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2020's Top 10 articles

It's not surprising that three of 2020's top articles addressed the coronavirus and governments' responses to it. But, in a blast from the past, C.S. Lewis also takes up a couple of spots. Other than that, the year's most popular articles are as different as different could be, united only in recognizing that God is working through it all. Without further adieu, here are Reformed Perspective's top articles for 2020, starting at…. #10 - The hidden meaning of "The Chronicles of Narnia" It's been recently discovered that C.S. Lewis, seemingly just for his own private entertainment, linked each of his famous Narnia books to one of the 7 planets as medieval cosmology understood them. #9 - Netflix’s “The Baby-Sitters Club” sells transgenderism to its preteen/teen audience The streaming giant brought a much-loved pre-teen/teen girls' book series to the small screen but "updated" it with transgenderism. #8 - The Regulative Principle and church lockdowns Is live-streaming the equivalent of in-person worship of God? What does the Regulative Principle tell us about that? And if it is not the equivalent, how should that impact our interactions with our elected leaders, and the message we would want to communicate to them? #7 - C.S. Lewis's Apologetics: a Reformed assessment C.S. Lewis's second entry on our Top 10, this time we're examining his approach to apologetics from a Reformed and presuppositional perspective. #6 - 3 ways of confronting the problems of diminishing attention spans through the reading of the Great Books Like even this article title, the Great Books stretch us. If you want to give reading "the Great Books" a try, this article includes a listing of 50 of them to choose from (with links to download a half dozen for free). #5 - Solomon on smartphones and the pull of pornography King Solomon didn't know smartphones but had insights into the power and pull of sexual temptation, which he shares with young men in Proverbs 7. Older men, and young and older women, can also benefit from the wisdom shared here. #4 - Twice a Sunday needs to happen Chris deBoer encourages a more creative approach to getting people back in the pews and singing God's praises together: if the government restricts church attendance to 50%, then let's double our services! Or let's come out with some other, similarly creative, way to come together again, twice each Sunday. #3 - TikTok passes 2 billion downloads A social media platform that was already big in 2019 became enormous in 2020... and parents who wanted the basics were checking out this primer. #2 - Calvinism in the time of coronavirus Written at the beginning of the Coronavirus crisis, it reminded us that we can be comforted knowing that, no matter what craziness might be going on out in the world, our Lord remains in control! #1 - A great-grandma 100 times over...and counting Our top article of 2020 is a short but sweet story about God's abundant blessings – 100 times over! – to this grand great-grandma.

News

Saturday Selections - December 5, 2020

Living clouds (5 min) How do they do it? Thousands of starlings, flying at speeds of 50 miles per hour, moving in such precision together that they look like living clouds! We can't control COVID (or much of anything else) "How quickly we went from the 'we acknowledge we can’t control this' of the UCSF panel of experts to the 'we absolutely can and will control this' of elected officials. The shift from 'most of us are going to get sick but let’s care for and protect the vulnerable' to 'everyone must avoid getting sick at all costs' is a significant one. Now, if anyone contracts COVID, it’s not because it’s a novel virus we don’t understand, but because someone failed. Practical atheists want control. When control is lost, someone is to blame." A less controversial way to reduce gun deaths? Guns are used to kill, but also to save lives too, so any time a government tries to impliment any form of gun control, it is controversial. But is there a way to reduce gun deaths that would be far less controversial? Blessed are the unoffendable This is an article that will greatly help a great deal of us. 5 biggest little ways to improve your marriage This post is based on a 1992 book, very popular in Christians circles, called The 5 Love Languages, which proposed that there are 5 different ways that people like to be loved and like to express love. While this isn't an idea that should be put on par with biblical revelation, it does have a common-sense appeal: we all know that some folks really like gifts no matter how small, and others who respond to touch, and some who best appreciate words of encouragement. And the Golden Rule, as spelled out in Matthew 7:12, is a biblical grounding for the general underlying principle that just as we would like people to show affection for us in the way we best like to receive it, we should offer the same consideration in how we express love. Thomas Sowell on the difference between conservatives and liberals (4 minutes) While Sowell is not making a specifically Christian argument here, his definition of the conservative understanding – that Man is intrinsically flawed – lines up with what the Bible says about our fallen nature. He also speaks to the very biblical notion (Prov 27:14) that good intentions are not enough, and that utopia is an impossible ideal (so long as we on this side of heaven). That last point might be misunderstood as being apathetic, or an uncaring response to evil, as if he is saying "We can't do anything, so why bother!" But his point is, we can do many things, but we can't do everything, so choices need to be made. And possible good achieved is better than impossible good intended. (To clarify the conservative and liberal labels used here don't reference Canada's political parties, though the Liberal Party does largely align with Liberal values as Thomas Sowell defines them.) ...

