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Denison Forum on Truth and Culture Christian Blog and Commentary

Jim Denison

Denison Forum on Truth and Culture
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According to a recent survey, millions of Americans believe that God cares who wins this Sunday's Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots.  Is this so?  (For more on the survey, read my wife's latest blog, Does God care who wins the Super Deflata-Bowl?).
 
Since God knows the future (cf. Isaiah 46:9-10), he knows the outcome of the game.  Does this mean that he has determined it?  Knowing and choosing are not always the same.  God is not bound by time—he sees tomorrow as you and I see today. (Tweet this) As C. S. Lewis notes, if we view time as a line on a page, God is the page. 
 
If I watched you read this essay, that wouldn't mean I made you do so.  The fact that God can "see" today what you eat for lunch tomorrow doesn't mean that he has chosen that meal for you.  Since he is sovereign, he must permit all that happens (cf. Matthew 10:29).  But since he gave humans free will and chooses to honor our freedom, his permissive will is not always his perfect will (cf. 2 Peter 3:9).
 
However, there are times when God does choose a specific future.  He predicted the birthplace of Jesus centuries before Christmas (Micah 5:2).  He knew beforehand how Pharaoh would respond to Moses (cf. Exodus 3:19).  Jesus predicted that Peter would deny him (Matthew 26:34), and repeatedly forecast his crucifixion (cf. Matthew 16:21).
 
God is a King, and chooses that which advances his Kingdom.  By what scenario could his Kingdom purpose be served through the outcome of the Super Bowl?
 
Perhaps a team's win would enable its players or coaches to witness for Christ more effectively.  However, I can't see why Super Bowl participants couldn't glorify God whether they win or lose—they already have one of the most visible platforms in the Western world.
 
Conceivably, a win would show that God answers prayer.  But what about the intercessors whose team loses?  Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is a very devout believer whose Twitter feed is filled with biblical quotations.  However, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (whose team lost to the Seahawks) is also a very strong Christian.  Which believer should God have favored?
 
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady isn't sure God cares who wins: "Look at the attention I get: It's because I throw a football.  But that's what society values.  That's not what God values.  He didn't invent the game.  We did.  I have some hand-eye coordination, and I can throw the ball.  I don't think that matters to God." Rodgers agrees: "I don't think God cares a whole lot about the outcome.  He cares about the people involved, but I don't think he's a big football fan."
 
So it seems to me that God doesn't care who wins Sunday's game.  But he does care if we honor him as we watch the game and discuss it later (slander is forbidden by Scripture; see Proverbs 10:18; Matthew 12:36).  He does care if we are as committed to excellence in our calling as the players and coaches are in theirs (Colossians 3:23).  He does care if we care more about souls than fans care about the score.
 
The next person you meet will matter to God long after Sunday's game is over. Let's win the Super Bowl of the soul. (Tweet this)
 
 
Publication date: January 29, 2015

 

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Auschwitz.  The word conjures images no words can capture.  Living skeletons in striped rags, hollow-eyed children, brick-oven gas chambers.  Of Nazi Germany's 20,000 concentration camps, Auschwitz was the largest, spanning more than 15 square miles of German-occupied Poland.
 
More than 1.1 million people died there, mostly Jews.  On January 27, 1945, the Soviet Army entered the prison.  Auschwitz stands today as a museum and memorial to the Holocaust. 
 
News outlets are marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz this week.  Two stories have especially impressed me.  One is that of 90-year-old Gena Turgel.  At the age of 16, she was shipped to Plaszow concentration camp, then marched to Auschwitz where she survived testing by the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele.
 
One day she was herded into the gas chambers with hundreds of other prisoners.  Somehow she walked out alive, and assumes that the chamber did not work.  "When I think back, I have to pinch myself sometimes to see if I'm really alive," she says.  But Auschwitz is always with her.  "I wear a lot of perfume," she told a reporter.  "The stench of the camps will always stay with me and I try to block it out."
 
Another victim of Auschwitz was not imprisoned there, but his mother was.  Tomas Lefkovitz has audio tapes on which she recorded her experiences, but he cannot bring himself to listen to them.  He has chaired Holocaust Remembrance Day events and been involved in a discussion group for children of survivors.  He goes to synagogue every week, wears phylacteries (boxes holding tiny scrolls of Scripture) during prayers, and embraces the beauty and philosophy of the Jewish faith.
 
But Tomas cannot believe in God.  He scoffs at the notion that the Jews are "chosen" people: "Chosen for what?  Because so far, I haven't seen any benefits.  Anybody who wants to convert to Judaism, they're crazy.  They're fools."
 
Why did Gena Turgel survive Hitler's atrocities when more than six million Jews did not?  What would you say to convince Tomas Lefkovitz that the God who allowed his mother's suffering is a loving Father worthy of his trust?
 
I have my own theories on innocent suffering (for more, read Why does a good God allow an evil world?), but this week is not a time for abstract theology.  Rather, it is a time to "weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15), to show suffering souls the reality of God's compassion in ours, to answer unanswerable questions not with logic but with love.
 
When my father died, the person who helped me most was a friend who drove across Houston to sit with me.  He didn't pretend to know how I felt.  He didn't try to answer my questions.  He just stayed beside me, all afternoon, and hugged me when he left.  In his presence I sensed the presence of God.
 
Do you need such a friend today?  Will you be such a friend today?

 

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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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is preparing to run for president.  Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is said to be "seriously" looking at a run as well.  As are Senators Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.  Former Governors Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are already building their campaigns.
 
But no one has generated as much recent political buzz as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who told The Washington Post, "You can absolutely say that I am seriously interested" in running for the White House.  A close second in political news has been the furor over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming message before Congress.  House Speaker John Boehner invited Mr. Netanyahu, a move that surprised the Obama administration and led to widespread criticism.  As a longtime supporter of Israel, I am especially interested in the outcome of this developing story. (To learn about our spring Holy Land pilgrimage, go here
 
Ask Google "who will win in 2016," and you'll learn that "the Democrats will win in 2016.  No question."  But just down the screen: "History shows that Hillary Clinton is unlikely to win in 2016."  Further down is the headline, "Rand Paul will win the 2016 primaries, and the presidency."  Followed by "16 reasons why Hillary Clinton will win 2016."  Clearly, Google is confused about the election.
 
Here are three clear imperatives Google doesn't list:
 
One: political candidates deserve our respect.  It's far easier to lampoon those running for office than to pay the price to join them.  We are to pray for "all who are in high positions" (1 Timothy 2:2), including those who aspire to such office.  Without their service, our republic would fail.  We should be honest in assessing their strengths and weaknesses, but speak of them as we would speak to them (cf. Matthew 18:15).
 
Two: God is calling more Christians into public service than are answering his call.  James Davison Hunter has demonstrated that culture changes when we achieve our highest influence and live there faithfully.  Have you prayed about serving your Lord and country through political office?  
 
Three: God wants us to measure significance by his standards, not ours.  Consider Ernie Banks, the Hall of Fame baseball player who died last Friday. "Mr. Baseball" was born in Dallas, Texas in 1931.  Beloved in the game and around the world, he played in 14 All Star Games and hit 512 home runs.  In 2013, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
 
After his death, National Public Radio aired an interview with Mr. Banks in which he told the reporter, "I haven't done anything yet."  He did not feel that his achievements in baseball were significant enough to warrant the acclaim he had received.
 
You may never be president or make the Hall of Fame, but your Lord will reward forever every act of faithfulness today.  So "let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).  God's call is the race that matters most.
 
 
Publication date: January 27, 2015

 

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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