July, 2010 Archives

30
Jul

This is the stuff of thriller novels

posted in Daily Devotional by Jim Denison

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HMS Investigator

HMS Investigator, Baring Island, Aug 20, 1851

The HMS Investigator was abandoned in 1853 after being ice-locked in Canada’s western Arctic.  Today’s NPR website tells us that this was the last leg of the famed Northwest Passage, the sea route across North America.  The ship set sail in 1850 and nearly made it to the Pacific side when ice forced her captain, Robert McClure, to winter in Prince of Wales Strait along the east coast of Banks Island.

The next summer, McClure tried again but was again blocked by ice.  He steered the ship and crew into a large bay he called the Bay of Mercy.  They remained there until they were rescued in 1853, leaving their ship behind. Read the rest of this entry »

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29
Jul

Reading this devotional can help you lose weight

posted in Daily Devotional by Jim Denison

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a scale for helpHow?  You could use your computer for bicep curls, I suppose, or jog in place while reading these words, or do pushups in front of your iPhone or BlackBerry.

Or you could go from our website to one which hosts an Internet weight loss support group.  Today’s NPR website tells us about a new study which indicates that people kept weight off most effectively when they logged at least weekly onto such a site, where they recorded their weight, exercise, and food intake.  Unfortunately, this is not such a site.  Please don’t respond to this morning’s devotional by telling the rest of us what you had for dinner last night. Read the rest of this entry »

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28
Jul

Democracy and morality in Atlanta

posted in Jim's Blog by Jim Denison


Does democracy require morality?

Second Ponce de Leon in Atlanta

Second Ponce de Leon in Atlanta where I pastored from 1994-1998

I’m writing tonight from my hotel room in Atlanta, Georgia where I was honored to speak to the First Baptist Church on that question.  It was nostalgic to return to the city my family called home from 1994-98, when I was senior pastor of Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church here.  We lived in Atlanta for the Olympics, the Braves’ World Series victory, the Billy Graham Mission, and Tiger Woods’ first Masters win.  Atlanta is a city in a forest–the dogwoods and azaleas are spectacular and the natural beauty of the area is incredible.

Then there’s the traffic.  It was bad when we lived here–now it competes with Los Angeles.  I needed to travel on the Perimeter (the loop around the city) from exit 29 to exit 30–the one-mile trip took 20 minutes.  Fortunately, I’ve learned to cuss as a Baptist: you repeat Babylonian kings’ names.  “Belshazzar!  Nebuchadnezzar!”  You sound theological and get to vent some steam at the same time.

I talked tonight about the moral state of our nation and the need for spiritual awakening.  The statistics are staggering: America leads the industrial world in teenage pregnancy–one-third of our teenage girls become pregnant before the age of 20, 81% out of wedlock.  Pornography made more money last year in America than Apple, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay and Netflix–combined.  There are 100,000 child pornography sites online.  Homicide is the second-leading cause of death in America for infants.  There are 27,900 gangs in our country, with 774,000 members.  They make money primarily from illegal drugs, taking in $125 billion last year.  And on the story goes.

George Washington was convinced that democracy requires morality: “reason and experience forbid us to expect that popular morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles.”  John Adams agreed: “Suppose a nation in some distant region were to take the Bible for their only lawbook and every member regulate his conduct by the principles exhibited therein.  What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be.”  Even Thomas Jefferson, a deist who rejected the deity of Jesus, was convinced that “nations must take steps to encourage their citizens along the paths of justice and morality.”

The process of moral rebirth begins with me.  I cannot lead people further than I am willing to go, or give what I do not have.  I wonder: If everyone did what I do, would that be a good thing?  Would God want your culture to be as moral as you are?

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28
Jul

The $200 million garage sale

posted in Daily Devotional by Jim Denison

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today's prodigal son walking homeWhen is a $45 garage sale purchase worth $200 million?  When it turns out to be the work of world-famous photographer Ansel Adams.

This morning’s USA Today website tells us that the negatives are from Adams’ early work, thought to have been destroyed in a fire decades ago.  They were bought ten years ago at a Fresno garage sale by a painter name Rick Norsigian.  He noticed that they resembled Adams’ famous photos of Yosemite National Park; now a team of experts has authenticated their identity. Read the rest of this entry »

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27
Jul

Forgiving Tony Hayward

posted in Jim's Blog by Jim Denison


BP Deepwater-Horizon oil spill photo from space

The oil slick as seen from space by NASA's Terra satellite on May 24, 2010 (Courtesy of NASA)

Let’s be honest–when you hear that BP lost $17 billion last quarter, did you feel sorry for them?  When you learned that Tony Hayward was being replaced as their CEO, did you grieve his departure?  The oil giant spent $50 million in national television ads apologizing for the spill–do you wish the money had gone to the fishermen on the Gulf Coast?  When Mr. Hayward said last May 30, “I would like my life back,” did you feel his pain?

I’m as tempted as you to hold a grudge.  Then I read this morning in C. S. Lewis’s classic Mere Christianity this paragraph:

“Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper.  Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out.  Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible?  If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils.  You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker.  If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black.  Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything–God and our friends and ourselves included–as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.”

