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News

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.

News

Saturday Selections - September 12, 2020

Who has measured the heavens with His fingers? (2 minutes) This video unpacks what's contained in an area of space that you can cover with just the tip of your finger. God's universe is bigger than big! <span data-mce-type="bookmark" style="display: inline-block; width: 0px; overflow: hidden; line-height: 0;" class="mce_SELRES_start"></span><span data-mce-type="bookmark" style="display: inline-block; width: 0px; overflow: hidden; line-height: 0;" class="mce_SELRES_start"></span><span data-mce-type="bookmark" style="display: inline-block; width: 0px; overflow: hidden; line-height: 0;" class="mce_SELRES_start"></span> Why Bibles given to slaves omitted most of the Old Testament While the Bible teaches we should be in submission to God – slaves even – His Word is all about freedom too, which seems to be why slaves that were given the Bible were given an abridged version. You need to know what your kids are listening to (10-minute read) The lyrics of the mega-hit WAP celebrate promiscuous, loveless sex in a ruder, cruder form than anything Madonna ever managed... and it is the #1 song in the world right now. So what are your kids listening to? Is it ethical to use data from Nazi medical experiments? The Nazis performed research on imprisoned Jews, and today we do research using the remains of aborted children. The justification given for this experimentation, in both cases, is that the subjects weren't fully human. If that is a reason not to use cruelly-derived  Nazi research – which is universally condemned and unlikely to ever be otherwise – isn't there all the more reason to steer clear of the results of experimentation on aborted fetuses? After all, abortion is an evil still with us. This is an especially relevant question today considering that some of the COVID vaccines in the works are being developed with the remains of aborted children. "Respectable sins" of the Reformed world "Respectable sins" are the ones that we justify and might even defend...if we talked about them at all. Tim Challies lists several specific to the Reformed world, including suspicion, gossip, and slander. The OT chapter Jews don't read: Isaiah 53 (10 minutes) Christians think Isaiah 53 is about Christ. But what do Jews think? This is a wonderful video, with the interviewer, a Jewish "Ray Comfort," sharing the chapter with Jews, and then lovingly confronting them with their sins and need for the Saviour. ...

News

Saturday Selections - September 5, 2020

Well-intentioned racism is racism still (5 minutes) Uncle Tom is a new documentary about how American black conservatives are ridiculed as being traitors to their race. Why? Because they don't think as the Left say they should think. Telling blacks how they should think is, of course, racist, but the irony is lost on the Left. What this deleted scene shows is that racism can come in all sorts of flavors, including a compassionate patronization. In biblical justice, there is a distinction between equality and equity "1 Kings 3:16-27 provides an excellent example of the biblical distinction between equality and equity. One woman wanted equality whereas the other woman wanted equity. King Solomon judged with equity, not equality, which meant that one of the women went home without a baby. Biblical justice is a matter of equity, not equality. Yes, there is a difference—and it’s not an insignificant one." Slavery was everywhere in the world. A white Christian man abolished it. "Every society on Earth in all of history had slavery. Every single one. The Europeans/ Americans had slavery. The Arabs had slavery, massive slavery. The word for black person in Arabic is “abeed” which means slave. That’s how common slavery was. Slavery in Asia, obviously. Slavery in Black Africa. Black Africans had Black Africans as slaves. Indigenous Native Americans had slaves. Every society in history had slavery. So the only question that is honest is not 'who had slavery?' It’s 'who abolished slavery?'" Was Jesus a socialist? The former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev declared "Jesus was the first socialist, the first to seek a better life for mankind." And many a Christian seems to agree... "Transitioning" doesn't seem to improve mental health after all The study, as it was first reported, showed that transgender folk who get surgeries feel better about themselves. And this got a lot of media coverage. Now a closer look at the data shows no such mental health benefit. And that is not getting the same coverage. Darwin's impact on society in under 3 minutes Sometimes apologetics is simply about clarifying the difference between what God tells us is true, and what the world says is true. Here we see how, in contrast to God's grace and sacrificial love, Darwin offers only meaningless. ...

