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Internet

The challenge of keeping technology in its proper place

I grew up in a home without a TV. But we did have a Commodore 64, a primitive computer (pre-Windows) that we used almost exclusively for games like Test Drive, Pac Man, and Ghost Busters. My smarter and older brothers were quick to figure out that if we added an antenna, the computer monitor could also be used as a TV. Before long, we were watching Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday evenings. And then we were also hooked on some of the shows that came right after the hockey game, like Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. We never watched all that much TV but somehow, without any big decisions being made by my parents, the home without a TV had become a home with a TV.

Similarly, I have been intentional about not getting onto social media. I have never signed up for a personal Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account. But in the past 24 hours I have used Marketplace (a product of Facebook) to search for used bricks, Etsy to purchase plans to build a greenhouse, YouTube to figure out why our toilet isn’t working properly, Church Social to prepare for a care group gathering this weekend, and Spotify to listen to music while driving.  And that doesn’t include the swath of online tools I use for work daily, like Google Suite, Slack, and Zoom. So, in spite of the line I drew to not get onto social media, by using all of these digital tools I’ve somehow signed up anyways.

A fantastic resource

How do we move forward in a world where screens and social media use is hardly an option, especially when they can also be so toxic? Similarly, what are we to think of new technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), which creep into our lives, whether we are aware of it or not?

In preparation for this issue of the magazine, which dives into how technology is being used in Reformed schools as well as understanding AI, I went to the most prolific reader I know, RP’s Editor Jon Dykstra, asking him what is the best book I can read on the subject. He pointed me to The Tech-Wise Family, by Andy Crouch.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Crouch brought practical and biblical clarity to these questions and more. But his book did more than that. It gave me a paradigm shift for how I was looking at the whole topic of technology in our lives.

Allowable may not be helpful (1 Cor. 6:12)

If we focus simply on whether something should be allowed, we often miss the point. It may have been possible to keep TV’s out the home before, but it is much more difficult to not allow screens today. Many Reformed churches which once discouraged TV’s now welcome screens in church and at home as gifts from the Lord.

Andy Crouch offers a more helpful approach – putting technology in its proper place so that the things that should be our priorities, like family, friends, and faith, remain priorities.

In a broken and depraved world, we so easily go from owning possessions like a phone, tablet, or gaming console, to being possessed by them. For example, sociologist Jean Twenge has shown that teen mental health has plunged since 2012, the year that a majority of Americans owned smartphones. And many senior readers, if they are honest, will acknowledge that their screen use has long crossed into the territory of becoming an addiction

What does helpful look like?

Putting technology in is proper place requires discernment, something that is more difficult than rules. According to Crouch, technology is in its proper place when:

  1. It helps us bond with the real people we have been given to love.
  2. It starts great conversations.
  3. It helps us take care of the fragile bodies that we inhabit.
  4. It helps us acquire skill and mastery of domains that are the glory of human culture (sports, music, the arts, cooking, writing, accounting, etc.).
  5. It helps us cultivate awe for the created world we are part of and responsible for stewarding.
  6. We use it with intention and care.

On the last point, he adds:

“If there’s one thing I’ve discovered about technology, it’s that it doesn’t stay in its proper place on its own; much like my children’s toys and stuffed creatures and minor treasures, it finds its way underfoot all over the house and all over our lives.”

Take a moment to reflect on the technology use in your home and life. How does it align with the criteria above? Let’s also do this reflecting humbly, recognizing that the ultimate judge is not ourselves (we are very quick to justify what we like) but our God, who calls us to be faithful stewards of our time and gives us a high calling as a prophet, priest, and king (Lord’s Day 12, Heidelberg Catechism).

Tech-Wise changed my thinking

If you or your family struggles with managing technology, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Crouch’s book, as he shares practical advice about how to prioritize character, shape our spaces with intentionality, structure our time, and apply all of this in the details of life, from our commutes in our vehicles to how we sleep.

This was a paradigm shift for how I was looking at things like social media, including whether media organizations like RP should utilize platforms like Instagram when these mediums cause so many problems for their users. It has made me realize that I was being naïve, and even hypocritical, if I thought we were even able to “flick the switch” on social media. After all, a good case could be made that even apart from our Instagram and Facebook pages, RP’s online presence (complete with a popular app, videos, website, podcasts, and newsletter) could also qualify as social media.

But it has also served to strengthen my appreciation for our board’s decision to prioritize this print magazine and our Real Talk podcast, over social media and video.

Unplugged is different

Since most members of the Canadian NAPARC churches also receive the magazine, we are able to bond, and sharpen each other, about what we find in these pages. For example, my church’s Young Peoples Society picks an article from it at each meeting for their discussions (checking off the first two criteria from Crouch already). This simply isn’t possible if each church member is plugged into their own source of information, oblivious to what others are reading or watching.

A print magazine in particular engages not just our hearts and minds, but also our bodies (we have to pick it up, hold it, gaze at it, flip the pages). Our heart rate slows as we settle into a comfortable position and slowly work through the issue. RP’s team has also been intentional about trying to make the reading experience delightful, with nicely designed pages, space for large pictures, a captivating kids’ section and new sections like the artist profile. Our senses and hearts need to be fed along with our minds.

Our hope is that this magazine, and to varying degrees all of RP’s resources, will strengthen your relationships with your brothers and sisters in Christ, will be used to start great conversations, will help you take care of your bodies and souls, and will develop awe for God’s creation.

But reading this is a small part of your life. So do take more than a moment to consider how the other sources of technology in your home and life measure up to Crouch’s criteria. If you have someone else around you, consider reading Crouch’s criteria about whether technology is in its proper place and ask them for their thoughts, perhaps even about how you are managing technology. And if your device happens to ping while you are enjoying a conversation with them, ignore it!

