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

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

Browse thousands of RP articles

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

Get Articles Delivered!

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

Most Recent

The Rest

Family, Movie Reviews

Seven Chances

Comedy / Silent 56 min / 1925 Rating: 8/10 This Buster Keaton classic is a silent film, so instead of asking my kids if they wanted to see it, I just popped it in and started watching on my ownsome in the family room. And, as I expected, it didn't take long for them to sit down beside me. I think it was the otherworldliness that got them. This is unlike anything they've seen before, from another time, all black and white, with dialogue you read and music that's so well matched to what's on-screen that it's almost like they can talk. Keaton stars as Jimmie Shannon, a down-on-his-luck businessman who has long wanted to marry his sweetheart, Mary Jones, except he doesn't have the money to support them. And, to make matters worse, his boss has been tricked into "a financial deal that meant disgrace – and possibly prison – unless they raised money quickly." So Jimmie is as down as down can be. That's when the lawyer shows up with news that Jimmie's grandfather has given him seven million dollars... on the condition that Jimmie is married by 7 pm on his 27th birthday! Jimmie's problems are solved: he can marry his girl and keep everybody out of jail! But today is his birthday, so off he rushes to propose. Sadly, poor Jimmie muffs it, making it sounds like the reason he wants to marry Mary is just so he can get the money. She refuses! The distraught Jimmie has no interest in marrying anyone now, but is pressured by his partner to marry someone, anyone just to keep them out of jail. The partner makes a list of seven names – seven chances – for Jimmie to try. And when Jimmie foolishly does, he gets laughed right out the door. But that partner isn't finished: he tells the newspaper about the story, and effectively takes out an ad for ladies interested in marrying a millionaire to meet him at the church. When several hundred show up, the chase is on, and for the next ten minutes we get to watch as Keaton jumps, leaps, slides, and runs, runs, runs for his life! Cautions This is an old film and with that comes a couple of concerns. With Jimmie seemingly willing to propose to just about anyone, we see him approach a woman from behind, only to veer off when he discovers she's black. It's a quick few seconds and kids may not even notice the racism here, but if they do, then you can talk about the way things were back then. The bigger caution is the film's premise: marrying for money. This was remade in 1999 as The Bachelor, and it bombed, probably because. by adding color, sound, lots more dialogue, and a star who gave a restrained performance, they made it almost believable. And this is only funny as a farce. If anybody would actually marry someone for money, that'd be a sad creepy story. The original remains hilarious precisely because it stars a clown no one could ever find believable. Conclusions I encourage you to rent this, or get it from your library, even though many free copies can be found online. It is so old it's in the public domain, free for anyone to republish, but most of those free versions are grainy or have a soundtrack that's nothing more than random selections of classical music. The very best version is KINO's, which pairs a crisp picture with music that matches the action perfectly. It makes a huge difference! So who would like this? I've tested it on pre-teens and skeptical 20 and 30-year-olds too, and while it took them all a few minutes to warm to it, by the end everyone was giving it the thumbs up. They appreciated the hijinks and some also enjoyed the education: this is what film was like way back when, and Seven Chances is one of the rare gems that still hold up today. You can watch the trailer below. ...

