Category Archives: Denison Forum

Denison Forum – Should babies with Down syndrome be aborted?

“If anyone has ever had the arms of a Down syndrome child or adult wrapped around your necks, you will know that you have encountered profound love that comes from the heart.” So states a Kentucky legislator in supporting a law banning abortions involving a fetus with Down syndrome if the diagnosis is the reason for ending a pregnancy.

Indiana and Ohio have already passed such bills, though a federal judge has temporarily blocked Ohio’s law from taking effect. Last Monday, the Pennsylvania House passed its own bill to ban such abortions. The bill passed with bipartisan support in a 139–56 vote.

If the bill passes in the Senate, it faces an expected veto from Gov. Tom Wolf.

In Iceland, nearly 100 percent of women who discover their unborn child has Down syndrome choose to abort their baby. In Denmark, the abortion rate for unborn babies with Down syndrome is 98 percent. The abortion rate in the US for such babies is 67 percent.

Famous people with inherited challenges Continue reading Denison Forum – Should babies with Down syndrome be aborted?

Denison Forum – Barbara Bush “ran the family that ran the country”

Barbara Bush died last night. Newsweek is describing her this morning as “the no-nonsense first lady who ran the family that ran the country.”

Public figures from around the world are paying tribute to this remarkable woman. President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump said they “join the nation in celebrating the life of Barbara Bush.” They noted that “she will be long remembered for her strong devotion to country and family.”

Former president Obama and his wife, Michelle, issued a statement calling her “the rock of a family dedicated to public service” and “an example of the humility and decency that reflects the very best of the American spirit.”

When her failing health was announced earlier this week, I wrote a tribute to this remarkable lady you can read here.

Mortality is a fact for us all

Mrs. Bush’s passing is not the only death making headlines this morning.

Continue reading Denison Forum – Barbara Bush “ran the family that ran the country”

Denison Forum – Its “Tax Day,” but “Tax Freedom Day” is coming

Today is “Tax Day.” Why was it not April 15 as usual? April 15 fell on a Sunday this year, which would push Tax Day to Monday, April 16.

However, that date is when Washington, DC, observes Emancipation Day.

The holiday honors the 1862 passage of the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act, which ended slavery in the nation’s capital by paying slaveowners to pledge loyalty to the Union and free their slaves.

Thus, Tax Day was pushed to today. But “Tax Freedom Day” is Thursday.

You will have worked until April 19 to earn enough money to pay your total tax bill. In other words, everything you earn until Thursday belongs to the government. What you earn beginning on Friday, you can keep.

Americans will pay $3.19 trillion in federal taxes and $1.80 trillion in state and local taxes this year. The total of $5.19 trillion is more than we spend on food, clothing, and housing—combined.

“Seek his presence continually!” Continue reading Denison Forum – Its “Tax Day,” but “Tax Freedom Day” is coming

Denison Forum – Barbara Bush in failing health, declines medical treatment

“It will not surprise those who know her that Barbara Bush has been a rock in the face of her failing health, worrying not for herself—thanks to her abiding faith—but for others. She is surrounded by a family she adores, and appreciates the many kind messages and especially the prayers she is receiving.”

With these words, a family spokesman announced yesterday that Mrs. Bush has decided to end medical treatment and will focus on comfort care.

Tributes to the former first lady have already begun.

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley called her “a woman of great faith, great strength, and an unwavering love of country.” On the other side of the political spectrum, Chelsea Clinton tweeted, “I will never forget how kind she was to me on every occasion we met, and how fondly the White House staff always spoke of her.”

I know of no more universally admired person in American politics than Barbara Bush. Conversely, I know of no more polarizing person than the other political figure making headlines today.

Continue reading Denison Forum – Barbara Bush in failing health, declines medical treatment

Denison Forum – Do you have paraskevidekatriaphobia?

Welcome to the first Friday the 13th this year. (You can look forward to another one in July.) If you’re afraid of today, you might have “paraskevidekatriaphobia” (from the Greek words for “Friday” and “thirteen”).

If so, you’re not alone.

The Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute estimates that seventeen to twenty-one million people in the US are afraid of this day. Some avoid doing business, taking flights, or even getting out of bed. As much as $900 million is lost in productivity as a result.

Here’s the good news: studies seem to indicate that fewer calamities occur on this day, perhaps because people are more careful or choose to stay home.

“Unease and fears of misfortune”

I can see why people would feel afraid today.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron says he has “proof” that the Syrian government used chemical weapons to attack the town of Douma last weekend. According to today’s BBC News, Russia is warning the US that retaliatory air strikes in Syria could spark a war between the two countries.