Science - Creation/Evolution

My dog ate the evidence for evolution

3 evolutionary theories that are based on the lack of evidence for evolution ***** There are plenty of great, readable books that expose the many problems with evolutionary theory. These include Gordon Wilson’s Darwin’s Sandcastle, Change Laura Tan and Rob Stadler’s The Stairway to Life, and Marcos Eberlin’s Foresight: How the Chemistry of Life Reveals Planning and Purpose (just to name a few). But what about something shorter? My daughter is sometimes allowed to take a notecard full of key facts with her into a test. That’s what I was looking for: not a book-sized rebuttal, but something short enough to remember and use. That meant it couldn’t involve stacks of studies and countless facts to counter the evolutionists’ mountain of materials. Those facts can be had, and include revealing quotes, like this infamous admission by one of the world’s leading evolutionary biologists, Richard Lewontin (1929-2021). Back in 1997 he acknowledged that it wasn’t the evidence that drove evolutionists to accept evolution, but their ideology: “Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. “It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” As impressive as that admission is, it’s just one guy. I was after something bigger, and also simpler – an argument where, even if I didn’t recall all the details, I might still be able to recall and relay the gist of it. What I found are three instances where evolutionists have accidentally acknowledged the lack of evidence for their theory. That acknowledgement comes, not from anything they’ve said, but instead by the “sub theories” they’ve offered to explain away the missing evidence. And what’s the evidence for these “sub theories”? Only that Evolution needs them to be true. This is akin to the student who, to explain why he hasn’t handed in his homework, claims his dog ate it, and when he’s asked for proof that his dog did indeed chow down on the assignment, he points to what’s missing: “My dog must have eaten it, because my homework’s not here, right?” As his teacher knows, the missing paper isn’t proof at all; the boy is simply presuming the very thing – that he actually wrote a paper – he was being asked to prove. And when he resorts to this kind of logical contortions, all it really evidences is that he has nothing better to offer. I think the same is true in the three evolutionary examples that follow. The most compelling evidence on offer is only the lengths evolutionists are willing to go to, to prop up their theory. Two pillars When it comes to the Theory of Evolution we all know the basics: once there was no life on this planet, but then simple cells formed in the primordial soup. After millions of years, and through the process of natural selection, these simple cells eventually spawned more complex cells and even more complex organisms, until finally we arrived. Greg Koukl has called this the “Molecule to Man Hypothesis.” And as Koukl also noted, if we’re going to take this nice story seriously, then evolutionists would have to prove two key things: 1) That life can come from non-life 2) That transitions from one kind to another do happen. These two ideas are so pivotal to evolutionary theory that if they can’t both be proven, then Evolution wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. 1. Life from non-life The Stanley Miller experiment (also known as the Miller-Urey experiment) consisted of a closed system with tubes connecting a heated water (ocean) chamber down below, with a gaseous chamber above, with sparks simulating early Earth lightning.        One of the problems with the Stanley Miller experiment is that it turns out amino acids come in left-hand and right-hand varieties – mirror images of each other – and the experiment produced equal quantities of each.         But our bodies don’t use both. Living creatures use the left-hand sort, and just as you can’t fit your right hand into a left glove, the cell can’t use right-handed amino acids – they aren’t a good fit. In fact, their presence can harm cells, and at a minimum, they would need to be sifted out. That means, even before the first cell ever formed, there would need to be some sort of mechanism present which could separate the righties from the lefties. That separation can be done in a lab through intelligent intervention. But who or what could do the selecting on early Earth after that lightning bolt blasts out that first batch of amino acids? Cells don’t exist yet, so there are no cellular mechanisms present to do the separating – there’s nothing in place. It’d be more accurate to say the Stanley Miller experiment didn’t produce building blocks of life so much as a muddled mess. The idea that life came from non-life used to be known as Spontaneous Generation. Maggots, it was thought, were spontaneously formed in dead rotting meat, and many believed that mice and flies were formed the same way. After a bit of investigation this was shown to be untrue. Today the idea persists under a different name: Abiogenesis (literally life from not life). Everyone knows maggots could never spontaneously form from non-living matter, but what if the organisms being formed were much simpler? What if it was only a single cell? And what if we gave it millions and millions of years to develop? Could it happen then? Well, if you read the scientific literature you’ll hear that yes, under those circumstances abiogenesis could happen, and indeed did happen. However, even though scientists are very sure it happened, even they’ll admit they haven’t worked out exactly how it happened. But isn’t evolution supposed to explain the “how” part? To be fair, they do have a variety of interesting ideas, but all of their proposals have serious problems. Let’s take a look at the best-known example – the Stanley Miller experiment in 1953. Though it happened 70 years ago, this experiment is still getting in the news today, because it was so influential. For decade upon decade the experiment has been cited in textbooks as proof that life could arise through a series of random chemical reactions. It’s so pivotal, that many a time it is presented as the proof for life from non-life, with no others given. So what happened in the experiment? Miller subjected a mixture of chemicals to an electric spark. The mixture of chemicals was supposed to mimic Earth’s early atmosphere and the electric spark was supposed to represent lightening. A week later, Miller discovered that some amino acids had been formed, which was significant because amino acids are a vital component of living cells. It should be noted though, that amino acids are not living themselves, but are merely a necessary component of cells. So they are a basic building block of life in much the same way that steel is a necessary building block for cars. These amino acids were presented as proof that life could arise from random chemical interactions. Consider for a moment how overstated this claim was. Miller hadn’t shown how life could be created from non-life, he had only shown how one necessary component might be formed. Going back to the car analogy, this is akin to someone zapping a rock of particularly pure ore and then declaring that the puddling blob of molten metal that results proves a car could come about by chance. Overstatement aside, there were other significant problems with the experiment and its results. For example, at one point many evolutionists thought that Earth’s early atmosphere was in some ways the opposite of what we have today: they believed back then it was hydrogen rich and lacking oxygen. Why? Well, at least in part because they needed it to be that way; oxygen would have interfered with the chemical reactions that they needed. And yes, to work, Miller’s experiment required a lot of hydrogen and absolutely no oxygen. But today even evolutionists will concede that our environment has always had oxygen in it. And that means that the amino acids could never have formed here on Earth via anything remotely resembling Miller’s method. The fix: extraterrestrial life from non-life So here’s where things get interesting. Put yourself into the shoes of an atheistic scientist who knows that Abiogenesis couldn’t have happened here on Earth. What “logical” conclusion will he be forced to draw? That’s right – life must have originated on some other planet first, and then come to Earth! This idea is known as Panspermia and while it’s not evolutionists’ consensus position, that it is seriously discussed at all only emphasizes the problem that evolutionists have with life arising here on Earth. The only “evidence” for Panspermia is that life exists here on Earth and it seems impossible for it to have started via evolutionary processes on Earth… therefore it must have started elsewhere. So Panspermia – this theory of an extraterrestrial origin for life – is actually an acknowledgement that evolutionists can’t explain how life could have arisen on Earth. 2. Transitions from one kind to another Things don’t get any easier for evolutionists when it comes to transitional forms. Evolutionary theory says that molecules evolved into man over millions of years and via millions of tiny changes. So when we start searching through the fossil record we should come across literally millions of transitional forms as one species turned into an entirely new one. Now, depending on which side of the creation/evolution debate you are talking to, the fossil record either doesn’t provide any examples of these transitional forms, or there are museums’ worth of such fossils. The Archaeopteryx has often been mentioned as a transition between dinosaurs and birds, and you can go to Creation.com or AnswersInGenesis.org, to learn about how it and other supposed transitional forms fails as a true transition. (The short summary: if birds evolved from dinosaurs or reptiles, then feathers must have evolved from scales and their wings must have evolved from arms. The Archaeopteryx has true wings and detailed advanced feathers, similar to those of bird species today. It only seems fair that when evolutionists are asked for transitional forms between reptiles and birds they should have to produce the half feather, half scale versions – the true transitional forms. The Archaeopteryx is at best a questionable example of an intermediary stage.) But what I want to highlight is the kind of argument evolutionists have to resort to if they acknowledge that there aren’t good examples of transitions. How would they explain away that lack of evidence? The fix: transitions few and far between Well, if someone absolutely refuses to believe in Creation, what “logical” conclusion will they be forced to come to? Then evolution must have happened in quick spurts, leaving few evidences of transitions in the fossil record! This theory is called Punctuated Equilibrium and was first proposed by Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge in 1972. Again, this theory is not based on the evidence, but rather the lack of it: we’re missing the transitional forms that would be needed to prove Evolution, but since Evolution must be true – that presumption is beyond question – then Evolution must not need transitional forms all that badly after all. Punctuated Equilibrium is an acknowledgement that evolutionists don’t have the abundance of transitional forms they expected to find. It’s also worth noting that until Gould and Eldredge, the lack of transitional forms was not really acknowledged. As Gould put it in 1977, “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of palaeontology.” Creationists were pointing out the lack of transitional forms long before Gould and Eldredge…but secular scientists don’t listen to creationists. 3. The Anthropic Principle At this point we should see the beginnings of a pattern in the Evolution/Creation debate. And the Anthropic Principle only makes that pattern all the more evident. The phrase “Anthropic Principle” was first coined to describe the amazing way in which our universe seemed to be designed specifically for human life. For us to live here on Earth it seems we need physical constants, laws, and properties to fall within certain narrow ranges. In Designer Universe: Intelligent Design and the Existence of God, authors Jimmy H. Davis and Harry L. Poe give these three examples: Protons and electrons have to have just the right charge. Atoms are composed of two charged particles: a positively charged proton and a negatively charged electron. The proton is 1,836 times larger than the electron and yet these two particles have exactly equal charges. If the two charges weren’t exactly equal in magnitude, if say, there was a charge difference of only one part per billion, all the pieces of your body would fly apart. Our Sun has to be just the right type of star. The Sun is not a typical star, being bigger than 95 per cent of all other stars. These smaller stars aren’t as hot so a planet would have to orbit much closer to stay warm enough. But at closer distances the rotation of a planet becomes locked so that one side always faces the star. This would cause one side of the planet to freeze and the other side to burn (sort of like our moon, or like Mercury). Additionally, our sun is a single star. 70 percent of stars are estimated to be binary or multiple star systems. It is hard to imagine how habitable planets could exist in such systems. Jupiter is just what we need, just where we need it. Jupiter turns out to be in just the right orbit and the right distance away to protect Earth from bombardment by killer asteroids or comets. Jupiter’s large size and high gravity makes it act as an asteroid and comet catcher. Some other stars have Jupiter-like planets orbiting them, but in most cases they are either in the wrong orbit, or are too near the sun, or may be spiraling inward toward the sun. While our Jupiter is necessary for life on Earth all the other “Jupiters” detected so far would prevent life from living in those systems. These are just a few examples of the anthropic (man-centered) nature of our universe. When you add all the factors together that would have to be just so for life to exist in our universe it turns out the odds against life are astronomical. The odds are so amazing even evolutionists are astounded. This makes the Anthropic Principle a powerful piece of evidence for a universe Designer. The fix: An infinite multiverse But imagine you are an atheist and evolutionary scientist who has been confronted with the Anthropic Principle and the astronomical odds against life in this universe. What logical conclusion are you going to be forced to draw if you want to remain an atheist? That’s right – if the odds are infinitely stacked against life in any one universe, wouldn’t the odds even out considerably if there was an infinite number of universes? This universe would then just happen to be that one universe in a million billion where the odds all worked out in our favor. This multiverse theory has become a staple in Star Trek and Marvel superhero movies, but once again there is no actual evidence for it. None at all. It’s another evolutionary story used to fill in for a lack of evidence. Thus the Multiverse Theory is an acknowledgment of just how implausible it is that an undesigned universe would be so well-suited for life. One last example I'll include one bonus example of an evolutionary theory based on a lack of evidence: the Oort Cloud. This is a theorized cloud of icy planetesimals that are said to be on the outer fringes of our Solar System. This cloud is beyond the limits of our current observational technology, so how do we know it is there? Because evolutionists need it to be. We still have comets, and if our Solar System is 4.6 billion years old, as the evolutionists presume, then any icy comets passing around the Sun should long ago have melted away. So, the continuing existence of comets would seem to be evidence of a Solar System that is much much younger – just thousands, not billions of years old.. But, no, evolutionists see them instead as evidence of a comet breeding ground way, way out there, where billions of icy chunks will sometimes bump into each other in just such a fashion as to direct an ice ball inward towards the Sun, starting a new comet. So the evidence for the Oort Cloud is lacking, and based only on the fact that evolution needs it to exist. Conclusion I haven’t tried here to provide facts to counter the evidence for evolution. Instead what we’ve explored is how evolutionists themselves have highlighted the lack of evidence for their theory by coming up with theories to explain away that lack. Evolution’s two pillars – life from non-life, and species’ transition to new species – were supposed to have lots of proof to back them up. But evolutionists have had to come up with “sub theories” – Panspermia and Punctuated Equilibrium – to explain why that proof is missing. And these sub theories are themselves supported, not by evidence, but by the lack of it. When Christian scientists pointed out the amazing odds against a universe supporting life, evolutionists answered this evidence with another unsupported story – the Multiple Universe Theory. Finally, the Oort Cloud is yet another example of evolutionists, instead of relying on evidence, turning to stories that already assume Evolution is true. Reflection questions What are the two pillars of evolution? Explain "Abiogensis." Is it possible? Explain "Panspermia." What does the theory of Panspermia show? What problem is there with the theory of transitional forms? What is meant with "Punctuated Equilibrium”? Why have evolutionists come up with the idea? What is the "Anthropic (man-centered) Principle”? What is the "Multiple Universe Theory"? A version of this article was first published in the January 2003 issue under the title “The Science is underwhelming.”...

