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Saturday Selections – June 3, 2023
The UK, Canada, and the US meet in a grocery store
One for all the social studies teachers out there. Your final exam can simply be whether your students laugh in all the right places.
Is social media out-discipling the Church?
Is social media the biggest challenge the Church faces when it comes to the next generation?
Loving our neighbors means telling the truth about gender and identity
The number of Americans who know someone struggling with gender dysphoria is now approaching 50%. And as John Stonestreet writes, Christians need to be prepared to speak to this confusion.
"Rather than truly loving our neighbors, something admittedly difficult, we instead choose the easier path of not offending and only affirming. We then name that path 'love,' but it’s neither loving nor true."
When self-care becomes self-absorption
This is intended specifically for pastors, but the point is applicable to all: when one generation neglects caring for the body God has given them, that can lead to the next generation overreacting the other way, getting so concerned with self-care that they don't push themselves like they really could.
The tragic real-life story behind "Jesus Revolution"
The latest big Christian film is a well-produced true story that focuses on a tumultuous period of recent Church history. But as reviewer Mark Powell notes, it shows the triumphs while mostly sidestepping the failings of its main character. Dr. Bredenhof also had some thoughts.
India has passed China
This year India passed China as the world's most populous country, and now the two are heading on opposite trajectories. This 5-minute read hits some of the highlights about what that might mean going forward.
7 theses on the age of the earth (9 min)
A great explanation of why this debate matters and a powerful defense of a young Earth.
Articles, Book Reviews
A plea to read
...or, the story of a boy, a repairman, and the Truth **** In the title I promised you a story. Actually that was mainly to draw you in. I figured s...
People we should know
Elon Musk’s highs and lows
Elon Musk might be best known for a brilliant bit of marketing he did back in 2018 for two of his companies: he launched his own Tesla electric roadst...
Complementarianism vs. Egalitarianism: there aren’t just the two positions
As my wife and I have been facing big decisions over the last few months, it’s been neat to see the way God has transformed our marriage from its fledgling stages to something a little more beautiful. It’s also got me thinking about the whole complementarian/egalitarian debate, and how my views over the years – though still complementarian – have shifted from a kind of misogynistic immaturity to what my wife and I both perceive to be a more Christ-like model. It’s made me realize there aren’t just two positions on this: egalitarianism and complementarianism – and when people are arguing against one or the other, they’re normally arguing against a flawed diversion, rather than the real thing. That being said, let me lay out a few different options. MISOGYNY: The husband asserts his desires, the wife submits. Though this is what chiefly comes to mind to those in the egalitarian camp, this is the furthest thing from the biblical picture of complementarianism possible. Unfortunately many, wounded from a history of misogyny, reject all hierarchy within families whole-sale based on their experience. If I’m honest, both my wife and I came into marriage with a subconscious commitment to this kind of relationship, and the results were not only personally devastating, but anti-gospel. Jesus never asserts his personal desires over and above his bride. MATRIARCHY: The wife asserts her desires, the husband submits. Though I doubt any would publicly subscribe to this, it is, unfortunately, a settled pattern in many Christian homes. In this model, the husband mistakes weakness for meekness and, rather than honoring his wife, becomes bitter and distant (in effect dishonoring her). Jesus was not weak, he was meek – he asserted his bride’s good, he didn’t passively give into it. PRAGMATISM: We both assert our desires, and we both win. The reason this sounds so ideal is that it is so idealistic. The truth is, we don’t have the time, energy and resources to try and make “win-wins” out of every minute situation in life. Nor, I might add, does this sound much like the Christ who called us to marriage. Jesus didn’t come to earth saying: “You get what you can out of this, and I’ll get what I can.” Pragmatism (a focus on what works), is a denial of the purpose of marriage – the point of marriage is not to do the greatest good to the greatest number (both of us, in this case), but to assert the image of Christ and the church to a watching world (Ephesians 5:23). So “work”, in this case, is contingent upon a definition of marriage’s purpose which goes little beyond realizing my own, personal desires. Besides, if “work” means, “does what it’s meant to do,” then pragmatism, in that sense, doesn’t “work.” NAIEVETY: We’ll never disagree. Point 1: Okay, sure. Point 2: Jesus called us to be peacemakers, and that in the church. This assumes there will be conflict, and it assumes a non-passive approach. We’re not called to be peace keepers, but makers, meaning: we have work to do. A quick read through the New Testament ought to wash us clean of this one. Jesus had (has) conflict with his bride, and he’s perfect. So, to put it strangely – if there’s no conflict, something’s wrong. DEMOCRACY: We both assert our desires, and someone wins. The truth will out, is the thought here. Except, there’s no real “truth” to whether we ought to go out for ice-cream or pizza. No argument can solve it. There’s no “right” answer to whether we should move to California or Timbuktu – these are morally neutral issues. In fact, let me be controversial: there’s no real truth as to whether the house should be clean or messy. We attach virtues to these things because we inherently view our personalities like good Pharisees – we make rules from them, and work outward. Besides, this looks nothing like Christ and the church. Notice I’m not saying that we shouldn’t communicate our desires to one another: communicating our vulnerability is actually an investment, not a withdrawal. It’s a compliment to say, “I need you.” But saying, “Therefore, you must do this” is patently wrong on every account. COLDNESS: Neither of us assert our desires, and no one submits. Clearly, when you’ve reached this point, there’s bitterness and the whole operation’s gone amuck. Jesus communicates his desires toward us, and he invites us to communicate our desires to him. So – this is radically anti-gospel as well. This is a roommate scenario, not a Song of Solomon one. ABSURDITY: Both of us assert the others’ desire, and no one submits. This is the closest to true complementarianism, but its only flaw is that it’s absurd. I believe it is in The Four Loves that C.S. Lewis points out that two people sitting at a dining table insisting that they pour the others’ tea has less to do with love and more to do with absurd false-humility. The beautiful thing about complementarianism is that it’s just like this, without the absurdity, which leads us to… COMPLEMENTARY: Both of us assert the others’ desire, and the wife submits. In a recent decision my wife and I made, it became clear that our desires were in conflict. The position being offered to us would have been a wonderful fit for one of us, and a terrible fit for the other. Sparing you the details, it became evident to both of us the beautiful irony of the situation: my wife was insisting that we do things my way. And I was insisting we do things in a way that was best for her. And because we are complementation, I “won out” in the end: I asserted her desires over mine. That is a long and winding journey, but I think it’s good for many of us to hear, on every side of the debate. While we think we may be in one camp, we may actually be in some permutation of it that is actually unrecognizable from its original intent. The truth is, the real model is like two people leaning toward one another for balance – it’s a total act of trust on both parts, and it requires an “all in” approach, not something half-baked. But when we both lean in – curiously – it forms something like a steeple. Nicholas McDonald blogs at ScribblePreach.com where this article was first posted. It is reprinted here with permission....
Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews
How in the world did we get here?
by Jim Witteveen 2022 / 183 pages Ten years back, anyone who’d said that cultural forces already in play would soon have our public schools teaching boys can get pregnant… well, he would have been dismissed as a nut. What Jim Witteveen shares in his new book about an “open conspiracy” among the power-hungry will at first sound so outrageous as to be unbelievable too. But make no mistake, this is fact, not fiction. Chapter by chapter, Pastor Witteveen highlights ideologies and organizations that would seem to have little in common: global warming catastrophists, sexual hedonists, the public school system, overpopulation proponents, evolutionists, Big Tech, and Big Government. They are united, though, in their arrogance that they know – and God does not – what is best for all the rest of us. While their utopias differ, the route forward is the same for them all: a quest for more and more power so they can implement their vision. And, as Witteveen details, these ideologies and organizations are grabbing hold of the reins of power. If that was all he shared, this would be quite the devastating read, so thankfully, the conclusion is all about a way forward for God’s people that explores the many opportunities that exist to faithfully honor and obey our Lord as we contend with the forces marshaled against us. How in the world did we get here? will be a slap upside the head to the many sleepy Christians who haven’t yet recognized we are in a battle, and who consequently haven’t yet answered God’s call to go out and contend. Timely and much-needed, what Witteveen has given us is made all the more valuable for its brevity and accessibility – everyone should read this, and most everyone will be able to. Contact the author at Dan1132.com to pre-order. For more on the book, check out Lucas Holtvluwer's interview Pastor Witteveen in the latest Real Talk episode. Watch it below on YouTube, or find it on your favorite podcast platform at RealTalkPodcast.ca. ...
Too certain by half: standing firm doesn’t mean dismissing all debate
As a young man I spent years trying to decipher the stony response I got when people found out my church denomination. I finally discovered there was an impression circulating that painted us as Christians who are "too certain by half." Others could see shades of gray; we were said to see only in black and white. Some debated and dialogued; we were accused of making only pronouncements. I took some comfort in knowing these same accusations are thrown at other conservative churches too. The world doesn’t like that while they devolve into lawlessness, God's people will firmly oppose abortion, adultery, euthanasia, homosexuality, premarital sex, pornography, and more. So the accusation wasn't entirely fair... but it wasn't baseless either. While Christians should speak out clearly on whatever issues God's Word speaks on clearly, we sometimes express certainty about issues that aren't so certain. When I growing up, biking or playing basketball on Sunday was a definitive no. The Christian schooling vs. homeschooling debate has sometimes been treated as if there was an 11th commandment that settled the matter. More recently, many were sure they knew how our churches should respond to government lockdowns and mandates, even as many other Christians sharply disagreed. The point here is not to dispute that the Bible gives direction on these issues – it does. But when we act as if an issue is clear-cut when the biblical position is only discernible after extended study, then we will be seen as unreasonable and even arrogant. Our attitude will ensure that people who might learn from us, won’t want to talk to us. It’s important, then, to remember that while the Bible addresses many issues, it does not speak directly to all issues. Different degrees of clarity In his book Reformed Journalism, Marvin Olasky provides a helpful analogy, comparing the Bible’s various degrees of direction to the six classes of whitewater rapids. Class One rapids can be navigated by anyone, while Class Six rapids are all but impossible. CLASS ONE: Specific biblical embrace or condemnation Examples of Class One issues are homosexuality and euthanasia. While these are hot topics in today's Church, the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality and murder are so clear that they can only be misconstrued by those trying to twist Scripture. To pretend that these issues are anything other than black and white issues is to act as if the Bible as a whole is either obscure or meaningless. CLASS TWO: Clear, though implicit, biblical position As Olasky notes, “even though there is no explicit command to place our children in Christian or home schools, the emphasis on providing a godly education under parental supervision is clear.” So while not explicit, there is a clear implicit biblical directive to follow – parents cannot hand off the responsibility for their children's education. CLASS THREE: Both sides quote Scripture, but careful study does allow biblical conclusions Some Christians, citing examples like the Good Samaritan, and quoting texts like “love your neighbor as yourself,” think that helping the poor means guaranteeing everyone a certain standard of living. But as Olasky notes, if in the Bible, “even widows are not automatically entitled to aid then broad entitlement programs are suspect…the poor should be given the opportunity to glean, but challenged to work.” With issues like these, looking deeper into Scripture allows us to find a more certain direction. CLASS FOUR: Biblical understanding backed by historical experience allow us to draw some conclusions Olasky gives as an example here the many large government initiatives. While a national daycare program, or socialized medicine, or public education may in many ways seem like wonderful ideas, we can look back through history and see what happens when governments exert more and more influence over daily life. There is no clear biblical directive for limited, smaller government, but Samuel’s warning in 1 Sam. 8 and Lord Acton’s historically verified adage, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” show us we should be suspicious of any government that seeks to constantly expand its sphere of influence. CLASS FIVE: A biblical sense of human nature provides minimal, but real direction Class Five issues don't have clear biblical or historical direction, but "a biblical sense of human nature" can help us here. So, for example, many parents are wondering what age their children should be given smartphones. There is no historical precedent and no particular verse we can look to for guidance. But knowing what we do about our sinful nature, we can understand that giving teens – just as they are going through puberty – a portal through which they can access unlimited sexual imagery (whether on purpose or by accident) could be a less than wise decision. But, knowing human nature as we do, we also understand that it would be best if they learned how to properly use this tool while still under our guidance; we shouldn't just ban them from ever having a smartphone for as long as they live under our roof. Even if we don't know exactly what to do, we have at least some guidance. CLASS SIX: These issues are navigable only by experts, who themselves might be overturned Some issues have no clear biblical position. These issues can range from the local (Should we install a stoplight or a traffic circle at this intersection?) to the national (Should we jail people for marijuana possession or fine them?) to the international (How should we deal with a nuclear North Korea?). Conclusion To be a true light to the world Christians must speak out clearly where God’s intent is clear. No matter how intimidating, no matter how unpopular it might be, in these circumstances we need to speak God's Word with power and conviction. Here we need to embrace all that's right and good in that "fundamentalist" caricature – we need to be immovable, be firm, be stubborn even. We must not compromise on God's Truth. However, where God's direction is less clear, or even unclear, we act arrogantly if we present our opinion as unquestionable. When God's direction is less than clear, we need to be ready to listen and to debate with those who think differently – particularly when we are talking with other Christians who are just as eager to think God's thoughts after Him. Only when we own up to the shakiness of our position, do we have the opportunity for "iron to sharpen iron" (Proverbs 27:17); only then can others help test and refine our thinking. Now, few of us enjoy the refining process – it can be uncomfortable to have our ideas tested. But it's for us that God gives this warning: Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid (Prov. 12:1). In other words, if you are beyond correction – if you don't welcome it and don't want it – God says you are stupid. That doesn't make you unusual. But it does mean you need to repent. Is that a sour note to end on? Only if you don't like correction :)...
