Why is this fashion model making headlines?

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Blog by Jim Denison and The Daily Article – 

Madeline Stuart is an Australian fashion model. As the Washington Post reports, she is in “high demand” today. Madeline’s career started when her mother arranged a professional photo shoot for her and put some of the pictures on Facebook. They went viral overnight, racking up more than seven million views.

The offers started pouring in. She was invited to model in New York, Paris, China, London, Sweden, and Dubai. She has now walked more than one hundred high-fashion catwalks. She has more than one million followers on social media and her own clothing line.

Madeline also has Down syndrome.

“I’m happy to change the way the world looks at people with disabilities,” Madeline says. “I want the world to be more accepting. That is my dream.”

Wheelchair Barbie and Bernie Sanders

In other news, Wheelchair Barbie is coming to stores. In June, Mattel will debut a doll that comes with a prosthetic leg and another that comes with a wheelchair.

More than one billion people in the world have a disability, according to Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of a group that advocates for the disabled. “We want to see ourselves reflected in the culture, toys, products and everything around us,” she says.

Mizrahi adds: “Barbie joins a number of powerful companies who also understand that marketing, and including, people with disabilities is both the right thing to do and the profitable thing to do.”

One more news item: Sen. Bernie Sanders announced yesterday that he will run for president again. CNN calls him “one of the frontrunners” and “one of the most popular politicians among Democratic voters.”

At seventy-seven years of age, Sanders is the oldest candidate in the field. He’s a year older than presumptive candidate Joe Biden and five years older than President Trump. If any of them is elected in 2020, they will become the oldest president in history.

Mass lynchings in Washington?

American culture has made progress on many fronts. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination based on disability. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits age discrimination against people who are age forty or older.

When assertions appear such as an Alabama newspaper editor’s column calling for mass lynchings to “clean out” Washington, they are immediately and appropriately excoriated.

But inclusion in our culture only goes so far.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ignited a firestorm recently when he defended a radical bill repealing restrictions on third-trimester abortions. Northam told a radio audience that “the infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

His office later issued a clarification stating that the governor was referring to “a nonviable pregnancy” or “the event of severe fetal abnormalities.” We are left to wonder what constitutes “severe fetal abnormalities.” If Madeline Stuart’s mother had tried to abort her but Madeline survived, would the governor have supported her infanticide?

This is not a speculative or hyperbolic issue. Two medical ethicists published an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics claiming that “what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.”

The ethicists cite the standard argument that abortion should be permitted when the social, psychological, or economic well-being of the potential parents is at risk. They argue that “the same reasons which justify abortion should also justify the killing of the potential person when it is at the state of a newborn.”

In their view, a newborn child possesses no more inherent value or ability to function as a person than a pre-born child. As a result, it should be afforded no more protections or rights.

Three reasons we’re where we are

Why does our culture celebrate the rights of some people and not others? Why are disabled persons, elderly people, racial minorities, and LGBTQ persons granted civil rights when the pre-born are not?

Consider three facts.

First, America is a republic rather than a strict democracy, which means that majority rule does not preclude minority rights. Second, our culture is intensely pragmatic, which means that truth is “what works.” Third, we are capitalistic, which means that we value what consumers value.

Added together, these convictions mean in practice that our society grants civil rights to minority groups who can advocate effectively for them.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 would not have happened if African American leaders and those who supported them had not worked sacrificially and tirelessly for years to change public perception and persuade lawmakers. Wheelchair Barbie is coming to stores in part because such a product is “the profitable thing to do.”

However, the pre-born cannot advocate for themselves. Nor do they represent a consumer group. To the contrary, according to the US Department of Agriculture, raising a child costs $233,610 (excluding the cost of college).

Since our culture has replaced biblical morality with subjective opinion, we have jettisoned the intrinsic sanctity of all life from conception to natural death. More than sixty-one million unborn children have paid the price.

The sanctity of life matters most to those who can defend themselves least.

Two responses to God’s amazing love

Our Father loves us whether we love him or not: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He loves us as much as he loves his own Son (John 17:2326). Nothing “in all creation” can separate us from his love (Romans 8:39).

God’s embracing, inclusive love calls for two responses on our part.

First, receive his gift. Henri Nouwen: “Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence.”

Have you embraced your beloved status yet today?

Second, share his gift. Pray for mothers to choose life for their pre-born babies. Use your influence to serve someone who needs you. Demonstrate God’s love in your compassion.

How will you help the Madeline Stuarts you know to change the world?

We have opportunities right here at 5th Ave to serve people with disabilities. We have a disabilities class here at 5th that meet every Sunday morning at 9am with many needs. To find out how you can help please call (727)-327-3353 or email us at OC@5thabc.org

Until Next Time!…….

