What Martin Luther King, Jr. Would Say to Baltimore

By Dr. Mark Denison — On the heels of the tragic death and funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, hundreds of young men and women showed their support for Freddie by burning buildings and cars and demolishing their own neighborhoods. As of this writing, 15 police officers were injured, 15 buildings have fallen to fire, and 200 arrests have been made. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said, “We’re not going to leave the city unprotected,” the day after they had left the city unprotected. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake refused to call in the National Guard until three hours after the violence had erupted. Then she directed the police to provide “space” for the thugs to destroy property at will.

But there is a hero who emerged from the carnage. A Baltimore woman took action when she saw her son hanging out with violent demonstrators Monday. Toya Graham was watching television when she saw her son throwing rocks at police, the station reported. She went to the location and found her son. “Are you kidding me?” she was heard screaming. She then escorted him, not so gently, away from the scene. This leads me to a question. What would Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. say? If he were alive today, what would be his response to the rioters? We don’t need to speculate on that question. On December 11, 1964, King delivered a speech he titled “The Quest for Peace and Justice.” In that speech he addressed the precise issues we are seeing over 50 years later. King said, “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem. It merely creates new and more complicated ones. Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than winning his understanding. It seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself.” Well said, Dr. King! I only wish Baltimore was listening.

What God Would Say to Bruce Jenner

By Dr. Mark Denison — On October 28, 1949, William Bruce Jenner was born a male. Last Friday, in an interview with Diane Sawyer, he announced, “For all intents and purposes, I’m a woman.” The historically great athlete, who won the decathlon gold medal in the 1976 Olympics, has been married three times, and has children from each of those marriages. Jenner’s first wife was the first to know of his “womanhood.” Chrystie Crownover told Good Morning America, “It was kind of surreal. I know it’s been painful for him. I know it’s been a torment in his life.” Second wife Linda Thompson has publicly voiced her support, as well. In his interview, Jenner told Sawyer, “Life is much more difficult than running. I’m trying to live with myself. I don’t think anyone can be critical of that. At least I hope not.”

So what is the Christian response to Bruce Jenner’s transsexual journey? More importantly, what is God’s response? The politically correct thing to say, of course, is “To thine own self be true. Be who you think you are. Who am I to judge?” I don’t think it is that simple. Now, I would never pretend to represent the voice of God. I do not stand in judgement of Bruce Jenner or anyone else. My opinion on the matter is unimportant. But God has actually already spoken on this issue. He saw this coming. That’s why he inspired the holy Book we call the Bible. And in that Book we find answers to the question, “What would God say to Bruce Jenner?” God’s first response might be to Christians, to the church. “Do not mock my creation. Do not ridicule Bruce or put him down. Get the telephone pole out of your eye before you criticize the man with a speck in his eye.” Second, God might say, “Love Bruce Jenner, and others like him.” The fact is that in our darkest moments, God loves us more than our own mothers. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more and there is nothing we can do to make him love us less.”

Then God would have something to say directly to Bruce Jenner. He has already said it. “You were made in the image of God” (Genesis 1:26). God made some of us specifically male and some female. God would tell Bruce, “By rejecting your assigned sex, you are rejecting my design for your life.” Yes, that sounds bold, maybe even cruel. But to say anything else is to say God made a mistake in assigning the male gender to Bruce Jenner. I don’t pretend to know what is going on in Bruce Jenner’s mind or what experience he has endured through his life. I don’t know his family history. I can’t relate to the inner conflict he has battled for his 65 years. I don’t doubt his sincerity or consider him crazy. But at the end of the day, I choose to measure the acts of man by the standard of the Bible, rather than measuring the standard of the Bible by the acts of man. So God’s word to the church is, “Love Bruce, pray for him, and minister to him and others like him, regardless of his sexual identification. Love him unconditionally, as I have loved you.” And to Bruce Jenner, God would say, “I made you as I intended you to be. I understand your innermost struggles more than anyone. But don’t reject my intended plan for you. I created you as male. And I do not make mistakes. And never forget this, my child. I love you just as much today as I did the day before you talked to Diane Sawyer.”

Why Did Robert E. Lee Serve the Wrong Side?

