Tag Archives: Daily Article

Denison Forum – America’s largest Christian adoption agency will now work with LGBTQ parents: The peril of separating values from actions

 

Bethany Christian Services is the largest Christian adoption agency in the United States. This week, the organization announced that it would begin providing its services to LGBTQ parents nationwide. Their decision is in response to requirements from various states that agencies serve such couples to maintain their governmental contracts.

In 2007, the organization specified that “God’s design for the family is a covenant and lifelong marriage of one man and one woman.” However, two years ago, the Michigan chapter changed its policy to begin placing foster children with same-sex couples.

At the time, the CEO wrote: “At Bethany, we believe the Bible is the living Word of God, and we still believe in God’s plan for marriage and family as it is outlined in the Scriptures. At the same time, it is clear to us that Bethany cannot cede the foster care space completely to the secular world and leave children without the opportunity to experience Jesus through our loving care.” (As we will note below, numerous Christian ministries do not believe this to be a binary choice and are continuing to be faithful to their biblical mission in the face of governmental pressure.)

The organization added: “The mission and beliefs of Bethany Christian Services have not changed. We are focused on demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ by serving children in need, and we intend to continue doing so in Michigan.”

On Monday, Bethany announced that it would make this change nationwide. Bethany’s vice president stated, “Faith in Jesus is at the core of our mission. But we are not claiming a position on the various doctrinal issues about which Christians of mutual good faith may disagree. We acknowledge that discussions about doctrine are important, but our sole job is to determine if a family can provide a safe, stable environment for children.”

Beware of “redefining civilization” 

This tragic announcement proves at least three points.

One: Government intrusion on religious liberty is escalating. 

Jim Daly, head of Focus on the Family, is right: “Bethany Christian Services should not have to choose between holding to their deeply held religious convictions and serving children and families. No government should tell any ministry how to run their ministry, let alone violate deeply held biblical principles.”

Two: Our culture and civilization are at stake. 

Al Mohler responded to the announcement: “The moral revolutionaries are now demanding that every single individual in this society, every single institution, every single school, every single religious denomination, every single adoption and foster care agency must pivot.” He added that “Christians have to understand: If you’re redefining marriage, if you’re redefining parent and family, you are redefining civilization.”

Three: We need to support ministries who stay faithful to their mission. 

Ethicist Russell Moore responded: “The need is great for distinctively Christian adoption and foster care services” who believe that “children need both mothers and fathers.” He added that “many evangelical orphan care ministries are working, and will continue to work, for vulnerable children in need of families, while still holding to the faith.” I am grateful for Buckner International and other Christian agencies who refuse to mortgage their mission in the face of social and governmental pressure.

 

“The most potent way Christianity is marginalized” 

This story also highlights a critical principle for all Christians seeking to navigate our anti-Christian culture.

Bethany claims to “believe in God’s plan for marriage and family as it is outlined in the Scriptures,” but it will now adopt children to families who reject that plan. The organization claims that their “mission and beliefs . . . have not changed,” but they have adopted policies that clearly violate them. How are we to understand these contradictions?

One of the most tempting ways for Christians to deal with the opposition we face today is to separate our private beliefs from our public actions.

In Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity, apologist Nancy Pearcey states: “The most potent way Christianity is marginalized in modern society is through the division of life into two separate spheres: a sacred realm of prayer, worship, and personal morality against a secular realm of politics, business, academia, and so on.” According to this division, our personal values regarding same-sex marriage or any other biblical moral issue should be kept separate from our public actions in secular society.

This juxtaposition allows us to tell churches, donors, and other supporters that our biblical values remain intact while bowing to cultural pressure to conform to unbiblical requirements. Bethany is not the first ministry to strike such a Faustian bargain; I fear that they will not be the last.

 

“May we be so bold as to set our eyes on heaven” 

Let’s close by making today’s article personal: Are you being tempted to separate your personal beliefs from your public life?

For example, are your thoughts about others different from your actions toward them? Jesus correlated anger with murder (Matthew 5:22) and defined lust as adultery (v. 28). Paul exhorted us: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Are you willing to pay any price to share your faith with others? Craig Denison asks, “Are the opinions of others really so important to me that I would withhold from them eternal, abundant life with a God who loves them relentlessly and perfectly?”