Apologetics 101, Pro-life - Abortion
If the unborn are not our equals...
In the West we believe all people should be treated equally, no matter their age, race, religion, etc. But why is that? Why should we treat all people equally when, in any way you measure it, no two people are equal? We differ in size, intellect, strength, coordination, hearing, visual acuity, musical aptitude, and in the amount of hair we have left on our head. No two of us are the same so why should we get the same treatment? In any other situation we don’t treat unequal things equally. We hang a Rembrandt up on a museum wall, while our kids’ efforts only make an appearance on the fridge. Both are art, so why don’t we treat them equally? We recycle our newspapers but save our dollar bills securely in banks. Both are printed paper so why don’t we treat them equally? Because they aren’t equal. So let’s ask the question again: if we don’t treat unequal things equally, and in any measurable way no two people are equal, why should we treat people equally? The Christian answer There is a Christian answer to that question. The Bible tells us we are all made in God’s image – all of us, without exception. The smallest, weakest child and the largest, strongest man may seem to have nothing in common but that they are both made imago Dei, in God’s image. What makes us equal is not based on our abilities, but is instead intrinsic, not measurable, but still evident to any who pay attention. Every human being is remarkable precisely because we are all, from conception onward made in God’s image. The world’s fail The world rejects God, yet they still talk about equality. Just not for the unborn. They won’t give the unborn equal rights – not even the right to life – because the child can’t yet breath on its own, or because it doesn’t have a heartbeat yet, or because it can’t feel pain yet. They won’t treat it equally because it can’t do this, or that, or the other thing. In arguing against fetal rights they ground equality on ability. Why are we worthy of respect and the unborn aren’t? Because we can do things that they can’t. However, if ability is the basis for equality, then we’re back to the same question: on what basis do we treat people of greatly varying abilities equally? If women can’t lift as much as men, then aren’t men better than women? Aren’t they superior? That’s not an attractive thought to anyone. But only Christians know why: “…in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Meanwhile the world has to pretend that a 150-pound woman really can lift the same amount at a 200-pound man – they have to pretend that in every respect women can do all that men can do because ability is their only basis for equality. The question As Christians our pro-life argument is that an unborn baby is equal to a newborn, is equal to a toddler, is equal to a teen, is equal to an adult. Different in every measurable ability, and yet equal because they all share the imago Dei. And the question we have for the world is this: “if you think the unborn aren’t our equals, then explain please, why you think anyone is equal?”...
Saturday Selections – May 20, 2023
Defending the unborn: when they bring up cases of rape When a young Canadian recently challenged the prime minister about abortion, Trudeau brought u...
In a Nutshell
Tidbits - May 2023
Get ready to be reviled "Pastors need to teach their people about how to handle with grace being looked down on more than ever before. I heard of Joh...
Saturday Selections – May 13, 2023
Burning Ember (8 min) Steve Bell and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra may just give you the shivers – this is wonderful! Are Proverbs an ancient form of tweets? Proverbs are concise, and because they are memorable, they are also pass-along-able – they can go viral! But as author Harma-Mae Smit notes, "the most significant difference between Twitter and Proverbs is obviously the end result of reading them" – Proverbs are for developing wisdom! The restless heart of Generation Z and the mental health crisis "The timing of this unprecedented outbreak of anxiety, depression and other mental health problems, Haidt points out, corresponds suspiciously with the rise of smartphones and social media apps." Is it loving for a Christian to attend a "gay wedding"? A couple has asked you to come to their ceremony where they plan to pledge themselves to a lifelong rebellion against their Maker - should you go and lend your support and encouragement? A parent's guide to bullying (and teaching your kids to stand up for the little guy instead) Kids in Christian schools get bullied too. Might that be because Christian parents don't take the topic seriously enough? Are too many presuming their kids are immune to being bullied? And could never be bullies? Maybe we think of bullying as only a physical thing, and don't even consider how constant put-downs (perhaps disguised as biting "Dutch" humor) can cause kids to hate school. If we want to deal with bullying in our schools, this guide is really a must-read for all parents. It's crafted by the Christian parents' group Axis, short at just 16 pages, and free to download. It could be the start of something. Johnson & John's Sons & Son's (2 min) For all the English teachers out there... ...
Canada replaces the cross with a snowflake
On the same day that the world’s attention was fixed on the coronation of Charles III, Canada’s federal government took the opportunity to show off its new design for our Canadian Royal Crown. As the "Canadian Crown" twitter account noted: “The design replaces religious symbols (crosses & fleur-de-lis) with maple leaves & a snowflake” This crown isn’t a physical crown worn by an official or put on display. Rather, it is an emblem or design, featured at the top of Canada’s Coat of Arms, as well as police and military badges, among other places. Symbols matter, especially when they are meant to represent our leadership and nation. This change came from the top. Our Governor General’s website explains that it was “approved in April 2023 by His Majesty The King on the advice of the Prime Minister of Canada.” The fleur-de-lis symbolizes a king’s divinely-approved authority to rule. “For there is no authority except from God” (Romans 13). Likewise, the cross symbolizes the kingship of Jesus Christ, Lord over all creation. Together, they bear witness to the fact that humanity is not sovereign. God alone is. And He alone gives authority to office-bearers, including our civil governments. It is no surprise that Justin Trudeau has no use for these public reminders of our Sovereign Lord Jesus Christ. But in divorcing the civil government’s authority from God, where does it get its authority from? The new symbols point to nature. How do the snow, leaves, and water give any authority to our government? They are pretty to view, and useful for living, but have no transcendent authority themselves. As snowflakes melt and leaves decay, we can expect the same for any government that finds its authority in itself. It is also ironic that, in an effort to undermine Christ as king, our government has to look to Christ’s creation for new symbols. Instead of anger or ridicule, decisions like this ought to move us to sadness. Justin Trudeau and most of Canada’s leaders think that decisions like this are a move towards an enlightened and “progressive” future, characterized by secularism instead of “religion.” Yet they are blind to the reality that they are no less religious than their forefathers. In many respects, they show even more zeal for their religion of humanism and paganism than many of our forefathers showed for our Lord. Some years ago, I witnessed the leaders of Canada’s political parties, including Justin Trudeau, each piously reading a selection from Scripture at the National Prayer Breakfast. This included a reading from Psalm 2, reminding them Who is King and Who they will one day have to give account to: Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill…. Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear….”...
