Life's busy, read it when you're ready!

Create a free account to save articles for later, keep track of past articles you’ve read, and receive exclusive access to all RP resources.

Browse thousands of RP articles

Articles, news, and reviews with a Biblical perspective to inform, equip, and encourage Christians.

Get Articles Delivered!

Articles, news,and reviews with a Biblical perspective to inform, equip, and encourage Christians delivered direct to your inbox!

Create an Account

Save articles for later, keep track of past articles you’ve read, and receive exclusive access to all RP resources.


Advertising



Most Recent


Sexuality

The “couldn’t be my kid” delusion

Sexual temptation caught up Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived; Samson, the strongest man who ever lived; and David, a man after God’s own heart.

Our kids are not immune.

*****

I gave my first presentation on the dangers of pornography eleven years ago at a United Reformed youth camp in Alberta. At the time, as Internet use became ubiquitous and smartphones were becoming the norm, the availability of digital pornography was beginning to become an increasingly dangerous problem. Pastors and community leaders were noticing that porn use was becoming increasingly normal.

Nobody, however, suspected just how prevalent it would become over the next decade. I have given presentations to Reformed audiences – high schools, churches, youth camps, and other events – of nearly every denomination, and in the past several years I have reached an awful conclusion. Pornography use has increasingly become normal.

Reformed kids are getting addicted

I know this is difficult for many Reformed people to believe. We would like to think that preaching, parenting, and education have made us at least partially immune to this scourge. Unfortunately, as I have written in this publication before, we underestimated the extent to which the digital age would make this tremendously addictive sexual poison a nearly omnipresent temptation to nearly everyone with access to a digital device with Internet capacity – and the ways in which the porn industry works to place these images in front of every Internet user, young and old. I have spoken to hundreds of Reformed people who were exposed to pornography by accident, and ensnared as a result.

I’ve now spoken with many kids who have been hooked on pornography prior to the age of ten – something I almost never encountered just a few years ago. One young man was fifteen, and had been addicted since the age of five. Several others first encountered porn at the age of 7 or 8. I’ve lost count of the number of kids who say that they began using porn in Grade 6. Many of them got addicted by using one of the unused cell phones lying about the house, which they used to connect to Wifi and access porn – circumventing any protections their parents had put in place. (Indeed, many of the kids I spoke to came from homes where the Internet was monitored and parental efforts had been made to keep the home porn-free.)

Many young men who have reached out to me have shared that because their addiction started so young – indeed, profoundly impacted the brain development – they have been rendered incapable of viewing women and girls in a pure way. One, in desperation, told me that he badly wanted to ask a girl to graduation, but that he couldn’t even look at a girl without pornographic images surging through his mind. Young men – and increasingly, young women – are pumping hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of sexual toxins directly into their minds for years. They are taking these images into their relationships.

Young women too

A key development that I have noticed over the past several years is the spike in porn addiction among girls and young women in Reformed communities. Pornography addiction among young women has always existed, but has generally been different than male porn addiction – pornographic books, for example.

But the sheer prevalence of porn addiction and its common usage amongst many teens has changed that. At one Reformed school, every girl in high school had at least watched it. Some were struggling with several addiction issues. Accompanying this trend is sexting – personalized pornography. Most Reformed schools have had to deal with this issue at least once, and the young ages of some of the participants highlights the extent to which this problem has exploded.

I’ve also lost count of the stories I have been told by young men and women who entered marriage with an undisclosed pornography addiction (and very frequently, a consequently deformed view of sexuality), causing their spouse tremendous pain. Many of these couples struggled to heal their marriage for years; therapy is often necessary to do so. “Betrayal trauma” – which psychiatrists compare to post-traumatic stress disorder – is becoming a norm for young spouses in the first years of marriage (or, if the addiction remains hidden for years, later on.) Pastors and church leaders have told me that porn use within the Reformed community is a leading cause of marriage strife, pain, and in the worst cases, divorce.

The “couldn’t be my kid” delusion

I know there are many parents who will read this and think: This couldn’t be my children. This is other people’s kids. I had one mother come up to me after a presentation and tell me how glad she was that her sons hadn’t struggled with this poison; both of her boys had talked to me about their struggles with porn. A father told me after a parents’ evening on the porn problem that he didn’t think it was that big of an issue, but he supposed it would be worth it if one kid quit. At least one did quit as a result of attending – his son.

Because pornography is everywhere, all kids have access to it – and “good kids” get hooked just as often as rebellious ones. The Scripture warns us never to think that we will not be susceptible to sexual temptation – to say this would be saying that we are wiser than Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived; stronger than Samson, the strongest man who ever lived; and closer to God than David, the man after God’s own heart. Job was called a perfect man, but he knew his own heart well enough to commit to making a covenant with his eyes to avoid sexual sin.

Parents, we need to talk

After presentations at high schools, I take questions from the students on pieces of paper (so that they will be willing to ask whatever is on their mind). Over and over again, I get the same question: How can I get help? There are hundreds – very likely thousands – of kids in our communities who are struggling with this, too scared and ashamed to ask for help; too nervous that the adults will not be able to handle their struggles. Many have sought and received help, but many struggle alone. It is essential that we have these conversations in our homes first, but also in our schools and our communities.

The teenagers are ready. Couples struggling with this are ready. It is time for us to start fighting in earnest—and begin rebuilding.

Assorted

Aging in hope!

