Daily Briefing: July 19, 2017

Posted by    |    July 19th, 2017 at 6:23 am

T O P   N E W S


New GOP plan to repeal Obamacare meets fatal opposition (Politico)

“The opposition from GOP Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins came a day after Senate Republicans’ bill to replace Obamacare collapsed, and further imperiled President Donald Trump’s vow to dismantle the health law.
“But McConnell said Tuesday evening that he would hold a vote to proceed to the bill “early next week,” which would put senators on the record even if the vote’s outcome was preordained. McConnell said the vote was “at the request of the president and vice president and after consulting with our members.”

Nick Note: 27 percent of Americans approve of the Senate health care reform bill. For context purposes, Jar Jar Binks has a 29 percent favorable rating androot canals poll at 56 percent. If David Mayhew’s theory in his book Congress is correct that members are “single minded seekers of reelection,”this was an easy decision. It may have been easy, but it was not without reaction. Watch President Trump say “he is going to let Obamacare fail” and is not “going to own it.” Is it possible for a leader to do this? Is it right – especially considering Mr. Trump’s tweet from 2012? Perhaps too much attention and responsibility has been placed on Mr. Trump in this instance. WaPo notes four reasons Leader McConnell couldn’t get the Senate to replace Obamacare — yet. In other news, President Trump picked Jon Huntsman, the former Republican presidential candidate who served as Barack Obama’s ambassador to China, to serve as ambassador to Russia. And speaking of Russia, the White House acknowledged on late Tuesday that President Trump had a second, previously undisclosed, private conversation with President Vladimir Putin. President Trump is leading, Jon Huntsman will soon lead our efforts in Russia, and Leader McConnell continues to try to lead the Senate to repeal and replace Obamacare. But where are the women? EnterShe Should Run. This nonpartisan organization helps recruit and train women to run for public office. They recently launched a campaign called “250kBy2030.” It aims to have women make up half of the 500,000 elected positions in the U.S. within a little less than 13 years. Currently, women account for less than 25 percent of those positions. Anyone can be a critic but it takes more to be a leader. Deborah answered the call and took up the sword.  Amosanswered the call and left the farm. Habakkuk answered the call and plainly wrote directions for the people of God. What is God calling you to do? Let’s hope not a root canal…

Minnesota woman killed by police: Why the answers may be months away (CNN)

“Few people know why police killed Justine Ruszczyk — not her family, her friends, nor even the mayor. It’s been three days since the Australian-born Minnesota woman was killed after calling 911 to report a possible assault. And it may be several more months before the state’s Department of Public Safety reveals exactly what happened.
“That’s because the department’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is expected to take two to four months to investigate, said Chuck Laszewski, spokesman for the Hennepin County attorney’s office. According to officials, two officers responded to Ruszczyk’s report of a possible sexual assault in an alley near her home: Mohamed Noor and Matthew Harrity. So far, Harrity has spoken to investigators; Noor has not. Both are on administrative leave.”

Nick Note: Listen to the audio of the moment police made the call to dispatch here. Such a tragedy. Would you be willing to pray that the family would have comfort (2 Corinthians 1:2-4), the police would have wisdom (James 1:5), and we all might see justice in this case (Amos 5:24)?

Christian man accused of killing daughter who was dating a Muslim (CNN)

“An Israeli-Christian man is accused of stabbing his teenage daughter to death because, authorities say, he didn’t approve of her relationship with a Muslim man. Prosecutors say Sami Karra, 58, killed his daughter in their family home in the central Israeli town of Ramle, a day after she graduated from high school. The daughter, 17-year-old Henriette Karra, was in a relationship with a Muslim man, against the urging of her parents.”

Nick Note: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:43-44).”

C U L T U R A L   N E W S

Don’t text your ex: inside the booming industry of ‘breakup experts’ (The Guardian)

“Over six months, Adam paid $2,500 to Juarez, as she encouraged him to start working out, build a new social circle and study mindfulness…Juarez, who does much of her therapy over email and Skype, has become a bit of a one-stop shop for the broken-hearted. In addition to breakup coaching, which includes 24-hour social media support, Juarez will guide clients through a post-breakup home cleanse, work as an intermediary when it comes to the painful exchange of once-shared goods, and will even help clients secure transitional housing.
“This kind of therapy is part of a new niche being carved out by ambitious entrepreneurs offering to help with healing a broken heart. A Canadian “relationship expert” recently launched Renew Breakup Bootcamp, a three-day program that promises to gently move participants through the stages of mourning and detachment. Mend is a new app and online community that encourages journaling and “detoxing from your ex.”

Nick Note: There used to be a day that after listening to Toni Braxton’s Unbreak My Heart on repeat for a few hours, you would be good to go. That day is not today. Christina Westover is right: unrequited love is the curse of a lonely heart. And unfortunately, in today’s world, we watch Friends but don’t have that many friends. Over a 20-year period, the average American has gone from having approximately 3 friends to 1 friend – but we do have on average338 Facebook friends. Be the Jonathan you need (1 Samuel 18) and karaoke to Kelly Clarkson with your newly single friend.

The Subtly Power of the Uncomfortable Silence (BBC)

“Even among sign language speakers, studies show that typically we leave just a fraction of a second between taking turns to talk. But while this pattern may be universal, our perceptions of silence differ dramatically across cultures – a crucial detail if you’re doing business internationally.
Research conducted at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands in Dutch and also in English found that when a silence in conversation stretched to four seconds, people started to feel unsettled. In contrast, a separate study of business meetings found that Japanese people were happy with silences of 8.2 seconds – nearly twice as long as in Americans’ meetings.”