News

29-year-old mom gives birth to 27-year-old baby

It’s a headline that seems better suited to National Enquirer, but it gets crazier still. The 29-year-old mother, Tina Gibson, doesn’t have just one baby almost as old as her, but two! The story starts back in 2016, when Tina’s father told her about a news story he’d seen on snowflake adoption – adopting, and implanting an abandoned embryo that has been left in cold storage since being conceived. After months of investigation and prayer, Tina and her husband Ben went forward – Tina was implanted with an embryo that had been frozen since 1992. Then, in November 2017, the Gibsons were able to welcome their daughter Emma Wren to the world. Now, three years later, Tina and Ben have another little girl to take care of, Emma’s biological sister, Molly. She had been frozen at the same time as Emma, and was born in late October, 27 years later. While secular news has covered this as an amusing, sweet story, LifeSiteNews.com shared the damage done to children when they are frozen: 25% don’t survive the unfreezing process, and those that do have a higher risk of genetic abnormalities. For these reasons and more, we should not freeze children. But some parents have inflicted this on their children, to the point that there are hundreds of thousands of frozen babies. That’s a tragedy. But just like God’s adoption of us, “snowflake adoption” is a rescue plan. So what a joy it is that Tina and Ben can reflect our Heavenly Father in bringing these two little girls into their family!...

News

Equality found in the Bible, not on the football field

After COVID quarantines eliminated their other kickers, the Vanderbilt Commodores football team turned to Sarah Fuller. The starting goalkeeper for the university’s women’s soccer team, Fuller was already used to kicking a ball pretty far. But when she came on the field in the second half of the Nov. 28 competition against the Missouri Tigers, the coach didn’t ask her to blast it. Instead, the designed play was for her to hit a squib – a low bouncing kick that is hard to return. And that’s what happened: she booted it 30-yards, and the receiver fell on it for a return of zero yards. That was Fuller’s only action, with the punting handled by a teammate, and Vanderbilt never getting close enough for her to attempt a field goal. While a handful of women have kicked for other lower-level college teams, Fuller became the first woman to officially take the field in a major conference football game. That is an understandable reason for interest, but from the play-by-play announcers on up to major media networks, this was treated as a cause for celebration. One of the game’s announcers described it this way, as Fuller was lining up the kick: History is on the field in Columbia, Missouri, as Sarah Fuller is about to put her right foot into a football, speaking volumes to women around the world. Fuller’s appearance won her the SEC “special teams co-player of the week” honors. That she had just the one kick – solid but not amazing – meant this wasn’t about athletic prowess. An ESPN headline framed it as: “Vanderbilt kicker breaks barriers…” But what sort of barrier was it that the Vanderbilt kicker broke? This was treated as if it was a blow for women’s equality. However, if anything, it was the opposite. Why? Well, there are two very different grounds for women's and men’s equality. The first is the declaration in Genesis 1:27 that “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” It is in this sense that male and female (as well as every ethnic group, the unborn and children and adults too) are the same – we are all made in the Image of God. But for a culture that rejects God, another grounding for equality is needed, and another “sameness” needs to be found. The best the world has been able to do is an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-too basis of equality. It’s on this basis that Fuller is being celebrated: because she showed that just like men, women can play football too. But that an exceptional woman athlete can fill in, in a non-contact appearance, for a COVID-devastated, winless football team in a meaningless game that they lost 41-0 doesn’t prove women can do football just like the boys. Under ordinary circumstances, Fuller would never have taken the field. It’s here that things take a nasty turn: if we stick with the world’s anything-you-can-co-I-can-do-too basis for equality, then if women can’t play football that would mean they aren’t men’s equals.  While biblical headship is often blamed for chauvinism, this abilities-focused basis for equality is the true culprit. As hard as the world tries to obscure them, the physical differences between men and women are obvious to all. So if our worth is determined by what we can do, then a man who sees he can lift twice what a woman can will come to a chauvinist conclusion. And this issue is bigger than women’s rights, impacting both the unborn and aged too. That the unborn can’t do much yet is why they can be killed. That the elderly and the disabled can’t do all that we can do is why euthanasia is offered to them. They are deemed as being worth less because they can do less. To counter that argument, we don’t need to show how much the unborn, or the elderly, or the disabled can do. We don’t need to show that women can play football too. And we don’t need to point to jobs and tasks that women are able to do better than men. To fight chauvinism, and abortion, and euthanasia, we need to acquaint people with the true basis for our worth and our equality: our Maker, who made us all in His very Image....