News

Saturday Selections - August 29, 2020

50 Christians around the world sing Amazing Grace together This is something special, a glimpse of what it might sound like when "from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages" (Rev. 7:9) God's Church gathers to sing His praises. Spurgeon vs. Marx Karl Marx and Charles Spurgeon lived in the same city at the same time, engaged in "an epic battle for the souls of men in 19th century London." We must not become useful idiots for Erin O'Toole While the new leader of the Conservative Party, Erin O'Toole, is pro-choice he's said he'll allow pro-life members to bring forward bills. But as CHP leader Rod Taylor argues, that may not mean much. "In 2008, MP Ken Epp presented the Unborn Victims of Violence Bill, intended to protect pre-born babies from violent assaults perpetrated against their mothers. In 2010, MP Rod Bruinooge tabled his anti-coercion bill, Roxanne’s Law, meant to protect women from violent and abusive pressure to abort against their wills. In 2012, MP Stephen Woodworth presented Motion-312, his Personhood Motion, asking Parliament to establish a committee to explore when human life begins. Every one of these was defeated by a Conservative Prime Minister and a Conservative Government. When former MP Mark Warawa (now deceased) attempted to pass Motion-408, protecting babies from sex-selective abortion, his motion was deemed “non-votable” by the hand-picked committee. When a party leader or Prime Minister is not in favour of a bill, the chances of it passing are slim indeed." O'Toole's motivation for allowing pro-life bills is to secure pro-lifers' votes; that's what he gets out of this relationship. But what are we actually getting from him? If the answer is nothing, or next to it, then we are simply "useful idiots" helping O'Toole achieve his ends. Christians involved in the Conservative Party need to consider if – and then how – their involvement can further God's ends. No Christianity? Then no human rights There is no foundation for human rights apart from us all being made in the image of God. Have you heard of QAnon? (15-minute read) QAnon is a wide-ranging conspiracy theory, built around posts by an anonymous Q figure, which his expanding group of followers then pass along. Some of these posts have a Christian veneer, attracting Christians who know that there are indeed lies being spread by the mainstream media, whether that be transgenderism, evolution, socialism, or the denial of the personhood of the unborn. But that the media lies is not some great insight, and that a shadowy figure says it too doesn't make him credible. One appeal of conspiracy theories is that they are right about there being a malevolent force working behind the scenes. But it's not simply the Russians, or the bankers, or the Deep State; the real hidden force is the Devil...and of course our own rebellious hearts. And while the Devil might like to stir up conflict, is his agenda primarily world-domination? Or to get everyone vaccinated? 5G implementation? Or would he be happier still to have people worried about maybes, supposedlys, and possiblys, even as we ignore the actual tasks God has given us to do? The more credible overarching conspiracy might well be a devilish desire to distract us with things outside our control, rather than contend with our own envy, impatience, gossiping, and other sins. Joe Carter also weighs in on QAnon here. Can a short white guy be a tall Chinese woman? "It shouldn't be hard to tell a 5'9" white guy he's not a 6'5" Chinese woman..." ...

News

Saturday Selections - August 22, 2020

Stirring up trouble on behalf of the unborn (20 seconds) This week a pro-life group flew a "Black Lives Matter" banner over the site of the 2020 Democratic National Convention showing a giant picture of an aborted black fetus. A spokesman explained that sharing "victim photography" has long been a way of fighting evil and, since newspapers and other media won't allow them to share the graphic image, this group took to the skies. Two takes on masks and whether Christians need to wear them Both articles are intense, gracious, and biblically-grounded. In the first ARPA Canada's André Schutten answers a dozen mask-related questions, tackling topics like sphere sovereignty, Romans 13, and a Christian way of disagreeing with the government. In the second, one Reformed pastor and elder, Joseph Bayly and Brian Bailey, address the anti-mask arguments by another Reformed pastor, Douglas Wilson. This one is a little like coming in halfways on a conversation so at the start it is a bit hard to figure out what's going on. But the insight offered is worth the effort required. Socialism is force “'Why not socialism?' It’s force, pure and simple. If it were voluntary, it wouldn’t be socialism. It would be capitalism." On the art of dying well One of the ways Christians can be a light to the world is by dying differently. While the world hopes for a quick death, our goal can be a holy death. Our kids seem less safe but appearances are deceiving... Our children are a blessing from the Lord, and so we treat them as such. But there is a reason for moderation, even in protecting them. Bubble-wrapping them before they head out the door brings with its own harms: that we will raise fearful children who jump at every noise, shy away from every shadow, and are so risk-averse that they don't dare ask out that special girl, or start that company, or apply for that position...or venture out of the house at all. While this article is from a time before COVID, what it highlights – that our parental fears may not be a proportionate match with reality – is particularly relevant right now. Captain Literally When people misuse the word "literally" this superhero is here to save the day! And if you liked Captain Literally, you may also appreciate Captain Irony and the whole Grammar League. ...

