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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

April 30 - Joy with Jesus

Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given me, may be with me where I am…– John 17:24 Scripture reading: John 17:1-26 I want to conclude this month’s topic of joy focusing on one of my favorite verses. John 17 records Jesus’ high-priestly prayer in which we get a glimpse into the heart of our Saviour. In that prayer, Jesus reveals the desire of His heart: that all those whom the Father has given Him would be with Him. It’s one thing to long to be with Jesus. I desire to be with Him and dwell in that place where pain is gone and I will have eternal fellowship with Christ. But what John 17:24 says is that Jesus desires that too! Jesus wants me to be with Him. Jesus wants you to be with Him. It will be the most blessed experience to see our exalted Saviour and Lord in all His glory. To join the angels and that “multitude that no one can number” (Rev. 7:9) and to worship Him before His throne will be unimaginably glorious! And Jesus wants you there. But His desire is not like so many of our desires. We may desire something that will never come to pass. I desire to visit Israel, but I have no assurance it will happen. But do you think there is any prayer of Jesus that the Father will not grant? Is there any desire of Jesus that will go unfulfilled? By no means! That means you and I can have full assurance, 100% certainty that we will be with Jesus! That, dear brother or sister in Christ, should thrill your heart and fill you with great joy! Suggestions for prayer Pray that God would increase your faith to see the blessed future awaiting you. Give thanks that God gives you joy today and for all eternity.

This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional. Rev. Derrick Vander Meulen is the minister of Coram Deo Reformation Church (URC) in Littleton, Colorado.

Pro-life - Abortion, Pro-life - Adoption

Should all adoption records be unsealed? A pro-life perspective

Some years back the Costco Connection asked its readers: "Should it be mandatory to give adult adoptees full access to their birth records if they want it?" Arguing the “Yes” side, April Dinwoodie said it came down to the best interests of the child. While noting that in the US 95% of recent adoptions are already voluntarily open, she insists all should be.

"…adopted persons…are left without potentially lifesaving family medical history…Most importantly, we are denying this class of people a right that every other human being currently enjoys: the right to know the truth of their origins."

The next month the results were in and an overwhelming 92% of responding readers agreed with Dinwoodie. But there is one important point Dinwoodie never mentioned: in our day and age parents with an unwanted child don’t have to choose adoption – they can also choose abortion. So the question could also be reframed from their perspective: "Should birth parents who may be debating between giving up their child for adoption or killing him via abortion be denied the option of an anonymous adoption?" That puts a different spin on "the best interests of the child," doesn't it? It's no given that a unwanted child will be given up for adoption. If we want to give these unwanted children their very best chance at being carried to term, and delivered, then we need to do everything we can to make adoption look as attractive to the parents as possible. Then we'll want to take away anything that might make these parents hesitate, or consider their other "option." If that means giving parents involved in a crisis pregnancy the option of anonymity, wouldn't we want to do that? Better a living child without roots, than an aborted one with the "right to know the truth of their origins."

A version of this article first appeared in the February 2016 issue of Reformed Perspective.

Adult non-fiction

BOOK REVIEW: You Who? Why you matter and how to deal with it

by Rachel Jankovic 235 pages / 2019 I began reading my wife’s copy of You Who? only after she shared comments from the online critics who were savaging it. A good encouraging review won’t necessarily sell me a book – I have too many others stacked up already competing for my attention – but when a certain sort of critic just hates a book then my curiosity is piqued and I want to know, “What could have gotten them that riled up?” So I owe Rachel Jankovic’s detractors thanks for getting me started on one of the best books I’ve read this year. The author’s premise is simple: “Who am I?” is a question everyone asks and most of us answer badly. The most common answers involve our jobs: people will say “I’m a farmer” or “I am a small business owner.” But there’s a problem with identifying with our career: we can lose our job, or retire from it. And who are we then? Others will identify themselves with their abilities or interests (“I am an artist,” or “I am a surfer”), or in their marital status (“I am single”), what groups they belong to (“I am Canadian”), or in not belonging to any groups (”I am a free spirit”). And many women look for their identity in the roles of wife and mother. But here, too, problems exist because here, too, things can change: over time our abilities fade and our interests can shift. Over time the country we were once proud of may betray the values we thought it held. And over time even the most loving spouse will repeatedly let us down. Sure, our children can be a frequent source of pride and joy, one week sitting side by side in the church pew, hair combed, shoes polished, lovingly sharing the songbooks, but the next week it’s just as likely you’ll be taking two out at a time, their legs kicking and little lungs giving full vent to their protests in front of the whole congregation. If we find our identity in being the perfect parent, it doesn’t take any time at all for that bubble to burst. So if those are all wrong answers to the "Who am I?" question, then what’s the right one? Jankovic wants to:

“encourage and equip believing women to see their identity in Christ as the most essential part of them, and to see all the ways that will work its way out in their lives, manifesting itself as strength, dignity, and clarity of purpose.”

