud fabric of freedom rest, as the rock of its basis; and as truly as has been said of the only greater institution, ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’”

Mr. Lincoln was right: Character is essential to democracy. A free people can govern each other only if they can govern themselves.

 

Our nation’s “indispensable supports” 

Our Founding Fathers were clear on this fact. Of the scores of founders and quotes I could offer to prove this point, let’s focus today on our first president. George Washington stated in 1796, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

Lest we think that the latter can stand without the former, Mr. Washington continued: “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

I will say it again: a free people can govern each other only if they can govern themselves. And because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), we cannot govern ourselves unless we submit to the governance of God by his Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) and his word (Hebrews 4:12).

The good news is that the Spirit of God can transform us into a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and empower us as “ambassadors for Christ” to be the change our culture needs (v. 20). We have great hope, so long as our hope is in Christ (Colossians 1:27).

A warning we must heed 

Today we are claiming the hope we find in Jesus. Tomorrow we will see why this is our only hope as a people.

For now, I will close with a biblical text that grieves me for the nation I love and motivated today’s Daily Article. What God said to the children of Israel he says to us today: “If you forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish” (Deuteronomy 8:19).

Clearly, the greatest service you and I can render our nation is to be catalysts for spiritual and moral awakening before it is too late.

How will you answer this call today?

 

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Denison Forum – Dak Prescott and Matthew McConaughey joined storm relief efforts: Choosing character today for the crisis tomorrow

 

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and actor Matthew McConaughey were two of many athletes and celebrities making donations for those in need during last week’s winter crisis in Texas. The Mavericks’ Mark Cuban and Luka Doncic were among team members who contributed $1.25 million to help.

CNN reports that, like these celebrities, neighbors across the state stepped up to serve others.

One such neighbor is Jim McIngvale. The Houston furniture store owner who opened his stores in previous years to those fleeing Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey opened them again last week to those seeking warmth, shelter, and food. While driving to church on Valentine’s Day, he said, “I saw some cops putting a sheet over a homeless guy who had frozen to death. That really got me. I decided then that I’d open the stores to everyone if it got really bad, and it did.”

One lesson from the crises of the present is that we must prepare for the crises of the future.

The New York Times reports that “extreme cold killed Texans in their bedrooms, vehicles, and backyards.” What we saw last week is not an isolated case: scientists are warning that an overall rise in extreme weather is creating new risks to America’s aging infrastructure.

More Americans have died from COVID-19 than perished on the battlefields of World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War—combined. And like the weather crisis in Texas, the current pandemic may portend the future: the Wall Street Journal warns that “the world must move urgently in 2021 to develop strategies and systems for fighting diseases that could be even deadlier than COVID-19.”

In other words, the time to prepare for a crisis is before it happens. When it strikes, it will be too late.

 

Women dressed as elderly adults to get vaccines 

A jet engine caught fire after takeoff Saturday, scattering debris in an area north of Denver, but the plane was able to return safely to the airport. The flight did not cause the flaw in the engine—it revealed it. Meanwhile, two women who dressed up to appear as older adults in order to get coronavirus vaccinations were caught by authorities. The pandemic did not create their character—it revealed it.

In better news, today is the anniversary of the US hockey team’s astonishing victory over the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympic Winter Games. Years of preparation and sacrifice we did not see led to the victory that made history.

Pipes that were exposed before last week’s polar vortex burst when it arrived. To see what is in a tea bag, put it in hot water. To see what is inside a bottle, shake it up.

I’m sure that my wife, Janet, is looking forward to my return to the office this morning after a week of extreme “togetherness.” However, I am grateful to report that days spent huddling in front of our fireplace drew us closer together. Fault lines in our marriage would have been exposed and exacerbated.

The Bible is filled with examples of people who were transformed by God and whose character then rose to meet dire challenges. Moses the murderer met God at the burning bush and stood up to Pharaoh, rebellions, and crises. Peter the denier (Matthew 26:69–75) became the preacher of Pentecost (Acts 2:14–36). Paul the persecutor became God’s apostle to the Gentile world.

How can we join them?

How to “teach transgressors your ways” 

Crisis is inevitable in this broken world (John 16:33), but preparing for it is optional. Our problem is that change is hard. Paying a price today to face a crisis tomorrow requires discipline and sacrifice.

But the cost is worth paying. Not only will tomorrow be better if we seek character today—today will be better as well.

David looked to the day when “I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you” (Psalm 51:13). But first, David had to return to God. After his catastrophic sin with Bathsheba, he had to pray, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions” (v. 1). He had to ask the Lord to “create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (v. 10).

Then he could “teach transgressors,” for he had been one. He could lead “sinners” back to God, for he had returned to God.

The most powerful witness is not the person who has never fallen but the person who is empowered to get back up. That is the person other fallen people see and seek to emulate. The student who makes an A on the test is the best student to help others prepare for the test. The cancer survivor is the best encourager of cancer patients.

 

How to make headlines in heaven 

Do you want character that triumphs in crisis? Do you want your life to make a transforming difference in the lives of others?

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss the urgency of character for the future of our culture. For today, let’s focus on our next personal step. If you were to be more the person Jesus intends you to be, what would need to change? What is your next step into Christlike character?

Ask God if you, like David, have “transgressions” to confess, then confess what comes to your mind and claim your Father’s forgiving grace (1 John 1:9). Now ask him for strength where you are weak, courage where you are afraid (2 Corinthians 12:9). Live in submission to his Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) that you might manifest the character of his Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23).

And when the next storm arrives, you will be the one making headlines of grace—if not in the news on earth, in the hallways of heaven. And in the eternal souls you will draw closer to Jesus.

Including your own.

 

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Saturday Only –  Week in Review

 

Denison Forum – What happened this week at Denison Forum?

If you watched the news for even a minute, you noticed that Texas suffered massive and long-lasting power outages affecting millions across the state during an unprecedented winter storm.

Since Denison Forum is headquartered in Dallas, many people on our team endured the same outages, which made working difficult if not impossible. But, as Dr. Denison wrote, “I think things are hard until I check the news and find that so many people are dealing with much worse.” Our prayers are with everyone still enduring the effects of these brutal winter storms.

As for what we were still able to do this week, we published our latest book, Biblical Insight to Tough Questions, Vol. 7, where Dr. Denison covers ten tough questions like: “If my church shifts in an unbiblical direction, what should I do?”

Dr. Denison (despite multiple power outages) still published The Daily Article every weekday morning and recorded multiple interviews.

And we released our latest YouVersion devotional, “Begin Lent in Jesus’ footsteps.”

However, earlier this week, one of our staff members said what many of us may have thought lately: “I’m tired of living in unprecedented times.”

Yet here we all are, constantly enduring frustrations and fear and daily navigating uncertainties and unknowns.

In times like these, we all need faith—but it matters in whom you place that faith.

Here’s to praying that the only thing that’s unprecedented in the days ahead is your closeness to the Father.

 

This Week in The Daily Article

In our most-visited article of the week, Dr. Denison responded to the Ravi Zacharias scandal with three biblical lessons we must learn so that his story does not become our own.

We celebrated pastor Tim Keller’s good news regarding his cancer, then considered what we can learn from the pain of others.

Dr. Denison recounted a miraculous story of conversion in Nepal, then encouraged us to finish well the race set before us.

And conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh died on Wednesday. As Dr. Denison wrote, “Whether you considered him a vital voice for freedom or a danger to our liberties depended entirely on your perspective. . . . What no one can question is that he used his influence to advance his vision for our country.”

Lastly, Dr. Denison discussed both the bad news and the good news of Texas’ power failure in this once-in-a-lifetime weather event (God willing), acknowledging that “one way God redeems suffering is by using it to inspire gratitude for that which suffering threatens.”

Hear Dr. Denison

In a busy week for interviews, Dr. Denison spoke on multiple radio and podcast interviews. Many of them used his Daily Article as a launching point for their discussion.

As always, you can find Dr. Denison’s archive of interviews here.

What you may have missed

NYT bestselling author Jemar Tisby provided us with an excerpt from his latest book, How to Fight Racism. If you missed it, we encourage you to read “How the Bible Talks about Race and Ethnicity.”