Articles, Book Reviews, Teen fiction

Rediscovering Gordon Korman

Gordon Korman famously wrote his first book, This Can’t Be Happening at Macdonald Hall!, when he was twelve years old. By the time I was twelve, he’d written a dozen or so more – which was fortunate for me, because I was eagerly reading and re-reading them all. Why did I love his novels? They were funny; they were quirky. There was also an essential good-naturedness to them that appealed to me. Although the characters got into plenty of trouble, at heart they were usually kids with integrity, showing loyalty, generosity, and kindness. As time went on, Korman continued to write prolifically and successfully. He still wrote some of the humorous novels for kids and teens that had made him famous, but he branched into other genres as well, writing, for example, several sports series and adventure trilogies. By now I had more or less outgrown his books . . . but I still had a soft spot for this favorite author, and occasionally checked out his new releases. I found many of them less memorable than his earlier “classics”; and some of them seemed edgier, with less likeable (though more realistic) characters. I was troubled by one teen novel called Pop (2000) – a book Korman was particularly proud of – because of the eventual suicide of the aging, dementia-stricken former football star, which is portrayed as a sympathetic, even noble act. Although I nostalgically looked forward to sharing my old favorite Korman novels with my own young kids, I wasn’t so sure about his newer ones. Then, within the last six or seven years, a few new Gordon Korman books caught my eye – books like Slacker (2016), Restart (2017), The Unteachables (2019), and more. Nephews and nieces were raving about them, and soon I was hooked too. They felt like a new era of Korman novels – like the novels I would’ve expected this talented author to grow up to write. Some of Korman’s recent books are more or less pure silliness, but clean and positive, with creative storylines, fun characters, and some laugh-out-loud lines. Others are surprisingly serious, dealing with topics like the realities of war and the Holocaust, as well as domestic abuse (some of these books are definitely not for younger readers). Single parents and broken families are presented matter-of-factly, though not glamorized; many of Korman’s characters are struggling with life changes such as their parents’ divorce. In general, the characters feel a bit “older” than some of the kids in our communities, as the seventh- and eighth-graders are often quite caught up in social media and sometimes in girlfriend/boyfriend relationships. Unfortunately Korman does occasionally (though rarely) use God’s name in vain. In both Restart and Linked, for example – award-winning and otherwise commendable books – there is a flippant use or two. To me, Restart marked the real beginning of Korman at his thoughtful best, as he deals with interesting questions about good and evil, human nature, character, and choices; and Linked addresses deep questions about the purpose of life, religion, and faith, as the main character searches for what’s real and meaningful. So I regret that I can’t wholeheartedly recommend these two. Here, though, are a few others I can. Slacker 2016 / 240 pages Cameron Boxer is all about video gaming. When his parents get concerned that he’s missing out on real life, he starts a fake school group, the Positive Action Group, to appease the adults in his life. Unexpectedly, the “PAG” takes off, dragging the unenthusiastic gamer along – and, of course, surprising him by showing how much more satisfying a purposeful, other-centered life can be. One of the strengths of this (very funny) book is how Korman gets into the heads of his characters, and especially of the underachieving adolescent Boxer, whose life choices (i.e., gaming above all) make perfect sense to him, and who is honestly miffed when real-life concerns “disturb his lifestyle.” By the end, thankfully, Boxer is able to reflect that PAG “started as a hoax, but . . . ended up the realest thing about me.” Operation Do-over 2022 / 320 pages Twelve-year-old Mason made one big mistake – he betrayed his lifelong best friend over a girl they both liked. Five years later, through a mysterious time warp, he finds himself back in time, to just before the fateful incident occurred – with a unique chance for a “do-over.” He takes the chance, with the benefit of hindsight and some extra maturity, to change several things in his life this time around: try out for a team, stand up to a bully, treat a classmate better, and even keep his beloved dog from a premature death. (Interestingly, he realizes he’s not able to prevent his parents’ divorce, though he tries.) As in Restart, Korman leaves his readers with some hopeful and encouraging ideas: our “fate” isn’t predetermined, and we can make choices that change our trajectory and lead to a more positive future. The Fort 2022 / 256 pages This novel, Korman’s milestone 100th book, is a serious (and a moving) one, and although the characters are eighth-graders, the topics are pretty weighty for middle-school readers. A group of friends discover a Cold-War-era bunker in the woods, and it becomes their secret hide-out. All of them are dealing with difficult issues – OCD, family breakdown, the challenge of fitting in, family members with drug addictions – and one of them, unknown to everyone else, has a violent stepfather at home. For him, the fort becomes his literal escape, and the novel largely revolves around his story. Korman writes the different chapters, powerfully, from the points of view of the different characters. Despite the serious subject matter, we see friends showing loyalty and self-sacrifice, and are again left with the idea that positive change is possible. Conclusion Although Korman has said he’s “not a message kind of guy,” he is interested in the power of stories to help readers explore ideas and see things from different perspectives. And even if he’s not pushing a particular agenda, books do inevitably communicate something of the worldview of a writer. In the case of Korman’s books, there are a lot of hopeful takeaways for young readers: people can change, and we can make choices to change our futures for the better. Understanding and empathy can triumph over bullying and racism. Our lives can and should be about something bigger than ourselves, and grappling with what that means is a worthwhile pursuit. Positive messages, and true . . . but so incomplete. Now my oldest son is nearly twelve. (And yes, he’s been enjoying many of my old favorite Gordon Korman books.) As he and his siblings and peers grow up and confront the big questions of life, I’m grateful that we have more complete answers, and real hope, to offer – far beyond anything they’ll find in a Korman novel. At the same time, books like Korman’s have their place – as thought-provoking reads, or sometimes just as well-written stories that bring joy and make us laugh. And I know that I, and my kids, are looking forward to seeing where Gordon Korman takes us in the books to come....