Nick Note: In his phenomenal book When Cultures Collide, Richard Lewis notes the differences that exist between cultures. For example, the most senior person holds their head the highest in Indonesia. Be prepared in South Africa to hug. And when in South Korea, table manners include slurping soup and smacking lips. Concerning the quiet, a silent response to a business proposal is negative to an American, French, or German business person. But according to a Chinese proverb: “Those who know do not speak; those who speak do not know.” (James 1:19)

People Don’t Exercise Much More Even If You Pay Them to Go to the Gym (WSJ)

“A new study, circulated by the National Bureau of Economic Research as a working paper, described a recent experiment in which new gym members were given up to $60 based on attendance over a six-week period. They worked out a bit more than people who weren’t paid to exercise, but in the longer run both groups ended up going to the gym about once a week.
“The study noted new gym members were “extremely overoptimistic about how often they will visit the gym, and there is a fast decline in their visit frequency over the first few months of membership.” On average, they said they’d go about three times a week, but started off going twice a week and after a couple of months were exercising just once a week.”

Nick Note: The Dixie Chicks are Ready to Run, the Blues Traveler is Running Around, and I am running late this morning. Nevertheless, we read in the Scriptures about the importance of tending to the temple of the Holy Spirit – your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). But Paul also encourages us with this truth: “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Timothy 4:8).”

Study: 1 in 4 US jobs at risk of offshoring (AOL)

“Drawing on new and existing research focused on job movement and potential displacement in the U.S., the researchers indicated as many as 25 percent of American jobs could be offshored in the years ahead, at risk of replacement by foreign competition. And half of all low-skill jobs could eventually be automated, potentially displacing millions of U.S. workers.
“[T]here is a great degree of regional variation in the risk of job losses due to offshoring and automation. There are clear clusters of high risk in the industrialized Midwest and in several urban places across the country,” the report says. “Industrial structure, educational attainment and the degree of rurality all affect the potential employment risk of increased automation and trade-related job losses.”

Nick Note: Kenny Loggins sung about the Danger Zone but one in four American workers are working in that zone because of the risk of losing their job. U.S. workers have been in their current job for a median of 4.2 years in January 2016—that’s up from 3.7 years in 2002 and 3.5 in 1983, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For millennials, we jump jobs four times in our first decade out of college. That’s nearly double the bouncing around the generation before us did. Technological innovation and globalization both create jobs and unfortunately send jobs overseas. Should we lament these factors and wish for the good old days? No (Ecclesiastes 7:10, Revelation 21:5). Instead, we work hard, pray continuously, educate ourselves continually, and thank God frequently (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18, Colossians 3:23, Proverbs 2:4-5).

Many people can’t tell when photos are fake. Can you?  (WaPo)

“In a test designed by Nightingale and taken by more than 700 men and women, participants could tell an image was faked only 60 percent of the time — a little better than if they guessed completely at random. And with the correct picks, only 45 percent of participants could pinpoint what had been changed in a photo. (Men were slightly more adept at finding the specific change.)
“It’s a bit worrying,” said Nightingale, whose study was published Monday in the journal Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications. “Photos are incredibly powerful. They influence how we see the world. They can even influence our memory of things. If we can’t tell the fake ones from the real ones, the fakes are going to be powerful, too.”

Nick Note: Click here to take the short test yourself. Knowing the truth helps when trying to identify fakes. Do you know the truth? (Titus 1:9)

N E W S   Y O U   C A N   U S E

Naval Officer Is First Off Ship, But Crowd Goes Nuts When He Immediately Drops To A Knee & Proposes.

Nick Note: Watch it here. This man is on a mission for the woman he loves. In a similar fashion, our God is on the march. You can run from the Lord, but you cannot hide from the Lord (Psalm 139:7-8, Jonah). 

Bride gets amazing surprise when late father’s best friend walks her down the aisle

Nick Note: Watch it here. I think there is something in my eye….You can love with your words and deeds, but don’t forget about the power of your presence (1 John 3:18). The greatest gift you can give today is your presence (Romans 8:32). 

Storm the Dog Saves A Baby Deer From Drowning

Nick Note: Watch it here. “He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me (Psalm 18:19).”

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How to respond to the intolerance of tolerance

Posted by    |    July 19th, 2017 at 5:53 am

A Pennsylvania high school banned a pro-life club but allowed a gay club. There are now more than 900 “Gay-Straight Alliance Clubs” in American schools. Drag queens are reading stories to kindergartners in a New York Public Library.

Does it seem to you that tolerance is our culture’s only “truth”?

Last week I wrote a Daily Article on the question, should a Christian attend a same-sex wedding? My article elicited a wide range of responses. All were gracious; most readers agreed with the position I suggested. However, some took different positions and several asked about attending the wedding of a Christian marrying a non-Christian, a couple who is living together, or a divorced couple.

Nearly all of us are affected directly by these issues. In order to discuss them more fully, I wrote a white paper for our website titled simply, When To Attend A Wedding. I invite you to read the paper and would like to devote this article to a related theme: What is the balance between grace and truth?

We know that Christianity is a relationship with God founded on his grace: “It is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). We are all sinners in need of salvation and sanctification. The closer we get to God, the further away we realize we are.

How can we refuse others the grace we have received? How can we be legalistic with their sins when the Lord has been so forgiving of ours? When we consider the way Jesus welcomed tax collectors and lepers and prostitutes into his movement, how can we do less?

Whether the issue is homosexuality, adultery, divorce, or any other moral issue, it feels so “Christian” to offer grace to all without judgment. It seems so right to simply love people and trust God to deal with their issues. After all, the last thing we want is to turn someone from eternal salvation because we were intolerant of them.

But this kind of blanket acceptance and tolerance is hard to find in God’s word. Remember what happened when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden? When mankind rebelled against God in the time of Noah? When Israel disobeyed his word in the wilderness?

Open the writings of any biblical prophet and you’re likely to find a word of warning against the sins of their day. For instance, I just opened my Bible randomly and it fell to Jeremiah 49:31: “Rise up, advance against a nation at ease, that dwells securely, declares the Lord.” Read the book of Revelation if you wonder whether our holy God tolerates sin.

Here’s the balance between grace and truth: God’s truth leads us to obedience that positions us to experience God’s grace. The most gracious thing we can do for others, therefore, is to offer them biblical truth. We need to do so with humility in love, but they deserve to know God’s word on the issues we face.