Steve Yount watched a new two-part, four-hour documentary on PBS, The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This is Our Song, and noted that it enlightens and inspires while also facing its “bitterness and biases that make up the Black experience in America,” as Barack Obama once said.

And Minni Elkins introduced us to 112-year-old “Grandma Kwong,” whose “deep and life-long devotion to Jesus and his Kingdom was steadfast.”

 

Notable Quotables

  • “From beginning to end, from Genesis to Revelation, God has planned for a racially and ethnically diverse church. This heterogeneity is not a mistake or a backup plan. Diversity is God’s ‘plan A’ for the church.” —Jemar Tisby
  • “Under the snow we can see is a sheet of ice we cannot see. When we walk or drive on the snow, the ice it is hiding can be dangerous and even deadly. When ice is under your feet, the safest thing you can do is get on your knees and crawl to safety. Do it now.” — Jim Denison
  • “You have to keep unmasking the world about you for what it is: manipulative, controlling, power-hungry, and, in the long run, destructive. The world tells you many lies about who you are, and you simply have to be realistic enough to remind yourself of this. Every time you feel hurt, offended, or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: ‘These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting embrace.’” —Henri Nouwen

What you’re saying

Our readers email us, leave feedback on our website, and share their thoughts on our social media sites. Here’s what you’ve been saying lately:

  • “Thank you for your well-written article. I have really been grieving these past few days over this. Your analogies are right on, sin is always crouching at the door, and we can never allow ourselves to become numb to either the culture, our behavior, or what we choose to think about.” —L. B.

Parting thought

If you didn’t know that Ash Wednesday occurred this past week, you may want to read this article.

Top of Form

 

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Denison Forum – Churches respond to the weather crisis in Texas: How I learned a transforming lesson about gratitude this week

 

In each of my radio interviews this week, I have been asked about our weather crisis in Texas. People from California to Minnesota to Florida and points in between are following this story. Our winter weather even made the New York Times, and for good reason.

A family in Killeen has been forced to ration oxygen for their premature baby. They had to burn their three-year-old daughter’s wooden blocks in their fireplace for warmth. Most of us have now seen our power restored, but more than thirteen million Texans—almost half our state’s population—do not have access to clean, running water. As of this morning, the extreme weather has been blamed for at least forty deaths in Texas and elsewhere.

But there is good news in the news as well: Dallas churches and other faith groups helped create an emergency warming shelter for the homeless. The Salvation Army and other faith groups are providing meals and other supplies for those in need. Volunteers are helping migrants who are sheltering in the cold. Lakewood Church in Houston is just one of many churches that has opened its doors to serve as emergency shelters.

I will never take electricity and clean water for granted again. Or those who provide such essential services.

Sleeping by our fireplace 

As a result of our power outages, I became interested for the first time in our state’s electricity infrastructure. I learned that Texas utilizes more than 650 power generation facilities connected by more than 46,500 miles of transmission lines to provide electricity for our state. Our power is produced from natural gas, coal, wind, nuclear, solar, hydro, and biomass resources.

Someone had to design and build every one of these facilities, lay every mile of transmission line, and create the means by which we convert natural resources into electricity. People have to operate the infrastructure that delivers this electricity to us, then repair that infrastructure as needed. Workers have been braving dangerously cold conditions this week to restore our power.

Until this week, I confess that I had never considered any of this.

You and I could create a long list of other services we take for granted. Who built and operates the internet or cellular connection you are using to read these words? Who designed and built the electronic device on which you are reading them? How much of your home or office could you build? How much of your food could you produce? How many of your clothes could you make?

Earlier this week, Janet and I were sitting and sleeping near our gas fireplace for warmth. We talked about the days when this was how most people kept warm in the winter. But I admit that I didn’t consider the fact that we have a gas fireplace and gas to power it, a convenience much of the world does not enjoy.

 

“Man in his pomp will not remain” 

One way God redeems suffering is by using it to inspire gratitude for that which suffering threatens.

Our electricity and water crisis in Texas calls us to gratitude for electricity and water. The coronavirus pandemic calls us to gratitude for life and health. The recession calls us to gratitude for the financial resources we still possess. The January 6 attack on the Capitol calls us to gratitude for the democracy it threatened. The growing threats against religious liberty call us to gratitude for the religious freedom we enjoy.

And the finitude of this life calls us to gratitude for the greater life to come.

The psalmist noted: “Even the wise die; the fool and the stupid alike must perish and leave their wealth to others. Their graves are their homes forever, their dwelling places to all generations, though they called lands by their own names. Man in his pomp will not remain; he is like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:10–12).

By contrast, the psalmist rejoiced to testify, “God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me” (v. 15). If Jesus is your Lord, he will receive you as well (John 14:3).

 

Gratitude for the friendship of God 

Father Stephen Freeman, a priest in the Orthodox Church in America, recently wrote an insightful essay titled “The Last Temptation.” Focusing on Satan’s offer to give Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world” in exchange for his worship (Matthew 4:8–9), he notes that Jesus chose instead to make his Father his King through the suffering of the cross.

Fr. Freeman suggests that Jesus’ temptation is ours. Rather than serving God through the way of suffering, we want God to eliminate all suffering. When he does not, we reject him in anger for what he will not do rather than serving him in gratitude for all he has done.

The season of Lent began last Wednesday. As we travel these weeks on the way to Calvary, my prayer is that we will make this a season of gratitude. Let’s turn the needs we face into gratitude for the blessings we have received (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Let’s turn the temptations of our enemy into gratitude for the strength of our Father (2 Corinthians 12:9). Let’s turn the enmity of the world into gratitude for the friendship of God (James 4:4).

Then, let’s express our gratitude for our Father’s grace by serving him and others at any cost (Romans 12:11 Peter 4:10). Let’s see the price of our obedience as an opportunity to show our Savior the depth of our love.

Fr. Freeman notes, “The Cross always appears to be weakness and foolishness—and thus its followers must be willing to become weak fools.”

How will you be a “weak fool” for Jesus today?

 

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Denison Forum – Rush Limbaugh and writing in a winter storm: How perspective can strengthen our faith and embolden our witness

 

Rush Limbaugh died yesterday at the age of seventy. He is being remembered today in ways that align fully with his political and cultural influence. Whether you considered him a vital voice for freedom or a danger to our liberties depended entirely on your perspective. To some he was a hero; to others, a threat.

What no one can question is that he used his influence to advance his vision for our country.

I saw the news of his passing while navigating the power outages that are afflicting the entire state of Texas. My wife and I had three hours of electricity yesterday and have no idea how much power we’ll have today.

I think things are hard until I check the news and find that so many people are dealing with much worse.

Some in our state have had no power since Sunday. Pipes are bursting all over our area, driving people from their homes and apartments. Water shortages are requiring many to boil water; some have no water at all and are using snow.

And the death toll from the storms and outages continues to climb. At least seventeen have died so far, including a grandmother and three children who died in a house fire trying to keep warm in a town near Houston.

I say all of that to say this: perspective changes suffering.

 

How to “run with endurance” 

Evangelicals in the US are frustrated with the rise of censorship against biblical morality; some ministries worry about the loss of their tax-exempt status and government intrusion into religious freedom. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, most Americans expect evangelicals to lose influence under the Biden administration.

My friends in Cuba would not understand our complaints as they face prison or worse for their faith. The underground church pastors I met in Beijing would agree, as would Christian converts in the Muslim world who face horrific persecution for following Jesus.

On the one hand, perspective does not change circumstances. Learning of the intense suffering of others in my state does not make the power stay on in my house. Social media platforms and other media are still censoring evangelicals; many are still facing ostracism and worse for their biblical convictions.

On the other hand, perspective changes how we respond to our circumstances. The writer of Hebrews called us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). To encourage us, he stated: “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (v. 3).

When we remember all it cost Jesus to secure our salvation, we are empowered to pay any price to serve him in gratitude for such grace. When we remember the courage of other believers around the world, we are emboldened to stand for our Lord where we live.

A surprising fact I learned in Cuba 

Perspective serves a second purpose: it clarifies our priorities.