He adds: “May we be those who set aside our pride, seek humility, and love others whatever the cost. May we be so bold as to set our eyes on heaven and sacrifice this life for the sake of eternity.”

Will you be so bold today?

 

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Denison Forum – Canceling Hyatt Regency and Dr. Seuss: A testimony of hope and four practical ways to engage our opponents with grace

 

Let’s start with some good news: the late Alex Trebek’s TV wardrobe was donated to men who are homeless or leaving jail. When an H-E-B grocery store near Austin, Texas, lost power in the recent winter storm and was unable to check out customers, employees let them take their goods home for free. A delivery driver’s vehicle got stuck in a client’s driveway when the storm began, so the couple took her into their home for five days.

Have you seen any of these stories headlined in recent days?

Riots in Portland and “negativity bias” 

In other news, cancel culture has come for a Hyatt Regency hotel in Orlando, Florida. The hotel hosted the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last weekend. Former President Donald Trump spoke, as did a number of other Republican and conservative figures. As a result, critics called online for the hotel to be boycotted.

Cancel culture is also coming for Dr. Seuss on claims of racist stereotypes in his books. A school district in Virginia is just one example. And rioters vandalized several buildings in downtown Portland, Oregon, over the weekend, protesting the Biden administration’s immigration policy and the federal agency Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Unfortunately, such bad news is much easier to find in the news than good news.

“Negativity bias” is the psychological term for our collective hunger to hear and remember bad news. Part of this is schadenfreude, the pleasure we derive from another person’s misfortune. However, studies indicate that we are also conditioned to avoid danger and thus respond more quickly to bad news that threatens us.

This means that we often look for the negative and overlook the positive. As a result, we can make things worse than they are. Our fears become self-fulfilling prophecies and we miss much of the good that surrounds us each day.

 

Hiding from a king in a cave 

Let’s relate this fact to yesterday’s Daily Article, which focused on the importance of supporting religious freedom while speaking the truth in love with LGBTQ persons and their advocates. Toward the close of the article, I stated my plan to suggest specific ways we can do both.

For foundational guidance, we turn to Psalm 57, David’s prayer when he was hiding from King Saul in a wilderness cave (probably 1 Samuel 22:1, but possibly 1 Samuel 24:3). Here we find four principles that apply when we face opposition to our faith. Each of them calls us to focus on the good in the midst of the bad.

One: Trust God’s presence. 

David begins his prayer: “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by” (v. 1). He knows that the Lord is sheltering him in the face of mortal peril, even though he cannot see his “wings” at the time.

Two: Trust God’s purpose. 

David continues: “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me” (v. 2). Note that it is God, not David, who “fulfills” this purpose. The darkness of the tunnel does not contradict the sovereignty of the engineer driving the train.

Three: Trust God’s power. 

David testifies: “He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me” (v. 3, my emphasis). He knows that the King of the universe is more powerful than the king of Israel.

Four: Trust God’s providence. 

David admits: “My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts” (v. 4). Yet he can pray, “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” (v. 5). He knows that God knows his challenges and will bring his glory “over all the earth,” including the threat he faces.

 

Four steps to the spring of the Spirit 

With this backdrop, how can we respond redemptively to those who advocate for causes that threaten our religious freedom and attack our beliefs?

In Crisis in America: A Christian Response, Pastor Garland Hunt offers practical wisdom for this moment in our nation’s history. I would summarize his suggestions for facing opposition in four steps:

  • Perception: What is God saying to us through this event?
  • Personal accountability: Is there wrongdoing I must admit and change?
  • Prayer: How can I intercede for those affected and for God to act for their best?
  • Persuasion: What changes are needed? How can I help people make them?

Because God is sovereign in every “cave” of life, we can trust his presence, purpose, power, and providence. We can therefore look for his hand in the challenges we face.

Before we can ask others to change, however, we must ask God what changes we need to make (1 Peter 4:17). Then we can pray for God to work in the minds and hearts of our opponents (Matthew 5:44). Only then can we be effective catalysts for change in our broken culture.

I’ll close with a lesson from the winter storm we recently suffered in Texas. My home in Dallas was blanketed with more snow than I have ever seen in our city. However, when the temperature finally climbed above freezing and the sun came out, the snow began to melt. Not so quickly that you could watch it happen, but slowly over time.