Encouraging believers to make Christ our first and foremost shouldn’t be controversial. So why were critics upset? Because they were confused, mistaking Jankovic’s call to God-honoring obedience for some sort of legalistic works righteousness. There’s a sense in which that’s understandable. Legalism (or works righteousness) and antinomianism (or lawlessness) are a set of paired theological errors. The legalist can’t believe God’s grace is really free, so he wants to earn it by obeying God’s law and, like the Pharisees of old, will even add to and expand on God’s laws. Meanwhile, antinomians recognize that the law can’t justify us and conclude that since we can’t measure up to God’s standard then Jesus must have come to abolish all those pesky Commandments. These are huge, dangerous errors, but if you speak out against one, it’s inevitable someone will mistake your point and think you are a proponent of the opposite error. And that’s what’s happened here. In the Reformed circles that this magazine serves we all know we can’t earn our way to heaven, but if we have a tendency to err in one direction or the other then we’re probably more likely to tip in the legalistic direction (just think of all the additional rules we once had for Sunday and how often we heard "dat niet op Zondag"). But in the evangelical world – Jankovic’s target audience – the error is on the other side. In those circles many believe sin is no big deal because, after all, the more we mess up, the more it just shows how gracious God is. Or as the current star of the Bachelorette reality TV show (a self-professing Christian) put it this month, after she had sex with one contestant and went naked bungee jumping with another:

“I refuse to feel shame….I am standing firm in believing that maybe God wants to use a mess like me to point to his goodness and grace.”

What this neglects is the Apostle Paul’s answer to the question, “Shall we then continue in sin that grace may abound?” to which he gave a definitive, “By no means!” (Romans 6:1-2). Of course, we shouldn’t expect solid theology from reality TV. But this antinomianism – lawlessness – is working itself out in the audience of evangelical wives and moms that Jankovic is speaking to. There we find that the false identities some Christian women are adopting, are giving them reasons to disobey God’s call to faithful, mundane, day-after-day obedience. A mom who finds her identity in her abilities will ignore her children in favor of her career aspirations. Or if she’s made herself the center of her world, then she’ll have every reason to skip the laundry folding and partake in a little “me time” instead. And if her kids become her identity, then neglecting her husband to give the little ones more attention can be spun as downright virtuous. That’s what it can look like, but as much as these identities promise us meaning and fulfillment, they never deliver. Jankovic wants us to understand we were made to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Our identity is in Christ. We were made to worship. That’s our identity: God worshippers. And His people give Him glory by doing the good works that He has prepared for us to do (Eph. 2:10). Does that mean folding laundry is the key to pleasing God? Well, God might be calling you to get at that pile of clothes and, if so, then you should obey. Then that is how you can glorify Him. But the kids' homework might be a more important priority, or maybe, to take on the rest of the day, a nap is needed. If so, then that unfolded pile can also glorify God as you, in loving obedience, get some rest, or help with homework instead. I am not a mom or a wife, but this book was a help to me too. There wasn't all that much in here that I didn't already know but it served as a much-needed reminder that I am not what I do. I’m at that stage of life where joints are giving out, and it’s more obvious now than it has ever been that I am no athlete. Before I read You Who? that was getting me down. But there is joy to be found when, instead of finding my identity in my athletic ability (or lack thereof) I bow my knee and ask my God and King, “How can I honor You?” When I make Him my focus, then it turns out I’m still able to throw a ball far enough to play with the three kids God has given me to raise and nurture. I can't glorify myself anymore in my athletic endeavors, but in playing with the kids He's given me, it turns out I can glorify Him. I can still, in this way, do what I was made to do. And instead of being depressed at being able to do less, I can be content knowing God isn’t concerned with the declining volume of my output. But, as Jankovic notes, He does demand everything I have to give. If that sounds like a lot, of course, it is. Jankovic emphasizes obeying God in the day-to-day grind, making every moment about Him. We're not going to succeed at that, but when we understand what Christ has done for us, and how we are His, then we will want to try. And in trying, we will glorify Him. In failing we will also glorify Him. And we can glorify him, too, in repenting and then, secure in what Christ has done for us on the cross, going to bed assured of forgiveness and getting ready to do it all over again tomorrow. If I’m not making this sounds exciting, then that’s a good reason for you to pick up You Who? where Rachel Jankovic says it a lot better. And if you are excited, well, what are you waiting for? You're going to love You Who? I’d recommend it for any study group, women or men, and if your group is interested, then be sure to check out the study group e-book that you can download for free here.