I am 68 years of age and retired, so I suppose I am considered old. In our politically correct times, I am called either a “senior citizen" or "chronologically gifted." What is aging? How do we react to it? These questions are no longer academic for me. When I was in my teens, I thought that people in their fifties were old. At this juncture in my life, a fifty-year-old seems relatively youthful. So aging is ambiguous. Bernard Nash describes aging as a paradox: "Does it not strike you that we all want to live longer but none of us want to grow old?" Throughout our lives we think other people grow older until we gradually realize that we ourselves have aged. Some say that aging can be compared with the fall season when the fruits ripen and the leaves fall; others claim that the moment of aging has arrived when the sum total of memories has become greater than our expectations. Aging, says the American gerontologist Howel, "is not a simple slope which everyone slides down at the same speed. It is a flight of irregular stairs down which some journey more quickly than others." To grow old also means to lose acquaintances and lifelong friends to distance, illness, and death. Obituaries testify that life is the process of aging, and aging is the steady progress of dying within us. Every moment we are alive, we are aging. Life and death are intimately linked. The day is coming when all our earthly possessions will be swept away, including our ability to enjoy them. This is not a morbid view of life – it is simply reality. As the 17th century poet Robert Herrick wrote, Gather ye rose-buds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying. And this same flower, that smile today, Tomorrow will be dying. So how do we cope with aging? We live in a society that has shown little understanding of growing old, and valued it even less. The Christian literature on aging seems sparse, with far more attention paid to child-rearing. Too little attention has been given to caring for aged parents. DENIAL CAN'T LAST It’s seems the fear of aging has contributed to a denial of reality – if we don’t talk about it, maybe it won’t happen to us, right? This sort of denial is why some find visiting a nursing home a burden. They can't imagine themselves ever being there. They don’t want the reminder of their own mortality. Our society views frankness about death as deviant, a subject not to be discussed in polite company. For many death is the last taboo in Western culture; for others it has become an exploited sentimentality: people don't attend funerals anymore, but instead “celebrations of a life lived.” And when they do talk about death, it is to make light of it, with styrofoam tombstones on the front yard on All Hallows’ Eve. But their atheistic naturalism leaves them unable to face the brute finality of death. And because they are unwilling to return to a biblical perspective, a new generation puts their faith in reports of out-of-body experiences and in New Age mysticism. Still, try as it might, the world cannot keep death out of sight and mind. The moment we are born, we begin to die. PERPETUAL TEENAGERS The world’s death denial is evident, too, in how it is now a common goal among the aged to stay young. Or, rather, not just stay young, but stay immature. Whereas in the past becoming an adult was the ideal, today the older generation wants to look as young as possible, with some trying to camouflage their age by dressing like teenagers. In his own inimitable and not very flattering way, British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge reported on a month he spent at a resort in Florida. He said that everything was done to make senior citizens feel that they were not really aged, but still full of zest and expectations; if not teenagers, then keenagers. These seniors, he said, had withered bodies arrayed in dazzling summer wear, hollow eyes glaring out of garish caps, skulls plastered with cosmetics, lean shanks tanned a rich brown, bony buttocks encased in scarlet trousers. Muggeridge's description may be exaggerated, but it does say something about the affect contemporary youth culture has on our society. It has a negative and morbid view of aging. FOREVER ON EARTH? The advertisement industry contributes to this mood. Wherever we look, there are ads for anti-aging creams, yoga routines, nutritional programs, and medical interventions. Growing old is seen not so much as part of the human condition but rather as a solvable medical and scientific problem. Hence, doctors and scientists search for a solution to the "problem of old age." What are the chances that scientific advance will find a way to extend life indefinitely? A number of investors have paid large sums to have their bodies frozen at death by means of cryogenics, which is used to freeze beef and vegetables, as well as people. But as Dr. Russell points out in his secular work Good News About Aging, those who cherish dreams of being defrosted and living forever some time hence are probably cherishing an implausible dream because freezing destroys human body cells. He adds: "…even if we can overcome this and other problems, no scientific evidence suggests that we can expect to eliminate death now or in the future because all things break down over time." And what if we could live forever? In our fallen world, would we really want to? In his 1922 play The Makropulos Secret, Karel Capek probes this issue with the 337-year-old character Emilia, who notes: "… no one can love for three hundred years – it cannot last. And then everything tires one. It tires one to be good, it tires one to be bad. The whole earth tires one. And then you find out there is nothing at all: no sin, no pain, no earth, nothing." What a hideous future! To be given an everlasting longevity without being regenerated by the Holy Spirit, without hope to be with the Lord in the new heaven and earth, is a dismal prospect. It is to live under a curse. If we could live on in this world with all its pain, conflicts, without solving the immense human problems, a medically-expanded life would simply set the stage for more of same human conflicts and social injustices. IMPATIENCE INSTEAD OF HONOR Death denial is also evident in our youth’s treatment of the elderly. Aging frustrates modern youth – it interferes with their desire "to get things done." Have you ever noticed the impatience shown in a lineup at the bank when a senior is trying to carry out a transaction? Their slower pace often exasperates the clerk and the younger customers waiting for their turn. These young people can’t imagine ever being in the same situation. Sure, other people age…but not them. The conflict between the generations is a subject of much discussion. Many seem to view aging as a process to endure and suffer through, rather than as a temporally contingent gift from God to be approached with gratitude. The Canadian philosopher George Grant observed that old age is more and more seen as