In a day or two, the snow had melted in the sunlight. However, it persisted far longer in the shade.

If we do our job as the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14), we will make an eternal difference in our winter-gripped world. We may not see the spiritual snow melt today, but the spring of the Spirit is coming.

This is the promise and the invitation of God.

 

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Denison Forum – Church helps mosque rebuild: Responding to the Equality Act and those with whom we disagree

 

Former President Donald Trump spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday, criticizing President Biden on a variety of issues and pledging not to create a new party. In other news, Chadwick Boseman won last night’s Golden Globe for Best Actor in a motion picture-drama, six months after he died of colon cancer at the age of forty-three. And Emma Corrin paid tribute to Princess Diana after winning a Golden Globe for portraying her in Netflix’s The Crown.

While these stories are leading the national news this morning, another story received only local coverage in my area but deserves our attention.

When winter storms devastated our state recently, First United Methodist Church of Denton (north of Dallas-Fort Worth) started a GoFundMe campaign to help the Islamic Society of Denton pay for repairs to its building. This is just one expression of what a minister at the church calls a “longstanding friendship” with the mosque.

Did the church’s action endorse a religion that expressly rejects the Trinity (Qur’an 4:171) and deity of Jesus (Qur’an 5:72–73)? Did it send a signal of doctrinal compromise and unbiblical tolerance? Or did it build a relational bridge across which the gospel can travel, bringing the good news of Jesus’ love to Muslims in our region?

I do not know the Denton church, but I am confident that the third option is true. If so, these believers are following in the steps of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), Paul with Greek philosophers (Acts 17), and a host of other biblical and historical examples.

The lesson is both simple and profound: to win people to Jesus, we must love and serve them where they are, not where we wish them to be.

 

Why a gay writer opposes the Equality Act 

This principle is on my mind in light of the House of Representatives’ adoption of the so-called Equality Act last week, legislation which has been called “the most invasive threat to religious liberty ever proposed in America.” It amends the 1964 Civil Rights Act by forbidding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. However, it also forbids appeal to the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act on the part of individuals and organizations.

As a result, faith-based hospitals could be forced to provide gender-transition therapies. Children could change their gender without parental knowledge or consent. Faith-based adoption agencies could be forced to assign children to same-sex couples. Biological females could be forced to compete with biological males in sports and to share bathrooms and locker rooms with them. And the list goes on. (For a larger discussion of the Act and its consequences, please see my latest website paper, “The Equality Act: What Christians need to know.“)

I am adamantly opposed to the Act, as you might imagine. But this is not only because of my concerns regarding religious liberty. It’s also because I am convinced it is bad for those it is intended to protect.

A gay writer notes: “This bill will not protect our rights but destroy them for many members of our communities and society at large.” He observes that the Act will “lead to the erasure of women by dismantling sex-specific facilities such as bathrooms, locker rooms, prisons, battered women’s shelters, and other vital female-only spaces” and notes that “the same would apply to men.”

He warns that “mixing the biological sexes in such a way will enable and facilitate sexual harassment and assault.” For example, he cites a transgender person who “preyed on women at two Toronto shelters. He has been convicted of sexually assaulting a girl as young as five years old. His victims include a deaf and homeless Quebec woman and a Toronto survivor of domestic violence.”

How Christians impressed Romans 

Experts agree that the Equality Act jeopardizes parental rights, women’s rights, and children’s rights. And, as constitutional legal scholar David French notes, the Act contains core substantive flaws. He states, “It is possible to protect LGBTQ Americans from invidious discrimination while still preserving religious liberty and recognizing material biological distinctions.”

Here’s my point: Christians should go beyond opposing the Equality Act on the basis of religious liberty. We should also make clear our concern for those it would harm, including the LGBTQ individuals its supporters claim to be protecting. And we should respond to these supporters by “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

Jesus taught us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). He demonstrated his compassion by washing the feet of men who would abandon, deny, and betray him (John 13:1–12), then he called us “to wash one another’s feet” (v. 14). Paul grieved for the Jews who rejected his message (Romans 9:2) and even testified, “I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (v. 3).

