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News

Saturday Selections – May 13, 2023

Burning Ember (8 min)

Steve Bell and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra may just give you the shivers – this is wonderful!

Are Proverbs an ancient form of tweets?

Proverbs are concise, and because they are memorable, they are also pass-along-able – they can go viral! But as author Harma-Mae Smit notes, "the most significant difference between Twitter and Proverbs is obviously the end result of reading them" – Proverbs are for developing wisdom!

The restless heart of Generation Z and the mental health crisis

"The timing of this unprecedented outbreak of anxiety, depression and other mental health problems, Haidt points out, corresponds suspiciously with the rise of smartphones and social media apps."

Is it loving for a Christian to attend a "gay wedding"?

A couple has asked you to come to their ceremony where they plan to pledge themselves to a lifelong rebellion against their Maker - should you go and lend your support and encouragement?

A parent's guide to bullying (and teaching your kids to stand up for the little guy instead)

Kids in Christian schools get bullied too. Might that be because Christian parents don't take the topic seriously enough? Are too many presuming their kids are immune to being bullied? And could never be bullies? Maybe we think of bullying as only a physical thing, and don't even consider how constant put-downs (perhaps disguised as biting "Dutch" humor) can cause kids to hate school.

If we want to deal with bullying in our schools, this guide is really a must-read for all parents. It's crafted by the Christian parents' group Axis, short at just 16 pages, and free to download. It could be the start of something.

Johnson & John's Sons & Son's (2 min)

For all the English teachers out there...

History

What I learned from my Oma

Solomon tells us the first step to learning wisdom is to pursue it (Prov. 4:7), so I recently sat down with my Oma and listened to her share her immigration story. Leny Bosveld (nee Plug) was born Dec. 18, 1937 on the coast of Holland, the 4th child out of 8. Her father originally was a fisherman, but gave up his trade to sell coal and oil. He prospered in his new role of businessman and owned a three-story house that included a shower and toilets, which was a luxury in those days and not common to most households. Though prospering himself, Leny’s father did not think there would be enough work in Holland for his sons, so in 1950 the family made plans to immigrate to Australia. So it was, a mere 73 years ago, while Europe was still recovering from World War II, my Oma moved from a life of wealth to a life of poverty; her story is much like any pioneer or immigrant in history past. Years in nothing but a tent Oma's temporary post-tent makeshift house After a four-week boat ride, the family landed in Albany, Western Australia, and for the next three months lived in their moving container, and slept in a large army tent which was shared with their oma and two uncles. You were only allowed to bring a certain amount of money along when you immigrated, and even though Leny’s dad had his fishing boat, he did not know how to fish in Australia and was not able to make a steady income. After 3 months, Leny’s family moved to Fremantle, and set up the tent in the bush. Living in the tent was a hard life for Leny’s mom, and at one time she said, “If the sea was not between Australia and Holland I would crawl back home.” There was no water and no electricity. To get water the children had to walk far and carry buckets of water uphill, so that by the time it got to their living area much of it had splashed out. Cooking was done with a kerosene cooker, and later with a stove over an open fire outside. Their refrigerator was a small cupboard that held a block of ice, which was changed twice a week by an ice man. There was a big copper pot outside to boil the water in. There were containers and a board for washing laundry. The toilet was outside in a big bucket, and the boys had to dig a hole and bury everything every two days. Once a week the children took turns washing in a tub. This was normal life for the children and did not bother them, though my Oma does remember getting made fun of at school for their poor life. After two years in Fremantle the tent seam broke, and a temporary house was made from timber and the remains of the tent. Eventually the family bought a house that included a proper outside toilet. More families followed The wedding of Leny and Johan in Dec. 1957. While Leny’s family were the first Dutch immigrants to the Albany area, eventually more families came and the immigrants could meet for church together. Leny and Johan met at church, though Leny was shy and avoided contact with him after her mother told her not to chase boys. But Johan liked Leny and asked her father to be her boyfriend. The pair dated for 4 years, seeing one another just once a week. Johan asked to marry Leny when she was only 20 and was told to wait until she was 21, so they got married on her 21st birthday! They had a simple wedding in a courthouse, then went to church for a blessing. Johan worked hard and as their 10 children came along they moved into bigger houses together and were not in want of the necessities of life. Contentment in wealth and poverty My Oma mentioned how living with wealth, as we do today, can be harder than poverty. Having everything can be a curse when we buy and are not satisfied. She said they were satisfied when they got a handkerchief from a lady next door. Comfort became less important for her as it became less available, and trusting God to provide was taught to her at a young age. Not only was my Oma poor, she was also a foreigner in a new land, learning English and navigating how to be in the world but not of it. As our world becomes more hostile to Christians, as inflation and housing prices shift the kind of wealth the next generation may have, I was reminded not to fear or despair. Oma’s life helped me reevaluate what is a need versus what is merely a want that I have elevated to a “need” status. Oma also reminded me not to focus on what kind of life to have in comparison to others, or to worry over deciding what comforts to hold onto and how many children fit or do not fit into a certain plan. Children are a blessing, and I needed the reminder to self-examine what I am keeping “busy” with, and to instead be praying, “Your will be done.” Home life does not need to be fancy; living simply and faithfully for God are what I am called to. Older saints help us reconsider what does and does not matter. My Oma helped me see that the plague of ideas and expectations sprouting from our phones cannot overtake the faithful day of small things (Zec. 4:9-10). It is a lesson that I know I will need to be reminded of over and over again, and spending time with elderly saints is one way God continues to challenge me in that. Growing in sanctification Even though this is a brief snapshot into my Oma’s story, it testifies to God’s covenant faithfulness being handed down from generation to generation. My Oma and Opa have 10 children, 50 grandchildren, and 57 and counting great-grandchildren. Perhaps the greatest gift to learn from my Oma is her example of self-forgetfulness; she is not looking to be an Instagram image, but an Image Bearer who points away from herself to her God. The stories and examples of the elderly give us encouragement that we too are heading there in our sanctification, towards a deeper relationship with God where the need and drive for our own glory fades, as His glory more and more becomes the focal point of our thoughts and actions....

