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Book Reviews, Children’s non-fiction

Animals by design: exploring unique creature features

by ICR illustrated by Susan Windsor 125 pages / 2018 Mexican walking fish, lantern fish, immortal jellyfish, and zorses – those are just some of the crazy creatures featured in this fun little book. Every two-page spread showcases another animal, and even when it’s one you’ve heard of before, there’s sure to be cool details that’ll surprise you. Animals by Design is published by the Institute for Creation Research. That means that, in addition to all the fascinating facts, a clear Christian perspective is also included. The point of this book is to introduce our children to how awesome our God is: hey kids, just look at the amazing, bizarre, surprising, unique, and simply astonishing creatures He’s made! This has been sitting on our coffee table, off and on, for a few months now, and it turns out I was the only one in the family who hadn’t been regularly reading it. My wife and girls had all been taking turns flipping through it. It’s an easy book to dip in and out of – it doesn’t require a big time commitment – because each animal can be read on its own. So, maybe this time I’ll learn a little about zorses, and the next time I sit down at the couch, I can always find out then what makes an immortal jellyfish immortal. The colorful drawings will appeal to kids but it’s a kids book that mom and dad and anyone interested in animals or science will love too. In the US you can find it at ICR.org and in Canada you can order it through the Creation Science Association of Alberta.                  

Daily devotional

February 25 – Qoph: Reliance

“Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O LORD, according to your justice give me life.” – Psalm 119:149 Scripture reading: Psalm 119:145-152 With his enemies attacking, the psalmist cries out to God to answer him (145), to save him (146) and to grant him help (148). In return for deliverance, he promises obedience to God’s law. He doesn’t believe God will deliver him because of what he will do. Rather, he describes what has already been central in his life – a devotion to God, a love for His law and a desire to serve. In thankful covenant response, he has been continually meditating on God’s Word. Every day, he is deep in God’s Word well before dawn: “I rise before the dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words. My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise” (148,149). He is and always will be up and at it before the sun rises. Thus, the psalmist expresses confidence that the LORD will answer his cries willingly. First, he relies on God’s love and justice. “Hear my voice, according to your steadfast love; O LORD, according to your justice give me life” (149). According to His mercy and having sworn an oath by Himself, because there is nothing greater by which to swear, God will keep His word. Second, the psalmist relies on God’s nearness (150,151). Even when deep in enemy territory, even when the enemy taunts, “Where is your God, now?”, the psalmist depends on the truth that God is always near. Third, he relies on the LORD’s faithfulness (152). Enemies, powers, civilizations, come and go, rise and fall. But God is as dependable as the sun rising every morning. God’s covenant promises are absolutely reliable. Suggestions for prayer Call upon the Lord, on the basis of His promises, for the sake of Jesus Christ, to help you in your needs. Plead on His faithfulness and nearness, to grant you forgiveness of your sins and to guide you by the Holy Spirit in the renewal of your life.

This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. James Slaa is pastor of the Smithers Canadian Reformed Church in British Columbia, Canada.

Church history

When the Word of God is not preached

Half-truths, little tidbits of information used for one's own interpretation and advantage, can be harmful, even damnable. Zeal without knowledge can be destructive, extremely destructive. Indeed, this type of zeal can become the devil's toy.

*****

More than 250 years ago, a little girl was born in the parish of Ottery St. Mary, in the county of Devon in the west of England. The month was April and the year was 1750. Joanna Southcott, for so the girl-child was baptized, grew up in rather poor conditions. Her father, William Southcott, sprang from rich stock, but circumstances had reduced him from living on a manor to working a small dairy farm. A Church of England member, by all accounts, he read the Bible to his family. As she grew older Joanna was taught to help out on the farm, even running it for a time when her father was ill. She was capable girl.

Eventually Joanna left home to begin a career. Employed by an upholsterer in Exeter, she learned how to cut cloth, choose fabric, work with trims and sew welted edges. It was during this time that she became engaged to a young man by the name of Noah Bishop. Noah was a footman, whose duties at his place of employment included admitting guests and waiting at table. They seemed a well-matched couple. However, after a rather short courtship, Joanna suddenly broke off the engagement. The reason she gave her fiancé was rather strange - she let him know that an angel had appeared to her one night telling her that she must not allow her body to be defiled by a man. Poor Noah!! His intentions towards Joanna had been honorable. He concluded that she was deranged!