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SHE FOUND HER “TRUE LOVE” JUST BY BEING GENEROUS

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SHE FOUND HER “TRUE LOVE” JUST BY BEING GENEROUS…  Do you know the story of Rebekah?  If not, you need to know that her simple act of generosity ultimately leads her to her husband, Isaac.  (See Genesis 24) Now, for you ladies out there looking for a husband, don’t automatically think this is a “sure fire” way of finding you a man. But, you never know…

DURING THIS SEASON OF LOVE DUE TO VALENTINES DAY, WHAT MIGHT WE LEARN FROM REBEKAH?  Here are just a few thoughts for all of us—male and female:

            >When we have the opportunity to be generous, be overly generous

She gave water to a stranger and gave more to his animals.  She did not have to do so.  But it got his attention.  This led to blessings.  And that was not her intent.  When God “fills us up” we automatically want to bless others.  And going “overboard” should be a more natural action.  It helps a watching world see that we are different.  Being salt and light is what we do because of whose we are.

            >When we have the opportunity to be generous, don’t wait, be generous

She could have easily thought, “Who is this cat?  I don’t have time to give my water to a total stranger. Besides, he’s probably a nobody.  As a matter of fact, this is such a ‘minor moment’ in light of bigger moments that are on the way.”  See what I mean?  Christianity is not something we put on and off like a pair of socks.  We “wear Jesus” because He is our life!

HAPPY VALENTINES AND IF YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO GIVE SOMEONE A CUP OF WATER, PLEASE DON’T MISS THE MOMENT! 

41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.  Mark 9:41 (NIV)

Until Next Time……

The ‘State of the Union’ is divided: How should Christians respond?

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President Trump delivered the 2019 State of the Union address last night before a joint session of the 116th Congress. I watched the address, then surveyed coverage of it this morning. It is as if there were two different speeches delivered.

The Blaze headlines: “An astounding number of viewers approved of Trump’s State of the Union speech–here are the results.” A Fox columnist claims that “once again, America saw that Trump on the stump is very, very good.”

By contrast, the Washington Post is carrying a column titled “More Trump fantasyland as the world fries.” CNN has an article titled “Critics laugh off Trump’s mispronunciations once again.” Van Jones claimed that the speech was “psychotically incoherent.” 

None of this should surprise us.

Who is neutral about the president?

The New Yorker interviewed a Georgetown University scholar this week who called President Trump “an amateur in the White House” and claimed that he “looks hideously weak.” By contrast, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders recently called Mr. Trump “the most productive President in modern history” and claimed, “It’s indisputable that our country has never been stronger than it is today under the leadership of President Trump.”

It seems difficult to find someone who is neutral about the president. The latest poll shows that 39.9 percent of Americans approve of the job he is doing, while 55.6 percent disapprove. Only 4.5 percent are undecided.

Our divisions over the president reflect a growing partisan divide in our country. Pew Research Center asked more than five thousand people about several specific political issues and found that, on average, there was a thirty-six-point gap between Republicans and Democrats. This is up twenty-one points since Pew began tracking these questions twenty-three years earlier.

A recent survey found that 80 percent of Americans say the country is “mainly” or “totally” dividedNBC News concluded that “Americans are divided over everything except division.”

In 1992, 37 percent of states with Senate races elected a senator from a different party than the presidential candidate supported by that state. In 2016, for the first time in a century, not a single state did so.

Issues larger than ratings

There are many reasons for the political divisiveness of our day, from media bias to increasing diversity to polarizing leaders to cultural “bubbles,” in which we live near people like us and listen only to news sources with which we agree.

But these issues, while real, reflect underlying divisions that have become foundational to our culture and are likely to persist for years to come.

For instance, 73 percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans support abortion, compared with 33 percent of evangelicals. Seventy-eight percent of unaffiliated Americans support same-sex marriage, compared with 28 percent of evangelicals. “Practicing Christians” are far less likely than other groups to agree that “every culture must determine what is acceptable morality for its people.” 

For followers of Jesus, these are spiritual issues that transcend political acrimony and presidential approval ratings. How do we speak redemptively to such a divisive day?

“A” and “B” doctrines

In Center Church, Tim Keller distinguishes between “A” doctrines and “B” doctrines. “A” doctrines are biblical truths that many in the culture affirm. “B” doctrines are biblical truths that many in the culture reject. Keller suggests that our cultural engagement should typically begin with “A” doctrines as the foundation for introducing “B” doctrines.

