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Apologetics 101

Witnessing without knowing it all

Ding dong!

The doorbell goes and through the peephole you can see two young men clad in dark conservative suits. Fortunately you’ve recently read an article or two on Jehovah's Witnesses so you're feeling at least a little prepared to talk. Smiling, you nervously open the door.

But as the conversation begins, you quickly realize these aren’t the Jehovah’s Witnesses you’re ready for, but are instead Mormons – and you don’t know anything  about Mormons! So what are you going to do?

What are you going to do?!?!?

The burden of proof

Don’t panic! Understand the battle in front of you: ignorance vs. error. You don't have answers at the ready, but because you serve the one true God you can be confident that there is truth to be found, though it might involve some digging. Meanwhile, these gentlemen at the door might be more knowledgeable about their beliefs than you, but they are utterly wrong. Digging will help here, too, but instead of uncovering truth you'll be uncovering their error.

So you’re actually in a great position here. You don’t know anything about Mormons? Well here are people eager to teach you. What a great arrangement!

Consider, also, that the pressure is all on them, not you. They’re here to make their case, and provide evidence and reasons for why you should be a Mormon. The burden of proof is right where you want it…on them. In other words it is up to them to make their case and defend it, while you are free to go on the offensive and challenge their assertions with good questions.

Maybe that doesn't sound like it's going to be all that effective – how can simply asking questions help you evangelize to Mormons? The key is the burden of proof. Even a four-year-old can confound her parents as long as the burden of proof is on the parents, as long as they have to answer her questions.

“Time to got to bed dear.”
“Why?”
“Because it’s dark out.”
“Why?”
“Because the sun set.”
“Why?”
“Um…it has something to do with the earth’s rotation I think…Hey, honey! Where did we put the encyclopedia?”

The point, of course, is not just to ask questions, but instead to ask questions with purpose. The four-year-old’s purpose is to stay up a little longer while your purpose will be to expose the errors and weaknesses in Mormon belief.

Questions are key

In his apologetics book Tactics, Greg Koukl outlines some questions that can be used in just such an occasion. The first is a question of clarification. When you’re first learning about their beliefs you should be sure you understand what they are saying. You might ask them, “What do you mean by that?” or, “So are you saying…?” Clarification is important because it forces the Mormon (or Jehovah's Witness, or atheist, or whomever) to restate and explain what they really mean. They’ll have to drop their script and actually think about what they are trying to say. And more than anything, what you want to do is force them to think. Clarification also allows you to learn from this encounter and start to understand what their beliefs are, which could help you the next time you end up in a similar situation.

Secondly, question their assertions. The Book of Mormon is the revealed word of God? “Now how did you come to that conclusion?” The explanation may lead to yet more assertions that you can again challenge.

After a while you may learn enough and feel comfortable enough to try and make a few points of your own. The questioning technique works here too. Instead of telling a person why they are wrong, ask them, “Have you ever considered…?” The use of a question here is a more gentle challenge to their beliefs, and more likely to get a thoughtful, rather than reactive response.

Shifting it back

It’s a simple approach but there is one thing to watch out for…the dreaded switch back! The non-believer answers your question with a question of their own and before you even realize the burden of proof shifts back to you. “So you don’t think The Book of Mormon is God’s word? And yet it seems you think the Bible is. Why is that?”

If you’ve got an answer this is a great opportunity to provide them with some information.

But if not, don't worry. Remember they’re the ones who've come to your door to make their case, and so it is up to them to back them up. Just play it straight, admit your ignorance, and repeat your original question, “I’m not the one making any claims here. You said The Book of Mormon was God’s word and I’m just wondering if you have any reasons for that.”

Study still needed

This technique can be used in any number of settings, with all sorts of people: it might be an atheist professor in your university classroom, or maybe a Muslim friend at your local coffee shop, or maybe an encounters with door-to-door cultists. Any time someone is trying to prove a point to you, the burden of proof is theirs.

Don't mistake the point being made here. That we can witness without knowing it all doesn't mean we should neglect to study God's Word. To do so is to neglect God.

And, of course, evangelism and apologetics will be easier when we know our Bible. It's also true that this same questioning technique works even better if we know a little something about the beliefs of the person we are talking to. Then our questions can become directed, and we can direct the non-believer towards the weaknesses in their beliefs. Then, if the Lord blesses our efforts, this person will see those weaknesses, and start looking elsewhere for answers about God. He may just ask you why he should believe what you believe.

And as unprepared as we can be for any of their other questions, this is one we really must be ready for.

But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. (1 Peter 3:15)