We are beggars telling beggars where we found bread. Is there a greater privilege?

Note: For more on the subject of marriage and tolerance, see Ryan Denison’s new website article, A glimpse into our future?

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When to attend a wedding

Posted by    |    July 18th, 2017 at 4:30 pm

I wrote a Daily Article on July 12, 2017 on this question: Should a Christian attend a same-sex wedding? My article elicited a wide range of responses. All were gracious; most readers agreed with the position I suggested.

However, some took different positions and several asked about the larger issues involved with wedding attendance. What about a Christian marrying a non-Christian? What if the marrying couple is living together before their wedding? What if either person has been divorced? If we don’t attend the wedding, how can we minister to the couple?

These issues are too involved to be addressed fully in a Daily Article, so I’ve written this white paper in hopes of providing guidelines. Let’s begin with some biblical context.

Christians marrying non-Christians

Deuteronomy 7:4 prohibited the Jews from marrying members of various Canaanite nations. Upon their return from Babylon, Nehemiah further prohibited the people from marrying Gentiles (Nehemiah 13:23–30). Gentiles could marry Jews only if they converted to Judaism. As a result, the question of intermarriage outside the Jewish faith was not a practical issue during Jesus’ earthly ministry.

This issue arose, however, when the Christian movement expanded into the larger Gentile world. In Corinth, a city notorious for its immoral culture, the question of Christians marrying non-Christians rose to such a level that Paul warned the Corinthians, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

His metaphor has applications outside marriage, but most commentators believe that it applies to the question of Christians marrying nonbelievers. We know that such marriages existed in Corinth (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:12–16). A Christian who was married to a non-Christian should not divorce her if she were willing to live with him. However, he was not so obligated if the non-Christian left the marriage.

In summary, Paul clearly discouraged Christians from choosing to marry non-believers.

Sex before marriage

God intends sex as a beautiful expression of the marriage covenant (cf. Genesis 1:28 and numerous passages in the Song of Solomon). However, his word reserves sex only for marriage. Other sexual activity is considered immoral (1 Corinthians 7:2; Hebrews 13:4).

While cohabitation is more common than ever, such arrangements are inconsistent with God’s intention for the marriage covenant.

The issue of divorce

God says, “I hate divorce” (Malachi 2:16, NASB). However, I believe that his word offers three exceptions.

Adultery

Jesus’ teaching on this issue was clear: “Everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 5:32). “Sexual immorality” refers to adultery, sexual relations between a person and someone who is not their spouse. Such an act breaks the marriage union, rendering it null and void.

Divorcing a woman for any other reason “makes her commit adultery” since she will need to remarry to support herself but is still married to her husband in the eyes of God. “Whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” as well.

Abandonment

In 1 Corinthians 7:15, Paul focuses on a marriage between a Christian and a non-Christian with this injunction: “If the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.” If the nonbeliever abandons the marriage, the believer is innocent.

Abuse

Physical, emotional, and verbal abuse are epidemic in marriages today. While the Bible nowhere addresses abuse with regard to divorce, I believe we can draw two conclusions from biblical truth.

First, abuse is always wrong: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Wives are to just as loving, supportive, and sacrificial with their husbands (Eph. 5:22–24).

Second, life must be protected: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). You must protect yourself and your children from abuse.

As a result, biblical counselors recommend that an abused person separate from the spouse immediately. Get yourself and your children to safety. Seek intensive counseling. But don’t give up—God can heal any marriage if both partners surrender fully to him. I’ve seen abusers repent and be restored. Consider divorce only as the lesser of two evils in order to protect the abused, and only if there are no other options.

As I understand Scripture, these are the conditions under which divorce is permissible biblically: adultery, abandonment and abuse. Note that the Bible does not prescribe divorce even in these painful circumstances, but only permits it.

If you’ve been divorced

What if you’ve already experienced divorce as a result of adultery, abandonment, or abuse? You are the innocent party. You will need counseling, healing, and help. But you must reject the guilt you may feel and move forward into God’s grace and hope.

What if your divorce was not for biblical reasons? Here I must speak very carefully. I want to do nothing which will encourage someone considering a divorce to do so. The consequences of divorce are very real, and those who have experienced them know their pain better than anyone else.

But at the same time, know that divorce is not the “unpardonable sin.” God can forgive any person who repents and returns to his word and will. Scripture is clear: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). “All” includes divorce.

God wants to help you and heal you. He plans to prosper you and not harm you, to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). The Bible is clear: “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion” (Isaiah 30:18 NIV). God grieves with you, cries with you, walks with you, and accepts and loves you just as you are, right now.

As I understand Scripture, remarriage is a biblical option for you. With counsel and help, restoration and healing, I believe God can lead you into another marriage. In the churches I pastored, every ministry of the church was open to those who had experienced divorce. There were those among our ministry staff, our deacons, Sunday school teachers and choir members who had experienced the pain of divorce. And God used them in wonderful ways.

Billy Graham said, “I am opposed to divorce and regard the increase in divorces today as one of the most alarming problems in society. However, I know that the Lord can forgive and heal.”

I readily admit that many Bible-believing Christians will disagree with me on this issue. Some believe that a non-biblical divorce exempts a person from remarriage. Others believe that the biblical prohibitions against divorce are less relevant in today’s pluralistic society. I can only state my understanding of Scripture while recognizing that others view God’s word on this issue differently.

Same-sex weddings

In my Daily Article for July 12, 2017, I addressed the subject of same-sex weddings. There I offered four biblical facts which I will reproduce here:

One: Scripture forbids same-sex sexual relations. I have written extensively on this issue (see my How to Defend Biblical Marriage, for example). A same-sex marriage contradicts God’s intention for us.

Two: God created and defined marriage. In his view, marriage is only between a man and a woman (cf. Genesis 1:28; Jeremiah 29:6; Matthew 19:4–5; 1 Corinthians 7:14). Therefore, a same-sex “marriage” is not a biblical marriage.