Paul’s message to the Areopagus in Acts 17 illustrates the difference. He quotes their poets’ affirmation that “in [God] we live and move and have our being” and “we are indeed his offspring” (v. 28). Their belief that God exists and created us is an “A” doctrine Christians share with most of humanity.

The apostle then moves to their need for repentance and faith in the one whom God confirmed by “raising him from the dead” (v. 31). This is a “B” doctrine. For Greek philosophers steeped in the Platonic bifurcation between soul (good) and body (evil), it is unsurprising that “when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked” (v. 32a).

However, “others said, ‘We will hear you again about this’” (v. 32b). And “some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them” (v. 34). “Dionysius the Areopagite” is believed by Greek Orthodox historians to have become the bishop of Athens and one of their most significant theologians.

Of course, there are times when the Holy Spirit will call us to speak truth to power in confrontational ways. For instance, Peter began his defense before the Sanhedrin by stating, “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree” (Acts 5:30). But Keller’s point finds consistent biblical illustration, as when Jesus began his conversation with the woman at the well by asking for water, then led her to living water (John 4).

“When you live in the light of eternity”

In responding to the divisive issues of our day, this A-to-B strategy may prove helpful. What common ground can you find with someone with whom you disagree? What common cause can you advance together? How can you earn the right to speak hard truth in grace?

We’ll discuss practical ways to build such relationships in tomorrow’s Daily Article. For today, let’s decide that we want to.

Unlike the president, our message will not be heard by millions. But the eternal souls we touch are worth the risk of sharing God’s truth with clarity and compassion. Rick Warren: “When you live in the light of eternity, your values change.”

Will you “live in the light of eternity” today?

Until next time…..

MILO WAS BORN WITH HIS FRONT PAWS FACING UP

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MILO WAS BORN WITH HIS FRONT PAWS FACING UP… USA Today reported that a part beagle and coonhound, suffered from congenital elbow dislocation several weeks ago.  A successful surgery was performed at Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences.  Dr. Erik Clary says he’s pleased with the progress of the 10-week-old dog named Milo.  An animal rescue group is caring for the puppy post-surgery.  It appears he will be walking normal real soon.

HOW’S YOUR WALK—YOUR SPIRITUAL WALK?  The bible declares, Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked… ~Psalm 1:1  We are all “crippled” by sin.  Once we trust Christ as our Savior, He helps us with our walk.  It’s a journey until the day we die.  But it’s worth it.  If we want to walk in step with Him, we must deny ourselves and fall in love with Him.  It’s amazing the change that takes place.  We will never be the same… 

Until Next Time…..

The ‘racist’ confrontation in DC: 3 biblical responses

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Nathan Phillips is a Native American who attended the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington last Friday. He told the Washington Post that he was there to beat his drum while urging participants to “be strong” against colonialism.

According to Phillips, a throng of young, mostly white teenage boys, several wearing “Make America Great Again” caps, swarmed around him and began to chant, “Build that wall, build that wall.” One of them “blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat,” Phillips said.

He told the Detroit Free Press a different story. This time, he said that the students became upset by a group of Black Israelites. “They were in the process of attacking these four black individuals,” he said. So, “I put myself between beast and prey. These young men were beastly and these old black individuals was their prey.”

Phillips stated that the students had a “mob mentality” that was “ugly, what these kids were involved in. It was racism. It was hatred. It was scary.”

Video of the event went viral. News outlets around the country condemned the students. One image of a student with a Make America Great Again cap smiling at Phillips became an icon for the event. Filmmaker Michael Green tweeted: “A face like that never changes. This image will define his life. No one need ever forgive him.”

Now we know the rest of the story.

“I am being called every name in the book”

Longer videos emerged showing that the incident actually started with Black Hebrew Israelites (BHI) members. According to Christian apologist Ryan Turner, this group believes that black people are the true Israelites from the tribe of Judah.

In their view, white people are “conspirators who attempt to persecute the black people and hide their true identity as Israelites.” Many view white people as “almost subhuman” and are known for shouting profanity and condemning people for their allegedly false beliefs.

When BHI members began shouting racial slurs at the students, they asked their chaperones for permission to “begin our school spirit chants” to drown out the hecklers.

According to Nick Sandmann, the student in the now-viral photo, Phillips then came toward the group with his drum. He “locked eyes with me and approached me, coming within inches of my face” and “played his drum the entire time he was in my face.”

Sandmann states, “I did not witness or hear any other students chant ‘build that wall’ or anything hateful or racist at any time. Assertions to the contrary are simply false.” Videos from the event bear out his statement.