Today’s Wall Street Journal reports that the White House plans to escalate trade pressure against China. In response, the Chinese are aligning countries against the US, especially in Europe.

Continue reading Denison Forum – Do you have paraskevidekatriaphobia?

Denison Forum – Paul Ryan’s retirement: The price and power of holiness

House Speaker Paul Ryan announced yesterday that he would not run for reelection this fall and would retire in January. He has three teenage children; the oldest just turned sixteen, the age Ryan was when his father died.

“My kids aren’t getting any younger,” Ryan said, “and if I stay, they’ll only know me as a weekend dad. That’s it right there.”

It didn’t take long for critics to respond.

One of the Democrats running for Ryan’s House seat immediately posted a fundraising message: “We repealed Paul Ryan—now it’s time to replace him with Randy Bryce.” Another Democrat called him “the first casualty of the 2018 midterm election.” While a Democrat who disagreed with Ryan on policy issues “found him to be a good man with a kind heart,” a scathing article called him “the biggest fraud in American politics.”

For what will you be criticized?

Continue reading Denison Forum – Paul Ryan’s retirement: The price and power of holiness

Denison Forum – Zuckerberg testifies before Congress: “Practiced and patient contrition”

“It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.” So stated Mark Zuckerberg when he testified before Congress yesterday on data breaches that have made global headlines in recent weeks.

The Wall Street Journal explains that Facebook’s business model is at the heart of the problem. The company makes money by developing tools that allow advertisers to tailor content for specific Facebook users. Then a developer accessed personal data from up to eighty-seven million users and shared it with the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

Last week, Zuckerberg admitted he made a “huge mistake” in not focusing more on potential abuse of user data. He also said he had been “too flippant” when dismissing the threat of fake news after the 2016 presidential election.

A tone of “practiced and patient contrition”

Yesterday, Facebook’s CEO spent nearly five hours testifying before a joint session of the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees. He will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee today.

Continue reading Denison Forum – Zuckerberg testifies before Congress: “Practiced and patient contrition”

Denison Forum – The crisis in Syria: What to know and how to pray

Syria is one of the oldest countries in the world, with cultural artifacts in the region dating to 10,000 BC. It is also one of the newest countries in the world, achieving autonomy from occupying French troops in 1946.

This war-torn country is making headlines again with reports of a horrific chemical attack against civilians. According to this morning’s New York Times, President Trump could order airstrikes in retaliation as soon as today.

What do you need to know about Syria? How can you pray in response?

Who is fighting? Why?

Hafez al-Assad became the Syrian ruler in a 1970 coup. After his death in 2000, his son Bashar al-Assad was elected president (he ran unopposed).

Peaceful protests, as part of the 2011 Arab Spring, were repressed by the Syrian army. The ensuing civil war has involved the Syrian Arab Republic (Assad’s government), the North Syria Federation (primarily the Kurds), the Free Syrian Army (supported by Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, France, and Germany), Tahrir al-Sham (composed of al-Qaeda supporters and other jihadists), and the Islamic State.

Continue reading Denison Forum – The crisis in Syria: What to know and how to pray

Denison Forum – Patrick Reed wins the Masters: How focus changes everything

It was nearly a Masters for the ages. Jordan Spieth began yesterday’s final round trailing by nine shots. No one in the history of the tournament has ever won from such a large deficit. Spieth actually tied for the lead late in the day, but Patrick Reed held on to win his first major title.

I have been privileged to attend the tournament several times over the years. Television cannot do justice to the difficulty of Augusta National—the narrow rolling fairways, the glass-like greens, the extraordinary precision required to navigate the course.

Patrick Reed survived the pressure yesterday. His victory showed that shutting out the massive crowds, the television cameras, and the burden of winning the most prestigious tournament in golf is essential to success. The Masters demands the best of its champions, as it should.

A troubling New York Times article

Meanwhile, police arrested six people yesterday who are suspected of planning to attack spectators at a half-marathon in Germany. The lead suspect reportedly wanted revenge for the death of Anis Amri, the terrorist who drove a truck into a Berlin Christmas market in December 2016, killing twelve people.

Continue reading Denison Forum – Patrick Reed wins the Masters: How focus changes everything

Denison Forum – Couple who divorced 50 years ago will get married next week

“We started out the first mile together, now we’ll walk the last mile together.” That’s how a couple who divorced fifty years ago explained their decision to get married again.

Harold Holland and Lillian Barnes fell in love as teenagers. They married and had five children together but divorced in 1968. They married other people, but their spouses died in 2015. Holland hosted his annual family reunion at his house last summer. This time, Barnes attended.