Family, Movie Reviews

The 3 worlds of Gulliver

Family / Children's 1960 / 99 minutes Rating: 7/10 The film manages one upgrade on the book. In the original Gulliver's Travels, Dr. Lemuel Gulliver is all on his lonesome, but in this 1960s film version, he now has a love interest. And she's got spunk; when Gulliver decides to sail away to find his fortune, his fiancee Elizabeth stows away to go too! By the time she's discovered, the ship is already underway, and a storm ensures they can't just turn around. Still, Gulliver wants to send Elizabeth back to England, so the two go topside to argue it out. That's when a wave sweeps Gulliver right off the ship, and into his first adventure. When next we see Gulliver, he's clawing his way up a beach, calling for help from the people he sees further up the shore. He collapses, only to wake up with his arms and legs all tied down. It turns out those people down the beach weren't so far away – they were quite close, but also quite tiny, and very scared of him. Gulliver has arrived in Liiliput, a land where the people are only 6 inches tall! Gulliver quickly charms the Lilliputian emperor into letting him loose and shows his value to the ruler when he promises to help him win his war. But when Gulliver won't kill the enemy, the emperor conspires against him, and Gullliver has to flee. He's back on the water again. If you know the story, you know what happens next. And if you don't, I won't spoil it for you, but I will assure you that the second chapter is every bit as good as the first. A big part of the fun here is trying to figure out how they managed to have an enormous Gulliver interact with the tiny people around him. There was nothing computer generated back then, so this had to be done with rear screen projection, claymation, gigantic props, and I can't even imagine what else. Cautions There's just a smidge of adult sexuality here. When Gulliver finds his fiancee, he kisses her quite passionately. She interrupts, noting that "We aren't married yet," and runs off to her room and locks the door. To answer her objection, Gulliver arranges with the ruler for a lightening quick marriage ceremony! That's it – nothing untoward shown – but Gulliver's ardour did strike me as a bit PG-ish. The action scenes are generally tame, but children under 8 might be frightened when Gulliver is unexpectantly grabbed by a giant squirrel. The squirrel's weird screech also adds to the tension. Conclusion Parents familiar with Jonathan Swift's book may notice just a bit of his satire still evident in some of the dialogue. But for the most part this is a children's film, enjoyable for the spectacle of seeing a giant man interact with a pixie-sized nation. There have been more recent movie versions of Swift's classic, but this is the very best one for young children. Even if the special effects aren't as slick as the new CGI stuff, there's something very appealing about the 1960s movie magic too. Overall The 3 Worlds of Gulliver rates as a fun, fairly tame film for kids ten and under, but it's also one that mom or dad might enjoy for the old-school effects. ...