Assorted

Gambling as the new norm? Christians still need to say no

Estimates had Americans betting a record $23 billion on Super Bowl LVIII, up more than a third from the $16 billion that was wagered in 2023. Among the betters was one Cardinal Pritchard, who shared that he’d made a wager in an article for the news site Not the Bee. Pritchard didn’t specify how much he bet, so it could have been trivial. What is notable is that he publicized it on a specifically Christian website and in making his admission there, he was acting as if it’s no big thing for Christians to gamble. The irony is that he did so in an article on the enormity of America’s gambling problem – Pritchard reported that an estimated 67.8 million Americans placed a bet on the Super Bowl, for an average of well over $300 a bet! Gambling is a bad bet Big, too, is just how common gambling has become – that works out to almost 1 in 5 Americans. Pritchard actually reported it as 1 in 4, but his math was off. Bad math is, of course, an ailment common to gamblers, who make the repeated mistake of thinking that this time they’ll come out ahead. But in a bit of computation that should be a part of every Christian high school math curriculum, if you engage in any sort of regular gambling the odds are going to get you in the end. Why? Because casinos and online sites take their percentage, so what’s paid out will always be less than what was paid in. Thus one of the reasons Christians shouldn’t gamble is because it’s a bad use of the resources God has given us. It’s worse than what the one servant did in the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25: 14-30) who buried the money his master entrusted to him, and didn’t even put it in the bank to earn some interest. How much angrier would his master have been if the servant had come back with half a talent, having frittered the rest away in gambling? Or if he’d come back with a debt of several talents? Even when you win gambling is bad news But what if you are an especially good gambler, defying the odds to actually win more than you lose? Would it be okay for a Christian to gamble if he could turn a profit? No, but for a different reason. When you win at gambling it is only because someone else lost. Whatever your gain, it is someone else’s pain. Sometimes investing is likened to gambling, but a key difference is that if I make money on a business investment, it can be as the result of that business doing something to benefit many others. A company like Costco grows in value because it opens more stores that serve more people some good values. Your gain as a Costco stockholder comes at the general populace’s gain too. But in gambling, you only win because someone else has lost. And that’s not loving your neighbor (Matt. 22:35-40). Add to this the number of people who get addicted to gambling and lose everything. And then consider how, in Canada, provincial governments have a big hand in pushing gambling, and thus a big hand in destroying these lives. While I couldn’t dig up the specifics for the Canadian Super Bowl wager numbers, gambling is big business in Canada too, as evidenced by the sheer volume of sports gambling ads on television. A peek at government coffers shows their own heavy dependence on gambling. Alberta, for example, is expecting to take in $1.5 billion in 2023-2024, or, more than $300 per citizen. God’s people need to understand why gambling is wrong so we can steer clear of this entrapment. And in steering clear we can also be a good neighbor to others by “denormalizing” gambling. Just say no, for everyone’s sake....

Assorted

Sparrow blessing

Mao’s “Four Pest Campaign” shows why a nation’s leaders need to be humble about their expertise, and about what they attempt ***** Most mornings I waken to the sound of sparrows chittering and chattering. Approximately twenty to thirty little house sparrows have a sun-up inclination to alight on one of the cedar bushes right next to my window. These sparrows used to reside in my laundry poles – winter and summer. They had their babies there and they slept there. They also poked out their gray, brown heads and white cheeks to assess me as I walked by on my way to the chicken coop every morning. Perhaps they now resent me as I cut down one of the laundry poles last summer. Feeling guilty about cutting down the laundry pole home, I fill the bird feeder with lots of seed. I have named eight of the songsters – Sam, Pete, Al, Rudy, Rembrandt, Ollie, William and Simon – and their daily, simple notes of joy give me pleasure and comfort. A father who loved sparrows My Dad told me that when he was a little boy, he learned to sing Psalm 84, especially verse 3, with great enthusiasm. He sang the Psalm in Dutch and the translated version of verse 3 reads: Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. My Dad, who was a wonderful story teller, went on to relate that he thought the word altars, which in the Dutch language sounds a lot like lanterns, meant that sparrows would eventually make their homes in the lanterns lining his street. Consequently, dressed in short pants and a blue jacket, he would stand for long periods of time underneath the street lanterns. He would crane his neck and gaze up at these lamps, hoping to see sparrows lay their babies in the lights. It never happened, but he was convinced for a long time that it would happen. The Chairman who hated them In 1893, seventeen years before my Dad's birth, Mao Zedong was born. Growing up to become the first chairman of the Communist Party of China (1935-1976), as well as being the founding father of the People's Republic of China, Mao had absolutely no respect for, or understanding of, the Psalms. Neither did he love the sparrow, that fifth-day creature which God had set in the sky to be a blessing to mankind. In 1958, the year my family immigrated from Holland to Canada, Mao Zedong, Marxist dictator of the world's most populous country, decreed that all the sparrows of China were to be killed. Ostensibly to help China leap forward economically and socially, he began a “Four Pests Campaign” (1958-1962) to eradicate, among other animals, the Eurasian tree sparrow. The Chinese Chairman, an unbelieving little man who did not comprehend that the sparse hairs of his head were numbered by God, did not know what he was doing. His proud slogan was: “Man must conquer Nature.” And, because of his campaign, the vast country and grand country of China, instead of leaping forward, began to leap backwards into famine and death. Matthew 10:29-31 tells us: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” That is to say, God's people are of more value than the sparrows; that is to say, God works all things out for His people's good. He cares for them. Besides the tiny, chestnut-crowned sparrow, three other animals were targeted in an overall elimination crusade. These three animals were the mosquito, the rat and the fly. Mao's reasoning was: mosquitoes cause malaria; rats cause the plague; and flies are a general nuisance. Sparrows were included at the tail end of the elimination list because they ate both grain and fruit. Chinese poster declaring war against the four pests: mosquitos, flies, rats, & sparrows Government didn’t know best Mao enacted a law in 1959 which made it mandatory for Chinese citizens to participate in the offensive against this common little bird, the sparrow. He had no idea that this little song-bird helped plants to grow. When the sparrow ate from plants, it passed on the seeds in its droppings. Mao didn't have a clue that these small twitterers also served as food for other larger birds and mammals, nor that they helped provide necessary fertilizer with their excrement for the plants on which they fed. Neither did the Chairman know that sparrows ate harmful insects. With the enacting of Mao's law to kill the diminutive sparrows with their kidney-shaped, black ear patches, the Chinese ecosystem and environment took a downward turn. The Chinese people took to arms. They were forced to do so. All over the country people banged pots and pans together to prevent the little birds from settling into their nests. The little “pests” were about twelve centimeters in length and weighed less than an ounce. There were numerous posters declaring war on the birds. Young boys and men fired at the midget flyers with guns and slingshots. Yelling and screaming crowds beat trees with long, wooden poles. As soon as any little creature perched anywhere, worn out by the riots below them, they would be harassed to such a point that they would drop dead from exhaustion. Exhilarated by what they thought was a great leap forward and constantly praised by the authorities for their diligence, people collected dead birds and tied their petite brown bodies together, forming feathery ropes of destruction. One small light in this fowl massacre was the Polish Embassy in Beijing. They refused to engage in the killing of the sparrows. A refuge for the remaining sparrows, the embassy was eventually surrounded by zealous Chinese citizens, who shouted and shrieked continuously. In the long run, the sparrows hiding in this small space also died. The Polish personnel cleared their area of dead sparrows with shovels. Instead of sparrows, locusts Psalm 102:7 reads: “I lie awake, I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.” There were many lonely birds after Mao's feather massacre. No census of them was taken prior to their demise. But it is estimated that there were perhaps some six hundred million of them. Hundreds of millions were eliminated through Mao's campaign. The year after the murder of these birds began, insect infestation of field crops increased, the locust being the main predator. The locusts multiplied and ate everything in their path. Grain production collapsed and a famine began. All the places in which sparrows no longer chirped and chipped, had no cereal output. The Great Famine which ensued is not allowed to be spoken of in China. Rather, this desolate time is referred to as the “Three Years of Natural Disaster” or the “Three Years of Difficulties.” Yang Jisheng, (1940-  ), Chinese journalist and author, wrote a book entitled Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962. First published in Chinese in 2008 (and translated into English in 2008), it chronicles the Great Famine and the Great Leap Forward. Although he was, for a time, a loyal Communist, the Tiananmen Square massacre destroyed Jisheng's faith in the Party. Mao’s arrogance killed tens of millions The horror stories chronicled by Jisheng are brutal and graphic. He records, among many, many incidents: a teenage orphan killing and eating her four-year-old brother the death of 44 of a village's 45 inhabitants and the consequent insanity of the last remaining resident, a woman in her 60s the torture and beatings and live burials of people who declared realistic harvests, who refused to hand over what little food they had, and who stole scraps or simply angered officials Jisheng wrote regarding his research: “I didn't think it would be so serious and so brutal and so bloody. I didn't know that there were thousands of cases of cannibalism. I didn't know about farmers who were beaten to death. People died in the family and they didn't bury the person because they could still collect their food rations; they kept the bodies in bed and covered them up and the corpses were eaten by mice. People ate corpses and fought for the bodies. In Gansu they killed outsiders; people told me strangers passed through and they killed and ate them. And they ate their own children. Terrible! Too terrible!” Devoting fifteen years to documenting this terrible famine, Jisheng catalogued a three-year catastrophe that is estimated to have taken 36 to 55 million lives across China. At the end of his campaign against the four designated pests, Mao Zedong ordered the vendetta against sparrows ended, replacing it with an operation against bed bugs. Eventually, the People's Republic of China had to import 250,000 sparrows from the then Soviet Union to stop the ecological disruption. After the sparrows had settled back into the country, the locust population was brought under control once more. Over a period of three years, it is estimated that one billion sparrows, 1.5 billion rats, 100 million kilograms of flies and 11 million kilograms of mosquitos were annihilated throughout China. Ecological and economic disaster jeopardized the very fabric of the country. Even as Nebuchadnezzar before him, Mao was deluded into thinking that he owned nature. Mao (in)famously quipped: "Make the high mountain bow its head; make the river yield the way." The truth is that Sinai and Jordan laughed at him and God held him in derision. Where is this mass murderer now? Conclusion In this day and age, when so much misery and terrible economic disaster looms and threatens to undo us, we do well to remember the sparrow blessing, the blessing which Jesus gives to all who acknowledge Him: “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.So everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before My Father Who is in heaven, but whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before My Father Who is in heaven.” – Matthew 10:30-33...