Eusebius, the early church historian, records that when plague afflicted Caesarea and Romans fled the city, Christians stayed behind and “tended to the dying and to their burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them. Others gathered together from all parts of the city a multitude of those withered from famine and distributed bread to them all.”

Such compassion so impressed the pagans that the Christians’ “deeds were on everyone’s lips, and they glorified the God of the Christians. Such actions convinced them that they alone were pious and truly reverent to God.” A few decades later, the pagan emperor Julian the Apostate observed that Christians “support not only their poor, but ours as well.”

 

How to know if you’re a true servant 

I plan to say more tomorrow about specific ways we can support religious freedom while extending biblical truth and compassion to LGBTQ persons. For today, let’s decide that we want to do both. Let’s decide that we want to emulate the One who “came not to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28). Let’s pray for those with whom we disagree, then seek practical ways to be the answer to our prayers.

The great British preacher Charles Spurgeon observed: “I think you may judge of a man’s character by the persons whose affection he seeks. If you find a man seeking only the affection of those who are great, depend upon it he is ambitious and self-seeking; but when you observe that a man seeks the affection of those who can do nothing for him, but for whom he must do everything, you know that he is not seeking himself, but that pure benevolence sways his heart.”

Here’s a shorter version of the same truth: to see if you’re a true servant, watch how you respond when someone treats you like one.

Will you be a servant today?

 

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Denison Forum – What happened this week at Denison Forum?

 

I’m not sure what’s more surprising: what happens every day in the news or the wild temperature fluctuations in Texas. We were at -2° a week ago; we were at 82° a few days ago.

What I do know is that I prefer the latter over the former.

As for this week’s surprising news:

On Monday, as we Texans thawed out, Dr. Denison covered the generosity of athletes like Dak Prescott and celebrities like Matthew McConaughey who donated millions to help Texans in need.

On Tuesday, we witnessed the ingenuity of the criminal mind, as US Customs and Border Patrol seized a forty-four-pound shipment of cocaine-covered corn flakes.

On Wednesday, we awoke to the shocking news that Tiger Woods had suffered serious injuries in a single-vehicle wreck.

On Thursday, Dr. Denison considered the fact that Ryan T. Anderson’s book on the transgender issue can’t be found on Amazon—but works like Mein Kampf and The Unabomber Manifesto can be.

Finally, on Friday, the chocolate company Cadbury has released a commercial featuring a same-sex kiss, and many are calling for its removal. And this is occurring as the US House of Representatives just adopted the Equality Act, which, if it passes the Senate and becomes law, there will be no recourse to religious liberty.

No matter the news of the day or the temperature of the moment, I’m grateful that at least one certainty is always true: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

When the world has you stressed, lean into that fact.

  1. S. Grab your copy of our latest bookwhile you still can.

 

Hear Dr. Denison

Dr. Denison is routinely interviewed on radio shows and podcasts. Here’s where you can hear him from this past week:

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

What you may have missed

Ryan Denison asks a question we hope won’t incite you: “Why do so many people today seem to be in the business of making people angry?” A new study shows that angry people are easier to deceive.

Steve Yount offered a brief review of Jon Meacham’s book on John Lewis, calling it an “inspiring biography of one of the icons of the Civil Rights Movement.”

Are you “in the book”? Minni Elkins considers an old saying that still matters today.

 

Notable Quotables

  • “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.” — Jim Denison
  • “There are countless things in this world about which we have every right to be angry. If we want to actually make things better, though, anger cannot be the prism through which we approach our decisions. God has called us and equipped us to be better than that.” —Ryan Denison
  • “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.” — C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Parting thought

Here’s a sneak peek at our next “What does the Bible say about?” article. Only click if you feel lucky.

 

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Denison Forum – Cadbury urged to drop ad featuring same-sex kiss: The courage we need and the Source of our hope

 

Richard Cadbury created the first-ever heart-shaped box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day in 1861. He and his family were deeply committed to their Christian faith. Morning prayers and daily Bible readings were conducted for their entire workforce. They used their influence and resources to serve those in need.

That was then; this is now.

The company, which was sold to Kraft Foods in 2010, dropped the word Easter from its annual Easter Egg Trail event in 2017. Now they have released a commercial including a same-sex kiss. The group CitizenGo describes the ad as “a highly-charged sexually provocative act.”