Economics - Home Finances

Home ownership for Christians: how it happened in the past, and how it might now

As home prices have risen in most of Canada, young people may be wondering if they will ever be able to afford to own their own home In BC’s Fraser Valley, and in the golden triangle of southern Ontario, prices have fallen recently, but a rise in interest rates have kept mortgage payments at a rate that are unaffordable for many. Is a house with a white picket fence to call one’s own an impossible dream today? How should Christians approach the concept of home ownership, and are there ways that we can be of service to one another in this important part of our lives? I interviewed young couples, homeowners, renters, realtors, and others to get some insight into how Christians view real estate ownership, and to provide helpful advice for those who are wondering what the best course of action is for their family. SOME BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES We turn first to Scripture for some general principles on home and land ownership. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it!” Christians know from God’s Word that all of creation belongs to our God: He made it all, and He owns every square inch. Because we acknowledge God’s ownership of every bit of creation, Christians view our “ownership” of a home, or a business differently. We acknowledge that the Lord calls us to be good stewards of what He has entrusted to us, and that He expects us to “be fruitful, to fill the earth, and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). The Lord gave wise laws through Moses that emphasized a family’s ownership of land. One who was in financial difficulty could lend his land to another, but this was not to be a permanent change in ownership: “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me. And in all the land you shall allow a redemption of the land.” (Leviticus 25:23-24) Further in Leviticus 25, Moses draws a distinction between agricultural land, and houses in “walled cities.” “If a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, he may redeem it within a year of its sale. For a full year, he shall have the right of redemption. If it is not redeemed with a full year, then the house in the walled city shall belong in perpetuity to the buyer throughout his generations.” (vs. 29-30). Homes attached to farmland were treated differently; they did return to the family who originally owned them. Since many of us now live in “walled cities” – that is, we do not depend on the fruit of the land for our income – it makes sense that these two types of properties were treated differently. More than 2,000 years later, we may look at the principles laid out in Scripture for guidance as we consider real estate and home ownership. We no longer live in God’s promised land, with guidelines for generational ownership, yet we observe that the Lord commanded His people to care for the land He entrusted to them, and that He blessed Israel as they did so faithfully, from generation to generation. THE CANADIAN DREAM Home ownership has long been part of the Canadian dream. For many in the Reformed community, our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents emigrated from the Netherlands with the hope of better economic opportunities, and a desire to buy their own farm, homestead, or family home… which may have been out of reach in the old country. Then, as now, a house was a costly purchase, and required diligent saving for a down payment, and prudent money management to make the monthly mortgage payments. Despite the challenges, most families in decades past found ways to get into home ownership, and by living below their means, and perhaps doing without some of the non-necessities, they were able to make their mortgage payments. It was not uncommon among our immigrant community for a couple to make do with one car for the family, and it was likely not a brand new vehicle but one that was purchased at least a few years old. THEN VERSUS NOW These condo apartments in the Niagara area went for $130,000 ten years ago, and are now listing for almost $400,000. And even as prices have recently dipped a little, that’s been countered by a rise in mortgage rates. (Photo: Danyse Van Dam) We are accustomed these days to inexpensive electronic devices, and to Wi-Fi access throughout or homes. A generation or two ago, a television was a costly appliance, and many families did without these: having a screen for everyone in the house was not considered a necessity! Another area that families did without was luxurious vacations. Although a trip to Mexico or Europe would be wonderful, many decided that camping at a lake, or making a road trip to cottage country would be a great way to make memories with their children. From 2003 to 2018, prices for free-standing houses increased up to 330% in parts of Canada. Especially in greater Vancouver and southern Ontario, supply and demand drove prices up to levels that seem unimaginable to those who considered home expensive already decades ago. Immigration to Canada from all over the world drove part of the demand side of this equation: in the last two years, more than 830,000 immigrants have moved into the Great White North, and many of these people have moved to areas that already had booming real estate prices. Construction costs for newly built homes have also ballooned. Higher wages for construction workers, increased costs for materials, and more and more red tape from local government all contributed to the costs that builders incurred, and passed on to new home buyers. At the same time, the earning power of workers has grown exponentially. The average salary of a Canadian wage earner increased 2.45% each year the past twenty years, with large spikes in the past two years (including over 10% in 2020). This is slightly lower than the 3.8% overall inflation rate in Canada over the same time period, but not outrageously different. WISDOM FROM GOD’S PEOPLE Given all of the above, what wisdom can we offer a young Christian couple today? We all have different gifts and abilities; we live in different parts of the country, with different real estate pricing: what Scriptural principles can we apply to our lives today to honor the Lord in all aspects of life? I talked to several couples and families in different stages of their earthly journey, seeking wisdom for God’s people today. Bert and Linda Vane are members of the Aldergrove Canadian Reformed Church in BC, and are parents of eleven children. Bert began his career as an entrepreneur in landscaping, employing many young people in landscape maintenance and new construction. As the Lord blessed them, the Vanes also invested in agricultural businesses, in real estate, and other opportunities. Bert believes that God gives all His creatures the obligation to work, and gives us stewardship of different pieces of life on earth. “God grants us the right to ‘own’ a piece of His creation, to provide shelter and food for our families. He gives us the responsibility to provide for our families, and home ownership is a part of this calling.” Bert believes without a doubt that ownership of one’s own house is a Godly desire, that ownership of property grants many blessings in the course of one’s life. These blessings include financial increase, but also add the stability granted to families when they are able to remain rooted in a location where they can be a dependable part of a church community. MORTGAGE HELPERS Since owning a home has become increasingly expensive, renting our primary residence has become another reasonable choice for Christians. Especially for young couples, needing only a one or two-bedroom home or suite in their first years of marriage, renting can be a wise decision for a period of time. This is most often not a wise choice for the long term (longer than 18 months), since ultimately costs for a rental unit are based on real estate prices, which change with time, and in the 21st century, mostly increase at or above the level of inflation. When we were newly married, way back in the day, my wife Faith and I returned from our honeymoon to a one-bedroom suite in the basement of brother and sister-in-law, Ken and Christine VanderPloeg. I never thought to ask at the time, but I’m sure that our meager monthly rental payments were appreciated in Ken and Christine’s financial journey as they used that suite as a “mortgage helper,” and raised six children in that same home. We lived in that basement suite for a bit less than two years, when we were blessed to be able to buy our own home. It was also in Surrey, BC, and also contained a basement suite that was our own mortgage helper in the following years. I can recall a few sleepless nights as Faith and I wondered whether or not it was the right thing to do, to buy our own home, especially as the purchase price seemed so impossibly high, more than ten times our annual earnings back in 1993. With good council from parents and in-laws, we went forward in faith, and bought our