Internet

We can't save the world, and that's OK

What if our insatiable interest in the world’s injustices is really just an Edenic desire to be gods ourselves? ***** We are weary. Gloom and malaise are the shadows of the moment, inescapable beneath the blazing ball of stressors that blinds our eyes to what is true and hinders our feeble attempts at faithful living. Why? Why do weariness and anxiety trail us wherever we walk or however fast we try to run? There are, of course, any number of reasons that an individual person may feel weary or sad or anxious. But there is reason I believe that our collective sense of dread is at least partially self-inflicted. We are weary because in an attempt to image our Savior we may actually be trying to be him. The paralysis of information Our parasitic relationship with the social Internet leads us to see a literal world of burdens and deceives us into believing we must bear them all. This isn’t a new phenomenon: in Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman traced it all the way back to the advent of the telegraph: "The news elicits from you a variety of opinions about which you can do nothing except for offer them as more news, about which you can do nothing. "Prior to the age of telegraphy, the information-action ratio was sufficiently close so that most people had a sense of being able to control some of the contingencies in their lives. What people knew had some action-value." We feel burdened by the events of the world because we consume information in such a way that we could never meaningfully act on the information we consume. This isn’t just a practical problem or a mental health problem. This is a spiritual problem. Bearing burdens or being gods? In Galatians 6:2 Paul tells us to: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” To live as a faithful follower of Christ in our own daily lives is difficult in its own right. But to bear others’ burdens, like those of our family, friends, or church family, is what we are called to do in this verse. Bearing one another’s burdens is important! It is one of the ways we most clearly image Christ to the world. But I think it is fair to say Paul is not calling us to bear the burdens of the world, a destructive calling to which many of us believe we have been called simply because of our ever-increasing awareness of world events. How can we possibly faithfully follow Jesus while also attempting to bear the countless burdens highlighted by our Twitter feeds? We can’t. And we should stop trying. This is not to say we shouldn’t care for and pray for the global church or the state of humanity in general. Of course we should approach our God on behalf of others who may be suffering any variety of plight around the world. My call is not a call to global ignorance but local faithfulness. One of my concerns is that our rightful concern for the vast brokenness and injustice around the world distracts us from faithfulness in our neighborhoods and churches. Beyond that, though, the constant gnawing we feel as we scroll through pictures of poverty and clips of corruption on our thousand-dollar smartphones may be a God-given conviction toward justice and righteousness … but it also may not be. What if our insatiable interest in the world’s injustices is really just an Edenic desire to be gods ourselves? The social Internet becomes a virtual tree of knowledge of good and evil – it opens our eyes to the harsh realities of a world fractured by sin and fools us into bearing the burden of the world’s brokenness. Our convictional awareness of the world’s problems may actually be a modern manifestation of our most ancient transgression: our desire to be gods rather than trust God. Wearying ourselves with public injustices in front of a watching world is more appealing than quietly advocating for justice in our communities because it makes us feel like gods, and gods receive praise. Good friends and neighbors usually don’t. To bear the burdens of others is to fulfill the law of Christ and to image Christ to the world. To want to save the world is to attempt to be Christ and reap the praise he alone is due.  The measure of the world Reflecting on the cultural power of the nightly news broadcast in 1985, Postman wrote: “It has not yet been demonstrated whether a culture can survive if it takes the measure of the world in twenty-two minutes.” Indeed, one may say that it has not yet been demonstrated whether a culture can survive if it takes the measure of the world in a brief scroll of Twitter, but the forecast is, well, a bit gloomy. Perhaps we, and our communities of faith or proximity, would be better served if we attempt to bear the burdens of our neighbors rather than feeling as though we have to bear the burdens of the world. Everyone’s problems are not all of our problems. Yes, we are called to bear one another’s burdens, but not everyone’s burdens. Christ alone can bear the burdens of the world. Our feeble attempts to do this are the roots of our gloom and malaise. Being a Savior is exhausting and it’s not who we were made to be. This originally appeared in Chris Martin’s "Terms of Service" newsletter and is reprinted here with permission. “Terms of Service” looks at the social internet from a Christian perspective, and you can sign up at www.termsofservice.social. His book, also called “Terms of Service,” is available at online retailers....