(Some claim that God’s word doesn’t address this subject, alleging that such marriages did not exist in the biblical era. This is not true. Same-sex relations were known in ancient Canaan; the emperor Nero was married to two men in separate ceremonies. Biblical writers had abundant opportunity to endorse such relationships, but they consistently forbade them.)

Three: We should not endorse what the Bible prohibits. Paul refused to engage in behavior that would make his brother “stumble” (1 Corinthians 8:13). Our witness is vital to our public ministry as followers of Jesus.

Four: God loves gay people and calls us to do the same. We are all broken by sin (Romans 3:23). Jesus died for all sinners (Romans 5:8) and loves us unconditionally (John 3:16). Now we are to love others because “he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Foundational principles

In light of the biblical discussion above, it is clear that the Lord’s perfect will for marriage is a man and woman who are virgins and enter into a lifelong covenant of marriage. If you are invited to attend the wedding of two non-believers, or a Christian and a non-Christian, or a cohabitating couple, or a same-sex couple, what should you do?

Let’s begin by acknowledging that we are asking questions the Bible does not address specifically. Apart from Jesus’ ministry to the wedding in Cana (John 2) and references to weddings as metaphors for our relationship with Jesus (cf. Matthew 25:1–12; Revelation 19:6–10), the New Testament does not speak directly to the wedding ceremony itself. Nor do we find specific principles regarding which weddings we should attend.

As a result, we must apply biblical principles to this issue. Sincere Christians are likely to disagree on such applications. I offer the following as guidelines while encouraging you to seek and follow the Lord’s leadership in your life.

One: God forgives all that we confess to him.

His word repeatedly assures us that his forgiveness is absolute (1 John 1:9) as he separates our sins from us “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12), casts it “into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19), and remembers it no more (Isaiah 43:25). Whether the issue involves marriage to a non-Christian, unbiblical divorce, sex before marriage, or same-sex activity, his grace is greater than our sins.

Two: He can forgive only what we confess.

God’s forgiveness is conditional in only one way: we must first admit our sins to him in a spirit of repentance (Acts 3:19; 2 Corinthians 7:10). Just as Jesus called the Samaritan woman to repentance (John 4), so he calls us to repent of our sins and turn to him for his forgiving grace. When we do, he will always forgive us and restore us to himself.

Three: Our ministry to people is our highest Kingdom priority.

Souls are eternal. Millennia after a wedding has been forgotten, those who participated in it and attended its celebration will be either with the Lord or separated from him. Thus, our decision regarding whether to attend a wedding should be motivated by what actions will best enable us to minister to those involved.

Four: Our public witness is vital to our Kingdom service.

If people know that we follow Jesus, they will interpret our actions in light of our faith. Everywhere we go and everything we do is a Kingdom matter. The culture judges Christ by Christians.

Practical principles

How do these principles relate to issues regarding wedding attendance? The following suggestions comprise my view on the subject; I expect some sincere believers to have different views.

One: If a Christian couple has engaged in non-biblical activity prior to their wedding (living together or a nonbiblical divorce, for instance) but has repented and sought God’s forgiveness, I would attend their wedding. Even though their repentance may not be known to others and my attendance might be interpreted as endorsing their previous sins, I would give higher priority to the couple and my ministry with them than I would to avoiding being misunderstood by others.

Two: If a Christian couple has not been repentant, I would not attend their wedding. I would explain to them that I do not believe God can bless their union and would not want to encourage it by my attendance. I would do everything possible to assure them of my love for them and explain that I intend only what is best for them.

Three: If the couple are not Christians, I would decide whether to attend their wedding based on my relationship with them. If I could explain my absence in a way that would not jeopardize my future ministry to them, I would avoid the wedding lest I imply an endorsement of their previous sins. If I believe that this decision would endanger my ability to minister to them, however, I would place the highest priority on their eternal salvation and would therefore attend the wedding.

I would make an exception for a same-sex wedding, however, for reasons discussed next.

Four: If the wedding is between a same-sex couple, they are obviously not repentant. Therefore, I could not attend their wedding. As I noted in my July 12 Daily Article,

“I would meet with the couple beforehand to explain: because I care for them, I cannot endorse what I believe is not best for them. I will pray for them and want to be involved in their lives. But I believe that a wedding celebrates a sacred covenant between a couple and God. I cannot attend such a ceremony if it violates his word and will.

“Since my decision may damage my relationship with the couple, I would do all I could before and after the wedding to demonstrate my love for them. Jesus ate with sinners (Matthew 9:10) and calls us to love everyone he loves. But love sometimes requires us to say what people need to hear even when it is not what they want to hear.”

In my view, attending the wedding implies an endorsement of their lifestyle on a more significant level than for heterosexuals living together or coming out of divorce. Unless those in the audience know the heterosexual couple well, they are not likely to know of these issues in their lives. However, a gay wedding is obviously the union of a same-sex couple. My attendance would suggest my support for their lifestyle in a way I feel should be avoided.

With the other issues we have discussed, the focus is on the couple’s past. With a same-sex wedding, the focus is on the couple’s future. My participation in their wedding indicates my endorsement of a lifestyle God’s word prohibits.

Here is an exception to what I have suggested above: there may be situations where our decision not to attend a “non-biblical” wedding would damage our relationship with the couple irrevocably. In this case, even though we intend to communicate biblical truth to them through our decision, we could render future ministry to the couple impossible.

In such situations, it may be necessary for us to attend such a wedding for the sake of future relationship. We could find precedent in Jesus’ decision to eat a meal with the noted sinner Zacchaeus. As a result of their relationship, the tax collector repented of his sins in a very public and profound way (Luke 19:1–10).

This provision, however, could easily be used to justify any decision to attend a “non-biblical” wedding. In my view, a person should make such an exception only if he or she is led clearly by the Holy Spirit to do so.

Conclusion

Jesus associated so frequently with Gentiles and other “sinners” that the religious authorities of his day criticized him for such relationships (cf. Matthew 9:10–12). He responded, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (v. 13).