During my first visit to Cuba many years ago, I told a pastor that I was praying for persecution to lessen against his people. He asked me to stop. Seeing the surprise on my face, he explained that persecution was purifying the faith of his people. It was separating true believers from those who were not authentic Christians and strengthening their resolve in serving Jesus.

Tertullian was right: the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.

The world’s fastest-growing evangelical movement is not in the US or Europe but in Iran. Despite government oppression, interest in Christianity is escalating. One teacher says his Bible study has seen online attendance grow from forty to more than six hundred. His church has planted twenty-five other Christian groups in twelve cities.

Since the Communist government expelled Christian missionaries from China in 1953, the church there has exploded in growth. The government’s current oppression of Christians is not working: Protestant Christianity is the fastest-growing faith in the country.

There are more Christians in China than in France or Germany. Some estimate that by 2030, there will be more Christians in China than in the US or any other country on earth.

The winter storms in Texas remind us of our finitude and God’s omnipotence. Despite all our technological sophistication and energy resources, our infrastructure has been no match for nature.

The coronavirus pandemic shows us that our medical advances cannot prevent mortality. The economic recession caused by the pandemic shows us that our financial resources cannot prevent financial loss.

When we allow suffering to show us how much we need God, our Father redeems our pain and emboldens our faith.

 

You are “the Beloved from all eternity” 

What challenges are you facing today? You may not be battling a winter storm and its effects, but you are dealing with something you wish were different. Jesus was bluntly transparent when he told his followers, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33a). But then he promised us: “But take heart; I have overcome the world” (v. 33b).

Now we have a choice. Difficulties can make us bitter or better. When we are suffering, we can blame our doctor, or we can seek her help. Pain can drive us away from God or closer to him.

Here was Paul’s choice: “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3–5).

Henri Nouwen advised us: “You have to keep unmasking the world about you for what it is: manipulative, controlling, power-hungry, and, in the long run, destructive. The world tells you many lies about who you are, and you simply have to be realistic enough to remind yourself of this. Every time you feel hurt, offended, or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: ‘These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting embrace.’”

When we live in the truth that we are God’s Beloved, others will want the faith we display. God will use our courage to draw many to Jesus. And we will one day hear our Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).

Will you ask Jesus for the strength to trust his promises and the courage to share them today?

 

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Denison Forum – Miracles in Nepal and ice in Dallas: Trusting our challenges to the sovereignty of God

 

A Nepali Christian named Suroj Shakya faced a life-threatening decision. His mother, Gita, had been diagnosed with a painful, paralyzing spinal growth. Doctors advised a risky, potentially lethal surgery. Her husband, a Buddhist priest, refused to pay his Christian wife’s expenses. Doctors gave Suroj two days to decide whether to let his mother live in terrible pain or risk her death.

The nineteen-year-old was alone in Singapore and did not know what to do, so he called out to the Lord in prayer. Then he heard a knock at the door. It was a group of local church members who wanted to pray for his mother. After they prayed for twenty minutes, God gave Gita a miracle.

She stood up. Then she kicked out with her left foot, which she had not been able to move for years. She found that she could move her left arm as well. She began weeping and praising God.

Doctors didn’t believe Gita was the same woman. Her husband did not believe his wife had been healed without surgery until he saw that she had no scars. Then, along with his son, Suman, he became a Christian.

Suroj is now a forty-one-year-old church elder. He tells the Christian Post that such stories happen often in Nepal, which has one of the fastest-growing Christian populations in the world.

“An unstoppable force in the Muslim world” 

God’s omnipotence is not confined to Nepal. My friends, Tom and JoAnn Doyle, recently published Women Who Risk: Secret Agents for Jesus in the Muslim World, a gripping account of New Testament Christianity in one of the most difficult cultures to follow Jesus.

They note that “an astounding number of women from Muslim communities” are risking their lives to make Jesus their Lord. In turn, they write, “these new believers are transforming the Middle East. When Muslim women find Jesus and give their lives to him, they not only enjoy new freedom in Christ but also become an unstoppable force in the Muslim world.”

I encourage you to read their empowering book and then pray for those who are being empowered by Jesus to lead a genuine spiritual revolution in the Muslim world. What finite humans cannot do, our omnipotent Lord can.

I am witnessing another reminder of divine omnipotence and human frailty as I write today’s Daily Article. In Dallas, we are dealing with the worst winter weather in decades. Texas is the leading energy-producing state in the nation, but we are struggling with power. Janet and I had four hours of electricity at our house on Monday and three on Tuesday. We don’t know what to expect today.

 

“My power is made perfect in weakness” 

Human frailty can be deeply frustrating.

Our local news is covering the anger many feel toward our energy providers who are not providing energy in this weather crisis. Evangelical leaders are continuing to respond with anger and disappointment to reports of Ravi Zacharias‘ horrific sexual abuses.

Each day’s news reminds us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Paul spoke for us all when he admitted, “Nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18).

But here’s the good news: God can redeem our frailty by using it to lead us to depend on his omnipotence.

Paul told of the time when “a thorn was given me in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). Theologians have long speculated on the nature of this “thorn,” suggesting that the apostle suffered from migraine headaches, epilepsy, or an eye disease. Paul responded as we would: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me” (v. 8).

Here is how God responded: “He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (v. 9a). Through this experience the apostle learned, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (vv. 9b–10).

The power to finish well 

Where we begin the race is not nearly as important as where we finish it. Michael McDowell started last Sunday’s Daytona 500 in seventeenth place, but when the race was over, he had won. It was his first career NASCAR Cup Series win in his fourteenth season.

By contrast, the latest SpaceX test flight went well until the rocket crashed when it returned to earth. The person narrating the flight said, “We’ve just got to work on that landing a little bit.”

To finish your race well, run in the power of Jesus. Admit that you cannot defeat sin and Satan in your strength. If Ravi Zacharias could fall, so can we. If Paul had to say, “When I am weak, I am strong,” so do we. If the greatest missionary, evangelist, and theologian in Christian history needed the power of Jesus “made perfect in weakness,” so do we.

Now name your “thorn in the flesh,” the temptation or trial you are facing today. Give it to Jesus. Ask him to heal it or strengthen you to bear it. Pray for him to redeem it by drawing you into greater dependence on your Lord.

Seek God’s strength for finishing well, and you will finish well.

 

Eric Liddell’s “full surrender” 

This Sunday marks the seventy-sixth anniversary of the death of Eric Liddell in a Japanese prison camp in China. Liddell was a champion runner who set a world record in the four hundred meters at the 1924 Olympics. His refusal to run on Sunday drew global attention to his faith and became the subject of the Academy Award-winning film, Chariots of Fire.

After the Olympics, Liddell became a missionary in China, where he met and married his wife, Florence. After the Japanese invaded China, he sent his family to safety in Canada, but he remained behind to minister. The Japanese incarcerated him in a concentration camp, where he worked selflessly as a teacher, prisoner representative, and volunteer carrying loads for weaker prisoners. He developed headaches from a massive brain tumor, but he never complained.

Just before he died, Eric Liddell turned to a friend and said, “It’s full surrender.” Then he drifted into a coma from which he never recovered.

He finished well. If we will do what he did, so will we.

What do you need to surrender to Jesus today?

 

 

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Denison Forum – Tim Keller’s cancer update: Hopeful lessons in hard places

 

Bestselling author and pastor Tim Keller recently shared an update on his battle with pancreatic cancer. As a result of the prayers of many and his chemotherapy treatments, he has seen a “significant decrease in [the] size and number of tumors.” He stated, “I still have cancer, but this is excellent news,” and added, “What the future holds I do not know, but we will continue to trust his plan and allow him to shepherd us along his chosen path.”

Keller especially learned to trust God in hard places when he was battling thyroid cancer a few years ago. He explained, “It was both an intellectual and emotional experience: You’re facing death, you’re not sure you’re going to get over the cancer. And the rigorous intellectual process of going through all the alternative explanations for how the Christian Church started. Except the resurrection, none of them are even tenable. It was quite an experience.”

That experience inspired his bestseller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, enabling millions of people to profit from his pain and make his hope their own.

