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Redefining Risk-Taking

Credit: Roy Luck via Flickr

A potentially game-changing discovery for the oil industry happened this week in west Texas. Apache Corporation, a large firm based out of Houston, has interests in five other countries, but their announcement this week of a new oil-field discovery is smack-dab right in the middle of one of America's most famous oil-boon areas: west Texas. The region has been famous for decades both for its high school football and its vast oil reserves, and the new field, dubbed "Alpine High," has the potential to produce anywhere from $8 to $80 billion in future revenue.

The site, spanning some 300,000+ acres, will take time to start producing the kind of results that Apache Corp. hopes will secure its future. Apache has limited infrastructure in the area, so they will have to invest heavily in equipment and personnel to begin extracting the oil. The oil industry is known for being one of the most volatile industries, and new discoveries are often hard to gauge for their future impact.

Apache has a fascinating backstory. Raymond Plank and W. Brooks Fields, Jr., World War II veterans from Yale, originally headed to Minnesota to start a new magazine that they hoped would be the Time or Atlantic Monthly of the Midwest. As they began their pursuit of this goal, however, they also set up a side-venture called APA that invested in various other business interests. The magazine never quite flowered into what they hoped it would be, because along the way they quickly realized that APA was where their real future lay.

Soon they started their first drilling operation in Cushing, Oklahoma, and have never looked back. In their 1964 Annual Report, Plank penned a statement that serves as a manifesto of sorts for how they saw themselves as a company: "The capacity of the individual is infinite. Limitations are largely of habit, convention, acceptance of things as they are, fear or lack of self confidence."

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Man says the devil helped him kill teenager

Credit: Wichita FallsThirteen-year-old Lauren Landavazo was walking home from school last Friday when she was shot and killed. Authorities arrested Kody Lott Sunday afternoon and he later confessed to the shooting, claiming that the devil helped him plan out the crime.

If this tragedy doesn't make you angry, I could tell you more stories in today's news—a teenager who assaulted a girl and bragged about it on Facebook, thirty-seven children who were hospitalized after a chlorine gas attack in Syria, thirteen people who were shot to death over the Labor Day weekend in Chicago.

My point is not to depress you this morning. Rather, it is to think with you about the anger you feel at stories like these.

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Mel Gibson receives standing ovation for new film

FEREX via APPeople are talking today about the new Apple iPhone, congressional debates over legislation to battle Zika, and Gretchen Carlson's $20 million settlement with Fox. But the news that most caught my eye this morning has to do with a movie that won't be in theaters for two more months.

Hacksaw Ridge is Mel Gibson's new film. It tells the true story of Desmond Doss, a World War II army medic who refused to bear arms but received the Medal of Honor after he saved dozens of his fellow soldiers. The movie was shown at the Venice International Film Festival last Saturday. According to USA Today, the audience gave Gibson a ten-minute standing ovation when the film ended.

It was my privilege to see Hacksaw Ridge at a private showing a few days ago, then participate in a discussion with Gibson. I don't remember ever being as moved by a movie as I was by his film. Looking back, I can identify three reasons for my response.

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Twins take wedding photos with father, who has Alzheimer's

"We knew our father may not be alive for our future wedding, so we decided to capture the poignant moment before it was lost forever." This is how Becca Duncan explains the decision she and her twin sister Sarah made to have wedding photos made with their father, even though neither is engaged. Their dad is suffering from Alzheimer's disease, so they staged their wedding pictures with him while they can.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that basketball great Charles Barkley traveled to Craig Sager's bedside as the broadcaster recovers from a third bone marrow transplant. Sager is battling aggressive leukemia, and Barkley wanted to show his support. This despite Barkley's recent hip surgery and his doctor's warning that he should not yet travel. Sager's wife had a cold and couldn't be with him in the hospital, so Barkley flew to Phoenix to take her place.

I often encourage Christians to use our influence for the greatest public good. As our culture becomes increasingly hostile to biblical truth and faith, our courageous public witness becomes increasingly vital. We can learn from the Duncan twins and Charles Barkley—their public actions called attention to dread diseases and gave us compassionate examples to follow.

But there's another side to the story: those who serve far from the limelight are as important as those who make the news. Heroes who are unsung on earth are applauded in heaven.

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Why is 'Labor Day' an oxymoron?

Credit: Craighton Miller via FlickrIt's been a busy holiday weekend. Here are some of the headlines: the Catholic Church declared Mother Teresa a saint. Hermine is ruining holiday plans on the East Coast. College football has seen a weekend of upsets: Wisconsin beat LSU, Houston won over Oklahoma, and Texas defeated Notre Dame in overtime. Serena Williams won her 307th match in a Grand Slam tournament, the most in the history of women's tennis. And North Korea fired three ballistic missiles this morning.