While I don’t believe you and I can become literal “devils” (and don’t imagine C. S. Lewis did, either), I understand his point.  When we want our enemies to be as bad as possible, we become a little more like them.  Our wish doesn’t hurt them (I doubt Tony Hayward will read this blog), but it poisons us spiritually.

I remember seeing a comedian being interviewed on late night television years ago.  He had been through a nasty public divorce and had been very bitter in the press.  That night, however, he seemed light-hearted and cheerful.  The TV host (I don’t remember which one) asked him why.  He explained that he had been at a party the other night and saw his former wife dancing with her new boyfriend.  He was seething with anger when he realized that his bitterness wasn’t hurting her at all.  She was having a good time, oblivious to his rage.  His anger was only hurting him.

Frederick Buechner was right: “Of the Seven Deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun.  To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back—in many ways it is a feast fit for a king.  The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself.  The skeleton at the feast is you” (Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC [New York: Harper and Row, 1973] 2).

Sounds like a good meal to skip.

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27
Jul

Dez Bryant, Roy Williams and forgiveness

posted in Daily Devotional by Jim Denison

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a shoulder pad to cry on

Copyright 2007, Diana Porter, http://www.designonlinehouston.com

The publication New York Newsday carried this report a few years ago: “Former Rolling Stone Bill Wyman’s son is to marry Bill’s ex-wife’s mother”.  Wyman’s son from a previous marriage, Stephen, age 30 announced his engagement to Patsy Smith, age 46, the mother of Wyman’s former wife, Mandy, age 22.  The marriage would make the rock star his ex-wife’s step-grandfather.”  Relationships can be confusing. Read the rest of this entry »

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26
Jul

Love beyond the grave

posted in Daily Devotional by Jim Denison


I love you noteHave you heard about the doctor who wrote a goodbye note before he died in a plane crash?  Today’s MSNBC website tells the story: Dr. James Hall was flying with a sick friend to Mayo Clinic last Friday when their plane went down over Lake Michigan.  The pilot was rescued; Dr. Hall apparently died, along with the co-pilot, the patient and his wife. Read the rest of this entry »

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23
Jul

Jokes from snakes and rodents that spell

posted in Daily Devotional by Jim Denison

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rat on a keyboard

Rodents like to spell for me

Have you heard of pet psychics?  Today’s Newsweek website introduces us to a Houston woman who claims to hear gossip from horses and jokes from snakes.  “Rodents like to spell for me,” she says.  For $120 she’ll help me communicate psychically to animals, checking yet another item off my bucket list. Read the rest of this entry »

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22
Jul

Morality and a very kind atheist

posted in Jim's Blog by Jim Denison


books preparing for a debate with an atheistIt was my privilege to participate last Tuesday evening in a debate sponsored by the Dallas Philosopher’s Forum on the question, “Is religion the basis of morality?”  I argued the affirmative; a philosophy professor in our area argued the negative.  He kindly but firmly maintained throughout the event that he does not believe in the existence of God.  At the same time, he told us that he strives to be a moral person and certainly gave every evidence that his ethical commitment is very real.  His experience is evidence, he therefore claimed, that morality does not require religion.

I agree, unless we define our terms biblically.  If we mean by morality the attempt to be good, clearly any person from any or no religious persuasion can satisfy this requirement.  But if we mean what God means–that our attitudes (Galatians 5:22-23), thoughts (Philippians 4:8), words (Ephesians 4:29) and actions (Psalm 15:1-2) must be godly, that in fact we are to “be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48)–then it is true that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Our problem is not with the choice to be moral, but with our capacity to become what we choose to be.  Are you in every way, at every time, the person you wish you were?  Do you deal with any vestige of guilt from the past or failure in the present?  Or are you like the Apostle Paul, who did what he didn’t want to do and didn’t do what he did (Romans 7:15-19)?  So am I.

My argument last Tuesday night was that we need “religion” in the biblical sense of a personal, transforming relationship with God if we are to be truly moral people.  The Holy Spirit wants to mold us (Ephesians 5:18) into the image and character of Christ (Romans 8:29), but we must participate.  A power drill isn’t much good unless it’s connected to the source it’s designed to use.  You can make a paperweight or doorstop out of it, or make a hole if you’re willing to work hard and make a mess, but you can’t use it the way it’s supposed to be used unless you plug it into an electrical socket.

I’m the same way.  When I stay plugged in to the Spirit of God, I find that I’m closer to the moral person I want to be.  When I don’t, I’m not.  Do you know what I mean?

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22
Jul

R136a1 and you

posted in Daily Devotional by Jim Denison


Want to lose weight? It’s simple—live to be a million years old.

plasma of the sun

Image credit: Hinode JAXA/NASA

Today’s CNN website tells us about the largest star yet discovered. Designated R136a1, it is ten million times brighter than our sun and 265 times heavier. Put it anywhere near the Earth and it would burn us up. Fortunately, it’s more than 165,000 light years from our galaxy. The star has shed a fifth of its initial mass over its million years of life. Scientists believe that in another million years it will probably explode as a supernova. Read the rest of this entry »

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