September, 2010 Archives

30
Sep

Mustard seeds and the Harvard Business Review

posted in Jim's Blog by Jim Denison


mustard seeds in cupped hands by Molly Tomlinson, Photoclave

Photo by Molly Tomlinson via Flickr

If you’re part of my 16%, may your tribe increase.  A good friend just sent me this statistic from the Harvard Business Review: “In online social spaces such as blogs, review sites, discussion forums, and social-networking sites including Facebook, just 16% of users generate 80% of the messages posted about products and services.”  Here we have the old 20-80 rule once again.  20% of the people give 80% of the money in a typical church.  20% do 80% of the work on committees, Sunday school, and ministry programs.  20% volunteer to coach their kids’ teams or help in their classrooms or work in their school’s PTA.  And so on.

It would be understandable if the 20% rotated from project to project, but it doesn’t seem to work that way.  Those who take initiative and choose to engage seem to do so wherever they are.  Spectators seem to spectate, whatever the venue.  Jesus fed 5,000 men and their families (Mark 6:44), but only 500 followed him after his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:6).

The good news is that it doesn’t take many people to change the world.  Faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain (Matthew 17:20); seed on good soil produces a hundred-fold crop (Matthew 13:8).  Our job is to scatter the seed–God’s job is to grow the Kingdom.

There’s no predicting who will be in the 20% who make the difference.  So I’ll try to be faithful to my Master’s call, speaking biblical truth to contemporary issues and leaving the results with him.  For each of us, whatever our Kingdom assignment, he measures success by obedience.

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30
Sep

Is Armageddon drawing near?

posted in Daily Devotional by Jim Denison

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Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

Eiffel Tower at night

Is the Eiffel Tower in danger?  Today’s CNN website reports that French police have closed the world-famous landmark for the second time this month due to bomb threats.  Tourists were standing around the tower Tuesday night when police began running crime-scene tape around its base.  They were allowed to return two hours later.  The earlier bomb threat on September 14 forced the evacuation of 2,000 people from nearby businesses and homes.
Read the rest of this entry »

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29
Sep

Subway and a theology of prayer

posted in Jim's Blog by Jim Denison


a quick stop in Waco on the way back from Camp Buckner

I remember when gas stations sold gasoline, grocery stores sold groceries, and restaurants sold food.  Those days are gone.  On my return to Dallas this afternoon, we pulled over in Waco for fuel and a bottle of water.  We found a gas station with the inevitable small grocery store attached, and a Subway attached to that.  If they were to put a Wal-Mart on the other side of the Subway and a mall on the other side of the Wal-Mart, they’d have the entire American shopping experience in one place.

We want convenience at all costs.  Microwave popcorn manufacturers are trying to find a way to respond to customer complaints that their product takes too long to cook.  Anybody remember when Jiffy-Pop seemed to be named appropriately?  In writing essays for the Internet over the last 10 years, I had to learn the maxim: you have six seconds to catch them and 60 seconds to keep them.  If you don’t find something soon in this blog which seems relevant to your life, you’ll be gone.

The good news is that the only omniscient Being in the universe is even more available to you than the next blog you read.  Your next prayer doesn’t inform him about your need, for he knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:8).  It doesn’t persuade him to do what is right, for he is love (1 John 4:8).  It doesn’t change his mind or character, for he is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

Rather, prayer positions you to receive what God’s grace intends to give.  I had to go into the Subway if I wanted a sweet-onion  chicken teriyaki sandwich (my favorite).  We need to “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).  Otherwise, “you do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2).

Choose wisely.

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29
Sep

The pig-out buffet

posted in Culture & Faith by Jim Denison

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original story from: USA Today

Grazing is no longer just for cows.  Seven Las Vegas buffets now offer the “Buffet of Buffets.”  For $45.99 you can eat at any or all of them, as many times as you like in 24 hours.

This sounds like a great deal, but we might want to reconsider Vegas’s offer.  Solomon would warn us: “Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags” (Proverbs 23:20-21).  Erasmus, the great Reformation theologian, suggested that we turn temptations into prayers.  When tempted by gluttony, thank God for his provisions and ask for the strength to resist.  Self-sufficiency is spiritual suicide, and bad dietary practice as well.

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29
Sep

Mr. Obama’s faith

posted in Culture & Faith by Jim Denison

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original story from: The New York Times

President Obama was asked recently by a school teacher why he was a Christian.  He responded by stating that he did not grow up in church but became a Christian later in life because “the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life I would want to lead.  Being my brothers and sisters’ keeper, treating others as they would treat me, and I think also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes and we achieve salvation through the grace of God.”  A recent poll showed that 18% of Americans believe the president is a Muslim, so the opportunity to set the record straight was a welcome one for Mr. Obama.  He concluded his response by stating that while he greatly values his personal faith and strives to live up to its precepts every day, he also believes deeply that our country is built upon the freedom to practice many faiths or no faith.

Skeptics will choose whether or not to believe Mr. Obama’s faith declaration.  No one can know with absolute certainty about any other person’s relationship with God.  St. Augustine observed, “the Church has some that God hasn’t, and God has some the Church hasn’t.”  The only safe approach to the issue of your neighbor’s faith is to be sure that he or she knows the gospel, and sees its truth in you.