By Jerry Newcombe — April 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S.Grant, effectively ending the U.S. Civil War, the bloodiest conflict our nation has ever witnessed. A new book on Lee is a great read. It’s called The Man Who Would Not Be Washington: Robert E. Lee’s Civil War and His Decision that Changed American History. The book is by Jonathan Horn, a former presidential speechwriter for George W. Bush. Although I thought I knew many things about Lee, I learned much more through the book. It’s the kind of book that keeps you up at night. Interestingly, Robert E. Lee has been described as “the marble man,” noble and unyielding like a statue. This book certainly shows the marble man had feet of clay. I enjoyed having Horn on my radio show recently. He clarified the point that the “civil war” referred to in the subtitle was Lee’s own conflict, his personal civil war if you will, as to which side to serve. While Lee viewed secession with horror and the union with honor, he ultimately asked, “How can I draw my sword upon Virginia, my native state?” He could not. Once Virginia chose to secede from the Union in 1861, with it went Robert E. Lee. Lee is an interesting man because he was seemingly a man of contradictions. Because of legal obligations, he freed the slaves he and his wife inherited from her father before the Emancipation Proclamation. As a Christian, he hated slavery, yet he ended up fighting essentially for its continuance. He favored the Union, yet he chose to apply his incredible military skill to the side that was dissolving the Union. If he had been born just a few miles north, we possibly could have had President Robert E. Lee. But he wasn’t, and we didn’t. Ironically, as Horn points out, President Grant once hosted his former nemesis to a short social meeting in the White House several years after the war. One friend of mine said years ago that Robert E. Lee had more character in his little pinky than most men have in their whole bodies. How then could he have chosen to serve the South? If God led him, and I think this book amply shows that once Lee was converted he tried to deny himself and to do what he understood the Lord wanted him to do, how then could he have been the ultimate leader of the armies of the Confederacy? My personal answer to this spiritual question comes from President Lincoln, who greatly and rightly feared Robert E. Lee. He stated that it was possible that the war was God’s judgment on a nation that had neglected Him and knowingly engaged in disobedience. The month before Lee’s surrender, Lincoln delivered his Second Inaugural Address, which Professor Daniel Dreisbach has noted has 45 biblical allusions, references or quotes. It’s a terrific speech and is only about 700 words. Said Lincoln: “Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray–that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn by the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, ‘The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’” Gary Bauer (End of Day, 4/16/15) summarizes Lincoln’s point: “Slavery was a violation of America’s promise that all are created equal. Lincoln worried that the Civil War would last until God had extracted as much blood from the North and the South as had the slave master’s lash.” Jefferson once said, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.” History has some sobering lessons for a wayward nation. Perhaps Robert E. Lee was essentially a sword in the hands of the Lord to punish a country that should have known better. Quoting Lincoln again, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right,” may God help us today to get back on the right track.


Jerry Newcombe is cohost/senior TV producer of Kennedy Classics. He has written/co-written 25 books, including The Book That Made America, Doubting Thomas (w/ Mark Beliles, on Jefferson), and What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (w/ D. James Kennedy) & George Washington’s Sacred Fire (w/ Peter Lillback). tiam.org jerrynewcombe.com @newcombejerry

Inadvertent Consequences

By Dr. Mark Denison — Yesterday, President Obama made a brief, unscheduled statement, acknowledging the unintended deaths of two innocent captives at an Al-Qaeda compound along the Afghan-Pakistan border. The President said, “As president and commander-in-chief, I take full responsibility for all our counter-terrorism operations, including the one that inadvertently took the lives of Warren and Giovanni.” Did you catch the word “inadvertently”? We’ll come back to that.

Here’s the background. American Warren Weinstein worked in Pakistan from 2004 to 2011. The day before his return to the United States, on August 11, 2011, he was taken from his home by a group of gunmen. He was then held hostage ever since, along with Italian Giovani Lo Porto. In a drone attack, both Weinstein and Lo Porto were “inadvertently” killed. Said Mr. Obama, “Based on information and intelligence we have obtained, we believe that a U.S. counter-terrorism operation targeting an Al-Qaeda compound in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region accidently killed Warren and Giovanni this past January. I profoundly regret what happened.” He went on to offer his “deepest apologies” to the families of the two hostages. Weinstein’s widow said in a statement that “we are devastated by this news and the knowledge that my husband will never safely return home.”