News

Saturday Selections - July 25, 2020

Don't agree with me? I know why! It must be because you want people to die!  When the economy was shuttered it was presented as being about lives vs. money, and anyone who had a problem with the closure must have wanted people to die. Or maybe there was more to it. What follows is a humorous appeal for everyone to tone it down and use reasons rather than empty rhetoric. The Left continues to eat its own The bisexual, pro-choice Bari Weiss, and homosexual Andrew Sullivan (one of the most vocal voices in favor of gay "marriage") both recently felt the need to resign from the Left-leaning New York Times. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood – the world's largest abortion network – is scrubbing the name of its founder, Margaret Sanger from their New York clinic. It's shades of 2 Chronicles 20. Defund the police? I do not think that word means what you think it means The battle in our culture is in some ways a battle over the dictionary, and what words actually mean. As Calgary's Chief Constable Mark Neufeld recently noted, "everyone has a different idea of what defunding police means. 'For some, this is about diverting money, for some this is about dismantling police and for others, it’s about disarming police...'" Counting the cost of COVID ARPA Canada's Levi Minderhoud has written a thought-provoking series on the Canadian government's response to COVID-19. You can find the four parts here: A Christian introduction Comparing to past crises Evaluating Canada's current deficit Forecasting our financial future John MacArthur on defying church closure requirements, and Keith Mathison on submitting to mask-wearing mandates  When do we submit to the government, and when do we have to defy it? To find out we need to go to the Bible, and that's what these two Reformed leaders do. While on first read they might seem to be totally opposing each other, it's important to understand they are talking about two different situations: church closures and the wearing of masks. Environmentalist: Sorry for the hysteria! (10-minute read) Michael Shellenberger was named one of TIME magazine's 2008 "Heroes of the Environment," and is now issuing an apology on behalf of environmentalists as a whole, for their tendency to hype the dangers of climate change. He's not Christian and a logical question to ask is, why should we believe this environmentalist over the ones prophesying doom and gloom? He's more credible because his perspective gets one thing right that the other environmentalists regularly don't: he is measuring proposals first and foremost for what they would do for people. He recognizes that Man is special, and that has him evaluating how best to preserve the environment in a very different way than those who view Man as being a curse on the planet. Should we bake the cake? An Ontario videographer is in trouble for being unwilling to video a same-sex "marriage." Why she declined is unclear, but, from a Christian perspective, are there good reasons to decline to participate in a gay "marriage"? Yes, as the video below notes (one warning: there are a couple of brief visual depictions of Jesus). John Piper also weighs in here. ...