Beware “contempt for misfortune” 

We can learn from the pain of others, or we can ignore it to our loss.

Following former President Trump’s impeachment by the House and acquittal by the Senate, 58 percent of Americans say he should have been convicted. This number reflects the sharp partisan divide in our nation: 88 percent of Democrats agreed, as did only 14 percent of Republicans.

People in other countries probably watched news of the proceedings with the same detachment Americans watch the political travails of other countries. Brexit, for instance, was of passing interest to me but compellingly urgent to the British. By contrast, the below-zero temperatures we are battling in Texas are undoubtedly more urgent for me than for those in the UK.

It is human nature to care less about problems that don’t affect us than those that do. In reading through the book of Job, I recently found this remarkable observation: “In the thought of one who is at ease there is contempt for misfortune” (Job 12:5a). This is true of us all.

 

A lesson for every church and ministry 

However, if we fail to learn from the challenges of others, we are far more likely to fail when we meet similar challenges ourselves. The verse we just cited continues to warn us that misfortune “is ready for those whose feet slip” (v. 5b). No exceptions or qualifications are noted.

This fact is especially relevant in light of the unfolding scandal involving Ravi Zacharias and the ministry he founded. Yesterday, we identified three ways we should respond personally to disclosures that the world-famous apologist engaged in horrific acts of sexual abuse.

Today, let’s focus on a key lesson we need to learn for the sake of our churches, ministries, and cultural influence: we must respond immediately and objectively to claims of impropriety. 

David French’s article on Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) and its response to allegations against their founder is heartbreaking. It describes a pattern of denial on the part of the board and other ministry leaders. At times, those who sought to investigate charges against Zacharias were reportedly ostracized and marginalized.

Tragically, such a response is unsurprising. Zacharias had built an international reputation for brilliance and integrity. Those who felt they knew him best deceived themselves into believing that they knew him better than those who brought allegations against him. We have seen the same pattern repeated in churches and ministries across denominational lines and around the world.

How Jesus taught us to handle conflict 

This is why Jesus’ four-stage prescription for resolving conflict is so vital.

First, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone” (Matthew 18:15). We are not permitted to speak about people before we speak to them. When we become aware of an issue, we are to go directly to the person. (In instances of abuse, a person may not feel safe confronting their abuser. If you have suffered abuse, please report it to a counselor or other trusted professional.)

Second, “If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses” (v. 16). This step requires investigation by objective parties and must be thorough.

Third, “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church” (v. 17a). This step requires public exposure of the issue and a call for repentance and resolution.

Fourth, “If he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (v. 17b). This step requires excluding the person from the church or ministry.

 

Practical questions we must answer now 

Let’s apply Jesus’ prescription by asking some practical questions:

  • Does your church or ministry have a system whereby employees and others can safely report allegations of abuse or other improprieties?
  • Are the electronic devices of your leaders and employees open to screening at any time? (This was a major problem with RZIM.) I recommend Covenant Eyesfor technology accountability; it is important that your church or ministry utilizes a system for transparency.
  • What commitments to personal integrity do you require of your leaders? For example, are they permitted to be alone with a person who is not their spouse or family? Are their calendars accountable to others?
  • Is someone in your church or ministry holding leaders accountable for personal integrity? As the great Howard Hendricks warned, sin thrives in isolation. Mark Turman, our senior fellow for leadership, recommends giving the leaders of your church permission to interview the pastor’s spouse two to three times a year regarding the pastor’s health. These and other regular steps are vital for leaders and those they lead.
  • Are your leaders accountable and transparent with regard to their use of ministry funds? Travel? Personal finances?
  • Are your church or ministry members praying regularly for the spiritual health of their leaders?

I often note that God redeems all he allows. One way he wants to redeem the Ravi Zacharias scandal is by using it to lead churches and ministries around the world to greater accountability and integrity.

But the time to act is now. Once a scandal erupts, it will be too late to prevent it.

Let’s close with this declaration by the psalmist to the king of his day: “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions” (Psalm 45:7).

May Christians everywhere be able to say the same of their leaders, to the glory of God.

 

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Denison Forum – Responding to the Ravi Zacharias scandal: Three biblical steps every Christian must take now

 

FILE – In this May 29, 2020 file photo, images of Ravi Zacharias are displayed in the Passion City Church during a memorial service for him in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

Note: The impeachment and acquittal of former President Trump by the Senate raise vital questions for our culture and our future. However, given the urgency of today’s topic, I will postpone my response to the impeachment proceedings until tomorrow’s Daily Article.

Witnessing the fall of someone we greatly admire elicits deep, painful emotions. We feel betrayed by them and embarrassed that we trusted them. The more public our faith in them, the more public our shame and the deeper our anger. We wonder if there is anyone we can truly trust. If they were part of a larger movement, that movement’s reputation is disgraced along with them.

These emotions describe the way many of us have felt since allegations of sexual abuse first began surfacing against Ravi Zacharias, one of the best-known and most admired evangelicals of our generation. I wrote at his death of my gratitude for his life and legacy. Then horrendously sinful personal stories began to surface.

Last Friday, the report of the law firm hired by Ravi Zacharias International Ministries to investigate these stories was made public. The scathing twelve-page document is heartbreaking. I will not describe here what it describes, but it includes evidence of rape, other acts of sexual abuse, and numerous extramarital relationships.

Christianity Today and others are reporting on the details of this scandal. My purpose today is to consider it in the context of spiritual warfare and to identify three biblical lessons we must each learn today, before this story becomes our story tomorrow.

One: Grieve for the victims 

Jesus warned us that Satan “was a murderer from the beginning” and “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Our Savior also told us that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). Whenever we find death, lies, theft, and destruction, we know that our spiritual enemy has been at work.

This is what happened to the victims of Ravi Zacharias’ sins. Each person he abused is someone made in God’s image and beloved by our Father. How I would feel if this happened to my wife is how we should all feel today.

We are told to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). Try to imagine how these victims have felt over these years. Then pray for their healing and for the body of Christ to demonstrate his compassion and grace to them.

And remember that sin always affects the innocent. Satan loves to use one sin to destroy as many lives as he can. The next time you are tempted with “private” sin, remember the victims of Ravi Zacharias’ sins. The women he abused will never forget their pain, and his family and colleagues are shamed and grieving as well.

 

Two: Expect private sin to become public 

Here is how Satan’s strategy with so-called “private” sin works: “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14–15).

Is tempted is in the present tense, showing that temptation is an ever-present reality for us all. Lured means to be “dragged away.” Enticed means to catch by use of bait, as in trapping an animal or catching a fish.

The Greek syntax of sin when it is fully grown indicates that this result is not inevitable; we can stop sin before it reaches this stage. However, we must confess our sin immediately (1 John 1:8–10) because sin begins to metastasize immediately. Otherwise, the result is physical and spiritual death (Luke 15:32Ephesians 2:1Revelation 20:14). The Bible consistently warns us that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23; cf. Ezekiel 18:20).

The next time you are tempted by “private” sin, see this temptation as bait in a cage. And know that its consequences will be far worse than its rewards, for you and everyone who knows you. I will repeat a statement I have made often over the years: sin will always take you further than you wanted to go, keep you longer than you wanted to stay, and cost you more than you wanted to pay. Always.

Three: Repent now 

The Bible reveals: “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). We includes every Christian. What Satan did to Ravi Zacharias, he wants to do to you and to me today.

If you are harboring “secret” sin that has not yet been exposed, don’t believe Satan’s lie that you will be the one person who will get away with it. Your Enemy is waiting until you climb even further up the ladder so that your fall will be even more devastating to you and all those you hurt on the way down.

If this could happen to Ravi Zacharias, it can happen to any of us.

I have known several “fallen” ministers over the years. The ways their private sins were made public were so unusual and unpredictable that none could have imagined being found out as they were.

If you are living in unrepented sin, you are climbing a ladder that will collapse under you when Satan chooses. Get off it now with confession, repentance, and contrition. Read 1 John 1:9, then claim its truth as God’s promise for your soul.