Internet

A valley of conquerors

God’s work in one Reformed community to set prisoners free from their bondage to sexual sin ***** The fire crackled in a massive stone fireplace behind us as we talked and sipped coffee. The handcrafted log home that surrounded us was almost finished, after seven years of construction. It was sitting at about 4,000 feet elevation, built on the side of Hudson Bay Mountain, in northwest British Columbia. I was meeting with the home’s builder, Bill DeVries, to learn about how God has brought hope to many men and women in the Bulkley Valley whose lives have been impacted by pornography and other forms of sexual bondage. While DeVries was building this stunning home for his clients, God has been working through him and others in this community to rebuild lives. Unlike the mansion on the mountainside, this work is being used by God to result in something much more valuable – transformed hearts, revitalized families, and captives set free. When it comes to the hold that Satan has on many in the world through pornography, this story is an exception, not the norm. But just as a spark has been fanned into a flame in one community, the hope is that it sets a fire across this land. For “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). Stepping up with trepidation Reflecting on what started it all, DeVries was upfront with his own story. “I saw the lingering effects of porn use when I was young. The effect is still here. Seeing the impact it had on my own family, I wanted to find a way to break this.” He can see now how the LORD had been preparing himself and a number of other men in the local church community to bring leadership to this problem already back in the winter of 2017. A friend had shared with DeVries how he took part in a DVD program called the Conquer Series at a local church and was interested in sharing it with others, including the Reformed church community. God stirred the hearts of DeVries and a few other men to step out of their comfort zone and bring this program to the local churches, in particular the Canadian Reformed and United Reformed churches. DeVries explained how the program goes to the root of the issue, while always doing so in the context of grace through Christ. “It helps men to understand how a sin problem becomes a brain problem, and why it is so difficult to break free. It leads us to apply Scripture to get away from our shame identity, helping us to see grace, and our identity in Christ. It takes men into a daily, deep immersion in the Word.” The title lends itself from Romans 8:37: “In Christ we are more than conquerors.” “I went into it with a lot of trepidation,” DeVries recalled. He knew that dealing with pornography was not something to be done lightly and could impact marriages and lives in a big way. “We put out a bulletin notice. It was straightforward, describing how 60-70 percent of men struggle with pornography.” Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the ads struck a chord. 180 men lead the charge The first session was held in March of 2018, and 47 men courageously answered the call and showed up. DeVries and the other organizers were ready, with ten men prepared to lead small groups. They shared their own stories of their struggle with sexual sin, setting an example for vulnerability and creating a spirit of trust. The Conquer Series is much more than a 10-part DVD series. “It’s demanding. You get a half hour of work every day, and then three phone calls to different guys in their group every week.” But not only did those men carry on through the program, it has been run again in the Bulkley Valley many times since then, and to a variety of groups including teens and women. Shortly after the first time it was run, a group of 11 dads introduced the series to their sons in Grade 11 and 12. “The guys that led, led by being open about their own struggles. That opened the door for others to do the same.” It takes courage to be vulnerable with other men. It takes even more courage to talk about this with their sons. But DeVries shared that he had already come to a place of surrender. “I had nothing left for me to defend so it wasn’t that hard for me to speak into it.” The impact was immediate and others noticed. That September, another 49 men signed up to do the series. Since 2018 it has been run at least four times, though the group has become smaller each time since so many had already gone through it. In total it has reached about 180 men in the area, a couple dozen of whom have done it twice. It didn’t take long for local women and youth to follow the men’s lead. The organization behind the Conquer Series has also produced a number of other programs that have been run locally. Experiencing victory With so many men, women, and children having gone through these programs, the impact on the entire community has been both quiet and profound. Pastor James Slaa was the minister of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church while the Conquer Series was run locally. Not only did he intentionally incorporate the issue in his preaching, he also took part in the series himself, something that requires an extra degree of vulnerability for a pastor. The fruit was evident quickly. “The exercise of immediately being able to confess our sins to others is something that rarely happened before, and Conquer Series provided that place for the men to come clean in just a matter of days” he shared. “Occurring on Saturday nights, there was something very special to be able to gather together for church the next day and partake fully in the gospel message of salvation and worship our great and loving God and Father.” Pastor Slaa could see the impact it was having on the entire church community. “I was also humbled and moved to tears at times to hear the testimonies of others and of their wives, seeing how God was working mightily” he shared. “In my last years in Smithers I was overwhelmed by God’s work among us. The war against evil was on, and God was winning handily and soundly.” I also reached out to a young father who was one of the first to go through the program. He asked to remain confidential but shared with me that “The Lord used it in an instrumental way to change the direction of my family and my career.” He has been exposed to other means to deal with the issue since, but none as effective. “It is the Lord who does the work, but good tools help” he added. “This is a good tool.” Devries understands the connection between tackling pornography and our spiritual health generally. “The impact has been really big. One of the biggest things is teaching us to be intentional. If you are intentional, you are in a way better position to not lose faith. Guys are testifying to how it has changed how they walk with the LORD and with their family.” He proceeded to share a couple of examples. “One of the guys asked what have I been up to. I told him about taking part in Conquers and my story. He looked at me and was just about bawling. ‘You struggle with that? I do too. This gives me hope.’ And then I saw him walk into serious victory in the battle.” “A young guy, from Grade 11 or 12, did the Conquer Series and then when it was done he came to me and said ‘Thanks man. This has given me hope when I thought I would never escape.’ He has gone on and been leading other groups since.” “A guy five years older than me did it and testified ‘It is the first time in my life that I have hope that I can gain the victory from this.’” DeVries shared that an indirect result is that there is more communication between husbands and wives. “If people are hiding something, the sexual relationship is affected, which affects a lot of life.” “There is more openness among women and they are more vulnerable with each other. That is something with my parent’s generation that was far more difficult. Most women have two or three people that they can be open with. That is probably a spin-off from the men taking the lead.” This also made DeVries think of the text found in Judges 5:2: “When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves – praise the LORD!" DeVries believes that the program may even have indirectly resulted in the steady, deliberate, and firm leadership of the local churches through Covid. “People were charitable with each other. Relationships were maintained in a very difficult time. There was a willingness to listen and be vulnerable with others.” Amidst all of the reports of success, it was also evident that there is one demographic that DeVries remains particularly concerned about – older men. “There is a generation that seems to have given up.” He later explained, “it is a bit harder to break through to the older ones who think they have a lot more to lose if they come clean on this stuff.” One challenge with leading change, especially with problems that run deep, is maintaining a good trajectory and not falling back into old routines and sin. I asked if those who have gone through the program have been able to continue to walk in freedom. DeVries affirmed that has been the case, but that it requires intentionality. That is why many who have gone through it went on to lead other groups. They have also maintained accountability phone calls.  Humility needed I also asked DeVries whether there is anything unique about the Reformed community that there was such interest in these programs. “From what I understand now, it is that we don’t know how to deal with trauma. If we look through our past seventy years, we see World War Two, a church split, immigration, settling into a new community, a new language, and a lot of hardship. A lot of trauma happened.” At the same time, families weren’t well prepared to deal with the brokenness. “Dad is busy just getting food on the table. Everyone is kind of living in a suppression. Amidst that, there is physical and sexual abuse. Moms and Grandmas are giving everything except themselves. I have noticed this as an elder through the years. A lot of people couldn’t open up during a home visit, especially the older generation.” Although the Conquer Series has blessed more than two million people worldwide, it isn’t known by most Reformed communities. But the impact it has had in the Bulkley Valley has caused others to hear of it and ask for more information. DeVries has fielded interest from Reformed Christians in Winnipeg, Edmonton, and the Fraser Valley. Some have testified to how there is a lot of resistance to doing something similar in the local Reformed churches in their area. I reached out to one Reformed Christian in a different part of Canada, who has devoted much effort in the past decade to seeing his church community address the same issue and asked to remain anonymous because of the negative experience he has had. Unlike DeVries, he was exasperated and deeply disappointed, especially by the church leadership. His assessment was blunt. “There are way too many people involved and they don’t want to deal with it.” “The problem is so big,” he shared, “that I don’t know a young man who isn’t involved.” But when he tried to bring leadership to the issue by bringing in speakers and resources, he was frustrated by the response from his church community. “ find everything that they don’t like” he shared. “80 percent of the time was spent on what we disagreed with.” Yet he continues to speak about the issue one-on-one because “I have seen the joy that transpires when people are set free.” It starts with starting There is indeed a longstanding suspicion from many in the Reformed community towards utilizing resources that don’t originate from within. There’s often good reason for these concerns, as we’re warned that many who profess to be Christian are actually wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15). So practicing discernment (1 John 4:1), and exercising caution is admirable. But paralysis is not. When faced with a pressing issue like pornography we can’t be so worried about making a misstep that we don’t take any steps at all. This would be akin to the servant in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) who fearfully hid his talent, rather than risk misinvesting it. When asked what advice he has for others who may want to consider running the program, DeVries was quick to offer “Keep it simple and just do it.” Don’t make it too big. Don’t force people. Just start it and let the yeast do its work.” DeVries credits the success of the program to the fact that it jives with God’s Word, including the call to each of us in James 5:16 to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed….” Mark Penninga is the Executive Director of Reformed Perspective. You are invited to meet with Bill DeVries in October, via a new online forum, RP Conversations. Sign up, and find out more information here. Pastor James Slaa on the Conquer Series ***** "I remember the time when Conquer Series began. I heard that a group of men were getting together at an undisclosed location to deal with the matter of pornography. That was good news to me! I didn’t get too involved at that time, other than talk with organizers and get a broad understanding of the program. "The next year organizers wanted to run the program again, due to its success, and I was encouraged by one brother to attend, if only to provide support and encouragement. Having heard so many good things about it by now, I did. The program was running on Saturday evenings, from 7:00 to 10:00, which can be an important time for a pastor. It’s time to go over the sermons for the next day. Also, traditionally it was the evening to catch some Hockey Night in Canada. And finally, it’s a time to spend with family after a busy week. So, it took some sacrifice to commit. But since other men were committing to take the 10-week program every Saturday night, which was for them also usually a family night, and a time to relax, I felt I had no real excuse. Imagine my surprise when seeing over 60 men having registered! "I had some amazing first impressions. I remember the excitement in the air, which I eventually understood was really a large group of men who were expressing real hope. I also remember my initial reaction to the media presentation, which was professional and high quality. I recall the commitment of the program to be Biblical and Christian. I fondly remember how eventually nobody cared about keeping secret the undisclosed location and what was going on – there was such an excitement and joy over the next weeks that not only the men spoke openly about attending, but many wives were noting the substantial transformations of their husbands, and could not contain their exuberance! Besides, when people drive by a parking lot full of cars on a Saturday night, they naturally want to know what’s going on. "Personally, I received a lot of feedback from the attendees. They also commented on how much it meant to them that I too was attending and participating. I started to include material in the sermons and even preached on key Bible verses. This was very well received. Many strong bonds were forged amongst the men; I too built strong and lasting relationships on account of my attendance. We were a band of brothers, fighting the great evil and enemy of our time. "But I also knew that participating in the Conquer Series meant I too would be confronted by Scripture concerning my own life, thoughts, and actions. Conquer Series doesn’t merely address the sin and addiction of pornography but goes deeper into how the mind works and the brain functions. I greatly benefitted in weeding out a lot of junk in my own life. I grew in personal Bible devotions. I sought accountability in my life and on my devices. I remember how sitting in my small group for the first time that I was resisting opening up, but that over time, witnessing my fellow brothers confessing their sins, and seeing the Holy Spirit working, I too eventually opened up and expressed my own struggles, anger, frustrations, and stresses in my life. There was real joy and liberation in doing that and finding forgiveness in Jesus Christ. "At week six the idea is that there is full disclosure to your small group, and for me to know that was coming in my small group seemed inconceivable, but it is amazing how by the time you get to that week, you are led by the Holy Spirit and prepared to be open and honest, confessing your sins to one another, seeking prayers from each other, and experiencing freedom and liberation from the power of sin, and knowing assuredly the forgiveness of sins. Knowing as well that there will be falls and relapses, still, the exercise of immediately being able to confess our sins to others is something that rarely happened before, and Conquer Series provided that place for the men to come clean in just a matter of days. Occurring on Saturday nights, there was something very special to be able to gather together for church the next day and partake fully in the gospel message of salvation and worship our great and loving God and Father. "I was also humbled and moved to tears at times to hear the testimonies of others and of their wives, seeing how God was working mightily. In my last years in Smithers I was overwhelmed by God’s work among us. The war against evil was on, and God was winning handily and soundly. "I knew there were some concerns about whether this program is Biblically sound. Personally, I found nothing significant that was an attack on the Reformed faith and thus of the evil one. Satan was being slammed down, and that was evidence enough to me that this is a Biblical and Christian program that advanced truth and freedom. I look back with fondness on that special time with my brothers in the Lord and how through God’s grace and power we experienced real victory, a taste of what is to come!"...

