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Denison Forum on Truth and Culture Christian Blog and Commentary

Jim Denison

Dr. Jim Denison engages contemporary culture with biblical truth
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Kenneth Williams was serving a life sentence for killing a cheerleader. He escaped in 1999 and was involved in a traffic wreck which killed a man named Michael Greenwood. Williams then killed another man, Cecil Boren, while on the run. He was executed last night by the state of Arkansas for murdering Boren.

Michael Greenwood’s daughter, Kayla Greenwood, learned a few days ago that Williams had a twenty-one-year-old daughter he had not seen for seventeen years and a three-year-old granddaughter he had never met. Kayla’s mother then bought plane tickets so Williams’s daughter and granddaughter could fly from Washington state to Arkansas to see him a day before his execution.

Kayla Greenwood sent a message to Williams through his attorney: “I told him we forgive him and where I stood on it.” When Williams found out what they were doing, “he was crying to the attorney.”

Here’s the rest of the story.

Williams told an interviewer that he has been “stabilized and sustained by the inner peace and forgiveness I’ve received through a relationship with Jesus Christ.” He chose to appear before a prison review board, not because he expected to receive clemency but “so I could show them I was no longer the person I once was. God has transformed me, and even the worst of us can be reformed and renewed. Revealing these truths meant more to me than being granted clemency. I’m still going to eventually die someday, but to stand up for God in front of man, that’s my victory.”

No one is beyond the reach of God’s forgiveness: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, my emphasis). Do you see any loopholes or ambiguity here? If “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15), are any sinners exempt from his grace?

However, the body of Christ is often the means by which we experience the grace of Christ. We are called to pardon those who sin against us because we have been pardoned and to demonstrate such grace to the world. It’s harder to believe that Christ forgives us if Christians won’t forgive us. It’s easier to believe that the Father loves us if his children love us.

In a graceless culture that measures us by what we do and how we look, agape love is a powerful and lasting witness. Our benevolence and unity point others to the One we love and serve (John 13:35).

St. Gaudentius of Brescia (died AD 410) explained that the bread of the Lord’s Supper is an appropriate connection to his body “because, as there are many grains of wheat in the flour from which bread is made by mixing it with water and baking it with fire, so also we know that many members make up the one body of Christ which is brought to maturity by the fire of the Holy Spirit.” Gaudentius extended the metaphor to the cup as well: “Similarly, the wine of Christ’s blood, drawn from the many grapes of the vineyard that he had planted, is extracted in the wine-press of the cross.”

Our broken culture measures Christ by Christians. Who is your Kenneth Williams?

 

Publication date: April 28, 2017

 

For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

Do you want to live a life in whole-hearted pursuit of loving God and others? 

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A diary kept by a young John F. Kennedy while he was a journalist after World War II has sold at auction for $718,750. The diary was mostly typed but includes twelve handwritten pages. In it, the twenty-eight-year-old Kennedy reflects on the devastation he saw in Berlin and questions the potential of the fledgling United Nations.

Few knew that fifteen years later he would be president of the United States.

Following his service in World War II, for which he received the Navy and Marine Corp Medal for leadership and courage, Kennedy considered becoming a writer or teacher. After his older brother’s tragic death, however, his father convinced him to run for Congress. His victory in 1946 led to two terms in the Senate and his election in 1960 as the youngest president in our nation’s history. His unwavering focus on his goal explains his political success and his enduring legacy.

Greg McKeown’s bestseller, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, notes: “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.” He notes, “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”

McKeown encourages us to refuse the frustration of doing everything that is popular now, choosing instead to do the right thing for the right reason at the right time. He notes that a Non-essentialist thinks almost everything is essential, while an Essentialist thinks almost everything is nonessential. To this end, he cites Socrates’ warning, “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”

Are you struggling with such barrenness today?

Your materialistic culture measures success by activity. The less we sleep and the more we work, the more applause we receive. But God measures our temporal activities by their eternal results. That’s why he calls us to fulfill his unique purpose for our lives at all costs:

“We do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16–18).

Missionary C. T. Studd prayed,

Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Greg McKeown quotes Anna Pavlova, the Russian ballet dancer: “To follow, without halt, one aim: there is the secret to success.” Will you be a success today?

 

Publication date: April 27, 2017

 

For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

Do you want to live a life in whole-hearted pursuit of loving God and others? 

Read today's First15 at www.first15.org.

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Smartphones are changing us.

According to recent research, 94 percent of us have one, demonstrating the device’s status as an essential tool for living today. Forty-six percent of men and 55 percent of women check their phone before getting out of bed each morning. More than half do the same when trying to fall asleep at night. The younger we are, the more likely we are to spend much or all of our free time on the phone. More than half of millennials admit that their phone makes them more distracted in life.

Here’s an antidote: according to Science Daily, engagement with the natural environment is a significant contributor to life satisfaction. Hiking regularly in a forest or otherwise spending time in nature is a proven factor in overall happiness.

Clearly, we need help in dealing with our chaotic culture. Consider a new transgender “fact sheet” produced by Harvard University. According to the document, the concept of gender is “fluid and changing,” can be expressed a number of ways, and can change on a daily basis. The office that produced the “fact sheet” hosts several annual events at Harvard, one of which is a “Queer Prom.”

Of course, sexual issues are not limited to homosexual or transgender concerns. New research indicates that 68 percent of men who attend worship services regularly also view pornography on a regular basis. In addition, 76 percent of religious young adults, ages eighteen to twenty-four, actively seek out porn. A ministry devoted to freeing men from pornography concludes, “Never before has such a large portion of the Church lived in contradiction of what we believe.”

Our culture is convinced that all truth claims are personal and subjective, elevating tolerance as the apex value of our day. Anything you do that doesn’t hurt me is now acceptable morality. Obviously, we cannot find truth in a society that doesn’t believe truth exists.

How should we respond?

I was reading Leviticus 23 recently and was impressed by its beginning: “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the people of Israel and say to them . . .'” (vv. 1–2). This is the consistent pattern of Scripture: God speaks to his prophets or representatives, then they speak to the culture. “Thus says the Lord” is the prophetic claim to authority. Human words cannot change human hearts, but divine revelation marks us forever.

Thus, we can expect the enemy to do all he can to keep us from hearing the voice of our Lord. Satan mocks human attempts to accomplish divine purposes, but he trembles before the authentic word of God. If Jesus needed time with his Father (Mark 1:35), how much more do we?

Now consider this powerful warning in Ecclesiastes 7: “Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this” (v. 10). Hearing from God yesterday is not sufficient for the challenges of today. Since Jesus is “the living bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:51), our souls become famished if we do not spend time at his spiritual table.

What was the last word you heard from God?

 

Photo courtesy: Unsplash.com

Publication date: April 26, 2017

 

For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

Do you want to live a life in whole-hearted pursuit of loving God and others? 

Read today's First15 at www.first15.org.

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