News

The Regulative Principle and church lockdowns

Returning to gathered worship is of vital importance *** “All of Manitoba moves to CRITICAL (RED) on #restartMB pandemic response system” So declares a press statement from the Government of Manitoba. With those twelve words, Christians in Manitoba are once again being plunged into the murky realm of “virtual worship.” For several months in early 2020 a full lockdown was mandated in the province and churches there were forbidden to open their doors. Now, once again, “religious and cultural gatherings must close or be provided virtually only,” states the government release. The dark, cold months of winter promise only a long, exhausting lockdown for our fellow believers in that province. British Columbia even more recently followed suit, with their provincial health officer declaring:  “In-person religious gatherings and worship services are suspended under the order.” By every indication, the rest of the country may not be far behind. The COVID-19 crisis has created a tension between principles. We know we are called to love our neighbor and submit to the government on the one hand, but on the other, we know that we are also called to gather together for worship, and called to provide spiritual, physical, and mental care for our neighbor. I can’t think of a recent issue affecting the Church that has brought such polarized responses from within the Reformed community, and within individual congregations themselves. Christians raise their children on stories of the brave martyrs who gave their lives to worship the one true God. Were the State to say, “you may not hold services because of your religious beliefs,” Christians would be unanimous in agreeing that we should disobey such a regulation – it would be unjust and unbiblical. Were the State to raise up a golden calf and call on us to bow down, we would be similarly clear and decisive. How then should we live in a time of pandemic? What is the relationship between the Church and the State in a time of pandemic? The answer doesn’t seem to be as simple today. Questions we need answered Theological issues and questions raised only in church history class have now become everyday considerations. Manitoba’s “Critical Red” stage is forcing churches to close. British Columbia has now enacted policies curbing social interaction outside of households and suspended in-person worship services. Each provincial government, and even every municipal government, has different regulations: mask bylaws, maximum church gathering limits, bans on singing in church, restrictions on the sacraments, restrictions on the life of the church and its work through catechism classes, youth groups, men’s and women’s societies, Bible studies, ministries to the poor, to the elderly and more. Never in my lifetime has the hand of the State reached so far into the life of the Church. The Regulative Principle of Worship In the face of the COVID-19 lockdowns, many have chosen to hold corporate worship via some sort of online live-streaming video. In most provinces, this means a skeleton crew is present in the church. This might include the pastor, a sound and video technician, and either someone playing music or a recording to facilitate singing. The rest of the congregation is at home, either alone, or with their family watching this service. So what should we think of this form of worship service? To best answer that question we should look back at what, historically, we have understood worship to be. Along with some other Protestant denominations, Reformed churches have held to some form of the “Regulative Principle of Worship.” That principle extends from an interpretation of the second commandment and it stipulates that only those things prescribed in God’s Word are to be part of worship. The Bible explicitly calls Christians to worship and to gather physically for worship services (Hebrews 10:24-25; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; Colossians 3:16; Acts 2:1; Acts 4:31; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 5:4; 1 Corinthians 11:18–34). Worship is to include singing, the reading of the Word of God, sacraments, the preaching of the gospel, and corporate prayers. The principle also stipulates that things not prescribed are not permitted. This is distinct from the way many other denominations worship, both Catholic and many mainline Protestant churches. For them, anything that has not been forbidden in Scripture may be permissible, particularly as it relates to church tradition. This Regulative Principle extends from the following statements of faith: Belgic Confession: “… we reject all human inventions, and all laws which man would introduce into the worship of God, thereby to bind and compel the conscience in any manner whatever. Therefore, we admit only of that which tends to nourish and preserve concord and unity, and to keep all men in obedience to God” (Art. 32). Heidelberg Catechism: “Q: What does God require in the second commandment? A: That we in no wise make any image of God, nor worship him in any other way than he has commanded us in his Word.” (Q&A 96) Westminster Confession: “But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited to his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture” (21.1). The Reformed understanding of Scripture has historically been opposed to worship services that include an aspect of “performance.” In response to the Reformation and the “priesthood of all believers,” Reformed denominations have tended to resist musical presentations, choirs, bands, and more. The focus has always been on facilitating worship for the corporate body. The congregation is there to partake, to engage in all the acts of worship, not just to sit by and observe. In fact, Reformed liturgy is commonly laid out in the form of a conversation between God and His people. God gives a blessing, the people respond with singing, God’s Word is read, the people respond in prayer, the offering is taken, and so on. Two possible responses So, if we consider the Regulative Principle, how should we evaluate COVID-caused online worship? The response from Reformed churches, so far, seems to fall into two camps: those who see virtual worship services as an acceptable replacement for corporate worship, and those who do not. Response 1: Virtual worship is valid corporate worship One could argue that live-streaming is better than nothing. Due to the emergency lockdown, it is simply not possible to hold corporate worship, and the believers cannot gather together, and yet via live-streaming we