Al Siebring: councillor & Christian
How one municipal politician brings God’s Word to bear on taxes, government budgets and private citizens’ property rights ***** This appeared in the March 2015 edition. What does a Christian perspective look like when it comes to the relationship between faith, taxation, and the role of government? It’s a big question, and one I’ve been thinking on for many years in my role as a municipal councillor in the District of North Cowichan. As with all things, we need to start this discussion with Scripture. Pay to Caesar… The fundamental Scriptural principle when it comes to taxes can be summed up in two words: “Pay them.” In Matthew 22, after referencing the “image” on a coin that was handed to him, Christ urged his followers to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” It’s also worth noting the broader context here, which includes the notion that, since we are made in God’s image, we are also to “render unto God what is God’s.” In other words, since the coin had Caesar’s image on it, it should be given back to him, and equally, since people have God’s image stamped on them, they should give themselves in service to Him. Put another way, Christ didn’t get too bent out of shape about paying taxes to Caesar, but instead reserved His criticism for those who refused to pay proper homage to His Father. But are all taxes fair? Are they all necessary and defensible? Of course not. Government, by its very nature, tends towards wastefulness, self-preservation, unwarranted bureaucracy, and empire-building. As someone who’s now spent two terms in elected office at the local government level, I can tell you that much of the problem goes to structures and presuppositions that are endemic to the way budgets are put together. Budgeting 101 In the municipality where I am an alderman, our budgeting process was recently explained to us by our City Manager like this: “We (municipal staff) look at the things Council has told us they want to accomplish in the upcoming year, and then we determine the tax implications based on what that’s going to cost.” This is the paradigm under which many (most?) municipal budgets are prepared. But it has serious tax implications, and I believe it to be fundamentally flawed. This certainly isn’t the way most people budget in their households. They don’t say: “This year, I want to go to Mexico, do a $30,000 renovation to my kitchen, and buy a new car. Now I just need to figure out where to get the money.” No. The common-sense way of budgeting – the way most responsible people run their lives and their households – is by saying: “What’s a reasonable expectation of my income this year?” Once they establish that, they say: “Now, what can I afford to do with that limited amount of money?” But there’s an understanding, right at the very outset, that the amount of money is limited. Not so with government. There’s a perception that the taxpayer has a bottomless pocket. And this can – and often does – lead to indefensible tax increases. Equally, there’s another side to the coin. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities did a study a few years ago to determine the ratio between municipal property taxes and taxes levied by other levels of government. The study found that, (excluding “transfers” of money from senior levels of government for infrastructure projects), municipal government across Canada collected just eight cents of every tax dollar handed over by Canadian taxpayers. With that eight percent of total taxes collected, local governments are expected to deal with responsibilities that include roads, water-supply systems, garbage collection, municipal sewer, recreation, policing/fire services and, in some jurisdictions, affordable housing, public health, and childcare. And that ratio has come down considerably in the last 50 years or so. It used to be in the range of 11 to 15 cents. To be clear, the decline in the ratio isn’t necessarily because municipalities have become that much more efficient at service delivery. Rather, it’s a testimony to the proportionately increasing tax burden imposed by other levels of government, combined with the fact that 50 years ago, most local governments were in the throes of a huge infrastructure boom. Back in the 50’s and 60’s, everyone was putting in new roads, bridges, and municipal water and sewer systems. Those systems are now starting to wear out, and some are in dire need of replacement, which doesn’t bode well for future tax pressures at the local government level. The $20-an-hour fry cook But there are also historic inefficiencies in local government – inefficiencies which will take considerable political courage to correct. Labour contracts are a prime example. There is no faster way to get a municipal politician running for the exits than to suggest that the fundamentals of their staff’s union contracts need to be re-examined. Most of these contracts go back to when local government workers first got the right to “organize” – they are built on economic presuppositions which were prevalent in the 1970’s when there was no end in sight to the boom years, and everyone instinctively understood that a “COLA” (Cost of Living Allowance) Clause was an insult to the intelligence and industriousness of the workers. In my jurisdiction, for example, this led to a situation where we had high school students coming in to work the concession stand at our local hockey arena. These kids were “on-call” – the minimum payment per their union contract was 4 hours, often for a shift which was considerably shorter than that. And, when all perks and benefits were considered, they were making close to $20 dollars an hour to flip burgers, a job that would be considered minimum wage in the private sector. It also created a situation where the “food services” division at that Recreation Centre was swimming in about $180,000 dollars of red ink every year. But, because it was government, no one thought it necessary to correct the situation…or, at least, not until I took over the chairmanship of the board that runs the facility. Not to blow my own horn, but I told the rest of the board members that as chair, I would happily face the TV cameras – with a picket line behind me – to explain the facts of life to the taxpayers should the issue lead to a strike. The union folded like a house of soggy cards, and that concession stand is now run by a private operator. All of which is to say that the matter of “taxation” can be complicated. My fundamental worry, though, is that many local government leaders are losing sight of their central responsibility to be “stewards” of the public purse. Instead, many of them make their tax-related decisions based on political agendas ranging the full gamut from extreme environmentalism to a rampant pro-development stance that cannot be sustained. Not to mention fear of retribution at the ballot box at the hands of those whose vested interests might be detrimentally affected by one decision or other. As an aside, this brings to mind a quote that Ronald Reagan was fond of using – a quote originally attributed variously to Alexander de Tocqueville and Scottish historian Alexander Tytler: A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse out of the public treasury. From that moment on the majority will always vote for the candidate promising the most benefits from the treasury, with the result that democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy. Property rights There are many other issues that could be discussed in the pursuit of a Christian perspective on (local) government. Let’s look at the one where civic politicians and staff expend most of their political capital and regulatory authority: land use. Our municipality regulates all new development through a policy it calls “smart growth.” The idea is to encourage what’s called “in-fill” – making sure the areas that already have residential, industrial, or retail development on them are fully built out before new areas are explored for development. On the surface, this makes sense. The infrastructure (roads, water, sewer services and the like), are already in place for those existing developments, and it certainly seems quite stewardly not to waste a bunch of money running these services into new areas when there’s still undeveloped potential in the existing “growth centres.” The problem, of course, is that this process necessarily involves drawing arbitrary lines on a map. And there are people with land just outside of these lines – sometimes literally across the street – who are ineligible to have their various expansion projects approved because of “smart growth.” And while the policy may seem to make sense at first blush, I believe it has the potential to violate a basic biblical principle; the notion of private property rights. (If you have trouble with those “rights” as a biblical concept, simply ask yourself how the 8th Commandment can forbid “stealing”? You can’t steal anything from anyone if they don’t have an inherent right to own it in the first place.) If we truly believe in property rights, landowners should have considerable freedom to do what they want with their property, as long as that freedom isn’t paid for through the general tax bills. For example, we might be justified in charging a special development fee to hook into the sewer and water lines because a particular address is outside the proscribed growth boundaries. But to live and die by a policy against any development whatsoever on this land restricts the landowners’ freedom to enjoy (and profit from) his property, and minimizes his ability to exercise “dominion” over that land (Gen 1:28). So I would argue that if someone wants water or sewer services for a project that’s five, or six, or even twenty miles outside of the “growth boundaries,” they should have the option of tapping into that infrastructure…at their cost. Practically, of course, that cost would be so prohibitive as to make the development completely untenable, but the principle should stand on its own. This issue provides an example of how governments should base their decision-making on commonly accepted (and Biblical) principles, rather than on a well-intentioned but arbitrary set of “rules” that are totally intransigent and often defy common sense. Conclusion We are often critical of our governments at all their levels, and we do have some reasons to be. But we should also consider what Romans 13 tells us about how we should respond to government, where it says: …rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good.” That principle, combined with repeated Scriptural injunctions to pray for leaders (I Tim. 2:1) and for the “peace of the city” (Jer. 29:7), should guide our actions as citizens, and our relationship with governments at all levels. This is from the March 2015 issue, when Al Siebring had just been re-elected to a third term as Councillor in the District of North Cowichan, BC (pop. 30,000). That was followed up by a stint as mayor, after which he moved to Southern Alberta for a very different job: grandpa. Then, in the beginning of May, 2023, he had a chat with Real Talk's Lucas Holtvlüwer, which you can watch below. You can also find this episode on your favorite podcasting platforms by clicking here. ...