Drama, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Sabina: Tortured for Christ, the Nazi Years

Drama 2022 / 115 minutes RATING: 7/10 The opening scene shows Nazi soldiers at the end of World War II fleeing for their lives, and a Jewish woman, Sabina, willing to risk her life to hide them from the new regime. That's quite the beginning! The Nazis don't understand why she's doing it, and even as they turn to her for help, the soldier in charge demands an explanation. So Sabina tells them the story of her life. As the title indicated, this is a sequel of sorts to the 2018 Tortured for Christ about Pastor Richard Wurmbrand’s courageous and faithful stand against the Soviets when they took over Romania. Like the original, this is a true story too, and this time the focus is on Wurmbrand's wife Sabina, beginning before they were even married. As she shares, you would never have guessed back then that she'd become a pastor's wife, or that her husband-to-be would ever become a Christian. So the whole film is told as a flashback, cutting to and away from Sabina's conversation with the Nazi soldiers. What she is explaining to them is why someone such as her – persecuted by soldiers just like them – is still willing to forgive. It is because she has been forgiven first by God. Cautions While there are some shots fired at the fleeing soldiers, no one is hit. And at one point a despairing Sabina attempts to drown herself. It's a few tense moments like this that make Sabina too much for the under-10 set. But teens and up will have no problem with it. Conclusion This is very well done, with believable characters, wonderful scenery, and solid acting. It is an excellent Christian production. If I was going to pick nits, I'll say at nearly two hours it may have warranted just a bit of trimming, and that's why I rated it a 7 rather than an 8. You can watch the trailer below, and see the film for free at RedeemTV (though you will have to sign up for a free account).  ...

Drama, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Forever Strong

Drama 109 min / 2008 Rating: 7/10 This one begins with a fall from grace: teen rugby star Rick Penning crashes his car, injuring his girlfriend, and gets sent to juvenile detention for his second DUI. He also loses the affection of his rugby coach father who only seems able to relate to his son as a coach and not as a dad. Even behind bars Rick is hardly repentant. A prison chaplain of sorts starts setting him right by, first, having him scrub a lot of latrines, and second, by introducing him to a very special rugby coach. Larry Gelwix's Highland club has won the US nationals 15 of the last 20 years, but as he puts it, he's more about creating championship boys, than winning championships. He invites Rick on his team, which of course, the pig-headed Rick declines. But when he finds out he can get out sooner if he plays, Rick changes his mind, and shows up, though still grudgingly. This is a sports movie, so of course, we know Rick is going to turn it around in the end. But this one is also rooted in reality – Coach Gelwix and the Highland team are real, and Rick's character is based on a real person too – and it's those facts that keep this one fresh. Cautions As part of Rick's bad-boy life, the film opens with scenes of partying, and brief shots of bare-chested guys and bikini-clad girls. Rick is also shown drinking while driving his car off the road. He hurts himself, but the real damage is to his girlfriend who got thrown from the car and is shown strung up on a barbwire fence. It's shown only for a moment, but it is the film's most disturbing image (I thought she was dead, and only learned later she wasn't). Another caution would concern the bloody cuts from the rugby action (and from a few fist fights). A topic for discussion with your teens is how the Highland team is at times overtly Christian, and then not. The team prays before games, asking for protection for both themselves and the opponents, but then the player leading the prayer also asks God to help them all "feel the mana, the power of family." Family is a big part of the film, and there is an ancestor-worship vibe going on at times. So family could be the central "god" of the film. Conclusion This is otherwise a pretty amazing movie: well-shot, solidly acted, and you'll feel the rugby hits right through your TV. The action is too intense for preteens, but it might be a fun one for mom and dad and the older kids. And what's cool is you can watch it for free at (though you will have to sign up for their free membership). ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Wings of an Eagle - A Musician's Journey into America