History

"I have a bridge to sell you" (and other deals too good to be true)

I recently received an e-mail from a Nigerian prince who wanted to share his wealth with me. He told me it was millions and millions of dollars. However, he needed a few thousand dollars from me upfront to help cover bank fees and other expenses. I’d have to be a fool to turn him down, wouldn’t I? What could go wrong? I just received a text from a bank where I don’t have an account. They said they had four million dollars to transfer to me from a great uncle I can’t remember. All I had to do was click on the link in the text. I’d have to be a fool to turn that down, wouldn't I? What could go wrong? Preying on the newly landed These are the types of scams a lot of people fall for and it’s nothing new. Preying on people’s greed is probably as old as time itself and, yet, we fall for it again and again. Perhaps one of the most infamous people to prey on that desire for easy riches was George C. Parker, a New York-based confidence man.  In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Parker made a habit of meeting the immigrants getting off the boats at New York’s Ellis Island. While many of the immigrants coming in at the island were the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, some came to America with substantial amounts of money. It was these that Parker sought out. When he was able to strike up a conversation with one of these wealthy individuals, he would maneuver the discussion to the topic of the Brooklyn Bridge. This New York landmark, joining the districts of Brooklyn and Manhattan, is visible from Ellis Island. In the late 1800s it was one of the most recognizable symbols of the prosperity of the mighty America. Just imagine how much money you could make if you owned the bridge and were able to charge tolls to cross it. Once, twice, thrice... When Parker managed to get his new immigrant friend to the beginning of the bridge there was, as if by magic, a "For Sale" sign attached to the bridge. Like other con men who tried to sell the structure, Parker likely learned the schedule of the regular rounds of the New York City beat cops. If the police never saw a sign advertising the sale of the bridge, they really couldn’t get upset about it.  To further the scheme, Parker apparently had impressive, but forged, papers showing him to be the owner of the famous landmark. And so with the documentation, the "For Sale" sign, and the promise of fabulous wealth from tolls, Parker managed to sell the Brooklyn Bridge to the gullible immigrant. And, being successful as a con man - if successful is the right term - Parker sold the bridge to someone else as well, and then he sold it again, and again, and again. It wasn’t until the unfortunate purchaser of the bridge tried to set up toll booths that they learned from the police that they’d been fleeced. There’s a story that Parker bragged about selling the bridge twice a week for decades on end. And while no one I read believes the claim, it highlights Parker’s audacity. He got caught sometimes, being convicted of fraud on three occasions. But in 1908, after his second conviction, he put on a sheriff’s coat and hat that had been left lying around and simply walked away from the courthouse.  "I've got a statue to sell you.." The man was flexible as well. If the bridge had no appeal for his mark, Parker was not above trying to sell the person Madison Square Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or the Statue of Liberty. What did him in was not trying to sell New York infrastructure, but passing a bad check. A state law imposed a mandatory life sentence on anyone convicted of four felony offences. Though the check was only one hundred fifty dollars, and not the fifty thousand that he’d sometimes scammed from his victims by selling the Brooklyn Bridge, the offence sent Parker to prison for the last eight years of his life. He was said to be a popular prisoner since, as a scam artist, he had learned how to spin a tale and most of those tales were of his own exploits. Something for comparitively nothing is a bad deal What allowed Parker’s career was simple human greed. Greed blinds us. We see an enormous profit and we fail to understand the risks. We fail to do what the investors call “due diligence.”  Wanting something too badly can blind us to the risks whether in our finances, our relationships, or our careers. We can’t – or won’t – see the obvious peril right in front of us.  It’s a risk we all run, and we’ve all certainly felt the sting out of wanting something a bit more than is good for us. And if you don’t believe me there, let me just say that I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. James Dykstra is a sometimes history teacher, author, and podcaster at History.icu “where history is never boring.” Find his podcast at History.icu, or on Spotify, Google podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts....