an unalleviated disaster, not only for those outside of it but by those people who are old themselves. And he noted that we do not see age as that time when the eternal can be realized, and we therefore pity the aged as coming to the end of historic existence. Sociologists even refer to ageism, which can be defined as a general distaste for the elderly in our culture – equivalent to racial prejudice, but in this case unfair generalizations are made about any who are old: “all elderly people are forgetful," "all elderly people are ill-tempered," "all elderly people suffer from depression,” or “mental impairment is endemic to aging.” Contrary to the myth about aging, seniors do not necessarily decline in intelligence or lose their decision-making abilities. History gives us countless examples of creative, active, and productive seniors. At 71, Michelangelo (1475-1564) was appointed the chief architect of St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome. After he was 63 years old, Joost Van den Vondel (1587-1679), Holland's greatest poet, wrote Jephta, Lucifer and Adam in ballingschap (Adam in exile). George Bernhard Shaw (1856-1679), Irish dramatist and author, wrote Farfetched Fables at 93. Polish-born Arthur Rubinstein (1888-1982) gave a stunning performance at Carnegie Hall at the age of 90. Like these famous people, there are millions of elderly people who are still productive and active in their own way and want to remain so. Ageism seems to comes about because people know little about old age, and because what they know is based on myth and fear. People even talk about generational wars. In recent years, the conflict between the generations has become most noticeable due to the decreasing ability of government to pay for health and pension benefits. The pinch is already provoking generational conflict in the ambitious welfare states of Northern Europe, where birthrates and immigration rates are lower than in the United States and where the elderly wield considerable political clout. Young Europeans are complaining about the high cost of healthcare for the elderly, and are resentful of fees that are eroding the tradition of free university education. One German youth leader gained notoriety by suggesting that old folks should use crutches rather than seek expensive hip replacements. Unfortunately, this generational conflict is also seen in churches today. Seniors don't like to call their dominee “pastor Jack” and they certainly don’t like his casual appearance when he comes visiting. But when a vacant church thinks of calling a pastor there is a strong emphasis on youth. It seems that some search committees look for a twenty-five-year-old man with thirty years of experience. A CHRISTIAN ALTERNATIVE The differences between the generations don't need to lead to conflicts. Christians can offer alternative understandings of aging. The Bible views the conflict between generations as abnormal. Yes, youth is a wonderful thing, but it is not the only thing. It is a blessing in many ways, but it can, on some occasions even be a curse. When Isaiah pronounced judgment on Jerusalem and Judah, he said, "I will make boys their officials; mere children will govern them" (Isa.3:4). Young and old can come to mutual understanding and appreciation of each other. In the Kingdom of God, "Children's children are a crown of the aged, and parents are the pride of their children" (Prov. 17:6). Old men dream dreams and young men see visions (Joel 2:28; cf. Acts 2:17). And God promises that He will be with His people of every age bracket. "Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you" (Isa. 46:4). So how do we face the twilight years of life? With feelings of dread… or of hope? Let’s delve further into God’s Word and see. AGING IN THE OLD TESTAMENT In the Old Testament we find that God regards great age as the supreme reward of virtue. The aged were shown respect and honor. Old age is a blessing and not a curse. Scripture says, "Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God" (Lev.19-32). The psalmist testifies to growing old in hope. He says, "The righteous ... will still bear fruit in old age; They will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him" (Ps. 92:14-15). Growing old became a symbol of blessing, wisdom, and righteousness – an honorable process by which God rewarded those who were obedient, for example, in honoring their own parents: "Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you" (Ex. 20:12). In Proverbs readers are essentially promised a long life if their hearts will but, “keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and abundant welfare they give you" (3:1-2). The very display of gray hair itself, a sure sign of growing old throughout the centuries, becomes in Scripture "a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life" (Prov. 16:31). By pushing the elderly aside to fringes of society, we diminish them and make our society the poorer through the loss of their experience and maturity. When Moses was 80 years old, God called him to lead His people to the Promised Land. At that greatly advance age, Moses became the historian, leader, and statesman of Israel. At about 85 years of age, Joshua was divinely commissioned to succeed Moses. At his death at 110 years of age, he was deeply mourned and his eminent service widely acknowledged (Josh. 24:29-31). A NEW TESTAMENT BLESSING TOO In the New Testament the attitude towards aging is no different from that in the Old Testament. Those who reached an advanced age were honored and esteemed in the community. Aged saints have a significant role in the opening chapter of Luke's Gospel. The first characters to appear on the stage are the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, who were both "advanced in years" (Luke 1:7). They are the instruments of God's purposes and the first interpreters of God's saving acts. Simeon and Anna are the prophetic chorus welcoming the child Jesus on the occasion of his purification in the Temple (Luke 2:22-38). The remarkable thing is that the aged Simeon dies in the beginning of the Gospel account. His eyes are fixed in hope on the one newly born, in whose life, death, and resurrection the world will know peace. He has long been hoping for "the consolation of Israel," and has been promised by the Holy Spirit that he will not die before he has seen the Lord's Messiah. Anna – an eighty-four-year-old prophetess who frequents the Temple to worship and pray night and day – recognizes Jesus, gives thanks to God, and declares the news about him "to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (2:38). As people who have clung to God's promises over many years, they embody the virtues of long-suffering patience and trust in God's ultimate faithfulness. They also exemplify faith and hope, even when circumstances seem hopeless. Aging was not seen by the early Christians as a "problem" to which some sort of religious solution was required. In the entire New Testament, particularly in the Pastoral Epistles, the respect due to older members of the community is emphasized. The exhortations imply and speak explicitly of dutifully caring for widows, honoring the elderly, imitating their faith, and faithfulness. For example, "Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as you would a father." Here we find also specific directives that the community should provide assistance to widows over age of sixty, and that women recognized by the Church as widows should devote their energies to prayer, hospitality, and to service to the afflicted (1 Tim.5: 3-16). In our youth obsessed culture, the elderly are strongly tempted to act youthful. They are expected to get a workout to remain in shape, get beauty treatments to rejuvenate themselves, and to dress in youth fashions. Should seniors long to be young again? I don't think so. For Christians old age is not a dead-end street. As we age, we can still grow spiritually. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians "Do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16). He said to the Ephesians that we can progressively succeed in putting off the old self and putting on the new self and "be made new in the attitude of our minds." This renewal through the Holy Spirit impacts our mental attitude, state of mind, and disposition with respect to God and His world throughout our life. In other words, we continue to develop our walk with God (Eph. 4:22-24). NEVER TO OLD TO SERVE THE LORD Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, who suffered unspeakable horror in Nazi concentration camps, says that there is no reason to pity old people. And he adds this remarkable statement, "Instead, young people should envy them." Why? Because seniors have something young people don't possess. Frankl says that seniors have realities in the past – the potentialities they have actualized, the values they have realized – and nothing and nobody can ever remove these assets from the past. In Book X of his Confessions, Augustine (354-430) calls memory a "vast court" or "great receptacle." The elderly have a rich storehouse of memories, and inner landscape to explore: times lost in idleness, opportunities well used, a fulfilling career, children grown up, and suffering gone through with dignity and courage. What an opportunity for our youth to tap into the memories of their grandparents! Covenantal obligations never cease. The Christian faith is passed on from one generation to the next. It depends on that transmission. That’s why there must always be a most intimate relationship between the present and the coming generation if there is to be a future generation of Christians. The Church cannot be the Church without the elderly. They are the embodiment of the Church's story. Of course, we do not expect that all the elderly will be able to express the "wisdom of their years." But there can be no substitute for some old people in the Church passing on their wisdom to the younger generation. The youth simply cannot do without the older generation. In our culture, for a few years young adults may pretend (egged on by social and cultural forces) that they can live forever as autonomous, self-reliant, self-fulfilling beings. The pretense, however, collapses soon enough. The presence of the visible vulnerable elderly is a reminder that we are not our own creators. All of us will age; dark and blond hair will turn grey. Consequently, young Christians need the elderly so they will not take their lives for granted. I will say it again: the Church cannot be the Church without the elderly. That's why throughout history the Church has frowned on separating the young from the old through conducting youth services. I have even read about a Church where no older people were expected to attend. But according to Scripture old and young belong together. They are all part of the great family of God. Our covenant youth need to hear from their grandparents and seniors in the Church what it means to be a Christian. Grandparents know the family traditions and values. They can tell the story of their wartime experiences, their immigration with its hardship and adventures, and the reasons for leaving the country of their birth. Seniors can give to the youth the lessons and spiritual resources that have been harvested over a lifetime. Our times are so confusing and threatening for our young people. Why not explain to them that the Christian faith is for all of life: hence the founding of Christian schools, colleges, universities, a Christian labor association, Christian magazines and bi-weeklies, and a Christian political party? Why not tell them that doing good works is doing your work well? Why not testify to them how the Lord's promise "Surely I am with you always" (Matt.28:20) is a reality and not a myth? The lessons learned from godly grandparents and other Christian seniors are often long remembered. HOPE IN CHRIST As we age, we become more aware of the swift passing of years. We can either let the fear of death put a mental stranglehold on us or we can look to the future with hope. Let’s remember, the best is yet to come! Jesus Christ, the risen and ascended Lord is the ground of our hope and the promise of our deliverance. The hope of the resurrection lies at the heart of the way in which Christians embody the practices of growing old. We serve a faithful God who will never forget us! We are strangers and pilgrims on earth, the older we become the nearer we are to our eternal home. This truth encourages even the oldest individual to cherish each moment of life while preparing to relinquish it. Each day is a gift from God. We look to Him for our daily bread while making sure that we seek first the kingdom of God rather than squandering our time and energy on secondary concerns. With the prospect of a glorious future for all who are in Christ, we can identify with Martin Luther's suggestions that "in the purpose of God, this world is only a preparation and a scaffolding for the world to come." I also think of John Calvin's teaching in his Geneva Catechism that we are "to learn to pass through this world as though it is a foreign country, treating all things lightly and declining to set our hearts on them." We all face death some time or another. When we are old, it is more of a reality than in the days of our youth. I pray that our attitude toward death may resemble that of Lutheran pastor, scholar, and resistance leader Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who with shining face in joyful expectation, said to the two Nazi guards who had to come to take him to be executed, "For you it is the end, for me the beginning." Rev. Johan Tangelder (1936-2009) wrote for Reformed Perspective for 13 years and many of his articles have been collected at Reformed Reflections. This is an edited version of a two-part article that first appeared in the 2004 November and December issues. ...