Documentary 98 minutes / 2017 RATING: 8/10 Winnipeg's favorite singer-songwriter Steve Bell gets his own documentary. Bell's been a traveling man for decades, crisscrossing the country, doing thousands of gigs, winning a couple of Junos, and even performing with symphonies across Canada. He's also headed south regularly and traveled the world. But he's never really "made it big." This is the story of both his contentment with the success God has given him, and the many friends who, encouraged by his music, want him to reach that larger audience and are doing what they can to help. While Bell's music is only shared here in snippets, it might be enough to inspire the young musician in your midst to start tickling the ivories once more or to pick up their long abandoned guitar. And Bell's appearance with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra can't help but foster an appreciation for this full grand sound (the swelling music even got to Bell, who shared that during this concert had to keep focussing on "Don't cry, don't cry."} The film is also an eye-opener for all that's required to make it as a Christian musician. There are no guarantees, no matter how hard a man might work. But whether he's on a high or low, Bell manages to keep smiling... for the most part.  He can see the humor in being a quiet success. At his Winnipeg Symphony performance he shared this story with the audience: "Have you guys seen all those bus boards that we've had out advertising the concert? They've got me on the side of the busy. It's cool to see yourself on a bus, except for... I use the bus. So it gets a little awkward. But this actually happened: I was staying on Henderson Highway, I had my guitar, and all of sudden I hear this voice behind me saying 'You play guitar?' And I turned around and this guy was standing there and he wanted to talk about guitars. So I turned, my back to the street. He started talking about his guitars and he asked me what kind of music I did and I told him and then he said,  'I'd like to hear you sometime. Where can I hear you play?' No word of a lie: the bus pulls up... my face stopped right there, and I just kind of tilted the same way and I smiled at him and got on the bus. It was just very awesome!" Cautions As the documentary details, Bell is the son of a Baptist pastor who has his first break with an album giveaway on a Roman Catholic TV program. That's one reason I wonder if Bell might tend to blur some important Christian distinctions. While the Steve Bell output I'm familiar with has always been orthodox, that'd be a caution to keep in mind if you're looking into more of his music. Conclusion I started watching this with kids, and while one of our girls cut out to go play with the neighbors, we also has a neighbor come by and plop down for the whole of it. So it has broad appeal, even among the younger set who'd never heard of Bell before. And if you have any musicians aspiring to a professional career, this might be one to watch together, and discuss what trade-offs they would and wouldn't be willing to make for such a career. It definitely comes with a cost. To watch Wings of an Eagle for free, head on over to, where you'll need to sign up for a free membership to gain access....