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29
Sep

Do nonbelievers know more about faith than believers?

posted in Daily Devotional by Jim Denison


A young man on his knees prayingDo atheists and agnostics know more about Christianity than Christians?  That’s what you would think if you scanned the headlines being generated by a new Pew Forum test on religious knowledge.  The Los Angeles Times: “If you want to know about God, you might want to talk to an atheist.”  NPR: “Atheists and agnostics know more about Bible than religious.”  USA Today: “Unbelievers aced out the faithful when it comes to religious knowledge.”  CNN: “It’s not evangelicals or Catholics who did best—it’s atheists and agnostics.”

Is it really true that nonbelievers know more about faith than believers? Read the rest of this entry »

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28
Sep

Stinkbugs have arrived

posted in Culture & Faith by Jim Denison

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original story from: The New York Times

You’ve heard about the bedbug epidemic—now stinkbugs have joined the parade of pests.  Green stinkbugs have been around for a while, but a new species from Asia is without any known natural predator and is terrorizing farms, orchards and homes in 15 states.  They don’t bite us as bedbugs do, but they are decimating crops.  And they release a terrible odor when killed or scared.  Researchers are seeking an effective means of stopping them, but speculate that a solution is several years away.

Life can be that way.  One problem leads to another which leads to another.  But when we face our greatest trials, it is then that we can experience God’s greatest strength.  Paul told the Corinthians that he pleaded three times with God to remove his “thorn in the flesh.”  God did even more—he taught him to trust his Father’s power and provision.  He told his servant, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Paul concluded, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (v. 10).  Our Father redeems all he allows.

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28
Sep

Raising boys who read

posted in Culture & Faith by Jim Denison

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original story from: The Wall Street Journal

There is a growing gap between the test scores of boys and girls on reading skills. Girls are scoring much better on such tests, leading parents and school teachers alike to search for a variety of answers on how to get young boys reading again. Some have turned to “gross out books” which highlight bodily functions and other things that are fascinating to young males, but perhaps the problem lies deeper. Video games and television are often more enticing to boys than a book.  One solution is to limit his options with regard to video games and other electronics, but this may be difficult to enforce.  It’s a growing a problem without an easy answer.

Our Father knows the frustration parents feel.  It’s easy for us to focus on our circumstances more than our Creator.  Even Jesus needed to get up a long while before day so he could find solitude with God (Mark 1:35).  What will you do to hear his still, small voice today?

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28
Sep

How to turn around a school

posted in Culture & Faith by Jim Denison

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original story from: The New York Times

Brockton High School in Massachusetts was one of the worst schools in the country with regard to academic testing.  But a dedicated group of teachers and administration have worked tirelessly to turn the school’s trajectory around. They met on their own time, a few hours each Saturday, to develop a new system of instruction.  Their approach places an emphasis on reading and writing skills in every class, from freshman English to gym. The results have been astounding—they have moved into the top 10% in their state in a few years.  They prove that large schools can succeed, despite conventional wisdom.

Excellence is non-negotiable, both in education and in Christianity.  Jesus called us to love him “with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).  God invites us to “reason together” (Isaiah 1:18).  With hard work and strategic initiative, we can each develop our gifts to their fullest capacity.  The God who gave his best Gift for us deserves no less.

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28
Sep

The Esther moment

posted in Jim's Blog by Jim Denison


Queen Esther with Mordecai in the 2006 movie One Night with the King

Queen Esther (Tiffany Dupont) and Mordecai (John Rhys-Davies) in One Night with the King (2006)

It’s one of the most famous verses in the Bible.  Haman is plotting to kill all the Jews in Persia; Mordecai beseeches his cousin, Queen Esther, to intervene.  She is skeptical, as she has not been summoned by the king in a month.  To which Mordecai responds, “Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14; NKJV).

I’m speaking today at a pastor’s conference, meeting at a retreat center (pictured below) sponsored by Buckner International.  Buckner makes life better for orphans, at-risk children and families; theirs is one of the most effective ministries of its kind in the world.  They have been a partner with our ministry since our inception.  Their president, Dr. Albert Reyes, is one of the most brilliant leaders I have ever known and a dear friend.

Camp Buckner retreat center

Camp Buckner retreat center

After my talk this morning, Dr. Reyes spoke to our group about the vision of their organization and asked us to “look for the Esther moment.”  Why has God put you here?  What do you do well?  What part of your service does God seem to use most fully?

I thought immediately of a statement by the eminent psychologist, Abraham Maslow: “An artist must paint, a poet must write, a musician must make music if he is to be fully at peace with himself.”  Winston Churchill testified to the House of Commons in June of 1941, “I have but one purpose, the destruction of Hitler, and my life is much simplified thereby.”  William Barclay, the great Bible commentator, believed that “a man will never become outstandingly good at anything unless that thing is his ruling passion.  There must be something of which he can say, ‘For me to live is this.'”

Dr. Reyes is right–we must each find our Esther moment.  What is yours?

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