first home. We had enough funds for a good-sized down payment, thanks to my wife’s diligent savings, and we were able to borrow from family instead of the bank for the remainder, at a favorable interest rate. Later I learned that my parents-in-law, Henk and Jennie Schoen, had been able to offer similar assistance to all of their nine children, a result of their own stewardly financial management, and a generous spirit that was a blessing to all of us. Thanks Dad and Mom (since departed to glory)! Readers may glean a few principles from the example above. First, living in less than ideal circumstances, with a suite as a mortgage helper, or a partnership arrangement of some kind, can be a great stepping stone to home ownership. And second, when parents or family are able to help financially or otherwise, they can be a huge blessing to a young couple that otherwise might not be able to afford a house of their own. A FEW CURRENT EXAMPLES Sean and Lauren Stel have been able to buy a house by doing so with Lauren’s brother Ben Ravensbergen. Younger readers might be forgiven for scoffing at my own example of getting into the real estate market: “That’s well and good for you, old timer, but things have changed today! Prices are so high compared to your day!” That is certainly true: real estate prices are far higher today, but income levels are also much higher than past generations. Further, thriftiness as our parents and grandparents practiced, creative solutions like basement suites or partnerships, and tapping into the generous spirit of family and friends, are all still enormous opportunities today just as they were in previous generations. Sean Stel is a software engineer working for L3Harris Wescam; he and his wife Lauren have two children. The Stels have been shopping for the right real estate deal for some time in the Smithville, Ontario area. Sean and Lauren brought Lauren’s brother Ben Ravensbergen into the buying process, and are together on the cusp of buying a home together. Ben works in construction, and hopes to be able to build a suite in the home for his own use. Sean and Lauren are very thankful for the opportunity to make this work, and hope to be able to live in their new home for many years. Sean shared the good advice that he received from family and friends: “Write down whatever you agree to, so that you don’t have any forgetfulness or misunderstanding down the road!” Especially as property values fluctuate, and as life circumstances change, this is indeed good counsel for anyone who buys a home with a partner. Ben and Meagan den Boer are Australian immigrants living in the Fraser Valley of BC. Ben is a teacher at Credo Christian High School, and Meagan, a former nurse in Australia, is a stay-at-home mom. Right now, the den Boers can’t see a way to buying a home in the Fraser Valley. With a teacher’s salary, with home prices as high as they are, and with most family connections being back home in Australia, it doesn’t seem to make sense for the young couple. The den Boers are very grateful for their current living space, as they rent a two-bedroom apartment (mortgage helper) at a reasonable rent. Meagan stated that none of her friends in BC have been able to buy a home yet at this point, and many are renting basement suites or apartments from family and acquaintances. Ben and Meagan do already own a home back in Australia, and are glad they did not sell it upon their move to Canada. Ben and Meagan den Boer, along with their little guy Micaiah. Like many young couples in BC’s Fraser Valley, they haven’t found a home purchase that makes sense for them. OWNING VERSUS RENTING Tim Bratcher and Brian Bratcher are twin brothers, and immigrants to Canada from Pennsylvania. Tim and Brian were born and raised as members of the Blue Bell American Reformed Church; both brothers married Canadian spouses, and both ended up living in southern Ontario with their families. Brian and his wife Alicia bought a home in Dunnville about seven years ago. Although the purchase price was high compared to house prices in other parts of the U.S.A. or Canada where they could have moved, Brian and Alicia were able to borrow funds from relatives that made the purchase work. Seven years later, their home is worth more than double what they paid for it, and they have been able to put down roots in Dunnville. Tim and his wife Amanda have not been able to make that same leap into the market, but have been able to rent a home that has worked for their family. Tim and Amanda moved out of Guelph to Welland, where rents are more affordable. Tim has strong opinions on real estate and landlords, and believes that a part of the increase in housing prices has been small investors who buy homes to rent them out. “I’d advise against buying a $500,000 home as a rental income property, if you know that you’ll have to charge at or above the current going rate. It just bumps that average higher, and each new unit will ‘snap’ to that new rate.” HELP FOR THE NEXT GENERATION Reformed Christians in 21st century Canada have been tremendously blessed in so many ways by our God. This includes incredible financial blessings! On average, “baby boomers” (born between 1946 and 1964) are considered the wealthiest people ever in the history of the world, and members of “Generation X” (born from 1965 to 1982) are not far behind, perhaps on a trajectory to surpass their parents in wealth. How might we use what God has entrusted to us for the good of God’s Kingdom? God calls us to recognize His ownership of everything on earth: even while we think about “our” wealth, or “our” savings, we do well to remember that ultimately it is all the Lord’s. Might we be able to take part of our long-term savings or investments and have it be a blessing for our brothers and sisters, as well as for ourselves? Here are a few ways that family can help younger people get into home ownership: 1. Celebrate the wedding, help with the house! We’ve all seen wedding celebrations that become ostentatious displays, with lavish and unnecessary spending on things that mean very little in the long run. Are there ways that we as parents and grandparents and friends can encourage our children to appropriately celebrate their wedding with family and friends, while not digging a financial hole at the very start of their married life? When young couples are presented with the huge consequences of putting $15,000 towards the down payment on a house, and $10,000 towards a wedding celebration, versus $25,000 towards the wedding, we can help them make decisions that will be of huge benefit to them in the long term. (Hint: no one remembers what kind of napkins you had at your wedding, or what kind of food was served, but everyone remembers the speeches and the gezelligheid!) 2. Sharing our homes Many of us still live in the homes in which we raised our families, and no longer need all the room that we have. Yet, it might not make economic sense for us to move because of the cost of moving, or we might just enjoy the home in which we live. Could we find a way to accommodate our married children in our homes for a few years while they get established? This may be for a few months; it may be for a few years, but however it is accomplished, it can be a huge savings for a young family. 3. Lending funds at a low interest rate, or co-signing a loan With mortgage rates much higher than they were three years ago, interest has become a much larger component of buyers’ monthly payments. Could you lend your relatives or friends some of your savings at a lower rate than the bank would lend to them? Or could you lend them a portion of the down payment at low or no interest? Co-signing a loan, while potentially risky for the co-signer, is also an avenue to helping a young couple to establish credibility with a bank. (Co-signers need to be aware that they are responsible for continued payments on loans, even when things get messy!) 4. Lending funds as a shared investment Many economists believe that real estate prices in Canada will continue to rise well above the rate of inflation. For your long-term savings, could you find a way to invest in real estate with your children or grandchildren, providing part of the capital required in exchange for a percentage of the increase in value? This concept requires careful documentation so that all parties are aware of how increases or losses in value are shared, but may be a good investment for the older generation, as well as a huge helper for the younger generation. CONCLUSION From the examples above, and from our own experience, we can observe that home ownership has been an enormous blessing for generations of Canadian Christians. In the long term, owning one’s own home is foundational to financial stability and good stewardship of the resources the Lord has entrusted to us. May the Lord give wisdom to young couples considering how they may become homeowners, and may He give a spirit of generosity to older generations wishing to help their children and grandchildren in this good and Godly goal....