News, Theology

More birds than believers in church

This past Sunday I had the privilege of leading worship in my home congregation just outside of Hamilton, Ontario. I arrived about ten minutes before the service began. Everyone was already in church … all three of them! One elder, one brother taking care of sound and video, and one sister playing the piano. No more fellow believers joined us in the church building, although with a congregation of some 450 members, many were joining us from their homes via a livestream connection. Alas, we have been living with this reality for about ten Sundays in a row here in Ontario. It is much the same in many other – but not all – places. To curb the spread of COVID-19, governments around the world have restricted large public gatherings. In Ontario (at the time of writing), no more than five are permitted to gather publicly. That is why there were only four of us in church. But what about the birds? As I entered the building, one brother cheerfully quipped, “You have competition this morning. The birds are back.” You see, at present our congregation worships in a gymnasium. Resourceful feathered creatures somehow discovered a little gap somewhere up there in the roof. Are you also thinking of Psalm 84 in the Book of Praise? The sparrow finds a home to rest The swallow builds herself a nest By the volume of sound coming from that avian choir in the rafters, I would hazard an uneducated guess that there were more birds than believers in church this past Sunday. In Article 27 of the Belgic Confession, we affirm that the church is “a holy congregation and assembly of the true Christian believers.” When more birds than believers have assembled in a church building on Sunday, we have reason to grieve. Caught between commands? At least three divine commandments intersect in this circumstance. 4th Commandment As part of the fourth commandment, we confess that we must “diligently attend the church of God to hear God’s Word, to use the sacraments, to call publicly upon the Lord, and to give Christian offerings to the poor” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 38). So long as you have a good Internet connection and your local congregation has livestreaming equipment, you can still see the preacher and hear the preaching quite well. Similarly, the minister can still lead us in public prayer, and by sending an e-transfer we can still give Christian alms. All of this is not nothing. But so much is missing as well. In places where the restrictions are more severe, it is well nigh impossible to administer the sacraments. We sing psalms and hymns in our homes, but it does not even come close to the uplifting experience of singing together with hundreds of fellow believers in a building that is acoustically alive. In short, did we “attend the church of God”? Well, sort of but not really. Psalm 122 rings in our ears and weighs down our hearts: “I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord,” not stay in our own houses. 5th Commandment At the same time, in the fifth commandment, the Lord requires us to respect and obey our governing officials. Consider the words of Romans 13:1-2 “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities…. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” Those words are both blunt and inspired. This command still applies when governing authorities are unjust or unwise. The apostle Peter wrote, “Be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust” (1 Pet 2:18). But there is a limit to this, as well, for the same apostle said to the Sanhedrin, “We must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29). Do we have to break the fifth commandment and contravene the restrictions on public gatherings in order to keep the fourth commandment and assemble in church to worship God? 6th Commandment Answering that question is already complex, but now add the sixth commandment. This command not only prohibits murder but also calls us to “protect from harm as much as we can” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 40). What now? If we fulfill the fourth commandment and attend the church of God, do we (potentially) break the sixth commandment by putting fellow believers, and by extension others with whom they may have contact, in harm’s way? We feel caught between the commands. Our consciences are hung up on the horns of a three-way dilemma. What is a sincere Christian to do? Some historical perspective As the Preacher teaches us, nothing is new under the sun (Eccl 1:10). Serious pandemics have afflicted the world before. For the sake of public health, governments have shut down church buildings before. For example, between 1576 and 1578, during the plague of Milan, fifteen percent of that city’s population died. At the peak of the infection curve, the city closed all “non-essential shops” and put into effect a “general quarantine,” which also meant that public worship services were not permitted.1 Sound familiar? The archbishop, a certain Carlo Borromeo, co-operated with local officials and organized the publication of booklets containing penitential Bible passages, prayers, and songs. These were then distributed, free of charge, to the citizens. At set times, when the church bell rang, everyone was to come to the doors and windows of their homes. Together the city recited prayers and sang songs. The cobbled streets of Milan, rather than the marbled nave of its cathedral, resounded with congregational singing. Can you imagine? Similarly, in the fall of 1918 the so-called Spanish flu ravaged Philadelphia. On October 3, the city officials closed all schools. On October 4, they closed all saloons, theaters, and churches as well. For the balance of the month, everyone lived through a complete lockdown, other than doing what was necessary to feed their families and care for the sick, the dying, and the dead. By the end of the month, though, the infection rate subsided and things opened up again. As a sure sign of a different era, “the first step in removing the ban allowed churches and synagogues to open,” although, at least in the case of the churches, “…without Sunday school.”2 History is interesting and instructive. We are certainly not the first generation to live through times like these. Still, history is not authoritative. The question remains: in the sight of our God, what are sincere Christians to do? Do not subdivide the commands Difficult circumstances can either