Saturday Selections – May 6, 2023
The amazing Archer Fish (4 min) This critter has crazy accuracy as it shoots its food down from the leaves and branches above. Trump's pivot on abortion In his last term, President Trump may have done more for the unborn than any president before. But is candidate Trump still interested in defending the unborn this time around? Is social justice killing Science? Ideology blinds Science, but whereas in the past it was Naturalism ignoring evidence of the Supernatural, now we have "woke-ism" ignoring evidence of gender differences. Parents need to be able to opt out of "woke" education Michael Zwaagstra is on to something here as he makes a case against Canada's public school system. But he's also a senior fellow at a secular think tank, and that's where his diagnosis falls flat. Zwaagstra thinks "...teachers should be politically neutral" and schools shouldn't be "indoctrination centres." But schools can't help but present doctrine, and the only choice is which. Will they celebrate God as Lord of all, or oppose Him, either explicitly, or implicitly by treating Him as irrelevant to all that students are learning? The surprising way ChatGPT could make university better A new Artificial Intelligence tool can write original essays in seconds that are good enough to pass many a university class. Is that a problem for Higher Ed? Maybe not. The New York Times’ stunning confession on Sweden’s pandemic response In 2020 they said Sweden's no mandate approach was going to kill thousands. They're saying something quite different today. So what's the lesson we can learn? That Man and therefore government, is fallible and limited, and should therefore proceed with humility. Or, this secular article puts it: "Central planners do not possess the knowledge to effectively organize society, but they do possess the power to wreck the social order – quickly. This is precisely why Hayek said it was imperative that those with power approach society with humility." Another reason for humility? The coming "cancer bomb." Big study touts exercise to deal with anxiety, depression New research suggests that, for many, exercise may be more effective than even medicine for improving their mental health. ...
What I learned from my Oma
Solomon tells us the first step to learning wisdom is to pursue it (Prov. 4:7), so I recently sat down with my Oma and listened to her share her immig...
Economics - Home Finances
Home ownership for Christians: how it happened in the past, and how it might now
Saturday Selections – Apr 29, 2023
How was the canon of Scripture established? (3 min) Stephen Nicols shares that the Church hasn't established the canon, but recognizes it, and that truth is a key difference between Protestants and Roman Catholics. Should AI be shut down? "When our science and technologies are guided by an 'if we can do something we should' kind of moral reasoning, bigger and faster is not better." Housing prices up, builds are down Canada's housing-to-population ratio is the lowest of any G7 nation, because Canada has seen a general decline in home builds since the 1970s, despite a growing population. While the linked report doesn't get into why it is happening, it presses for an investigation to figure it out. Some government policies have focussed on increasing supply without increasing builds, by taxing foreigners who buy homes here. But this doesn't get at the root of the problem – we need more houses. So why aren't builders building, if there is money to be made? Parents need to be able to opt out of "woke" education Michael Zwaagstra is on to something here as he makes a case against Canada's public school system. But he's also a senior fellow at a secular think tank, and that's where his diagnosis falls flat. Zwaagstra thinks "...teachers should be politically neutral" and schools shouldn't be "indoctrination centres." But schools can't help but present doctrine, and the only choice is which. Will they celebrate God as Lord of all, or oppose Him, either explicitly, or implicitly by treating Him as irrelevant to all that students are learning? Reflecting on the Church during the time of COVID The author presents a helpful standard: did we act out of fear, or love for our neighbor? This is a question of motivation, not the end result, since the same act – closing a church, for example – could be done for either reason. However, only one of these motivations is God-honoring. So, now, 3 years later, are we in a place where we can ask, how did we do? How the Earth cleans itself If you believe our astonishingly complex Earth came about by chance and time, one lucky happenstance after another for millions of years, then you'd have ever reason to think it fragile. But if you knew it to be designed, then you wouldn't be surprised to discover that the Earth has been crafted with some impressive self-cleaning abilities. That's not a reason to neglect our stewardship responsibilities (Gen. 1:26-28), but realizing the Earth isn't a delicate egg is a reason to resist climate catastrophism. Unbelief isn't a sin...or is it? Doubters will ask all sorts of questions, but only some will put in the same effort to actually seek answers. When a person's objections are more smokescreen than sincere, we should be sure to call them to "repent and believe" and not simply dig up more answers for them that will never satisfy their rebellion anyway. The article above and video below approach doubt and unbelief from two different but complementary angles and both are worth checking out. ...
Economics - Home Finances
Finances for the layman: a podcast review of “Two Stewards”
Two Christian businessmen from southern Ontario with passion for real estate, money management, and other financial topics wanted to share their experience and advice with the broader world. What better way than to start a podcast? Mark Krikke and Brent VanderWoude call their two-man show “Two Stewards” (TwoStewards.ca), a great title for lessons on stewardship that are communicated in layman’s terms, with good humor thrown in. Mark and his wife Kristen Krikke founded Joyhill Property Management, specializing in short and medium-term property rentals. Brent and Cherita VanderWoude own “Good Stewards” (GoodStewards.ca), a company with the goal of helping clients invest in real estate with someone at their side as a partner and adviser. “There are a ton of podcasts out there with promises of getting rich quick, and that’s not us” said VanderWoude. “We want to highlight financial realities of the world we live in, and help people make stewardly decisions with their money, all from a Christian perspective.” As VanderWoude laid out in their first show, “If your money is going to outpace inflation, you can’t just put it in a savings account; that just doesn’t work anymore.” After two introductory shows, the next episodes of the podcast focused on real estate as an investment, with the hosts making a strong case that buying homes for this purpose is superior to many other ways to make your money grow. In episode three, Krikke touted the ability to leverage your investment dollars – you, as an investor, provide the down payment, but the bank lends you a multiple of those funds, allowing you to make a return on a larger investment than your original down payment. The hosts also brought up cash flow, third-party paydown, and price appreciation as just some of the reasons to choose real estate for your investing. If these terms are making your head spin or your eyes glaze over, you might appreciate Krikke’s and VanderWoude’s simple and down-to-earth explanations of each of these concepts. “Two Stewards” can be found on all the usual podcasting apps, on Youtube, and on their website TwoStewards.ca. Brent VanderWoude was also a guest on Real Talk Episode #44 - What is Money?...