“One thing led to another,” Holland said. He takes full responsibility for their divorce and says he was surprised she gave him another chance. Next week, they will marry again.

Their blended families include ten children, more than twenty grandchildren, and thirty-plus great-grandchildren. Holland says he’s lost exact count. He has enjoyed telling them the news, however: “The kids and grandkids got a big bang out of that. Grandma marrying Grandpa sounds a little weird.”

Their grandson, Joshua Holland, is a pastor in New Orleans and will officiate their wedding on April 14. He says, “This is the most monumental wedding I’ll probably ever do in my life.”

“It is not good that the man should be alone” Continue reading Denison Forum – Couple who divorced 50 years ago will get married next week

Denison Forum – Finding faith, hope, and love in a very personal loss

Many of our longtime readers know that Rev. Jeff Byrd has been my ministry partner for thirty years. He and I served three churches together before co-founding the Denison Forum nearly ten years ago.

Jeff and his wife, Billie, have two sons and a daughter named Morgan. Janet and I have known her since she was born. We rejoiced with their family when she married a fantastic young man named Caleb Scott nearly two years ago (I was privileged to conduct their wedding ceremony). Caleb was a firefighter with a true servant heart and deep love for Jesus.

Tuesday morning, Caleb was found unresponsive in his North Richland Hills fire station. Paramedics were able to revive his heart and rushed him to the hospital, but he died around 5:30 that afternoon. We have no idea what caused Caleb’s death and are in shock over this tragedy. He and Morgan both turned twenty-nine last month.

Please pray for Morgan and her wonderful family, and for our ministry team, as we grieve this sudden and tragic loss.

Tomorrow is promised to no one Continue reading Denison Forum – Finding faith, hope, and love in a very personal loss

Denison Forum – How Martin Luther King Jr.’s courage challenges us today

Fifty years ago today, at 6:01 p.m. EST, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was fatally shot. He was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m.

Redemption: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Last 31 Hours is a riveting narrative of the events that led to Dr. King’s tragic death. Written by veteran journalist Joseph Rosenbloom, the book chronicles the last thirty-one hours and twenty-eight minutes of Dr. King’s life.

Rosenbloom explains why the great civil rights leader was in Memphis and paints an extraordinary picture of his commitment and courage.

Why he came to Memphis

In 1968, Dr. King was working to mobilize what he called the “Poor People’s Campaign” in Washington, DC. His goal was to gather thousands of impoverished people of all races from all across the country. They would stage protests at our nation’s capital until lawmakers enacted reforms to eradicate poverty in this country.

In the midst of this massive effort, he was asked to divert his attention to Memphis to support a garbage collectors’ strike that had been ongoing in that city for weeks. Dr. King felt he owed these men and their families his support, so he and his leadership team made their way to join them.

Continue reading Denison Forum – How Martin Luther King Jr.’s courage challenges us today

Denison Forum – Villanova beats Michigan: what the experts got wrong

The experts were right: favored Villanova defeated Michigan last night to win the NCAA men’s basketball championship. But they were wrong about how the Wildcats won their second title in three years.

Their best player wasn’t the best player in college basketball. Jalen Brunson has been named AP’s Player of the Year, the Oscar Robertson Player of the Year, and the Naismith Men’s Player of the Year. But he scored only nine points in last night’s game.

It turned out, a player who didn’t start the game dominated it. Donte DiVincenzo scored thirty-one points and was named Most Outstanding Player.

Market predictions were “pathetically wrong”

Continue reading Denison Forum – Villanova beats Michigan: what the experts got wrong

Denison Forum – Chinese space station has met its “fiery doom”

Lottie Williams is still the only person known to have been hit by falling space debris. She was struck but not injured by a falling piece of a US Delta II rocket while exercising in an Oklahoma park in 1997.

More famously, America’s seventy-seven-ton Skylab crashed to Earth in 1979. It spread wreckage near the Australian city of Perth, which fined the US $400 for littering.

Now we can add China’s Tiangong-1 space station to the growing list of spacecraft that have returned unceremoniously to our planet.

As headlines, it met its “fiery doom” last night, breaking apart and burning up in our atmosphere at 8:16 p.m. EDT. Some pieces of the school-bus-size craft “almost certainly survived the fall,” but they landed harmlessly in the South Pacific.

The Chinese space station’s demise points to the fact of mortality—ours and everything we make. No matter how sophisticated our technology, it has an expiration date. How many cell phones have you owned in your life?