Sandmann adds: “I am being called every name in the book, including a racist, and I will not stand for this mob-like character assassination of my family’s name. . . . One person threatened to harm me at school . . . My parents are receiving death and professional threats because of the social media mob that has formed over this issue.”

The Catholic school which Sandmann and the other students attend closed yesterday “due to threats of violence.”

Is racism still a “major problem” in America?

We could discuss the media bias reflected by coverage of this story, but that’s an issue I hope to address in tomorrow’s Daily Article. For today, I’d like to focus on the racism inherent in the event and its coverage.

BHI members assumed the white students were racist because they were white. Some in the media did the same, apparently because the students were wearing Make America Great Again hats and one seemed to be confronting a non-Anglo man.

According to a recent poll, 64 percent of Americans believe racism is a “major problem” in America. While only 7 percent of white Americans say they have been treated unfairly in a store or restaurant based on their race, 40 percent of black Americans have experienced such discrimination.

Consider these facts:

  • People with “black-sounding names” had to send out 50 percent more job applications than people with “white-sounding names” to get a callback.
  • A black man is three times more likely to be searched at a traffic stop and six times more likely to go to jail than a white man.
  • If a black person kills a white person, he or she is twice as likely to receive the death sentence as a white person who kills a black person.
  • Blacks serve up to 20 percent more time in prison than white people for the same crimes.
  • Blacks are 38 percent more likely to be sentenced to death than white people for the same crimes.

In a culture with such a persistent problem with racism, it’s unsurprising that many would assume racial prejudice in the students at the Washington event.

But that’s unfair, both to the students and to the larger narrative we need to address.

Three biblical steps

God’s word clearly calls us to love every person as unconditionally as he loves us (John 13:34; Galatians 3:28). It is obviously wrong to assume racial motives in others while ignoring them in ourselves. Instead, we should take three biblical steps:

One: Search our own heart. Racism is a way to feel superior to others, a temptation we all face. Ask the Spirit to show you any attitudes, assumptions, thoughts, words, or actions that are racist (John 16:8).

Two: Take the cultural initiative. Choose proactive, positive steps to be the salt and light Jesus calls us to be (Matthew 5:14-16). Build relationships across racial and cultural divides to incarnate the holistic love of Jesus.

Three: Be the church. Legendary Dallas pastor Tony Evans: “One of the real tragedies today is that the Church as a whole has not furthered God’s light, equity, love and principles in our land in order to be a positive influence and impact for good in the midst of darkness, fear and hate.”

Dr. Evans is right. Condemning the racial divisions in our culture is not enough. We must each do what we can to bridge them personally.

What is God’s next step for you?

NOTE: For more on today’s topic, please see my paper on our website, Racism in America: It’s time for the church to be the church.

Until next time…….

The border wall: Pros and cons and 3 biblical facts

By Jim Denison

President Trump spoke to the nation last night from the Oval Office, seeking support for building a wall on our border with Mexico. Democratic Party leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer then responded.

From our inception, Denison Forum has been nonpartisan. Our mission is not to endorse political leaders or positions but to apply God’s word to the questions of our day, equipping Christians to change our culture by engaging contemporary issues with biblical truth.

As a result, my purpose today is not to offer my opinion on the border wall. Rather, it is to summarize arguments that have been made for and against the project, then to consider biblical principles relevant to this issue and our larger influence in the culture.

Arguments for the border wall

The southern border shared by the United States and Mexico spans 1,969 miles. Approximately 700 miles of border fencing have been completed as part of the Secure Fence Act of 2006 signed by President George W. Bush. These barriers are mostly near urban areas and international bridges.

The US Customs and Border Patrol uses patrols to guard more remote borderlands. It spends $4 billion a year, utilizing 58,000 personnel, 16,875 vehicles, 269 aircraft, 300 watercraft, 300 camera towers, and aerial drones.

Despite these efforts, the Government Accounting Office reports that just 44 percent of the border is under “operational control.” Nearly two-thirds are “monitored” while the rest are “low-level monitored.” It also estimates that only 61 percent of those attempting to cross the border illegally are intercepted.

Building a secure fence or wall could make it more difficult to cross our border illegally. When a fence was constructed on the San Diego border and patrols were increased, the number of people attempting to cross illegally dropped from 600,000 in the early 1990s to 39,000 in 2015.

Illegal drugs flow across our southern border. Some illegal immigrants have committed terrible crimes against Americans. And there is the issue of terrorism.

A report from the House Homeland Security Committee (HHSC) released this month documents the urgent problem of terrorists crossing our southern border into the US. This has been a growing issue for years.