CD Review, Music

Why you, too, should listen to Jamie Soles

I like Jamie Soles! From his music telling Bible stories for kids to his versifications of the Psalms, there is something for every Christian in his repertoire. As his website, SolMusic.ca, says, "If you love how the whole Bible testifies of Jesus, you will love this music!" A bit of history We've been listening to Jamie Soles for a long time. Our boys grew up on his Bible stories from albums like The Way My Story Goes and Fun and Prophets. To give you a bit of a taste of some of my favorites, I’ll share some excerpts. My son Isaac and I once performed “Chariots” from Fun and Prophets. Imagine these words sung in a lovely, boyish treble. I won my heart's desire when a chariot of fire And a horse named Blaze took my master away. Imagine my delight to behold such a sight Of Elijah in flight on the wind. Soles turned stories about lists of kings and apostles and repeated sacrifices by Jewish tribal representatives into memorable and singable songs that prompted questions and looking up of Bible passages. We are indebted to him for helping us to teach our children the Bible because, as he put it in “These Are They,” "stories are your biblical A-B-Cs." These are only part of it, This is but the start of it, Stories are your biblical ABCs! Now… All these stories, they show My glories. These are they which speak of Me. I think we were introduced to Jamie Soles back when we lived in the Hamilton area. I played violin at our church and was teaching music to one of our pastor's daughters. We visited with their family a lot, and on one visit the children came to me and excitedly asked me to listen to "This is the Sign," which is about the covenant significance of circumcision. It begins with God explaining his covenant to Abraham: Ninety and nine seems a long time But I have been waiting longer than you have To give you My Word that you’ve become Mine The father of kings and nations... I remember thinking, "Wow! That's not something most people write a song about." I've been hooked ever since. We took our boys years later to one of Jamie's concerts, and met up with him at Ontario Christian Home Educators’ Connection conferences as well. His music is still a part of our lives and I find myself humming tunes like "These are the Prophets" and "Jesus to the Rescue" on a fairly regular basis. I've even purchased his albums as gifts for friends on more than one occasion. Why I'm telling you about this Music is a big deal! It's an important way to teach your children about God's word. It's also an important way to help fill your heart with scripture and worship. Music is obviously an essential aspect of corporate worship on Sundays as well. The thing is, Christian music should be skillfully done and it should be theologically sound. Jamie Soles delivers on both counts. You can't go wrong with teaching his songs to your kids, and you can't go wrong with walking around humming them yourself either. Until my family was introduced to Jamie Soles, the music that often played in my head when reading scripture came from the libretto of Handel’s “Messiah” or Mendelssohn’s “Elijah,” not to mention the songs of Michael Card. But now, as I read through Numbers 23 I hear the sounds of “Dust of Jacob.” Jamie’s songs will be with my family and me for the rest of our lives, and we’re thankful. Soles' music is very difficult to categorize. It ranges from what sounds a bit like folk to songs that are more akin to rock and roll. But his music and his words always suit each other and he seems to always have a fresh take on a biblical theme or a little-known Bible story. It doesn't hurt that his wife and his children have often been a part of his albums and their contributions make many of his recordings that much better. I highly recommend Jamie Soles' music. You can find all of his albums on Spotify and you can purchase them as CDs or MP3 downloads at SolMusic.ca. I want to leave you with one song that I especially love. In “Gates of Nain” Soles' wife Valerie sings the poignant story of Luke 7:11-17 from the perspective of the widow whose only son has died. My sons call me a softy, but this never fails to bring me to tears, mainly because of the widow's realization that this man is the great prophet whom God has finally sent to Israel. Through my tears I see the crowd has grown A Man approaches with compassion shown He says, "Do not weep." And our march of death and time stands still Nothing could prepare me for this What could have prepared me for this.... He spoke to my son, my dead son, my only son And He told him to arise, and he did!...

News

Saturday Selections – October 15, 2022

Perfect timing Here's a fun one for the whole fam that's sure to inspire some imitation... Scientists revive 100 million-year-old bacteria? For anything to be alive that long is, of course, impossible... unless it's actually much younger. Vaping tax led to an increase in cigarette usage... The practical case for government being small is simply that they are fallible. One of the latest illustrations of that fallibility is a tax on vaping that was intended to discourage use. But instead it prompted a turn to even more harmful cigarettes. As the article asks, "How many times do their efforts have to backfire before bureaucrats and politicians learn the limits of their abilities?" Fossil fuels: still essential to human flourishing In his new book, Alex Epstein notes that there is still a pressing need for the poor to get access to fossil fuels. As this review notes: "One example of the suffering which energy poverty imposes is the fact that almost 800 million people have no access to electricity, while around 2.4 billion people still rely on wood and animal dung to cook and heat their homes...." By using "human flourishing" as his measure for environmental policies Epstein is, whether intentionally or not, placing Man at the pinacle of creation just as God has done. Tips for homeschooling when you have a toddler in tow When mom is teaching the olders but has a little one toddling about the juggling act can get hectic. This article, and its two sequels, offer some tips on keeping that toddler busy so you can have time to help with lessons. Public schooled! In the video below a student discovers that government schools teach that whatever the problem, government is the answer. As Douglas Wilson has noted, why would parents be surprised that their kids are indoctrinated in socialism when they've sent them to what is a socialist school system? Similarly, Voddie Baucham wrote, "We cannot continue to send our children to Caesar for their education and be surprised when they come home as Romans.” ...

Assorted

G.K. Chesterton on the difference between reformers and deformers

As a young man I had questions about how my denomination conducted services: Why did we have an organ and the style of music we had? Why did we sing so many psalms, and so few hymns? Why did we have two services? Why did we have Heidelberg Catechism sermons? Why did we get so dressed up for services? And I thought that because I had questions, and because answers were not always at the ready, that clearly meant we should do away with all these practices. Not so fast However, just because an answer isn't easy to come by doesn't mean it doesn't exist. And Chesterton had a caution for young guys like me when it came to doing away with old practices - old "fences": “In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, 'I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.' To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: 'If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.' “….Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease.” (The Thing, “The Drift From Domesticity”) Seek out that other side Now, no denomination is perfect, so there will be practices that could be improved, and maybe some that will need to go. But before any change is made, a properly humble Reformer is going to want to first find out why things are being done this way in the first place. This is living out Prov. 18:17 – only after we hear "both sides" can we then evaluate whether a change is truly needed....