 

What to do if you’re walking on ice 

I am writing this morning in the midst of the worst winter weather we have seen in the Dallas area for decades. The storm began last Thursday, leading to a 135-vehicle wreck in Ft. Worth that killed six people and injured dozens more. Transportation in our region is largely shut down today.

One reason is that ice fell before the snow began, coating our bridges and roads. As a result, under the snow we can see is a sheet of ice we cannot see. When we walk or drive on the snow, the ice it is hiding can be dangerous and even deadly.

When ice is under your feet, the safest thing you can do is get on your knees and crawl to safety.

Do it now.

 

 

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Denison Forum –  What happened this week at Denison Forum?

 

This Week in The Daily Article

The underlying question of this week’s reported news at Denison Forum is one I want you to ask yourself right now: Where are you truly placing your hope?

We awoke Monday morning to Tom Brady having won yet another Super Bowl, only to see Tuesday bring yet another impeachment trial for former president Donald Trump.

On Wednesday, we learned that a divided Senate had voted fifty-six to forty-four, ruling that the trial is constitutional.

Then, on Thursday, we heard that PepsiCo had announced it was changing the Aunt Jemima brand to Pearl Milling Company and had pledged $5 million to support the Black community.

Finally, on Friday we learned that the Washington National Cathedral came under fire for inviting evangelical pastor and author Max Lucado to speak. The reason: his biblical views on marriage.

Whether the news is good or bad, the question remains the same: Where are you placing your hope?

The answer makes all the difference in the world.

Hear Dr. Denison

As a cultural apologist, Dr. Jim Denison is often asked to speak on the day’s news for various radio and podcast programs.

On Wednesday, he answered “What does the Bible say about Valentine’s Day?” on Bill Martinez Live.

Dr. Denison talked about the true meaning of love on Mornings with Tom and Tabi.

And he further discussed Valentine’s Day on The Bottom Line with Roger Marsh.

You can always find Dr. Denison’s latest interviews here.

 

What you may have missed

Have you heard of Emmanuel Acho’s book, Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man? Steve Yount provides a short review of Acho’s purposefully discomforting book.

Or did you see the news story about the drug treatment clinic owner arrested for drug trafficking? This unfortunate event led Ryan Denison to challenge us as Christians the next time someone calls us out.

Lastly, this story will encourage you to seek God’s goodness: Minni Elkins wrote of the first time she tried—and hated—a pomegranate. But she learned to love its taste once someone showed her the correct way to eat it. And that led her to consider just what it means to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Notable Quotables

With a tip of our hat to the late Alex Trebek and the well-known Jeopardy! Category of “Notable Quotables,” here are three recent quotes from our website for you to ponder:

  • “When we focus on the eternal in the midst of the temporal, we find hope in the former to face our gravest challenges in the latter. Such hope is a powerful witness to a watching and hurting world.” — Jim Denison
  • “This side of heaven, we will never live up to the standards of perfection to which we are called. But when we respond to our mistakes with humility and welcome accountability, God can redeem even our shortcomings to bring others to himself.” —Ryan Denison
  • “Followers of Jesus are to be bold in declaring and defending unpopular truth, gracious with those who disagree, and humble in dependence on our Lord. In other words, we are to be like Jesus.” — Jim Denison

What you’re saying

Our readers email us, leave feedback on our website, and share their thoughts on our social media sites. Here’s what you’ve been saying lately:

  • “Jim Denison’s carefully supported and reasoned arguments using not only scripture but also contemporary research links provide me with the guidance needed to start my day. While conspiracy theories are rampant among the uninformed, I trust The Denison Forum to provide me with truth needed to walk with Christ daily and to respond to those who are confused and uninformed with Grace and love.” —Judy

Parting thought

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.

Hopefully, that’s not surprising news.

What may be surprising is the origin of the day—and how much God truly loves you.

 

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Denison Forum – Washington National Cathedral denounced for hosting Max Lucado: Why we must never concede the high ground of truth

 

The Washington National Cathedral recently came under fire for inviting evangelical pastor and author Max Lucado to speak. The reason: his biblical views on marriage.

A petition that amassed more than sixteen hundred signatures claimed, “Lucado’s teachings and preaching inflicts active harm on LGBTQ people.” While the cathedral’s dean allowed Lucado to speak, he assured critics that the church’s commitment to the LGBTQ community is “unshakable and unchanged.”

Yesterday I noted that one evangelical response to cultural opposition is to defend our religious liberty, a valuable and urgent task being performed by some of the finest Christian legal organizations in America. However, to our critics, we are merely seeking the “right to be wrong.” As a result, we must also persuade our skeptical culture that we seek the “right to be right.”

This battle begins at home.

A radical cultural reversal 

A few decades ago, it was conventional wisdom that sex was reserved for monogamous marriage between a man and a woman. Few were familiar with bisexual, transgender, or “queer” issues.

However, no movement in my lifetime has achieved such a radical cultural reversal as the LGBTQ revolution.

In 1999, 35 percent of Americans approved of same-sex marriage, while 62 percent disapproved. By 2020, the numbers had more than flipped: 67 percent approved, while 31 percent disapproved. Millennials are more than twice as likely to favor same-sex marriage as their grandparents.

It is conventional wisdom today that LGBTQ rights are human rights. Love is love. Your sexual orientation and/or gender identity is your business, not mine. No one, including evangelical Christians, has the right to impose their beliefs on you.

At most, evangelicals can claim the First Amendment protection of religious freedom and free speech, but many in our culture view this as merely the right to be wrong.

Is this “science against superstition”? 

Before we can convince our secularized culture that we are right on sexual morality, we must first be convinced ourselves.

It is difficult to be countercultural. The louder the cry for so-called “equality,” the harder it is to stand for so-called “inequality.” As a result, it is vital that Christians never concede the high ground of truth and science in this cultural contest.

Ryan T. Anderson, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is right: “The left would love to frame these issues as if they pitted reason and science against superstition. But on all of these issues social conservatives are on the side of the biological facts.”

He adds: “The scientific point of view confirms the biblical teaching that humans are created male and female. It requires no faith to know that a boy who ‘identifies’ as a girl isn’t one and shouldn’t be allowed into private female spaces.”

As a result, he states, “We’ll have the best shot at winning fights over abortion restrictions or child sex-change procedures when conservatives are willing to assert that their beliefs are true, not merely protected in law.”

Female athlete calls transgender policy “heartbreaking” 

In support of biblical morality, I can cite far more factual, nonreligious illustrations than space permits today. Just a few recent examples:

The ACLU recently claimed that “trans athletes do not have an unfair advantage in sports.” However, a study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine reported that transgender men have an athletic advantage over biological females even after a year on hormone therapy.

One female athlete called the Biden administration’s insistence on transgender athletes’ participation in female sports “heartbreaking.” She explained: “Girls like me lose championships, podium spots, advancement opportunities, and the recognition we deserve because we’re forced to compete against biological males in our races. Women fought long and hard for athletic opportunities, and I want to preserve those opportunities for the next generation of female athletes.”

New research shows that puberty-suppressing drugs given to children considering a gender transition weakened their bones both in height and strength. An endocrinologist previously found that children treated with gender identity medications reported greater self-harm, while girls exhibited greater emotional problems and dissatisfaction with their bodies.

The gift of transforming truth 

Thousands of books and articles have been written documenting the scientific, biological, and factual evidence for biblical sexual morality. My point today is simply to remind you that our Creator knows us better than we do and wants only our best. He is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15).

Since neither divine nor human nature changes, God’s word is just as relevant today as when it was first inspired (cf. Hebrews 4:12). It is still “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). When it addresses sexual morality or any other subject, it is still true. When we declare and defend biblical truth, we are not imposing our personal beliefs but giving others transforming truth that can lead them to God’s very best for their lives.

St. Augustine, one of the most brilliant people who ever lived, testified, “Where I found truth, there I found my God, who is the truth itself.”

Let’s join him.

 

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Denison Forum – Is the US in contact with aliens? The empowering key to a life of transforming grace

 

Haim Eshed is the former head of the Israeli Defense Ministry’s space directorate. A respected professor and retired general, he made headlines recently with his claim that “there is an agreement between the US government and the aliens. They signed a contract with us to do experiments here.”