AA
Pro-life - Abortion
Tagged: featured, pro-life, pro-life logic

Only one question to debate: What are the unborn?

Abortion advocates love clouding the real issue.
We don’t have to let them.

*****

The answer to the question, What is the unborn?, trumps all other considerations in the abortion debate. Objections to the pro-life view based on choice, on bodily rights, and on back-alley abortions miss the point entirely as the dialogue below illustrates.

Abortion advocate: Abortion is a private choice between a woman and her doctor.

Pro-lifer: Do we allow parents to abuse their children if done in private?

Abortion advocate: Of course not. Those children are human beings.

Pro-lifer: Then the issue isn’t privacy. It’s, What is the unborn?

Abortion advocate: But many poor women cannot afford to raise another child.

Pro-lifer: When human beings get expensive, may we kill them?

Abortion advocate: Well, no, but aborting a fetus is not the same as killing a person.

Pro-lifer: So once again, the issue is, What is the unborn? Is the fetus the same as a person?

Abortion advocate: But you’re being too simplistic. This is a very complex issue involving women who must make agonizing decisions.

Pro-lifer: The decision may be psychologically complex for the mother, but morally it is not complex at all. When blacks are mistreated in a certain society, do we spin a tale about complex, agonizing decisions for the whites in power or do we condemn the evil of racism?

Abortion advocate: Aborting a fetus that is not a person is one thing, discriminating against black persons is quite another.

Pro-lifer: So we’re agreed, if abortion kills a defenseless human being, then the issue wouldn’t be complex at all. The question is, What is the unborn?

Abortion advocate: Enough with your abstract philosophy. Let’s talk about real life. Do you think a woman should be forced to bring an unwanted child into the world?

Pro-lifer: The homeless are unwanted, may we kill them?

Abortion advocate: But it’s not the same.

Pro-lifer: That’s the issue, isn’t it? Are they the same? If the unborn are human like the homeless, then we can’t kill them to get them out of the way. We’re back to my first question, What is the unborn?

Abortion advocate: But you still shouldn’t force your morality on women.

Pro-lifer: You don’t really believe what you just said. You’d feel comfortable forcing your morality on a mother who was physically abusing her two-year-old, wouldn’t you?

Abortion advocate: But the two cases are not the same.

Pro-lifer: Oh? Why is that?

Abortion advocate: Because you’re assuming the unborn are humans, like toddlers.

Pro-lifer: And you’re assuming they’re not. So the issue is quite simple, isn’t it? It’s not about forcing morality, it’s not about privacy, it’s not about economic hardship, it’s not about unwantedness; it’s just one question: What is the unborn?

This article is an excerpt from Scott Klusendorf’s “Pro-life 101” and is reprinted here with permission. Scott is President of Life Training Institute and the author of “The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture.” Scott has taught pro-life apologetics at the graduate level at Biola University and Trinity Law School, and lectured at over 80 colleges and universities including Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, USC, Johns Hopkins, MIT, and the U.S. Air Force Academy — to name a few. Scott’s debate opponents have included Nadine Strossen (former President of the ACLU), attorney Edward Tabash (of the Council for Secular Humanism), attorney Kathryn Kolbert (who argued for abortion rights at the Supreme Court), and Katherine Kneer (President of Planned Parenthood California). At the practical level, Scott helps pregnancy centers raise money to assist women facing unplanned pregnancies. The money raised helps women with shelter, baby clothes, parenting classes, and medical care. Scott is a graduate of UCLA and holds a Master’s degree in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. He and his wife Stephanie have been married since 1985 and they have 4 children.


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