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In a Nutshell

Tidbits – June 2024

Good parenting is time-consuming

In The New Tolerance, authors Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler recall the method one dad used to teach his teenage son to see through the messages being presented in pop music. The son was allowed to buy any album he wanted so long as his dad listened to it beforehand.

"If dad approved not only of the language but of the more subtle messages in the music, fine; if not... dad would always explain his decisions." At one point this father rejected three straight albums, which didn't leave his son all that happy. And it wasn't so easy on the dad either; he had to spend a long time listening to some lousy music. Nowadays parents might go song by song instead. But either way, by investing "quantity time" with his son – by slogging through track after tracj – this dad was able to equip his son to know and appreciate what was praiseworthy, and to see through what was shameful and unworthy.

No biggie, right?

"As my friend Terence McKenna used to say, 'Modern Science is based on the principle, Give us one free miracle and while explain the rest.' And the one free miracle is the appearance of all the matter and energy in the universe and all the laws that govern it from nothing, in a single instant."
– Rupert Sheldrake

A tip to talk to your kids about God

by Jay Younts

In Matthew 16, Jesus presents his disciples with a two-part question. It is a masterful question and one that parents can use with great benefit.

Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” When the disciples finish giving their answers, Jesus makes the question personal. He asks, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter quickly proclaims that Jesus “is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

This question revealed the content of Peter’s heart. You can use this two-part question effectively to help you understand your children’s thoughts. For example:

“Hey kids, what do you friends say is causing all of the damaging weather the country has been having?”
“What do you think has been causing this weather?”

or:

“What do your teammates say about major league stars using performance enhancing drugs?”
“What do you think about PED’s?”

There are many, many possible situations that this two-part question can help you better understand your children. For this to be effective, your concern and questions must genuine.  They should flow out of normal conversations. This is a tool to help you gather data. If you want to use this more than once, then don’t immediately correct an answer that you think is wrong. You are asking for their opinion, don’t penalize children for doing what you asked. Rather, use the answers you receive to help plan positive ways address your children’s thoughts and correct them if needed.

It is always a good idea to follow Christ’s example in interacting with people.

SOURCE: Reprinted with permission from ShepherdPress.com

Good News vs. good advice

What's the difference between good news and good advice?

Douglas Wilson gives the illustration of a teacher who, at the beginning of the term tells students to take careful notes, study hard, and listen with attention. That is all good advice. However when exam day comes the teachers notices one student who is staring, just staring, at his blank test sheet - he's written nothing. The teacher could give some more tips: relax, clear your head, take some deep breathes. Those would all be good advice. But if the teacher says, "Scoot over - I'll take the test for you," that there is Good News.

Socialist says something smart!

"I'd rather vote for what I want, and not get it, than vote for what I don't want and get it."
– Eugene V. Debs, Socialist candidate for President in the 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920 American elections.

Weighing words

"There are two kinds of people who don’t say much – those who are quiet, and those who talk a lot."
– Unknown (but pretty in accord with Eccl. 5:2, 9:17, Prov. 10:19, Prov. 18:2 & Prov. 29:20)

G.K. Chesterton on dragons and monsters

Chesterton valued reading fantastical fiction to children, or at least the sort where good triumphs. He wrote:

“Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of . What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of . The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon. Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.”

A common Bible-reading blunder

Some of people’s favorite Bible verses are actually misleading because they are isolated from their broader context. In the movie Soul Surfer, after Bethany Hamilton loses an arm to a shark attack, she grabs hold of Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” – as an assurance that she will again return to surfing. But when we look to the broader context in which this verse appears we see it is not about being able to do everything but rather about the author, the apostle Paul, being able to endure anything through Christ. In the January 2015 issue of Solid Ground (www.str.org) Greg Koukl succinctly summarizes what’s going wrong here:

"A host of popular verses have been consistently misunderstood by well-meaning Christians because of a simple mistake they’d never make with other writings. Here’s their blunder: They think there are verses in the Bible. What I mean is, the numbers creating individual verses give the false impression that sentences or phrases stand on their own as spiritual truths. But they almost never do. When you ask, “How does this verse apply to my life?” you may be assuming it has significance – and therefore, application – disconnected from the larger narrative or flow of thought. That’s the problem. Most people would be surprised to discover there actually are no verses in God’s inspired Word. They were added 1500 years later. As a result, some of the most popular passages have been consistently misread by believers because the numbers got in the way."

Evangelism is vital, but why?

"Mission is not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is. Mission exists because worship doesn't. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man."
– John Piper

Bible reading blunder II

As incendiary blog post titles go, this one was scorching: “The One Page of the Bible I’d Like to Rip Out.” But this truly was addition by subtraction: Chad Bird wants to rip out a page that is “blank except for three words: ‘The New Testament.’” As he explained:

…it’s more than a page; it’s really a mind-set that this page represents. It’s the wrongheaded assumption that a radical separation exists between the Old Testament and the New Testament. This way of thinking dams up the waters of the first part of the Bible from the last part of the Bible. In reality, yes, the biblical stream flows deeply and freely from Malachi to Matthew, but too many Christians don’t see it that way. They see two, very distinct, often even opposing, bodies of water. They look to the left and see the “river of law” in the OT; and to the right they view the “river of Gospel” in the NT…. Rather than confessing that the writings of Moses and the prophets are Christian scripture, they treat them as Jewish scripture from which Christians might learn a few things. So you see, it’s not so much that I want to rip the page out of the Bible that divorces the OT from the NT, but that I want to rip that mindset out of the heads of modern Christians.

Those forgiving privateers

Spotted on a T-shirt: “To err is human; to ‘arr!’ is pirate.”

Pierre vs. Justin on abortion

Back in 2014 Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau announced that anyone running for his party in the next election would be expected to vote against any limits to abortion. In response pro-life Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott shared an old newspaper quote to contrast Justin Trudeau's views on abortion – as an unquestionable and absolute right – with that of his father, Pierre. Though the former prime minister eliminated most of the unborn’s legal protections he was against the unfettered access his son supports. In a May 25, 1972 article the then Prime Minister Trudeau was quoted in The Montreal Star saying:

You know, at some point you are killing life in the foetus in self-defense – of what? Of the mother’s health or her happiness or of her social rights or her privilege as a human being? I think she should have to answer for it and explain. Now, whether it should be to three doctors or one doctor or to a priest or a bishop or to her mother-in-law is a question you might want to argue…. You do have a right over your own body – it is your body. But the foetus is not your body; it’s someone else’s body. And if you kill it, you’ll have to explain.

It’s hard to determine which Trudeau’s position is the more detestable: the father who admitted that another body – another somebody – was involved and still wanted abortion to be allowed in many circumstances, or the son who has never made such an admission, but wants abortion allowed in every circumstance.

Answering a fool

In Proverbs 26:4-5 God says we shouldn’t argue with fools…except when we should.

Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
or you yourself will be just like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
or he will be wise in his own eyes.

The danger in responding to fools is in coming off looking like them. So if a fool is just hurling insults in an online flame wars we shouldn't engage with that kind of folly, because we’ll be likely to come off like just another angry fool. But when a fool offers an argument, then we can answer his folly by showing where his argument will logically take him.

So, in an online forum an abortion advocate wrote:

I don't get why a human that lives 80 years with modern medicine is more important than a tree that lives 500 years.

Long-living trees are more important than short-living humans? We can expose the folly here by following it to its logical end. And we will glorify God when we contrast this foolishness with the wisdom of what God says. Our response might look something like this:

God says that man is the pinnacle of creation, but you place us somewhere behind trees. Do you live your life consistent with that belief? Do you read books? (You do know what those are made of, don’t you?) Have you sat around a campfire and enjoyed watching the flames dance over countless wooden carcasses? What is your home made out of? Your coffee filters? Do you use toilet paper? If you’re participating in the slaughter of trees your lifestyle shows even you don’t believe trees rate above humans. So reject your lie and explore what God has to say about his creation, and how Man is to care for it. And that begins with caring for the littlest and the weakest who are made in His image right from conception.

One reason we want really smart cops

In his book, The Notes, Ronald Reagan offered one very good reason why extra smart officers would be ideal. He shared a quip about a rookie cop who was asked, in an exam, how he would go about breaking up a crowd. The officer replied, “I’d take up a collection.”

News

Saturday Selections – June 8, 2024

Looking deeper at tiny, extraordinary engineers  Hives have been called the pinnacles of biological engineering, and we're only now learning just how extraordinary they are. The Sexular Age never sleeps: 4 stages We've seen the woke advance happen in sports, which the writer calls the West's true religion, in four distinct stages: What you cannot say - first Christian athletes were told to shut up about homosexuality What you must say - then Christian athletes were told to wear the jersey, or patch Who you must not associate with - Christians couldn't be on the wrong organization's board Who you must associate with - don't distance yourselves from men in dresses Why conservative Christian men make good husbands "Many people assume that most theologically conservative men are ...domineering. But sociological studies have refuted that negative stereotype. Compared to secular men, devout Christian family men who attend church regularly are more loving husbands and more engaged fathers. They have the lowest rates of divorce. And astonishingly, they have the lowest rate of domestic violence of any major group in America." Why not private providers? It worked (briefly) in Saskatchewan  When the government is in charge, long waits and high costs don't surprise anyone. And yet, in Canada, most seem to want public healthcare even though they have to wait half a year or more for surgeries. There is an animosity towards private care, in part, because it is thought it might allow richer Canadians to get quicker care than the rest of us. But isn't that akin to being jealous that our neighbor can have sushi when we can only afford hot dogs? Or, to put it in more biblical terms, isn't that the envy God forbids in His 10th Commandment? The lack of private care options eliminates the competitive pressures that could lower costs or speed up wait times for everyone. Even if the government is going to be the universal payer, why does it need to be the universal provider? We have private family doctors, so why not expand the private options to increase the competition? As the Fraser Institute notes in the report above, it seemed to work in Saskatchewan for the decade they tried it. How to ask for a raise Christians are supposed to be humble. But that doesn't mean we should underestimate our value to our company. So what might we keep in mind as we ask for more money? Bubba changed his name to Charlene Ray Stevens is still around, and still making music. Here he is with his latest, about our culture's latest shenanigans. ...