Nothing on our fallen planet lasts forever. But the good news is that the worst thing is never the last thing: “The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).

We know this to be true because of Easter Monday.

“A European revival has started” Continue reading Denison Forum – Chinese space station has met its “fiery doom”

Denison Forum – Trooper forgives driver who struck him on side of road

Cade Brenchley serves as a sergeant with the Utah Highway Patrol. He has delivered twins on the side of the interstate and helped save a victim from a burning car. He serves as a soccer coach in the community, where the Utah DPS says he is “well respected and known.”

Now he’s known around the world.

Last Sunday, Sgt. Brenchley was responding to multiple car accidents in northern Utah’s Sardine Canyon. He was wearing a yellow safety vest and walking toward what appears to be a disabled car when a dark sedan came skidding by. It threw him into the air so violently that he struck the disabled car in front of him before landing on the snow-covered ground.

The video of the accident has been played and replayed on television and across the internet. The sedan continued skidding forward before finally coming to a stop facing backward. Several bystanders rushed to Sgt. Brenchley’s aid. He suffered broken ribs and a broken scapula but is expected to make a full recovery.

Continue reading Denison Forum – Trooper forgives driver who struck him on side of road

Denison Forum – Sister Jean: The nun who is inspiring the world

I don’t remember the last time I had this much fun researching a topic.

You know you’re a celebrity when the world knows you by your first name. In the case of Jean Dolores Schmidt, it’s “Sister Jean.”

As the world now knows, this ninety-eight-year-old nun is the chaplain for the Loyola University Ramblers men’s basketball team. The Ramblers are the Cinderella story of this year’s playoffs. And Sister Jean is their inspiration.

What Sister Jean gave up for Lent

She has been interviewed on Good Morning America and featured in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. ESPN says that she has been mentioned in more than twenty thousand media stories.

On Monday, the university announced a series of merchandise bearing her name and image. You can buy socks, T-shirts, collectible toys, and more. One T-shirt is emblazoned “AIR JEAN” with a silhouette of her as Michael Jordan.

And you can get the “Sister Jean Bobblehead.” The company has made around five hundred different bobbleheads over the last three years. In just thirty hours, hers became their bestseller.

Continue reading Denison Forum – Sister Jean: The nun who is inspiring the world

Denison Forum – Stormy Daniels: The question no one is asking

Anderson Cooper’s 60 Minutes interview with Stormy Daniels drew the highest ratings for the show in ten years. Reaction was divided afterward, with some commentators criticizing her as “not credible” and others using the interview to disparage President Trump.

In the coverage I have seen, attention has been focused on money paid to her by Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer and on whether she had an affair with Mr. Trump, a claim he “vehemently” denies.

Here’s the question no one seems to be asking: Should they have had an affair?

“Whatever consenting people choose to do”

The alleged affair would have been between a married man and a porn star who was herself married at the time. I’m old enough to remember when pornography was widely understood to be immoral in all its forms. Sexual relations were to be reserved for heterosexual marriage.

If two married people, one a porn star, were alleged to have had an affair, the immorality of such an act would have been a major part of the story. But as they say, that was then and this is now.

Continue reading Denison Forum – Stormy Daniels: The question no one is asking

Denison Forum – March for Our Lives rallies draw more than two million people

The largest student protest in American history took place on Saturday. More than two million students and their supporters packed the streets in Washington, DC, and more than eight hundred other events in the US and around the world.

The DC rally was funded by Oprah Winfrey, George and Amal Clooney, and other celebrities. It was led by students from Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, who vowed to make reducing gun violence the central issue of their generation. The White House issued a statement Saturday: “We applaud the many courageous young Americans exercising their First Amendment rights today.”

Meanwhile, other groups gathered at the nationwide marches in support of the Second Amendment. “I came to open dialogue,” one participant explained.

The first recorded use of a firearm was in 1364. While guns were obviously not available in the biblical era, Scripture does encourage self-defense (Exodus 22:2–3; Luke 22:36) while forbidding murder (Exodus 20:13) and mandating protection of the innocent (Genesis 9:6). We are to uphold the law (1 Peter 2:13–14), but we are also to change the law when necessary (cf. Acts 15:1–31).

Our society will continue debating the best ways to reduce gun violence. Meanwhile, my attention this morning is focused on the young people around our country who marched last Saturday.

Consider what they did—whether you agree or disagree with why they did it.

“Let no one despise you for your youth” Continue reading Denison Forum – March for Our Lives rallies draw more than two million people

Denison Forum – The heroes who caught the Austin serial bomber

As authorities hunted for the Austin serial bomber, people phoned in hundreds of tips. A reward of $115,000 was posted. Police pled with the bomber through television.