Our goal regarding wedding attendance and any other public function should be the same. What will communicate biblical truth most effectively? What will preserve our witness while advancing our ministry?

Our Father loves us all, regardless of our mistakes and failures. His Son died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). We are all broken people in need of his saving grace. In fact, we are all broken sexually. Whether our sins are heterosexual lust, premarital sex, adultery, or homosexual activity, none of us is exempt.

As a result, we should approach the issue of wedding attendance in humility and grace, seeking to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Our holy Father and our fallen culture deserve no less.

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A glimpse into our future?

Posted by    |    July 18th, 2017 at 3:49 pm

It’s not often that we’re afforded a glimpse into our future, but that might be exactly what we have with the emerging crisis faced by conservative Jews in America. As The Atlantic‘s Emma Green writes, a group composed mostly of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly met in late June to discuss whether or not they would change their position on marriage between a Jew and someone outside of the faith. While that specific issue is not of great significance for Christians in America, the circumstances in which many feel a change is necessary are all-too familiar.

Conservative and Orthodox Jews have long held that the marriage of someone inside the faith with someone from a different religious background violated the tenets of Jewish Law. Such a union typically led to ostracization from the larger community, but that’s no longer the case in many circles. The primary cause for the unofficial shift is the realization that, as rabbi Felicia Sol put it, such policies mean that “We could lose a generation, if not the future of Jewish life.”

Still, others struggle with giving up such a central belief in the name of appearing more open to the larger culture. David Wolpe, the senior rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, spoke for many when he told Green “To bless an intermarried union is . . . to in some way betray the very thing that I’ve given my life to, which is to try and maintain the Jewish tradition.”

He would go on to add that such a marriage “may be beautiful, it may be loving, it may be worth celebrating on a human level. But on a Jewish level, it’s not fine, and it can’t be made fine.” While a person would have to “have a heart of granite,” in Wolpe’s words, not to sympathize with those in such a union, that doesn’t change the fact that it goes against his understanding of God’s will and law. As he concluded, “I don’t necessarily feel that someone else’s need is my obligation . . . Someone else may need a rabbi to bless that union, or may want a rabbi to bless that union. It doesn’t mean that I have to do it.”

While it would be easy to remain focused on the issue of marriage and some of the parallels it has to frequent discussions of a similar sort within Evangelical circles, the larger picture is more important. You see, Conservative Jews got to this point by slowly conceding theological ground over a long stretch of time. It wasn’t so much any one decision that led them here but rather a shift in attitude that placed a greater emphasis on staying relevant to the culture around them than on adhering to their understanding of the law.

That delicate balance between relevance and faithfulness is one that seems difficult for us to consistently walk as well. Scripture is clear on where our loyalties should lie when forced to make such a choice (Matthew 10:32–33, 37–39) but, as a church, we’ve grown increasingly adept at expanding that grey area between absolutes to include matters on which the Bible speaks more clearly than we might prefer to believe. And the error is usually one of motivation over an ability to understand God’s word.

When we approach Scripture looking for evidence that it’s alright to go along with the culture on an issue rather than taking our question before God’s word, with as little bias as possible, and desiring its honest answer above everything else, we are bound to eventually stumble. Many in the Jewish faith are now beginning to pay the consequences for such a choice, but perhaps part of God’s redemption for those mistakes is to provide us with a glimpse into our future unless we actively set out to follow a different course.

Most of us have a pet sin or two that we prefer to overlook or rationalize away. We may know deep down that Scripture teaches such an action or belief is wrong, but we’re pretty good at either ignoring that reality or finding some way to convince ourselves it’s simply not so. Oftentimes we compound that mistake by speaking harshly against the specks in the eyes of others in order to take the focus away from the log we’ve grown comfortable with carrying around in our own lives (Matthew 7:1–5). Such a path can only hurt our witness and our relationship with the Lord, but far too often we walk it gladly.

C.S. Lewis once remarked “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different.” One of the greatest problems facing our church is an unwillingness to look back and honestly assess how far we’ve drifted from the foundation of God’s word. Day by day, our beliefs and practices look much the same, but the truth is that every time we choose relevance over truth or the easy path over the one God has set before us, we lose just a tiny bit more of ourselves to the enemy’s delight and our Lord’s disappointment.

We don’t have to look far to see where this destructive path will lead, but the choice is ours whether or not we will continue to follow it. So choose this day whether you will serve the gods of culture or the God of truth (John 14:6), and then know that it’s a choice you’ll have to make every day between now and eternity. Choose wisely.

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PUNISHING YOUR SPOUSE FOR THEIR MISTAKES:

Posted by    |    July 18th, 2017 at 9:26 am

People make mistakes in marriage, sometimes really, REALLY bad mistakes. Many innocent spouses often feel like it’s their duty (or right) to punish their spouse for mistakes they’ve made in the marriage. They punish their spouse with things like the silent treatment, guilt trips, withholding affection, or constantly acting angry and hurt.
 
When you choose to be the punisher, instead of the healer, here are some things that happen in your relationship …
 
1. You poison your marriage even worse.
 
2. You cause even more bitterness to set into your relationship.
 
3. You greatly delay the recovery and healing that needs to take place in your marriage.
 
4. Instead of bringing healing your marriage, you drive your spouse farther and farther away.
 
Instead of punishing them with the things above, do your best to no longer hold it against them. It doesn’t mean what they did was right, it simply means you’re going to choose not to retaliate. It means you value your marriage over your pride and your hurt. It won’t be easy, but you will actually find more peace in it than you will in retaliating.
 
“But they deserve to be punished … ” we often here. Think of it this way, everyday God doesn’t give you and I the punishment that we deserve … AND He expects us to treat others the same way.