are praying and hearing the Word of God preached. We can gather as families and sing at the same time as the many other families in our congregation. We can give our offerings via email transfer. Many Reformed churches have provided church telephone and live-stream accessibility options for decades. Those beloved members who are subject to disability or the impact of old age can still join us in hearing the Word preached, and partake in aspects of the service they would otherwise have no access to. These technologies are a blessing that the church hasn’t had before, and we should be thankful. Response 2: Live-streams are not the same as corporate worship While this technology is a blessing to those who are unable to attend church, as well as a means to provide excellent content online, there are reasons why joining church via live-stream was never considered the same as attending in person. Those reasons remain even in the midst of a pandemic. Worshiping in this manner allows believers to avoid the sometimes-messy reality of church family: the coming together of people of all ages and types, in a shared bond of faith in Christ. It also removes the accountability of membership. And it raises all sorts of questions. What message does virtual worship give our church members about the value of being present in person? Couldn’t members join from a vacation spot in the future, or from home if they don’t want to drive in to church? Can someone be part of the worship service by watching it three hours later? Or is it only in watching simultaneously? What if there’s a 30-second lag, and each individual device buffers differently as there is? We’re certainly not all singing together in unison! Can someone in Europe join our services weekly by live-stream? If so, can they become a member of the church? The Regulative Principle that teaches us puppet shows are not a substitute for opening the Word also teaches us that virtual services are no substitute for corporate worship. The in-person (embodied) nature of worship The passage at the heart of many of the COVID-19 related discussions is Hebrews 10:24-25. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Being “together” is the essential element of the author’s directive here. Stirring one another up to love and good works and encouraging one another is an aspect of being together. The physical gathering of the church together is connected to the doctrine of the resurrection. Around the time I first drafted this article in April, the Ezra Institute released an excellent article that raised this point that I want to quote here: It is an unscriptural theology of creation and incarnation that believes the body of Christ can exist and function equally well in an abstract digital world, reducing the Lord’s Table to relative unimportance, and the preached Word to a “talk” just as effectively delivered digitally via pre-recorded video or live feed. Such an idea is a modern form of Docetism, the heretical belief that Christ merely took on the appearance of humanity, and that his human form was an illusion. If these things were even partially true, Jesus’ suffering, death, and bodily resurrection would be unnecessary and meaningless, and person-to-person contact where believers are gathered in Christ’s name would become optional for Christians. I fear that, in readily accepting the validity of virtual worship, we are releasing hold on a central tenet of the Christian faith. The idea of eternal disembodied spirits living forever is not unique. The Romans, Greeks, Chinese, Arabs, Midianites, Cushites – in fact almost every people group throughout history – have shared this belief. The Egyptians built their massive pyramids thousands of years ago based on this belief. What is stunningly radical about the Christian faith is the embodied, physical resurrection of Christ from the tomb. This is the wonder, and the counter-cultural nature of our faith. We worship our risen Lord each Sunday morning! We do not worship a disembodied soul. Crucially then, we are not called to worship as disembodied congregations – no, we worship Him in body and in spirit! And we will for eternity. “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection from the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 12-14 Practically, this has implications for the liturgy and sacraments of worship. The direct result of misunderstanding this biblical truth by choosing to not be physically present means we cannot partake in the Lord’s supper, baptism, offering of tithes, the ordination of elders and deacons and more. Disembodied “virtual worship” must not be viewed as a valid replacement for in-person corporate worship. Implications for political action There are more questions for us to consider. If we cannot return to church for months, what happens to the congregation in the meantime? Can the church remain intact after a long period apart? How does the church leadership maintain the faithfulness of the body if corporate worship is banned? The central concern I am trying to raise is this: in becoming comfortable with the technological means, have we been giving too much leeway to the State to dictate what may or may not be done in worship? Through the months of lockdown, here in Ontario, we became used to live-stream services. We watched our pastor on a flat screen, and he couldn’t see back. Indeed, the statistics show that many churches became so comfortable they have never returned from virtual services even when restrictions eased – their buildings remain closed and empty. If instead, we believe that total lockdown means the end of corporate worship, how would that change our response? If we recognize that corporate worship cannot be done virtually, there will be a higher urgency to our interaction with the State. Could we then continue complying without concern? I believe that if total lockdowns return our way, as they are in Manitoba and BC, then political action in response to our government is necessary. The time has come for us to engage with our governments. We need to act to show that we will not sit by when it comes to the restriction of embodied worship of our risen, embodied Saviour. If we view our gathering together as essential to corporate worship, then it is not a matter of convenience where technology can substitute at any time. Corporate worship is essential. We can’t expect our secular governments to understand that – we are the ones who must tell them. And, like the widow of Luke 18:1-8, we must do so insistently. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)...