During Joanna's stint of employment with the upholsterer, a revivalist Methodist preacher visited the area. Notoriously amoral, he openly lived with a mistress and flirted freely with the opposite sex. Yet he was allowed in the pulpit, preaching loudly about sin and damnation. Proud and boastful of his salvation status, he openly thanked God for not making him like the other “sinners” in the congregation. All Joanna's fellow workers were afraid of him. Joanna was not. She saw through the man and was amazed that his hoax was accepted.

Leaving the employ of the upholsterer after breaking her engagement, Joanna began work as a domestic servant in Exeter. According to a later portrait drawing of her by artist and engraver William Sharp (1749-1824), we can conclude that Joanna was probably a sweet and pretty-looking girl in her younger years, becoming more buxom and well upholstered around the waist in middle age.

A woman in need of friends

Although she had been raised in the Church of England, Joanna joined the Wesleyans in 1792. Persuading others that she possessed supernatural gifts, she wrote and dictated prophecies in rhyme. She also began to teach, preach (Had she never been taught regarding I Tim. 2:12?) and prophesy. A number of her predictions seemed to come about. Many of these “prophecies” referred to events that occurred during her lifetime. For example, she is credited with having foretold the famine of 1795, the bad harvest of 1797, the Irish Rebellion of 1798, and the deaths of several more or less well-known persons.

Was Joanna a loner? She surely needed Christian companions who loved her enough to caution her. Her feet and her mouth were steering her towards greater and greater heresy. The worst heresy was that she claimed to be the woman mentioned in Revelation 12:1-6. Quite a profession! She openly designated herself a prophetess whom God had divinely appointed to be the mother of the Messiah. (What happened to Isaiah 7:14? Did she not know the Christ Child had already been born?) Joanna must have been without Christian friends. Friends will caution you; friends will reprove you; friends will point you to the truth of the Gospel fulfilled; and friends will tell you of the hope of heaven and the danger of hell if you do not turn from error.

Joanna's followers were marked by peculiarity of dress, which resembled that of Quakers, the men sporting long beards. With thousands of adherents, among whom were some clergy, Joanna also began making and selling printed seals which supposedly guaranteed the buyer entry into paradise after the Apocalypse. (Even the familiar John 3:16-18 seems to have been lost on Joanna and her supporters.) Seating, it was said, was limited to 144,000, so buy seals while you can. Exorbitant prices were charged. Joanna, denying that she was profiting from the sale of these “indulgences,” continued to manufacture them. Some six or seven thousand were sold and a number of them are still in existence. They are small pieces of paper with a circle drawn in the middle. In this circle are written words which imply that the buyer is saved. Every one of these seals was signed by Joanna Southcott.

In addition to teaching and lecturing, Joanna also wrote some thirty or so books which were published during her lifetime. The manuscripts, many of which are written in different handwritings, are still available, pointing to the employment of an assistant.

Pregnant at 63?

In 1813, Joanna now being 63 years old, and living with two lady companions, began to take on the appearance of a pregnant woman. Her stomach grew rounder and rounder, and she announced to her followers that she was now about to become the mother of the promised Child spoken of in Revelation 12. She asserted that redemption would be completed in herself. (What happened to Hebrews 9:12?) She would bruise the serpent's head and the immediate aim of her life was to destroy the devil.

Possibly due to a tumor growing within her abdomen, Joanna presented herself to the public as one shortly to give birth. Those who believed what she spouted, waxed enthusiastic. Holding collections, they sent a delegation to an expensive cabinet-maker and bought a cradle - a fashionable cradle, richly ornamented and decorated. They set this up in a specially prepared place and began to collect accessories. Baby blankets, pillows, linens and embroidered sheets began to accumulate. It was, after all, for a miraculous child and who would not want to hail this baby with luxury and comfort!

The excitement over this apparent pregnancy and upcoming birth was palpable among the population, especially in the London area. The number of eager followers were said to have numbered around 100,000. Most of them were illiterate and rather credulous, but some were middle-class and clergy. They all fully believed the claptrap and nonsense. (Where there is no prophetic vision people cast off restraint - Proverbs 29:18.) One pastor even offered to resign from his diocese if the “Holy Joanna,” as he called her, failed to give birth to the Messiah.