Assorted

Advice for young women … from A to Z

The late teens and early twenties are an exciting time for young women, but with so many opportunities to be considered, and big decisions to be made, they can also be unsettling. How can young women live wisely now? How can they best prepare for their future when that future may feel very unknown? As I discussed these questions with family members one Sunday afternoon, I was intrigued by my relatives’ different thoughts and perspectives. And I wondered what kinds of responses I’d get if I extended the same questions to a wider group of Reformed women. So I asked for thoughts from the women in my own congregation, and also reached out to colleagues, friends, and extended family members near and far, some of whom then shared or discussed these questions with others. I asked things like, If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your 20-year-old self? Are there things you’re glad you did at that age, or wish you’d done differently? In the end I received responses from a broad cross-section of Reformed women of different ages and life experiences – and on a wonderful variety of topics. What came through beautifully, again and again, was the reality of God’s Fatherly hand in their lives – guiding, teaching, sustaining – and the wisdom they’d gleaned from lifetimes of studying and applying God’s Word. What follows is an A-to-Z collection of advice and encouragement that these women wanted to share with their young sisters in Christ, on everything from inner beauty to good habits, relationships to prayer. ASPIRATIONS “Choose your occupation with your heart in mind. A job may pay well but may not be what you are looking for. Family businesses are great, but may not be where you want to be.” “Now I look back and wish I had thought more about what I would love to do as a job and getting paid for what I love to do.” BEAUTY “Measure your beauty not in pounds or compliments (which fluctuate, fade and are false) but through small acts like smiles and joyful eyes, through kind words and becoming humble and quiet in spirit. These are what make a woman beautiful, for beauty is found within.” “A beautiful heart rooted in God is more beautiful and lasting than a beautiful body.” COURAGE “Have courage to do difficult things and to grow as an adult – such as moving away from your parents. It is incredible what growth awaits – and how much you realize the extent of love and care your parents provided!” “Be open-minded. Go explore and travel and make friends instead of always doing what's easy or comfortable.” “Needing to do things out of your comfort zone is a life-long reality, so start practicing now. At middle age, I still often need to take a deep breath before I make that phone call or strike up that conversation. Difficult things are often necessary and also worthwhile, so be brave!” DATING “When looking for a boyfriend/husband, keep doing the things you love to do and keep running the race for Jesus. As you are running this race, you will (hopefully) look beside you and see that someone is also running the same race and has the same priorities and goals.” “I was once told about a father who said this to his children: ‘When entering the dating scene and seeking a life partner, find someone who loves Jesus more than he/she loves you.’ Very wise words for generations to come.” “Romance is exciting but one cannot be hopelessly in love and also wise. So become wise first in knowing who you are through God's eyes, how He loves and cares for you, before you enter into any relationship. If you have a solid relationship with the Lord, a beautiful relationship can be nourished with another human being.” “Be obedient to and focused on God first before 'looking for' a husband, and make sure the potential Mr. Right is doing the same.” “It’s far better to be single than to be with the wrong person (especially someone who isn’t truly a spiritual ‘soulmate’). Don’t settle!” “There is not a perfect age to get married. Don’t set an age goal to be married by. Be content with God’s timing. If you are waiting to meet that special person in your life, perhaps to settle down with and hopefully start a family together, remember that should not be your main goal in life. Some marry in their 30s, 40s, 50s and even for the first time in their 60s. Some missed the opportunity to have children because they married later in life; some were not blessed with children no matter what age they married at. But their marriages are still blessed with the love they have for each other and the time they can devote to extended family, church family, community and kingdom opportunities. Some never marry and are quite content with their single life which gives them other opportunities to serve. (Think of the Apostle Paul). Seek God’s will for your life. Pray for God’s guidance. Be content.” EDUCATION “Develop the talents that God has given – you have them for a reason. Getting some training now will give you options down the road. Whether it’s an academic degree or practical training, if you have the opportunity, take it!” “Some people love to learn and continue to do so. There are so many expectations around this now, though. If you find a job you love, it's not always about continuing your education. You can learn as you go! On the flip side, with the cost of living now, we highly encourage our girls to seek jobs that may allow them to work from home or have flexible hours as they may need to help support their family.” “If you have college plans, try to avoid student debt! Apply for bursaries; work part-time (consider taking fewer courses per semester, even if it takes you an extra year to finish); and commit to living frugally. (That can be hard when all your friends are working and have money to go out, but think long-term!)” “When I was heading into my twenties, part of the reason I chose the nursing program was that while I hoped to get married and have a family, I didn't actually know if and when that would happen, so I wanted to prepare for the possibility of being single for a long time or for life. It seemed like an interesting and worthwhile career, and I knew I would earn enough to support myself. Even though I didn't actually do that career for very long, I don't feel it was wasted or have any regrets. The years I spent at university and the four years I spent as an RN were valuable ones for me, helping me grow in many ways. I was also able to be a blessing for numerous people in those years through that job. I think I would follow the same line of thinking if I had to do it again.” “I didn’t know if my degree (English and creative writing) would lead to a career, but I was prepared to do something else for my job and do my writing on the side if needed, so it still seemed worthwhile. I was able to live at home during college, work part-time, and avoid debt, which was also a factor; it wouldn’t have felt responsible or stewardly to go deeply into debt for an uncertain outcome. You have to think all these things through, and find that right balance of being practical while still pursuing what’s important to you. So be wise, but don’t be too quick to dismiss a dream either!” “Even if you are in a serious relationship, I would recommend still getting some education as you will never regret it. I never did finish my degree, and always wish I had as it's so much harder to do when you are older.” “If at all possible, I’d encourage women to get a post-secondary education, whether that be a degree, diploma or a trade. There may come a time you will need to supplement your husband’s income or you may not get married or you may marry much later in life. An education often gives you an opportunity to work in a field that you love and enjoy before, after or during the child-rearing stage in life.” FAMILY “Maintain a good relationship with your parents, as they are the ones who love you, and want what is best for you. They have the wisdom of life experience. They are not ‘old-fashioned.’” “Spend time with your grandparents. Ask them questions about their younger lives.” “If God blesses you with children, plan to make the job of nurturing and teaching your children a priority. From personal experience, I have no regrets being a stay-at-home mom. When we had our first child, we considered the cost of me going back to work (childcare, transportation, clothes, convenient meals) and concluded it really wasn’t financially worth the added stress and busyness it would add to our lives. Plus, I wanted to be the main influencer in our children’s upbringing.” GOOD HABITS “Eat breakfast!” “Be at home by 10:30. Asleep by 11.” “Cultivate the habits that will keep you healthy – physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally. Moving toward independence means you (not your parents) are responsible for you not skipping breakfast… or Bible study.” HELP “It is ok to not be ok. Seek help, accept offered help, and take it to the Lord in prayer.” “‘Keeping up appearances’ – We’re all tempted to do it, and there’s even a British sitcom with that title! Be real! Be genuine! Be honest. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Ask for help and guidance if you need it.” “Life is hard. Accept this and work through the challenges. Ask for help when you need it (so many struggle in silence). And remember, God will carry you through.” “What comes easy to one, may not to another. Help out where you can. It's okay to say NO to things now and then, you don't have to do everything.” IDENTITY “Consider your identity! First and foremost you are a child of God! Your identity is in Christ. So often we are introduced as so-and-so’s wife, the daughter of _____ & _____, or so-and-so’s mom. Growing spiritually and closer to God in every season of our life is key to all our other relationships. Focus on the vertical relationship with God first and then horizontally with all other relationships.” JOY “The world promises happiness and pleasure and excitement without God, but don’t be fooled. True joy comes in living with Him and for Him.” KINDNESS “Be thoughtful, be kind. Don’t just focus on yourself. Everyone you meet is struggling with something; everyone could use a smile or a kind word.” LIVING WELL NOW “Don't wait for your life to ‘really start’ once you graduate, or start working, or get married, or have children. Those are all exciting prospects. But our God is sovereign and has a purpose for our lives exactly where He has placed us in this moment. Consider how you can live as a daughter of God right here and now. Don't put your life on pause until everything is perfect. It never will be until the New Creation. But God does great work with us, despite our imperfection and our imperfect circumstances. And in so doing, all the more glory goes to Him.” “Pray continually for God to guide your steps and then do the work He has before you, in whatever capacity that is, whether you are busy developing a career, a relationship, or raising children. The Lord is shaping your heart, your character, and the talents you have. Honor Him by not continually looking at the future, but instead put your hand to the task at hand and trust that God will answer your prayer and guide and direct your life.” “Work on your character, and daily habits. Continually seek God in prayer. He loves you, and you are very worthy to Him, and He will grant you all things you need.” MONEY “Give joyfully what is rightfully the Lord's when it comes to tithing.” “Make relationships, not stuff your priority. Don’t bemoan what you can’t afford; take pleasure and be content with what the Lord has blessed you with.” “Save your money when you are young, and don't waste it on frivolous things. Don't focus on materialistic things, or things that don't really matter.” “Simply put, live within your means. Never look at the ‘minimum balance’ on a credit card; always pay it in full. If you can’t pay your credit card then you can’t afford what you put on there.” “With finances, I used to make sure bills were paid before I would write my check for church (giving back to God), and there was always a shortfall. Only when the first fruits were given to the Lord, followed by bill payments, groceries, etc., it was then that there seemed to be a little extra at the end of the month.” “Practice good stewardship with finances but also with your time, talents, possessions…. All belong to Him. It’s good to re-evaluate how we are doing as stewards.” NOURISHING YOUR BODY, MIND & SOUL “Be deliberate about the media (music, movies, books, online content) you ingest; these things affect you more than you realize. Choose options that are good for your mind and soul. Philippians 4:8: ‘Whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.’” “One thing I wished I had done differently was pursued sports or a hobby or done something more often with friends. After I married, my husband’s job entailed many long hours, often leaving me at home to deal with children on my own for breakfast, lunch, dinner and bedtime. Even more time was spent away when he served as an elder. In hindsight, we should have discussed how we could have carved out some time for me to exercise and socialize.” OPPORTUNITIES “Now is the time in your life when you have energy, you are generally not too ‘tied down’ by commitments – so take advantage of this time! It’s a season with its own unique blessings from God, so accept and use these blessings to His glory. When you look back, you won’t regret taking the chance to go on that mission trip, explore/develop a talent He’s given you, or take opportunities to stretch yourself and grow!” “I did not always have the job I loved. I would have put some more thought to it, now looking back. I did learn that eventually when I would be looking for work and all the ads would want experience, during interviews I would say that I would never get any experience if no employer would take a chance on me, and ask them to allow me to learn the job and guarantee them that I was eager, willing, trustworthy, and would rarely take a day off. You have to learn to communicate the attributes of your personality and strong will to learn to achieve the goal of getting the job. It has worked for me for getting a number of jobs over the years.” PRAYER “Pray, pray, pray. I started praying in the car when driving and I found it remarkable how much I would be able to pray about in that 15-20 minute time of quiet in the car, just me and the Lord. I still do it!” “After profession of faith, your faith will be tested. Be on your guard. Stand firm, read your Bible daily, make prayer your first point of action in the day, and your last at night. Go to Him in everything.” “Ask for the Holy Spirit to work in your heart, and to direct your steps. He will open and close doors throughout your young adult life, so don't be too distracted by non-stop outside entertainment, such as movies, scrolling on social media, etc.” “Do your devotions earlier in the day, even when you’re busy. It’s a way of trustingly giving God the ‘first fruits’ of your time. I struggle with this, especially when I have a lot to do, but it’s a much better way to start my day.” QUESTIONS “As you mature, you should be finding yourself asking fewer ‘How can I get…” questions, and more ‘How can I give/help/serve’ ones.” “You don't have to have everything for your life figured out – you have more time than you think and things tend to fall into place.” RELATIONSHIPS “Surround yourself with people who will hold you accountable and challenge you. There was a (thankfully very short) time in my life where my group of friends and I went to bars/clubs. It took a good friend to call me out on this, and I'm so thankful she did.” “When you are having a girls’ night, challenge yourselves to not gossip. Make a pact before the evening starts that no one will gossip, and call each other out if someone does.” “Spend time alone, as well as with your friends/family, and talk about deep and meaningful things sometimes too, not only shallow talk, or gossip.” “Your spouse (if you marry) should be your friend, but not your only friend. Christian friends, for both you and your spouse, are treasures along life’s journey. Some will be in your life for only a season; others may be lifelong friends. Take time to nurture friendships, whether you are single or in a romantic relationship.” STRESS “A super helpful thing for me during the middle of the day or during a stressful moment is to take three deep, slow breaths and thank God for something(s). It helps me relax, acknowledge I’m not alone in anything, and that while my ‘problem’ may be important it's not the most important thing in the grand scheme of it all.” “Don’t add stress by expecting perfection from yourself. Not everything has to be done absolutely perfectly every time. You are not God who alone makes all things perfect.” “Give yourself grace as you would others.” TRUST “As I reflect at this age, I realize that in my journey with all of its highs and lows, God was leading me. My God sought to strengthen me in my faith and trust Him in all things, whether that be hardship, sorrow, happiness or joy.” “Times of waiting and uncertainty are hard, but God can use them to build patience and trust. Don’t get discouraged!” “We don't always see the tougher roads on life's journey as a lesson from the Lord until much later in life, as age brings with it reflection on one's life. I wish I would have had the strong faith I now have as an 18-year-old. But then I think of how all the mountains and valleys traversed throughout my life strengthened my trust and faith in the Lord.” “Be content and enjoy each stage that you are in! Doors open to new roles and opportunities throughout life! When I was at home with my young kiddos I was busy – with being a mom and volunteering for church/school. I enjoyed it (most days! :) ). I didn't have much education so didn't know what would come ‘next.’ I could never have predicted the wonderful new tasks that the Lord has opened up for me for the stage I am in now. Looking back I see that many of the skills I have now are from my role as a stay-at-home mom. I am now called to tasks that would not have been right for me years ago. Trust God and His calling, timing and leading in your life!” “Above all, always trust the Lord. He has your life in His hands and will not lead you astray. You will be tested over and over on your life's journey; the devil works overtime seeking the souls of those committed to God. Be wary of the pitfalls. Always ‘let go and let God.’” “Our Oma would often say, ‘What the Lord does is good.’ She would say that in good times and hard times, and I still find myself saying it as well no matter the situation.” “Be confident in the Lord. I went through a period in my dating years where I was just so unsure. I did pray a lot but didn’t quite trust the ways in which the Lord was leading me. It took a few years to be filled with that certainty. But those years, as well, ended up being so beneficial. Think of what the Lord wants for His children, who He is and how He wants to be served. It can be easy to focus on ourselves so much that we forget the big picture.” UNIQUENESS “Base your self-esteem on your worth in God’s eyes. The world prizes certain traits over others, and sometimes we wish we were more outgoing or capable or attractive, but God didn’t make a mistake when He made unique you! He will use you and work for your good and the good of others, even through your weaknesses.” VALUE “Don’t undervalue the role of wife and mother! Society tells us that we should focus on personal fulfillment, and that children are a burden that stop us from doing more ‘important’ things, but God tells us the opposite.” WALKING WITH GOD “Spend time in the Word every day.” “Think more eternally. Remember Who you belong to, and act with the promise and call of your baptism in mind.” “Always continue to read and learn, especially your Bible, and be devoted to a close relationship with God, as He directs your life.” “Pray always, sing praises all day long. Never be reserved about being a Christian and sharing the message of salvation.” YOUTH “As someone wiser than me has said, ‘Remember your Creator in the days of your youth’!” ZEAL “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart.”...