push us apart or pull us together. Let us earnestly pray that it would be the latter. It is hard, though, to keep our minds simultaneously focussed on all the commands involved. One believer quickly zeroes in on the fourth commandment: God calls us to assemble for worship, therefore, we must assemble for worship. The heart of the next child of God, though, is gripped by the truth of the fifth commandment. God warns that if we resist the authorities he has put in place, we will incur judgment. Surely we need to take that seriously, don’t we? Then, yet another brother or sister in the Lord feels the burden of the sixth commandment, being concerned that he or she might seriously endanger someone else’s health. Asymptomatic transmission is a reality, after all. Different people emphasize different commands, and if they do it too aggressively, they may inadvertently push us apart from each other. We will need to have patience with each other and be mindful of each other’s consciences. Beyond that, though, be assured that there is no three-way dilemma in the Word of our God. Just as surely as Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35), it cannot be sub-divided either. The whole law is fulfilled in one key word: love (Matt. 22:37-40; Gal. 5:14; Lord’s Day 2). Intertwined love for God and our neighbour will provide the unifying departure point for us all. Walk forward in love “I love the Lord” (Ps 116) and “I love your saints” (Ps 16) are the twin-engines of holy desire that propel us out of bed, into our cars, and on toward our church buildings twice a Sunday. Right? But that plush recliner in my family room is more comfortable than the oak pew in church, isn’t it? And an extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning is rather nice, too, isn’t it? The Lord can, and will, use the COVID-19 pandemic to refine our love-filled loyalty to him and burn away all dross of custom, superstition, or hypocrisy in our obedience of the fourth commandment. If our souls are yearning to be back in the courts of our God with our fellow believers (Ps 63), then our God is fulfilling his promise to take evil and turn it to our benefit. Next, holding the fourth and sixth commandments together is already familiar territory for us. I long to attend the church of God, but if I’m seriously sick with an infectious disease I’ll have to stay home or take other significant precautions so that I don’t harm others. In such a case I am not breaking the fourth commandment in order to keep the sixth. Why not? Because in God’s law love for him and love for the neighbour do not compete; instead, they complement. For example, in the OT when some of his own people had serious diseases, God himself quarantined them “outside the camp,” thereby also keeping them away from public worship (Lev. 13, 14). To be sure, these laws were more than a public health matter. They also involved other, deeper, spiritual lessons. But as a loving Father, our God also ensured that public worship gatherings would not become seedbeds for the spread of serious sickness. Under certain circumstances, then, loving both God and our neighbour means we may need to stay away from public worship. These biblical principles also apply as we deal with COVID-19. On the one hand, excessive fear of viruses should not stop us from assembling for worship. The Holy Spirit teaches us that the wise man will not be immobilized by unwarranted fear of lions on the road or, by extension, of viruses in the pews (Prov. 26:13). On the other hand, love for the neighbour and for our heavenly Father who upholds our neighbour’s health will compel us to exercise all due caution. In short, love and wisdom pave a path that holds the fourth and sixth commandments in harmony. Fulfilling the fifth commandment in these present circumstances is more challenging but not impossible. In the final words of his Institutes, John Calvin reminds us that government officials may well have to correct some of their fellow officials when they act unjustly or unwisely (Institutes 4.20.31). Faced with the double affliction of both plague and persecution, Theodore Beza, Calvin’s successor, also recommended working through the “lower magistrates” in order to redirect “higher magistrates,” who may fail to uphold what is right and wise in the eyes of God. This approach fits well with Romans 13. In verses 1–2, we read how the Lord instituted “governing authorities,” not authority. The plural noun is significant. Not one single person in authority embodies all the wisdom required to rule, especially in challenging circumstances like COVID-19. If some governing officials are acting unwisely or unfairly toward the church, even if their intentions are noble, then believers can work with and through other officials in order to promote the necessary corrective re-balancing. In this way, we honour all the authorities in their God-given calling and in doing so, honour God himself. Again, love for the neighbour and love for God cohere rather than conflict. Thankfully, in some areas, we even have members of our Reformed congregation serving as government officials in town councils, provincial, and federal parliaments. Without denying the value of other efforts and initiatives, let us earnestly support and spur on these fellow believers, as well as any other elected representatives who will lend a sympathetic ear. The goal will be that, under the Lord’s blessing, as soon as it is safe to increase the size of public gatherings, the church will be the first in line to benefit, not the last. This approach also holds together the fourth and fifth and sixth commandments. May our God swiftly bring the day when the believers again far outnumber the birds in church. And may our chorus of congregational praise soon drown out their beautiful little chirps with a mighty sound that shakes the ground (Psalm 150, Book of Praise)! Endnotes 1) Chiu, Remi. “Singing on the Street and in the Home in Times of Pestilence: Lessons from the 1576–78 Plague of Milan,” in Domestic Devotions in Early Modern Italy, ed. Corry, Maya (Leiden: Brill, 2018), 28. 2) Stetler, Christina M. “The 1918 Spanish Influenza: Three Months of Horror in Philadelphia.” Pennsylvania History 84, no. 4 (2017): 477.  Dr. Jason Van Vliet is Principal and Professor of Dogmatics at the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Ontario. This article first appeared in Clarion and is reprinted here with permission.  ...