Documentary, Internet, Sexuality

Fund a film about fighting sexual temptation

"Into the Light" will equip God’s people to fight the pull of pornography This is an overview of an episode of Lucas Holvlüwer and Tyler Vanderwoudes’ Real Talk podcast. Real Talk is a podcast of Reformed Perspective featuring great conversations on everything from propaganda to mental health, and if you haven't checked it out already, you really should. And you really can, at www.RealTalkPodcast.ca. ***** On this, their 50th episode, Real Talk’s Lucas and Tyler invited filmmakers Jake Valk and John-Michael Bout to talk about pornography, its devastating effects on Christians, and how the Lord’s people can fight against this terrible pervasive sin. Bout began by describing in a very real and personal way his own decade-long struggle with pornography – the feelings of guilt at what he knew was sinful, difficulties with anger brought on by his own hypocrisy, and his gradual drift away from the Lord with a conscience made dull over time. Bout described how grateful he is that God led other Christians on his path who had turned away from porn by the Lord’s grace, and dedicated themselves to helping others with this pervasive, insidious sin. A providential conversation So what made the two of them think about creating a documentary? Jake Valk shared a story of having coffee with Christian author Tim Challies, whose book Sexual Detox was of great help. Not (yet) knowing that Valk was a filmmaker, Challies wondered if books were the best means to address the problem of pornography: wouldn’t video be a better medium to reach those caught up in that cycle? This suggestion fanned a spark into a flame: why not make a documentary that would inspire people to take the steps to get out of the grip of pornography? And that is just what Valk and Bout did. Their new film, to be called Into the Light introduces six speakers with expertise in Christian responses to porn, not just in understanding that porn is sinful and wrong, but with real and practical suggestions for how to stop sinful habits, from the perspective of both those struggling with the sin, and those trying to help “the struggler.” Valk explained: “(One of our speakers) is Deepak Reju; he wrote the book Rescue Plan. He and Jonathan Holmes wrote a pair of books that are really good. One of the things he talks about is the philosophy of locking down a phone: how to cut off all access, and he walks you through that process from the vantage point of someone who is struggling with porn, but also if you’re helping someone who is struggling, and understand how they would be tempted to get out of the full lockdown of a phone, and so you can be extra alert to make sure that you really are shutting down a device for all it’s worth.  So you can kind of take everything that our speakers talk about in the film from two different angles – the struggler, and the (one helping the struggler).” Valk and Bout want the film to be made available for no cost to churches, organizations, and individuals, to be a resource to as many people as possible. To make this work, they’ve been fundraising through a Christian crowdfunding site with a target of $85,000. You can find out how to donate at their page GiveSendGo.com/IntoTheLight, and you can watch the trailer below. It’s not about stopping the bad, but embracing the One Who is Good Bout emphasized that freeing people from porn is not the end goal: the real goal is to help people find Jesus Christ, and to have Him be the foundation of their new life. “There are other methods to get free from pornography that don’t involve God – there are many secular programs… but if you get free of porn and still lose your soul, what’s the point?” Valk stated emphatically that a documentary can never take the place of a program like Life Renewal, with accountability, personal connections, and a thorough teaching program. “Life Renewal is way better than what we can make. 100 percent! Life Renewal is so thorough; they really walk through the process and do it over a year. That’s way better than this!” But there’s also a place for a film like Into the Light to help get conversations started, and to push a struggling sinner to seek help through a program like Life Renewal and other Christian resources. “If you find this film, and you’re uncovering sin, and you’re bringing it into the light, and you’re really building your relationship with God, and you want to go to something like Life Renewal which will take you way, way deeper, please do! They do a phenomenal job.” First, stop the bleeding So what else is in the film? Bout summarized a section that deals with “triage” “Deepak Reju gets into the radical practical measures of cutting off access (to porn)… if you walked into a hospital with an open wound, you’re not going to be getting asked ‘oh, so what are your symptoms, what are some things you need?’ The first thing they do is they take you in and stitch up the gaping bleeding wound so that they can have the healing take place, and to use that analogy, when you’re dealing with pornography it’s not legalism to say we have to start by cutting off access… cutting off total access.” Valk remembered asking one of the speakers, Heath Lambert, when it was OK to introduce the internet or social media back into someone’s life. “Heath gave a really thoughtful response to that, a large part of it being that you’re not necessarily the best person to make that choice, so having good community in your life saying, hey brother, you know it’s been two months since you last fell into pornography, you’re displaying good devotional habits, you’re really walking with the Lord, I can see that in your life. If you enjoy Instagram, I think it’s reasonable you can have it back, let’s see how that goes… So other people in your life can give you an opportunity to have a better perspective.” Bout followed up on his own story: “There are a lot of things that I cut out, and there’s (just) a couple of things I’ve reintroduced back. I never had to go as radical as going to a flip phone – actually, that may have been a good thing to do; I really respect people who do that. So for myself, I’ve actually kept most of the (guards) that I put in place, and just because I know I would so much rather live with the inconvenience than deal with the temptation or the potential relapse.” What about relapse? Speaker Ellen Mary Dykas is highlighted in one of the chapters in the film called “Endurance,” dealing with the reality of sinners struggling with a relapse, or a step backwards. Bout stated that it is very rare that one is able to “change instantly, although that is not beyond the Lord’s power. Your inadequacies, your failures do not mean that God is not able or willing to change you.” Valk summarized some of what Dykas taught: “Your identity is not your track record. You are not your success last week, your success yesterday, the pattern of sin… even if you do really well, that’s still not your identity. Your identity has to be as a Christian, as a loved, cherished child of God, because that’s where you find your root in fighting in the first place.” The last section of the film is presented by Garrett Kell, and reminds viewers of the hope that we have in Jesus’ saving work. Valk summarized: No matter what our sinful tendencies are today, “one day all of this sin, that darkness, like what you did last night, all that’s going to be gone if you’re a Christian… God’s going to do away with this sin nature that we have, and that’s going to be incredible, and then there’s going to be (forever) of being porn free… I won’t have to shed another tear, an angry, frustrated tear (at my sins)… There is hope beyond this (life) where there are no tears anymore!” You can download this and other episodes of “Real Talk” at www.RealTalkPodcast.ca, on your favorite podcast app, or through the ReformedPerspective.ca home page. You can also watch the YouTube version of the 50th episode below. For more information on “Into the Light,” go to IntoTheLightDocumentary.com.  ...