Dating

How to get married younger 

If your upbringing was filled with scenes of large families bustling into church, children in the pew ahead coloring over the church bulletin, and babies here and there serenading the sermon with their discontented cries, then, you probably see marriage as a very good thing. And if you’ve seen twenty-somethings making silly and sinful decisions because there are too few expectations on them and too little responsibility weighing them down, then you understand the problems that come with a prolonged adolescence and delaying marriage. Of course, marriage isn’t the fix for all things wrong in the world, and it does not encompass the entirety of life's pursuits. But marriage is a reflection of a most important truth. In Ephesians 5:25-27, we find a profound analogy where Christ, embodying the ultimate Bridegroom, exhibits sacrificial and unconditional love toward His Bride, the Church, portraying marriage as a sacred covenant reflecting this divine union. Marriage is also an answer to God’s command to be fruitful and multiply, as well as a means to grow His Church. Get married, then, is a worthy aspiration for God’s people. So why the delay? However, the average age of marriage in Canada is now around 30 for both men and women, up from 25 for men and 22 for women back in the 1970s. Christians too, may be delaying marriage, perhaps due to economic challenges. Within urban churches it's quite common to see many working professionals aged 25 and above who are unmarried. With inflation on the rise and the cost of living increasing, supporting oneself is a challenge, let alone supporting a whole family. Kevin DeYoung's book, Just Do Something, highlights a very different reason for delay: society's struggle with an overabundance of choices. In past generations, it was common for individuals to remain in the same town, work the same job as their parents, and marry someone from their community. Their course was, in large part, set out for them. Today, however, there is an overwhelming array of opportunities. Upon high school graduation, young people must decide whether to enter the workforce, attend college, or pursue other paths. They may choose to stay at home or move across the country. This plethora of choices can lead to a fear of commitment and a reluctance to settle down, as individuals worry about making the wrong decision. As DeYoung notes, "In many ways, our preoccupation with the will of God is a Western, middle-class phenomenon of the last fifty years." When it comes to discerning God's will for our lives – whether in work, education, or marriage – DeYoung argues against “spiritualizing” our indecision. When you are looking for guidance on what job to pursue, whether to get an education, and who you should date, don’t just sit on your hands waiting on a sign from God. DeYoung instead advocates for committing to a local church community and relying on the discerning wisdom imparted by Christ to you and the wise family members, friends, elders, and pastors, He has put in place to shepherd you. Married while in school One reason I would like to get married some day is because of what I’ve witnessed with my parents, who married young and have celebrated 33 years together. Peter and Jen Ellison crossed paths through a mutual friend while pursuing their studies at the University of Victoria. Despite a six-year age gap – my mom was 22 and my dad 28 when they walked down the aisle – they were relatively young compared to today’s norms. They were still completing their education, and not at all "established" when it came to their careers, which is why some family members suggested they wait longer. But they didn’t. As my mom explained: “I loved getting married young because we really didn’t have much, but we were able to build everything together.” She added that it definitely wasn't easy but, “you need to go into marriage honestly and realistically, realizing that your union is of two sinners both in need of a perfect Savior.” My mom thought that nowadays the value of marriage is seemingly taken lightly rather than seen as the making a covenant with God. She says that after 33 years of marriage: “In hindsight the most difficult times of our marriage were when our personal relationship with God was suffering. Rather than running from the relationship we needed to run to the cross of Jesus again and again and actively seek Him.” Figuring it out together In the many conversations I’ve had with Dutch friends from more rural communities, I've noticed young marriages do continue to happen there. Within these close-knit rural settings, traditional values, economic considerations, and strong community support networks play pivotal roles in shaping the decisions of young individuals regarding marriage. Gianna Vanderwoude's story exemplifies this trend. She met her husband Devon in Carman, Manitoba where they had attended the same school and church. Over the years, their shared experiences fostered a strong friendship. They began dating at the age of 16, became engaged at 18, and ultimately married at 19. Vanderwoude reflects a prevailing sentiment among young couples in such settings – that there's a unique excitement in marrying young and embarking on the journey of building a life together. She shared: “I feel like that's one of the benefits almost, because you can begin wherever you are, instead of having to meet in the middle. You just are where you are; you just go from there. And you make decisions based on what works for both of you. With regards to money, Manitoba is a little bit cheaper, but we both worked quite a bit during high school and we're pretty smart in that sense, but it's still challenging.” Married for about a year now, they have already encountered challenges along the way, particularly with her husband undergoing a career change and enrolling in pilot training. However, the Vanderwoudes find that "it's kind of fun to learn how to navigate that together. We also recently moved away from our families to pursue this training. So, while it's hard, it's also really fulfilling to grow and learn together in new and different environments." When you graduate from high school, your schedule undergoes a significant shift, whether you choose to attend university or enter the workforce directly. You become accustomed to not seeing your friends every day, as you once did. Vanderwoude suggests that marrying young can serve as a remedy for the loneliness often experienced in one's early twenties. “I feel like your early twenties can be a little bit lonely because you go from being in high school and university and college and then all sudden, you're off on your own. And if you move you've got to make new friends. So, it's kind of nice to have someone there to grow with. Like a guaranteed best friend.” Vanderwoude's advice for young Christians is similar to what DeYoung says in one of the final chapters of his book. She notes: “I think people can get super stressed about what God's will is and who the one is for them. When, in reality, there are so many different people out there for you.” DeYoung agrees that, although it might sound unromantic, “Don’t think that there is only one person on the whole planet to whom you could be happily married.” The problem with this idea of "the one" is that it presupposes that affection alone sustains a marriage – you have to find that one special match, because it is that perfect match that will make your marriage work – whereas in reality, it is your commitment to the marriage that preserves the affection. This underscores just how important it is to test everything against Scripture, especially when you’re in a relationship with ambitions for marriage. Vanderwoude emphasized that point: "Just really test everything against God's Word. And if you're dating someone, make sure that they align with what God calls us to in His Word, as a partner. Don’t just think, 'They make me laugh.' It's important to ensure that there will be a good fit, especially for a woman seeking a husband, a strong spiritual leader who can guide your family." How are people meeting? So how are people meeting today? I found out that singles are still getting set up by mutual friends, Christian conferences are a way to meet like-minded young people, and technology has created some new options. 1. Dating apps and websites With the emergence of the internet, and online dating apps, the dating market has become astronomically larger, providing the unmarried with access to others singles from all around the world. That can be a good thing, but as DeYoung noted, that can also leave many overwhelmed by these choices, tempted to indecision in the fear of making anything less than the best pick. While we all know someone who has found success through dating apps, there are issues. These apps may allow a user to swipe through all sorts of potential candidates in short order, but these are people you don’t really know. In most cases all you’ll see is a few photos and a short description. Even as Christians, there is lots of room for temptation and lack of accountability here. Using these apps can lead to many uncomfortable dates, and even unsafe situations if you are not careful. That being said, I don’t think that we need to avoid online dating sites altogether. Reformed Perspectivehas, for example, featured different online Reformed dating platforms like Sovereign Grace Singles or Tulip Singles. A feature of these websites is that there is an accountability factor. For example, on Tulip Singles, in their “About Us” section they specifically state that “We require our members to provide the name of their church and pastor,” further stating that, “We respect our member’s privacy and do NOT contact a member’s pastor unless they need to be held accountable for inappropriate behavior on the website.” 2. Wingmen still have a role, even online And, even outside of niche Reformed Christian dating platforms, connections online can happen in the most unexpected of ways. If you’re connected to the online world of Reformed Twitter, you may have heard of Zoe Miller – she's a freelance journalist and is also the co-host of her own “Presbygirls” podcast. I met Zoe in the spring of 2022 in Sioux Center, Iowa while we were both attending the WORLD Journalism Institute, a two-and-a-half week intensive training program for Christian journalism students. During this time, Zoe was ecstatic to talk about a single PCA youth pastor she had recently connected with. After long nights of writing, and reporting all day in the small town of Sioux Center, we would come back to the dorms at Dordt University and you could catch Zoe walking through the halls on the phone with her future husband. I reconnected recently with Zoe, and her now-husband Seth, and asked her how they first met. “I have this very niche little podcast called Presbygirls that I do with a pastor's wife who is a friend of mine and she and I hosted a show where Rosaria Butterfield was the guest. She was talking about human sexuality issues, which are really popular to talk about in the PCA, which is the denomination that our church is in. And Seth, all the way down in Texas, along with his PCA session, ended up listening to the podcast episode that we did with Rosaria Butterfield because it was relevant to the discussions that were going on.” During the episode – because they were talking about human sexuality and the theology of singleness – Butterfield asked Zoe if she was single. And Zoe replied “Yes.” Seth had seen Zoe’s posts on Twitter before and became curious about her after listening to this episode. He also talked with one of his friends, a pastor named Mark, about Zoe. Shortly afterwards Mark attended the Gospel Reformation Network, a conference for confessional Presbyterians. Zoe happened to know many people at the conference because of her podcasting work. Zoe explained what happened next: “During the conference, and some of the social times Mark was going around telling people ‘Oh, yeah, you know, we got this youth pastor down there at Redeemer in Texas that's got a crush on one of the Presbygirls.’ So I got messages from people that I knew at the conference ‘Oh, there's this youth pastor who has a crush on you.’” Zoe is part of an online group chat where they talk about “nerdy Presbyterian stuff.” She ended up mentioning how she was having people reach out to her about Seth. As church connections happen, one of the guys in this group chat said that he went to seminary with Seth and that they would have a lot of things in common. He then proceeded to send Zoe a bunch of YouTube videos of Seth preaching. As Zoe shared, it was love at first sight: “So I watched the YouTube videos, and I was like, oh, yeah, it's over. It was pretty much over for me at that point.” This mutual friend then set up a group chat on Discord with Seth and Zoe – she describes him as “a good wingman” because as soon as he saw Zoe and Seth getting along, he left the chat. This led to Zoe and Seth forming a friendship, and then came the phone calls – they were continually calling each other up. As June approached, both had plans to attend the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) General Assembly in Birmingham, Alabama. Prior to General Assembly, Zoe and Seth had a conversation asking “What are we doing here? What are we trying to accomplish?” Zoe said, “Well, I guess what I think we're doing is eliciting marital compatibility.” Then, the time had finally come in late June for Zoe and Seth to meet in-person. And as Seth shared, like any first date, there were some nerves. “You hear all the horror stories about meeting somebody online, and as a real person, you don't know what they're really like, you only see some pictures. There was some fear and trembling before we actually met the first time because it's like, ‘what is this person really like?’ So we actually met at the General Assembly of the PCA…” During the weekend they were able to talk a lot, as well as have Zoe’s dad and the two pastors Seth was working with “vet” them. “From that point on,” Zoe said, “it wasn't really awkward to try to figure out, ‘Where are we going to go from here?’ We got engaged in October of that year. And we got married in March of the next year.” Zoe mentioned she used to find it frustrating when married couples were asked, “How did you know you were supposed to marry your spouse?” and they’d reply with, “When you know, you know.” She said: “That's not a real good answer. But at this point, they were 100% correct. It's really difficult to convey that to somebody who doesn't actually have that knowledge by experience, but I'm finding out that they were right.” Zoe spoke about how, when she first went to college, she had visions of graduating and being a single young professional. But she had a perspective change in seeing many smart women in her church get married and start families young. “I kind of conceived of that as something you did if you didn't have any other options, but… I learned that just getting married young is not a waste of time.” When it comes to advice for young Christians who want to get married, Seth says to get really involved in the local church. “These years in your early 20s are a great time to really cement your standing as a Christian, really grow a lot, and get involved in the life of the church. When you're focusing on growing as a Christian, focusing on serving in the church, and being a part of the church, a lot of those things just kind of come together on their own.” 3. Wingmen in the offline world While your church is often an ideal place to meet people, what if there aren't many options within your local congregation? What if you're searching for someone with specific theological interests but options are limited in your city or town? Keith Davis, a pastor at Bethel United Reformed Church (URC) in Calgary, Alberta, is also the founder of Summit Reformed Youth Conference (SummitRefCon.ca). This conference, held twice a year in February and August, caters to Reformed singles aged 18-30. Originally from Michigan, Davis met his wife while serving at a summer ministry internship in Toronto. She was sending letters to people who were serving in the ministry away from home. Davis was grateful to get a letter. “You know, as a young man receiving a letter from a young lady from church, you're like, 'Wow, you thought of me.' So, I wrote her back, and we established a bit of a relationship like that. When I got back, I thought she was head over heels in love already. But then I found out that she wrote everybody, and every man who received a letter fell in love with Laura. But I was the one, so we got married quite young.” Davis was 22, and his wife was 19. “We love the Lord. We served Him, and what really brought us together was our faith. We had a lot in common; we had many conversations that flowed effortlessly. You know when you speak with someone, and it just feels natural, with no awkwardness? It's what is really needed.” After serving as a pastor for many years in various churches in the US, he then moved to Calgary and discovered that there were no nearby conferences for youth to attend. They had been attending a conference in Lynnwood, but it ended up costing the church a lot of money. After meeting with the elders of the church, Davis says he began making phone calls to see how he could start their own conference. They launched the first conference in 2016 and have since hosted conferences almost every year. Their inaugural event attracted 150 young adults, but now they have so many interested individuals that they have to cap attendance at 450 people. Davis is quick to emphasize that “we’re not a camp; we’re a conference.” The summer conference runs from Monday to Friday, featuring speakers and worship sessions throughout the week. Attendees typically arrive on Monday, with many flying in from both the East and West. Some even travel from as far as Prince Edward Island. In addition to receiving scriptural messages that impart profound truths, attendees also have ample time for building relationships. Davis observes that within the diverse age range of attendees, older individuals often emerge as leaders and mentors for the younger participants. This fostering of friendships among like-minded individuals also creates opportunities for potential marriages to develop. “It's definitely about bringing like-minded Christians together in an environment where there's a sense of safety. They don't have to worry too much about whether the other person knows the Lord. There's usually a common commitment there,” he said. “So, that might be one barrier that's removed. Ultimately, though, they still have to discover their own convictions, but we're bringing young people into proximity with each other. If it works out, it works out." And it has been working. How often? Davis doesn’t know. “Every church I go to preach, there are those in attendance who tell me they met at Summit and they got married. They come up to me and say, ‘Have you kept track?’ I'm like, ‘No, I don't ever want to keep track.’ I want to protect us from pride because I think it's a natural thing to say, ‘Oh, look what we've done.’ I think that the Lord is pleased to use this conference to many ends; if that's one of them, Amen. The greatest end is that these young people will come to commit their lives to the Lord.” Some practical pastoral dating advice Mike Chhangur, a pastor at the PCA’s Christ Church Halifax, got married to his wife in his early twenties. They originally met through a youth ministry in Texas but reconnected a few years later through Facebook. Chhangur shared some of the complexities that arose from getting married while not being “established.” His wife had just finished university, and he was still completing nursing school. Chhangur says they moved many times to find the cheapest rent, securing sublets to “save a couple of hundred bucks a month.” At one point, they even shared a two-bedroom apartment with another person “We've only ever had one income. When I was in school, Brittany was working more than me. And then when she got pregnant and had our first daughter, Annie, I started working full-time. There's only ever been one person working, and so that's been helpful for us in the sense that we've never bitten off more than we can chew in terms of mortgage or car loans or, whatever.” 1. Make the most of opportunities to connect When it comes to encouraging Christian singles to marriage, Chhangur says they need a point for connection. For him and his wife Brittany, Facebook provided that touchpoint for them to connect after losing touch. So, as a pastor, Chhanguer says he wants to be able to help with those connections: "One practical way, as a pastor, I'm attempting to create connections among Christians is by hosting events…” 2. Date like a Christian In addition to forming opportunities for connections, Chhangur emphasizes the need for Christians to date in a way that is God-honoring. “I think I've just encountered over and over again, where people don't know how to date Christianly. They have no idea what this looks like; they have grown up in an age of Tinder. A lot of people in our experience have started coming to our church while they were still living with a girlfriend or a boyfriend, and have had to figure out, ‘What does it mean to follow Christ in this particular area? What does the Bible have to say about dating and relationships?’” He continued, “As a pastor, I’m teaching new stories of what it means to treat a younger woman as a sister with all purity. We don't progress in the Christian life from treating somebody like our wife emotionally and physically, and then only later asking them to be our wife.” 3. Men, don’t make an idol out of your ego Fear of rejection is a significant concern, particularly when there's often an emphasis on men in the church to initiate romantic pursuits. Using a basketball analogy, Chhangur offers advice to young men who may fear rejection for asking a girl out to coffee. “Eventually you're going to shoot your shot. If you live life avoiding pain, or avoiding rejection at all costs, you're going to have a pretty miserable life. Some of that is this understanding of who you are in Christ, and making that a priority more than being accepted by people. It’ll be sad if you airball the coffee, but that's just life.” 4. Be the godly person a godly someone would want to date Ultimately, if you are looking for a spouse who loves the Lord, Chhangur says you need to check yourself first. “A couple of pieces of advice would be if you want a godly wife, someone who hears God and loves the Lord Jesus, you have to be a godly man. A godly woman is attracted to godly men, and vice versa. So I would make sure that your first love is Christ.” Conclusion To close, I think some of the most practical guidance given to me was from a young woman who has been married for a couple of years and shared the following when I asked “What advice do you have for single Christian men and women who want to be married?” Ensure your heart is in the right place in desiring marriage. It is a good thing, but even good things can become idols. Prepare yourself. Don't wait for someone to show up and then start getting your act together. Be prudent with the time given now to continue growing — in habits, in skills, and in discipline, all of which are beneficial to marriage. Be ready. Surround yourself with those who have similar values as you. If you desire marriage, keep company with those who value it, whether already married or single. Serve God where you are. You're not in a holding room before getting to the real part of life. This is real life right now – live it all for Him! Or to keep things simple, “Just Do Something.”...