News

Saturday Selections – July 18, 2010

Andrew Peterson's Is He Worthy (5 minutes) When the words and music are perfectly paired... Learn how to defend the unborn (15-minute read) Apologist Greg Koukl shows us how to get the abortion debate down to just one question: What is the unborn? This is an incredibly valuable article that'll equip you to speak up for the unborn. One other question should also be asked: Where does our worth come from? While the biblical answer can be found in places like Gen. 1:26-27 and Gen. 9:6, the world doesn't have an adequate answer. Tim Bayly (and John Piper) on calling sodomy by any other name... With there now being a movement of Christians self-describing themselves as gay (though celibate) it is worth questioning the particular word choice of gay vs. sodomite. We don't use the latter because it seems overly harsh. But when we use the former it leads to people naming and claiming it as integral to their identity. In this article Pastor Tim Bayly explains why he started using the term sodomy. "The word sodomy …still carries the stigma of shamefulness. Those who love people with same-sex attraction should want to preserve the stigma of shameful practices which destroy them — just as we should try to preserve the stigma of stealing and perjury and kidnapping, and fornication, and adultery. It is a gracious thing when a culture puts signs in front of destructive behaviors that read: Don’t go there; it is shameful." Best example of evolution happening is evolution in a death spiral (10-min read) If you ask for the very best evidence of evolution in action today, the example that's most likely to be raised is Richard Lenski's decades-long experiment with E. coli in which the bacterium was said to have evolved a new ability. But as Michael Behe explains, this example of evolution doesn't start to explain how gains in complexity could occur, as this new function was accompanied by a general loss of fitness. Sexual difficulties in marriage (15-minute read) "What did God create sex for? ....Many couples say, 'Okay, sex is not with someone of your same gender: Check. Sex is not with someone who is not your spouse: Check. Sex is not pornography: Check. Okay, I seem to have gotten all this right, so why is this so hard? Why do we continue to struggle? Why does this continue to be a significant place of tension in our relationship?'” This is written specifically to biblical counselors, but the insights are useful to all. The astonishing walking, self-planting seed (5 minutes) That we can orate, salivate, masticate, matriculate and replicate is a wonder that we really understate. But when a plant can ambulate? Then, once again, we recognize the hand of the Ultimate! ...

News

Saturday Selections - July 11, 2020

Miracles happen... John Barros has been walking back and forth outside an Orlando abortion clinic, reaching out to the mothers, long enough to wear a mark in the concrete. In this video Barros shares how God used him to reach a Spanish-speaking couple, even though he was speaking English. The devil's favorite punctuation mark Where God puts an exclamation mark, the Devil puts a question mark: "Did God really say...?" REAL Women endorse two/reject two in Conservative Party leadership race Canada's Conservative Party leadership race is using a preferential ballot. What that means is that if your top choice is eliminated after the first round of counting, then your vote will shifted to your second choice, and so on. What this also means is that there is no strategic reason not to vote for the best candidate, even if they might not seem to have a good chance of winning. Make him your top choice, and if he does indeed lose, then your vote will shift to your second choice and still be counted. Why then are some Christians considering voting for the pro-choice Erin O'Toole? Because he is more likely to beat Trudeau than either of the pro-life candidates, Leslyn Lewis or Derek Sloan? That prompts a question: why is it even important to beat Trudeau? He might be bad for business and the economy, but is that the real problem with Trudeau? Canada's national psalm, Ps. 72, from where we get our motto "From sea to sea," provides a job description of sorts for a ruler. He is to: ...deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight. What makes Trudeau evil is not his handling of the economy but his support for the slaughter of "the afflicted who have no one to help." So what improvement is it to replace him with another who supports this same evil? Another reason given to support O'Toole is because he has promised to let all voices be heard. But is he going to award prominent positions to boldly pro-life MPs? Is he going to welcome the media storm that'll result each time they do speak up for the unborn? Or is he going to relegate loud pro-life Conservatives to the backbenches where, as one of 337 other MPs, they will seldom be heard? It doesn't take a prophet to know that any pro-life MP who is given prominence in an O'Toole government will be under intense pressure to act as if the death of 100,000 unborn children a year isn't worth making a fuss over. And certainly not worth losing a cabinet position over! What a blessing it is, then, that we have two pro-life candidates to choose from in Derek Sloan and Leslyn Lewis. What parenting style works best? A secular study defined 4 broad parenting styles as Disengaged - neither demanding nor responsive Permissive - responsive but not demanding Authoritarian - demanding but unresponsive Authoritative - demanding and responsive It is this fourth approach that most clearly matches up with God's call on parents in verses like: a) Ps. 127:3 - "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward." b) Prov. 29:15 - "The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother." c) Col. 3:21 - "Fathers do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged." It not surprising then, that it is this fourth approach that most lines up with what even the world recognizes as the best results. God loves us, and His commandments are a help and protection for us when we listen...and in parenting too. "95 million-year-old" octopus's ink used for self-portrait Here's a fun story. The "preservation of an octopus as a fossil is about as unlikely as finding a fossil sneeze" and yet one such fossil is so well preserved that ink from the octopus's ink sac was used to draw a portrait of the animal. The ultimate Rube Goldberg Machine...aka the 3-minute-long basketball shot! A fun one to watch with the kids that might serve as inspiration too! ...