Culture Clashes, News

Peppa Pig propagandizes preschoolers

During the COVID lockdowns, some North American children began developing a British accent, and started using words like “mummy” and “water closet.” This development was tied to watching Peppa Pig, a popular British animated children’s show about a 4-year-old piglet. Too much TV isn't a good thing, but if ever your children were going to overdose on a TV show, this was one of the better options. Peppa is occasionally bratty, but more often kind, her dad is a bit too bumbling, but he is also very loving, and overall the show is gentle but not inane. For 18 years now, Peppa has been a peaceful pig, but not a bore. In fact, the most controversy the show has previously garnered was for having a stay-at-home mummy – that was seen as misogynist. However, on the September 6 episode, the show decided to begin promoting homosexuality to their young viewers. The scene involves Peppa’s classmate, a polar bear named Penny, explaining, “I live with my mummy and my other mummy. One mummy is a doctor, and one mummy cooks spaghetti.” Peppa is only the latest of many children’s shows to bow the knee to the LGBT lobby. Arthur has featured a teacher having a same-sex “marriage,” and a few years back Muppet Babies had baby Gonzo put on a dress and heels to become princess “Gonzorella.” And last year Nickelodeon's Blue's Clues and You featured an animated drag queen leading an animated gay pride parade to celebrate "Pride Month." Some conservative commentators have criticized this “woke” turn, but with one arm tied behind their back. For example, Matt Walsh described princess Gonzo as “silly,” “ridiculous,” and “creepy.” But because the Catholic Walsh studiously avoids basing any of his objections on what God says in His Word, he can’t go much beyond name calling. What could Walsh offer, if he was asked why a children’s show featuring a boy in a dress is silly? What Walsh doesn’t address is the real reason it is creepy: that it is rebellion against God, and against His plan for men and women and for marriage. That rebellion has consequences, which can include separation from God, emotional turmoil, radical disfiguring surgeries, the inherent instability of same-sex coupling, and the impact on a child of not having a father in their life. That's something a lot more substantial than mere creepiness. So what can we do about it? Should we start a petition? Maybe we can develop our own children's programming? Not bad ideas. But the easiest and quickest response is simply to tell our kids to turn off the TV, shut the laptop, and go outside and play. The picture is a screenshot from the 7th season, Episode 41 show titled "families."...

Assorted

The coming battles over church property

Same-sex “marriage” and sexual morality were hot topics in evangelicalism in the late-90s and early 2000s. Since the legalization of same-sex “marriage” in 2005, the issue appeared to have been resolved within the church: the affirming and orthodox churches had staked out their respective positions. However, the issue has recently resurfaced in several denominations and will likely lead to further schisms in those communities. Denominational schisms Perhaps the most prominent of these recent examples is in the Christian Reformed Church in North America (“CRC”) whose Synod, at a meeting in June of this year, affirmed the orthodox biblical view of marriage and sexual morality. It raised the issue to the status of an explicit confession stating that “The church must warn its members that those who refuse to repent of these sins – as well as of idolatry, greed, and other such sins – will not inherit the kingdom of God.” The consensus is that many congregations will split from the CRC over this issue. Several CRC churches have, over the years, admitted individuals who are married to their same-sex partners or otherwise openly and unrepentantly living a homosexual lifestyle into church membership and even church leadership. How can these churches remain in the CRC? Will they warn their membership of the consequences of engaging in these sins, while some of their leadership does so? That is unlikely, and thus a schism will develop within this denomination. And the CRC is not the only denomination facing this challenge. There are other denominations where particular congregations are no longer operating within the theological parameters of their denomination. The CRC is simply more front-and-center right now, given the publicity generated by their June Synod. Legal implications Many complex legal issues arise when churches split from their denominations or associations. Churches whose names include “Christian Reformed” will likely need to amend their legal names and any trademarks they may hold. CRC-affiliated educational institutions which have adopted an affirming stance on same-sex “marriage” and sexual morality, like Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, may need to re-apply for government accreditation under their new identity. Perhaps the most difficult and important issue they will face is related to church properties. Over the last decade, church property disputes arose after splits relating to beliefs over same-sex “marriage” in both Anglican and Episcopal churches in Canada and the USA. The schism resulted in protracted litigation over the proper ownership of church buildings and lands in both examples. We will likely see similar litigation here in Canada, perhaps in the CRC, or perhaps in other denominations or in non-denominational churches. Different churches have different property ownership and governance structures. There could be a variety of legal cases and outcomes. Who owns the church building or the private school? Some may be owned by the congregation. Some congregations may be incorporated while others are not. Some may be owned by the original trustees who founded the congregation. Some may have been bequeathed by an estate for specific use by the CRC. Some may have been purchased by an existing congregation. The issues are complex and case-specific. Some congregations’ membership or leadership may disagree on whether to split from the denomination. Divisions may arise not only within denominations but within individual congregations and councils. In the past, we’ve seen such schisms divide communities and families. Churches need to brace for controversies that may be coming – theologically, relationally, and legally. Be clear, early I write this as a Christian first and a lawyer second. I am deeply concerned about churches caving to cultural pressures and denying Scriptural truths. I am also concerned about such practical costs as I see in my line of work – legal disputes that are financially and relationally costly. Denominations need to prepare themselves for potential battles ahead and should be consulting legal counsel pre-emptively to examine their risks and responsibilities. Ask yourself: is it clear where your church stands on certain controversial issues? Are you prepared legally to address divisions over such issues within your church? Albertos Polizogopoulos is co-founder of the Acacia Group and a constitutional litigation lawyer who specializes in freedom of religion. The Acacia Group is Canada’s only openly Christian law firm devoted to offering legal and crisis communications services to churches, organizations, individuals, and businesses. ...

News

Saturday Selections – September 3, 2022

Birds are crafted (2 min) In this clip from the documentary Flight: the Genius of Birds, we get to explore how the depth of design needed, even merely in a bird's muscles, shouts out that it has a brilliant Designer! Counseling our teens from Proverbs (30-min read) " said that the average father spends seven to eleven minutes a week in meaningful conversations with his children beyond short phrases like 'pass the butter,' 'pass the salt,' or 'thank you for the meal.' When I thought about that, it was tragic.." - Ron Allchin, author of Growing in Wisdom: A Bible Study in Proverbs for Fathers and Sons More on projectors in worship A pastor and a church organist share some thoughts... How the American recycling programs failed Much of the material being collected via separate garbage trucks, and sometimes brought to separate processing centers to be recycled is, after all this added expense, then dumped into a landfill. That's a problem, clearly. But is the problem to be found only at the end, when the recycling is dumped, or is the bigger problem right at the start, with the waste of resources spent in separating it in the first place? Two tales from the Euthanasia Dystopia Spain doesn't have the death penalty for criminals... but will euthanize them. And in Canada, a veteran suffering from PTSD couldn't get the care he needed but was offered euthanasia instead. And as Breakpoint Ministries notes, next year it looks like they'll be offering it to children, or as they put it, "mature minors." 5 tech questions to ask every school principal The folks at Covenant Eyes have created a short list of questions parents should ask their school’s administration to get a good idea of what sort of digital risks their kids will be exposed to at school. Mikhail Gorbachev (1931-2022) Mikhail Gorbachev, the last President of the Soviet Union, died this week. He oversaw the dismantling of an empire that was, literally, set on world domination. Many today are too young to know just how bad the Soviet Union was, so to honor Gorbachev's passing, here's Ronald Reagan reminding us by telling jokes at the Soviet Union's expense. ...