Economics - Home Finances

Frugalship: 37 ways to save a buck

Frugal: to be careful about spending money or using things when you do not need to; using money or supplies in a very careful way; not wasteful. Synonym: thrifty ***** One of my sons commented that while many people he knew would boast about how much they spent on an item, I would boast about the great bargains I scored. It comes from growing up in a family that, though we were not “poor,” had to carefully consider every purchase. If you had a jacket, you didn’t need another jacket. One can of tuna made six sandwiches. And thrift stores made it much easier for me to clothe six kids. We also enjoy it when we can spend less than expected. It comes from wanting to stay within our means, and we believe that spending less today means that there will still be money left for tomorrow. Or if not, then at least we tried our best! We think of it as “good stewardship.” We are certainly given examples in Scripture that we should prepare bread in summer and gather food in harvest (Prov. 6:6-8), provide for our relatives (I Tim. 5:8) and plan our ventures carefully (Luke 14:28-29). Going to Scripture Besides being told to manage it well (Luke 12:42-43; Prov. 13:22, 21:20), the Bible also has this to say about money: Realize it is a gift from God (Lev. 27:30) Be content with what we have (1 Tim. 6:7-8) Don’t put our trust in it (1 Tim. 6:17-19) Don’t worry about it (Matt. 6:25-34) Don’t steal it (Ex. 20:15) Don’t love it or be covetous (Eccl. 5:10) Don’t hoard it (Matt. 6:19-21) Give it to others in need (Prov. 28:27) Give to the Lord (Mal. 3:10) Even in our attempts to be “frugal” we need to keep an eye on our attitudes and motives. We get so used to planning for our own needs and desires, that it can come as a surprise when we read Ephesians 4:28: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” What does God say is the purpose of working? So that we can give to those in need, and so that we can give to the Lord. Being thrifty and getting a good deal ought to lead us to give more as well. As we read in Luke 12:15: “And he said to them, ‘Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’” That’s true even of the possessions earned through thrift! Eat, drink, and be frugal Since many of us do appreciate being thrifty, below are some ideas for ways to spend less money in our households, and even when purchasing vehicles or homes. Eat and drink at home. The most wonderful sandwich, burger, or steak at a restaurant can be duplicated at home for a fraction of the cost. It has become fashionable to buy coffee from vendors, but you’ll save a bundle by making it at home. You can pack an awesome sandwich, chips, dessert, and beverage for your lunch instead of eating out. Pre-shop the flyers. Check the ads and purchase items that are on sale. Having the app for your local store can provide information as well as coupons. Cook for several meals at once. You can save on energy and time by baking 8 chicken breasts or two large roasts, or frying 4 pounds of ground beef all at once. Then you will use them in varying ways the next 2-3 days or freeze the cooked meat. Bake enough potatoes or make enough rice or noodles for 2-3 meals. Google ideas for using “plan-over” food to make other meals. Check out the discount rack for expiring food; use ripe bananas for banana bread, wrinkled apples for baking or applesauce, and day-old croissants to make ham and cheese sandwiches in the oven. Buy “seconds” for strawberries in season and freeze them in flattened bags. Use these to make jam throughout the year. Make your own dressing by adding ingredients to the last of the mayonnaise in a jar and shaking it all together. Seek recipes or get creative. Use a rubber spatula to limit waste. Mix a buttery spread: Mix 1 pound of butter, 1 pound of margarine, and 1 cup of water. Mix on high until well-blended to create a spread that tastes like butter. Leftover Surprise Soup is a winner. Collect scraps of leftover meat or vegetables in a covered container in the freezer. When it’s getting full, use it as the base for homemade soup. Bake your own hostess gifts. Homemade bread, muffins, or candy make a wonderful hostess gift, and they are less expensive than wine. Create your own cleaning agents. Wipe down counters with a homemade spray made of water, a bit of bleach, and a drop or two of dish soap instead of buying expensive cleaning agents. Shop later in the day when meat and produce are being discounted. Freeze the meat immediately. Keep easy-meal items on hand. On a tiring day, when you are nearly out of food, or when you get surprise company – always have the ingredients for a quick nourishing meal. This will keep you from having to order out or run to the store. Examples: Chicken alfredo: canned chicken breast/alfredo sauce/noodles/frozen peas. Tuna noodle salad: Canned tuna/macaroni/Miracle Whip/chopped veggies. Taco soup: ground beef, green beans, corn, creamed corn, diced tomatoes, sour cream, and a packet of taco seasoning. Non-food items Of course, our expenses go beyond just food and drink… Consider assigning separate household budgets. One can be used to plan for groceries, gifts, gas, and home décor. Another for hobbies or sports. By managing them well, there may be more money available to switch to another category as desired. No one likes surprise invoices or fluctuating amounts at the end of the month. Combine errands or carpool when possible to save on gasoline. Keep your tires filled and your car serviced to provide the best gas mileage and to make the vehicle last longer. Watch for sales and compare prices for home goods, gardening, and home improvement. Scratch and dent. Discover whether stores near you have “scratch and dent” appliances that work as well as new ones. Purchase second hand if you know the items are from a reliable source. Make your own greeting cards, perhaps with the kids’ or grandkids’ help. Or, you might locate stores that charge less for them, and keep a stack of birthday, get well, and sympathy cards on hand. Combine gift lists. Go shopping once for 3 or 4 upcoming birthdays. Swap kid-sitting with friends or family; staying home alone without your children with a great meal and a movie and no one to wake you up in the morning can be as refreshing as paying for a hotel and dinner out. And the kids will love being with their friends. Shop at thrift stores and yard sales. With a good eye for quality, you can find amazing bargains for your house, your clothing, and sometimes even for gifts. Example: At a thrift store, I discovered an expensive glass vase with an eagle etched on it along with Isaiah 40:31; it was worth at least $50, but it made a new bride very happy and I only spent $12. Years ago I bought a new-looking sweatshirt and fabric painted a super hero logo on it, delighting a 4-year-boy for only $3. When buying a vehicle Sometimes we think about saving a dollar at the grocery store, or twenty-five cents per liter/gallon on gas, but we may neglect the amount of money we might save on larger items such as cars or houses. Here are a few ideas to consider when you need to purchase a vehicle. There is no set amount at a dealership, and negotiating is actually expected. If you aren’t very good at negotiating, find a relative or friend to go with you to assist in making the deal. Purchase a one-year-old vehicle. A nearly-new vehicle with 10,000-40,000 kilometers can still come with a warranty, but cost you thousands of dollars less, and still have that new car smell and security. Buy an older used car. If possible, have your mechanic look it over first. Also, put in the research to learn whether that particular model has a good reputation. Selling a home I spoke with Ashley Wright, a local realtor, who shared 7 essential tips for selling. Hire an agent whom you love and trust, who is hard-working, and knowledgeable about your area. Interview several before you sign – don’t just use a friend/relative’s buddy whom you may end up clashing with. Price your home correctly. The best price will keep your home from looking like a loser by sitting on the market for a long time. Sell at the peak of the market. Even if it still needs some work, it’s best to sell at peak time and lower the price a bit if necessary. Stage your home so that it is uncluttered, spacious, totally clean, and generic so the buyers can imagine themselves living there. Store family photos and some of your furniture if necessary. Get professional photography and videography so it will attract people. Bake cookies before a showing to provide a winsome aroma. Leave bottled water and the fresh cookies on the counter for the “lookers.” Close the deal as soon as possible. Keep away from rent-back and contingent offers if you can. Buying a home Wright had 7 tips for buying a home too. Hire an agent whom you love and trust, who is hard-working, and knowledgeable about your area. Shop around for interest rates for your mortgage. Having the highest credit score will lead you to the lowest debt. Sometimes it’s better to pay your debt to improve your score, but other times it’s better to hold on to your cash and buy down your interest rate. Be pre-approved by a lender, not just pre-qualified. Keep your options open. Don’t be too picky – there is almost always a good deal out there, even in a hot seller’s market. An ugly home with poor pictures could provide you an excellent deal, and you can use the savings to improve it later. Offer less, and ask for a quick answer, 1 day if possible, but include an escalation clause (for example: “I will pay $1000 more than someone else’s bid up to $X amount”). Close the deal as soon as possible, which might be between 30 and 45 days. Move on if necessary: if your agent isn’t working hard for you, you can quit them and hire someone else, even if you have signed an agreement. On the other hand One last thought to remember is that the laborer is worthy of his hire. Therefore, if we are hiring a relative or a brother/sister in Christ to do work or service for us, or buying their goods, we should pay them a full amount and not expect a discount. They have families and bills as well, and though we do love our bargains, this might not be the most loving place to press for one. It’s a good feeling when we can learn to be happy with our brother’s or sister’s gain and not just think about ourselves. Let us always remember that “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully . . . for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Cor. 9:6-7). Save more so you can give more! Sharon L. Bratcher is the author of a collection of 45 RP articles entitled: “Soup and Buns: Nourishment from God’s Word for Your Daily Struggles.” To purchase this book, contact her at [email protected]....