Apologetics 101, Pro-life - Abortion
How to defend the unborn in under a minute
I live in a town that’s so pro-life that when I go outside wearing a pro-life t-shirt the only reaction I get is, “Hey Jon, great-looking shirt there. Does it come in red?” We’re so pro-life that when pro-abortion politicians marched in this year’s Farmer’s Day Parade, there was all sorts of cheering and clapping for the float in front of them and the marching band behind them, but not a peep anywhere near them. They were enveloped in an angry bubble of silence. Our town is so pro-life that when my daughters and I volunteer at the pro-life booth, we can count on thanks, not shouts. The booth is set up at the summer fair each year, and most everyone stopping by is there to offer encouragement. They bring their kids to get free pro-life lollipops and pencils. Some buy yard signs or hats. The most popular items are our life-size fetal models showing what the unborn look like at 6 months, and 4 months, and 12 weeks; it’s always fun when a pregnant mom comes by to show her kids what size their baby brother or sister is right now. In the half dozen years we’ve been at this, I’ve only had a dozen or so folk either insult or argue with me. This, then, is more about preaching to the choir than reaching the opposition. Equipping the choir That’s why this year I decided to switch things up a bit. If it was always the choir stopping by, then what if we focused on equipping them? What if we tried to give them a quick “Pro-life 101” refresher, so they could walk away better able to speak up for the unborn? Of course, everyone at the fair is there for the rides and the food and the demolition derby, so it isn’t really the time and place for a class in apologetics. If I was going to pitch something educational, it needed to be quick. My daughters helped me out with a big poster that made an even bigger promise: “Learn how to defend the unborn in under a minute!” The sign was eye-catching and, thankfully, ambiguous enough to give me a little wiggle room on the time limit. Was I promising passersby a 59-second lesson or was I going to show them – in perhaps a slightly longer length of time – how they themselves could offer up a sub-minute defense of the unborn? The fudge factor allowed me to go a little long if I needed it. The short version A lightning-quick defense of the unborn is possible because most abortion arguments focus on one thing: what the unborn can’t do. The fetus is said to be less valuable and less deserving of protection than you or me because: they can’t breathe yet they don’t have brainwaves yet they aren’t self-aware yet they can’t survive on their own Whatever the reason given, it amounts to an abilities test – the unborn are said to be worth less, because they can do less. Therefore to defend the unborn all we have to do is show how it isn’t our abilities that give us value. We can do that by asking a couple of key questions. We’ll need our opponents to explain: Where does human beings’ worth come from? On what basis are we all equal? Unpacking the argument If our value comes from what we can do then that presents a problem for equality, since we all have very different abilities. I’m bigger than most, and maybe you’re faster than me, and that fellow over there might be smarter than both of us. So, then, in what sense are any of us equal? It’s quite the conundrum for the abortion supporter. Any ability-based answers he gives to the first question will run him into problems with the second. After all, we all understand that we don’t treat very different things as equal – a Rembrandt is housed in a museum under guard, while a child’s fingerpainting will only rate the fridge door, even though both are art. So unless men and women are actually equal in some sense, then we shouldn’t treat them as equal. That’s a thought no one wants to think, so we can be aggressive in pressing the abortion defender to explain how we’re equal. When he’s fumbling about, it’s our chance and our turn: “You can’t explain where equality comes from, but I can.” We can explain that what makes us all valuable, and equally so, is the only thing we all equally share: that we are made in the very Image of God (see Gen. 1:27). Being made in the Image of God isn’t something we grow into, or get more of, and it isn’t even something we can cast off (Gen. 9:6). We have it, not on the basis of anything we can do, might do, or should do, but on the basis of Who made us, and how He values us. This is not only an explanation for why a small weaker woman is equal to a stronger bigger man, but why the very small and very weak unborn child is equal to any and all. Stand on God’s Word While our opponent might dismiss the Bible, that doesn’t make it any less powerful (Heb. 4:12, Eph. 6:17). And we can counter their dismissal by challenging them to offer any sort of better explanation. They don’t have one! More importantly, when God says His Word won’t return empty we need to trust that it’s so (Is. 55:11). Too often, Christians will try to defend the Christian position without presenting it as the Christian position. If our opponents are attacking the unborn for what they can’t do, then we’ll try to defend the unborn with an equally godless argument, highlighting all that they can do. Instead of arguments about being made in the Image of God, we’ll show how very much the unborn seem to be crafted in the image of Man: The unborn’s heart is beating at three weeks Brainwaves can be detected at 40 days They may be able to survive outside the womb at 20 weeks They can recognize their mother’s voice at 7 months The problem with any of these points is that, on their own and apart from the Bible, they are only another abilities test. We’re saying that the unborn are valuable because of all these things they can do. But that’s the pro-choice argument! If we argue that the unborn are valuable because their heart begins beating as early as three weeks, what does that implicitly say about the unborn at two weeks, before their heartbeat has begun? Any defense of the baby based on what it can do throws shade on babies who have yet to develop those abilities. We either stand securely on God’s Word, or we will, accidentally but most certainly, end up adopting the very position that we oppose: that our worth comes from what we can do. Conclusion I got to share my two-question apologetic with a dozen or so pro-life folk. I also got to try it out with a young man who wanted to argue. It slowly came out that the reason he thought we should all just mind our own business is because he’d gotten his girlfriend pregnant and paid for her abortion. So he was very interested in justifying what he’d done. He thought the baby wasn’t human because it was so small. But this man, little more than a boy himself, was half my size, which I pointed out. Did he really think bigger meant better? No, he conceded, that wasn’t true. He didn’t repent. Or at least not then and there. But I was able to confront him with just how insufficient his justifications were. He left rejecting the Christian explanation for our value, but admitting that he had nothing else to offer. That’s what I could do standing on God’s firm foundation; I could blow apart the underpinnings of his godless arguments. Because I did this while giving the glory to God, this confused and hurting boy will know where to go, and Who to turn to for truth and forgiveness. And all it took was a couple of questions and a minute… or so....
