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News

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 Well, as Senator Mazie Hirono declared at the confirmation hearing, “Sexual preference is an offensive and outdated term…used by anti-LGBTQ activists to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice—it is not.”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.

News

Saturday Selections – October 17, 2020

What color is the balloon? (2 min) "The funny things about truth is, it's true...whether you believe it or not." Teens did surprisingly well in the COVID lockdown (10-minute read) Many adults have struggled during the COVID lockdown, whether because of job loss, or fears of death. Surprisingly teens's mental health has seen improvement over this same period. But why? "More sleep and family time – and less social media – may have made the difference." Life on Venus? Why "settled science" is so often hot air. It's in the interests of the media, and scientists, to hype up their findings. Car seats as contraceptives? By one estimate, US child safety seats save 60 children a year. Some economists are arguing they may also lead to 8,000 fewer births a year. How so? Only two of these seats fit in a car, so for parents to have a third child they'll need a new, bigger vehicle, raising the cost of that third child considerably. That might force some families to delay growing their family, and those delays can lead to smaller families over all. As the article author writes: "The point of this is not to launch a campaign to do away with child safety. It is to remind us that laws made with the best of intentions have unexpected consequences. Legislators need to bear this in mind when they impose restrictions which are simply 'common sense.' This has an obvious application to the Covid-19 lockdowns." A psalm for every day When Lindsey Tollesfson was 8 weeks pregnant, the doctor gave her a devastating diagnosis for her unborn son. "A verse kept ringing through my head: 'Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds' (James 1:2). How could I count it joy that my doctor told me my son would soon die? James wasn’t just saying 'rejoice despite your trial'; he was saying 'rejoice because of your trial.' Where could I turn to help me obey this command from the heart? I turned to the Psalms for comfort and wisdom, and I invite all who are walking through difficult circumstances to do the same..." Good news you probably haven't heard (5 min) It might not seem like it, but even this year there are positive global trends making life better in dramatic ways. While the video below is a secular presentation that credits the Englightenment for the progress being made, these improvements are a fruit of biblical principles like property rights and the free market, freedom of speech, stewardship, recognition of the Imago Dei, and doing to others as we would want done to us. ...

News

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) ...

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 – 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. ...

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 - August 15, 2020

Thomas Sowell on the benefit of the 10th Commandment While Thomas Sowell doesn't mention the Bible, the point he makes here is a biblical one. Correcting "income inequality" requires us to do as the 10th Commandment forbids - it makes a virtue out of looking over the back fence and making plans for what our neighbor has. It's only when we forget about redistributing his wealth that we are free to mind our own business, and use and invest and grow what God has entrusted to us for our own good, and the good of 4 principles for talking to your kids about sex (3-minute read) Talk positively, talk often, talk freely, and talk soon... Netherlands contemplating assisted suicide for any over 75 who are "tired of living" While there probably isn't enough time to pass the bill before the next election, it is significant that there is now a push for euthanasia of the healthy. And once it is allowable for those over 75 what reason would there be to refuse it to those under 75? What reason is there for any limits once we ignore that life is created by God, and is not ours take? Morally speaking, not all COVID vaccines will be alike Some of the perspective offered in the article is specifically Roman Catholic, but the problem it points out – that some vaccines are being developed using cells from aborted children – should concern us all. 3 questions to ask before we fill up the family schedule again The summer break, along with COVID craziness, have cut into family busyness: we aren't running from soccer practice to piano recital to playdate pickups like many a family is when the school season is on us. So before all the busyness arrives once again Lauren Miller has 3 questions for us to consider before we add an activity on to our weekly schedule. Even cell death is amazingly designed! (10-minute read) Over the course of 7-10 years, every cell in your body gets replaced. That's amazing, but it also presents a problem: what to do with all the dead cells that are being replaced? Well, it turns out, your body has an amazing recycling system! While this is a somewhat technical read, even just skimming it over will give you a deeper appreciation for God's brilliance. Upcoming documentary on the Red Sea crossing This looks like it will be really interesting. The team behind this film has made three others about Israel's time in Egypt, and in an interesting wrinkle, a secular expert they consulted in the first film, who thought the Bible a great archeological text, in this film thinks the Red Sea crossing must have happened somewhere shallow because he assumes it must have occurred via natural (even if unusual) circumstances. He rules out miracles because he has ruled out God...even as he knows the Bible to be validated by archeology time and again, and believes, therefore, that Israel's crossing did happen. But what happens when we go searching where only a miracle could have permitted the crossing? The trailer seems to show there is evidence of chariots on the seafloor.  ...

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! ...

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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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Even heroes carved in marble will have feet of clay

This afternoon I was driving my son home from his work at a garden center. His job is ½ hour away from where we live but we have been more than willing to make the drive twice every day as many of the jobs high school students normally fill during our hot Ontario summers are not easy to come by in this post-COVID world. As we sped past farmland filled with newly planted crops we listened to CBC as the host fielded calls from Ontario listeners.  The topic under discussion was the question of whether or not we should change the names of cities and streets if the current names had been adopted from those in history who might have had a shady record when it came to slavery. The callers were passionate in their feedback, ranging from deep affront that our current society would disregard the past and in effect try to erase it, to emotional pleas from parents who, because of the color of their skin, found the memorializing of these names to be hurtful in the extreme and impossible to explain to their children.  The host did her best, but it was clear she was not sufficient for navigating such tempestuous waters. The callers’ responses led, in turn, to a compelling discussion between my son and me. Searching for a hero What was most remarkable in the entire radio discussion was how disappointed everyone was to "discover" that their heroes were flawed; to learn that the men and women of the past had sticky records, with bad decisions and reprehensible viewpoints dotting their lives. My son noticed that there seemed to be more than disappointment in the voices of the callers, many were just plain outraged. Why? Why are we shocked when the sins of our heroes materialize and besmirch what we believed were impeccable records? Why are we almost personally offended when we unearth brokenness in the lives of past men and women? Could it be that we are angry because we have placed our trust in cracked vessels, and now these men and women are failing the faith we have put in them?  It appears that many of us are in an ongoing search for a truly great hero, for one who will not disappoint. Perhaps the callers on the radio show were simply expressing a longing deep within every human heart. That we would find one who will not let us down. One who will not only measure up to every impossible standard that we set for others, (never for ourselves because we, of course, need grace), but one who will far surpass those expectations. The good news is that there is a hero who shines through the mists of history, One who is truly faultless.  And the true beauty of this One lies in the fact that our expectations of Him will never be enough; He is utterly and incandescently lovely, and our hearts will never be disappointed when they rest in Him.  Every time we think He cannot possibly be as heroic as our hearts long for, He will prove Himself to be more so. The answer to the question of when to tear down statues or when to stand behind street names is complex, requiring both wisdom and determination. To his credit, the biblical Gideon tore down the high places his family members had built, being willing to shoulder their outrage rather than disobey God.  And yet, to his fault, he later made an ephod in an effort to memorialize the triumph over Midian with the result that all Israel worshipped it – causing them to give honor to something detestable instead of what was true. Grateful There are not always easy answers when we try to unravel what to do with the tangle of sin threaded through the lives of the various characters that line history’s wall. But just as we have been thankful for the work that was provided for our son this summer, we can be even more thankful for the work that was accomplished by another Son thousands of summers ago. A work that covers the snarl of sin that is present not only in the lives of others but is also found starkly in our own broken hearts.  And the work of that Son will never disappoint, for He will never fail. His name is Jesus Christ....

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