News

Saturday Selections - November 14, 2020

Flash mob singing Handel's Messiah (5-min) We're going back ten years to one of the first flash mob performances, with a chorus of 100 surprising Christmas shoppers with the Hallelujah Chorus. Tim Keller, John Piper, & Donald Trump (10-minute read) With the voting done (even if the counting isn't) this isn't so much about Donald Trump as it is about Tim Keller, social justice, and conservative churches' theological drift. The representative paragraph below is on one way the world suppresses truth (Romans 1:18-23): by pretending simple things are complicated. "When my eldest son, Michael, was a student at Yale Law School a few years ago, he says that Yale inculcated a specific progressive strategy for the deconstruction of otherwise simple moral issues like, say, abortion or the oxymoronic notion of “gay marriage.” They even had a term for it: “complexify.” In other words, obscure the issue at hand with data, highly selective science, and emotion to such a degree that your opponent no longer feels competent to adjudicate the issue." A year of living safely Andy Wilson reviews a book being much discussed, The Price of Panic, about the mostly uncounted costs – in money and lives – that resulted, not from COVID, but from governmental responses to it. What about when the life of the mother is in danger?  Being pro-life doesn't mean valuing babies' lives over mothers' lives. It means recognizing that there are two people. The unscientific roots of conversion therapy bans "There are many and varied reasons why same-sex attracted people want to move away from homosexuality. There is evidence that they can do so, often incurring significant benefits with no serious evidence of harm." Jeff Durbin confronts the Woke Church Jeff Durbin wants to wake up the Woke Church. And in this clip he uses strong language to confront them...but it is language that reflects and mirrors language that the Bible itself uses in a similar fashion, for a similar purpose. It is language that might confront churches, and members, that while not Woke, are starting to drift with the cultural current. This, then, will be a slap to the face, and a call to start fighting, to God's glory. The clip below is just 6 minutes, but you can see the full presentation on what Durbin calls "Van Tillian kill shots" by clicking on the title above. ...

News

Twice a Sunday needs to happen!

With the battle raging, we may not neglect coming together “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” – Hebrews 10:24-25 **** Churches face many challenges, and some are more significant than COVID’s potential impact on our physical health. There is a spiritual battle going on and the devil has no qualms with using any and all means available to try and deceive and attack the Body of Christ. And he can even use COVID. The devil has, long ago, learned that the Church can actually grow via the spilt blood of martyrs. So, rather than stir up passions via persecution, he will sometimes try the very opposite tactic, lulling the church into complacency and apathy. Beyond temporary During the initial uncertainty of COVID, many churches were mandated by the government to stop gathering together. After a few weeks, permissions were granted to have maybe five or six people in the building, and that made it possible for congregations to watch their pastors lead a service via livestream. Other congregations were encouraged to watch other church services online. Then, as restrictions were loosened, a group of fifty, or groups of fifty in different cohorts, could gather in the building for worship – some had restrictions on singing, others could sing with full voice! While these temporary restrictions to formal gatherings for worship might have been an acceptable measure while COVID was novel, now, months into it, we must ask, how long we can practice these temporary measures? Is it time to start making plans for the longer-term so that we can ably equip the saints for the battles we must wage? Worship services are essential One of the greatest training grounds for preparing saints for spiritual warfare is the formal worship services held on a weekly basis. In the Church Order of many continental Reformed churches we express the importance of formal worship services: “The consistory shall call the congregation together for worship twice on the LORD’s Day. The consistory shall ensure that, as a rule, once every Sunday the doctrine of God’s Word as summarized in the Heidelberg Catechism is proclaimed” (Church Order of the Canadian Reformed Churches, Article 52). The reason why at least one service focuses on the doctrine of God’s Word as summarized in the Heidelberg Catechism is to ensure that the congregation knows core doctrines well. Such knowledge equips the saints for the battles raging. In Canada, many of our church members were managing to worship in their buildings with about half the congregation once per Sunday. While this is better than not meeting, it does not meet the normative standard set out by the Church Order, to meet twice per Sunday. Worship with the communion of saints is special. Church attendance promotes fellowship and encouragement (cf. Act. 2:42; Heb. 10:24, 25). As the Psalmist says, “we used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng” (Psalm 55:14). The Holy Spirit works through the preaching of the Word (1 Cor. 2:4, 13; 1 Thess. 1:5) for the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17). This weapon of offense, this Word, is powerful. Hebrews 4:12 teaches us that the “word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword…” The Word, accompanied by the power of the Spirit, is effective for changing lives. The preaching of that word is crucial for the saints, as they seek to maintain their engagement with each other and with the world around them. Formal worship services are centred around the preaching of the Word. But of course, formal worship is more than just a listening exercise; indeed, if that is all we needed to consider, then virtual worship would be virtually the same as corporate worship. We can hear great speeches, sermons, and elucidations on God’s Word anytime online. But Christians are not just concerned about an academic learning, but about developing and nurturing both their vertical relationship with God (the greatest commandment), and also the horizontal relationships (the second commandment to love one another). A worship service includes hearing the promises of God’s blessing, singing praises to God with the saints, active listening to the living preaching of God’s Word to a specific congregation of the Lord, etc. A worship service truly addresses both aspects of our walk of faith in a congregationally specific manner Where there is a will, there is a way It is time to refocus our efforts to worshipping together twice per Sunday. The principled position articulated in the Church Order needs to be reignited before apathy sets in, if it hasn’t already. It is apathy that the devil uses to infiltrate a laziness in the church. He sows the seeds of doubt through apathy when we start to wonder: do we really need to go to church twice? Why can’t we just stay home this morning? I think we’ll take a nap this afternoon and catch the service via livestream, etc. We must not let the devil get a foothold in the churches of Christ. We need to get back to corporate worship again! If we take the threat of the devil seriously, we will do all that we can to combat his attacks by any biblical means available. Practically speaking, this means that the consistory could call each half of the congregation to worship twice per Sunday. Yes, that means four services in the building. Some churches would need to have the elders lead one or two of the services per Sunday. It might be wise to have the same half meet together consistently for a period of time. This would allow that half of the congregation to get to know each other better and to increasingly function as a body of believers, encouraging each other to love and good works. However it happens, the normative practice of gathering in worship twice on Sunday needs to be restored as soon as possible. People have started feeling guilty coming to church twice because the one time was not technically their turn. Others have stopped feeling guilty altogether when they choose to skip going to church, or even skip watching the service online. Because we love the Lord and His saints, we need to reinstate the call to worship twice every Lord’s Day. In so doing, the Holy Spirit will continue to work mightily in the lives of God’s people so that we are increasingly equipped to fight the good fight of faith and to live according to God’s commands to love him with our heart, soul, and mind, and our neighbour as ourself. Since originally writing this article, further worship restrictions have been implemented in many regions. Brothers and sisters, let us do all that we can to gather together as often and willingly as possible. Formal worship is essential to the life of the local congregation – let us ensure we do what we can to keep the congregation alive and active before it may need to go on life support....