Conferences

RP Conversations

Our hope is that our articles will start people talking. And in hopes of furthering those consultations among the communion of saints, RP hopes to host some key conversations online. First up, we're going to be having a conversation with Bill DeVries on what God has been doing in the Bulkley Valley. If you would like to meet Bill DeVries to learn more, ask questions, and discuss the issue with others, join us for a special video conversation from the comfort of your own home. HOW: we aim to have a sign up form shortly, but in the mean time you can simply email [email protected] to register. All you need to participate is a phone, tablet, or computer to connect to the conversation. WHEN: Likely late October. If you register, we will update you with the date and time. WHEN: Date still to be determined, but some time in October so sign up to be notified. COST: Free Please spread the word and invite family, friends, or church members to this important 60-90 minute conversation....

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!"...

News

Saturday Selections – September 10, 2022

Economics 101: how profits answer the "knowledge problem" How can we know what to make? And how much to make? And who would be best to make it? This is a "knowledge problem" facing every economy: we need answers to these questions, but how do we get them? A centrally managed economy (socialism, communism, dictatorships of all sorts) looks to someone at the top being able to figure it all out. The problem is, their leader would need to be near-omniscient – he'd have to be god-like – to be able to pull that off. So how does the decentralized free market manage it? Well, it isn't going to pull it off perfectly – nothing ever is perfect this side of heaven – but it does have an answer to the knowledge problem that doesn't require anyone to be a god. As this video explains, the much-maligned "profit" is not simply a reward to the industrious and entrepreneurial, it is also a source of information for what to make, how much, and by who. Why the Dutch farmer protest is your cause too What's happening in the Netherlands isn't limited to that nation. "The ongoing food crisis in Sri Lanka is a particularly gruesome display of just how tragic the results of heavy farming regulation can be. About 90 percent of Sri Lankan families are skipping meals due to widespread food shortages and food price inflation of roughly 60 percent.....There are many reasons, but as Bloomberg explains, a major one is that, 'In April 2021, the government, led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, banned synthetic fertilizer imports to push the country toward organic farming.'” Evolution can't explain over-engineering in nature "Tardigrades can survive being subjected to extreme laboratory treatments (radiation, cold temperature, hydrostatic pressure) far more severe than any Earth environment." But why would evolution so equip them, when there weren't any evolutionary pressures for such an adaptation? Don't put off having children Nathanael Blake wants to remind us of practical reasons to place the having of kids ahead of your education or career advancement, including how much easier it is to deal with sleepless children and the sleep deprivation they cause you when you are in your 20s as opposed to doing so in your late 30s. (There are biblical reasons too – Prov 17:6 Ps. 127:3, Gen. 22:18). Most interesting tidbit from the article? Government-subsidized university tuition is backed by the best of intentions. But here's one negative impact it also has: encouraging young people to go as far as they can with their post-secondary education, even as they build up debt, means they'll likely put off having children for years, and have fewer of them. Faith in God is the only coherent basis for reason An atheist who thinks he came about without intent or design has no reason to trust his own thinking or senses... Trust the science? John Stossel highlights some of what's passing for science in the US, and the government's role in producing this material (particularly in the social sciences). ...