In 2006, the HHSC noted that an increasing number of illegal immigrants from thirty-five countries known to produce, train, and harbor Islamic terrorists are using our southern border as a gateway to the US. A number of illegal immigrants apprehended that year were found to have confirmed ties to terrorist groups.

A 2016 report from then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson called for renewed efforts to counter this threat. And smuggling weapons of mass destruction across the southern border remains a threat.

Arguments against the border wall

Building a wall across our entire southern border would be enormously expensive. Estimates range from a low of $10 billion to a high of $40 billion. Lifetime maintenance costs will likely exceed $50 billion.

Critics also note that the wall will require policing since illegal immigrants will attempt to breach, tunnel under, or climb over any fence. And they note that 40 percent of America’s eleven million illegal immigrants came here legally but overstayed their visas. Enhanced border security would not have addressed this issue.

The wall faces significant legal challenges from property owners such as Native American tribes and private individuals who control much of borderland property. Water rights are in question along much of the border. And many of the illegal drugs flowing into our country are hidden in vehicles that would not be stopped by a border wall.

In addition, border walls negatively impact wildlife, water flows, migratory patterns, and genetic diversity in natural species.

Three biblical facts

Last night’s addresses by the president and his critics highlight the divisive, partisan nature of this issue. However, there are three biblical principles all Christians should embrace, whatever our views on the border wall. (For more, see the chapter on immigration in my book, 7 Critical Issues).

One: We are to care for immigrants.

Scripture teaches: “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21; cf. Leviticus 19:33-34Deuteronomy 10:18-1924:19-22Ezekiel 47:21-23Zechariah 7:10Malachi 3:5Matthew 25:3540Hebrews 13:2).

Unless you’re a Native American, you or your family came to this country as immigrants. Scripture is blunt: “Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow” (Deuteronomy 27:19).

Two: Border security is a biblical priority.

God “fixed the borders of the peoples” (Deuteronomy 32:8) and delineated the borders of the Promised Land (Numbers 34:1-15Ezekiel 47:13-23). We are to guard ourselves against those who would harm us (Luke 11:21Proverbs 25:26Nehemiah 4:17-18).

Three: God calls us to pursue both justice and compassion.

We are to “be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1; cf. Titus 3:11 Peter 2:13-141 Timothy 1:8-10Matthew 22:21). At the same time, we are to “be kind to one another” (Ephesians 4:32), refusing to dehumanize or condemn any human being. We are to love everyone God loves, and God loves everyone (John 3:16).

Balancing these biblical priorities is the challenge, of course. The sojourners of Scripture were not illegal immigrants. The one million children who are illegal immigrants in the US did not choose to be so. And many who come to our country illegally are fleeing horrific violence, drug cartels, gangs, and crushing poverty.

Conclusion

As I stated at the beginning of this Daily Article, my purpose is not to take a personal position on the border wall but to help us think biblically about God’s priorities. If we seek to obey our Father’s call to harmonize justice with compassion, we can claim his promise: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).

This is the transforming promise and urgent invitation of God.

GOOD HABITS ARE GODLY HABITS…

While attending seminary many years ago (none of your business) I formed several good and Godly habits.  I wish I could say it was because I had the where-with-all to do so.  That is not the case.  I learned through preparing to teach a group of teenagers and through one particular seminary course.

  • I had been asked to teach a group of 8th-grade guys how to have a devotional life. (A quiet time, alone with the lord, in the morning.)  I had practiced a devotional time years prior but had never really had someone teach me.  As I prepared to teach them how I learned specifics about why it was so vital and made it a daily priority.  God has honored this spiritual discipline through the years.  It is THE KEY to growing and maturing in my personal relationships with Jesus Christ.  I do not do it because I am a Pastor.  I do it because I am a Christian.  I’m telling you, if you want to know a habit that is lifechanging, this is it!  Get a bible, a devotional book, and a journal and start yesterday.  It’ll change your life!
  • The best class I had while in seminary was The Aerobics Program for a Total Well-Being.  I learned the value of exercise and diet.  I must say, I’ve excelled in exercising and struggled in my overall eating plan.  The key to exercising is realistic goals and consistency.  The key to eating right is balance.  Both can be done and help provide more energy to accomplish daily tasks.  If you sense you are WAY behind on these, I suggest joining the YMCA and get help.

PLEASE ASK ME PERSONALLY IF YOU NEED MORE INFO ON EITHER ONE OF THE ABOVE TOPICS… There are things I can’t help you with. (I.e. Car repairs, technology, carpentry, and other things)  But I can actually assist you with your devotional life and your physical well-being.  Here’s at least one verse that supports the topics…

Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.  ~1 Timothy 4:8