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Saturday Selections - Nov 7, 2020

What cobras can teach us about incentives Prov. 27:14  teaches that good intentions are not enough. And yet many a government policy is implemented, not because it has been shown to be effective – not because of evidence – but simply because the policy's drafters mean well. But, as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with such good intentions. Operation Manna - a story for Remembrance Day In the winter of 1944-1945, the northern Netherlands were facing starvation. And they were still occupied by the Nazis so the Allies couldn't reach them with relief supplies. In episode of the History.icu podcast we get to hear how "manna" of a sort was delivered from the skies. "Born this way" is old science During her US Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Amy Coney Barrett used the term "sexual preference" instead of "sexual orientation" and in what seemed a response (it happened the very next day) Merriam Webster changed their definition for that term to now describe it as an offensive term. Why the fuss? Well, as Senator Mazie Hirono declared at the confirmation hearing, “Sexual preference is an offensive and outdated term…used by anti-LGBTQ activists to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice—it is not.” Except that newer science says preference is probably the better word choice after all. How an affair really begins "One of the great misconceptions about affairs is that they begin with sex. Affairs do not begin with sex.... Instead, it is a culminating decision in a long list of terrible, self-centered decisions." A sensible and compassionate anti-COVID strategy What's most striking about this article is its calm tone. But calm doesn't mean insignifigant, as it highlight the importance of correcting a lockdown strategy that the UN estimates might lead to 130 million more deaths by starvation this year. Biblical vs. Christian counseling: What’s the difference? (3 minutes) Dr. Heath Lambert provides a brief, general overview of the difference between Biblical counseling and Christian counseling. ...

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Dutch mayor threatens church’s rented space over “conversion therapy”

Many churches around the world rent a space for their weekly worship services. But are rented spaces going to become a new front in persecution of Christians? A disturbing recent event in the Netherlands suggests this is where we are heading. In September, the Mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, proposed having a “serious conversation” with the landlord of the local Hillsong Church congregation based on unsubstantiated claims that the church engaged in “gay conversion therapy.” Mayor Halsema had not discussed the issue with the church’s leadership directly and she also did not initially indicate any interest in doing so. Gay conversion therapy is currently not illegal in the Netherlands. Thus, Mayor Halsema was proposing using her office to strip a church of its rented building for something that – if they did it – would be entirely legal. Hillsong Church, which originated in Australia, is best known for holding rock-concert style services and for attracting celebrity members like Justin Bieber. Within the Christian world, Hillsong’s theology is not regarded as particularly orthodox. However, it appears that any association with Christianity is grounds for suspicion. The Mayor’s comments came during a city council meeting September 17 to discuss recent incidents of violence against LGBTQ residents of Amsterdam. The role of churches in promoting the “inequality” of gays came up in the course of the meeting. Mayor Halsema said: “If there are any signs that churches are preaching or offering gay healing, we get in touch to let them know that we don't like it. We state that we have no powers, but that does not prevent us from having a serious conversation, for example with the landlord of Hillsong.” Hillsong Church NL rents its worship space from a large theatre. The theatre is also currently hosting a musical called Anne about the life of Anne Frank, the Jewish girl who kept a diary of her life in hiding from the Nazis and subsequently died in the Holocaust. Mayor Halsema stated in the council meeting that it would be a “tragic irony” if the same stage where Anne is performed was also used to promote intolerance. Mayor Halsema’s comments sparked a backlash though, unfortunately, most of it was focused on the fact that Hillsong does not engage in gay conversion therapy. That is not really the point; Mayor Halsema’s tactics should be the primary concern. Hillsong Church NL’s leadership sent an open letter to the Mayor which did note “This is an attack on freedom of religion and freedom of speech” but most of the letter was devoted to refuting the allegation: “We are troubled that this false accusation has been disseminated by various media outlets and that the good name of our church, our leadership and the thousands of members of our congregation has been maligned” In response to the outcry, Mayor Halsema finally had a phone call with Hillsong Church NL’s leadership. They reassured her that they do not engage in gay conversion therapy. However, she did not apologize for her initial comments. Moreover, she says that during the phone call “we agreed the church would enter into dialogue with representatives of the rainbow community to remove any possible concern in this area.” In other words, even though Hillsong has done nothing wrong, they need to make atonement. She also wrote, “The city council has put representatives of the rainbow community in touch with the landlord.” Thus, the threat of losing their weekly worship space has not fully passed. Hillsong Church NL is a large congregation with significant resources. They were able to rally popular support to stand up to Mayor Halsema. But how would smaller, less famous congregations fare if they were the ones to be targeted? That question should be deeply troubling to all churches, particularly those that rent a building....