Now we've come to the most oxymoronically named day of the year. According to the United States Department of Labor, Labor Day "is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country."

So workers are honored by a day in which we do not work. That's like a music awards show in which there is no music. The fact that we reward laborers by giving them a day without labor says something important about the way our culture views work.

Many people see work as a means to a better end, a necessity that pays the bills for the things we'd rather be doing. We bifurcate work and the rest of life. Is this how God sees work?

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Alicia Keys isn't defined by her flaws. Are you?

Credit: Charles Sykes via APFor the better part of fifteen years, Alicia Keys has been one of the world's most respected and sought-after musicians. She's performed with some of the industry's biggest names, and the way she's able to mesh her vocal talents with an ear for the music behind her is nothing short of amazing. Yet, despite her success and acclaim, Keys has grown increasingly frustrated in recent years with a sense of personal dishonesty, stemming from her attempts to balance the expectations of others with who she truly wanted to be.

As she recently wrote, "I was finally uncovering just how much I censored myself, and it scared me. Who was I anyway? Did I even know how to be brutally honest anymore? Who I wanted to be?"

As a way of publicly confronting those issues of self-doubt, Keys decided back in May to stop wearing makeup. While that may seem like a minor move to some of us, for a woman whose photo is taken everywhere she goes, putting every freckle and line on display for the world to see wasn't an easy decision.

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Teens read the Bible like their parents. Is that good news?

Credit: George Bannister via FlickrBarna recently polled a group of more than a thousand teens, aged thirteen to seventeen, to see how they interact with the Bible. For the most part, the results were fairly encouraging. Sixty-six percent of practicing Protestant teens saying that they read the Bible on their own at least once a week, with forty-three percent saying that they spend an average of fifteen to twenty-nine minutes with God's word when they open it.

However, the most interesting findings relate to the connection between parents who read their Bibles and teens who do the same. Roughly half of practicing Protestant teens reported seeing their parents reading Scripture on a regular basis, with another forty-two percent saying that they see their parents read the Bible at least occasionally. And while kids seeing their parents studying God's word doesn't guarantee that they will as well, fifty-five percent of teens who read Scripture once a week have parents who do the same, and only ten percent rarely or never see their parents open the Bible.

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A vital lesson Christians can learn from atheists

Credit: Alejandro Rdguez via FlickrAccording to Vox, the average restaurant meal is four times larger than in the 1950s. Apple will reportedly allow customers to order their new iPhone 7 in the color black. Ikea says that future homes will have vegetable planters lining their kitchen walls, furniture will double as exercise gear, and sensors throughout the house will respond instantly to our actions.

These stories illustrate the first rule of marketing: give the people what they want. Successful businesspeople know that they must connect their products to our interests, needs, and hopes before we will buy what they are selling.

Atheists are learning the same lesson.

Sean McDowell teaches apologetics at Biola University and is the author of over eighteen books. His latest blog post is titled "The New Face of Atheism." According to Dr. McDowell, this "face" isn't a person but a movement.

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Welcoming our grandson into the world

"Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world" (John Milton).

Yesterday was a "transcendent moment of awe" for our family as we welcomed Wesley Noah Denison into the world. Our lives are changed forever by this baby boy. He will never remember the day of his birth, but we will never forget it.

Wesley's parents are our younger son, Craig, and his wife, Rachel. Craig directs brand strategy for our ministry and writes First15, our daily devotional. Rachel writes for their website, Craig + Rachel Denison, and for Both are remarkable musicians and worship leaders. And both love Jesus as passionately and intimately as anyone I have ever known.

Today they can say with Hannah, "For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him" (1 Samuel 2:27). From the moment we knew of Wesley's conception, our family has prayed diligently for him. Today we are rejoicing in the miracle of his birth with hearts overflowing with gratitude to God.

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The Central Challenge for Leaders of the Future

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The University of Chicago’s dean of Students made headlines this week with the letter he sent to new students there. The letter outlines the school’s commitment to academic freedom, and Dr. Ellison, the dean, lays out what this means for students. It means that they should not expect the creation of “safe spaces where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.” It also means that they should not expect the University to cancel invited speakers because of perceived controversy.

The letter illustrates a larger struggle to figure out how to educate the generation that has been most impacted by the social media revolution. This new generation has increasingly flexed its muscles as it has realized the strength of social media campaigns and how quickly they can target, terrify, and make administrators bow to their demands.

As schools are trying to come to grips with how they should handle these types of situations, it is becoming increasingly clear from the business world that the most important and vital set of skills lacking in the marketplace right now are soft skills. The Wall Street Journal featured another article about this subject, noting that in their own survey of 900 executives, eighty-nine percent said they struggled to find people with the requisite soft skills necessary to do the job. As technical jobs become outsourced or automated, companies are looking for employees who can, in the words of one business owner in the article, employ “common sense.”

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