News

Saturday Selections – Feb. 10, 2024

Click on the titles below to go to the linked articles... Remy: Look what you made me do A serious point can be had from this goofy parody of a Taylor Swift song. Both the original and this version are about denying responsibility, though Taylor was denying her own responsibility and this time it's about criminals and the State denying their responsibilities. Our governments have inserted themselves into most aspects of life – healthcare, childcare, education, agriculture, tourism, job creation, arts, entertainment, recreation, media, and more – but how are they doing with their actual God-given responsibility to bear the sword to punish evildoers (Romans 13:4) and rescue the oppressed (Ps. 72:12-14)? What does it mean to tell your spouse, "I love you"? As Valentine's Day approaches, the world has one definition of love to pitch us, and the Bible has quite another. Doctors admit puberty blockers aren't reversible With Alberta's Premier Danielle Smith facing heat for banning puberty-blocking hormones for children 15 and under, this article couldn't be better timed. Be sure to share this one widely, especially if you live in Alberta. In related news, even the New York Times is willing to admit that transgender surgeries are getting pushed on confused kids. Sex outside marriage has triggered an international bloodbath While the numbers are estimates, more than half of all deaths in 2023 may have been due to abortion, largely performed on the babies of unmarried women. So, in other words, chastity can save lives. Millions of lives. The tattooed generation While some tattoos are meaningful – maybe a Bible text or a spouse's name – many others, as this article declares, "permanentize trivial things." And as such, that sort are a metaphor for a generation which also "trivializes permanent things." This isn't a Christian article, so while it is on to something, it doesn't understand that the Devil always wants us to make big of little and little of big (Matt. 23:23). How to say forbidden things on YouTube Whatever your thoughts on the thing, Prov. 18:17 highlights why they shouldn't have restricted our ability to talk about the thing. ...

Articles, Book Reviews

Scout makes a comeback with new audio streaming service

Entrepreneurial spirit meets Christian family values with tech startup Whillo.com ***** Reformed Perspective’s last issue featured a back cover ad that caught my eye. It introduced Whillo.com, a new audio streaming service featuring books like Scout and Wambu that were read to me by my father when I was a boy, and which I have since read to my own children. But weren’t these books rather “niche” to the Dutch Reformed community? Who would have turned them into audiobooks? Would the quality be any good? Streaming music and audiobooks continues to grow in popularity, also among Reformed households in Canada. But this was the first time I had seen a specifically Christian streaming service, let alone one that would feature classic Dutch Reformed books that many in the newest generation likely have not heard of, like Anne de Vries’ Journey Through the Night series. I have my own entrepreneurial itch, so I set up a Zoom meeting with Whillo’s founder and owner Layne van Rhijn to learn more about this new service and the vision behind it. From drones to audiobooks The van Rhijn family. Layne and his family live in Diamond City, Alberta, just outside of Lethbridge, and are members of a local Netherlands Reformed congregation. He works full-time as a paramedic firefighter. One of the perks of the job is that he gets regular blocks of time off. With an entrepreneurial spirit and a propensity to get things done, he has turned this time “off” into a number of vibrant business ventures. It started with his interest in, and growing collection of drones. He started an online drone store out of his garage, expanded into a store, and then eventually sold that company to an investor. This was followed by a new venture, focused on the used market for commercial drones. “So I built an app for drone traders, like an Auto Trader for selling used drones,” shared Layne. That has grown to become a marketplace for used drones throughout North America and quickly led to many more opportunities. “So then we started doing apps and different websites for clients.” Over time, he grew a portfolio of companies which provide income streams and he continues to grow and scale them. In 2021 Layne and his wife Melinda created Whillo, “to scratch an itch….We have three young kids ourselves, and are always looking for good audio content for them. And we found ourselves proof-listening a lot.” A librarian at their local Christian school then expressed interest in putting good books online in audio form. So Layne put together a proposal of what it would take, with them providing the tech help and the librarian (also an aunt) helping with the narrating. As Layne explains: “Initially, we were going to keep it small and kind of internal, and then it started growing on its own. So then we actually did a proper app and have grown it from there.” Growing an audio library Whillo was more difficult to get off the ground than Layne expected. “You can't just use any book, right? You have to use something either in the public domain or set up licensing agreements. So we were initially quite limited in what we could do.” They began to grow their collection with licensing agreements, and they also started hiring professional narrators from across the world. A skim through the catalog of Whillo’s website reveals over 200 audiobooks, many of which are for children and largely unknown beyond Dutch Reformed immigrants and their children. Layne noted that “we’ve significantly expanded our teen/adult selection over the past months and the more recent books we’ve added are well known across Christian circles.” I downloaded the app on my phone to give it a try, as our family was about to embark on another 12-hour road trip. This allowed our family of eight to listen to two books for about four or five hours total. I was pleasantly surprised by the listening experience. I guess I expected an amateur reader, or someone with a Dutch accent, but was treated to a professional and dynamic reading, comparable to what I get with a mainstream resource like Audible. But I also quickly learned that my children didn’t share the same interest that I had in most of the books available on Whillo. And looking at the music selection, it was apparent that it would be a hard sell for me to have my family listen to the entirely classical and choral genre. In recent decades, a lot has changed when it comes to the music being listened to in many Reformed homes, including in my own. Overcoming obstacles But Whillo has found a receptive audience not just with some conservative Reformed families, but among conservative families from other Christian traditions as well, including the Mennonites and Hutterites, and have noticed a large uptick in traffic from various homeschool groups. Layne’s expectation is that it will keep growing in content and reach. For example, it can become a place where choirs and musicians can get their content out to those who will appreciate it. He acknowledged that choosing content is incredibly difficult as there is no shortage of differing opinions of what is appropriate or good. Another challenge is the sheer cost, as some of his larger titles require between $2,000-$5,000 each to produce, and then half of the proceeds from subscribers go to royalties. But the enterprise has recently crossed the line where it is being profitable, and is also beginning to attract larger publishers like Youth With a Mission (YWAM). Over 33,000 hours have already been streamed since last January, when Whillo began tracking, with about seventy percent of the listeners coming from Canada. “It's been the hardest business, by far, that I've ever tackled. And I didn't expect that at all. Every part of it has been hard and but also very rewarding.” Layne cited examples where he receives emails or message from families who tell them how much they appreciate it and listen to it. “It keeps us going.” You can check out Whillo’s selection at Whillo.com. Picture courtesy of Layne van Rhijn....