If you’re not shocked by this news, your reaction makes my point.

Church raises $2 million to provide counseling services 

In an ever more secularized society, it is urgent that Christians redouble our commitment to the personal integrity that enables our public witness. As I noted yesterday, sin always affects more than the sinner. To stand publicly for Jesus, we must first spend time privately with Jesus.

The converse, however, is true: when we meet Jesus in person, we will stand for him in public.

John Baker experienced Jesus in a way that “transformed him from a driven businessman with an addiction to alcohol, a failing marriage, and alienated children to a Christ-follower with a passion to help others with their ‘hurts, habits, and hangups’ through the principles of recovery.” This is how Kay Warren, cofounder of Saddleback Church, described Baker, the founder of Celebrate Recovery, a biblical twelve-step program used by more than seven million people.

Baker died unexpectedly this week at the age of seventy-two, but not before God used his personal transformation to offer hope to the world.

In response to the psychological impact of the pandemic, an Arizona megachurch raised nearly $2 million to help people receive counseling services. In a similar response to the pandemic’s economic impact, a megachurch in Florida recently paid off approximately $38,000 in lunch debts for students in two local public schools.

Such commitments transcend even the enormous impact they make on those they serve by showing our skeptical culture the practical and redemptive difference our faith makes in the world.

 

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln and this cultural moment 

We have focused this week on the character and commitment required to stand for biblical morality in our post-Christian culture. Let’s close by considering the courage such a stand demands.

The evangelical Christian worldview is now in clear conflict with established public policy on a level unprecedented in American history. Our culture has previously embraced unbiblical immorality with regard to sexual promiscuity, LGBTQ issues, pornography, divorce, abortion, and euthanasia, but we were free to practice biblical morality in response. No one made us choose or provide an abortion. No one required us to sell pornography in a Christian bookstore. No one forced doctors to participate in assisted suicides or pastors to conduct same-sex weddings.

Now, however, the law of the land has endorsed same-sex marriage and may soon elevate LGBTQ persons to a protected class. The Equality Act was adopted by the House of Representatives yesterday; if it passes the Senate and becomes law, there will be no recourse to religious liberty.

As I have written previously, evangelicals are viewed as intolerant and discriminatory by our society just as if we were racists appealing to religious liberty to protect our bigotry. Refusing to perform a same-sex wedding is seen as prejudiced just as if we refuse to perform an interracial wedding.

My wife and I watched Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln again last weekend. The film, which tells the story of Lincoln’s resolve to pass the Thirteenth Amendment outlawing slavery in 1865, is one of my all-time favorite movies. I found myself cheering all those who worked so hard to support the amendment and condemning those who opposed it.

Now I find myself on the other side of such a divide. Millions of Americans view me as I viewed the racists in the movie. Standing for clear biblical truth in the face of such opprobrium will require consistent courage over many years to come.

An urgent fact for all Christians 

Such courage is vital because the faith we offer is so vital. Jesus is the way, truth, and life (John 14:6). Biblical morality is the best way to live for all of us, including LGBTQ individuals.

It is urgent that Christians understand this fact. If many roads lead up the same mountain, there is no reason to pay a price to convince others to take our road. If there were many ways to resolve World War II, the military sacrifices paid by so many were unnecessary.

If Jesus is not the only way to heaven, we need not face the ridicule of our secular culture for seeking to win others to him. If Peter was wrong in declaring that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12), there was no reason for him to give his life to share that salvation with the Roman world.

If Satan cannot convince you that Jesus is unnecessary for life and eternal life, he’ll try to convince you that Jesus is optional.

 

“Ashes in the embers of history” 

In The Wisdom Pyramid: Feeding Your Soul in a Post-Truth World, Brett McCracken notes: “Everything ever tweeted and the most-viewed viral videos will be forgotten ashes in the embers of history, but the church will remain.” Even in our fallen culture, Jesus is building his church, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

Let’s close this week with an invitation to join him. Let’s seek the character, commitment, and courage we need from “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). When we work, he works. When we resolve to be like Jesus and to share the love of Jesus, we can ask Jesus to give us his strength and peace.

Paul said of our Savior: “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (vv. 28–29).

For what or whom will you “toil” today?

 

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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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