Drama, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Final Solution

Drama 2001 / 102 minutes Rating: 8/10 This is the true story of Gerrit Wolfaardt, a church-going, Mein Kampf-reading young man who was taught from the pulpit that white South Africans were God's new chosen people. And the nation's blacks? Gerrit saw their existence as a problem that could be solved with some inspiration from Hitler. He offers up his own diabolical "final solution": if black townships could just be stirred to violence, that could be used as the excuse for the white government to come in force and wipe them all out. Gerrit's wickedness is amplified by his charisma, strength and confidence. Girls notice him, and other young men are willing to listen to him. Older, equally wicked men see potential in him, and ask Gerrit to share his final solution plans. This all has him very sure of his purpose. And that's when God uses a girl, and a black pastor, to break him down completely. This is first and foremost the story of Gerrit's transformation, but it's also the story of how a black pastor can befriend the man who wanted to kill him. One man repented, but reconciliation wouldn't have been possible without forgiveness. While viewers are taken back and forth through about three decades of time, most of the film takes place in a church. The story begins with three carloads of men, all of them very much like the young Gerrit, raiding a black township and shooting whoever they can. But their intended victims aren't as helpless as they hoped: the townsfolk start shooting back, the cars crash, and now the raiders are running for their lives. One young man manages to escape his pursuers and makes for a church. There the black pastor holds off the mob that's crying for this raider's head. An American television reporter happens to be at the church, there to report on the apartheid in South Africa, and being on camera also encourages the mob to take a more reasonable turn. They are invited into the church, so long as they promise to do so peacefully. There a negotiation takes place, the pastor calling for the raider to be turned in to the police, and the mob spokesman still arguing for his blood. It's into this exchange that the older, changed Gerrit Wolfaardt inserts himself. He too is visiting the church, the pastor now an old and much loved friend. To argue for peace, Gerrit starts to share his own story, how he was transformed from little more than a Nazi to a truly God-loving man. The bulk of the movie is then told as a flashback to show us how that change took place. Cautions The big concern here is violence. Numerous people are shot when three car loads of apartheidists go on a shooting rampage through a black township. Then when the blacks start shooting back, we see one of the attackers caught and "necklaced" – a car tire is thrown over his body, pinning his arms, and gasoline is poured over him and lit. This scene lasts a good 20 seconds, and the whole township raid lasts about 5 minutes. That means this is not one for the kids. But for adults, knowing as we do that movies are not real, that might make these scenes less shocking than they otherwise might be. I think it also helps that none of this is presented in a "slo-mo" violence-glorifying fashion. Conclusion If you can endure the 5-10 minutes of violence, this is quite the film. It's not only the story of how God can change a man, but how God is the only hope for any genuine reconciliation. Even as it is a powerful statement, I think the idea of what reconciliation involves would have been the one aspect I wish they'd explored more. God's church is front and center here, but what Jesus has done for us isn't as evident. So the forgiveness Gerrit seeks, and is offered, doesn't entirely seem to make sense. I mean, from a secular perspective, forgiving great wrongs hardly makes sense: why forgive, if it seems only to benefit the very person who wronged you in the first place? What do you get out of it? But it's because we are all debtors that we can understand how we are imitating our Savior when we forgive others. That doesn't come out as clearly as I would have liked, but it's not hard for Christian viewers to fill that in. So this remains a true story powerfully told – one of the better Christian films you'll see. And bonus: you can watch it for free below. (And should that become unavailable you can also view the full movie for free on RedeemTV though you will need to sign up for a free account.) In addition, you can also watch a free 45-minute documentary on Gerrit Wolfaadt's life called From One Blood. ...

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

The Murder of Abraham Lincoln

by Rick Geary 2005 / 80 pages Author and illustrator Rick Geary has created a series of graphic novels about Victorian-era murders. While I don't think I'd be much interested in reading others in the series (I don't feel a need or a desire to learn about Lizzie Borden or Jack the Ripper) The Murder of Abraham Lincoln is a title I would recommend to anyone interested in American history. It starts with Lincoln presenting his second inaugural address. Geary gives a brief accounting of the end of the Civil War, and intersperses it with parts of Lincoln's speech - it is a great opening to a great book. We are then told a little of assassin John Wilkes Booth's background, and his motivations, and are introduced to the co-conspirators. The last third of the book takes place after Lincoln is killed, and shows us the man-hunt for Booth, as well as the country's reaction to the assassination. A graphic novel is a compelling way to tell this story, first because Geary uses this format to show us the layout of Ford's theatre (where the assassination took place), escape routes, and other maps, and second because pictures, properly used, can tell, if not a thousand words, at least a couple hundred or so. This volume is only 80 pages, but there is a lot of information packed into it - it gives readers a great feel for the time, and insight into the still brewing conflict that had almost split the country asunder. The only concern I have with this volume is that it casts some suspicion on Secretary of War Edward M. Stanton. The author doesn't directly accuse Stanton of having a hand in the assassination, but he does raise questions about him: "Was he guilty merely of overzealousness in the execution of this office - or do his actions indicate an intent more nefarious?" I'm only passingly familiar with other accounts of Lincoln's life and death, but have never heard these questions before, so I wonder how legitimate they might be. But Stanton is a relatively minor character in this story, so this is only a minor concern. I would recommend this book for anyone 12 and over (the illustrations have been done with restraint - there is no gore to speak of) and I'm sure adults will enjoy it, and find it educational as well....