Investing in Eternity: thinking 30 million years ahead
In Matthew 13:44 we find a single verse that captures the heart and soul of following Christ: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” Picture an average guy, leading a routine life. One day something happens that changes his life forever. While crossing a field, aimlessly thrusting his staff into the ground, he hears a thud. He gets down on his knees, digs with his hands, and finds treasure. He realizes this is very old – way too old to have been buried by the current landowner, who wouldn’t have any idea it’s even there. He has found unclaimed treasure, waiting for someone to unearth it. The treasure captures his imagination. It becomes the reference point, the center of gravity of his life. He is single-mindedly bent on obtaining that treasure. He is willing to pay any price. This is a man who experiences the ultimate paradigm shift. He takes on a new perspective and sees life through different eyes. Incomparable joy Of course, Jesus is simply using the treasure in the field as an illustration of heavenly treasure. No matter how great an earthly treasure is, it’s still worthless in the eyes of eternity. In fact, it is exactly this kind of treasure that people waste their lives on. Jesus is appealing to what people do value – temporary earthly treasure – in order to make an analogy to what they should value: eternal heavenly treasure. Today, Christians desperately need such a radical paradigm shift. God doesn’t just raise up donors; He raises up disciples whose lives are so filled with a vision for eternity that they wouldn’t dream of not investing their money and their time and their lives where they will matter most. Once they see the treasures of eternity and become consumed by them, nobody will be able to keep them from giving. The only joy I know comparable to leading a person to Christ is giving generously to the kingdom of God. That through my giving, people might be won to Christ, the hungry fed, and the suffering helped in the name of Christ is a joy beyond comprehension. Let me ask you a question about this man in Matthew 13, the one who found the treasure: are we supposed to feel sorry for him? I mean, we’re told he went and sold all that he had – and in the original Greek “all” means all; that’s why it’s translated that way! We might think, “It cost him everything. Poor man. Think of his sacrifices!” No. We are not to pity this man – we are to envy him. The sacrifice paled in comparison to the reward. The payoff was much greater than the cost. The man who found the treasure would be a fool not to do exactly what he did. He made short-term sacrifices for long-term rewards. “But it cost him everything he had.” Yes, and it gained him everything that mattered. The key word is “joy.” “In his joy” – not in his misery – he made sacrifices! How can you sacrifice with joy? Because of the relative worth of what is given up versus what is gained. When you catch a vision for what it means to God, any feeling of sacrifice is overwhelmed with pure joy and excitement. To hear the applause of heaven, to hear pleasure in the voice of God, to hear him say “Well done, my good and faithful servant” – nothing else compares. Smart investing In Matthew 6:19-24, we see that Jesus always lived with two Kingdoms in mind: the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of Heaven. He speaks here of the Two Treasuries, Two Perspectives, and Two Masters of these two kingdoms. Verse 20 tells us to “store up treasures in heaven.” God values treasures, but He defines them differently than we do. We consider things treasures that are nothing but junk in the eyes of eternity. John Wesley said, “I judge all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.” “Store up treasures” demonstrates that God is not against an investment mentality. In fact, He commands us to store up treasures! But He tells us to stop storing them up in the wrong place, and start storing them up in the right place. God is not against us acting in our own interests. He commands us to act not in our immediate short-term interests, but our eternal long-term interests. That which is to God’s ultimate glory is to our ultimate good. It’s just the pay-off isn’t now; it’s then. The problem with prosperity theology, also called the health and wealth gospel, and with lots of our Christian radio and television programs, is that they look for material payoffs in the present age. God’s provision of wealth is seen as a call to increase our standard of living – while Scripture presents it as a call to increase our standard of giving. Ironically, looking for the payoff now is never in our best interests, because it robs us of eternal reward. We’ll be rewarded for giving – but the real and lasting rewards will come in eternity. It all comes down to delayed gratification. I think Paul was alluding to Christ’s words in Matthew 6 when he wrote 1 Timothy 6:17-19: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God , who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds , and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life .” Christ gives us an incredible investment opportunity. He gives us the opportunity to cash in earthly treasure for heavenly treasure. It’s like trading a sack of old rusty bottle caps for ownership of the Coca-Cola company. You’re so excited about what you now own that the last thing you’d do is stand around whining about giving up your bottle caps. Notice Christ’s reasoning: “Store up treasures in heaven...” Why? Because it’s right? No, because it’s smart. Because it will last. It won’t be consumed by moths and rust or taken by thieves. You’ll never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul. Why? Because you can’t take it with you. John D. Rockefeller was one of the wealthiest men who ever lived. After he died his accountant was asked, “How much money did John D. leave?” His reply was classic: “He left... all of it.” You can’t take it with you. But in Matthew 6 Jesus adds something profound, something life changing. You can’t take it with you, but... you can send it on ahead. Anything we try to hang onto will be lost. Anything we put in His hands will be ours for eternity. Not just insured up to $100,000. Insured without limit by the FDIC – Father’s Deposit Insurance Corporation. John Wesley was shown around a vast estate by a proud plantation owner. They rode their horses all day and saw only a fraction of the estate. At the end of the day when they sat down to dinner he said, “Well, Mr. Wesley, what do you think?” Wesley thought about it and said, “I think you’re going to have a hard time leaving all this.” The way to lay up treasures in Heaven includes giving away our money and possessions but is not limited to it. The Bible teaches that those things which we keep can also serve kingdom purposes. They can be generously shared and invested and used in ways that serve eternal purposes, that further God’s kingdom for His glory rather than just building our own little kingdoms for our own glory. Think thirty million years ahead Missionary Jim Elliot was killed by the Auca Indians in the 50’s. His philosophy of life was expressed in those great words, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Does it sound like Jim Elliot didn’t care about gain? No, he cared about the right kind of gain – gain that would last, not just for the short today but for what A. W. Tozer called “the long tomorrow.” Are you an investor? Great. Invest in what counts the most. You have the desire to succeed? Fine, succeed in servanthood, in giving, in praying, in reaching out to the lost and needy. You have ambitions? Fine. Make them kingdom ambitions. You have dreams? Great. Are you willing to trade in your short-term dreams for the eternal dreams of the risen Christ? In investments they say, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” But in this case, it sounds too good to be true, but it is true, because it is the promise of God. Financial planners tell us, “When it comes to your money, don’t just think just three days ahead, or three months or three years. Think 30 years.” Christ, the ultimate investment counselor, takes it one step further. He says, “Don’t just ask yourself, how will this investment be paying off in thirty years. Ask, how will this investment be paying off in thirty million years?” In Mathew 6, verse 22 and 23, Jesus also talks about two perspectives – the good eye and the bad eye. We must train our vision, put on the corrective lens of God’s Word, and learn not to be limited by the horizons of this world. We need to learn to see, think, and act in light of eternity. (This is the theme of my novels Deadline and Dominion, and Edge of Eternity.) Perspective is what John Wesley had when he said, “I judge all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity.” It’s what C. T. Studd had when he said, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” For fourteen years I was a pastor. One Sunday morning I stood before my church and said, “I have bad news – I have a terminal disease. I’m going to die.” Then I added, “But the news gets even worse. You have the same disease. You’re going to die too.” The disease is mortality. We’re all going to die. One day very soon we will each stand before our Lord, the Audience of One. He will sift out our lives – some will burn as what 1 Corinthians 3 calls wood, hay, and stubble. Some will