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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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Senate Republicans have unveiled their version of a health care bill that would replace ObamaCare. Unsurprisingly, the partisan divide in Washington continues: Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has condemned the bill, calling it “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” while Republican leader Paul Ryan says he is “eager” for it to pass.

Meanwhile, something caught my eye that didn’t happen but made the news anyway.

The Los Angeles Times reported this week that a 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit the Pacific Ocean about ten miles from Santa Barbara. A quake of that magnitude could cause buildings to crumble. But none fell to the ground. In fact, no one felt a tremor.

That’s because there was no earthquake.

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology were studying a quake that occurred on June 29, 1925. Someone accidently triggered an email that automatically generated a story on the Los Angeles Times website through an algorithm called Quakebot. The Times quickly tweeted a correction.

From what happened to what didn’t happen, let’s turn next to what might happen: Elon Musk thinks a city of a million people could be established on Mars within a few decades. Before you dismiss his prediction, remember that he is worth $15.2 billion and led the Tesla car company to a higher valuation than Ford. He envisions creating a fleet of 1,000 craft that would build up a population on Mars of a million over forty to one hundred years.

A pioneer spirit is a good thing. Where would we be without the explorers who found the New World and the colonists who were brave enough to inhabit it? (I wouldn’t be writing this article in Dallas, Texas, to be sure.)

But leaving where we are for the wrong reason is never a good idea. If we colonize Mars, we’ll bring the same problems to our new planet that we experience on our old one. Human nature doesn’t change, no matter where humans live. We’ll still have government, with all its attendant frustrations. We’ll still get things wrong, no matter how smart we are. And many will still look for ultimate answers in the wrong places.

Elon Musk says he does not pray or worship any being. He also says he wants to die on Mars, just not on impact. One day he will discover that how we die is not nearly as important as what happens when we die.

When we face challenges today, we can join our self-sufficient culture in trying harder to do better. Or we can accept the invitation of Jesus: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).

Whose yoke are you wearing today?

 

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

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Face-detecting systems in China now authorize payments, provide access to facilities, and track down criminals. According to the current MIT Technology Review, this technology may soon spread to other countries around the world.

Speaking of new technology, the Drone Racing League World Championships are on television this week. Last year, more than thirty million people from forty countries watched. Venture capitalists have invested $20 million in the sport this month.

Meanwhile, Amazon is on track to become America’s largest clothing retailer. It is planning a program called “Prime Wardrobe” that lets you try on clothes before you buy them. The company is already expanding its grocery delivery business and recently agreed to acquire Whole Foods.

If you remember when you needed money to buy things, drones didn’t exist, and Amazon was just an online bookstore, you’re as old as I am. But the world is changing faster than ever, and we can wax nostalgic or we can embrace the opportunities of this new day.

Scripture repeatedly calls us to “sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalm 96:198:1Isaiah 42:10). God can help: David testified that “he put a new song in my mouth” (Psalm 40:3). In heaven, the four living creatures and twenty-four elders “sang a new song” (Revelation 5:9).

Innovation has always been part of God’s plan for his people. In The Saint vs. the Scholar, Jon M. Sweeney makes this point in a perceptive way.

He notes that nineteenth-century historian Jacob Burckhardt “first claimed the word renaissance as a formal noun, forever stamping his favorite era with that name.” Burckhardt then bracketed “everything between the fifth and fifteenth centuries—between what we often call the decline and fall of Rome and the Renaissance—as the Dark Ages. In other words, he threw the entire Middle Ages (another deliberately diminutive phrase) under the bus.”

Consider some of the events of the “Dark Ages”:

•    The founding of Oxford, Cambridge, and other centers of educational excellence.
•    The creation of the Magna Carta, the founding document of British and American liberties.
•    The intellectual advances of Anselm, Peter Abelard, Thomas Aquinas, and William of Ockham.
•    The work of Roger Bacon and the growth of experimental science.
•    Major initiatives in agriculture, metallurgy, navigation, textiles, paper, and printing.

God has been at work in every generation of human history, and ours is no exception. Now we must choose: we can fear the future, or we can help create it. We can resist change, or we can lead it.

St. Augustine: “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.” Will you pray for both today?

 

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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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Gary Rehm was three months shy of retirement when he died on the USS Fitzgerald last Saturday. At thirty-seven, he was by far the oldest of the seven sailors who perished. According to his uncle, Rehm called the other sailors on the ship his “kids.” When the ship docked stateside near his Virginia home, he invited those who were far from home to join him on holidays.

When the USS Fitzgerald collided with a container ship, Rehm said, “If my kids die, I’m going to die.” By various accounts, he saved at least twenty of them. He then went down to save more and perished with six others.

Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The sailors saved by Gary Rehm will spend the rest of their lives knowing that someone loved them enough to give his life for them. Imagine the sense of personal worth and significance such knowledge would bring.

Actually, you can know the feeling personally: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Now we have a choice: we can assess ourselves by what we do or by what God has done.

We live in a culture that measures us by our performance. Commenting on the special election in Georgia, today’s Washington Post says of Republican Karen Handel, “She won, so she’s a winner.” You probably remember that the Cubs won last year’s World Series. Do you remember the team that lost?

Sociologist Charles Horton Cooley unfortunately spoke for many of us when he stated, “I am not what I think I am. I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am.” But there’s a better way.

Our Father wants nothing more than he wants an intimate relationship with us. In a recent First15, Craig Denison observed, “If God considers restored relationship with you worth the death of his only and blameless Son, he must place his highest value on total communion with you.” When I read this sentence, I noted in my journal, “Intimacy with God cost him everything, so it must be worth everything.”

Consider this Puritan prayerI think of thy glory and my vileness, thy majesty and my meanness, thy beauty and my deformity, thy purity and my filth, thy righteousness and my iniquity. Thou hast loved me everlastingly, unchangeably, may I love thee as I am loved; Thou has given thyself for me, may I give myself to thee; Thou hast died for me, may I live to thee, in every moment of my time, in every movement of my mind, in every pulse of my heart.

Would you make his words your prayer right now?

 

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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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