News

Saturday Selections – Feb 3, 2024

Click on the titles below for the linked articles... Make more babies! I don't share enough good news, so here's a fun one. This is a diaper company taking the sort of stand that any self-interested diaper company should logically take - give us more customers! But with all the doom and gloom about population these days, it's probably brave for even a diaper company to come out in favor of babies. While they hang their baby endorsement on a statement from agnostic Elon Musk, there's also an uncredited voice-over recognizable as American's favorite pastor, Billy Graham (or, possibly, his son Franklin). So while they could get bolder – let's explicitly proclaim God's truth as God's truth – these folk are certainly taking some baby steps in the right direction! The price of legalized pot Way more teens are smoking way more marijuana than 10 years ago. And what they're smoking is way more potent than what was around a generation ago. And it's costing many teens their mental stability... Euthanasia normalized by manipulation under the Trudeau government (10 min read) There's been some good news on the state-sanctioned suicide front this week. On March 17 the "eligibility" of death-as-medicine was going to be expanded to include the mentally ill too. Rising costs have made it impossible to find a home? If that left you depressed, the government might have helped, not with more affordable housing, but a prescription of lethal drugs. But on January 29, the federal health minister announced they would suspend, at least for now, this expansion. You can read more, and what to do about it at the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, and ARPA Canada. To find out how we ever got here, read the longer article, from REAL Women of Canada, linked above. Barbara Kay: on "Grave Error: How the media misled us (and the truth about residential schools)" "''Canadians deserve to know the truth,' Federal Opposition leader Pierre Poilievre told reporters earlier this week, regarding 2021 claims made — but never investigated — of unmarked graves at the Kamloops, British Columbia Indian residential school." And there's a new book out highlighting how the media, and some of our elected leaders, steered us wrong. A 21st-century Peasants’ Revolt World traveler and sometime RP contributor Jonathon Van Maren was in Europe this past week to report on the massive farmer protests going on. How we got here - a  transgender documentary (12 min) How did transgenderism shift so quickly from a fringe movement to something taught in our public schools and affirmed by almost all our political leaders? This documentary gets to some of it. While narrator Christopher Rufo doesn't frame it in specifically Christian terms, what he highlights is how transgenderism is seen by its proponents as more than simply surgery, more than a personal decision, more than a struggle some small minority have to deal with: leading proponents view it as an all-encompassing worldview from which we are to interpret all else. Susan Striker, one trans proponent, spoke of his transgender manifesto as a "secular sermon." That gives us all the clue we should need as to how best to counter this movement. Not with Rufo's equally secular response, in which he's left confused enough to refer to Striker with female pronouns. No, what's needed is our own sermon of sorts, but a spiritual one. We need to lead with the facts as God as defined them, that He defines our gender. ...

News

Understanding the war in Gaza

On October 7, 2023, the terrorist organization Hamas launched an attack on Israel from Gaza that killed about 1400 Israeli civilians. Hamas also took over 200 hostages. The brutality of the attack was staggering, and there are reports of Hamas terrorists recording videos of their own gleefulness as they committed atrocities against Jewish women and children. In Western countries, thousands of “progressives” began demonstrating in the streets and posting messages on social media in support of the Hamas attacks. Then, as Israel counterattacked into Gaza to prevent further Hamas aggression, progressives demanded that there be a ceasefire to halt Israel’s military advance. In the view of such progressives, the Palestinians of Gaza are an oppressed people under the colonial rule of Israel. But such a view doesn’t understand the history of the region and the current situation. Correcting misinformation To correct the misconceptions, Dr. Willem J. Ouweneel, a prominent evangelical theologian in the Netherlands, quickly put together a small book to help Christians understand the big picture. This book is called Israel and the Palestinians and it was published by Paideia Press within weeks of the terrorist attack. First of all, it’s important to understand that Palestinian Arabs are not the original occupants of the land who were subsequently dispossessed by Jews. Yes, there have been Arabs in Palestine for centuries, and there were Jews living there too for an even longer time. As Ouweneel explains, “There have been Jews living in the Holy Land virtually continuously since the arrival of Israel under the leadership of Moses (about 3,200 to 3,400 years ago).” Yes, many Jews were expelled by the Romans in the first and second centuries AD, but some Jews always remained. It was their original homeland, after all. Arab and Jewish Palestinians The Muslims conquered Jerusalem in 638 and much of the rest of the Middle East during the seventh century. For centuries thereafter the area, revered as the “Holy Land,” remained under Muslim rule – except for a brief interlude when the Crusaders held control. In 1917, during World War One, the British seized it from the Ottoman Empire. Between the two world wars, while the British administered this territory, large numbers of Jews came from other parts of the world to live there. Both the Arab and Jewish residents were known as “Palestinians.” The idea that only Arabs are Palestinians developed later, especially after Israel became a country in 1948. That is, the claim that there is a specifically Arab Palestinian national identity is very recent historically. Palestine partitioned As the number of Jewish people in Palestine surged, their potential military strength grew correspondingly. Tensions between Jews and Arabs increased. The British therefore tossed the “Palestinian issue” hot potato to the United Nations (UN) for a solution. A UN commission proposed partitioning Palestine into the modern country of Israel and an Arab Palestine territory, and this proposal was adopted by the UN. The Jews were jubilant that they would get their own country and they formed the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. The Palestinian Arabs refused to establish their own country, partly due to pressure from neighboring Arab countries. The Arab leadership wanted every inch of Palestine. Those neighboring Arab states immediately launched an all-out attack to wipe Israel off the map in 1948. However, the Arabs lost this conflict, known as Israel’s War of Independence (1948-1949), so Israel was successfully established. The Palestinian Arabs ended up with nothing, because the country of Jordan took control of the West Bank and Egypt took control of the Gaza Strip, both of which territories had been assigned by the UN to the Palestinian Arabs. Ethnic cleansing? At the formation of Israel, about 700,000 Arabs fled the new country and became refugees in surrounding Arab countries. This was encouraged by the Arab states, but Ouweneel notes that “the Jews themselves may have contributed to this Arab departure by intimidating them.” At the same time, though, “around 850,000 Jews were expelled from the surrounding Arab countries. These were Jews whose ancestors had often lived in those Arab countries for centuries.” They were welcomed in Israel. So, it seems that to some degree, there was a form of ethnic cleansing on both sides. Israel is an officially Jewish state, so Arabs who live there “are, in a sense, second-class citizens.” Nevertheless, they enjoy the same democratic rights as Jewish residents. Indeed, there “is no country in the Middle East where Arabic speakers have as many rights as in the land of Israel.” The main point, though, is that Israel is not some sort of Jewish colony in Palestine. Jews have lived there for millennia. Furthermore: “throughout history, there have always been more Jews than Muslims living in Jerusalem. In 1860, when Zionism did not yet exist, there were 11,000 Jews compared to 6,500 Muslims, and in 1906, there were 40,000 Jews compared to 7,000 Muslims. At all times, Jerusalem has been more of a Jewish city than an Arab one.” Muslims cannot accept Israel According to Ouweneel, the bottom line is that the root of the conflict is religious. Muslims believe that since they conquered Palestine in the seventh century, it is and must always belong to the “realm of Allah.” In other words, “it is inconceivable that Jews would ever have their own state in an area that has become part of Allah’s world. This is an abomination to many consistent Muslims, both within and outside the Middle East. For seventy-five years, these Muslims have fervently desired that the state of Israel come to an end as soon as possible.” It is with this in mind that the chant “From the River to the Sea, Palestine must be free” can be properly understood. It means that “all Jews must be expelled (or better yet, killed) from the land, only then will Palestine truly be ‘liberated.’” Due to the deep-seated religious basis of this conflict, then, Ouweneel believes there can be no lasting political solution. The Jews believe strongly in defending their country, and consistent Muslims believe strongly in wiping it out completely. There’s no middle ground. Peace only through Christ However, peace would be possible if both Jews and Muslims in the region turned to Christ. As Ouweneel writes, “The solution is for Jews and Arabs to be reconciled with God individually, in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:18–20). Then reconciliation with each other will follow naturally.” So, while it’s easy to sympathize with the Israelis rather than their opponents, there is no room for hatred. “We must learn to see in the face of every Muslim a potential Jesus-believer." Indeed, some missionary organizations are reporting that thousands of Muslims are turning to Christ right now. Conclusion Israeli forces have continued to push into Gaza to root out Hamas terrorists. Unfortunately, many civilians are dying as result. Civilian casualties are much higher than they need to be because Hamas uses them as human shields by operating out of schools and hospitals. From the Israeli perspective, if Hamas is not destroyed, its terrorists will continue to commit atrocities against civilians in Israel. Thus, to protect their own people, the military operation in Gaza must continue, despite the unfortunate civilian casualties. Every country has a right to self-defense, and Israel is no different in this regard. Hamas launched its attack on October 7, and Israel is fighting back. Those who are outraged by Israel’s military operation should reflect on the fact that this entire episode is the result of a massacre of Israeli civilians by Hamas. Oct 9 march in New York two days after the attacks with a sign touting the slogan "From the River to the Sea." (Picture credit: Lev Radin / Shutterstock - Top picture credit: Below the Sky / Shutterstock)...