News

Good news: CRC Synod reaffirms homosexual sex is sin

At their annual synod this earlier year, the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) took a stand for biblical sexuality. They officially accepted – by a majority vote of about 70% – a 2020 report from the Committee to Articulate a Foundation-laying Biblical Theology of Human Sexuality. The Human Sexuality Report affirmed the traditional Biblical teaching that homosexual sex is sinful and clearly forbidden by Scripture. The report also recommended that Synod 2022 declare that this traditional stance already has confessional status within the CRC. In other words, the committee’s report stated that the Three Forms of Unity currently declare homosexual sex (along with all other forms of unchastity such as premarital sex, extramarital sex, adultery, pornography, and polyamory) to be sinful and against God’s Word. In a separate vote the next day, Synod 2022 accepted this recommendation with just slightly less support: about 69% of delegates voted in favor. This decision by a relatively small (in North American terms) denomination received much attention within and outside the CRC. More liberal-leaning CRC members – including a large group of Calvin University professors who had signed a petition urging non-acceptance of the report – expressed dismay at the decision. Some publicly stated that this may be the impetus for them to leave the federation or their current role at Calvin. Outside the CRC, orthodox Christians rejoiced that sound Biblical teaching was upheld, and that the Bible was used as the main authority by which to arrive at thoughtful conclusions. Writing for “World Opinions,” Steven Wedgeworth, an Anglican rector from Indiana, called the decision “a valiant stand… The CRC has defended moral orthodoxy.” Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, also lauded the decision: “All those who have a Biblical understanding of sexuality (should be) celebrating what the CRC has done!  It has taken the bold and convictional step of confessionalizing what it knows the Bible to teach on homosexuality.” Many readers are familiar with past CRC Synod’s decisions that went against traditional interpretations of Scripture. My own family left a CRC in the 1980s when Synod allowed women to serve as ministers, elders, and deacons. We pray that this may be a sign of an increasingly faithful view of Scripture and the Confessions in the CRC....

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – August 2022

Great Communicator on communication and diaper changes Ronald Reagan was nicknamed “The Great Communicator” for his ability to connect with his listening audience. But that wasn’t something he was just born with – he thought a lot about it, as evidenced in this joke he told. I've always thought of the importance of communication and how much a part it plays in what you and I what all of us are trying to do. One day…a sports announcer, Danny Villanueva, told me about communication. He said he'd been having dinner over at the home of a young ball player with the Dodgers. The young wife was bustling about getting the dinner ready, they were talking sports, and the baby started to cry. Over her shoulder, his busy wife said to the ball player, “Change the baby.” Well, he was a young fellow, and he was embarrassed in front of Danny. He said, “What do you mean change the baby? I'm a ballplayer; that's not my line of work.” Well, she turned around, put her hands on her hips and she communicated. She said, “Look buster, you lay the diaper out like a diamond, you put second base on home plate, you put the baby's bottom on the pitcher's mound, you hook up first and third, slide home underneath. And if it starts to rain, the game ain't called; you just start all over!” God can use even a stolen book … A former homosexual, Rachel Gilson, recently explained how God turned her around. The author of Born Again This Way: Coming Out, Coming to Faith, and What Comes Next, shared that it began with her girlfriend dumping her for a guy who was basically homeless, living in his van. Then at an acquaintance’s house, a non-practicing Catholic, she noticed a bookshelf. “…and one of my favorite hobbies is to look at people’s bookshelves and judge them, you know? So, I’m checking it out, looking up and down.  And there was a copy – there was a book on this shelf. The spine read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, and so I thought, ‘Oh, I really want to read that book,’ but I was too embarrassed to ask my friend for it. So, I just stole the book because, again, I had no moral code, right?.... So, I was sitting in the library soon after that, reading Mere Christianity, and while I was reading it one day, I was just overwhelmed with the realization that God exists….. I was just overwhelmed with the reality of God. And not like a store brand, you know, like Zeus or something, but the God who made me and who made everything and who was perfect. It was like I could sense God’s holiness even though I didn’t know that vocabulary and the only thing I felt was fear. I’m arrogant. I’m cruel. I’m sexually immoral. I lie. I cheat. I’m reading a stolen book. It’s clear all of the chips are in the guilty category, right? I had no confusion at that moment either, but really quickly with that I also understood that part of the reason Jesus had come was to place Himself as a barrier between God’s wrath and me. And that the only way to be safe was to run towards Him, not away from Him. SOURCE: John Stonestreet’s “On being saved from confusion: the testimony of Rachel Gilson” posted to Breakpoint.org on June 10, 2022. Gratitude lurking… In his autobiography, G.K. Chesterton expressed how even in the depths of despair, a man might not be so far from optimism. Though there is a chasm between the two, the bridge over is that of amazement, leading to gratitude. “No man knows how much he is an optimist, even when he calls himself a pessimist, because he has not really measured the depths of his debt to whatever created him and enabled him to call himself anything. At the back of our brains, so to speak, there a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence. The object of the artistic and spiritual life to dig for this submerged sunrise of wonder; so that a man sitting in a chair might suddenly understand that he actually alive, and be happy." The Journalist In the past, he had to “pay dues” And develop “a nose for the news.” Well, he still has a nose, But, my, how it grows When the facts must conform to his views. – F.R. Duplantier (used with permission) Forgiving vs. excusing “I find that when I think I am asking God to forgive me I am often in reality…asking Him not to forgive me but to excuse me. But there is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing. Forgiveness says ‘Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology. I will never hold it against you and everything between us two will be exactly as it was before.’ But excusing says ‘I see that you couldn’t help it or didn’t mean it; you weren’t really to blame.’ If one was not really to blame then there is nothing to forgive. In that sense, forgiveness and excusing are almost opposites....When it comes to a question of our forgiving other people, it is partly the same and partly different. It is the same because, here also, forgiving does not mean excusing. Many people seem to think it does. They think that if you ask them to forgive someone who has cheated or bullied them you are trying to make out that there was really no cheating or no bullying. But if that were so, there would be nothing to forgive. They keep on replying, “But I tell you the man broke a most solemn promise.” Exactly: that is precisely what you have to forgive. (This doesn’t mean that you must necessarily believe his next promise. It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart – every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out.) The difference between this situation and the one in which you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough.” – C.S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory 10 reasons English is a silly language Homophones – words that sound alike but have different meanings – are unique to the English language, but we have an awful lot of them. In looking at the examples below, I felt like I almost saw the thread of a story moving from one sentence to the next. If an aspiring student wants to try to make a coherent story using as many of these homophones as possible, please send it on in. You can reach the editor via our contact form. 1) The bandage was wound around the wound. 2) The farm was used to produce produce. 3) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert. 4) A weak spring means I have wind my wind gauge once a week. 5) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes. 6) Excuse me but there’s no excuse for this. 7) I need to read what I read again. 8) Wait just a minute – that’s making a mountain of something minute! 9) I object to that object and I’m not content with this content. 10) As there’s no time like the present, they’re going to present their present. SOURCE: here and there on the Internet Marriage matters materially “What do you think distinguishes the high and low poverty populations? The only statistical distinction in both the Black and White populations is marriage. There is far less poverty in married-couple families, where presumably at least one of the spouses is employed.” - Economist Walter Williams (1936-2020) Someone wants you to talk Many a famous quote can’t be traced back to the person who was supposed to have said it. Here’s three of just that sort, the first two likely not said by who there are attributed to, while the third remains a maybe. So why pass them on? Well, after reading these three on the problem with silence you’re going to feel challenged to speak… even if you don’t know who exactly issued the challenge. “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.” – attributed, almost certainly falsely, to Martin Luther Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. – attributed to, but probably not by, Dietrich Bonhoeffer “When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become your sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith.” – credited to Abraham Kuyper (and it may be so) A law even a libertarian could love “Even many of us who believe in free enterprise have fallen into the habit of saying when something goes wrong: ‘There ought to be a law.’ Sometimes I think there ought to be a law against saying there ought to be a law. – Ronald Reagan...