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Saturday Selections - June 13, 2020

Dandelions: more amazing than you knew! (4 minutes) I've shown this to all my kids - same reaction from all of them: "Wow!" When someone says "There is no truth..." As Greg Koukl explains, uttering the statement, “There is no truth,” in itself establishes the truth of at least 17 different things. So when we meet radical skeptics – those who doubt everything – we should challenge them to be "intellectually honest skeptics." "...we must be as skeptical about our skepticism as we are about our knowledge. We should take the burden of proof to defend our skepticism instead of simply asserting our skepticism. Anyone can assert disbelief. Whether they can make sense out of it is a different thing." This is how we do it here With so many wanting just to tear down and destroy, here is an example to inspire: this is a town where police, churches, and Black Lives Matters protesters marched together. Why the media is biased, even when they don't mean to be It's the nature of the business for journalists to give more coverage to scandal, failure, and conflict, than for success, calmness, and competency. And what they cover, they encourage. Pursuing godly manhood "Let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with beards, flannels, bonfires, work boots, pocket knives, pickup trucks, or hatchet throwing. In fact, it might do some of us a lot of good to put our phones down and spend some time in the woods. Nevertheless, God’s Word is more concerned with character than charisma..." On the age and origin of Pluto (11 min) While working as an engineer for the US military space program, Spike Psarris examined the stars and planets. The evidence drove him to first become a creationist, and then a Christian. To share his findings, he crafted a series of 3 DVDs that explore Astronomy and the creation of the universe. While he is a soft-spoken man, his facts pack quite the wallop. And now he has turned his gaze to Pluto: "I am in the process of updating my Solar System DVD. One of the major topics that needed updating was Pluto; my DVD was published several years before the New Horizons probe visited Pluto, and that spacecraft made many fascinating discoveries....This chapter is now finished, and you can watch it online for free here" "Just Thinking" Instagram goodies Are they devotionals, or doodles, or a wonderful combination thereof? For the last few years now, Reformed artist Jason Bouwman has been sharing thought-provoking pictures like the one below, and you can find hundreds more on his Instagram page. ...

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"Black lives matter" isn't always about black lives

On May 25 a Minneapolis black man, George Floyd, died in handcuffs while three police officers kneeled on him, including one, Derek Chauvin, who was kneeling on his neck. In the weeks that followed protests erupted in cities across the US and the world, and protesters also made their feelings known on social media, many using the #blacklivesmatter hashtag. Christians nodded their agreement, but some wondered at the emphasis on blacks. After all, we know that all of us are just one race, and wouldn’t furthering that understanding be the best way to counter racism? So many well-meaning Christian noted that “all lives matter” because, of course, they do. But what this overlooked is the specific charge being made: protesters are saying that many black lives are not being treated like they matter. One clarifying analogy shared around social media about the “all lives matter” slogan told of a husband speaking at his wife’s funeral about how much she mattered to him only to have someone take the mike and share that “all wives matter.” This is a true statement, but at this time and place would be understood as entirely missing the point. So let’s be done with “all lives matter.” Does that mean we should embrace the “black lives matter” (BLM) slogan? The problem with doing so is that there is more to BLM than just the slogan; there is also a Black Lives Matter movement. While the movement is loosely knit, some of its key leaders are as interested in promoting homosexuality and transgenderism as they are in fighting racism. In a 2015 interview with MSNBC, one of the founders, Patrisse Cullors, noted that the hashtag #blacklivesmatter: “...was created by two black queer women, myself and Alicia, and one Nigerian-American woman, Opal Tometi…” It doesn’t take much digging to find abortion-promoting work as well. So the slogan speaks to one matter, but the organization is taking on many more, much of it in direct opposition to God’s will. There have been a couple of suggestions on how Christians might modify the BLM slogan to, on the one hand, acknowledge the grievance being made, and, on the other, distance us from the BLM organization. “All black lives matter” is a pro-life suggestion, meant to highlight how blacks are disproportionately victims of abortion. But, unfortunately, the BLM organization is already using this slogan, with the “all,” in their case, referring to transgender, gay, and lesbian blacks. Another possibility: “Black lives matter too.” This acknowledges the grievance, but in a way that is more unifying, and less an us vs. them statement. And it also takes us a step away from what the BLM organization is doing. Whatever slogan we use, what’s most significantly missing here is God’s perspective. The biggest contribution God’s people can make to this discussion might be to add just a few select biblical words. We can note that George Floyd, an image-bearer of God (Gen. 1:27), was killed. When we put his death in that context then it becomes clear what needs to be done and what should not be done. By making it about God, and His standards, then we understand Floyd’s life was precious for the very same reason that our lives are. We’ll know that justice needs to be done. It will also be clear that our calls for justice can’t be accompanied by evil. How can we demand God’s justice for one image-bearer, even as we throw bricks or insults at other such image-bearers? #ImagebearerOfGod might not make for an effective hashtag, but it is the beginning of an explicitly Christian, God-acknowledging message, which is what our world most needs to hear....

