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Denison Forum on Truth and Culture Christian Blog and Commentary

Nick Pitts

Dr. Jim Denison engages contemporary culture with biblical truth

Note from Jim: I am grateful to Nick Pitts, our Director of Cultural Engagement, for writing today’s Cultural Commentary. You can subscribe to his Daily Briefing, an overview of the news with biblical insights, by clicking here.

Activists at the University of Toronto disrupted a free speech rally led by a professor who refuses to address students with gender-neutral pronouns. In essence, activists exercised their free speech and in turn ended a free speech rally. The University Student Union wrote, “Tuesday’s rally was marred by bigotry and violence, and the Campus Police refused to intervene when they knew of and saw trans folks being assaulted.”

University of Toronto professor Jordan Petersen angered several people after releasing a presentation entitled, “Professor against political correctness.” In it, he condemned a new bill that could potentially punish individuals who “misgender” others.

In other free speech news, people are, shockingly, arguing on Facebook—or rather over Facebook policy. According to the Wall Street Journal, the 2016 election has ignited an intense internal debate about whether certain political posts should be removed for potentially violating the site’s rules regarding hate speech. Releasing a statement last week, Facebook said, “In the weeks ahead, we’re going to begin allowing more items that people find newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest—even if they might otherwise violate our standards.” No word on whether they will be doing anything regarding the persistent Farmville invitations and Candy Crush requests.

A Gallup poll showed that 69 percent of college students said they would be in favor of prohibiting “intentionally offensive” speech on campus. 41 percent of Americans thirty-five and under think “the First Amendment is dangerous.”

George Washington noted, "If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." French writer Alexis de Tocqueville said, "Nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn how to use than freedom."

This freedom makes America great according to de Tocqueville: “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.” By eliminating free speech, the government “compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”

For better or for worse, the ability to speak freely can enlighten us so that our footsteps may move toward a more perfect union. However, free speech may also mar the silence, proving Proverbs 10:19 true: when words abound, transgressions are inevitable.

In Christ, we have been set free (Galatians 5:1). We have great freedom but an even greater responsibility – especially in our conversations. Just because you have the freedom to do something does not mean it is beneficial to do it. I have the right to eat seven donuts this morning. However, the only people who stand to benefit from this decision are my local tailor and the donut shop.

Self-control is the true measure of freedom. For the Christian, God has provided for your every need (Philippians 4:19). As such, you can live a life that seeks to bless rather than take. Instead of using your freedom to take validation from others in conversations, you are free to give grace and lovingly speak truth. The goal is not to win an argument but to love a person.

You don’t have to save the world; someone has already done that. His name is Jesus.

Our call is not to save the world, but to be a light in the world and a fragrant aroma throughout it (Matthew 5:13; 2 Corinthians 2:14–15). As John Milton noted, “Let her [truth] and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?”

The resurrection is a reminder that appearances can be deceiving. Our loving responses have a resurrected resolve that never returns void – though we may appear to lose in the moment.

We walk by faith, speak truth in love, and generously extend grace—even on Facebook.

Nick Note: This week, I am honored to be in New York to participate in the Movement Day Global Cities conference. Movement Day is catalyzing leadership teams from the world's largest cities to serve their cities more effectively by advancing high-level, city-changing collaborative partnerships.  This initiative was launched in 2010 by Dr. Pier, founder and CEO of The New York City Leadership Center. For updates throughout the week, check out my videos on our Facebook page.


Publication date: October 25, 2016


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Note from Jim: I am grateful to Nick Pitts, our Director of Cultural Engagement, for writing today’s Cultural Commentary. You can subscribe to his Daily Briefing, an overview of the news with biblical insights, by clicking here.

Teachers’ significance is only exceeded by their patience. Holding one of the most important jobs in our communities today, teachers see potential, put up with antics, and relentlessly seek to bring out the best in every student. We may never know their full value, nor will we ever adequately express our appreciation for teachers. Nevertheless, they continue to work diligently in the present, yet not always seeing the fruit of their labor. However, the people at SoulPancake have sought to change this.

SoulPancake invited five teachers together to share their struggles and difficulties. Little did they know that instead of only sharing struggles, former students surprised their teachers by reading letters describing the impact their teachers made in their lives. The video has since gone viral, joining the likes of the color of a dress, Ken Bone, and the keyboard cat.

Side note: the dress is blue.

The classroom is where curiosity meets knowledge. But lurking in the shadows is discouragement. The teacher is the caring curator who leads students on the journey to truth. Unfortunately, myself included, some of us weren’t the most willing participants. I surprised my teachers when I actually turned in my homework on time and didn’t talk for the entire class time.