He states that extraterrestrials from a “galactic federation” are working with American astronauts in an “underground base in the depths of Mars.” The reason they have not made their existence public before is that “they have been waiting until today for humanity to develop and reach a stage where we will understand, in general, what space and spaceships are.”

White House and Israeli officials have not yet commented, but NASA states, “We have yet to find signs of extraterrestrial life.”

A perceptive question 

Whatever your view about life on other planets, I can tell you how God feels about life on this one.

In a recent radio interview, I was asked a perceptive question: How is the manner of Jesus’ birth relevant to us twenty centuries later? My answer was that our Lord was born in the humblest way imaginable to show that he will go anywhere he is invited.

From tax collectors to prostitutes, lepers to Gentiles and even Roman soldiers, the early church included some of the most scorned people in their culture. Because they were welcomed in the family of God, we can know that all are welcome.

This simple fact is especially relevant to these pandemic days. Yesterday, more Americans died from COVID-19 than died on 9/11. A New York Times article warns that “the coronavirus winter will bring special challenges for our already battered psyches” as we deal with longer nights, indoor isolation, and holiday-related stress in addition to the escalating pandemic and loss of loved ones. Continue reading Denison Forum – Is the US in contact with aliens? The empowering key to a life of transforming grace

Denison Forum – Young cancer patient designs sweatshirt to raise money for fellow patients: Good news in the news and an invitation to joy

 

With all the bad news in the news lately, I thought we could use some good news.

A ten-year-old leukemia patient has designed a sweatshirt to raise money for families impacted by pediatric cancer. Her design includes the words, “Be strong and courageous,” taken from Joshua 1:9.

A nightclub closed by COVID-19 restrictions in Lausanne, Switzerland, has been converted into a temporary blood donation center. Gen Z Americans (currently between eight and twenty-three years old) have relied on faith more than any other generation during the pandemic.

The percentage of North Korean citizens who are exposed to the Bible is steadily increasing each year despite extreme persecution. The YouVersion Bible app is now available in fifteen hundred languages.

Franklin Graham reports that Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association saw 1.3 million people give their lives to Christ through online ministries in 2019. This year, the number is 1.7 million. Franklin explains that due to the pandemic, “The people’s hearts have been softened a little bit. People who have not listened before are listening now.”

Santa in a snowglobe 

On the other hand, there’s plenty of bad news available today. Let’s consider some Christmas-related stories.

A nurse who works with COVID-19 patients received an anonymous letter from a neighbor chastising her and her husband for displaying Christmas lights on their home. Their display is subdued—a wreath and a row of lights along one roofline. Nonetheless, the writer called her decorations “a reminder of divisions that continue to run through our society, a reminder of systemic biases against our neighbors who don’t celebrate Christmas or who can’t afford to put up lights of their own.”

In other words, if I don’t like or can’t afford something, you can’t have it. Imagine applying that mantra to the rest of life.

Churches across the country are canceling Singing Christmas Tree programs due to COVID-19 restrictions. As a result of pandemic-related financial stress, 45 percent of Americans responding to a survey said they would prefer to skip Christmas this year.

Shopping centers and photographers are stationing Santa Claus behind plexiglass shields, seating him high on a sled, or putting him inside protective snowglobes. No sitting on Santa’s lap this year, it seems. Continue reading Denison Forum – Young cancer patient designs sweatshirt to raise money for fellow patients: Good news in the news and an invitation to joy

Denison Forum – How should you respond if you consider the election to be illegitimate? Four options and a biblical path forward

 

Republican state officials in Texas sued Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania in the US Supreme Court yesterday. Their suit alleges that the four states acted unconstitutionally by changing their voting rules to expand access amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Forbes cites experts, however, who claim that the lawsuit is “nearly certain to fail.”

Meanwhile, the results of the 2020 US presidential election were finalized yesterday under what is called the “safe harbor deadline.” This law declares that any completed and certified vote count “made at least six days before the time fixed for the meeting of the electors . . . shall be conclusive, and shall govern in the counting of the electoral votes as provided in the Constitution.”

According to federal law, those voting in the Electoral College “shall meet and give their votes on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December.” This year, the specified date falls on December 14. Six days before December 14 was yesterday.

However, court challenges continue. The Supreme Court refused a request yesterday from Pennsylvania Republicans to overturn the state’s election results. Some Republicans in Congress are urging President Trump not to concede the race even assuming Joe Biden wins the Electoral College next Monday, asking him to take the battle to the House floor in January. They believe Congress should consider overturning the election results because of allegations of fraud.

According to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll, 52 percent of Republicans believe President Trump “rightfully won” the election; 68 percent said they were concerned that the election was “rigged” for Joe Biden. Overall, 28 percent of Americans thought the election was “the result of illegal voting or election rigging,” up 12 points from four years ago.

Since I am neither a lawyer nor a lawmaker, I have no expertise to offer on this contentious issue. My purpose today as a biblical philosopher is to help us think through scriptural options for those who believe the presidential election was unfairly decided.

Let’s consider a spectrum of alternatives, then focus on practical steps going forward. Continue reading Denison Forum – How should you respond if you consider the election to be illegitimate? Four options and a biblical path forward

Denison Forum – Turning PPE into bricks: The most read Bible verse of 2020 and the hidden danger on the path to God’s best

 

The coronavirus pandemic is generating tons of discarded PPE. This gear is often made of polypropylene plastic, which can take hundreds of years to degrade in landfills and oceans.

Enter Binish Desai, a recycling prodigy in India who at the age of sixteen founded a company that has turned textile waste into furniture and coffee grounds into plates and bowls. Now he has found a way to convert PPE into bricks. Body coverings, masks, and head caps are isolated for three days, sanitized, shredded, and sanitized again, then they’re mixed with 47 percent paper sludge and a binding agent and pressed by hand into molds. Each brick costs about four cents.

From the redemptive to the frightening: a volunteer at an animal sanctuary in Florida was hospitalized last week after a tiger almost tore her arm off. She reached into the tiger’s cage to open a door when the animal attacked her. Other volunteers worked to stop the bleeding and preserve her arm. A team member said later that the volunteer kept repeating that she felt “so stupid” for opening the gate.

The most read Bible verse this year

Bible searches have soared online during this very difficult year, with a record number of people turning to Scripture for help and hope. Searches on the YouVersion Bible App increased by 80 percent. Which verse was most read? Isaiah 41:10, which promises: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

The website BibleGateway.com also saw unusual spikes around the first COVID-19 lockdowns last spring, the killing of George Floyd and the protests that followed during the summer, and the US presidential election in the fall. I believe this instinct to turn to Scripture in difficult times is prompted by the Holy Spirit. He works to convict us of sin (John 16:8) and to “guide [us] into all the truth” (John 16:13).

However, we must be willing to work with him to redeem our challenges, turning the PPE of our lives into “bricks” that can build our future and resisting the “roaring lion” who is “seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

A story that has made headlines over recent weeks illustrates the urgency of such humility.

“The crisis of Christian celebrity” 

Carl Lentz, the former lead pastor of Hillsong East Coast and a personal friend of Justin Bieber and Kevin Durant, confessed to marital infidelity last month after he was fired from his position. New York Times reporter Ruth Graham published an article over the weekend describing allegations of a celebrity culture surrounding his church and its leaders. Continue reading Denison Forum – Turning PPE into bricks: The most read Bible verse of 2020 and the hidden danger on the path to God’s best

Denison Forum – Who won the debate? Remembering how God measures success

 

The first of three scheduled presidential debates took place last night at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

Chris Wallace of Fox News moderated the event, which took place over ninety minutes in six fifteen-minute blocks. President Trump and Vice President Biden were asked about their records, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, the economy, race and violence in our cities, and the integrity of the election.

The debate was contentious from the beginning, with each candidate contradicting the other repeatedly throughout. Fox News is calling the debate “fiery”; CNN describes it as “rancorous and chaotic.” According to USA Today, it was “one of the most chaotic, insult-laden presidential debates in modern history.”