News

Saturday Selections – May 25, 2024

Click on the titles for the linked articles... Annie Wilson: Songs about Whiskey We've all heard country songs about drinking whiskey, but this one is of a very different sort. Why the best gift for your child is a brother or sister God says children are a blessing (Ps. 127:3-5), and, as this secular article shares, that blessing doesn't just extend to their parents. Is the transgender movement collapsing after the Cass Review? Parents with confused boys were sold this bill of goods: "Would you rather have a dead son or a living daughter?" This false dilemma has been exposed with the Cass Review, the world's largest overview of these surgical and chemical mutilations. The Cass Review is good news, but Jonathon Van Maren is more optimistic than I am that the transgender movement might now be collapsing. I am less so because of how the reversal came about – there is no return here to God's Truth and no submission to the reality that He made us male and female. One lie has been toppled, but the world is ready with many more (see Matt. 12:43-45). What the world needs are not more common-sense conservative commentators, but a clear Christian witness. And to turn to God's Truth, they first need to hear it, from us. Why is Canada (and the US) short of doctors? When I ask my kids why this-or-that major problem has occurred, experience has taught them that there's a likely culprit: the government. In both Canada and the US, the government has overseen a deliberate restriction of the number of positions available for medical students so our current doctor shortages can be laid squarely at their feet. The Canadian situation is described above and the US here. So what's the solution? Some might think it a matter of firing the incompetent bureaucrats and replacing them with better ones. But what human being is ever going to be smart enough to know precisely how many doctors we're going to need in 10 or 20 years' time? The problem isn't so much a lack of competence, as a failure to, in humility, acknowledge a lack of omnipotence – we shouldn't expect our government to have this sort of know-how, and they should stop pretending they possess it. Consistency matters on IVF too In the US, after Roe vs. Wade was overturned, the IVF industry was threatened, because if embryos were recognized as precious human beings, then that industry would no longer be allowed to continue their inhuman freezing and disposal of any of the embryos they produce. But with more and more people having fertility difficulties, IVF has grown in popularity such that a very confused, supposedly pro-life senator is now trying to effectively enshrine a right to IVF. But, as Rachel Roth Aldhizer writes, if we are pro-life then that logic should extend to IVF too. What Christians just don't get about LGBT folk (3 min) Rosaria Butterfield: "Being a lesbian wasn't my biggest sin. Being an unbeliever was." ...

Dating

Speed dating night beats scrolling right

Scrolling through profiles on dating apps and websites might be the newest, but it’s hardly the greatest, approach to the dating world, deciding who you’d like to date based on appearance and the briefest of descriptions. Sure, you can change your settings to show only singles who identify as “Christian,” but we all know living the Christian life is a lot more complex than just checking off a box on an app. There, then, are some of the reasons corporate facilitator Kathrina Loeffler started up a Christian speed dating group. “The name is ‘Done With Online Dating.’ It’s because online dating is so cold in many ways. It’s so hard to really get a good picture of somebody online,” Loeffler explained. She says that she's a “romantic at heart” and when she’d seen different speed dating shows on TV, she thought “Why not do something for Christians?” “I think one of the roles of the church is actually to matchmake. If you want to know the truth, I think that the church should be involved in bringing Christian couples together, like really reinforcing Christian marriage so that we can have a strong Christian community.” So far, Loeffler has hosted three events in Ottawa. Participants register beforehand, paying a fee to cover the costs of snacks and rental space. The events follow a structured format with strict rules and pre-screening. Participants then engage in five-minute conversations. There's a list of questions and prompts to help, but participants can feel free to go beyond that. And many do. “They're Christians, they go right to the jugular almost, with the questions like, how many kids do you want? Or, why is it important that you meet a Christian partner? And it's really interesting how that happens.” After the five-minute date, participants have one minute between dates to decide on further interaction via an online survey. The whole event lasts two hours. So far, events have been held for ages 25 to 35, 27 to 38, and 38 to 50. One of the challenges for hosting these events has been trying to get men to come out to the events. For the last event, Loeffler changed the rules so that there was a waitlist for women. “For the third one, we decided that we were going to only invite women to participate as we got male registrations. So we closed off all registrations to women and had only men register. Then as we got men, we would add a woman from our waiting list. Our waiting list for women is huge. It's big.” While Loeffler’s events have been non-denominational, drawing participants from various Christian traditions, there’s no reason her model couldn’t inspire Reformed Christians to do something similar, though more theologically particular. In Ontario, the Fraser Valley, and wherever a number of sister churches exist side by side, this could provide an opportunity for believers to connect on a deeper level. A well-organized speed dating night could contribute to the enrichment of Christian communities and the cultivation of lasting relationships rooted in shared faith and values....