remain, as what he calls gold, silver, and precious stones. How much will burn and how much will remain depends on how we have used our lives and our resources here. Imagine for a moment that you are alive at the very end of the American Civil War. You are living in the South, but your home is really in the North. While in the South you have accumulated a good amount of Confederate currency. Suppose you also know for a fact that the North is going to win the war, and that the end could come at any time. What will you do with your Confederate money? If you were smart, there is only one answer to the question. You would cash in your Confederate currency for U.S. currency – the only money that will have value once the war is over. You would keep only enough Confederate currency to meet your basic needs for that short period until the war was over and the money would be worthless. Likewise, as believers we have inside knowledge of an eventual upheaval in the worldwide social and economic situation. The currency of this world will be worthless at our death or Christ’s return. This knowledge should radically affect our investment strategy. For us to accumulate vast earthly treasures in the face of the inevitable future is equivalent to stockpiling Confederate money despite our awareness of its eventual worthlessness. It’s not only wrong – it’s just plain stupid! Kingdom currency, backed by the eternal treasury, is the only medium of exchange recognized by the Son of God, whose government will last forever. The currency of His kingdom is our present faithful service and sacrificial use of our resources for Him. In the investment world there are experts and advisors known as “Market Timers.” When they read the signs that the stock market is about to take a downward turn, they recommend switching funds immediately into more dependable or consistent investments, such as money markets or T-Bills, or certificates of deposit. In Matthew 6 Jesus functions as the foremost investment advisor, the ultimate expert in the economies of earth and Heaven. His strategy is simple – He tells us to once and for all switch investment vehicles. He tells us to transfer our funds from earth (which is volatile and ready to take a permanent dive) to Heaven (which is totally dependable, insured by God Himself, and is coming soon to forever replace the economy of earth). Second Peter 3 gives us a financial forecast, or maybe you could call it an insider tip. It tells us that this world and everything in it is going to burn. There is a coming holocaust of things. Revelation 18 speaks of the economic world system of materialism, called “Babylon the Great.” If that’s the kingdom you’re investing your life in, then go ahead and be depressed. You’ve got a lot to be depressed about. Babylon is going down! If your treasures are in Heaven, there is good news. Heaven is coming and anything you’ve put in God’s hands is safe. What you’ve used for the glory of God will have counted for eternity. What you’ve given to God on earth will be there in Heaven. What you clung on to for yourself won’t be. Where’s your heart? In verse 21 Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He’s saying, “Show me your checkbook, your Visa statement, and your receipts, and I’ll show you where your heart is. Your heart follows your money.” Want a heart for Microsoft? Put your money in it! Want a heart for General Motors? Buy up shares. Want a heart for God? Put your treasures where God is at work. Want a heart for missions? Put your treasures in missions. Want a heart for your church’s ministry? Invest your money in your church’s ministry. Develop vested interests in the work of God. Every day, buy up more shares in God’s kingdom! Years ago, when I was a pastor, we decided our church didn’t have God’s heart for the poor and needy. We asked around to find out who was doing the best job in famine relief, chose World Relief, and decided to invest some treasure in Heaven. Though our missions budget was only $60,000 at the time, we took a famine relief offering of $25,000 and were informed that made us World Relief’s largest church supporter. In the years since, God has grabbed a hold of our church, and we have gone from being a church with a small heart for missions to a church with a great heart for missions. In 1998, our church’s missions budget was $384,000. Above that we gave $200,000 to various missions projects and a famine relief offering of $253,000 to World Relief, for a total of $830,000. Our expanding giving to missions has resulted in an expanding heart for missions. That’s what giving does – you put your treasure somewhere, and it takes your heart there. When our missions pastor returned from Sudan one November and told us of the opportunity to rescue Christians taken into slavery, family after family spontaneously decided to forgo Christmas presents and give instead to free slaves. The fourth-grade class at our school came up with projects to raise thousands of dollars. A sixth-grade girl took the $50 she’d saved up to play basketball and gave it to Sudan. One family had several hundred dollars they’d been saving for years to go to Disneyland, and their child asked if they could give the money to help slaves. Before long people had given $60,000 to redeem slaves, and we never even had a special offering. It was contagious. If we increase people’s vision for investing in eternity and help them see opportunities to make a difference, God will take care of raising funds. Now’s our opportunity Five minutes after we die, we’ll know exactly how we should have lived, but it will be too late to go back and change anything. God has given us His Word so we don’t have to wait until we die to know how we should have lived. There’s no second chance for the unbeliever – but also no second chance for the believer! You and I have one life on earth to invest in Heaven. Let’s not miss the opportunity. Here’s a prayer for us: May what will be most important to us five minutes after we die, become most important to us now. I have one final question: Why are so many Christians today afraid to die? It’s because we have made this world our home. The Bible tells us something else – that we are pilgrims, strangers, aliens, ambassadors. Our citizenship is in Heaven. But we’ve become so attached to this world – our roots are so deep – that we live for the wrong kingdom. We forget our true home, built for us by the Carpenter from Nazareth, waiting for us in a far better place. Most Christians have laid up their treasures on earth. Consequently, every day that brings them closer to death takes them further from their treasures. They end up backing into eternity, not wanting to let go of the mudpies they’ve accumulated. Christ calls us to turn it around – to store up our treasures in Heaven so instead of backing away from our treasures, we’re always moving toward our treasures. He who spends his life moving away from his treasures has reason to despair; he who spends his life moving toward his treasures has reason to rejoice. Are you moving toward your treasures or away from them? Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist who made his fortune by inventing dynamite and other powerful explosives, which were bought by governments to produce weapons. When Nobel’s brother died, one newspaper accidentally printed Alfred’s obituary instead. He was described as a man who became rich from enabling people to kill each other in unprecedented quantities. Shaken from this assessment, Nobel resolved to use his fortune to reward accomplishments that benefited humanity, including what we now know as the Nobel Peace Prize. Nobel had a rare opportunity – to look at the assessment of his life at its end, but to still be alive and have the opportunity to change that assessment. The same is true for us. Right now, we live on earth, the land of second chances. Let’s put ourselves in Nobel’s place. Let’s read our own obituary, not as written by uninformed or biased men, but as an onlooking angel might write it from Heaven’s point of view. Let’s look at it carefully. Then let’s use the rest of our lives to edit that obituary into what we really want it to be, and to live each day with the knowledge that every moment we get closer to death, we get closer to our treasures rather than further from them. God, give us an eternal perspective, to change the way we think and the way we give, the degree to which we invest all that we are and have into eternity. Help us to invest our resources in your kingdom purposes, now and forever. Help us not to serve our own agendas, but yours, and to live our lives for your glory and hear you say to us one day, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen. A version of this article first appeared on Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspective Ministries website EPM.org. He is the author of more than two dozen books, fiction and non-fiction, many of which we’ve reviewed including: Heaven, Lord Foulgrin's Letters, and The Grace and Truth Paradox. He's also made two past editions of his (especially concise) pro-life books available for free – Does the Birth-Control Pill Cause Abortions? and Why Pro-life? – so be sure to check those out. Strangely, we haven't reviewed the one of this books that might be most akin to this article, The Treasure Principle, even though it's a favorite of both editor Jon Dykstra and Executive Director Mark Penninga. ...