Christian education

Christian education as violation of children’s “human rights”

Two topics that are commonly discussed in Reformed Perspective are Christian education and the modern notion of “human rights.” Christian education is a good thing, of course, and its supporters need to be encouraged. On the other hand, the phrase “human rights” is too frequently used as a cover for anti-Christian positions on abortion and homosexuality. Now what happens when Christian education and “human rights” are thrown together? An outcome that is bad for Christians, that’s what. Christian education and the modern notion of “human rights” don’t fit well together. Diminishing parents The clash of so-called “human rights” and Christian education is discussed by American law professor Martha Albertson Fineman in an article entitled “Taking Children’s Interests Seriously.” She is a “children’s rights” proponent. But children are too immature to exercise their rights, so “children’s rights” are commonly used to empower government officials at the expense of parental rights. From a Christian perspective, we know parental rights should be paramount in education. But Fineman certainly doesn’t think so. She says that an emphasis on parental rights in education can be an obstacle to children’s best interests. For example, it is assumed by many that parents are in the best position to determine which school subjects and methods of preparation are most likely to prepare their children for the future. But that assumption is flawed, according to Fineman. As she sees it, that “type of expertise is almost certainly within the province of certified teachers and school boards, not parents." In fact, having parents making decisions is seen as a problem: “Certain parental decisions can create handicaps and inhibit a child’s entry into the secular and complex world in which she or he must live and function as an adult.” In her view, it makes much more sense for educational decisions to be made by public education professionals. Parents don’t really know very much, after all. Why allow them to make the important decisions? Besides, the parents are clearly up to no good, at least those who send their children to Christian schools: "Parents in these contexts are often part of a larger religious or ideological community, a community with an independent interest in and intent to indoctrinate children. Such communities conspire with member parents to separate their children from diverse secular, and therefore competing and dangerous, alternatives." So, those of you reading this who send your children to a Christian school are, in her view, conspiring with church leaders against secular society. Mandatory public education? To fix this situation, Fineman thinks that “human rights” rather than parental rights should be the paramount consideration in educational decision-making. Her perspective reflects that of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which, in a 2006 ruling, upheld a decision by authorities in Germany to prevent a Christian couple from home schooling their children. The ECHR said that home schooling would violate the children’s right to education. Fineman warmly welcomed this decision, noting that the "approach of the ECHR provides a competing framework for making decisions regarding the educational and social welfare of the child: that of the best interests of the child, as evaluated through the paradigm of human rights." In this view, educational decisions must be made in light of “the child’s interest in the diversity and independence-conferring potential of a secular and public education.” By allowing parents the option of selecting private Christian education for their children, the children’s interests are being neglected, according to Fineman: “Indeed, the long-term consequences for the child of being home schooled or sent to a private school cannot be overstated.” Think of the specific consequences for female students, for example. Fineman cites one notable study which: "has exposed the ways in which private Christian schools instill sexist beliefs into children and pressure young girls into traditional patriarchal roles rather than professional careers." That’s right. Girls in Christian schools are taught that being wives and mothers is a worthy and meaningful role in life. They are encouraged in this direction rather than being steered towards rewarding professional or business careers. But what about their “human rights”? Who’s watching out for the interests of these girls? Clearly it’s not their parents, who are allowing them to be guided towards the demeaning and worthless roles of wives and mothers. What should be done about this? Well, the choice is obvious for Fineman. In her view, the solution “for our current educational dilemma is that public education should be mandatory and universal.” What she is demanding comes down to this: secular humanism is the truth, with its various permutations of feminism and “diversity” (read: homosexuality) therefore all children should go to schools where the truth is taught, namely, public schools. In this way the children’s interests and “human rights” will be protected. When two worldviews collide Of course, what she calls “human rights” sounds more like “might makes right” to a Christian. A secular humanist government should (in Fineman’s view) force all children to learn secular humanism in its schools. This is not really a case of “human rights” versus oppression, but an issue of one worldview versus another. From a Christian perspective, using the power of the state to force all children to attend secular humanist public schools does not advance “human rights” one bit; quite the contrary, in fact. Fineman opposes the Christian worldview and wants to ensure that children from Christian homes are taught her worldview instead. This is what’s really involved in her proposal. She would not see it this way because for her, secular humanism is the one true religion and she wants everyone to believe it. I don’t say that to demean her — everyone has a religious perspective they consider to be true. But she doesn’t seem to be self-conscious of this or the implications. Conclusion Originally, human rights involved protecting people from the state. In recent decades a new perspective of “human rights” has arisen that involves using the power of the state for social engineering. This is Fineman’s conception of human rights. So when the issues of Christian education and “human rights” are mixed together, the outcome is bad for Christians. For those with a social-engineering view of “human rights,” Christianity is oppressive and Christian children need the “independence-conferring potential of a secular and public education” as Fineman puts it. If academics like Fineman continue to promote this agenda, it may be that Christians will need to defend their schools from accusations of “human rights” violations. This first appeared in the November 2012 issue under the title "For the sake of the children?"...

News

Saturday Selections – Apr 29, 2023

How was the canon of Scripture established? (3 min) Stephen Nicols shares that the Church hasn't established the canon, but recognizes it, and that truth is a key difference between Protestants and Roman Catholics. Should AI be shut down? "When our science and technologies are guided by an 'if we can do something we should' kind of moral reasoning, bigger and faster is not better." Housing prices up, builds are down Canada's housing-to-population ratio is the lowest of any G7 nation, because Canada has seen a general decline in home builds since the 1970s, despite a growing population. While the linked report doesn't get into why it is happening, it presses for an investigation to figure it out. Some government policies have focussed on increasing supply without increasing builds, by taxing foreigners who buy homes here. But this doesn't get at the root of the problem – we need more houses. So why aren't builders building, if there is money to be made? Parents need to be able to opt out of "woke" education Michael Zwaagstra is on to something here as he makes a case against Canada's public school system. But he's also a senior fellow at a secular think tank, and that's where his diagnosis falls flat. Zwaagstra thinks "...teachers should be politically neutral" and schools shouldn't be "indoctrination centres." But schools can't help but present doctrine, and the only choice is which. Will they celebrate God as Lord of all, or oppose Him, either explicitly, or implicitly by treating Him as irrelevant to all that students are learning? Reflecting on the Church during the time of COVID The author presents a helpful standard: did we act out of fear, or love for our neighbor? This is a question of motivation, not the end result, since the same act – closing a church, for example – could be done for either reason. However, only one of these motivations is God-honoring. So, now, 3 years later, are we in a place where we can ask, how did we do? How the Earth cleans itself If you believe our astonishingly complex Earth came about by chance and time, one lucky happenstance after another for millions of years, then you'd have ever reason to think it fragile. But if you knew it to be designed, then you wouldn't be surprised to discover that the Earth has been crafted with some impressive self-cleaning abilities. That's not a reason to neglect our stewardship responsibilities (Gen. 1:26-28), but realizing the Earth isn't a delicate egg is a reason to resist climate catastrophism. Unbelief isn't a sin...or is it? Doubters will ask all sorts of questions, but only some will put in the same effort to actually seek answers. When a person's objections are more smokescreen than sincere, we should be sure to call them to "repent and believe" and not simply dig up more answers for them that will never satisfy their rebellion anyway. The article above and video below approach doubt and unbelief from two different but complementary angles and both are worth checking out. ...

News

Whose children are they?

