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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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The first round of the NFL Draft is over. Jared Goff was drafted first by the Rams, followed by Carson Wentz, drafted by the Eagles. (For more on the latter, see Nick Pitts's The Life and Faith of Carson Wentz.) Both teams gave up a great deal to be in position to choose them. Will they become Pro Bowl quarterbacks, or will they soon be forgotten?
 
NFL teams do their best to draft the best players for their teams, but no one knows if their best will be good enough. Of the eighty-one players chosen number one, only fourteen have made it to the Hall of Fame so far. No team has drafted number one and won the Super Bowl the same year. Only eight have even made the playoffs that year.
 
Now consider this miracle in God's word: When the priests of Israel stepped into the flooded Jordan river, "the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan" (Joshua 3:16). The town of Adam was twenty miles upstream. It took several hours after God stopped the river there for the rest of the water to reach the place where the priests stood. 
 
But the moment they set their foot in the flood, the last of the river reached them. God began this miracle hours before his people knew it or could participate in it. They did their work while trusting God to do his.
 
This balance prevails across every dimension of our lives. On one hand, our Lord calls us to "be holy, for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16). He knows that people judge God by his followers. Our Father deserves our very best, a passion for excellence in all we do.
 
Oswald Chambers: "If we are going to live as disciples of Jesus, we have to remember that all noble things are difficult. The Christian life is gloriously difficult, but the difficulty of it does not make us faint and cave in, it rouses us up to overcome." William Barclay noted that we progress in life in proportion to the fare we are prepared to pay.
 
On the other hand, we are called to wait on God by faith: "They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31; see Psalm 27:14; Lamentations 3:25).
 
Human words cannot change human hearts. You and I cannot convict a single person of a single sin, or save a single soul. Only the Holy Spirit can change the human spirit. Only God can forgive sin and redeem sinners.
 
What's the balance between working and waiting? As we work, God works. As we give God our best, he gives us his best.
 
So listen for the call of God, then step out by faith. Sometimes you'll see the results, and sometimes you won't. Moses saw the Red Sea part but did not live to see the Jordan River do the same. When Paul wrote half of the New Testament, he didn't know he was writing half of the New Testament. When we obey the call of God, he always redeems our challenges and uses our faith for his glory and our good.
 
What flood are you facing today?
 
 
Publication date: April 29, 2016

 

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Ted Cruz announced yesterday that Carly Fiorina will be his running mate if he wins the Republican presidential nomination. Donald Trump made a major foreign policy speech as well, outlining his priorities if he is elected president this November.
 
I am not writing today to comment on either announcement. Rather, I want to focus on those who are. Both stories were covered by news outlets around the world. In the same way, American reporters are covering global stories this morning.
 
For instance, this morning's Wall Street Journal reports on the stalled peace talks in Syria, a suicide bombing in Turkey, and a migrant detention center in New Guinea. The front page of today's New York Times tells us about efforts to end a half-century of fighting in Colombia.
 
The world is still the same size it was a century ago, but it certainly seems smaller. Today we know what happens when it happens. There's bad news and good news in this news.
 
First, the bad news: Falsehoods taught in part of the world can now spread around the world more easily than ever. Take the case of the United Church of Canada (UCC).
 
This denomination has been following the lead of European theologians who question biblical authority and remake church doctrine to follow cultural trends. As a result, for decades the UCC has allowed openly gay men and women to lead its ministries. Now it's deciding whether to allow an openly atheistic pastor to continue leading one of its churches. What comes next is anyone's guess.
 
What happens over there affects what happens over here. (For more on this, see Mark Cook's What Live Streaming Means for Leaders.) In a world where heresy is just a click away, Christians must be more discerning of falsehood and more committed to biblical truth than ever.
 
Now to the good news: God's word can reach people no one could reach before. One example is the amazing work of Global Media Outreach, which has shared the gospel with more than 110,000 people just this morning. Other ministries are also using current technology to take biblical truth around the globe.
 
I have no idea what Ted Cruz or his fellow candidates will do today to make global headlines tomorrow. But I do know that everything Christians say and do for God's glory impacts lives for eternity. And I know what happens when someone trusts in Jesus: "There is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:10).
 
May someone bring joy to the angels today because of me. And because of you.
 
 
Publication date: April 28, 2016

 

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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"Smombies" are people who stare at their smartphones while walking like zombies. They are a problem: according to a University of Washington study, one in three of us is busy dealing with a smartphone or other electronic device at risky road crossings.
 
Here's one solution: Officials in the city of Augsburg have installed traffic lights embedded in the pavement. The idea came after a fifteen-year-old girl was killed by a tram. Police say she was distracted by her smartphone as she crossed the tracks. The new lights are more obvious to those looking down at their devices while walking.
 
Technology fixation is not just dangerous while we are ambulatory. Hearing loss, sedentary weight gain, sleep disruption, and damage to the eyes, neck, wrist, and fingers are all connected to excessive smartphone use. In addition, media multitasking contributes to poor attention span, depression, and anxiety. One study showed that people who multitasked while doing cognitive tests dropped as many IQ points as if they had just smoked marijuana.
 
In other words, smartphones make dumb people. What's the answer?
 
Experts tell us to make rules such as: no smartphone usage at social events, while driving, or during interactions with others. Turn off all alerts at certain times during the day. Some people even create a long, frustrating password that makes it harder for them to turn on the phone casually.
 
This is all helpful advice, but I think something more visceral is at work. My smartphone makes me feel relevant by connecting me to the world. It also makes me feel important when people call, text, or email me. And feeling relevant and important is relevant and important to me.
 
Perhaps there's a better way than basing our self-esteem on a slab of technology. Perhaps the best way for us to find significance is to stop seeking significance and seek Jesus instead. C. S. Lewis:
 
Your real, new self (which is Christ's and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking at Him.
 
Does that sound strange? The same principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it.
 
Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead.
 
Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.
 
Jesus was clear: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it" (Luke 9:23–24). Have you answered his call yet today?
 
Note: For more, please see my latest website article, Shakespeare and the Quest for Purpose.
 
 
Publication date: April 27, 2016

 

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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