News

Saturday Selections – Jan 27, 2024

Click on the titles below for the linked articles... 80's "kids'" movies aren't how you remember them Those classic 80s kids' movies that you remember so fondly? Turns out they aren't kid movies at all - woah! There's a strange blessing that comes with understanding stuff was wacky back in the day too (Eccl. 7:10). We can remember how God was with us in the middle of that craziness, and be reassured that He's able to sustain us in today's clown world too. "Be fruitful and multiply" is not religious bumph. It’s how civilizations survive. The West is facing a coming economic implosion due to its low birthrate. And we don't seem to get it. What is Critical Race Theory? Samuel Sey offers this succinct explanation. Brits take Canada to task for state-sanctioned suicide (10 min read) This is a really good summary of how Canada has flung itself down the slippery slope, offering death as the medical treatment for more and more conditions. And while this is a secular article, they almost get to the root of it: they recognize that autonomy is a lie, and death isn't medicine. What they miss is that our lives are not our own to dispose of as we wish – the author doesn't acknowledge life as a gift from God entrusted to our stewardship. "In less than a decade, Canada has gone from legalising assisted dying in the tightest of circumstances – for adults suffering from terminal illnesses, for whom death was imminent – to offering suicide as an alternative to life’s woes. It amounts to a cautionary tale of the deep inhumanity, the cruel disregard for human life, that is unleashed when you introduce state-assisted death." We owe so much, just the interest is going to cost Canadians almost $2,000 a year Whenever you borrow, you're actually taking from future you, which might be fine sometimes if you really need to (for example, it's tough to buy a house without borrowing any money). But when it comes to massive government debt loads, what the previous generation borrowed is hitting us now, and if we keeping going along this route, then we'll be taking from our children. 8 fossil fuel facts: the other side (6 min) While we often hear about supposed downsides to fossil fuel usage, we rarely get the upside. But if we aren't taking that into consideration, then we aren't really counting the cost (Luke 14:28-30) of going "carbon free." This is a secular presentation but it presents the other side of the argument that we most often don't hear but need to (Prov. 18:17). ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – January 2024

It was the best and worst of times "The Christian only has to endure this world, this is as bad as it gets for us. But non-Christians have to enjoy this world, this is as good as it gets for them!” – Kel Richards’ The Case of the Damascus Dagger Titles worth the price of the book I’ve read my favorite writing book a few times now, but in recent years, when I’m battling a bout of writer’s block, I don’t need to read it. I can just pull it off the shelf, take a good long look at the title there on the cover, and that’s enough: If You Can Talk, You Can Write. Here are a few other books with especially instructive titles. Everyone’s a Theologian – R.C. Sproul knows theology – the study of God – isn’t just for pastors, but for parishioners too. Why It Might Be OK to Eat Your Neighbor: If atheism is right can anything be wrong? – Sometimes a title can be too good. I haven’t read this one, and feel like, after reading this fantastic title, I might have gotten enough of the gist that I don’t need to. Fire Someone Today – This is a business book by a Christian businessman, Bob Pritchett, running a Christian company, and he found out that, while you want to do right by your employees, it is also good to recognize God does give out different talents, so sometimes firing an employee who can’t measure up is actually freeing them up to find out what they really should be doing. Amusing Ourselves to Death – Neil Postman’s oldie but goodie is still applicable in a time when social media contagions have folks amusing themselves right into cutting off healthy body parts. Do Hard Things: A teenage rebellion against low expectations – Two teens, brothers Alex and Brett Harris, wrote a challenge to teens to pull up their socks… and make their beds… and clerk for Supreme Court Justices. Oops! I forgot my wife – How many wives suffer from neglect? This one’s a humorous, fictional smack-down on the self-centered husband written by a counselor who wants to help them change. Just Do Something – Looking for God’s will for your life, and stuck in neutral trying to figure out what it is? Kevin DeYoung has some help for you and it starts on the front cover! Wolf in their Pockets – Occasional RP contributor Chris Martin wrote a book on smartphones and social media that’s well worth reading, but the title offers quite the refresher all on its own. National debt costs $3 a day in interest for every man, woman, and child In a Sept. 15 press conference, Christian Heritage Party leader Rod Taylor noted that: “…Canada is deeply in debt. The federal government owes about $1.2 trillion. A trillion is a thousand billion and a billion is a thousand million. Our current government is adding to that debt at the rate of $109 million per day. And what is that debt costing? $120 million every single day in interest alone.” With a population of almost 39 million, that works out to an average of around $100 a month or just over $1,100 a year that the Canadian government will have to take from every man, woman, and child in Canada, just to service our interest payments. Of course, they aren’t even managing that, which is why our debt continues to grow, increasing the burden for the next generation. That is not the sort of inheritance that the good man of Proverbs 13:22 is supposed to leave for his children’s children. A dozen deep thoughts A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine. Save a tree. Eat a beaver. Always remember that you are unique; just like everyone else. Few women admit their age; few men act it. Never answer an anonymous letter. Was the pole vault accidentally discovered by a clumsy javelin thrower? Two wrongs may not make a right, but three lefts do. If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done? Can you buy an entire chess set at a pawnshop? If Americans throw rice at weddings, then Asians must throw hamburgers. Don’t think that you’re thinking. If you think that you're thinking you only think that you're thinking. 5 ways to improve instantly that require no talent If your basketball team tryouts are tomorrow, it’d be great if you could shoot 40% from the 3-point line. The coaches would love that! But that’s a skill that takes years to develop, so if you don’t already know how to do it, there’s not a lot you can do about it between now and tomorrow. But there are things you can do right now that don’t require any skill, but could get you noticed by a coach. These could make you a valuable member of the team instantly, and they go way beyond just sports. If it’s tough to keep all five in mind, then focus on couple, or three, for now. REALLY LISTEN – It’s one thing to listen, and another to engage your brain and interact with what your coach is saying. How many of your teammates are thinking through why the coach has you running this particular drill? If you know the why behind the what you’ll be able to make the most of your practice time, and your skills will grow. Listen with your brain! BE ON TIME – If you’re just 5 minutes late, but 11 teammates and a coach are waiting for you, you’ve just blown an hour’s worth of practice time (12 x 5 = 60 minutes). So respect your coach and teammates’ time by showing up just a bit ahead of when you’re supposed to. OUTWORK YOUR OPPONENT – A mediocre player giving 100% may be able to shut down a much more skilled player who’s going just 80. The trick here is that we often think we’re giving it our all, when we actually have a lot more in the tank. So analyze your effort. HAVE A POSITIVE ATTITUDE – There are professional athletes who make millions without ever getting on the court – they’re wanted just for their positive presence on the bench and in the locker room. GOOD BODY LANGUAGE – Show your positive attitude. Just as an athlete can show attitude toward his coach and teammates without saying a word, you can give them a boost by walking around with energy, whooping it up from the bench, and just keeping the energy flowing! Dad joke refresher For the fathers out there needing some new material… I asked the beekeeper for a dozen bees, and he gave me thirteen – he said the last one was a freebee. The Texan I dated broke up with me; she said I was just too un-American. I should have seen it coming a kilometer away. Yesterday I was painting the house with my son. He said, “Dad, can’t you just use a paintbrush?” My wife asked me if I’d seen the fish bowl. I told her, “I never imagined he could.” My wife really knows nothing about sports. When I told her I’d gotten a hole in one, she went and got me a pair of socks. I hear some people pick their nose, but I never got consulted. How do flat-earthers travel? On a plane. My wife is into philosophy. On our last date night, when I got the chicken salad she picked the egg salad just to see whose order would come first. I can’t keep up with the abbreviations kids use these days and my daughters are no help. When I asked what “idk” stood for, they all pretended not to know. When the mask comes off Laura Klassen’s pro-life organization Choice42 regularly saves babies from abortion by helping out their moms. And when a baby is born, the thankful mom will often share a pic with Choice42, to encourage other moms to make the same choice. But a curious thing happens when Klassen posts one of these baby pictures. Folks from the other side blow a gasket. But why? As Klassen notes: “Funny how whenever we post pics of babies saved from abortion, some people get triggered and feel the need to comment about #abortionrights or their general hate for babies. A simple ‘congrat’ will do. After all, these women chose their babies, and y’all are #prochoice, right?” Getting out of the friend zone Commentator Aaron Renn has coined “The Kathy Keller Rule” for all of those out there stuck firmly in the dreaded “friend zone.” As he explained it in his newsletter some years back, getting stuck in the friend zone happens, “…when one person wants more out of a friendship than the other person does…. one person wants to make the relationship romantic but the other person wants to remain friends.” While it isn’t always so, the “wants more” is often the girl, while “just friends” is typically the guy. There can be some cluelessness to this; the fellow might not be stringing her along on purpose. But intentional or not, he’s enjoying some of the joys of a real relationship – the flattering, even ego-boosting, attention of the opposite sex, and the convenience of having someone who’ll drop most anything to go see the latest movie with you – without having to actually give her much of himself. This one-sided exchange is only possible because there is what Renn calls an “asymmetry of intent.” He gives as an example, a story Tim Keller tells in his book The Meaning of Marriage, about Keller’s relationship with his wife. “Though we were best friends and kindred spirits, I was still hurting from a previous relationship that had ended badly. Katy was patient and understanding up to a point, but the day came when she said, ‘Look, I can’t take this anymore. I have been expecting to be promoted from friend to girlfriend. I know you don’t mean to be saying this, but every day you don’t choose me to be more than a friend, it feels as if I’ve been weighed and found wanting – hoping that someday you’ll want me to be more than a friend. I’m not calling myself a pearl, and I’m not calling you a pig, but one of the reasons Jesus told his disciples not to cast pearls before swine was because a pig can’t recognize the value of a pearl. If you can’t see me as valuable to you, then I’m not going to keep throwing myself into your company, hoping and hoping. I can’t do it. The rejection that I perceive, whether you intend it or not, is just too painful. “That’s exactly what she said. It got my attention. It sent me into a time of deep self-examination. A couple of weeks later, I made the choice.” Renn then proposes “The Kathy Keller Rule”: “Do not stay in a friendship where your desire for romance is persistently denied, but deliver an ultimatum (or ask the other person out on a date), exiting the friendship if the other person chooses not to reciprocate your desires.” I think this is great advice. Really great advice even. But I’ll also add, this isn’t out of the Good Book, so take it for what it is – some common sense to consider, but not an 11th Commandment to be obeyed without question. Just one issue? “If you're pro-life, you realize abortion is murder. How can you say ‘it's one of many issues’ and vote for a pro-choice candidate? What policy of theirs could be so good that it's worth allowing millions of babies to be killed?” – Seamus Coughlin...