Dating, RPTV

How our friends, and the 'Net, brought us together

TRANSCRIPT Alexandra Ellison: Okay, good. Okay, so if you want to start off, could you guys just both introduce yourselves and then we can kind of get into how you both met. Seth Miller: You want to go first? Zoe Miller: Okay, I guess I'll go first. I'm Zoe, I am married to this guy right here. If you're a listener, you can't see him. But I'm Zoe Miller. I'm 22. And I currently am a part-time journalist, part-time call center agent at a pro-life company. And Seth, and I've been married for one year and one month, coming up on that. But we're at a Presbyterian Church in Idaho. And Seth is the pastor, he can tell you a little bit more about it. But that's currently where we're at. Seth: Yep, and my name is Seth. I'm a church planter here in northern Idaho and the Coeur d’ Alene region. We've been at it for about five months now. And we're seeing a lot of growth and exciting things that the Lord's doing through this church. It's kind of a wasteland as far as Reformed churches go. And so it's exciting to be able to participate in this work. I'm originally from Idaho. I made my way down to Texas. But I've always said that Idaho is the true promised land when it comes to states down here in America. That Idaho is it's a great place. But yep, Zoey, and I've been married for a year, and it's been fun so far. Alexandra: That's great. So maybe if we could go back, I guess to a year and a bit more back to 2022. If you guys could kind of describe how you met. Seth: Go ahead. Zoe: Okay, so you should I'll let you finish off the story, I guess. Okay. Seth: We usually have a plan, you know, though. We've got a tag team story, but... Zoe: Yeah, it depends on the situation, which of us will start the story and which of us will end this story. But I have this very niche little podcast called "Presbygirls" that I do with a pastor's wife who is a friend of mine. And she and I hosted a show where Rosaria Butterfield was the guest. And she was talking about human sexuality issues, which are really popular to talk about in the PCA, which is the denomination that our church is at. And so Seth, all the way down in Texas, his session ended up listening to the podcast episode that we did with Rosaria Butterfield because it was relevant to the discussions that were going on. And so, as I understand it, Seth was in the office with another pastor that worked at the same church that he did. And Rosaria Butterfield, because we were talking about human sexuality and the theology of singleness, she asked me if I was single on the show, which I  did not expect her to do, so kind of the wing-lady of the century, but she did. So she asked me if I was single. And I said, "Yes." And so Seth and his pastor, friend that he worked with were in the office one day, and I guess Seth said... What did you say? Seth: So I said, " Who is this Zoe girl" because I had seen her on Twitter. But I didn't really know anything about her. But her name kept popping up. And then I see her on this podcast. And I was just curious who she was. I wasn't sure even how old she was. I knew she was in college or something like that. Zoe: Isn't it that the first time you saw one of my tweets, you thought it was like 30. Seth: Yeah. So that was just a thought that went out into the ether that then developed into something much more. Zoe: Yeah, your pastor friend, Mark, heard Seth inquire about me. And he basically had it all in his mind that it would be a perfect fit, we would be together. And so he goes to this conference called the Gospel Reformation Network, a conference for confessional Presbyterians to get together. And I happen to know a lot of people at that conference because of my podcasting work. And during the conference, and some of the social times Mark was going around telling people "Oh, yeah, you know, we got this youth pastor down there at redeemer in Texas that's got a crush on one of the Preysbygirls." So I got messages from people that I knew at the conference like, "Oh, there's this youth pastor who has a crush on you." And I thought to myself, he can't possibly be my type, there's no way, I'm an old school girl. And then I'm in this big group chat where we talk about, you know, nerdy Presbyterians stuff. And somebody who knew Seth, a classmate of his in seminary, messaged me and said, "Hey, I know this guy, I think he's great. I feel like you guys actually have a lot in common." And he sent me some YouTube videos of Seth preaching. And so I watched the YouTube videos, and I was like, "Oh, yeah, it's, it's over!" It was pretty much over for me at that point. Then his friend set us up on a group chat with the three of us. And as soon as he saw that Seth and I were getting along, he left the group chat... Seth: Good wing man. Zoe: ...and that was literally when I was at the WORLD Journalism Institute (WJI). The first time that we talked, on Discord, was May 10. And I think WJI started on like, the 12th. Yeah, so it was, it was immediately then, and so I'm going through mind, there's this pastor guy, he's older than me. This is, this is a little odd. You know, my parents thought it was a little, a little odd. They thought I was too young to get married, not because of any serious reason, but they just didn't see it happening for some time. And then Seth and I got engaged in October. And, but from seth perspective, it was pretty interesting as well, up until that time. Seth: Yeah, I was working at that church at the time. And, as a young single pastor, it was common for me to be approached by mothers in the church, inquiring if I would be interested in their daughters. That had happened several times. None of them really worked out. Nice girls and everything, but none of them stuck. And so I was in the place of, I don't want to do this anymore. It's weird dating within the church, you know, from a position of being a pastor. And so, at first, like we said, it was just kind of a curiosity that quickly developed into something much more than that. And that was basically what I needed because I wasn't really all that... I guess, I didn't have too many intentions on and really wasn't trying to get married anytime soon. I knew the Lord would provide a spouse for me. And so, it just created a life of its own. And, part of the reason for it is because the associate pastor that Zoey mentioned, his name is Mark, he is like a second dad to me. And so his interest in making sure I was getting married was, even more of an interest than I had. He thought he saw the potential there. And I mean, I thought Zoe was great from what I knew, but I didn't really know anything more about her. It would have been weird if I would have just gone to her Twitter page and, and DM-ed her. And I was definitely not going to do that. So it was like, it was almost this kind of, I don't know, arranged marriage in the Presbyterian world – all these people working behind the scenes. And that's what I think made it so unique. But it was exactly probably what would have worked best for the both of us where we were at our stages of life. You hear about all the horror stories about meeting somebody online, and as a real person, you don't know what they're really like, you only see some pictures. There was some fear and trembling before we actually met the first time. What's this person really like? So we actually met at the General Assembly of the PCA. So again, this is a very, very strange story that's abnormal for 99% of the population. I don't know if anybody else could write up a story like this. But we met at General Assembly and that was an interesting time. Zoe: Yeah. Because he got to meet my dad for the first time at General Assembly because he was there. So he looked him over. Seth: Zoey had to meet with the two pastors that I was on staff with, and they wanted to know her intentions. And so it was very much like this, courtship sort of. Zoe: Both of us were vetted thoroughly. Seth: Yeah. And, yeah, and then we actually got to talk to each other a little bit during that time. We were both nervous because when you go from online to in-person, that's a totally different dynamic. You know, you can text, you can call, you can FaceTime, all that stuff, but then when you're actually standing in front of each other. I think we were both sweating away – at least I was. Zoe: Oh, yeah. So, that's pretty much how it happened. Then we had a phone call where I was actually working on my broadcast thing for WJI, late at night. And Seth and I were on the phone, because we talked on the phone all the time. And so Seth, called me as I was working late, by myself in the classroom that you're familiar with on this story. Seth calls me and he's like, "Okay, so before we get too emotionally involved, what is the purpose of what we're doing here? Like, what are we doing here? What are we trying to accomplish?" And I was like, "Well, I guess what I think we're doing is eliciting marital compatibility." Those are the exact words! Seth: A little robotic, but good. It was accurate. Zoe: From that point on, it wasn't really awkward to try to figure out like, "Oh, where are we going to go from here?" We got engaged in October of that year. And we got married in March of the next year. I would always be frustrated when I would ask people who I thought had great marriages, "How did you know that you were supposed to marry your spouse?" And they would always say, "Well, you know, when you know," and I would say, "That's not a real good answer!" But at this point, they were 100%. Correct. It's really difficult to convey that to somebody who doesn't actually have that knowledge by experience, but I'm finding out that they were right. Alexandra: You kind of you kind of mentioned this at the beginning. But part of the story is that there's like, been a bit of pushback, you know, within our culture of people getting young. You even see it within the church. I've been in churches in kind of major cities - a lot of young professionals - and they kind of prolong marriage to you know, 30+. So, was there any sort of pushback for you getting married young? It was only, I guess, a few months when you guys got engaged? Zoe: Yeah, We'd only been we'd only dated for like five months when we got engaged. So I think my parents were the ones that were more interested in me having a career before marriage than even me. Seth is pretty charming, though. So I wasn't really sure exactly what I was going to do after college, probably journalism, but I didn't have any job prospects lined up. And as I went into college, I had this idea of being a young professional-like single lady. But because of the churches that I was going to, I sat under really solid, good preaching and teaching. And I got to know a lot of families who, the wives and moms were incredibly capable and smart ladies, but it was just a great service that they did to their family to prioritize that before they, you know, before they went off and had a job. Particular lady who I know pretty well, for my church, when I was going to college, she got married to her husband when she was 18. And he was 21. And she's very smart. She's very pretty, she could have done a lot of things with her life, but she decided that she wanted to have a family instead, and having a family and getting married and contributing to somebody else's life instead of just her own. I kind of conceived of that as something you did if you didn't have any other options, but it's through this experience of meeting her and a lot of ladies like her, I learned that just getting married young is not a waste of time. It's not. It's not an anti-intellectual exercise, it actually takes effort, and a little bit of intelligence – the sprinkling that I still have left – to put effort into your marriage. I think people tend to see it as something that doesn't require hard work. You know, women only do it if they don't really have any skills. But I think that's totally wrong. And just meeting people who made that choice changed my perspective. And by the time that I was through with college, I was thoroughly fed up with the, the caricature of the young professional lady who's on her own and doesn't need anybody. Society just doesn't quite work like that. As I got through college, I got more conservative as well as more serious about theology in my Christian faith, so that contributed to it as well. But yeah, there is definitely that pushback towards Christian women marrying young. I think a lot of people are concerned that they're not ready. But a lot of great advice that I received is, if you have a man who loves the Lord, that's 90%. If he's a minister, that's like another 5%. And if he's older than you, that's a big plus, too. So, beyond those initial objections, once we convinced my parents it was pretty much good to go. But Alexandra: Some of the article I've been doing is trying to get maybe more concrete advice for young woman, and then also for young men. I think for young men, a lot of the advice I've heard is like Kevin DeYoung's book, it's called Just Do Something. Yeah, you can go out and you can, you know, take God's will, and you can just go and pursue a woman that you're interested in, within the church. You can go do that. But I think, as a woman, in some sense, that can kind of be hard, because it's like, "I just have to wait for someone to pursue me? What can I do during this time?" So I guess I'll ask, Seth, and then also Zoe, so what would be your advice for young woman and your advice for young men? Seth: Yeah, I think for young men, and I think this would apply to young ladies as well, the early years in your early 20s, that's a great time to really cement your standing as a Christian, really grow a lot, and get involved in the life of the church. When you're focusing on growing as a Christian, you're focusing on serving in the church, and being a part of the church, a lot of those things just kind of come together on their own. I've noticed with some young guys, they kind of, they'll think of everything in terms of, of getting married and pursuing a wife, having children. I think that's a good God-given natural desire, but at times, everything is so focused towards that, that personal growth becomes a means to an end. They feel like, okay, I've gotten all of the boxes checked, and I have enough income to be able to support a family. And so they get really focused on that, which again, I think is fine. And I think to have that drive is a good thing as a young man. But there's still a point to which you want to make sure that you're, you're pursuing the Lord in that time. And again, you're even as a man, you're still waiting upon the providence of the Lord to bring the right woman in front of you. And so there is a sense of waiting even in that, that you don't want to just go out and, you know, pursue everything under the sun. I've seen guys that do that and it doesn't work out too well for them. So I would just say, make sure you're focused on the right things, prioritizing disciplines of godliness, because you want to be able to lead a family well. And if you have not mastered those things, at least in a small sense, before you're married, it's not gonna go too well when you are married. Zoe: The spiritual disciplines, as far as young women go, it is easy to, especially if you are more conservative, or you are you have more of a traditional desire for a traditional family, which is good, even though you may not be a husband someday because you're a female, it's still good to want to get those spiritual disciplines. You want to be the best kind of Christian you could possibly be, so that you so that you are ready for the solid Christian man that comes into your life. You want to be ready for that in the sense that you take your spiritual life seriously. It's going to be as big a benefit to him as his spiritual maturity is to you in a lot of ways. It might seem kind of counterintuitive to sit and wait but there is a lot of there's a lot of development you can do just spiritually when you are kind of waiting on God's providence to bring the right man in front of you. Something that I have seen and I actually sort of did this myself a little bit when I was younger is, when girls meet guys they expect them to be straightforward, but girls don't have the same instincts to be straightforward. A lot of the times they like to talk to guys and they may be kind of naive about why these guys are interested in talking to them so much. And especially if the guy struggles with being straightforward, you really have to, if you are talking in any kind of way with a Christian man who's around your age, and it's a little more than normal, more than a friendship or an acquaintance, you have to question. Don't stop yourself from being straightforward. Because you don't want to play with him. That's a really strong temptation for a lot of Christian girls, is thinking, "Well, I don't have to be upfront about what are my expectations for the relationship are, what I want out of a marriage and a family, because that's his role." I think it's really good for you to, to just be straightforward. And if he has a problem with being straightforward. Anyway, I've used that word like, fine. But the point is, the point is, you should be upfront about your expectations. Seth: Clarity, right? Zoe: That's not something that's limited to the man's role. And spiritual disciplines as well. But it's not bad to have great expectations and happy expectations of a marriage and a family. I think that's a really important piece of advice, too. Alexandra: And I think my final question would be, how do you think that maybe the church or other people in ministry could kind of help to encourage young marriage because some of the things that I've seen being done is I spoke to one pastor, he runs this conference in Calgary called reformed youth conference. So it's for people, singles, aged between 18 and 30, they all go down to Calgary for a week at night, you know, hear speakers, and then like, the point is not necessarily to get people married, but it kind of just happens, because, you know, you have all of these like minded Christians in one space, I spoke to someone else that does Ottawa, Christian speed dating. So all of these kinds of different events that are just, you know, being set up to help kind of grow those relationships. So I don't know if you guys Yeah, haven't yet other ideas on how we could kind of Seth: Yeah, I think, you know, one of the most helpful things you can do, and I, say this from our limited experience of being married for a year, but also just receiving a lot of good advice and encouragement from older saints, older ministers, is to speak positively about marriage in the first place. There tends to be a lot of cliches in Christian circles that kind of downplay marriage or speak down on "Oh, it's the most sanctifying thing you'll ever do." And even speaking of marriage as almost like a sacramental thing, where it's like, you have to work enough to finally be good enough to get married. I've seen that happen in different church contexts. So, you know, speaking about the goodness of marriage, speaking about as the ordinary way that God grows his church through through families. It's not something that's strange. Our culture is pushing against it that, you know, a marriage between a man and a wife, especially at a young age is odd. Why would you tie yourself down? Why would you commit to uncertain pains for the rest of your life? I think that if we can encourage younger people that marriage is good, you should do it. We don't have to put unnecessary pressure on younger folks to get married, but we can at least encourage that this is a good thing. Especially if you're in the Reformed community – Christianity in the West in general – you know, our circles are getting incredibly small. So if you're at a church with 60, or 70, people, there's probably only a couple of single people left. And so the more and more that we can just have relationships with other churches, and just, what you're describing there of, of allowing opportunities for young people to meet. Online is allowing that – there's limitations to it, there's blessings in it. But, you know, the more that we can actually do this on a kind of a local level, I think the better. Zoe: Yeah, and especially because of the way we met: somebody knew somebody. Somebody knew of the two of us and then somebody else figured out that we might be good for each other just based on common characteristics. But it's all due to just church connections – kind of like Seth was saying – people at other churches who know people at other churches. So it's this big kind of intertwined ball of yarn that is like an arranged marriage almost to a certain extent, like Seth said. One thing that we heard i our premarital counseling, which was honestly great – and I think you don't have to go to premarital counseling to see that this is true – but our pastor at the time, he said, a lot of people ask him, "What are the five easy steps to have a happy marriage or a healthy Christian marriage?" And he said, "The easiest way to sort of understand what a good healthy Christian marriage looks like, is just to find somebody who models that well, and watch what they do." So I mean, as people in the church, it's our responsibility to model as Christ-like behavior as possible to those around us, which you know, I am sure I have a lot further to go than I think I do. Married couples modeling that as best they can. Not necessarily saying that marriage is a standard of perfection that you have to attain or, or that your marriage is perfect. But there is a peace to marriage – a lot of people see it as limiting – but I think there's a lot of freedom with, you know, being united somebody else, that people don't really realize. So couple's in the church just being positive about marriage. It's not that you won't disagree with each other sometimes. But our premarital counselor also told us this, "That if you go into marriage, expecting that, it'll be hard, you're kind of pre-empting yourself into thinking that, 'Oh, it's just going to be really tough. And it's going to be this experience that's so hard. And that's why it's going to be sanctifying.'" But if you trust in the Lord and go in with positive expectations, I think that's something that people should be told. So just a general modeling of Christian behavior on the part of the church. And don't be afraid to tell somebody about somebody else that you know, because that's how we got together. Alexandra: Well, thank you both for just taking the time to tell your story. I think that a lot of people will find it interesting and intriguing. It's a little different compared to the regular, I guess, online dating sense. But yeah, thank you both. Thank you again to Zoe and Seth for joining me on this episode. If you would like to read more about the story then you can check out the May/June 2024 issue of Reformed Perspective. Thanks for watching. Bye!...