The days and months passed. No baby was born. In August of 1814, a physician by the name of Dr. Reece, examined Joanna, to “ascertain the probability of her being in a state of pregnancy, as then given out.” He affirmed that she was indeed with child. Other doctors were called in, reputable medical men, and they, as well, concluded that she was pregnant. More weeks passed and Joanna herself, despite her grand delusions, became uncomfortable with her bulky stomach. She hesitatingly allowed that she might have been deceived by some spirit, either good or evil. Dead but still causing problems As the year of 1814 drew to a close, Joanna Southcott died. She died surrounded by a few of her ill-informed disciples, and she died without giving birth. She had been barren. Prior to her death another surgeon had been called in by Dr. Reece and he had, without any uncertainty, declared that Joanna was not in the family way, that she was ill, and that he did not foresee any hope of her recovery. Before her death at the end of December 1814, she had been confined to bed for ten weeks. Dr. Reece, who was in attendance during her last hours, immediately after Joanna died, wrote to the editor of the Sunday Monitor:

“Agreeable to your request, I send a messenger to acquaint you, that Joanna Southcott died this morning precisely at 4 a.m. The believers in her mission, supposing that the vital functions are only suspended for a few days, will not permit me to open the body until some symptom appears, which may destroy all hopes of resuscitation."

Holding on to the hope that Joanna would resurrect, something she had predicted, her followers wrapped her body in warm blankets, placed hot water bottles at her feet, and kept the room warm. Crowds assembled around the house, hoping and waiting for her to rise from the dead. However, it was all to no avail and her body began to putrify. Even as decomposition set in, there were those who swore not to shave their beards until Joanna's resurrection. Likely a great many men with very snarled and lengthy beards were consigned to the grave in the years that followed. A later autopsy showed that Joanna Southcott had suffered from dropsy which had killed her. She was buried in Marylebone cemetery on January 2, 1815. Laid into her coffin, she was interred under a fictitious name. The authorities feared that if they did not do this, grave robbers might want to open the tomb, ransack her remains, and profit by the sale of her bones. Prior to her death Joanna had dictated a will in which she professed to have lied, professed to have been prompted by the devil. In this document she insisted that after her death, the cradle and all things with it, should be returned to the people who gave them. The 1568 Bishops' Bible reads Proverbs 29:18 in this way:

When the worde of God is not preached, the people perishe: but well is hym that kepeth the lawe.

In twenty-first century English language this translates freely as:

When the Word of God is neglected, ignored or not preached properly, the people will perish: but discerning people who hear the Word of God and obey it, are blessed.

Again, where God's Word is not preached, people become fools, believing anyone and everything. Strange and ludicrous as Joanna's story is, many Joanna's have walked the earth in the past and are still walking it. A William Davies (1833-1906), leader of a Latter Day Saint schismatic group, taught his followers that one of his children was the reincarnated Jesus. Lou de Palingboer (1898-1968), founder of a religious movement in Holland, claimed to be “the resurrected body of Jesus.” And a couple of years ago, a parish in the Church of Sweden, tweeted out that Greta Thunberg, teenage climate activist, was an appointed successor to Jesus Christ. Pregnant with self-deception and self-importance, such people give birth to the wind and reap the whirlwind. Make sure you are able to recognize such frauds. Make it your 2020 resolution to become better acquainted with God's Word and to read it faithfully each day!

This article has been corrected to note that it was a parish in the Church of Sweden and not the Church of Sweden itself that tweeted “Announcement! Jesus of Nazareth has now appointed one of his successors, Greta Thunberg.”