News

Saturday Selections – Jan 6, 2024

"Let the fire fall!" (6 min) Two fantastic fire shows, just miles apart, point us to the incredible showmanship of God. Tucker Carlson on building a home library (10 min read) Your digital editions can be edited without your permission. They can't do that to paper. Rainbow blowback: African countries are turning away from the West over its LGBT agenda ...and consequently, they are turning towards China. 2023 Word of the year: Authentic Authentic got the Merriam-Webster Dictionary's 2023 "Word of the Year" top prize, but for a usage that is entirely unauthentic. "Be your authentic self" is an affirmation meant to encourage someone to continue to act the gender they say they are rather than the gender they actually are. Should scientists lie to us for our own good? Materialist evolutionists argue the universe has no purpose, but some of them admit that could leave folks feeling really depressed. So they wonder if that purposelessness might be something to lie about – wouldn't it be better if folks pretended or were deceived into believing life has meaning? That they are asking this question shouldn't surprise us: if there is no purpose, then there also isn't any reason to prefer truth over feelings. But, that they are asking the question also highlights the incoherence of their own purposeless worldview. If there really is no point to life, then there also isn't any reason to prefer people being happy over people being depressed – shucks, if we're just chemicals in motion, why would anything at all matter? So no, dear scientists, it isn't good to lie to people. It is good to abandon incoherent worldviews and turn in repentance to the Creator who made you with a purpose: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Yes, I am "anti-abortion" We don't need to shy away from being labeled anti-abortion. We just need to explain why. ...