This tragic example of “inadvertent” consequences leads me to three observations. First, there are no secrets. The White House confirmed the incident took place three months ago. For reasons known only to them, they did not acknowledge the tragic event until yesterday. The Bible teaches us that whatever we shove off into the darkness will eventually be exposed by the light. Second, we must take responsibility for our actions. While President Obama has received a good bit of criticism for waiting three months to acknowledge the deaths of these two innocent lives, you can’t criticize his words: “I take full responsibility.” Those two words will take you far in life – full responsibility. Obama could have easily blamed failed intelligence or those who carried out the attack. But he took “full responsibility.” We do not achieve our preferred future until we own our failed past. Third, actions have consequences. This military action “inadvertently took the lives of Warren and Giovanni,” Obama said. Though the results were inadvertent, they counted all the same. Mrs. Weinstein said “we are devastated.” All actions have consequences. You don’t live in a bubble. Everything that you do, good or bad, will affect someone else. In honor of Dr. Weinstein, say a prayer for his widow and family today. And learn from his death. There are really no secrets in this life. We must take responsibility for our actions. All actions have consequences. From every tragedy grows a lesson. Don’t let Weinstein’s death serve no purpose. May we be better people today because of what we learned yesterday.

Homeless Man Finds Surprise!

By Dr. Mark Denison — Imagine the shock of a 62-year-old homeless man when he discovered he had money all along! John Helinski had been living in a cardboard box in downtown Tampa just a week ago, his residence of the past three years. Today he lives in a modest apartment and has enough money that he never has to work again. It turns out he had been receiving pension payments for years but didn’t know it. So he lived the life of a pauper. Here’s what happened. Tampa police officer Daniel McDonald was trying to help Mr. Helinski find his identification, long lost, in order to get him into public housing. “I drove him to the local tax collector’s office where he was able to get a temporary State of Florida ID card,” said McDonald. Using the temp ID card, Helinski was able to order his birth record from the U.S. Department of Consular Affairs. The birth certificate was the ticket John needed.

It turns out Helinski had been receiving benefits for years, but didn’t know it, because he had lost his debit card and had no access to his bank account. McDonald drove him to his old bank where they found his account. Though Helinski declined to reveal the exact amount in his account, McDonald confirmed it is enough to live on without ever having to work again. Talk about a parable on life! Christ gave his life to leave us incredible benefits. When you trust him as your Savior, you are “born again.” That birth certificate gives you access to benefits that never run out. You never have to work again. Jesus did the work for you. So quit living the life of a pauper and claim your true identity. Mr. Helinski was content to simply exist when he could have been excelling. He settled for existence over life. I know a lot of believers like that. If you have been born in Christ, claim your true identity. Enjoy the benefits that have already been credited to your account.

The Average American

By Dr. Mark Denison — How do you stack up against the average American? Let’s see. The average American is 37 years old. (I’m an overachiever on that one.) They are employed and earn $50,000 a year. The average American thinks she is a better driver than the average American. (I said “she” because the average American is a “she.”) The average American owes $16,000 on credit card debt and $150,000 on her mortgage. If she has a student loan, she owes $29,000. Her credit score is 640. She owns 27 pairs of shoes. The average American male owns 12. The average American household has 2.28 cars. They have $40,000 in their retirement account. The average American on the cusp of retirement has a retirement account of $100,000. The net worth of the average American is $40,000. And the average American thinks she is smarter than the average American.

The obvious takeaway is that we need to save more, spend less, and plan better. Here’s the good news. God says you are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” There is nothing average about that. You are special. Even on your worst day, God loves you more than your mother. There is nothing you can ever do to make him love you more, and there is nothing you can ever do to make him love you less. Kevin O’Keefe wrote about us in his book, The Average American. God wrote about us in his book, The Bible. You were created to win, overcome, be prosperous, and be blessed. Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” Don’t listen to Mr. O’Keefe. Listen to God. Rise above “average.” Rejoice in the marvelous creation that is you!