Daily Briefing: July 18, 2017

Posted by    |    July 18th, 2017 at 6:45 am

T O P   N E W S


GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell Abandons Health-Care Bill (WSJ)

“Senate GOP leaders gave up their effort to dismantle and simultaneously replace much of the Affordable Care Act, after the defections of two more Republican senators left the party short of the votes needed to pass President Donald Trump’s top legislative priority of his first seven months in office.
“In a strategy facing long odds, the majority leader said the Senate would instead vote in coming days on a bill the chamber passed in late 2015 to unravel most of the ACA, a measure former President Barack Obama vetoed in January 2016.
“But many Republican senators have balked at this strategy, saying they wouldn’t feel comfortable rolling back the ACA without being able to tell their constituents what would supplant it.”

Nick Note: Repeal and replace is out and Caitlyn Jenner is in? Trump supporter Caitlyn Jenner, the Olympic gold medalist and transgender activist, is weighing a run for the U.S. Senate. If she runs in 2018, she will run against Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Mr. Trump lost California by 4 million votes). But back to healthcare, click here to find out where your Senator stands on the bill. When Sens. Mike Lee (Utah) and Jerry Moran (Kan.) issued statements last night declaring that they would not vote for the revamped measure, they not only joined Sens. Rand Paul (KY) and Susan Collins (Maine) in their no vote, butthey also sank the bill. Mr. Trump was hosting a strategy dinner for the bill with Senators at the White House when this news broke. This caused quite the hullabaloo in the Made in America week programming. And House members added to it by releasing their fiscal 2018 budget resolution this morning, and it assumes that all of the policies in the House-passed Affordable Care Act repeal bill, the American Health Care Act, will become law. However, President Trump is behind the wheel – literally a firetruck wheel. Picture here. Yesterday, in light of the week, the Trump administration released its statement of objectives for NAFTA renegotiation. Mr. Trump strikes a different tenor than he did three months ago when he was on the verge of leaving NAFTA. Both NAFTA and the healthcare bill will require compromise in order to achieve some level of success. Essential to compromise is differentiating the glass balls from the rubber balls. What can you drop, allowing to come back at a later time, and what must you clutch tightly? In the Scriptures, Acts 15 and Genesis 18epitomize compromise. As has been said: “In essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.”

Immigration arrests up, deportations down (USA Today)

“Arrests of undocumented immigrants by federal agents increased in June, but deportations fell to their lowest point this year as the nation’s court system sees bigger backlogs, according to data released Monday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“ICE agents arrested 13,914 people last month, following a trend since President Trump took office in January and his campaign promise to crack down on illegal immigration.
“In the final three months of the Obama administration, ICE averaged 9,134 arrests per month. That number has steadily increased under Trump, with the agency averaging 13,085 each month from February through June.”

Nick Note: Compare this with news that that the Department of Homeland Security will make 15,000 more visas available for seasonal workers, increasing by nearly 50 percent the number of foreigners able to work in the U.S. this summer. Businesses and members of Congress complained about a significant shortfall in H-2B visas that left hotels, restaurants, and other businesses scrambling, unable to handle the amount of summer business. The biblical narrative invites the reader into tension. On one end of the spectrum, Christians do not oppress the foreigner (Exodus 23:9), fight for justice for the foreigner (Malachi 3:5), provide food for the foreigner (Leviticus 19:9-10), and invite them in as you would Jesus (Matthew 25:25-36). On the other end, the Christian understands the government is tasked with restraining and punishing evil (Romans 13:4), enacting justice (Romans 13:5), and fostering an atmosphere of peace (1 Timothy 2:2). But ultimately, the Bible is a story about a King coming back for his people, not a policy book ascertaining who should be in and out. Yes, there is a great need for compassion during this time. And yes, there should be a great amount of caution in crafting policy decisions.

Taiwan woman divorces husband who ignored her messages (BBC)

“A woman in Taiwan has been granted a divorce, using the “Read” indicators on the Line messages she had sent to her husband as proof that he had been ignoring her. The app showed he had opened the text messages, but didn’t reply to any of them. A judge ruled in her favour earlier this month. The judge in Hsinchu district’s family affairs court cited the ignored Line messages as key evidence of the woman’s marriage being beyond repair, ruling that she was therefore entitled to a divorce.”

Nick Note: When you “blue-tick” someone, you read the text but don’t reply to the text. The Scriptures make no mention of blue-ticking someone, but they do offer a strong word concerning divorce (Matthew 19:1-12). The husband may have been listening to his wife, but he has been called to love his wife, sacrifice for his wife, and sanctify his wife (Ephesians 5:25-31).

K.K.R. Lays Out a Line of Succession, a Rare Move in Private Equity (NY Times)

“Now, more than 40 years after setting up K.K.R., the two billionaire cousins have finally outlined the future of a firm where the K, the K and the R are all gone.
“In naming Joseph Y. Bae and Scott C. Nuttall as K.K.R.’s co-presidents and co-chief operating officers on Monday, Mr. Kravis and Mr. Roberts unveiled one of the clearest lines of succession in the private equity industry.
“Succession planning is something that a number of the public alternative asset managers will have to increasingly think about as each still has founders actively involved,” analysts at JMP Securities wrote in a research note on Monday.”

Nick Note: Contra to Beyonce, we are not Irreplaceable. We all have a certain number of days and then we don’t (Hebrews 9:27). Are you investing your talents and gifts well (Matthew 25:14-30)? Who succeeds you (2 Timothy 2:1-2)? Who replaces you and extends the work you have been doing on the Nehemiah like wall?

C U L T U R A L   N E W S

The scientific reason no one wants to see your PowerPoint presentation (QZ)

“PowerPoint is less persuasive and less effective, according to a study from researchers at Harvard University and the Keck Graduate Institute in Claremont, California.
“Audiences consistently prefer animated websites and advertisements over their static equivalents, the researchers said, and tend to rate presentations that use them more highly, regardless of content. “Because ZUI presentations are more engaging than slideshows, ZUI presentations and presenters are judged more positively than slideshows,” the researchers said.”