Articles, Book Reviews

Christian fantasy after Tolkien: a Top 10

If your kids are just gobbling books, and have already worked their way through Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and Lewis’s Narnia, then what’s next? Here's a Top 10 list of Christian fantasy novels – some more obviously Christian than others – that they can check out next. Click on the article titles for longer reviews. 10. The Winter King by Christine Cohen 15-year-old Cora is resourceful, but boy are the odds stacked against her! Her dad is dead, her neighbors all avoid her, thinking she's cursed, and the village god, the tyrannical Winter King seems to hate her. This beautifully written book is best suited for 15 and up because it has echoes of the Reformation – the "official" church is foe, not friend – that might confuse a younger reader. 9. Wings of Dawn by Sigmund Brouwer Thomas is a young boy seeking to win back his castle by using the technologies that might seem like magic in feudal England, but which were in use at that time elsewhere in the world (like gunpowder, or kites). 8. In the Hall of the Dragon King by Stephen Lawhead This is a well-written sword-and-knights story set in another world. Lawhead had some clear Christian undertones to his earlier stories that get lost in his later books, so stick with early Lawhead series like this one. 7. Urchin of the Riding Stars by M.I. McAllister Squirrels with swords. Need I say more? 6. The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by Jennifer Trafton A fun romp, with all sorts of inventive ingredients including: Piles of poison-tongued jumping turtles A castle built on top of a mountain that rises and falls once each day A tyrant twelve-year-old pepper-hoarding king 5. Brave Ollie Possum by Ethan Nicolle The author was one of the guys behind Babylon Bee. A kid who is scared of everything can’t get his parents to believe him that there is something on the roof outside his window. But he’s right. Kind of a terrifying premise, but the comic hijinks soon take over, with the scared boy getting turned into a possum, a creature that faints whenever it is scared. 4. Dawn of Wonder by Jonathan Renshaw A nephew made me and most of our church read it and no one has regretted doing so. The only downside is that book 2 has been more than 5 years in the waiting. But book 1 is really, really good. 3. The Green Ember by S.D. Smith Rabbits with swords! ’Nuff said. 2. Bark of the Bog Owl  by Jonathon Rogers Loosely and hilariously riffing off the story of David and Saul. But in the American South, if it had castles. It’s been described as a Mark Twain crossed with C.S. Lewis. 1. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness  by Andrew Peterson This sat on my bookshelf for more than a year because the author is a well-known and talented musician, so I figured, how can a person so good at music be any good at writing too? I mean, what are the odds? But this is fantastic, rating right up there with Lewis and Tolkien. Three children contending with the Fangs of Dang, lizard creatures that have conquered the land of Skree, and their ruler Gnag the nameless....

Book Reviews, Teen fiction

Urchin of the Riding Stars

by M.I. McAllister 2021 / 299 pages This was so good I just had to read bits of it out loud to my wife. It's an animals-with-swords tale, the hedgehogs, otters, moles, and squirrels all living together in the same island kingdom under the good King Brushen. But all is not well in the kingdom of Mistmantle – there are “cullings” being done to the newborn handicapped children. This is quite the somber subject for a children’s book, and as the culling are considered for the elderly too, it’s clear that the author is speaking to both abortion and euthanasia. The young Urchin is very much opposed, but his heroes, Captains Crispin and Padra, don’t seem to be doing anything to stop it, and the third captain, Husk, seems to be enjoying it! So who are the good guys then? Who can Urchin turn to for help to save these children? It turns out some of the good guys are indeed good, but, on the other hand, some turn out to be really, really bad. This a fairytale that takes seriously the Chesterton quote about dragons: “Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.” There is evil in this book, and that might even turn off some of its target preteen to early teen audience. But it gets to be quite the rollicking adventure soon enough, full of courtly intrigue, conspiracies, and heroes being heroic. I think the author is Christian, and the God of this story is referred to as “the Heart.” This spiritual element isn’t huge, but it is persistent, and doesn’t stray into anything weird or wacky. I know this will be a book I’ll enjoy reading to my kids. An otherwise entertaining second book in this Mistmantle Chronicles series is marred by an agenda-pushing, albeit passing, mention of a female priest. The first book stands well enough on its own, so in our house, I think we’re going to start and stop with number one....