Many parents don’t realize the radical and harmful governance shift in “parent-child-State” relationships taking place over the past decade. Here in Alberta, for example, successive governments have declared they know better than parents what is in their children’s sexuality and gender development best interest. Since 2015, Alberta Education has said its 733,000 students have the right to join so-called “Gay-Straight Alliance clubs,” as well as declare a sexual orientation or gender identity starting at age five, independent of parental knowledge and consent. Harmful impacts In Tom Blackwell’s January 5, 2023, National Post article “Some parents object as Canadian schools quietly aid students’ gender transition,” he showed where this can go:  “When a student in a Calgary Grade 6 class came out as transgender this year, the teacher made one thing clear to the other pupils: they mustn’t let slip their classmate’s new gender identity to her parents. The couple was not yet aware of the change...It’s just one way the education system has become intimately involved in the transgender process, affecting an exponentially growing number of young Canadians. Schools accept name and pronoun preferences, provide gender-neutral washrooms and teach from a young age about gender identity. In some cases, they can even refer students directly to gender-treatment clinics.” Parents have the right to know who is influencing their children’s sexual/gender development, where and when this is happening, and what their children are being told and doing while at school. Parents should be alarmed that young children are encouraged by the State to make life-altering sexuality and gender “identity” decisions without the knowledge and consent of their parents. These children are at risk of jeopardizing their future by making declarations and associations they do not have the maturity to contemplate fully, nor understand the long-term ramifications. Disenfranchising parents In addition to secret Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club membership, the Alberta governance assault on the traditional family (parents and children) has the following legal/policy characteristics: Students starting from age five can change their name at school and wear whatever gender-expressive clothes they wish without their parents’ knowledge or approval All school staff is authorized to deceive parents regarding their son or daughter’s involvement in a GSA club and their self-identification declarations, thus sending the message to students that parents shouldn’t be trusted in sexuality and gender matters, the State knows best The GSA clubs are connected to an adult-run, unaccountable GSA Network which is further associated with activist agencies also not responsible to the State Note that these laws have been affirmed by three successive governments: PC, NDP, and UCP. Conclusion We know that God gave us families to raise children, and charged children in the Fifth Commandment to obey their parents. It is vital that the State doesn’t undermine them. As Paul counsels in Ephesians 6:1-4: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and your mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may turn out well for you, and that you may live long on the earth. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” We need to be able to fulfill this call, so the State must be pushed back. Carman Bradley is the founder of Parental Consent Alberta (ParentalConsentAlberta.ca) where our Alberta readers can find out more about what his group is trying to do – including a petition initiative – to protect children by empowering their parents. ...

News

A new lead in the search for life beyond Earth

Is there life beyond our earth? And are there planets out there waiting to be inhabited? Dating all the way back to ancient Greece, philosophers and scientists have sought answers for these questions. More recently, there has been a concerted push to advance space technology. We now have:  Telescopes that see billions of light years distant A space station that orbits the Earth every 90 minutes Vehicles on Mars searching for life But even with these incredible tools, scientists still have not been able to answer these questions. However, a group of scientists at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) think they may be getting closer. Ana Lobo, Aomawa Shields, Igor Palubski, and Eric Wolf believe that they have found planets that have the potential for liquid water and thus, in their minds, potential for extra-terrestrial life. Their study was summarized in a March 16, 2023, ScienceDaily.com piece: “‘Terminator Zones’ on distant planets could harbor life.” A "terminator zone" is a dividing line on a planet that always has one side facing its star and the other side in constant darkness. On the dark side of the planet, temperatures would always be extremely low, causing any liquid water to freeze. On the planet's dayside, temperatures would be scorching hot, causing any liquid water to evaporate. The terminator zone, where the dark meets the light, has the potential to have temperatures suitable for liquid water and, thus, for extra-terrestrial (ET) life. These types of planets do not occur in our Solar System but are common enough among planets orbiting the stars seen in our night sky.  So what should we think about this search for ET? Well, we know all of Creation has been affected by Man’s fall into sin. The key question then is, would God allow intelligent life on other planets to be judged because of Man’s fall on this planet? That seems implausible. However, even if intelligent extra-terrestrial life is unlikely from a biblical perspective, there wouldn’t seem to be any biblical reason to rule out the possibility of non-intelligent lifeforms existing outside of Earth.  As Christians, we can view UCI’s work and other studies like it with curiosity, and also a lot of skepticism. Secular scientists look around our planet and see an abundance of life, so they presume that life coming into being is relatively simple. However, if it is so simple, then why can’t they find life anywhere else? Surely, it has to be somewhere out there! So they begin the cycle of searching, possible discovery, and eventual failure. Then their desperate search begins anew. And as it does, Christians can simply sit back. We have nothing to prove, and no need to find extra-terrestrial life – unlike evolution, our biblical worldview doesn’t require (or rule out) life on other planets. ...

Assorted, News

Reformed communities stepping up to provide “Safe Families”

It takes some courage to get into the public to show love for our neighbors, with a meal for an elderly person, taking part in a Life Chain, or helping at the local soup kitchen. Some may even take their children so they are exposed. But how would we feel about welcoming the public into our own homes to live with us temporarily? A different sort of fostering It was at a legal seminar in London, Ontario, about ten years ago, that I first heard of a movement called “safe families.” Jennifer Francis, a young woman at that seminar, was intent on launching the organization, modeled after Safe Families for Children in the USA. Not only has it taken off in Canada, members of the Reformed church community are helping it expand to new areas. Safe Families exists to keep children safe and families together. As they describe on their website, they “temporarily host children and provide a network of support to families in crisis while they get back on their feet.” What sets them apart is that they do this outside of the government system. Yet their effectiveness has made them a go-to place for child welfare agencies, who regularly refer families to them, encouraging these families to make use of their care so that they don’t get into a crisis mode where the government needs to intervene. “Instead of waiting for bad things to happen to children, we can step in to help,” they explain. “By design, child welfare systems are designed to react after something bad happens to a child. Such interventions can be necessary in cases of abuse and neglect, but we can help before bad things occur.” In the 20 years of their existence, the Safe Families movement has provided over 35,000 hostings, utilizing 25,000 volunteers and 4,500 churches, most of those in the US, UK, or Canada, with 93 percent of the children returning home. The concept immediately struck a chord in my heart, as it provides an opportunity for Christ’s church to open our arms to vulnerable families and children in a way that is both practical and simple. Having witnessed the enormous sacrifice, and occasional heartache, of families who served within the government system as foster families, this appeared to be an option that would be far more doable for ordinary families. God blessed that young woman’s vision and Safe Families was incorporated as a Canadian non-profit in 2012. Francis has since been faithfully leading the organization, first as the Executive Director, and now as the interim chair of the board. Safe Families started ministering to families in the Greater Toronto Area but has now spread to many cities across Canada. Reformed folk seizing the opportunity to serve When I was first introduced to the concept, I couldn’t help but consider the potential for the Reformed community in Canada to get on board, as we are blessed with so many solid families who would be able to provide temporary care to children in need, outside the foster system. Sure enough, quietly and humbly, some in the Reformed community have been getting involved with the new chapters that have been formed. Most recently, a chapter is being formed in BC’s Lower Mainland. I reached out to Jessica Wildeboer, who is chairing the steering committee to form this new chapter and is a member of the Langley Canadian Reformed Church. I asked her what sparked the idea of bringing a chapter to the Fraser Valley. She explained that she heard about the organization from her sister, who attended an information session in Edmonton, but she didn’t give it much thought until a friend sent her a link to the Real Talk podcast episode, where Lucas Holtvluwer and Tyler Vanderwoude sat down with Hildy Sloots from Safe Families last year. “I rarely listen to podcasts at all, but somehow (God's work) I found myself washing dishes while listening to it. I was hooked. I loved all that I heard” shared Wildeboer. And she didn’t stop there. “I knew this needed to happen here in the Lower Mainland. I sent an email to Safe Families and asked about a BC chapter. They replied saying that a Zoom meeting was coming up and I was welcome to join. This was in September. By November we had a steering committee established with nine Christians, from Vancouver to Chilliwack, and we started planning steps forward.” Different ways to help In February of this year, Jason Peters, the Western Canada Director of Safe Families, led three information sessions in the Fraser Valley. They were thrilled to have about 230 people come out, representing 25 different churches. Three members of the steering committee shared with the audiences why they believed Safe Families was needed and important. “As chair, I shared my own experience of seeing my church rally around my family in times of crisis” Wildeboer explained. RCMP officer Steve Vandelft, and social worker Kathleen Vanderveen, also shared how in their work experience they would often see families who needed extra support. Wildeboer explained that “We put out sign-up papers asking for people to express what areas they might be interested in helping with in the future. Different areas include being a resources friend (organize meals, pick up groceries, help with a reno), family friend (do some babysitting, offer encouragement), family coach (overseeing the volunteers surrounding the family in crisis), and host family (hosting children overnight in your home for short periods of time, sometimes weeks).” The response was incredible. “After the three info sessions, we had so many people check so many boxes with wanting to help, and we even had 18 families sign up wanting to become a host family! Amazing!” A Christian witness What also sets Safe Families apart is their faith-based approach, “motivated by the compassion and grace that they first received from Jesus Christ.” And the beautiful thing is that instead of this closing doors to working with the child welfare system, they form a bridge between families who are in need and the Christian community. “When a family in church is in crisis, meals are brought, babysitting is arranged, rides are organized, whatever is needed is provided,” shared Wildeboer. “But how do people without a church community survive when a crisis hits? Our churches seem rich with resources such as stable homes. How can we bless our community with our resources?” She also liked that the service is local and hands-on. “I think there is also something precious and vital about being more intentional within our own communities. I like my kids to help with babysitting. I like my kids to help with making a meal and dropping it off. I like my kids to write cards to neighbours and hand-deliver them. Sometimes we can be too busy in our own safe comfortable bubble with people we know, but we could improve with meeting new people and warmly welcoming all those we meet. It is good to get uncomfortable, that's what Jesus did.” To learn more about Safe Families and find the locations of their chapters, go to SafeFamiliesCanada.com. You can also listen to or watch the Real Talk interview below that first inspired Jessica Wildeboer (you can also find it at RealTalkPodcast.ca). Pictured at the top: Six of the nine steering committee members, along with the Western Canada Director for Safe Families Jason Peters. Jessica Wildeboer is second from the left. ...