Assorted

Come, sweet death, Come blessed rest!  

Last week, while working in the backyard, I chanced to speak with one of our neighbors. There is only a wire fence separating our properties and talking across it makes for good contact. "Bob," our neighbor, was weeding his garden on his hands and knees.  Quite a feat actually because he is in his middle eighties. When I strolled over, he hoisted himself upright and we chatted about the weather, about the weeds and about our children. "I've got to do something today," he inserted into the conversation, "that I've been putting off for a long time." "What's that, Bob?" I asked. "I've got to bury my wife," he answered. I was floored for a moment. My husband and I knew that his wife had died some years ago before we had moved into the neighborhood. "Bury your wife?" I repeated. "Yes, and last week I dreamed that she told me: 'Bob, it's about time.'" I really had no words and stared at him. "We're going to the cemetery this afternoon to bury her ashes," he clarified. "Oh." It was all I could come up with. "My daughter's coming along. My wife's always wanted to be buried in the local cemetery here, the one by the Mennonite church." We stood in silence for a moment before he continued. "I contacted the gal over at the church who's in charge of the cemetery and she said it was fine." "That's good." It was a neutral comment. "Yes, but there was one problem. My wife, you see, was born Catholic and the priest said that the burial ground had to be consecrated. But when I mentioned that to the gal over at the Mennonite church, she said: 'Bob, ground's ground,' and that's all there is to it." "She was right," I agreed. "Yes, I thought so too. So this afternoon's the time." "You must miss your wife a lot." "Every day," Bob responded. "You know," I said, and at this point my husband had also walked up to the fence, "if your wife believed in the Lord Jesus and that He forgave all her sins, then the moment she died she was with Him." "She did," he said. "And if you believe that too, Bob," I tacked on, "then you will someday see the Lord Jesus and your wife as well." "I know," he said. My husband then asked Bob if he ever read the Bible. "It's a difficult book to read," he responded, "and so many people interpret different parts of it in different ways. How are you to know what's right and what is meant?" "It's true," my husband allowed, "and some interpretations are wrong. But basically if you read the Bible, Bob, you will understand most of what you read and it will help you in living." "There are so many things," Bob came back, "and where do you start?" "By talking to your neighbors," I said. And we left it at that, until next time. And Bob went to bury the ashes of his wife. ***** Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), used the lyrics of an unknown poet to compose the music to one of his wonderful, melodious works. The words ask death to come quickly and to bear the singer to heaven to see the face of his Savior. It is a moving song with an emotional text. If you can sing it, how blessed indeed you are! Come, sweet death, come, blessed rest! Come lead me to peace because I am weary of the world. O come! I wait for you, come soon and lead me, close my eyes. Come, blessed rest! As Paul said in Philippians 1:21: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." ***** Just last week we received notice that a dear friend had died. Betty was in her eighties and I was asked to write a remembrance. Betty was a friend I loved dearly. Her middle name could have been "helpful" and she was full of faith. There would only be a small service at the funeral home and perhaps people would be there who had no knowledge of Jesus. This is what I wrote. Betty - a remembering and a looking forward to "Faith" Hebrews 11 tells us, "is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." It is a faithful friend who always points you towards things hoped for, and who tells you of her conviction of things not seen. Such a friend was Betty. She constantly pointed me to the protection of our heavenly Father. Betty and I shared thoughts and ideas for the last twenty years or so. Letters were often sent to her address and, much to my regret, I can't do that any longer. Not much of a letter writer herself, she would phone me and we would chat. It was great! She can't phone me any longer. And yet it is at this point that I recall Hebrews 11 and 12. Hebrews 11 is one of the most beautiful chapters of the Bible and one of the most encouraging. But Hebrews 12 follows hard on its heels and shines just as brightly if not more so. It begins with, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses... let us look to Jesus...." That is to say, since we have access to so many ordinary people who lived faithful lives before we did, we can never use the excuse that we were not told about Jesus. Betty lived before us; Betty was an ordinary housewife; Betty was gifted with remarkable and sturdy faith; and Betty is now part of the Hebrews 12 cloud of witnesses. She is now one of those who surrounds us and points us to look to Jesus. Betty ran her earthly race, a race that was often marked with difficulties and loneliness, with endurance. She unfailingly looked for and spoke of Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of her faith. She did so for the joy that was before her, the joy of going to heaven to see, not just her family, but her Savior, Jesus Christ. When we miss Betty, let us remember her Creator and Savior. For she was with Him in Paradise at the exact moment she drew her last breath. I'm thankful to God that I knew her and that I will see her again. Christine Farenhorst's most recent book might be her best yet! Read our review of "The New Has Come" here, and check out most any online retailer to order a copy. ...

