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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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Is President Obama's initiative to normalize relations with Cuba "another concession to tyranny"?  Or is it "a dream come true for the 11.2 million Cubans in Cuba"?  Is it "the right thing to do at the right time," or is it "dramatic overreach"?  (For more on this issue, see Nick Pitts's article 'Obama, Castro, and the Pope find peace in Canada'.)
 
Now that the Russian ruble has lost half its value in the face of international sanctions, is Vladimir Putin destroying his country's economy?  Or is he the solution to his nation's problems, as evidenced by the 81 percent approval rating he recently received from his people? 
 
The U.S. has determined that North Korea was behind the recent cyber-attack on Sony Pictures.  In response, the studio has chosen not to proceed with The Interview, the movie that reportedly incensed North Korean leaders.  Is this an act of discretion and prudence?  Or is it "an un-American act of cowardice that validates terrorist actions and sets a terrifying precedent"?  (For more on this issue, see James Peel's article 'Sony cancels movie after N. Korean terror threat'.)
 
Where are you facing confusion today?  What decision is perplexing you?  What dilemma is unresolved?  Where do you need wise counsel?
 
Has your holiday season been a time of peace and tranquility so far?  Christmas is unfortunately not "the most wonderful time of the year" for everyone.  Counselors see a rise in loneliness, overeating, overuse of alcohol, and family stress during the holidays.  And marital pressures during the season make January the busiest month of the year for divorce lawyers.
 
Here's the good news: the Baby of Bethlehem is our "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:7).  "Wonderful" in the Hebrew means "so full of wonder as to be miraculous."  "Counselor" points to a person of such wisdom that he or she can advise kings, thus the wisest person in the land.  "Mighty God" is literally "the God who possesses might."  "Everlasting Father" is literally "a Father forever."  "Prince of Peace" in the Hebrew is "the Prince who gives peace."
 
Jesus wants to do for you what he came at Christmas to do for us all.  He is ready to advise you with his omniscience, strengthen you with his omnipotence, love you with his unconditional grace, and grant you his transforming peace.  But as with all Christmas presents, his must be opened to be received.
 
So name your decision or problem.  Claim his promise: "Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it,' when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left" (Isaiah 30:21).  And trust his wisdom and power.
 
G. K. Chesterton said of Christmas, "The Child that played with moon and sun is playing with a little hay."  All of God there is, is in this moment.
 
 
Publication date: December 19, 2014

 

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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James Cash Penney went into the retail business as a young man and eventually established a chain of stores bearing his name.  He built 1,400 JCPenney stores before the stock market crash of 1929 left him in financial ruin.  Penney checked himself into a hospital, where he heard the hymn "God Will Take Care of You" being sung in the hospital's chapel and became a born-again Christian.  For the rest of his life, he used his influence to serve Christ by serving others.
 
Fast forward to November 2011, when JCPenney replaced longtime CEO Mike Ullman with Apple executive Ron Johnson.  Johnson immediately fired many of the company's leaders and tried to promote sweeping culture change for the organization, including a series of ads endorsing homosexuality.  Company stock nosedived.  Johnson was fired after less than two years, and Ullman was asked to step back in.
 
It was my privilege to meet and share a platform with Mike earlier this year.  I found him to be one of the most brilliant, engaging, humble leaders I've ever met.  His Christian commitment is clear and bold.  He has already improved the culture of JCPenney in remarkable ways.  Now his company has done something especially unusual, a promotion called "the gift of giving."
 
The now-viral video tells the remarkable story. JCPenney wanted to buy gifts for customers, but in an unusual way.  Store employees asked shoppers to find someone in the store they didn't know and offer to "buy" them a gift.  One gave a woman a sofa.  Another gave a couple their engagement ring.  A delighted girl was given a pair of slippers.  One tearful woman told her benefactors that it was her birthday.  People were clearly blessed to receive, and even more blessed to give.
 
We need such joy today.  TIME magazine reported four traits which lead to hypertension: (1) a tendency to get upset when having to wait, (2) a tendency to eat too quickly, (3) a feeling of pressure as the end of the regular workday approaches, and (4) a feeling of time pressure in general.  Do you have all four?  Then you are twice as likely as others to develop moderate to severe hypertension.
 
The Christmas season contributes to our stress.  The American Psychological Association says 69 percent of us are anxious about lack of time or money during the holidays.  Forty-two percent say they are so stressed by the holidays, they wish they could skip Christmas altogether.
 
Here's a solution: find someone to serve today.  The One whose birth we are celebrating promised, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).  As one of the JCPenney benefactors noted, "When you give, you grow."
 
How will you grow today?
 
 
Publication date: December 18, 2014

 

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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Taylor Swift is one of the most popular singers of our day—with everyone but some New Yorkers, as it turns out.  She has recently been named Global Welcome Ambassador for New York City, and released a new single, "Welcome to New York."  But critics complain that the song "celebrates as generic, flat, and lifeless a New York as has ever existed in pop culture."  Others call her a "whitebread out-of-towner" since she only recently moved to the city.
 
If we're going to connect with our culture, it's important that we listen to our culture.  No one knows this better than Dave Runyon, executive director of an amazing initiative in Denver called CityUnite.  I met Dave when we were together in New York City last October for Movement Day, and spoke recently with him about his work. 
 
"We call the party, ask the questions, then work together to accomplish things we could never do alone."  So Dave explains the remarkable success of their gospel movement.  CityUnite partners the faith community with business and government leaders to address major issues facing their area.  Over the past seven years, they have recruited over 80 churches to their network.
 
Their strategy works as a three-legged stool, each leg essential to the others.  Local government officials such as the sheriff and city council members know the issues of the community better than most.  These officials take the calls and hear the complaints of constituents.  They know the work that needs to be done for the good of the city.
 
The business leg provides leaders—women and men who know how to implement strategy and mobilize people to do the work.  And the faith community brings a strong spirit of volunteerism, understanding that they have not come to be served but to serve.  CityUnite has recruited 11 "city connectors" to facilitate these relationships between government, business, and faith communities.
 
And they have built a neighboring movement that calls Christians to obey Jesus' command to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39).  Dave notes that we too often turn Jesus' command into a metaphor.  CityUnite calls believers to build relationships on proximity: we learn our neighbors' names, show them Jesus' love, and share our lives with them.  There is great power in being served by our neighbor—borrowing a cup of sugar or power tool.  When the people of God walk outside their front door and build relationships, things happen.  Since we share the things we love, believers will naturally share Jesus with their neighbors.
 
What God is doing in Denver, he wants to do in your town.  Do you know your neighbors' names?  Would you take the initiative to build a relationship with them?  It can be as simple as borrowing a hammer or discussing the local news.  Taylor Swift wants to welcome us to New York—you and I have the privilege of welcoming people to Jesus.
 
NOTE: This January, our ministry is participating in Movement Day Greater Dallas. I will be facilitating the leadership track, Catalysts for Culture Change: Four ways to transform the world as a servant leader. You can sign up with early bird pricing until December 22.
 
 
Publication date: December 17, 2014

 

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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