News

Competing to shine

Reformed youth across Canada are taking to heart Paul’s encouragement to young Timothy “don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers….” Over the past year, 16 school clubs and over 300 individuals have taken part in a friendly competition, organized by ARPA Canada and using newly-developed custom software, to spur each other on as Christian witnesses in Canada’s public square. ARPA Profiles took off "We finished our post-it note display which we have been working on for 23 days. Every note represents 40 lives of children lost to abortion." – Ebenezer School, Smithers Daniel Kanis, the “tech-wizard” at ARPA, came up with the idea of using technology to “gamify” political action to make it competitive and fun. He first introduced his concept to his colleagues at a summer staff retreat, and then launched it publicly as “ARPA Profiles” mid 2022. “The key to success would be rapid onboarding of students and adults alike” Kanis shared in an interview with RP. “Rapid onboarding” is what it sounds like: getting a lot of people all involved – all “on board” – at the same time. “In October we had our chance. We rapidly onboarded a variety of students across the country from British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario at our youth conferences.” It didn’t take long and a healthy spirit of competition arose between these schools, that continues till today. ARPA Profiles involves signing up for a unique profile on their website, taking part in political action and then getting points for that action, depending on how difficult it is. For example, sending an EasyMail letter gets you 200 points, meeting with your MP or MLA will result in 15,000 points, and distributing flyers results in 1000 points for every 25 flyers. If you are really ambitious and can get an airplane to fly a pro-life banner, you get 1,000,000 points! Other options include things like visiting an old age home, helping a pregnancy care center with groceries, baking cookies for an event, or hosting a flag display. Those who have an ARPA profile can earn points for themselves but also for the school club or ARPA chapter that they are a member of. To make it fun, the school club with the most points gets a banner to keep, a trophy for a year, a pizza party, and celebration shirts. There are also prizes for individual championships. The deadline is May 17, 2023, and at press time, there is a fierce competition between Judy Slaa, Brooklyn Gortemaker, Anna Van Orizande, and Micah Wieske for the top place. The race for the top school isn’t quite as fierce, as the Alberta Home School group is currently doubling the second-place school, Immanuel Christian in Winnipeg. Ebenezer school in Smithers is currently third out of 16, followed by Mount Cheam Christian from Chilliwack. In it together This 10,000 flag display for the preborn was set up in northern Alberta When asked what ARPA Profiles has accomplished, Kanis shared that it has “one key ingredient that I think is essential to political action. And that’s the thought of: ‘I’m not doing this alone.’” The ARPA Profiles website fosters a sense of community, as participants post a picture of what they did. Scrolling through dozens of pictures will silence those who lament that young people aren’t very active today. Not only are many active, they are doing things that their parents or grandparents likely never did at their age. And the hope is that it will make it far more likely that they continue to shine in the public square the rest of their lives. Looking through the pictures, it is evident that Albertans are leading by example. Ed Hoogerdyk serves as ARPA’s Alberta Manager, with a special focus on helping Albertans shine their lights with political action. “ARPA Profiles is a great motivator!” he shared with me. Hoogerdyk proceeded to give some examples, beginning with their “CareNotKill” campaign. “Shortly after pictures are shared of grassroots action (flyer runs, billboards, banners), I receive inquiries from people wanting to order items so they can take action as well.” Hoogerdyk has noticed a steady increase in the number of school club members and adult chapter members. “More people are meeting. More people are praying. More people are politically engaged.” And it is translating into giving as well. “Fundraising builds community spirit and reminds people of the importance of witnessing in their own communities. It’s been inspiring to work alongside so many ‘cheerful givers’ in Alberta.” Healthy competition Hoogerdyk testified that the competitive aspect of ARPA Profiles is important. “The competition is healthy. I sense a strong spirit of unity amongst the school clubs and chapters. They’re sharing updates with each other and encouraging each other to compete.” "I held signs up for an hour, and got a lot of waves and honks." – Mya V, Immanuel Christian in Winnipeg I asked Kanis how he would respond to those who think that people should be active without needing points or prizes. “At the level and caliber that the students on the platform are doing action, they are to be doing it for the heart of the mission,” he answered. “If you were just participating in the competition for the points, and for the prize, at the end of the day those with heart will win. It is great to award and acknowledge those people who go above and beyond in being a faithful Christian witness.” Active like never before But is all of this just an exception to the general rule that Christians aren’t very engaged in politics or culture? Hoogerdyk respectfully challenged those who think this way. “Based on my experience, there continues to be an increase in the number of people engaging with politics.” He proceeded to give examples. “First, more people are praying. This is evident in prayer matters brought up in church services, messages from people letting us know they regularly pray for ARPA’s work, and ARPA’s prayer calendar. Second, more people are staying informed and taking action. They’re participating in grassroots activities, supporting our chapters and clubs, and contributing financially.” And the involvement goes deeper too. “There are numerous constituency associations with good Reformed Christian representation, including some who are presidents of these associations.” The contest closes mid-May, and readers can get plugged into ARPA’s weekly Quick Update videos, newsletter, or social media to find out which individual or school makes the podium. But it likely doesn’t end there. Kanis is hoping that they can build on the success next year. “I am tremendously thankful for the uptake that the ARPA supporters have shown in the open reception of this new system. I am thankful for their patience as this first year was sure to have some hiccups. I hope it can be a blessing to many others, and that those who may not have heard about ARPA Profiles can sign up and be encouraged with just how much action is happening across Canada!”...