How Richard Nixon’s suit affected the 1960 election 

Before last night, more than 70 percent of Americans said the debate wouldn’t matter much to them. Fewer people than at any time since 2000 consider debates important to deciding how they will vote.

However, televised presidential debates have been changing history since 1960, when Richard Nixon’s light gray suit blended into the background on black-and-white television and his opponent, Sen. John Kennedy, began the ascendancy that led to his eventual victory.

Ronald Reagan’s memorable response in 1984 to a question about his age (“I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience”) led to his easy reelection. President Ford’s insistence that “there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe” may have contributed to his loss in 1976; Ronald Reagan’s clear dominance of his debate with President Carter in 1980 likely contributed to his landslide victory.

The contentious nature of last night’s debate reflects the contentious nature of our culture. Our politics are locked in a zero-sum game: abortion is legal or it is not; LGBTQ rights and sexual liberty take precedence over religious liberty or they do not. More than ever before, Republicans and Democrats both consider the other side to be “brainwashed,” “hateful,” and “racist.”

Why these are good days for compassion and love 

In the midst of such political animosity, let’s gain a larger perspective.

The world passed one million confirmed coronavirus deaths on Monday, losing 3,819 lives per day since the start of the year (by comparison: 2,977 people were killed on 9/11). It has been estimated that the US has lost two million “years of life” from early deaths due to the pandemic. Dr. Anthony Fauci is warning Americans to prepare for a second wave of COVID-19 this fall.

In other news, one of the largest medical cyberattacks in US history occurred last weekend. Multiple people died during a hostage situation in Oregon on Monday. A priest in China was reportedly abducted and tortured for refusing to join the government-controlled Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

And a Texas pastor and his wife were killed when a driver crossed into their lane and struck their vehicle head-on. Their three small children survived.

I took you through these stories to make two related points.

One: Every day’s news reminds us that ours is a broken world. Many people are suffering in ways that far transcend political divisions. And such divisiveness is nothing new in America. We are fallen people living in a fallen culture.

Two: Tragedy and hatred are opportunities for compassion and love. The more acrimonious our country becomes, the more urgent and powerful our ministry becomes.

Let’s close by focusing on this fact.

“What is the invitation of God in your fear?” 

Not in my lifetime have I seen an election this intense, with supporters on each side convinced that our nation’s future depends on their candidate’s victory. We can and must vote, pray, and speak biblical truth to the issues of the day.

But it is vital to remember that God measures success not by outcomes in our world but by obedience to his word.

When Jeremiah warned his people not to flee to Egypt (Jeremiah 42), they “did not obey the voice of the Lord” (Jeremiah 43:7) and in fact forced the prophet to go with them (v. 6). This was not the outcome he wanted, but Jeremiah’s obedience resonates still today.

In fact, fear of failure can be reframed as an opportunity for greater faith.

Writing for the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Boston, Curtis Almquist notes: “Fear is not a sign of the absence of God. In our fear we rather find the bidding presence of God. Our fear most often arises out of something that is bigger than we are, and we find that in and of ourselves, there isn’t enough—not enough energy, or patience, or hope, or encouragement, or provision. We come up short.

“Where is God in your fear? What is the invitation from God in your fear?”

How would you answer his questions today?

 

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Denison Forum – Amy Coney Barrett and the People of Praise: How to respond when critics don’t understand our faith

 

Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett are set to begin on October 12. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said the committee should clear her nomination by October 26, leaving the Republican-led Senate roughly a week to confirm Barrett before the November 3 election.

Attacks on her family and faith have already begun.

Focusing on the fact that she and her husband adopted two children from Haiti, one critic suggested without any evidence the possibility that “her kids were scooped up by ultra-religious Americans, or Americans who weren’t scrupulous intermediaries & the kids were taken when there was family in Haiti.” Judge Barrett and her husband have also been likened to “White colonizers” for adopting “Black children.”

If past is prologue, we can expect more character assassination attempts in the weeks ahead.

Many critics have focused on the fact that Judge Barrett is a member of a group called People of PraiseNewsweek headlined: “How Charismatic Catholic Groups Like Amy Coney Barrett’s People of Praise Inspired ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’” Their original headline incorrectly claimed that People of Praise directly inspired the dystopian novel; editors were forced to issue a retraction and change their headline (though not the “reporting” in the article itself).

Such guilt by association was echoed by other outlets but has been soundly debunked. This controversy illustrates an important point about the state of our culture and the best way for Christians to respond.

“Glaring gaps in religious knowledge” 

Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan explains that People of Praise is part of the Charismatic Renewal movement that began in the 1970s and “emphasizes personal conversion and bringing forward Christ’s teachings in the world.” Noonan notes: “Members include Protestants as well as Catholics. They have joined together intentionally, in community, to pray together, perform service, and run schools. They’re Christians living in the world.”

David French’s response is especially helpful. He quotes this New York Times description of the group in 2017: “Members of the group swear a lifelong oath of loyalty, called a covenant, to one another, and are assigned and are accountable to a personal adviser, called a ‘head’ for men and a ‘handmaid’ for women. The group teaches that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family.”

French responds: “The more I looked into People of Praise, the more I had two simultaneous thoughts: First, many millions of American Christians see echoes of their lives in Judge Barrett’s story. And second, lots of folks really don’t understand both spiritual authority and spiritual community. The concerns about Barrett reflect in part the glaring gaps in religious knowledge in elite American media.”

He’s precisely right.

“A war for worldview dominance” 

People of Praise took “handmaid” from Mary’s response to Gabriel’s announcement that she would become the mother of God’s Son: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38 KJV). (The group later changed the term to avoid confusion after The Handmaid’s Tale came out.)

French reports that the group has been lauded by Cardinal Francis George; one of its members was appointed by Pope Francis as auxiliary bishop of Portland. It has founded three schools that have won nine Department of Education Blue Ribbon awards.

The furor sparked by misunderstandings of Judge Barrett’s faith illustrates an admission New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet made to NPR’s Terry Gross, “We don’t get religion. We don’t get the role of religion in people’s lives.” They’re not alone.

A recent study reported that only 2 percent of America’s millennials hold a biblical worldview. Among Gen X (thirty-seven to fifty-five years of age), only 5 percent subscribe to such a worldview. Only an estimated 9 percent of adults over the age of fifty-six hold a biblical worldview.

George Barna noted that the report “suggests a nation that is at war with itself to adopt new values, lifestyles, and a new identity. In other words, there is a war for worldview dominance.”

How do we win this “war”? Let’s close by focusing on an important part of the answer.

“His kingdom shall never be destroyed” 

Across the coming weeks of divisiveness over confirmation hearings and the presidential election, my prayer for Judge Barrett and for all believers is that we will demonstrate the integrity of Daniel.

His political opponents “could find no ground for complaint or any fault” (Daniel 6:4), so they reverted to attacking him “in connection with the law of his God” (v. 5). However, the Lord redeemed Daniel’s faithfulness so miraculously that King Darius eventually proclaimed: “He is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end” (v. 26).

Like Daniel, we face opposition that does not understand our faith or believe in our God. They need and deserve our compassion and our witness. But they will receive neither unless we live with such integrity that they see the unmistakable imprint of Jesus on our lives.

If skeptics are going to find fault with us, let them say that we are too committed to our Lord.

Is this what the world would say of you?

 

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Denison Forum – What a self-described liberal said about Amy Coney Barrett: Fighting for truth with courageous grace

 

It’s not often that we get to see history being made, but that’s what happened Saturday afternoon when President Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court of the United States.

Any nomination to our nation’s highest court is historic. If confirmed, Judge Barrett will become only the 115th person in American history to sit on this court and only the fifth woman. Moreover, she will be the first person with school-age children to serve.

But what most concerns opponents of the president’s nomination is another historic fact: she would give the court a six-to-three conservative majority by replacing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, long considered the leader of the liberal faction of the court. This could be crucial with upcoming cases on the Affordable Care Act, abortion restrictions, and perhaps the 2020 presidential election.

Much has already been said in opposition to this outcome. Today, I’d like to explain why this opposition is so heated and what it means for every evangelical in America today.