Pro-life - Abortion

No place for pro-life cynicism

Roe’s reversal shows us what God can accomplish for and through His people.  ***** “In the days when the idea of a surprise pregnancy was only an abstraction, I had never suspected that I could feel fierce love for an embryo. I wanted to discuss my mixed-up feelings with Jon, but I didn’t know how, especially since it was clear that his mind was already made up…. Whatever else I might be able to do for our child, I knew I could never force Jon to love it. Of all the pains that await us in this world, I most desired to protect it from feeling unwanted.” This is how Jess explains her rationale for why she had an abortion. The embryo was loved but unwanted; protected from future emotional pain, but killed. Jess’ story captures so well our culture’s cognitive dissonance regarding life in the womb. We know full well that a pregnant woman has a growing, developing human being in her womb. But we legally allow that human being to be dismembered or poisoned for any reason the mother chooses. Here in Canada, we allow that fate right up to birth. The pro-life movement exists because we see this tragedy, we seek to expose the cognitive dissonance, and we strive to save lives. There are those who are deeply cynical of pro-life work. I’ve had many express to me how futile they think pro-life activism is in a pro-choice culture like Canada. Why the skepticism? Should we really believe that things will only get worse when it comes to abortion laws? That opinion certainly isn’t based on historical trends. Legal slavery was ended, we don’t legally subjugate women anymore, and many oppressive regimes have been defeated. Just because a mountain is difficult to climb, and we can’t see every part of the path from where we stand, doesn’t mean that the mountain is insurmountable. Look south of the border and ask, how many thought Roe v Wade would be overturned in our lifetime? Yet, that happened in June 2022 when the U.S. Supreme Court released their Dobbs decision which found: “The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives .” This incredibly huge win means that now individual states are free to enact near-total bans of abortion! Examining how this came to be and recognizing the power of God’s hand in human political affairs, is an encouragement and call to action for Canadians who also want to see pre-born children in Canada protected in our lifetime. The state of affairs pre-Roe Unlike Canada, where criminal law is passed federally, in the U.S. criminal laws are passed by the individual states. Alongside Canada and many European countries, there was a growing trend in the U.S. toward legalizing more abortions that started in the 1960s and continued in the 1970s. What I didn’t know until reading the Dobbs decision was how slowly that movement was happening in the U.S. In fact, in 1973 when Roe was decided, 30 states still prohibited abortion at all stages. Well over half the country banned abortion, regardless of the age of the pre-born child. With one fell swoop from the U.S. Supreme Court that all changed, requiring states to allow abortions before the pre-born child was viable – a standard that was preserved and modified in the 1992 Casey decision. Now, in 2022, that decision has been reversed. The pro-life movement in the U.S. has exemplified tireless work toward this day, always striving to produce quality legal literature, educate the public, and continue to work one step at a time. Of course, it wasn’t just the effort of the pro-life movement that brought us to this point. Had Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg retired during President Obama’s tenure, President Trump would not have had the opportunity to appoint three Supreme Court Justices. Those three justices were needed to overturn Roe. We can praise God for granting growth and in His providence providing favorable circumstances for this huge victory. It clearly was God’s blessing, along with the faithful labor of many, that resulted in this success. But we don’t immediately go back to where we were. We don’t see 30 states banning abortion at all stages. Ground was lost in the decades since Roe, not to mention millions of lives. All to say, this ruling is a victory, but it still comes with mixed emotions. There is still so much more that needs to be done. Yet, as Canadians we can take encouragement from the victory and take note of the work yet to do resulting from the Dobbs decision. Dobbs and freedom An abortion supporter carrying a "Freedom is for every body" sign that is inadvertently pro-life, sharing a message we desperately want the other side to understand. What did Dobbs decide? If you believe one of my law school classmates, “The decision also opens the door to forced abortions. Either way, your uterus belongs to the state now.” How could someone as intelligent as this guy come to such a strange conclusion? It comes from a very deliberate framing of the abortion issue by abortion proponents. We’ve known this for quite a while – we call ourselves pro-life because we want to emphasize that unjustifiably taking a human life is wrong. Abortion advocates call themselves pro-choice because they want to emphasize that mothers ought to be free to make choices. This was described in another abortion case in the United States, this one from 1992 and referred to as Casey. Incidentally, Casey was also overturned by the new Dobbs decision. In Casey, Justice Kennedy said, "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." The awful extension of having this liberty to define the mystery of human life is that mothers have had the freedom to define pre-born human beings out of existence, therefore making them discardable. The Dobbs decision addresses Justice Kennedy’s definition of liberty head-on by trying to clarify that it is a good thing when, at times, there are limits on liberty. Such a definition of liberty cannot plausibly be absolute, the justices say in Dobbs, because “while individuals are certainly free to think and to say what they wish about ‘existences,’ ‘meaning,’ the ‘universe,’ and ‘the mystery of human life,’ they are not always free to act in accordance with those thoughts.” Liberty with such an individual source cannot be absolute. The state has a role in limiting it. Was my classmate right then? If the State can infringe liberty, does this mean that states are now able to force abortions? Certainly not by the logic in Dobbs. Liberty is important and does require a justification to be impinged. The justification is present here because according to Dobbs, “Abortion destroys what those decisions call ‘potential life’ and what the law at issue in this case regards as the life of an ‘unborn human being.’” That is, you have the freedom to do so much, but you don’t have the freedom to take a life. It’s quite something to see the U.S. Supreme Court say this regarding abortion. Forced motherhood The pro-abortion side is insistent that this is an unjustifiable limitation on women’s freedom, sometimes utilizing the term “forced motherhood.” The idea is that abortion restrictions are forcing women to become mothers by not allowing them to end a pregnancy. Early feminists were also concerned about forced motherhood, but they had a very different concept of what that meant. In their view, the motherhood was forced if the sex was forced. The problem was never the child who resulted from the sex – the problem was the man who did not respect the woman. And certainly, the child should not forfeit their life to alleviate the parents from the consequences of their actions. So much of the language has been twisted when it comes to discussing abortion. When a woman chooses whether to give birth or whether to have an abortion, the choice is not whether or not to become a mother. Once pregnant, the freedom to choose to be a mother is, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “Free, as a man is free to drink while he is drinking. He is not free still to be dry.” Once pregnant, a woman is a mother – she cannot choose otherwise. It isn’t the law that forces that choice, it’s biology. She can end her pregnancy by ending the life of her child, but that does not rewind the clock back to before she became a mother. Sex comes with the potential for procreation. Once procreation has occurred you can kill the resulting life, but that just makes you the mother of a dead child. Are women doomed then? It turns out, the answer is no. In fact, when women are denied the choice to end the life of their child, they don’t generally view motherhood as forced. In The Turnaway Study, researchers looked at women who went to an abortion clinic but were denied having one because they were past the gestational limit in that state. They found that women’s choices changed. Within a week after being denied an abortion only 65% of women surveyed still wanted one. By the child’s first birthday this was down to 7% and five years later it was only 4%. Remember, these are women who chose abortion. These aren’t women who just thought about abortion, these are women who made it to the abortion clinic, despite travel expenses and the logistics of actually getting there. The wanted or unwanted response to the pregnancy faded. The bond between parent and child persisted. Children are a gift No one is suggesting that pregnancy and raising children are easy. But it must be admitted that our abortion culture has fixated on the difficulties. Legal scholar Erika Bachiochi sums it up this way: “Pregnancy, with all its risks and demands, is seen primarily as a burden when viewed from the perspective of the unencumbered, autonomous male. Seen from the perspective of most women, and the men who love them, childbearing is a great gift.” Throughout all human history, mankind – men and women – have viewed the risk and hardship of pregnancy to be worth it. For those of us who believe what God tells us in the Bible, we understand that this great gift is one that comes from our loving, sovereign Savior (Psalm 127:3). Children are entrusted to the education and care of parents but are not property to be disposed of at will (Ephesians 6:4). All parents fail to some extent, but the further promise for us and for the countless pre-born children at risk of losing their lives to abortion is that even if “my father and my mother have forsaken, but the LORD will take me in.” (Psalm 27:10). That is the ethic the pro-life movement continues to exhibit and teach to our abortion-minded culture. The Dobbs decision demonstrates it, and it’s up to us to continue that work here in Canada. There is no place in this work for cynicism or for giving up when we serve a God who works great and mighty wonders for and through his people. Tabitha Ewert is We Need a Law’s Legal Counsel and a member of ARPA Canada’s Law and Policy team. Top picture credit: Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com...

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. ...

1 2 3 4 5