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Dutch scientists find Gouda, Edam may help fight COVID-19

This is the sort of headline to have you checking whether it isn’t April 1 today. But the report is genuine. As The Guardian’s Daniel Boffey reported: “Patients who have died or been admitted to intensive care with COVID-19 have been found to be deficient in a vitamin found in spinach, eggs, and hard and blue cheese…” The study took place at a hospital in Nijmegen, and the missing vitamin is K. Vitamin K is crucial for the production of proteins regulating blood clotting, and the hope is that intake of K may help combat the problems COVID-19 causes with blood clotting. So far no clinical trials have been run, so it wouldn’t be at all surprising if subsequent findings conflict with these early reports. In the meantime, one of the project researchers, Dr. Rob Janssen, advised Vitamin K supplements because whether it helps with COVID or not, “it is good for your blood vessels bones…” The vitamin K1 can be found in blueberries and green vegetables, but, according to Dr. Janssen, it is K2 that “is better absorbed by the body.” Where can K2 be found? “It is in Dutch cheese, I have to say, and French cheese as well.”...

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Saturday Selections - June 6, 2020

Stepping up by stepping away Warren Barfield was once best known for his songs The Time is Now, and the one below, Love Is Not a Fight. But then, in 2017, the Christian singer, songwriter, and public speaker stepped away from the spotlight because, in his words, he didn't want to: "...be out building a career and wealth while my wife and kids built memories and a life without me. With my wife’s full support I walked away from the promise of material success, to pursue something priceless with her, a life.... Bottom line, I’m more interested in being an intentional husband and father and a good man rather than just playing one on stage or social media." And for three years now that's the last we've heard of him. Is there a settled scientific consensus about wearing masks? Should everyone in public wear a mask? Even as some call it "settled" science that we should, other experts disagree. While that tells us very little about the effectiveness of masks, it does tell us something about those who proclaim things settled when they aren't. Keep the good from the COVID quarantine Being forced to stay at home has brought with it some positives. When it is all over, will we be able to take those with us? Focus on the Family offering free movies/audiobooks Focus on the Family has produced some fun family-friendly material like a dramatized audio version of C.S. Lewis' Narnia books, the Last Chance Detectives films, and the Adventures in Odyssey radio series. And they are now offering a lot of this content for free, with the only requirement being your name and email address. Parents should note that this Christian group, though conservative, is not Reformed and on occasion Arminian tones will pop up in their materials. Frontal lobotomies: a Darwinian mental health holocaust (15-minute read) Before the procedure was discredited, as many as 35,000 were subjected to frontal lobotomies. This "psychosurgery" was based on evolutionary beliefs, and it was those beliefs that led to harmful conclusions. There is a relevance to today because many secular psychologists are also evolutionists, and if they don't understand who we actually are and why we are here, that will have implications for how they try to restore us. Why Christians shouldn’t jump on bandwagon of progressive groups like Black Lives Matter "I can say, heartily, that black lives matter....however, I cannot support the organization Black Lives Matter. As I’ve noted before, their guiding principles include the promotion of the LGBT agenda and new and radical interpretations of gender (they want to “dismantle cis-gender privilege,” for example.) Their leaders are, without exception, radically pro-abortion..." What an NBA reporter's tweet reveals about Christianity (6 min) On May 25 a Minneapolis police officer killed an African American suspect, George Floyd, by placing a knee on the handcuffed Floyd's neck for more than 8 minutes. Some protests in bigger cities turned into riots, with police vehicles and businesses being set on fire. On May 29, the officer, Derek Chauvin was charged with murder. In this video, Whaddo You Meme's Jon McCray looks at what one reporter's reaction to the riots reveals about how if God were to judge us by even just our own standards, we would never measure up. ...

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