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Saturday Selections – October 10, 2020

3.5 billion miles of DNA in just little ol' you (6 min) We each have enough linear length of DNA in us to stretch to the sun and back again more than 18 times. Wow! Evolution examples are just examples of world's brokeness... Christians sometimes think that because evolutionists believe in natural selection, we shouldn't. The truth is, creationists also hold to natural selection, but what we don't hold to is the idea that mutation + natural selection = the path up from molecules to man. In the examples examined here we see instance after instance of a mutation that, while helping the creature in some fashion, is actually a loss of function. This might start a road from man down to molecules but could never explain the upward trend. How to love the co-worker you just can't stand C.S. Lewis has some helpful advice... Social isolation is damaging a generation of children Titles are often overwrought and that is the case here too, but were we to rephrase this as a question it would be well worth considering, is social isolation damaging a generation of children? Dutch euthanasia doctor warns the British against...euthanasia Dutch doctor Bert Keizer was euthanizing patients 20 years before it was legal. Now he's warning Britain about the slippery slope that comes with legalized euthanasia. Tim Challies on the problem with "love languages" (3 min) ...

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No, looting is not defensible

The first week after Vicky Osterweil’s book In Defense of Looting was published, its initial media coverage was positive, via an interview with US public broadcaster NPR. There the author made it clear that the title was not hyperbole, but accurately summed up the book’s message. Osterweil told NPR’s Natalie Escobar that looting was valuable because: Looting strikes at the heart of property, of whiteness and of the police. It gets to the very root of the way those three things are interconnected. And also it provides people with an imaginative sense of freedom and pleasure and helps them imagine a world that could be. ….in terms of potential crimes that people can commit against the state, it's basically nonviolent. You're mass shoplifting. Most stores are insured; it's just hurting insurance companies on some level. It's just money. It's just property. It's not actually hurting any people. Vicky is clearly confused about what happens to a business’s insurance rates after an insurance payout is made – that money has to come from somewhere. (Vicky’s confusion also extends to gender, as until recently he went by “Willie.”) That he was defending both theft and wanton property destruction is why, even as the NPR interview was generally positive coverage, most of the media storm that followed was not. Still, many Americans share Osterweil's confusion. In a poll taken shortly after George Floyd's death, after rioters had burned down the Minneapolis Third Police Precinct (where the four officers involved in his death worked), 17 percent of respondents said actions taken by protesters, including the burning, were "fully justified." How representative the poll was is hard to guess, but we need only look at the number of people holding "No Justice; No Peace" signs to know many do believe that two wrongs can make a right. So what's the best rebuttal to this sort of thinking? Might it simply be to put a spin on Matt. 7:12 and ask them if they'd be willing to have done to them what they are encouraging be done to others? Christian apologist Tim Barnett noted how Osterweil denounces property rights as “innately, structurally white supremacist” – property is racist! – but his book begins with the standard publisher warning against any unauthorized “scanning, uploading, and distribution” because it’s “a theft of the author’s intellectual property.” Why is Osterweil working with a publisher that makes such racist assertions? Then, even as he celebrates theft and denounces property rights, he’s also offering his own property on Amazon for $28 a pop.  This isn’t simply ironic. It highlights how unChristian worldviews are unworkable, with proponents unwilling or unable to apply to themselves the standards they've proposed for everyone else. ...

