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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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We begin today on the terrorism front: A New York City resident has been arrested and accused of sympathizing with the Islamic State. He is one of nearly 400 Americans identified in a recent report as supporters of ISIS. Some seek to join the terror group overseas, but others plan attacks within the U.S. The report's author calls this "a growing and disturbing phenomenon."
 
On the economic front: For the first time in more than 130 years, young adults between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four are more likely to live at home with their parents than in any other living situation. This is a major change from 1960, when sixty-two percent of young adults were living with a spouse or partner in their own home, while only twenty percent lived with their parents. Financial challenges have contributed significantly to this shift.
 
On the political front: Most supporters of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton say their choice is more about opposing the rival candidate than supporting their own. As the presidential campaign continues, voter dissatisfaction with the two-party system continues to escalate. 
 
On the religious front: A recent report shows that atheists now outnumber Christians in England. They have doubled from twenty-five percent in 2011 to 48.5 percent today; Christians make up 43.8 percent of the British population.
 
What do these stories have in common?
 
Writing for Stratfor, former Yale philosophy professor Jay Ogilvy offers a fascinating explanation for the seismic cultural shifts we are witnessing today. In his view, Western society moved from the religious era to the political era in the sixteenth century. The Reformation separated church from state, empowering national governments as the leading authorities in our culture.
 
The state was charged with protecting us from our enemies and providing economic security. The American political system provided parties that represented our views and goals. The power and relevance of the institutional church declined as the power and relevance of the state escalated.
 
But now we are shifting again, from the political era to the economic era. We have seen the inability of our governments to provide physical and financial security. Many no longer believe that the two political parties represent us. Meanwhile, the credibility and relevance of multinational corporations and free markets continue to rise. We are forming affinity groups around shared ideologies, economic needs, and spiritual beliefs.
 
Here's the good news: the gospel is just as relevant in an economic era as it was in the religious and political eras. We made a drastic mistake in AD 313 when Constantine legalized the church: we had been a spiritual army, but we became an institution. We were a movement, but we became a building. Jesus founded his church to assault the gates of hell (Matthew 16:18). When we take light to dark, the light always wins (John 1:5).
 
Every person you meet today is an eternal soul. Our greatest need is for restored relationship with the Father who made and loves all his children. We should separate church from state, but never faith from state. God calls us to worship him "day by day" (Numbers 28:3) and to take his word to our culture wherever we can, however we can.
 
One day we will live not in the religious or political or economic era, but the Kingdom era (Philippians 2:10–11). Would Jesus say he is your king today?
 
 
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
 
Publication date: May 26, 2016

 

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Fred and Joan Horak breed "Jacob sheep," animals that have been traced genetically to the biblical era. Their sheep are most unusual—some have four horns, while others have six. 
 
Now their lambs are being used to advance research into Tay-Sachs, a deadly genetic disease. Since the Tay-Sachs gene in Jacob sheep is an eighty-six percent DNA match with the human gene, experimenting on Tay-Sachs sheep is leading to advancements in possible treatments for humans.
 
Meanwhile, University of Oklahoma physics professor Michael Strauss has been delivering a lecture titled "Scientific Evidence for the Existence of God" at universities across the nation. He points to the apparent design of the universe and the uniqueness of our planet. 
 
According to Dr. Strauss, there are 322 parameters needed to form a planet capable of sustaining intelligent life. The probability that all 322 could develop by chance is ten to the minus -282. To help you understand the professor's point, I've written out this number: 
 
There's more scientific news in today's news: according to a new estimate, there are about one trillion species of microbes on Earth. Here's the amazing part: 99.999 percent of them have yet to be discovered. As one scientist noted, "We're very far away from discovering what's really out there."
 
I just finished reading the latest National Geographic magazine, an issue devoted to Yellowstone National Park. I still have vivid memories of visiting the park with our family several years ago. But this fact surprised me: if you drive every road of Yellowstone, you'll cover one percent of the park.
 
