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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

John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, died yesterday at the age of ninety-five. Author Tom Wolfe called him “the last true national hero America has ever had.”

His successful circumnavigation of the globe in 1962 came when our nation was locked in a battle with the Soviet Union for superiority in space. The Washington Post notes, “In an era when fear of encroaching Soviet influence reached from the White House to kindergarten classrooms, Mr. Glenn, in his silver astronaut suit, lifted the hopes of a nation on his shining shoulders.”

The Post reports that Glenn “did not drink, smoke or swear and maintained a disciplined, straight-arrow manner” during his training and across his NASA career. He went on to serve four terms in the Senate representing the people of Ohio. In 1998 he joined the crew of the space shuttle Discovery, returning to space at the age of seventy-seven.

John Glenn was revered for his courage, morality, and commitment to service. But there’s another factor that explains all three, one that many of today’s obituaries are omitting.

Glenn told the world during his 1998 shuttle mission, “To look up out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible. It just strengthens my faith.” He told reporters that he was praying every day in orbit. He made public his faith across his career in the military, NASA, and public service.

His experience was not unique. As Chuck Colson noted, Buzz Aldrin’s first act when he landed on the moon was to celebrate communion. When Frank Borman commanded the first space crew to travel beyond Earth’s orbit, he radioed back a message quoting from Genesis 1: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” After James Irwin walked on the moon in 1971, he became an evangelical minister. Charles Duke followed Irwin to the moon and later became a missionary.

There’s something about experiencing the majesty of God’s creation that puts our lives in proper perspective. Every human is tempted to be his or her own god (Genesis 3:5). Autonomy is the creed of our culture. Many think they can define marriage, sexuality, and life itself with no reference to the God who instituted marriage, designed sexuality, and creates life.

But when we recognize that the universe is more complex and majestic than we can possibly comprehend, we are forced to recalibrate our self-sufficiency. As Louie Giglio says, “I am not but I know I Am.”

The Bible is clear: In Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). Not “some” but “all.” If you’re seeking wisdom and knowledge today, don’t look in the mirror or even to the stars. Look higher still.

When John Glenn’s tiny space capsule began liftoff at 9:47 AM on February 20, 1962, his backup pilot said on national television, “Godspeed, John Glenn.” Nearly five hours later, parts of his capsule broke off during reentry and burst into flame. Glenn later told reporters that he was aware of the danger but that he was committed to his mission.

Now he has embarked on the greatest mission of his life. Godspeed, John Glenn.


Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Publication date: December 9, 2016


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To no one’s surprise, Donald Trump is Time magazine’s Person of the Year. But the reason for his selection may surprise you.

Nancy Gibbs, Time‘s managing editor, points to the disruption Trump brought to America’s politics and the revolution he stirred. But as she notes, his campaign was made possible by an even larger disruption that has affected every dimension of our lives.

Gibbs: “We can scarcely grasp what our generation has wrought by putting a supercomputer into all of our hands, all of the time. If you are reading this, whether on a page or a screen, there is a very good chance that you are caught up in a revolution that may have started with enticing gadgets but has now reshaped everything about how we live, love, work, play, shop, share—how our very hearts and minds encounter the world around us. Why would we have imagined that our national conversation would simply go on as before, same people, same promises, same patterns?”

Gibbs cites an example: “Perhaps the President-elect will stop tweeting—but only because he will have found some other means to tell the story he wants to tell directly to the audience that wants to hear it.”

Every successful presidential candidate in my lifetime was chosen by a political party that then provided the infrastructure necessary for him to get his message to the nation. The candidate was obligated to work with the media in this regard, since they determine what they will print and air.

Donald Trump’s candidacy followed none of these norms. Most of the Republican Party establishment did all it could to prevent his nomination. Most of the mainstream media did all they could to prevent his election. But the technology of our day enabled him to speak directly to his followers in ways that galvanized their support and fueled his movement.

Such real-time leadership has continued after the election. For example, the president-elect tweeted last Tuesday morning about wanting to cancel a Boeing government contract. The market reacted within ten seconds, sending the price of Boeing stock down. What leaders do and say is heard instantly around the world and affects events more directly than ever before.

The Founders intended a balance of powers, but we’ve watched the Supreme Court disrupt centuries of moral tradition with a single decision, Congress pass bills that their constituents hate, and presidents sign executive orders to bypass their opposition. Our “post-truth” culture no longer views facts as objective or uses them to constrain our leaders.

These are challenging days for a nation that has lost its moral compass and whose economy can be affected by a tweet. That’s why our nation desperately needs culture-changing Christians who use their influence sacrificially for the common good.

If you supported Donald Trump, do not think your work is done now that he is president-elect and Time’s Person of the Year. If you opposed him, do not decide that your country no longer deserves or wants your service.

We serve an eternal King whose message affects eternal souls. That’s why “we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Who was Time magazine’s Person of the Year last year? The year before? Who will be in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 21:27) because of you?


Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

Publication date: December 8, 2016


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I will never forget my visit to Pearl Harbor. Janet and I joined a long line of tourists waiting to see the USS Arizona Memorial, which marks the final resting place of 1,102 sailors and Marines killed on the ship during the attack. The memorial straddles the sunken hull of the Arizona without touching it, enabling more than two million annual visitors to see the remains and remember those interred within them.

As we stood above the sunken vessel, my thoughts turned to my father. Dad was a Sunday school teacher while in high school and planned to be an optometrist before World War II began. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Army and fought in the South Pacific. The atrocities he witnessed damaged his body and affected his soul. Everything about his life changed because of this day seventy-five years ago.

President Franklin Roosevelt called December 7, 1941, “a date which will live in infamy.” As I reflect on this day, my thoughts turn to another man whose story will forever be a part of Pearl Harbor. Aloysius H. Schmitt was a Catholic priest from St. Lucas, Iowa. He was serving as a Navy chaplain aboard the USS Oklahoma on this fateful day.

The Washington Post tells his story. Father Schmitt had just said Mass that Sunday morning when his ship was hit by at least nine Japanese torpedoes and grazed by several bombs. The battleship quickly rolled over in the water, trapping hundreds of men below deck. Some were saved by rescue crews or swam underwater to find their way out. A few managed to escape through portholes. Father Schmitt is said to have helped as many as twelve sailors get out of one small compartment. He chose to remain behind while they crawled to safety. As a result, he died while they lived.

His remains were recovered from the Oklahoma wreckage during a months-long salvage operation, but they were too damaged and jumbled with other bodies to be identified. As a result, they were buried as “unknowns” in a Hawaii cemetery. Last September, Father Schmitt’s body was identified with the help of DNA retrieved from a skull bone and matched to a relative.

The priest’s chalice and prayer book were recovered from the wreckage a few months after the attack. They have been kept at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, the college from which Father Schmitt graduated in 1932. His prayer book was found marked with a page ribbon for the December 8 readings, including the Eighth Psalm in Latin:

Domine, Dominus noster, quam admirable est nomen tuam in universa terra! Translated, David’s words of praise read, “O Lord, our Lord, how magnificent is your name in all the earth!”

I believe that these words explain Father Schmitt’s courage.

We serve God sacrificially to the degree that we believe him worthy of our sacrifice. And we do not allow the sins of others to deter us from serving him if we know that our sins cannot change his majestic character.

Father Schmitt started December 7, 1941, by praising and serving our magnificent Lord. Let’s join him today.

NOTE: I invite you to read Our Unusual Christmas Gift, Janet’s article about my foot surgery and the peace of Christmas.


Publication date: December 7, 2016


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

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