Omnipresent: Video Cameras—And the Lord

By Jerry Newcombe If it weren’t for a short video-clip captured on a cell phone, the recent shooting of an unarmed, fleeing black man by a white police officer in South Carolina might not have been reported and acted upon. The man who videotaped the incident even considered deleting it. Providentially, this alleged criminal act can be evaluated based on that tape. I say alleged because as of this writing the cop has not had his day in court. But that video is key. Apart from all privacy concerns (of which there are many), this gets me to thinking about daily living in light of omnipresent video cameras. I can’t drive by an intersection where I live without seeing those ubiquitous cameras.

  • Suppose you knew that everything you did and said was captured on videotape, would you live any differently?
  • Suppose everything you said, including gossip behind someone’s back, were to be broadcast, would you say anything different?
  • Suppose every word you wrote, even in private emails, were to end up being blasted throughout the media, would you reword anything?

Of course we would. I must confess that I drive more carefully when I’m followed by a police car. With that last question, the recent Sony hacking scandal comes to mind. Tom Johnson, former head of CNN, once gave this great piece of advice: “Do what is right. If you aren’t sure, ask yourself this question: ‘How will my actions, taken in private, look if published on the front page of the newspaper my mother and father read?’ You never need to lie or cheat to succeed in life.” As has been said, character is what you are when no is watching. I just heard a 30-year old story about a young man who passed his first driver’s test with flying colors. After the driving instructor who tested him left, he was relieved that he didn’t have to drive so perfectly now that the instructor was gone. We’re all like that. It’s easy to get back to normal, as if no one is watching us. But Someone is. In some ways the ethic of our age is do what you will, even if it’s wrong—only don’t get caught. The unspoken assumption of all this is that we will not one day give an account for our lives. But that’s not true. Jesus said what we whisper in secret will one day be shouted from the housetops. He also spoke of the day of reckoning we will all face one day—standing before Him. On that day, the books will be open, and no fancy lawyering can change the outcome. We’re all sinners; but only the blood of Jesus will save any of us, and it is available to all who call on Him. What we do in secret is seen by God. Thus, we should strive to be the same in private as we are in public. Previous generations understood all this better than ours does. In my wife’s hometown of Kristiansand, Norway is a thousand-year old church. I’ve attended services there. On the ceiling is an old painting of a human eye—representing the eye of God. It has reminded people for centuries that God sees all. Generally, our nation’s founders believed in divine accountability. They believed that the people needed to be good of their own accord—knowing full well that we will all stand before God one day. Bill Federer, historian, author, and speaker, has compiled great information in his book, The Original 13: A Documentary History of Religion in America’s First Thirteen States. Federer told me: “It’s interesting to see how so many of the constitutions of the original thirteen states of our country mentioned the importance of belief in God, because it was viewed as a requirement for moral behavior. Because to God, we will one day give an account. As the constitutions changed over time, becoming less religious and more secular, there was still this angle of divine accountability.” For instance, he cites the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776, which required officeholders to acknowledge “one God, the Creator and Governor of the Universe, the Rewarder of the good and the Punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine Inspiration.” Even Ben Franklin signed this. Federer adds, “Later, Pennsylvania’s 1790, 1838, 1874 and 1968 Constitutions contained the wording: ‘That no person, who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments, shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this commonwealth.’” Knowledge of our accountability to God should change how we act. Smile. You might be on candid camera. ### Jerry Newcombe is cohost/senior TV producer of Kennedy Classics. He has written/co-written 25 books, including The Book That Made America, Doubting Thomas (w/ Mark Beliles, on Jefferson), and What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? (w/ D. James Kennedy) & George Washington’s Sacred Fire (w/ Peter Lillback). tiam.org  jerrynewcombe.com  @newcombejerry

Lesson from Khrushchev

By Dr. Mark Denison — Years ago, when Nikita Khrushchev visited America, he gave a press conference at the Washington Press Club. The first question from the floor, handled through an interpreter, was, “Today you talked about the hideous rule of your predecessor, Joseph Stalin. You were one of his closest aides and colleagues during those years. What were you doing all that time?” At the height of his power, Stalin was exterminating 40,000 people per month. Khrushchev’s face got red. “Who asked that question?” he roared. All 500 faces turned down. “Who asked that question?” he repeatedly demanded. There was still no response other than silence. Then Khrushchev answered. Referring to their silence, he said, “That is what I was doing.”