Nick Note: In Walter Issacson’s phenomenal work Steve Jobs, he recounts Steve’s opinion on PowerPoint: “I hate the way people use slide presentations instead of thinking… If you need slides, it shows you don’t know what you’re talking about.” While some may argue against this line of thinking, both sides illuminate a divine truth: the content and delivery are significant factors in communication. We must speak the truth, but do so in a loving, gentle, and respectful fashion (Ephesians 4:15, 1 Peter 3:15). PowerPoint optional. 

Atheists are less open-minded than religious people, study claims (The Independent)

“Religious people are more tolerant of different viewpoints than atheists, according to researchers at a Catholic university. A study of 788 people in the UK, France and Spain concluded that atheists and agnostics think of themselves as more open-minded than those with faith, but are are actually less tolerant to differing opinions and ideas.
“Religious believers “seem to better perceive and integrate diverging perspectives”, according to psychology researchers at the private Catholic University of Louvain (UCL), Belgium’s largest French-speaking university. Filip Uzarevic, who co-wrote the paper, said his message was that “closed-mindedness is not necessarily found only among the religious”.

Nick Note: Isaiah noted how God offered an invitation to come and reason together (Isaiah 1:18). Spurgeon correctly noted that we don’t defend the Bible because the Bible is like a lion in that it can defend itself. John Milton: “Let her (truth) and falsehood grapple in a field, for I have never known truth to be put asunder.”

Here Are America’s Favorite Ice Cream Flavors (Food & Wine)

“To conduct its survey, the IDFA reached out to both its members who make and market ice cream as well as members of the National Ice Cream Retailers Association. After crunching the numbers, vanilla and chocolate came in one and two, followed by Cookies N’ Cream, Mint Chocolate Chip and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. But as IDFA vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs Cary Frye explained, vanilla’s dominance may stem less from consumer’s love of the flavor, and more from its versatility.”

Nick Note: As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord and indulge in the glorious Blue Bell Birthday Cake (Joshua 24:15, 1 Corinthians 10:31).

N E W S   Y O U   C A N   U S E

Star Wars, but all of the light saber sounds are Owen Wilson saying “wow”

Nick Note: Watch it here. Wow communicates awe. Paul Tripp is right: “Sin makes us blind to the glory of God and because we are blind, it causes us to live without awe.” Fight well by being in awe of our majestic God (Psalm 27:4). 

The Best Baby Announcement Ever

Nick Note: Watch it here. “As cold water to a tired soul, so is good news from a far country (Proverbs 25:25).”

A dream (that didn’t) come true: Predators fan didn’t know he won free tickets to the Stanley Cup (ESPN)

Andrew Fudge of Clarksville, Tenn., was one of the lucky ones. He won tickets to Game 6 through a social contest sponsored by the team. One small problem: He didn’t realize he won the contest until five weeks after the Stanley Cup Final ended.”

Nick Note: Fudge was my fraternity brother back in college. He is also the grandson of country music legend Patsy Cline. Ironically, Cline’s hit perfectly describes his situation – a man who is absolutely Crazy to not check his Twitter. But at least other SigEps went to Game 4 and represented well. Click here to see me at the game with my brother and another fraternity brother. And click here to read how Paul encourages us to mourn with those who mourn (1 Corinthians 12:26).

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Daily Briefing: July 17, 2017

Posted by    |    July 17th, 2017 at 6:41 am

T O P   N E W S


GOP Push to Pass Health-Care Law Faces New Setback (WSJ)

“A Republican push to pass a sweeping health-care law experienced another setback as Senate leaders said they would delay a vote set for this week, sparking fresh doubts about whether congressional leaders can muster support for a marquee GOP policy priority.
“Senate leaders announced a delay after Sen. John McCain said he would recover in Arizona from surgery removing a blood clot above his left eye,leaving supporters short of the votes needed to move ahead with the bill.
“The delay prolongs the uncertainty over the bill’s prospects. GOP leaders have pursued a fast-paced timeline, as health-policy changes are often controversial. Sen. John Cornyn, a member of Senate GOP leadership, told reporters last month that passing the bill is “not going to get any easier” with time. Another GOP senator, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said the bill “is not like fine wine; it doesn’t get better with age.”

Nick Note: Is Winter here yet? Game of Thrones returned last night but I missed it because I was preparing for Made in America week (side note: I don’t watch or recommend Game of Thrones). During “Made In America” week, President Trump will highlight locally made products from around the country.Speaking of around the country, a new Washington Post/ABC News pollindicates 36 percent of Americans approve of President Donald Trump’s performance. In counties Mr. Trump won during the presidential election, 50 percent of adults approve of his job performance while 46 percent disapprove.No doubt these low numbers are partially due to the ever-evolving Russian story. New details emerged over the weekend that there were at least eight people in the room when it happenedAttorney Jay Sekulow said repeatedly yesterday on the Sunday shows that the president did not know about the meeting Donald Jr. held with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016. “There’s not a violation of the law.” The meeting may have been legal, but was it ethical? This week, we will be reminded of the innovative spirit and the creative energies that characterize the American populace and benefit the world. In 1630, Puritan leader John Winthrop called this new and exceptional project a “City upon a Hill.”  As he and his men sailed to the New World, he said: “The eyes of all people are upon us; so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work, we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us.” Many of us are Americans, but for those of us who are Christians, we have a great task before us. As lights reflecting the Father of all lights, we are to let our light shine before all women and men (James 1:17, Matthew 5:13-16). It may not be winter, but the fields are ripe for harvest (Luke 10:2).

9 killed in Arizona flash flooding were family celebrating a birthday (USA Today)

“A flash flood at a popular swimming hole north of Payson killed nine people from an extended Phoenix family, and left one missing, officials said Sunday.  Officials have not released the names of the dead, but family members, who drove to Payson to help search told The Arizona Republic that 14 family members were at the swimming hole to celebrate one of their birthdays when the flood struck around 3 p.m. MT.”

Nick Note: This is gut-wrenchingly tragic. Tim Keller’s Walking with God through Pain and Suffering helped my thinking when it comes to such tragedies: “If you have a God infinite and powerful enough for you to be angry at for allowing evil, then you must at the same time have a God infinite enough to have sufficient reasons for allowing that evil.”