The magazine quotes Ferdinand Hayden, who led an early expedition to Yellowstone in 1871: "Nothing ever conceived by human art could equal the peculiar vividness and delicacy of coloring of these remarkable prismatic springs."
 
The God who made this amazing world also made you. If he could design the universe, can't he design your life? Now consider this fact: the God who made the universe rested after his work was done (Genesis 2:2). Then he taught us to do the same (Exodus 20:8–11).
 
Writing in The New York Times, David Brooks laments the workaholism that plagues our culture. He notes that workaholism is "a form of emotional self-estrangement. Workaholics are so consumed by their professional activities that their feelings don't inform their fundamental decisions. The professional role comes to dominate the personality and encroaches on the normal intimacies of the soul."
 
What is the solution? Rest and Sabbath, that leisure which is "an attitude of mind." We need to create "enough stillness so that it becomes possible to contemplate and enjoy things as they are." 
 
Tim Keller recently tweeted: "Anxiety is a daily statement to God saying, 'I don't think you have my best interest in mind.'" Do you think God has your best interest in mind today?
 
 
Note: The Chairman of the Baylor University Board of Regents confirmed in a text message last night that Ken Starr is still the school's president. This came after reports in The Washington Post and a number of other media that the regents had voted to remove him. As I stated in yesterday's special edition Cultural Commentary, I am continuing to pray for Baylor, Judge Starr, and those affected by the sexual assault scandal.
 
Publication date: May 25, 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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The American public believes that twenty-three percent of Americans are gay or lesbian, according to Gallup. In fact, only 3.8 percent of the adult population identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
 
Why would the public be so wrong with regard to the size of the LGBT population? Our perception has been shaped by a decades-long strategy to normalize and then legalize same-sex relations and the LGBT agenda. Today it's hard to find a movie or television show in which a homosexual couple does not appear or the LGBT agenda is not lauded.
 
Now that this movement has been both normalized and legalized, we're in the third phase: criminalizing opposition.
 
In Sweden, pastors can be fined for preaching sermons or even citing biblical texts deemed to be "anti-gay." A Christian preacher in the U.K. was recently fined for delivering "homophobic" sermons. Recent legislation in Canada forbids statements deemed to incite "abhorrence" of gay people, even if the speaker states demonstrable facts. Commentators noted that this legislation will stifle "strict religious conservatives" and deny them "the same free-speech rights enjoyed by secular Canadians."
 
Now Canadian authorities are preparing legislation that would make anti-transgender "hate propaganda" punishable by up to two years in prison. The ban would include any public speech or communication that "promotes hatred" on the basis of "gender identity" or "gender expression."
 
Could such criminalization come to the U.S.?
 
The mayor of Houston, Texas, made headlines in 2014 when her office demanded that area pastors turn over all sermons dealing with homosexuality or gender identity. She backed down after her actions provoked a national public uproar.
 
Last year, the New York City Commission on Human Rights issued a legal enforcement guideline. It states that "failing to use an individual's preferred name or pronoun" is a violation of the law. Businesses must call transgender employees or customers by preferred newly created pronouns such as "ze/hir" and must use whatever gender pronoun the person chooses. Violations are punishable by fines up to $250,000.
 
I do not know if such efforts to criminalize "anti-gay" or "anti-transgender" speech will escalate in this country. I do know that pastors and all Christians should treat others with respect, even (and especially) when we disagree with their actions. 
 
But I also know that speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) often comes at a price. Today it may be backlash against biblical truth on marriage and gender. Tomorrow it may be prosecution on behalf of polygamy or euthanasia. 
 
It has always been true that "the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14). The battle against truth and falsehood is ultimately a spiritual conflict.
 
So stand for biblical truth with biblical grace and pray that the Spirit who inspired God's word will use your words to change human hearts. Richard Baxter: "Lord, whatever you want, wherever you want it, and whenever you want it, that's what I want."
 
Is that what you want?
 
 
Publication date: May 24, 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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