News

Upcoming documentary asks, how can we end abortion in Canada?

Two Canadian filmmakers want to know: how can Canada get a win for the unborn like the US experienced in 2022? And Josie Luetke and Ruth Robert are making a documentary to figure it out. They've titled it Roe Canada: The True North in a Post-Roe World, a reference to the US Supreme Court's 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the country 50 years ago. The reason we are now in a "Post-Roe" era is because of the stunning Dobbs decision last year, in which the Supreme Court overthrew Roe and declared that the US Constitution does not protect a right to abortion. When their ruling was issued, pro-lifers on both sides of the border could hardly believe it was real. We'd almost forgotten that with God nothing is impossible. Then, in the immediate aftermath of Dobbs, individual states like Idaho, Texas, and South Dakota started offering protections for the unborn right from conception. Now these two filmmakers want to know, how can it happen here? The documentary will feature the Babylon Bee's Seth Dillon, former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson, Reformed Perspective contributor Jonathon Van Maren, activist Stephanie Gray Connors, and many others. Together they are trying to craft a roadmap for the end of abortion in Canada. Luetke and Robert plan to finish Roe Canada by the fall but already have a trailer available, which you can check out below. And if you want to help fund the film, visit RoeCanadafilm.com to find out how. ...

News

Saturday Selections – Apr 8, 2023

Christ is risen (2 min) The resurgence of sea shanties might be a bit of a lockdown silver lining – a musical form that lent itself to collaboration at a distance. Needed: teen fashion rebels A Canadian mom offers some advice for "explaining modesty to teenage daughters." I found some of this helpful, and other bits less so, but appreciated the general goal of encouraging our children to be contra mundum. How to know you are marrying the right person (30-minute read) The author of Marry Wisely, Marry Well points us to Proverbs for answers to one of the most important questions you can ask. This is a longer read but rewards the effort. It is also available at the link as a 50-minute listen. Best critique of the World Economic Forum (WEF) is Chrystia Freeland  Though Rupa Subramanya doesn't cite Matthew 7:1-2,  Christians can see the connection when the National Post writer evaluates Deputy Prime Minister Freeland on the basis of what an earlier, crusading journalist Freeland, thought about groups like the WEF. Alternatives to YouTube, Facebook, and more In keeping with the notion that "it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness" someone has created a website that lists all sorts of alternatives to online social media platforms, word processors, crowdfunding, and much more. The site seems to come from a bit of a libertarian bent (which isn't a surprise for an anti-Big Tech site) so discretion is advised. What we can learn from the history of lobotomies The "inventor" of the lobotomy, Dr. Egas Moniz, won a Nobel Prize for it, though the main impact was "the dismantling of patient's personality." The American psychiatrist Walter Freeman lobotomized 4,000 people and the lesson we can learn from him is applicable to transgender surgeries today. A Washington Post columnist put it this way: "Freeman and his partner lobotomized 20 people in their first four months, and with every operation, I suspect it became more necessary to believe in the good of them, rather than admit you had killed one person and irreparably scarred the brains of 19 more to no good effect. Vanilla is designed (3 min) Why did they get vanilla in Mexico and nowhere else? ...