Indiana woman turns cancelled wedding into a party for the homeless (The Guardian)

“An Indiana woman who didn’t want her canceled $30,000 wedding to go to waste threw a party for the homeless instead. Cummins told the Indianapolis Star that she and her fiance called off the wedding a week ago. She declined to give a reason, but said they were left with a nonrefundable contract for the Ritz Charles and a plated dinner for 170 guests.”

Nick Note: This sounds like a modern day manifestation of Luke 14:13-23.

C U L T U R A L   N E W S

Women Get More Questions On Risk From Startup VCs Than Men Do–And Far Less Money (Forbes)

“Researchers from Columbia University and the Wharton School of Business announced the results of their study on how women and men fare when questioned on the viability of their startup ventures. They found that participants consistently faced different kinds of questions depending on their gender, with male competitors receiving more questions about their project’s potential for growth, and female competitors fielding more questions about potential risks and losses–and that this had a very measurable impact on the funding they received.
“According to Kanze, only around 2% of VC funding goes to women entrepreneurs, despite the facts that women own 38% of U.S. businesses and now represent 7% of VCs, up from 3% in 2014.
“According to the psychological theory of regulatory focus, investors adopted what’s called a promotion orientation when quizzing male entrepreneurs, which means they focused on hopes, achievements, advancement, and ideals.” She continued, “Conversely, when questioning female entrepreneurs they embraced a prevention orientation, which is concerned with safety, responsibility, security, and vigilance.”

Nick Note: Is it possible to be a Christian feminist? Last night I led a discussion on feminism. I tried my best not to mansplain feminism to a group that included women. I traced the history of the feminist movement up to the present and then offered a potentially biblical understanding. The VC culture has come under great scrutiny lately with numerous allegations of sexual harassment. In the Scriptures, we read about the effective leadership of Deborah, thebravery of Esther, the persistence of Ruth, and the courage of Mary — to name but a few. Looking back, it is quite clear: we are better today because of women’s contributions from yesterday and their visions for tomorrow (James 2:9).

The ‘Sunday Scaries’ Are Real — This is Why (NBC News)

“The term “Sunday scaries,” although not scientific, describes a common feeling of anxiety that builds up over the course of Sunday afternoon and evening. According to a survey conducted by job site Monster, up to 76% of Americans self-reported having “really bad” Sunday night anxiety, compared to just 47% of people around the world.
“The Sunday scaries, or blues, can be the byproduct of the anticipation of the week ahead. This is an anticipatory anxiety —not the stress in the moment, but the anticipation of what will come puts people in this fight or flight mode,” says Dr. Cooperman, adding that there’s a physiological component as well. “The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and they release adrenaline and cortisol,” she explains. “They flood the system and you have a real stress reaction and it feels like real anxiety.”

Nick Note: Do you have a case of the Mondays this morning? Kierkegaard notes: “To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to lose one’s self.” As you venture, you may not have time to stop and smell the flowers, but at least look at them. “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you (Matthew 6:28-30).”

The Decline of Marriage Is Hitting Vegas Hard (Bloomberg)

“Nevada’s marriage rate has plummeted in recent decades, an extreme version of a pullback happening across the U.S. The forces that have reshaped the nation’s economic life since the 1970s have helped make marriage an institution increasingly reserved for the well-educated and more affluent.
“The wedding chapels where August works have seen business dwindle, he said, and Vegas is pushing to reverse the decline in an industry that generates as much as $3 billion in economic activity annually. In 2015 the surrounding county introduced a $14 surcharge on marriage licenses to pay for marketing,and local business leaders helped start a Wedding Chamber of Commerce last year. The data show an effort working against a broader national shift.”

Nick Note: Elvis officiants are All Shook Up in the Heartbreak Hotel because of this recent trend. Consider this: half of Americans older than 18 were married in 2014, down from 72 percent in 1960. 39 percent of married millennials report that their wedding ceremony took place in a place of worship and was administered by a religious leader. Approximately the same number, 37 percent, reported that their wedding ceremony took place somewhere other than a religious venue and was administered by someone other than a religious official. Increasingly, millennials are getting married later or cohabitating earlier. Some might attribute this to the divorce culture that they were raised in, others might argue that they are more concerned with their career, and many believe this is another instance of their lack of institutional commitment. However, Proverbs 18:22 is still true. 

Facebook is re-sculpting our memory (QZ)

“In one experiment, he showed that it was possible to implant false memories by showing subjects photos of an event that they could have conceivably experienced, but didn’t. In another, he found that not only did looking at photos boost the memory of that particular event, but also impaired memories of events that happened at the same time and were not featured in the photographs. His research has shown that weaknesses in our memory are positive attributes in allowing us to think meaningfully about the future.
“Photographs have the potential to distort memory,” he says. “When we threw in photographs of events that could’ve happened within the sequence but didn’t, they would become a false memory.”
“To put that in a real world context, excessive scrolling through photos from a party last year could make you swear you remember Harry’s terrible late-night karaoke, when in fact you went home at 9pm.”

Nick Note: Nickelback wants you to look at this Photograph but that is not a good idea. Besides, what are you doing listening to Nickelback? But in all seriousness, pictures from the past have the capacity to distort our memory in the present. However, words written in the past (i.e. Scripture) have the propensity – when properly stored – of being able to keep us from sinning against Him (Psalm 119:11). This is how He reminds us of who we really are and who he really is.  

N E W S   Y O U   C A N   U S E

Speedy babies crawl in diaper derby race

Nick Note: Watch it here. “…let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us (Hebrews 12:1-2).”

Little Girl Has Cutest Wedding Speech Ever

Nick Note: Watch it here. Just as these adults experience great delight listening to this little girl, our God in heaven has great delight in hearing from us(Proverbs 15:8).

Another Aaron Judge homer? Not on Jackie Bradley Jr.’s watch.

Nick Note: Watch it here. “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:31).”

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