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Saturday Selections – October 3, 2020

What is hate speech, and why should we be leery of banning it? (5 minutes) Most everyone agrees that some sorts of speech need to be limited, with the obvious example being threatening speech. But there's a real danger in demanding that government – or social media platforms – regulate what can and can't be said. For a secular take, see the video below, and for a Christian perspective, click on the link above. FREE: A parent's guide to "Cancel Culture" Axis is a generally conservative Christian group trying help parents keep up with teen culture. They do so by writing short 10-20 pages guides – cheat sheets – to get us up to speed on everything from social media apps, to hit TV shows, the latest pop bands, trending teen books, or even topics like helping teens deal with failure. The guides go for $4 US, but they also give some of them out for free. To get their cheat sheet on Cancel Culture, click on the title link above. To check out their other guides go to Axis.org. Money in the first years of marriage "Many marriages have been ripped apart over riches. Many newly married couples don’t know how to handle their finances in a way that honors God. I don’t want you to be one of them. I don’t want you to be caught off guard." Man drops battle to force salons to wax his nether regions Common sense does sometimes beat craziness...especially when you have a good lawyer in your corner. If the future belongs to the fertile, we might not have one On average every women needs to have two children to keep the population stable from one generation to the next. Ten years ago New Zealand's birth rate was averaging 2.18 children for every woman, but today it is just 1.69. And the same type of drop is happening the world over. In a pandemic, dogmatism is the real enemy What does the science tell us about how to respond to COVID-19? John Jalsevac argues that if we think there is a clear scientific answer then we don't really understand how science works. Even as we can benefit from doing careful, cautious science, to look to it as the the one clear guide is to fall for scientism. Dismantled: new documentary shows how "the evolutionary model is getting more biblical" (2 minutes) A new documentary debuting in a week's time looks like it is going to be a good one. Dismantled shares new discoveries that highlight how even mainstream science is having to move towards the biblical model. There is a free one-time premiere Oct. 9-11 that you should plan for, available via the link above. ...

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Vancouver ads presume big families hurt the planet

Ads popping up around Vancouver, BC encourage couples to reconsider any plans for having a big or even medium-sized family. Some of the ads read: “The most loving gift you can give your first child is to not have another” “Traffic congestion begins at conception” “We chose one!” “Climate crisis? Think small.” The group behind the ads is the US-based non-profit “World Population Balance” which believes the planet is threatened by an overpopulation crisis. Their “One Planet, One Child” campaign features ads that go even further, celebrating “childfree” living. One Vancouver news outlet framed this as a freedom issue, with the interviewed passersby seemingly unanimous in their insistence that family size is nobody’s business but the couple’s. News 1130’s Kelvin Gawley went deeper, interviewing a disabled Vancouver writer, Gabrielle Peters, who put the campaign in a historical context. “By blaming overpopulation for climate change and environmental degradation, said the billboards revive a debunked theory known as Malthusianism, named for an 18th Century reverend, Thomas Robert Malthus, who warned humanity would soon outgrow its food supply. His dire predictions never came to pass, but that didn’t stop others – including Nazi eugenicists and the author of The Overpopulation Bomb, a bestselling 1968 book – from remixing Malthus’s ideas to bolster their beliefs, Peters said. “‘It’s based on bunk and it invariably leads into dark places,’ she said.” “Peters said that the theory of scarcity is especially alarming to disabled people, who ‘may not be highly productive in the eyes of capitalism’ while consuming medical and other resources. “This thinking has led some modern academics to call for forced birth control and government-mandated licensing for parenthood, she said. “But Peters said her fear of this philosophy backstopping real-world action aren’t merely hypothetical. She cited a new “frailty scale” used to determine eligibility for health-care services in Ontario.” That was some deep perspective for a secular news source, but there is deeper still we can go by highlighting the biblical truth these ads attack. God speaks of children as blessings (Gen. 1:28, Ps. 113:9, 139:13-16, 127:3-5, Prov. 17:6, etc.) while World Population Balance says the fewer the better. So how has that worked out where it's been tried? For decades China had a mandatory one-child policy and that's meant many a Chinese couple will be caring for two sets of parents, and four sets of grandparents without any siblings or any cousins to help them. As the Christian Heritage Party’s Peter Vogel put it in his article about the ad campaign: “Imagine there’s no uncles…no aunts, no cousins too. No siblings either. This is what young people today are being told to imagine for their grandchildren.“ While human beings' value isn’t based on what we can do (but rather on being made in the image of God – Gen. 1:27, Gen. 9:6), more kids does mean more hands at the ready, and imagine how helpful those extra hands could be in caring for aging parents! More children also means more creative thinking. Want to figure out cold-fusion, or safer fission? The more brains the merrier, right? Those family relationships, those extra hands to lighten the load, the multiplying impact on ingenuity that results when heads are put together – those are the blessing we’d forgo if we all did as these ads encourage. But what of the climate crisis that World Population Balance is afraid of? Their “solution” isn't one, so can we conclude the same is true of their problem? That doesn’t necessarily follow; that a group is wrong on one point gives us reason to question them in other areas, but we can’t rely on the foolish to be consistently so. We can't count on them to always get everything wrong. So when it comes to the supposed climate crisis, here is what we can know for sure: if children are a blessing (and they are) and each one comes with their own carbon footprint (which they currently do), then either that carbon footprint isn’t the problem it’s being made out to be or children don’t have to be accompanied by a carbon footprint. And what we can know for sure is that children are a blessing we will never have to reject for the sake of our planet....

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