Amazing stories from times past

Rev. Alfred Sadd (1909-1942): a great man, and a faint shadow

The December 8, 1942 issue of The Times, the British daily newspaper based in London, published a small but complimentary obituary/article on the death of a Reverend Alfred Sadd. So who was this Reverend Alfred Sadd? All about the ocean First seeing the light of day in Maldon, located in southeastern England, on November the 7th, 1909, Alfred was born into a wealthy timber and boat building family – a family which was blessed with eight children. His father, Henry Sadd, died while the boy was young and he was raised by his mother with helpful support from other family members. The Sadd household belonged to the Congregational Church ­– at that time a Protestant church in the Calvinist tradition tracing its roots to the Puritans. (Today, sadly, the Congregationalist Church is no longer doctrinally sound.) Young Alfred enjoyed sailing and became a member of the Sea Scouts – part of the Scout movement which placed great emphasis on boating activities. Alfred knew every nook and cranny of the River Blackwater, a river close to his Maldon, Essex home. The young boy, who loved nature, collected oysters, fished and sailed around Northey Island watching the numerous birds who made their home in the area. At the age of fourteen, Alfred was sent to the Leys School in Cambridge. Boarding there, the teenager probably had a Mr. Balgarnie as master when he was a student. Mr. Balgarnie happened to be the inspiration for the teacher in James Hilton's classic book Goodbye, Mr. Chips. Not a natural academic, Alfred developed into a jack-of-all-trades, a person skilled at many jobs. He built houses, continued to be active in the Sea Scouts, repaired boats and also acquired a degree in physiology. Nevertheless, Alfred, good-natured and interested in everything and all those around him, eventually came to the conviction that he was meant to study theology in Cambridge. Becoming a missionary Perhaps because his heart was so set on serving God and, consequently, others, Alfred Sadd joined the London Missionary Society. (Eric Liddell – 1924 Olympic gold medalist in the 400-meter race – had also served as an LMS missionary and was sent to China by the Society.) In the mid 1930s, Alfred was commissioned by the Society to go to Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands, in the central Pacific Ocean. The station there was one of the most isolated stations of the LMS occupied by British missionaries. Alfred had no serious objections to going to such an outpost. He loved the sea and thought to import his scouting knowledge to the area, using it alongside his evangelical outreach. His standard form of introduction was saying: "Hello, I'm Sadd. But not really." Tarawa, the capital of the Republic of Kiribati, was one of 32 atolls that formed the island nation. An archipelago of atolls on the western side of Kiribati, it was divided into North Tarawa and South Tarawa. Home as it was to an array of flora and fauna, including a wealth of marine life, Alfred loved it. The seas around Tarawa teemed with tropical fish, shellfish, and sharks. Plant life in the area included coconut palms, banana trees, and papaya trees. And Alfred’s work in this lovely place was blessed as he preached and lived alongside the islanders. Dedicated, Alfred loved his surroundings and his work. Coming home on a six-month furlough in 1938, he enthusiastically regaled his family with numerous stories of the people to whom he ministered, as well as the beautiful island on which they lived. Staying put When the Second World War began, Pastor Alfred Sadd was initially in a quandary. Should he evacuate, as the Europeans on the island were urged to do, and return home? But then what would happen to his beloved congregation? The Japanese, a grave danger especially after their attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, did not seem to be on the prowl in his immediate Tarawa neighborhood. A number of weeks passed after the Pearl Harbor attack and nothing much seemed to change on the islands. Without question Alfred had come to the conclusion that he would stay. Consequently, he wrote home: "God has something bigger ... He intends me to do." Two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Tarawa was subject to a bombing raid. Concerned for the people in his church on the island of Tarawa, Alfred prayed much. It was now February of 1942. Even at this time, however, no Japanese soldiers had showed up on the shore and again he felt that he and his flock were relatively safe. Six months after the Pearl Harbor raid, however, the Japanese did set foot on the island. They arrived violently and frightened both parishioners and non-parishioners with their long bayonets. When Alfred came alongside the harassed islanders, riding his bicycle and smiling encouragement, the Japanese soldiers spread a Union Jack in front of him and ordered him to drive his bicycle over it. When he refused, they confiscated the bicycle and he was taken to a commanding officer. Agreeably he strode in front of his captors, walking ahead of them in such large strides towards this commanding officer, that he left them behind. It annoyed the soldiers fearfully. The officer in charge again ordered Alfred to walk on the British flag. He smiled, approached it, but instead of walking on it, he turned to the right. There was another order, and this time when he came to the flag, he turned to the left. Once more, infuriated by his insubordination, the officer told him to stomp on the flag. Instead, Alfred Sadd picked up the ensign, gathered it in his arms and kissed it. The result of this patriotic outburst was that the British pastor was sent, along with nearly two dozen other island prisoners, to work in hard labor. Seventeen of these men were soldiers, or coastwatchers, men who had been designated to monitor Japanese advances. Most of them came from New Zealand. Five of them, like Alfred Sadd, were civilians. Standing in the way After Afred had worked in hard labor for a number of days, there was an American air raid. This air raid motivated the Japanese to come to the decision to execute all prisoners. Many of the condemned prisoners were very not very old, barely out of school. They were afraid, uncertain and heavy-hearted. Alfred felt great compassion for these young men. As they stood in a row, waiting to be beheaded, he stepped to the front of the line. Courageously, he stood before them and spoke to them, cheering them on with words of faith. Perhaps at this point he remembered what he had written to his family at home not too long before this time: "God has something bigger ... He intends me to do." In any case, when he had finished speaking to the prisoners, he remained at the head of the line, almost as if shielding them as long as he could from the terrible fate that the Japanese had in mind. He thought more of their fears than his own. Alfred, consequently, was the first to be beheaded. It was October the 15th of 1942. Another Shield Easter is a commemorative time – a time when we remember the death, resurrection and, a little later, the ascension of our Lord. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane with eleven of His disciples just prior to being arrested, He was also concerned for their safety. They did not have any clear idea of the great plan of salvation. They were not even faintly aware of what God intended to do and they were opposed to the unfolding of events. Peter even took out a sword to stop the arrest. Jesus did not praise Peter for taking out his sword. Rather, He told Peter to put away the sword in order to protect him as much as to protect those who came to arrest Him. Mark well the words of John 18:4-9. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to Him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am He.” Judas, who betrayed Him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So He asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am He. So, if you seek Me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that He had spoken: “Of those whom you gave Me I have lost not one.” Twice Jesus proclaimed that He is the great I AM. He had come for this specific hour and would let nothing stand in the way of His purpose which was and is the salvation of His people. Much as Alfred Sadd's courage and love for his fellowmen is to be lauded, it is but a faint shadow compared to the courage and love Jesus showed for His elect. Praised be His name!...

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Economics

Christian Economics in One Lesson

by Gary North 2015 / 268 pages Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson is what its title suggests, just one economic lesson explained in the first chapter – that we focus on the obvious impact of a government program, and don’t consider what otherwise might have happened with those dollars. It’s the seen vs. the unseen. That one lesson is then repeatedly applied to different situations in the 24 chapters that follow. In chapter 4, it is applied to public work projects: when the government builds a new sports stadium we can see the job created by its construction. What’s unseen is all the jobs that might have been created by businesses if they hadn’t had to pay the taxes to build that stadium. Overall, Hazlitt is making a general argument for less government and more economic freedom, but is making it on the basis of practicality: that a free market approach will make us all, overall, more prosperous (download the book for free). Effectiveness is the fruit, not the goal In his Christian Economics in One Lesson, Gary North makes his argument for free market economics on a very different basis: obedience. He also thinks the free market is the most effective way of making us all richer, but he sees that, not as a goal, but as a side effect – the fruit – of being obedient to God’s commands do not covet, and do not to steal. As his title suggests, he is riffing off of Hazlitt, and his chapters are a reworking of each of Hazlitt's. Economics is sometimes treated as a being simply about the math, about some sort of neutral accounting, pitting the different economic systems against each other to find out which creates the greatest benefit for society. Both socialists and capitalists could even agree that economics is about dealing with the problem of scarcity – there is only so much to go around, so how do we make the most of it? But North is arguing that economics is really a matter of ethics, and applying God's guidance on money, work, property, and covetousness to the real world. Then the better way is the way that obeys God’s commands. Now, like Hazlitt, North thinks the best system is the free market, and not the sort of so-called capitalism that involves getting government contracts and special favors. None of that crony "capitalism." This is, instead, a free market where people make exchanges voluntarily, and consequently, both sides benefit. No temptation to tweak But even as Hazlitt and North both hold to the free market system, it is significant that they got there very different ways. Hazlitt got there because the free market works – it is the most prosperous of all systems, doing more to raise people out of poverty than any other economic system before it. North arrives there because the free market is what results when we are obedient to God, respecting our neighbor's property and pushing back against our own covetousness. So, both support the free market. But for those like Hazlitt who arrived there for practical reasons, there will always be the temptation to tweak, and in doing so, to succumb to socialism. If capitalism works best, who's to say if capitalism plus just a smidge of socialism might not be better? Maybe just 5%? Or 10? How can we know unless we try? But there isn't the same temptation to tinker for Christians who choose the free market for its alignment with God's Word. We won't want to be 5% or 10% less obedient. And it is worth noting it is no coincidence that the economic system that most aligns with God's Word is also the one that best raises people out of poverty. That's simply God's love – He knows what is best for us, and when we obey, especially when we do so on a societal level, it goes better for us. Conclusion North's insight – that economics is about ethics, not efficiency; it is about obedience, and not prosperity – is a brilliant one, and worth the reinforcement that comes in the repeated applications that follow. If this isn’t the most important book I read last year, it is certainly in contention… and it can be downloaded for free here....

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