News

Saturday Selections - August 20, 2022

Trick shots from level 1 to 1oo School has been out for a while now - are the kids getting antsy with nothing to do? Here's something that may inspire a bit of fun! Indoctrinated by the Matrix "In itself, indoctrination is good; children have to learn the rules and virtues, and be molded gradually into adults who will be capable of living wise and good lives. But how are they indoctrinated, and into what? We used to assume that each generation would be a lot like the one before it. No longer. But why not?" Scientists are undermining our trust in science "A just-published exposé in the journal Science claims that a seminal study on the causes of Alzheimer’s disease may contain falsified data...." 4 guidelines for dating without regret Stop acting like you're married when you're not Make intentions known when you're dating - ie "I would like to take you on a date this weekend” vs. “Let’s hang out some time” Foreplay is not play Realize that you are not already committed Monkeypox: we can stop it but health authorities aren't shouting out how Even as authorities said COVID-19 necessitated church closures, they let BLM protests proceed. We'd be mystified as to the contradiction if God hadn't told us there are spiritual forces seeking to oppose His Church and champion chaos. More recently the Devil's fingerprints are evident in how monkeypox has been declared a "global health emergency" even as the obvious cure isn't being shared. It is getting attention because of the group afflicted (homosexuals), however the prevention (stop messing around!) is only being obscured because it involves taking at least a step toward God's standards for sex. Privacy: who needs it? We're getting tracked by giant social media companies, but, more importantly, by our governments too. But if we're not doing anything wrong, why should we care if they know what we're up to? Well, in a world where the norms are constantly changing, your politics and especially your biblical stances on sexuality could be used against you at a later date. The video below is a libertarian perspective but it offers thoughts worth Christians' consideration too. ...

Assorted

Hospitality hacks for folks who want to be, but keep finding excuses not to be, hospitable

As Christians, we know that hospitality is important, but if you've ever tried it, you also know that it can be really hard, and we can find so many reasons to put it off. When I moved out of my parents' house five years ago, I decided to try to invite everyone from my church over at least once in the space of a year. As a single person, I had to get creative as I set out on this endeavor. Here are some things I learned by doing and by observing. 1) Just do it Hosting people can be very intimidating. What will we talk about? What if they don't like the food I made? Just remember that God blesses all obedience and He has clearly commanded that we show hospitality (1 Peter 4:9). Even if at the end of the visit you feel that it went poorly, remind yourself that God is pleased with your obedience, and His pleasure is ultimately what we're after.  2) Think about inviting more than one family When you invite more than one family that means you can leave them to talk to each other while you prepare food/get things ready. This also takes the pressure off you to keep the conversation going because if you have more people together, naturally there will be more opinions and topics coming up. 3) When inviting strangers, have some prepared questions/topics to discuss If I don't know the people coming over, I try to have some getting-to-know-you-questions and interesting topics in the back of my mind so that if the conversation gets stale I can revive it. 4) Know how to cook something You don’t have to be a master chef to have people over - most people don't care what you feed them (though it is always wise to ask about allergies and if there are any foods they don't like). But it is good to put in some practice until you have few staple recipes up your sleeve so you can cook without getting stressed. It's also handy to have extra cookies in the freezer – cookies are a treat even unthawed – and ingredients for a meal that's quick to put together for when you haven't had time to prepare. 5) Take people up on their offers Often, when I invite people over, they ask if they can bring something. Say "yes." If you're making soup, one family could bring buns and another family could bring dessert. This helps cover the cost of feeding a lot of people and it makes people feel more comfortable when they've helped out. 6) Remember the kids Own toys and books for children. This doesn’t need to be costly if you keep an eye out at garage sales or visit a thrift store or two. And if you have children, hosting families with other children is a wonderful opportunity to teach them to look not only to their own interests but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). 7) Know it doesn't have to be perfect It's more important that you actually practice hospitality than that you're all put together. It's nice if your house is clean, but it's okay if it's not. We all have homes. We all know homes get messy. Some of the best visits have happened when I've left the dishes heaped on the counter, thrown together some macaroni, and we ate off plastic plates. Conclusion Finally, when it comes to being hospitable perhaps the most important thing of all is deciding that you will be. God doesn't call us just to host the people we like. We are to welcome strangers, our neighbors, and our church families. Maybe you're church is too big to have everyone over in a year. Could you do it in two years? Three years? At the very least you could try to talk to everyone in the lobby after church in the course of a year. Give it a try. Don't know your neighbors? Start by saying "hi" and learning their names. You could host a games night, invite them over for pizza, shovel their driveway, or plan a block party. The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon is a good resource on neighboring well. And remember, hospitality is how you get to know strangers. Look around you at church on Sunday morning, I'm sure there will be visitors you could talk to. If you invite them into your home that's fantastic, and if you simply talk to them at church it's still showing hospitality as you welcome them in your church setting. Through hospitality we tangibly show God's love to those around us. Prayerful consider how much you and your family can do this year. And then do it....

News

Saturday Selections – August 13, 2022

Fantastic fireflies! (8 min) Most everyone would say fireflies are super cool, but we really have no idea. God has crafted a creature that has a near 100% efficiency in turning the energy they produce into light. Compare that to an incandescent bulb that might well be just 10% efficient. A A biblical case for limited government (15-min read) J.P. Moreland offers up his 7-point argument for why Christians should want, and so far as they are able should promote, limits on government. Pastor, what are your 30-year goals? This is directed at pastors, but relevant to us all. It's said "man makes plans, and God laughs" but that's not a discouragement to making plans, but to making arrogant plans – it's in line with what Jesus said about a fellow building his "farming empire" who gave no thought to how God could call him to account that very night (Luke 12:16-21). For God's people, prayerfully setting off in a deliberate direction is about trying to best use the talents God has given you (Matt. 25:14-30). On job satisfaction Some are blessed with many job opportunities, particularly early on in their lives, so if they don't like what they have, the possibility exists for seeking out something more enjoyable. But what if you're stuck in a job you don't like, and there aren't options for anything better? Tim Bayly offers some insights and encouragement... 5 guidelines for dating without regret Tim Challies weighs in with some helpful direction... China's social credit system (6 min) A refugee from China warns us of the oppressive government monitoring system he fled. What he describes happening there is not simply technologically possible here, but is becoming ideologically so, as more and more are demanding government manage ever-increasing portions of their lives. ...

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