Incidents such as this, among other things, can often bring discouragement. But what sets apart the teacher is their ability to get the best even when we give them the worst. The Cubs may have won the pennant, but day in and day out teachers win small victories for our future.

I am forever indebted to Mrs. Hall, Dr. Speck, and Dr. Welty. I almost failed kindergarten, but Mrs. Hall’s careful attention to me and care for me changed me. Dr. Speck’s demand for excellence made me want to be better even if my grade couldn’t get any higher. And Dr. Welty’s love for the Scriptures saturated his lectures on Western philosophy and forever changed the way I look for signposts of eternity in the everyday. Despite discouragement, they refused to settle.

But discouragement is not limited to teachers. It can be found at work and in the home, knowing no bounds. Discouragement can greet you first thing in the morning and be the last words you hear at night as you replay the day. All of us are intimately acquainted with our weaknesses. So when we experience discouragement, it only confirms what we think to be true. We are our own worst enemy (James 4:1).

The enemy uses discouragement as a farmer works with a plow. But instead of breaking the ground to sow seed, he attempts to break our spirit with seeds of doubt. As a dear friend once said, “Satan shouts and God whispers.”

But God’s whisper is the same voice that created something from nothing and brought life from death. His volume is not proportional to his power. Right now, God the Son is at the right hand of the Father interceding on your behalf (Hebrews 7:25). God the Spirit is at work inside of you petitioning the Father with groans deeper than words (Romans 8:26). He has called you the apple of his eye (Psalm 17:8). His love for you and belief in you is not dependent upon your obedience to him (2 Timothy 2:13). As those who have been called to follow him, our words should echo his.

We live in interesting days drenched in discouragement. Our culture may be running away from God, but our words should lovingly remind our neighbors that God is not giving up on them. Kindness, not judgment, is what leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). Words of encouragement are seeds of life that produce plants of hope. These plants remind us that things are not as bad as we think.

Today, what would it look like if 113,000 people from 203 countries decided to be voices of encouragement? America would be brighter, the world better, but the dress would still be blue.


Publication date: October 24, 2016

For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit

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

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Nadine Baum turned one hundred last week and was honored with a surprise party at her local McDonald's restaurant. Their present to her: free food for life. "I don't know what I did to deserve all this," she said. "I count my blessings every day."

Nadine is on to something.

Every morning brings new reasons to be discouraged by today's culture. Since our society decided decades ago that truth is subjective and morality is no one's business but ours, we've seen Western culture continue to spiral downward.

Abortion is now celebrated; children and the mentally ill are being euthanized; racial conflict is rising; sexually-transmitted diseases continue to spread. Churches and Christian schools that defend biblical marriage are worried about their tax-exempt status; transgender bathrooms are just the latest battle in the sexual revolution.

It's tempting to withdraw from our broken culture into a siege mentality that assumes the worst. What do we do when facing enemies who appear stronger and more numerous than we are?

David knew the feeling. King Saul was not only the sovereign ruler of the Jewish nation, he was also "taller than any of the people" (1 Samuel 9:2) and commander of the entire army. When he sought to murder David, the young shepherd's life was in mortal peril.

But Saul was actually in more danger than David. When the king rebelled against the will of God, he forsook the protection of God. He eventually killed himself rather than be captured by his enemies (1 Samuel 31:4) and David ascended to his throne.

In 2 Samuel 22 we find David celebrating his victory over Saul and his other enemies: "The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence" (vv. 2–3). Note the personal nature of his testimony: "I," "me," and "my" are used a total of twelve times in forty words.

What was the consequence of such passionate, intimate trust in God? "You exalted me above those who rose against me; you delivered me from men of violence" (v. 49). As a result, he testifies, "I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing praises to your name" (v. 50).

A refuge is helpful only if we trust it personally. It's not enough to study it, to preach or hear sermons about it, or to talk to other people about it. We must step inside its walls before its protection is ours.

Here's the point: Before you seek God's help, first seek his heart. Draw close to him in prayer and worship. Then ask him what he wants you to do to make a difference in our culture and obey his call. You'll have all the protection and power you need to accomplish your Kingdom assignment today.

Don't worry about what you cannot change—focus on what you can. C. S. Lewis notes, "The dentist who can stop one toothache has deserved better of humanity than all the men who think they have some scheme for producing a perfectly healthy race."

To change your culture, count your blessings and be a blessing. It's really that simple.

NOTE: I spoke recently in Dallas on my latest book, The State of Our Nation: 7 Critical Issues. The book is available in print and on Kindle. You can listen to the audio of my presentation here.


Publication date: October 21, 2016


For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit

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

Read today's First15 at