But the case was solved by hundreds of federal and local authorities working tirelessly. They pieced together the bombs that were used, discovered that the batteries had been ordered online, and determined that a single person was responsible.

They were also able to use cell tower signals to distinguish mobile phones near the blast sites. They canvassed neighborhoods where the bombs were delivered and sifted through hundreds of reports of suspicious packages. Examining surveillance footage at FedEx centers, they identified the suspect.

These unnamed law enforcement professionals are heroes today to everyone in Austin and the rest of us as well.

A SWAT officer and courageous athletes

In related news, Blaine Gaskill is being recognized for his courage in stopping the shooter at Great Mills High School in Maryland last Tuesday. The police deputy rushed toward the sound of gunfire, risking his life to disrupt what could have been another mass shooting.

Continue reading Denison Forum – The heroes who caught the Austin serial bomber

Denison Forum – Mark Zuckerberg apologizes for Facebook data breach

“I started this when I was so young and inexperienced. I made technical errors and business errors. I hired the wrong people. I trusted the wrong people.” This was part of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s statement to CNN last night in apologizing for the data breach that has made headlines this week.

A few days ago, news broke that data firm Cambridge Analytica reportedly accessed information from about fifty million Facebook users without their knowledge. The controversy cost Facebook’s stock price to fall nearly $50 billion this week.

Earlier in the day, Zuckerberg pledged in a Facebook post to take steps to protect data and fix what he called a “breach of trust” between the social network and its users. “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you.”

In other news, scientists say there is a small chance that an asteroid the size of the Empire State Building will collide with the Earth. Thursday, September 22, 2135 is the date when the object could strike us.

NASA says it could send up a nearly nine-ton “bulk impactor” to push the asteroid out of Earth’s orbit. Or it could use a nuclear device for the same purpose. The scheme is called the Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response. The acronym is less subtle: HAMMER.

The good news is that the odds of the asteroid hitting us are about one in twenty-seven hundred. The bad news is that, according to NASA’s experts, there are ten thousand extraterrestrial objects headed toward Earth that could be unaccounted for.

The peril of unknown asteroids may seem ominous, but technological breaches are much more dangerous to the typical American. Just because we don’t see a threat makes it no less threatening.

We cannot anticipate or prevent suffering in this fallen world. But we can prepare for it.

One reason Christians suffer

Psalm 80 begins, “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth” (v. 1).

Note the present tense: “You who lead Joseph. . . . You who are enthroned.” Even though the people have become an “object of contention for our neighbors” such that “our enemies laugh among themselves” (v. 6), God is still their shepherd.

Daniel was so godly that his enemies “could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him” (Daniel 6:4). But this holy man was nonetheless subjected to the lions’ den (vv. 16–23).

Joseph went through Potiphar’s prison on his way to Pharaoh’s palace (Genesis 39–41). Jeremiah had his pit of mud (Jeremiah 38:1–13). Paul had his imprisonments and persecutions almost beyond description (2 Corinthians 11:23–33). Jesus’ “beloved disciple” had his Patmos (John 13:23; Revelation 1:9).

Scripture is clear: “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12, my italics). As Paul told his fellow believers, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22 NIV).

Godliness invites temptations and attacks from Satan: the more we seek to please Jesus, the more we threaten the enemy. We can choose to be ungodly to escape such persecution, but the consequences of sin are far worse than its supposed benefits.

Daniel’s enemies were devoured in the pit he escaped (Daniel 6:24). It is still true for all people at all times that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The momentary rewards of sin inevitably pale in comparison to their cost.

However, “godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).

How to refuse temptation

Here’s my point: the time to decide whether we will choose godliness over sin is before temptation strikes.

Solomon urged his reader to “be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge” (Proverbs 5:1–2). Here’s why his advice was so urgent: “For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword” (vv. 3–4).

Solomon wanted his reader to seek wisdom and choose discretion before he faced the “forbidden woman,” knowing that the longer we consider temptation, the stronger it grows. The closer we get to sin, the harder it is to resist.

It will never be easier to refuse temptation than it is right now.

The way to prepare for tomorrow’s hardships is to draw closer to Jesus today. Make the “Shepherd of Israel” your shepherd. Listen for his voice through Scripture and prayer. Ask his Spirit to help you obey what you know his will to be. Stay faithful to the last word you heard from him and open to the next.

Not only will you be prepared for the temptations and travails of this fallen world—you will be a light for those who are perishing in the darkness (John 12:35–36). Helen Keller: “Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.”

Let it begin with us.