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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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A transgender man has given birth after conceiving a child with his transgender wife. Fernando Machado was born a female; his partner Diane Rodriguez was born a male. Neither has completed sex reassignment surgery. As a result, the transgender man was impregnated by his transgender wife and bore a child.

Gender identity issues are increasingly in the news these days. The Wall Street Journal reports that sex reassignment surgery is becoming more common as a growing number of hospitals offer the procedure and insurance companies provide coverage. And efforts are underway to encourage more children to question their gender identity.

For instance, Washington State public school curriculum will begin teaching kindergarteners to "understand there are many ways to express gender." By grade five, students will be taught to "identify trusted adults to ask questions about gender identity and sexual orientation." We are likely to see more such initiatives: The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network received a $1.425 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control in 2011 to promote the LGBT agenda in public schools at taxpayers' expense.

It's no coincidence that unbiblical morality is increasing as trust in the Bible decreases. Since 1990, the American Library Association (ALA) has released each year a list of the ten "most challenged books." Now the ALA has released its 2015 list. For the first time, The Holy Bible is on the list. The only reason given: "Religious viewpoint."

According to Barna, the percentage of adults who read the Bible once a week or more is steadily declining. It is highest among Elders (49 percent) and lowest among Millennials (24 percent). In addition, the number of people who disagree strongly that "the Bible is totally accurate in all the principles it teaches" has nearly doubled in the last six years.

In the moral maelstrom of these days, how can you and I make a difference?

Surprisingly, our first job is not to change the culture. Rather, it is to keep the culture from changing us. Why would people want what we offer if it's no different than what they already have?

God's call is clear: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind" (Romans 12:2). Note the order: refuse to be conformed before you can be transformed.

God's Spirit wants to transform us into the character of Christ (Romans 8:29) by renewing our minds through Bible study, prayer, and other spiritual disciplines. But we must choose between following the fallen world and serving the risen Savior. We can be conformed to the culture or transformed by Christ, but we cannot be both (see 1 Kings 18:21).

If you were less like the world and more like Jesus, what would change in your life today?

Note: For more on today's conversation, please see my latest website article, Conformed or Transformed? 3 keys to God's best for your life. Also, I will be speaking on my latest book, State of Our Nation: 7 Critical Issues, at the Dallas Arboretum on October 4 at 7 PM. Cost is $10 and includes a free signed copy of my book. Click here to learn more and to register. I hope to see you there.

 

Publication date: September 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? 

Read today's First15 at www.first15.org.

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There's much debate this morning over the results of last night's presidential debate. Since undecided voters will likely decide the race, today's Wall Street Journal is focusing especially on their response. And CNN is fact-checking the debate and discussing its implications for the race.

My question is different: How does God view the debate and what it says about America? I think he would respond in at least two ways.

One: He is grieved by the divisiveness of our culture.

Today's New York Times actually understates the tone of the event: "Trump and Clinton Press Pointed Attacks in Debate." From the email scandal to the birther issue, the candidates spent a great deal of time attacking each other. In this sense, they represented the nation they hope to lead.

Lee Drutman noted in a recent New York Times article: "Rather than being one two-party nation, we are becoming two one-party nations." Drutman explains: most large cities, college towns, the Northeast and the West Coast are what he calls "deep-blue Democratic." The South, the Great Plains, the Mountain States and suburban and rural areas in between are "ruby-red Republican strongholds."

Neither "nation" is changing anytime soon.

"Confirmation bias" has been defined as "a tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions." We do this when we read and listen only to news sources with which we agree. Or when we watch a debate hoping our candidate will win rather than seeking to learn how each candidate would govern.

By contrast, God calls us to "have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind" (1 Peter 3:8). How much were these traits on display last night?

The Spirit wants to draw us to the Father that we might find unity in community with our Savior. As you discuss last night's debate and the ongoing campaign, will you be a force for division or a voice for Jesus? For more on ways we can respond to the divisiveness of our culture, please see my latest website article, Why Are We So Divided?

Two: He wants us to serve his children.

I think God cares less who won the debate than he cares who is winning and losing in America. He grieves that 43.1 million people in our country woke up in poverty this morning and that 42.2 million Americans live without access to sufficient food, including 13.1 million children. More than half a million of us are homeless. We are in the grip of "the worst drug addiction epidemic in United States history," according to one expert. Seventy-seven percent of Americans view pornography at least once a month.

How should we respond to these critical problems? By following God's call to serve those who need our help. Jesus taught us that whatever we do to "the least of these my brothers," we do to him (Matthew 25:40).

The divisiveness and challenges of our culture will persist long after last night's debate is forgotten. So will our opportunity to speak the truth in love and care for God's children. What our nation needs most can be found only in Christ.

C. S. Lewis was right: "God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing."

Note: For more on the debate, listen to Nick Pitts on WBAP at 7:15 AM and Point of View with Kerby Anderson at 1 PM.

 

Publication date: September 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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Tonight's debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is expected to be the most-watched political broadcast in American history. One reason is that the race is so close: a new poll puts Clinton ahead of Trump by two points, 46 percent to 44 percent. This is well within the margin of error. Among registered voters, each candidate has 41 percent support.

But another factor is the huge number of "undecideds" at this late stage of the campaign. Nearly 20 percent of voters say they are undecided or plan not to vote for the Democrat or the Republican. What they do on November 8 will likely determine the election.

Pollster Frank Luntz explains that these voters are undecided because they know a lot about both candidates but don't like either one. As a result, the surprising truth is that the Americans whose impressions of tonight's debate matters most are those who are least impressed by their options. Luntz likens them to children living through a bitter divorce: they are "watching with a mixture of fear and disdain as their parents argue, knowing they will soon be forced to choose with whom to live—a decision with no good outcome."

I think such a view of the election mirrors a larger anxiety in our culture today.

We're worried about the rising drug epidemic after seven people died from drug overdoses in Cleveland last Saturday. We're worried that attacks such as Friday night's mall shooting could happen where we live. We're worried about Zika and superbugs and the global economy.

And beneath our circumstantial fears, there's something even more visceral. Thomas Kelly: "Over the margins of life comes a whisper, a faint call, a premonition of richer living which we know we are passing by. Strained by the very mad pace of our daily outer burdens, we are further strained by an inward uneasiness, because we have hints that there is a way of life vastly richer and deeper than all this hurried existence, a life of unhurried serenity and peace and power."

How do we find "unhurried serenity" in a culture of discontent?

God's peace is directly aligned with his purpose. His Spirit cannot give tranquility to those who are outside his will for their lives. But when we focus our passion and resources on our Master's call, we experience his empowering peace.

As a result, peace is not a goal but a consequence. When we make God's purpose the highest priority of our lives, we will say to our Lord, "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you" (Isaiah 26:3).

Craig Denison notes: "God anoints all he appoints. He will perfectly equip and empower you to accomplish whatever task he has set before you." And with his equipping power he will give you his peace.

Tonight's debate will be all about the problems in America and the candidates' promises to solve them. But the greatest problem in America is one no candidate can solve. Thomas Merton: "We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God."

Are you at peace with God today?

 

Publication date: September 26, 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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