Assorted

Outward appearance over against the heart

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (I Cor. 6:19-20). When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it. And she painted her eyes and adorned her head and looked out of the window (2 Kings 9:30). ***** Over the centuries, there have been people who died selflessly for things they held dear – country, love, honor, faith – just to mention a few. Martyrs such as Polycarp, Latimer, and Stephen died for their faith. The American patriot Nathan Hale, who famously cried out prior to his death: "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country," died for his homeland. There is also another category of those who died, but by unintentionally putting their lives at risk for love of self, for vanity, and for pride. Good Queen Bess Queen Elizabeth I, who ruled England from 1558 to 1603, became ill with what was first assumed to be a fever. It was not. It was the dreaded smallpox. At the time of this fever, this young daughter of Henry VIII was twenty-nine years old and she had been queen for only four short years. Adored by the British public, she was known to have a good-natured smile and a trim figure. Seen wearing intricate lace collars beneath a smooth, ivory complexion, the youthful monarch considered her looks somewhat of a status symbol. Her fiery red hair was usually dotted with expensive jewels – the jewels representing her chastity. While in bed with the fever, it was feared in the court and in the country that she would die. At the onset of her illness, Elizabeth refused to believe that she had contracted the dreaded disease. A Dr. Burcott was asked to diagnose and when he came up with the word “smallpox,” the word “fool” escaped Elizabeth's lips. A repeat visit from the man, who was quite courageous in returning to her side a second time, having been called a fool the first time, again identified the illness with these words: “Tis the pox,” whereupon Elizabeth, it is said, moaned: “God's pestilence! Which is better? To have the pox in the hand or in the face or in the heart and kill the whole body?” No such angry words came from the lips of Mary Sidney, Elizabeth's lady-in-waiting and friend, a loyal girl who selflessly nursed her sovereign for hours throughout the illness. Mary had caught the disease from her mistress for whom she was caring and, as a result of her devotion, the girl became very disfigured. Mary Sidney's husband, Sir Henry Sidney, wrote of his wife: "When I went to Newhaven I lefte her a full faire Ladye, in myne eye at least the fayerest, and when I retorned I found her as fowle a ladie as the smale pox could make her..." Mary, though scarred, through her sacrificial devotion, was beautiful in the eyes of God. When Elizabeth gazed into her looking-glass after recovering her health, she was devastated to notice that the pox had left some visible scar tissue on her face. Having been celebrated by the populace for her looks, so she thought – the elaborate gowns, her lace kerchiefs and her white skin – she now felt a certain degree of insecurity. Seeking to regain her physical loveliness in the eyes of the public, she hunted about for an answer. She began using Venetian ceruse. Venetian ceruse was a cosmetic used as a skin whitener and it was a lead-based cosmetic. Sometimes mixed with manure for traction or with vinegar to thin out the consistency, it was popular among the rich. Because its main ingredient was lead, however, it was a potential killer. Because of her vanity and insecurity, Elizabeth began covering her facial pockmarks with this heavy, white makeup. She did not know that symptoms of lead poisoning could include abdominal pain, aggressive behavior, constipation, sleep problems, headaches, irritability, loss of appetite, loss of teeth, fatigue and high blood pressure. Some scholars believe that Elizabeth’s eventual death was due to blood poisoning from lead. Having access to the Bible, and having read it, the young queen should have known that security was to be sought in God, not in cosmetics. Although Elizabeth's sad lack of knowledge about the danger of Venetian ceruse is to be decried, it was a far worse matter that Elizabeth put her trust and confidence in her outward appearance. Rouged and poisoned There is another story. A century and a bit after Elizabeth I's reign of forty-five years, in 1733 to be exact, a young girl was born in Cambridgeshire, East England. The girl's name was Maria Gunning and she was the eldest child of six. Her father was from Castle Coote, County Roscommon in Ireland and her mother, Bridget Bourke, was the daughter of Theobald Bourke, 6th Viscount Mayo. The Gunnings were not wealthy. On the contrary, they lived in relative poverty on father Gunning's home of Castle Coote. Considering the fact that there were six children to support, mother Bridget decided to become enterprising. When her two oldest girls were barely teens, she decreed they should take up acting. Maria and Elizabeth were both extraordinarily pretty and acting, although not a respectable occupation, could open the doors to wealthy patronage. Actually, the word “pretty” for the two daughters was mild. They were very beautiful. So, shuttled off by their mother, they traveled down to Dublin and joined the theater. In Dublin, the sisters soon became well-known – well-known for their handsomeness. When they were but in their early teens, they were both present at a ball in Dublin Castle wearing gowns borrowed from their theater group. At this ball, Maria was introduced to the Earl of Harrington, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The man was so impressed with the shapely girl, that he granted mother Bridget a pension. With ready money in hand, Bridget immediately took her two daughters to England. Attending parties and dances in Maria's birthplace of Cambridgeshire, the sisters soon became acclaimed personages. Invited to attend the court of St. James, the official royal court of the king of England, they charmed him. Followed by celebrity-seeking crowds wherever they went, their popularity rose to the point where Maria was mobbed one night in Hyde Park. King George II, consequently, gave Maria a guard to protect her and, from then on, she walked in the park with two sergeants of the guard before her and twelve soldiers following her. The girls had achieved fame and notoriety. Within the small space of two years both girls were married – Elizabeth to a duke, and Maria to an earl, thus achieving the rank of Countess. Maria's earl, the 6th Earl of Coventry, took his bride to Paris for a honeymoon. Feeling pressured to preserve the beauty which she felt sure had brought her this far up the social ladder, Maria began using rouge. Rouge was the rage at the French court, and Madame Pompadour, mistress to King Louis XV, had set a fashion of pale white skin with red rouged cheeks. The base ingredient of this makeup, as of Venetian ceruse, was lead. Although her husband did not approve of makeup, even wiping it off her face publicly with his handkerchief, Maria continued to apply thick layers onto her skin. But the end of the matter was this – at the tender age of 27, having borne four children, Maria was diagnosed with consumption. It is reported that she retreated to a darkened bedroom in the weeks prior to her death, refusing to receive any visitors. It is also said that her early death was a “death by vanity,” because lead poisoning from her excessive use of makeup probably contributed to her demise. Maria Gunning, or Countess Maria of Coventry, was the owner of a 7-foot mirror and countless jars of rouge. The mirror caused her mental anguish when she gazed into it prior to her death. The rouge caused her physical discomfort and, in the long run, death. Maria had not the spiritual comfort of being beautiful and secure in the eyes of God. She had existed a decade of being feted and admired by the world. But what is that, compared to an eternity?! Not limited to the past We can travel further down in history. In 1867, there was an advertisement placed in a local newspaper in Montreal. The ad praised Dr. Campbell's safe arsenic complexion wafers, as well as acclaiming Dr. Fould's medicated arsenic complexion soap. Both were touted to be wonderful for removing freckles, blackheads, pimples, vulgar redness, rough yellow or muddy skins and all other disfigurements whether on the face, neck, arms or body. The promotion went on to say that if you desired a transparent and clear complexion free from coarseness or blotches, these medications should be tried, by men as well as women, and could be mailed to your address or bought at your local pharmacist. We know, without a doubt, that taking arsenic is bad. Although arsenic destroys red blood cells, which does lead to pale, desired skin, it will eventually kill you. Today as well, harmful ingredients can hide in lipstick, mascara and rouge – ingredients which can wreak havoc with your body. It is a fact that the chemical lead can poison. It hides in many industrial sources, foods, and spices, as well as in everyday cosmetics. Lead, it is said, makes cosmetic colors pop and helps products resist moisture. Many countries have developed strict controls of lead in cosmetics. Sixty-five countries have even banned it outright. But it is still an ingredient among cosmetics in many low- and middle-income countries. There are other health matters which a Christian might keep in mind as he or she considers their appearance. For the woman, there is a shoe choice to be made every day. Granted, we are not all Imelda Marcos material (Imelda was the wife of the former Philippine dictator, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., and infamously owned 3,000 pairs of shoes), but we do choose our footwear each day. Some women choose very high heels. Wearing stiletto, or any kind of heels, can certainly cause unpleasant side effects – these side effects can include lower back pain, sore calf muscles, protruding veins and constricted blood vessels. All these side effects taken together can sooner or later result in an ugly deformity of the foot called “hammer toe.” Then there is the issue of tight clothing. Wearing close-fitting outfits, often chosen in a desire to be more attractive to the opposite sex, is not only morally unhealthy and not according to Scripture, but also physically unwise. Making a tight garment choice can lead to yeast infections, cause difficulty in breathing and bring on abdominal pain. Tight pants can cause tingling thigh syndrome and “low waist” tight jeans can cause digestive issues and will lead to back pain. It is judicious to wear apparel which keeps circulation flowing. Indeed, it is wise and pleasing in God's eyes to be modest and discreet in dress. Conclusion It is no sin for a woman to want to look pretty. It is no sin to dress attractively and it is no sin to rejoice in the body God has given you. But to depend on physical appearance, to seek security in outward looks, to rely on your exterior for your relationship with others or for your assurance and self-esteem, is not what the Bible teaches. Neither are we to judge others on their outward appearance, but rather we are to evaluate people on their confession of faith and on the fruits of the Spirit they display. We are to be merciful in judgment and we are always to remember that God, and God only, sees the heart. Being beautiful for God can actually cause pain. Living and humbling yourself before others, can cause hurt and hardship. So, indeed, our Lord and Savior found it to be. For it is said of Him in Isaiah 53 that: “He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.” Jesus did not eschew a marred countenance; He did not try to cover His wounds for the sake of resembling a more pleasing impression in the eyes of those beholding Him. In fact, His wounds are what make Him beautiful. We do well to remember throughout our earthly life that Jesus “was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed” (Is. 53:5). Knowledge of this and faith in this, gives us beauty of countenance; knowledge of this and faith in this, gives us assurance in life; knowledge of this and faith in this, gives us a reason to live. Have a blessed 2024!...

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Saturday Selections – Dec. 30, 2023

The Babylon Bee's Spelling Bee "Can you give me the definition?" Play vs. screens "Screen time is stolen time," said one expert. What did he mean? That the 20%-45% of the day that kids spend on screens is stealing away kids' opportunities for free unstructured play and for creating, rather than just consuming. Richer than you knew When budgeting gets tough, it's worth considering our blessings. One nugget: if you've ever had pineapple on your pizza you've enjoyed a luxury the likes of which the very richest couldn't have imagined a couple hundred years ago. Back then a pineapple cost $8,000! Frozen embryos are the new orphan crisis (15 min read) This story doesn't really get into the overall harm the in-vitro fertilization (IVF) industry has caused in treating children as a good – to be sorted, implanted, frozen, or disposed of, however their parents might wish. Two thirds don't reach the blastocyst stage, and of those that do, millions have been thrown away. What this story is about is the more than a million others that have been frozen, where they remain in a state of limbo, left orphaned by parents who no longer have a use for them. But over the last couple of decades couples have been adopting these children and carrying them to term. Many Christians are conflicted about the morality of such a "snowflake adoption" because it necessarily involves working with the same IVF industry that's been killing millions of unborn babies in the first place, and it uses a process that depersonalizes the unborn into a product. So, can snowflake adoption really be good? Adoptions always involve tragedy – a set of parents has either died, or in some cases is unable or unfit to raise their own children. That children were ever put in a position from which they needed rescuing is sad... but to do the rescuing is wonderful. Christians understand adoption as God's own rescue plan (Eph. 1:5). So to go and do likewise is simply to imitate our great God. A response to an employer’s request for pronouns "I recently spoke to a Stand to Reason supporter who received a company-wide email saying leaders were expected to display their pronouns. After considering the cost and thinking carefully through his response, this is what he told his employers..." How to get your kids excited about reading the Bible Pastor and professor David Murray has some helpful suggestions, and they start with modeling. More help can be had with his 6 tips for reading the Bible with your kids. Pacific Golden Plover defies evolution This little bird makes an 80-hour migratory flight from Alaska to Hawaii. But it only has the fat reserves to fly 70 hours. And it can't swim. So how does it make it? ...

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