Eighteenth century author and statesman Edmund Burke famously said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Sometimes our greatest sin is the evil we speak. Other times our greatest sin is our pure silence. Not saying what needs to be said is as bad as saying the wrong thing. The sin of silence takes many forms: not affirming someone who has done a good job, not correcting someone who is off the rails, not sharing the Good News with someone who really needs it. The sin of Khrushchev was the sin of silence. Evil doesn’t prosper because evil is stronger than good. Evil prospers when “good” goes quiet. The only thing worse than bad men doing something is good men doing nothing. It is time to wake up, get up, stand up, and speak up. Nothing kills like the sin of silence.

The Night the Titanic Sunk

By Dr. Mark Denison — It was the greatest vessel ever imagined…a floating palace. She weighed 46,328 tons. She was indestructible. Her name was Titanic. On her maiden voyage, the White Star liner churned from Southampton toward New York. The rich and famous were aboard. The band played, the people danced, and they all rejoiced. On the night of April 14, 1912 they had a grand party.

Then it happened. The unsinkable did the unthinkable. The great Titanic ran into an iceberg as the band was playing Nearer My God to Thee. Two hours, 40 minutes later, of the 2,340 aboard, only 745 survived. 1,595 perished in the icy waters. Just a few years ago, the last survivor died. What are the lessons from the Titanic? They mirror the lessons of life. Captain Smith ignored numerous warnings of pending danger. The spotlight was not installed correctly. The lifeboats were too small and too few. They travelled faster than they should have. They didn’t take icebergs seriously. You know, all “ships” can sink. You need the right Navigator; One who sees the icebergs of life and knows how to deal with them. Your job is to obey his directions.

What You Didn’t Know About the Star-Spangled Banner

By Dr. Mark Denison — The Star-Spangled Banner is our most recognizable icon as a nation. The flag flew over Ft. McHenry the morning after the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write what would become our national anthem. But I bet there are some things you didn’t know about our national treasure. First, the Star-Spangled Banner has a sibling, but we don’t know where it is. In 1813, Mary Pickersgill, a Baltimore flag maker, agreed to make two flags, not one. In addition to the huge 42 x 30 foot flag we still have, she sewed a much smaller flag, designed to withstand storms. In February 1815, the storm flag was lost to history after being replaced by a new one made in Philadelphia.

Second, the flag displays 15 stars, though there were 18 states at the time. The flag’s final design was approved by Congress in 1794 when there were 15 states. The design was not updated to reflect new states until April 4, 1818. Third, the family that kept the flag safe during the Civil War sympathized with the Confederacy. After the death of Col. George Armistead, commander of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore, the flag passed to his daughter, Georgiana Armistead Appleton. Georgiana’s son was arrested in 1861 for trying to sneak into Virginia from Maryland to join the Confederate Army.

Fourth, after coming to the Smithsonian, the flag has only left the National Mall once. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, plans were made to protect a number of the Smithsonian’s most precious objects. The flag was crated up with other treasures and sent to Luray, Virginia, for safekeeping. Fifth, the museum removed 1.7 million stitches from a previous preservation attempt. In 1914, celebrating the flag’s 100th birthday (a bit late), Amelia Fowler was employed to preserve the flag. She did so with amazing precision. Sixth, during the Civil War, the Union flag continued to include a star for each state in the Union, including those that had seceded. Okay, this isn’t about the original Star-Spangled Banner, but it is noteworthy. President Lincoln maintained the eight Confederate states never left the Union; they were merely “in rebellion.” Keeping their stars on the American flag signified solidarity. (In fact, two states were added to the union during the Civil War – West Virginia and Nevada.) Now, the next time you pledge to our wonderful flag, remember how things were 200 years ago. She remains our signature icon. She continues to stand for the solidarity of the Union, as dreamed by our founders from so many years before. She is our flag. She is our Star-Spangled Banner. pictured:  The Star-Spangled Banner at the Smithsonian