News

Saturday Selections – May 18, 2024

Gray Havens: See You Again (3 min) This Gray Havens' song is an attempted answer to a question that many a married couple has wondered: how can there be no marriage in heaven (Matt. 22:30)? In my head I understand that as a part of the Church we will all be the very bride of Christ, and what we had here with our spouse was only a pale shadow of this perfected bond we will have with our Saviour. But if you were in a good marriage how can you help but wonder, what about the wonderful special relationship you've had with your spouse for so many years? How can that just be done?  The answer, I think, is that it won't be. We won't be married, but that doesn't mean we'll be strangers. As the song puts it: Gonna see you again On the gold streets Standing next to me, I know I'm gonna see you again Darling, won't be long Till every trace of trouble is gone We'll be together And I'm not sure what that means But I know it'll be better than we ever dreamed When I see you again I'm not sure what that will mean either, but I can trust my good and gracious God that it will indeed be better that any of us dreamed. 25 ways to provoke your children to anger "How much of the anger in my home is caused by me? That’s a painful question. As parents, fathers in particular, we must heed God’s Word from Eph. 6:4 Of course, this is not to say that all of our children’s anger is caused by us. Each of our children is personally responsible for his or her own sin. However, this warning from God is here for a reason. One of the ways our sinful flesh manifests itself is by provoking others to anger. And the easiest place to do that is in our own home." DeYoung: homework on Sunday? In his book The 10 Commandments, Kevin DeYoung shares how he has never regretted deciding to make Sunday a homework-free day. Green hydrogen: a multibillion-dollar energy boondoggle (10-min read) When ethanol-from-corn-production first started it probably took more energy to produce a unit of ethanol than that unit could then produce. So why did governments push it? Because it looked good, even if it didn’t do good. Increased farm efficiencies since then may have changed that net negative into a positive but the return is, at best, still modest, with estimates of 1.5 units of energy created for every unit of energy used in corn-ethanol production. By way of comparison, in the US, one unit of energy used in gas production returns 15-30 units of gas energy. Now the US is ramping up production of hydrogen, but a unit of hydrogen takes more energy to produce than that unit of hydrogen then contains. And according to this article, that’s a matter of physics, and no manner of technological advances will change that net negative result. We should not be surprised that a world that has rejected God isn’t concerned with doing actual good, even as it still wants to look good. Thus this showmanship instead of stewardship. Preparing our children to suffer well (10-min read) There are things we can do to better prepare our children for the challenges and pains they will inevitably experience. Pulling the reverse card on a woke feminist (1 min) When a feminist is offended by a guy wearing a "feminist for Trump" shirt, he reverses it on her, questioning why she presumed his gender. Think of it as an addendum to the Golden Rule (Matt 7:12) – we aren't supposed to do to others as they do to us, but what about when a little tit for tat would be highly educational? Then that could be the best thing for them... which is what we should want others to do to us, right? But turnabout is all this fellow's got. Meanwhile Christians can do one better by finishing the argument. As Paul writes in 2 Cor. 10:5, we should want to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God," but note what comes next: "we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, Pierre Poilievre and others can tear down the other sides' arguments. But if that's all they do, then they're leaving the world in the same state as the man in Luke 11:24-26, who after being freed from an evil spirit, replaced it with nothing, only to have that spirit return with seven others "and the final condition of that man" was even worse than before. Merely dismantling a lie leaves a person vulnerable to the infinite number of others lies out there. So we should learn how to tear down false idols, like we see many conservative commentators doing. But we need to offer the alternative too, doing what only God's people can do – pointing people away from the lie and towards God, and the truth that He made us male and female (Gen. 1:26-27). ...

History, News

Israel at War

Once again the Middle East is in flames. The incalculable human misery that is graphically portrayed in the media cannot leave one unaffected. The terrorists’ abuse and massacre of unsuspecting Israeli civilians on October 7, 2023 was horrific and of unprecedented barbarity. When Israel responded, Palestinian families have seen their homes and possessions disappear in rubble and dust as bombs fell on Gaza. The ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians seems intractable and without any solution. The war is also being fought through the media. Both true facts and lies are vying for a hearing. Winston Churchill is said to have once quipped: “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Well, that may be the case, but an effort should at least be made, even within the confines of an article, to separate some facts from fiction. Some key facts Although present day Israel has no biblical right to the land (see “Is the State of Israel a fulfillment of biblical prophecy?” at ReformedPerspective.ca/Israel), yet Israel has every legal right to be there as a nation according to international law. Here are some key facts. In 1947, the United Nations (UN) voted to partition Palestine into two states when the British Mandate authorized by the League of Nations would come to an end in the following year. One state was to be for the Jews and the other for the Palestinian Arabs. Jerusalem and Bethlehem were to be in an international zone. When Britain withdrew, Israel declared its independence and occupied the land designated to it by the UN. However, rather than adopt the UN’s plan of two states, Arab armies from all the surrounding nations attacked Israel, determined to exterminate it. They were not successful. This was not the last time that the Arabs would try to rid the Middle East of Israel. When Egypt, Syria, and Jordan were preparing to attack Israel again, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike in 1967. The war lasted six days and ended with Israel occupying the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank. In 1973 Egypt and Syria once more attacked Israel, with Israel once again prevailing. Eventually, Egypt under Anwar Sadat recognized Israel in 1978, and for his trouble, he was assassinated by Arab extremists in 1981. King Hussein of Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain have also made peace with Israel. Morocco has diplomatic relations with Israel. The refusal of other Arab nations to recognize the State of Israel has continued up to today. This refusal, especially as demonstrated by Hamas, has been the key obstacle to peace in the region. Arab grievances Many grievances fuel the hatred for Israel and the determination to wipe the country off the map. A common charge against Israel is that the Jews displaced Palestinians who had been living in the Holy Land for centuries. A little history lesson is needed to answer this accusation. Prior to the massive immigration of European Jews to Palestine in the late 19th century, the land, which is now the land of Israel, was mostly barren and under-populated. An 1857 report from the British consul in Jerusalem reported that the country needed more people. As time went on, further reports noted that the area was becoming depopulated, villages were abandoned, and land was going out of cultivation. All this is credible information because living in that area at the time was extremely harsh. Infant mortality was high, life expectancy short, and water scarce. People were not moving in but out. When Jews started coming in, they bought land usually from absentee landowners, and over time dramatically improved the living conditions. By the mid-1890’s the Jewish presence was important and by 1947 they formed a majority in the territory that became Israel. Because the Jews prospered, Arabs moved in to share in their prosperity and the improved health care. It is a myth that European Jews displaced a large, stable, long-term Muslim Arab population that had lived in that part of the Middle East for centuries. There has never been a Palestinian people as a separate ethnic and national entity. Technically speaking there is no such thing as the Palestinian people since there has never been a Palestinian State, that is, an Arab state in what is now Israel. Many of the people who call themselves Palestinians today are descendants of the relatively recent economic immigrants mentioned above. Because of the growing number of Jews who legally owned the land they lived on, the territory at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, historically known as the land of Canaan, became in essence a homeland for persecuted Jews. This development eventually led to the formation of the State of Israel in 1948. Israel has the full political right to be a nation in the Middle East, occupying the land that their ancestors have lived in for thousands of years. Israelites and their descendants have been dwelling continuously in the land since the days of Moses. With the establishment of the State of Israel, the Jews had encouraged the Arabs to stay and build the country with them. However, the Palestinian Arabs were advised by the surrounding Arab nations to leave Palestine and that after the war (1948) and the anticipated defeat of the Jews, they could return. Israel, however, won the war and 700,000 Arabs who had left Israel were homeless. Here are the makings of the refugee problem. Meanwhile, the Arabs who had stayed in Israel were relatively well off and shared in the general prosperity of Israel. They still have their own representatives in Parliament, and enjoy freedom of the press and religion. Arabic is also an officially recognized language. As a minority within a Jewish state, they undoubtedly have their own special difficulties and hardships. However, in the past wars, they have shown solidarity with the Israelis.1 Another Arab grievance with more validity is that Israel continues to build settlements in the West Bank, which is not part of Israel according to the 1947 UN partition plan. Arabs living in the West Bank are understandably upset by the establishment of Jewish settlements in the region and the gradual encroachment of more and more settlements into what they regard as their territory. Israel is therefore accused of being an expansionary colonial power. Even prominent Israelis and some of the most ardent supporters of Israel like Alan Dershowitz oppose these settlements. But, for context, a couple of things should also be noted. From Israel’s government’s point of view, their occupation of the West Bank is a result of their winning the 1967 war, a conflict with which Arabs had hoped to obliterate Israel. Wars have results, and who controls what changes with those results. Furthermore, Israel has shown that the matter of settlements is not a barrier to peace if Arabs would be willing to recognize Israel. When Israel made peace with Egypt in 1979, Israel removed their Sinai settlements. In 2003, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon indicated that Israel would be willing to make “painful concessions” regarding the settlements in exchange for peace and give up some of them. Under his watch, Israel left everything they owned in Gaza when 21 settlements were dismantled in 2005.  Polls have shown that the majority of those who live in these settlements are willing to abandon their homes if it means peace for Israel.2 The legality of Israel’s occupation is currently before the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The UN General Assembly had asked the court for a non-binding advisory opinion on Israel’s policies in the occupied territories. The issue is incredibly complicated. It came before the court in February (2024) but the expectation is that it will take the judges months to issue an opinion. The refugee problem The media have informed us at length of the tragedy of the refugee camps where Arabs who fled from Israel now live and where new generations are being raised. What is not often made clear is that Arab countries do not want the refugee problem to be solved. They want it to serve as a permanent pressure and weapon against Israel. The Arab leaders show that they do not care about the refugees by refusing to let them be permanently resettled in their own countries. Meanwhile the refugee camps continue to be breeding grounds for hate and terrorism. Here is a problem that could have been solved but the failure to do so is ultimately because Arabs refuse to recognize the legitimacy of Israel. A resolution of the problem of the refugees has been further complicated by the emergence of The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964, and more recently Hamas which is even more radical in its determination to wipe Israel off the map. Hamas was founded in 1987 and took over from the PLO in about 2006, assuming control of the Gaza Strip shortly after that. It also launched the massacre of last year in southern Israel. Because everything depends on recognizing Israel’s right to exist, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is not seeking solutions for the resettlement of the refugees as would normally be the case. Instead it is simply maintaining these refugees in the camps. According to the UNRWA the total number of refugees was about 5.6 million Palestinians in 2019, of which 1.5 million lived in camps. The numbers have continued to increase. Entire generations are being raised and educated to hate Israel. The refusal to recognize Israel Much could be solved if Arab leaders would have accepted a two-state solution of Israel and a Palestinian State in 1937 (the Peel Commission), 1948, and 2000. On all these occasions, Israel accepted a two-state solution, but to no avail. There was no Arab reciprocity because it would involve recognizing the legitimacy of the State of Israel. This was dramatically displayed with the Camp David peace negotiations in 2000-2001 (a result of the 1990’s Oslo Peace Accords). To everyone’s amazement and even shock, Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians virtually everything they had been demanding: a state with its capital in Jerusalem, control over the Temple Mount, a return of approximately 95 percent of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip, and a $30 billion compensation package for the 1948 refugees. Yet Yasser Arafat rejected that historic offer. Why? Because he would have had to acknowledge the legitimacy of the State of Israel. He preferred to go to war. Suicide bombings and terrorist attacks followed. When Israel responded with force, it was blamed for overreacting and not caring about the Palestinians. Arafat and his PLO, and now Hamas, did not and do not care about the fate of the Palestinians in their camps and in Gaza. Hamas continues to use civilians as shields in their war and then blame Israel for the casualties. After the horrid and barbaric abuse and slaughter of civilians by Hamas on October 7, 2023, Israel has responded as they have the full right to do so in self-defense. They have, however, taken extraordinary measures to safeguard civilian life in Gaza – measures unprecedented in military history according to one expert.3 But if the enemy uses civilians as a shield what can one expect but civilian deaths? One must not forget that according to the polls taken after the attack, most of the Gazan population was in favor of Hamas and its barbaric terrorism against civilians in the October 7 atrocities.4 There is also an important underlying religious dimension. Islamic fundamentalism will never recognize Israel as legitimate because according to them, territory once conquered by Islam, as the territory of Israel was once conquered, can never be relinquished. It must be retaken. The Hamas Charter (1988) states that “the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgment Day” (Art. 11). Hamas therefore “strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine” (Art. 6). Consequently, “there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time” (Art. 13). Not surprisingly when Hamas terrorized southern Israel last October, they did so crying: “Allahu Akbar!” that is, “Our god is the greatest!” The hatred of Jews and their perceived illegitimacy has a long history in Islam. They regard the Jews as being under God’s curse5 and terrorists shouting “Allahu Akbar” undoubtedly think that to kill Jews is to do the will of Allah. Where does the solution lie? The root political problem is the refusal to recognize Israel. As long as that is the case, there is no solution. Combined with the underlying problem of nationalism and self-determination are also the conflicting claims of Judaism and Islam. Both Israel and Arab Muslims have a strong emotional attachment to Palestine. Arab Muslims assert that they are descendants of Abraham, through Ishmael. As Muslims, they claim Jerusalem as a holy site because according to Islam, Jerusalem was the last place Mohammed visited before he ascended into the heavens and talked to God. Neither side can appeal to the Bible and say on the basis of the Scriptures, “The land is mine!” Many experts think that a solution should be sought in having two viable and realistic states in the Middle East, one for Jews and one for the Arabs in the region. For that to happen, however, Israel needs to be assured that such an Arab state would not have the desire to keep working on the long term goal of putting an end to the State of Israel. That trust is understandably completely lacking at the moment. A young woman, in front of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, looking over a wall of pictures of the Israelis abducted by Hamas during its October 7 terrorist attack. (Photo credit: Jose Hernandez Camera 51/Shutterstock) Endnotes See also Alan Dershowitz, The Case for Israel (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & sons, 2003), 80–85. Dershowitz, The Case for Israel, 176–77. Ruth Marks Eglash, “Urban Warfare Expert says Israeli Military Taking Unprecedented Steps to Protect Gaza Civilians” Fox News, 17 February 17 2024, accessible at Fox News website. TOI Staff, “Poll Shows Soaring Palestinian Support for Hamas; 72% back October 7 Atrocities” 13 December 2023, accessible at the Times of India website. See Haggai Ben-Shammai, “Jew-Hatred in the Islamic Tradition and the Koranic Exegesis,” in Antisemitism Through the Ages, ed. Shmuel Almog (Oxford, UK: Pergamon Press, 1989), 164–66. For further reading Helpful resources for information found in this article include: Alan Dershowitz, The Case for Israel (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & sons, 2003), a defense by a Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Harvard University, of Israel’s rights, supported by indisputable evidence. He is however not an uncritical supporter of Israel. Most recently he also wrote War Against the Jews (2023). Joan Peters, From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict Over Palestine (New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1985), a classic compilation of the facts by a former White House consultant on the Middle East. Its publication was hailed as a historic event.  Top photo is a section of Gaza City after bombardment by Israeli forces. Photo credit: ImageBank4u/Shutterstock...