News

Saturday Selections - Dec. 22, 2018

Young love: what are you waiting for? When we get married isn't always under our control. But there is a trend in the world, and reaching into the Church, to put off marriage until all our ducks are in a row. But does that give marriage the prominence it deserves? Rev. Jerrold Lewis offers 7 reasons to consider marrying early. (One caution: his divorce statistics, while commonly cited, are wrong - the real divorce rate is may be as low as 25%, and lower still in the Church.) The pay gap myth that just won't die Have you heard that women make just 77 percent of what men make? This wage-gap myth is based on averaging what all women make and comparing that to what all men make. It is an oversimplification that doesn't factor in is the different jobs, the different risks, and different amounts of overtime the two genders engage in. It turns out that when it comes to careers and family life, men and women have different priorities. An end of the year marriage check-up This is two years old but Kevin DeYoung's questions are just as helpful at the end of 2018. The Mike Pence rule spreads to Wall Street "Some women object, but it's one answer to #MeToo." When the public school tries to indoctrinate your kids about homosexuality The public school system is an arm of the government, and will often teach at cross-purposes to you, the parent. While you can ask that your child be allowed to skip certain classes – maybe the sex-ed classes – the administration may or may not agree. Even if they do allow it, the ungodly propaganda is so pervasive now, it isn't a matter of one class here or there. Consider these two examples: it's been ten years since the BC government agreed to let a same-sex couple rewrite the provincial curriculum to make it more homosexual-friendly, and just this year an Alberta school was involved in handing out explicit instructions on "safe" homosexual sex – a pictorial flip book – to a 13-year-old. So long as your children are in this system, you won't be able to shield them from the peer pressure coming at them from indoctrinated classmates (who will be happy to fill them in on everything that happened in the class they skipped) or from the influence of those you've put in authority over them – their teachers. You can blunt the worst of this impact via private schooling or home-schooling – by getting your children out of a system set on separating them from God – but even then they'll be impacted via neighborhood friends. So how can you innoculate your children against these influences? Amy K. Hall has help to offer, and it starts with coming alongside your children and talking through God's perspective, even as they are exposed to the secular perspective. The secret code of creation (1 hour) You don't have to understand this all to be blown away. A lecture unlike any you've heard before on the intriguing code God has built into numbers themselves.

News

Dutch doctor acquitted in euthanasia case

The threshold for euthanasia in the Netherlands is already low. And a Dutch court just lowered it even further.

On 10 September, a panel of three judges found a doctor “not guilty” of breaking the law in the way she administered a lethal injection to one of her patients. The trial represented the first time a doctor was prosecuted since the Netherlands legalized euthanasia in 2002. The case centered on the question of whether a patient who is mentally incompetent can receive a lethal injection.

Under Dutch law, a person can write a legal declaration requesting euthanasia should they develop advanced dementia in the future. If a doctor determines a patient with such a legal declaration has “unbearable suffering,” they can proceed to euthanize them – even though the patient is unable to orally confirm that they still wish to die.

The patient at the center of the case was a woman with Alzheimer’s. Her condition had become so advanced that she no longer recognized her own face in the mirror. When she was still mentally competent, she had written up a legal declaration. She had also had several conversations with her GP about euthanasia over a period of several years. However, she kept saying she was not yet ready to die.

Once her condition became advanced, she had to be removed to a care home. The doctor who ultimately gave her the lethal injection worked in the care home. The woman’s husband raised the issue of euthanasia with the doctor when the woman was admitted. The doctor then spent seven weeks consulting with second opinions to determine if the woman met the criteria of “unbearable suffering” before ending her life on 22 April 2016.

The doctor began by secretly administering a sedative to the woman via her coffee to put her to sleep. However, the woman awakened when the lethal drugs were added to her IV and began to struggle. She was restrained by her husband and daughter so the doctor could finish.

The Dutch committee that oversees euthanasia found the doctor “negligent” in the way she handled the case. The Netherlands’ Board of Medical Examiners also issued her a reprimand.

However, the court acquitted her of breaking Dutch euthanasia law and thus set an important precedent. Legal declarations can be used to administer euthanasia to patients who are not able to give consent and are perhaps totally unaware of what is being done to them.

Euthanasia for patients with advanced dementia is still extremely rare in the Netherlands. There were only 15 reported instances of this since legalization in 2002 (out of a total of 62,000). However, the numbers are likely to increase in the years that come. One poll found that over 10% of Dutch adults have a legal declaration requesting euthanasia in the event of advanced dementia. Given the amount of media coverage the recent trial and verdict attracted, more people may decide to write them.

Up to now, the status of these legal declarations had been ambiguous. Even some euthanasia supporters are opposed to them because it is not possible to determine if the patient still wishes to end their life. Last year, ethicist Berna van Baarsen resigned from her position on the Dutch committee that oversees the practice of euthanasia because she does not believe advanced dementia patients should be eligible. “That’s my boundary, based on ten years of reflection and reading dossiers,” she said.

However, on 10 September, the Dutch court sent a clear message that legal declarations can be used as a substitute for oral consent to put a mentally incompetent person to death.

A study showed that 92% of the Dutch population accepts euthanasia. However, many are uncomfortable with the way the threshold for eligibility continues to be lowered. Perhaps the verdict will lead more people to stop and ask, “Where does this end?”


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