“A brilliant and conscientious lawyer” 

Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s judicial qualifications to serve on the court are beyond dispute. Harvard law professor Noah Feldman, a self-described liberal who is “devastated” over Justice Ginsburg’s death and “revolted by the hypocrisy” of considering the president’s nomination, nonetheless writes: “I want to be extremely clear. Regardless of what you or I may think of the circumstances of this nomination, Barrett is highly qualified to serve on the Supreme Court.”

He explains: “I disagree with much of her judicial philosophy and expect to disagree with many, maybe even most of her future votes and opinions. Yet despite this disagreement, I know her to be a brilliant and conscientious lawyer who will analyze and decide cases in good faith, applying the jurisprudential principles to which she is committed. Those are the basic criteria for being a good justice. Barrett meets and exceeds them.”

If a self-described liberal would endorse Judge Barrett in such strong terms, why is opposition to her nomination mounting so quickly? Their problem lies not with her capacities or qualifications, but with her faith.

“The dogma lives loudly within you” 

Friday night, HBO’s Bill Maher called her a “****ing nut” and said she was “Catholic—really Catholic. I mean really, really Catholic—like speaking in tongues.” Although Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was deeply influenced by her Jewish faith, such faith was acceptable to Maher and those like him since they shared her liberal worldview.

In 2018, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) confronted Brian Buescher, a nominee to the US district court in Nebraska, over his membership in the Knights of Columbus, a faith-based service organization that supports traditional Catholic positions on marriage, abortion, and human sexuality. The senator asked if the nominee would terminate his membership in this organization since it had taken “a number of extreme positions” on social issues including abortion and marriage.

When Amy Coney Barrett was nominated for the Seventh Circuit Court in 2017, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) stated, “Whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different. And I think in your case . . . the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you. And that’s of concern when you come to the big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.”

The senator added: “Over time, we learn to also judge what they think, and whether their thoughts enable them to be free to observe the law.”

The senator’s statement crystallized the problem I’m addressing today.

“A judge must apply the law as written” 

Following the president’s announcement Saturday, Judge Barrett stated: “I clerked for Justice Scalia more than twenty years ago, but the lessons I learned still resonate. His judicial philosophy is mine, too. A judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.”

This is known as “originalism,” the theory that “the constitutional text ought to be given the original public meaning that it would have had at the time that it became law.” Justice Ginsburg, by contrast, was a staunch advocate of the “living” Constitution theory, which holds that the meaning of the text changes over time as social attitudes change.

Originalists focus not on what “they think” (to quote Sen. Feinstein) but on what the law says. This is why Judge Barrett’s personal Catholic beliefs on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage should be irrelevant during her confirmation hearing since they have no bearing on decisions based strictly on the law as it currently exists.

The fact that her beliefs have been and will be attacked says more about her attackers than it does about her. They clearly would judge based not on the original meaning of the Constitution but according to their personal beliefs. Here we find the larger problem in our culture: we now live in a postmodern culture in which all truth, whether found in the US Constitution or claimed by your neighbor, is deemed personal and subjective.

This is why the Supreme Court has become so legislative in the postmodern era, making laws Congress did not enact when the unelected justices discovered “rights” to abortion and same-sex marriage that are clearly not in the text of the Constitution. And it is why critics of unchanging biblical morality are becoming more vociferous in their opposition with each passing day.

“Holding fast to the word of life”

We will have reason to say much more about the debate over truth as Judge Barrett’s confirmation process moves forward. For today, let’s deepen our resolve to obey and share the word of God, remembering the psalmist’s prayer that “the sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever” (Psalm 119:160).

Let’s intercede for those who consider Judge Barrett’s nomination, praying that they conduct themselves with the decorum and civility befitting their positions and that the hearings do not further fracture our divided culture. And let’s pray for Judge Barrett to manifest the character of Christ (Romans 8:29) and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23) as she faces intense scrutiny and global attention.

“Holding fast to the word of life” is our mission and should be our mantra (Philippians 2:16). Is it yours today?

 

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Denison Forum – If “Love Island” is our future: The legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the urgency of moral purpose

 

My wife and I watched NCIS Tuesday night. When the show ended, Love Island began. We watched the first minute and were so shocked we turned the television off.

CBS describes the show this way: “Love Island is the sizzling summer series based on the international smash hit and cultural phenomenon. The matchmaking begins as a group of single ‘Islanders’ come together in a stunning villa in Las Vegas, ready to embark on a summer of dating, romance, and ultimately, relationships.”

Note the order: dating, followed by romance, which then leads to relationships. Not the reverse.

The description continues: “Every few days the Islanders pair up and those who are not coupled are at risk of being dumped from the island.” When the swimsuit-clad contestants began to “pair up” in the part of the show we saw, it was obvious what came next.

Here’s my point: CBS airs this highly sexualized show at 8:00 p.m. (CT), early enough for my grandchildren to watch.

An army of law clerks 

An army of more than a hundred former law clerks for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg met her casket at the Supreme Court yesterday. They accompanied it up the steps to the Great Hall for the private ceremony and public viewing that followed.

One of Justice Ginsburg’s greatest legacies is the degree to which she influenced the generations following her. As the Wall Street Journal notes, “Few generations of lawyers—particularly women—have looked to her as a role model as much as the students entering the profession today.”

Her iconic cultural status and tireless work on behalf of women’s equality changed the legal profession. One recent graduate credits the composition of her law-school class—nearly equal numbers of men and women—largely to Justice Ginsburg’s pioneering path.

One of the mantras of our relativistic culture is that we have no right to “force our values” on others. Ruth Bader Ginsburg clearly did not ascribe to this philosophy with respect to the values she championed. Whether we agree or disagree with those values—and many of us do both—we can learn from her culture-changing example.

In fact, we must.

“Optimism by another name” 

According to historian Maurizio Valsania, pessimists have been forecasting the demise of America since our founding. For example, in the 1800 election, one newspaper predicted these results if Thomas Jefferson were to be elected: “Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will openly be taught and practiced, the air will be rent with the cries of the distressed, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes.”

In a day when France and Great Britain were the global superpowers, our infant nation’s future was perilous. From then to now, voices predicting doom have seldom been in short supply.

However, as Valsania notes (following the work of political scientist Francis G. Wilson), there are two types of pessimism in America: absolute and conditional. Absolute pessimism “is the belief that the nation is a big lie, a fraud, a trick that cunning white males have been playing on women, native populations, African Americans, working classes, immigrants. As such, this nation deserves to be cursed, canceled, sunk, forgotten.”

By contrast, conditional pessimists “deliver a prophecy of disaster because they want to provide a new hopeful solution. They speak to Americans’ sense of pride, exhort them, incite them, mobilize them, increase the level of commitment to a common cause and enact a ritual whose upshot should be a deeper awareness.”

Valsania calls this type of pessimism “optimism by another name.”

“God has no grandchildren” 

It is incumbent upon Christians to follow the example of Justice Ginsburg by investing in the coming generations. In our case, the stakes are even higher, since Christianity is always one generation from extinction.

As evangelist Reinhard Bonnke noted, “God has no grandchildren. He has only children.” Scripture agrees: “To all who did receive [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Note the little word with global implications, “all.”

However, we should engage our broken culture with the kind of conditional pessimism that warns of God’s judgment against sin while offering his grace to sinners. We should be famous for hope, not hate; for generosity, not guilt.

Of all people, we who have experienced the crucified love of Jesus should be especially passionate about offering such love to all.

Identifying our enemy and trusting our refuge 

Love Island and all it represents should call us to brokenhearted intercession, not self-righteous condemnation. Those who made the series and those who watch it are not the enemy—they are deceived by the enemy (2 Corinthians 4:4). And there, but for the grace of God, go we.

When we are discouraged by the sinfulness around us, this testimony can be ours: “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul” (Psalm 94:19). And we can say with the psalmist, “The Lord has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge” (v. 22).

Then we can pray for God to use us to lead others to make him their refuge as well.

I read John Baillie’s classic A Diary of Private Prayer each morning and evening. His prayer for this morning includes this petition: “Teach me, O God, to use all the circumstances of my life today to nurture the fruits of the Spirit rather than the fruits of sin.”

Let’s make his prayer ours today.

 

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