News

Saturday Selections – May 4, 2024

Did ancient cultures believe in a third gender? This is an interesting question, in as far as, what point would it prove if they did? Does our culture now believe that because something is traditional, is is right? If so, I have some other traditions to tell you about! Why you should go to sleep early tonight There are physical, emotional, and spiritual reasons too, for why you should be early to bed. Can a Christian be a lawyer? (15 min read / 25 min listen) The short answer is, yes, of course. The longer answer is, yes, but the job does come with some real challenges. Two celebrities talking about how disobeying God hurts Recently Joe Rogan and Oliver Anthony were chatting about how disobeying God's will for sex really messes people up. Anthony is a self-professed baby Christian, and Rogan is no Christian at all, so they aren't talking about this from a biblical perspective. They've just come to the realization that porn usage doesn't work. Theirs was a practical, pragmatic case, but an observant one. Sin really is stupid, and some people learn that the hard way. Others don't have to suffer through the pain that running into the brickwall of reality will cause you, and instead trust God's Wisdom as He's revealed it to us in His Word. What's the difference between venting and lamenting? One is sinful, the other godly, yet they share a lot of similarities. A moral case for capitalism If you have an economic system that respects property rights (i.e. the 8th Commandment), and doesn't covet what the wealthy have (10th Commandment), and doesn't look to the government as savior (Commandment #1), then what sort of economic system would you have? Well, it wouldn't be socialism, communism, or crony capitalism. What you'd be left with is the free market, aka, capitalism. And you'd be left with it, not because it has raised more people out of poverty than any other economic system, but because it is the system God proscribes. The prosperity that results is simply a blessing that comes with obeying our Heavenly Father. This gentleman below makes a different moral case for capitalism (and gets a few things wrong, going back 12,000 years, on a planet that's only been around for about half that) but brings in one more wrinkle that I did not... but which has a biblical parallel. He speaks of capitalism being the result of a society that has moved from "status to contract." In kingdoms and empires it is about who you know – if you are a friend of the emperor, you will prosper, but if he doesn't like you, you're in trouble. But when rules were elevated above the ruler, when even the king could be held accountable to the law, then we had a society built on agreements – contracts – rather than status. Though this gent doesn't describe it as such, that development has Christian roots. Christians understand that the most powerful king has always been accountable to God and His law. ...

Dating

How I married your grandmother: dating advice for a young man

As best as I can describe it, the letter below simply materialized on my desk – it wasn’t there, and the next moment it was. Opening it only deepened the mystery: dated May 1, 2049, it is from a “Grampa Dykstra” to “Tim.” I can only suppose that a quarter century from now, an elderly me was working on this for a grandson I don’t yet have, and after placing the completed draft down on his (my?) desk, it somehow slipped back to the here and now through a crack in the time/space continuum. I’m sharing it with you because, really, how could I not? ***** Dear Tim, When I first married, I expected to write a letter like this to one of my sons, to share with him hard-won lessons on how a young man might go about meeting a godly woman. But God, in His wisdom and humor, decided to give me a passel of girls instead. Me and the cat, we were the only testosterone in our household for the next couple of decades… and it was wonderful! Then, one by one, my girls got married, bringing some fine young men into the family, and, soon after, some very fine little men too. And as those little men got bigger, I began thinking again to the letter I would have written a son, and concluded that, even if it skipped a generation, the letter was still worth writing. Some things are very different since I first courted your grandmother (including folks no longer using the word “court” – I’m not sure we even did back then). But to paraphrase the Preacher in Eccl. 3:15, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and I’m quite confident that you’ll find benefit in hearing how I met and married your grandmother. ***** I think I should begin though, with the story of how I almost didn’t marry your grandmother. 3 Ps stood in my way: priorities, pride, and poltroonery. First off, I wasn’t looking to marry. That impulse probably began way back when my friends were pairing off in highschool. There was pressure then to find someone, anyone, just to be paired off too. In my cousin’s school it started earlier, with Grade 6 and 7 kids trying to deal with their teen-esteem issues by laying claim to a “cute boy” or a “hot girl.” I wouldn’t have put it in these words, but I realized even back then that dating should be done for a better purpose than fitting in. But every good impulse can be taken too far. Or as Martin Luther may or may not have said, there’s two sides to fall off a horse. And in my case, that equal and opposite error was to make a show of not needing anyone. In pride I declared (thankfully, only to myself) that I was the only one not acting desperate. When our Grade 12 grad came, it would have been a great excuse to ask someone out for a fun night, but I, as a matter of principle (so I told myself) went it alone. That was just dumb (though it did lead to one fond memory – while everyone else got a picture with their date under the balloon arch, I got one with my own very elegant grandmother). For quite some time after that, I kept falling off the horse in that direction. When others headed off to Young People’s Study Weekends to see if they could meet someone, I wrote them off as “meat markets” and again, insisted I wasn’t that desperate. I’d date… if I met the right girl. But how could I meet the right girl if I wasn’t going where all sorts of right girls were congregating? To add to prioritization and pride problems, there was also my poltroonery. I don’t know if that’s a word kids are still using these days – it might be a bit too 2030s – so I’ll translate. I was a coward. I was too scared to risk asking anyone out. I did still date, but only because a few girls were willing to ask me. Now role reversal isn’t always a bad thing. A Sadie Hawkins dance, where the girls ask the guys, could give the ladies an opportunity to ask out some clueless guy who might still have potential. But it’s not me being old-fashioned to insist that, as a rule, the guys should do the asking. Why? I’ll take you right to Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” When it comes to dating, someone has to stick their neck out and do the asking. And sticking your neck out comes with the risk of getting your head lopped off and handed back to you. Rejection hurts, and as it’s our nature to avoid pain, many a guy simply won’t risk it. But if marriage is worth pursuing – and it is – then some risks are worth taking. And if someone might get decapitated, shouldn’t it be the guy? God says husbands have to give themselves up for their bride, and while you ain’t a husband yet, that is the role you’re auditioning for. That means if you want to impress the right sort of girl, you should start things the right sort of way, and take the risk so she doesn’t have to. I’m going to lay it on thick here, because I’ve seen many a young man shut themselves down for fear of failure. So let’s just imagine an absolute worst-case scenario. You stir up the courage to ask out the girl who’s been sitting two pews up from you in church and who hasn’t been far from your thoughts for months now. Her response is complete surprise, and she doesn’t just say no, but your invite prompts a quick nervous giggle. She’s not trying to be hurtful, but it’s clear she has just never, ever, even considered you that way. Pretty devastating. But now see that same situation as God does. She might have laughed, but God is smiling. He saw you act the very man He made you to be. Yes, you got your head handed to you, but to the glory of your God because you did it His way! You can honor God in failure, and many times that’s exactly what we’re called to do. You can’t honor Him in cowardice. Better to fail boldly than be a poltroon. ***** All this while, God was busy teaching, and I was slowly learning to get over those three Ps. (One hope with this letter is that you might be able to skip over them all together.) This, then, is how I met and married the love of my life. First, I made the decision to move. I hadn’t found the right someone where I was, so I headed a province over to BC, where there were all sorts of Reformed churches. I promised myself, introvert though I might be, that I would accept every invitation that came my way. And if, after a year, I hadn’t found anyone, I planned to head down under and give Australia a go. I was going to pursue marriage. Pursuit is not, of course, the same as success. But I was determined that, should I remain single, it was going to be because that was God’s plan, and not because of any lack of effort on my part. So I moved, headed to church, and met a lot of very welcoming people, especially my uncle and aunt who let me rent out their basement. And that brings me to the topic of “wingmen.” Finding your match is rarely a solo activity – talk to any married couple and odds are they’ll tell you a tale of some key friend, or two or three, who gave a needed assist. This is just one of the many reasons God gave us the blessing of the communion of saints. That help can sometimes amount to a firm push, as was applied by all the guys in Grade 12, when our buddy was dithering about whether or not to ask out the girl who was obviously crazy about him. Other times it can amount to actually walking alongside – I doubled-dated with one friend, us two guys heading to a hockey game with two new girls. The one girl was also a wingman – neither of us were interested in each other, but we were making that first date easier for the other twosome. In my own case, God gave me a few different wingmen, including my aunt and uncle. When they invited me to someone’s 40th birthday party across the border in the US, I said yes, because that’s what I’d pledged to do. But when I found out that they weren’t even going, and that it’d just be me walking into a room of strangers, that was too much. So my uncle and aunt went too. Turns out, they’d been talking with a couple across the border about a certain someone it might be nice for me to meet. I knew the fix was in… and I was up for it. I got there, made the rounds shaking hands, and exchanged just a few words with a very beautiful young lass. She was a sister-in-law to the birthday boy, and helping out with the food, so she didn’t have a lot of time to chat. Instead, I ended up talking for a good while with her mom. Not quite the way I’d imagined things going, but your great-grandmother made me feel welcome. After an hour or so, chit-chatting with one stranger after another, I needed a break and headed outside. There on the back patio sat a little boy, with a big dog, and the former was very happy to tell me all about the latter. God, in His providence had provided just the breather I needed: the beautiful night sky, a cool breeze, and a boy willing to share his dog. That was also the idyllic setting where I first had a chance to really talk to your grandmother. She was just popping out to get some more food from the outdoor freezer when she came upon a handsome young man showing kindness to her sweet nephew by taking an interest in his dog. So, another couple of wingmen had accomplished their work, one quite short, and the other four-footed. Your grandma came over, and we started chatting. I’d pledged also to make the first move, so I decided to ask her out. But I chickened out a bit, and made it a group thing rather than a date. I told her that a bunch of friends were heading down to an NBA basketball game in Seattle, and would she like to come too? She said yes! There was a problem though: when I got home that night I had to quickly organize this group event. Sure, I’d thought about getting a gang to head on down to the game, but I hadn’t actually invited anyone to this point. And as the invitations went out, one “no” was followed by another. No one else could make it to my “group” event. At this point, I decided to phone her up, come clean and actually ask her out on an official date. So I checked out when the next Vancouver Canucks game was, found out I could get a couple of cheap seats for $50 each, and decided to invite this American lass to her first hockey game. And she said yes! But there was a problem. In the time it took to phone her, all the cheap seats got bought up. Now the only ones available were more than $100 each. I was up for it, but I didn’t want your grandma to think I was trying to impress her as a big spender, so I briefly debated whether to get some scalped seats, originally $50, but now also going for more than $100, and as far as she would know these would be the cheap seats still. I was, however, too much of a Dutchman not to get my money’s worth, so I got the good ones. Getting ready for the big date I got some help from a female cousin – I didn’t have any sisters to go to for fashion advice – and she got me decked out in a nice shirt, and what she assured me were a great pair of jeans. (I later learned that your grandmother agreed.) But in addition to being the most expensive pair of jeans I’d ever bought, they were the most uncomfortable and I spent a good portion of that first date wondering if they were going to fall off. I also spent a good portion of that date explaining the game of hockey to this lovely American lass, only to figure out at one point that she was getting excited about a play that was still developing. It was almost like she knew what was coming. And that’s when I discovered this American beauty was a former Canadian. And that wasn’t the last surprise. One date led to another, and soon enough it was time to get to know your grandma’s parents. That’s when we both learned that her parents knew my parents... really well. I’d looked through my mom and dad’s wedding album before, and seen the picture of them with their wedding party. The flower girl and maid of honor were two of my aunts, but there, beside my dad, stood a tall young fellow I didn't know. It turns out my dad’s best man became my father-in-law! And some people think God doesn’t have a sense of humor. That, then, is how I was equipped, encouraged, aided and abetted, corrected, and even pushed to go out and meet your grandmother. And I’m so very grateful to God that she said yes. My hope for you Tim, is you’ll recognize sooner than I ever did that a godly spouse is worthy of pursuit. I’m praying that you’ll be the godly man that a godly woman would find attractive, and praying too, that you’ll be the sort of wingman you’d want your friends to be. I don’t know whether God intends you to be married or single but I do know you can honor Him in both success or failure. So don’t be a poltroon. Love ya kid, Grampa Dykstra      ...

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