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

Harriet Tubman: Fighter for Freedom!

by James Buckley Jr. and Izeek Esidene 2020 / 94 pages Harriet Tubman (1822-1913) was an American black woman born into slavery who escaped the South only to go back again and again to show other slaves the way to freedom. She also served in the American Civil War as both a guide for Northern forces, and as a nurse. Even during the war, she continued making trips to free slaves. Biographies can sometimes be dry and dusty, but one advantage of this comic-book format is that it allows for an era that survives only in black-and-white photos to be brought to life in full color. One wonderful surprise in this secular book, was how Harriet is shown repeatedly pleading to, praising, and thanking God. It was made obvious that what she was doing was based on a love for her Lord. She could be brave because she knew she was in God's hands. Like the other American-focused editions of this "Show Me History!" series, this comic is narrated by two kids, a boy and a girl, which makes it all the more accessible for early readers. Sam, is actually a young "Uncle Sam" and his friend Libby, clad all in green, is also known as "lady liberty" (aka the Statue of Liberty) and their back-and-forth banter really adds some fun, especially in Tubman's life, which is otherwise a pretty serious story. This has me excited to check out other titles in the series. Cautions In a book in which God is being praised dozens of times, I don't think it a stretch to presume that the one time someone "interjects" God's Name that it is been done as a short prayer of thanks. I include the instance here for you to decide. Harriet's niece Kizzy is escaping and desperately looking for her aunt. On spotting Harriet ahead, Kizzy says to her husband: "I see her, John, oh Lord... I see her!" Another caution concerns how the book presumes that the South's secession was a problem that needed to be solved by war. While estimates vary, at least 600,000 soldiers died in the war, or more than 2% of the population of the time. And that doesn't even include the uncounted number of civilian deaths. Southern slavery was wicked, but Great Britain ended slavery without a war, so it is worth considering if Abraham Lincoln did the right thing. The indivisibility of the country is also worth considering in our own time when up until just recently abortion was legalized nationwide for 50 years, leading to more than 60 million deaths. Might that number have been smaller had pro-life states had the ready option of leaving the union? I will add though that the fact this comic doesn't question the righteousness of the Civil War is hardly unusual, and in that sense, it is not all that notable. Conclusion At 94 pages, this has the room to go a lot deeper than most kids' biographies ever do. I think it'd be great for any kids 10-14 who wanted to learn about either US history, or about some of the Christians who helped fight slavery. So far I've checked out two others in this "Show Me History!" series. Benjamin Franklin: Inventor of the Nation was also very good. The man himself is PG-rated – he had kids out of wedlock, and possibly two wives at the same time – so even though the comic only briefly touches on those details, that one might be better for teens than preteens. And, in sharp contrast with the Harriet Tubman title, there's really no Christian content. But his life as an inventor, printer, diplomat, and one of the American Founding Fathers is quite the read! Abraham Lincoln: Defender of the Union was also a quick and easy read, but it shares a caution with Harriet Tubman. The book presumes that the Union had to be preserved, even at the cost of 600,000 men's lives. That's an especially big part of this book, make it a bigger caution in this case, so I might go with a different comic Lincoln biography: Rick Geary's The Murder of Abraham Lincoln. ...


MP Ed Fast wants to halt Canada’s runaway euthanasia train

In a courageous move, Conservative Member of Parliament Ed Fast has introduced a private member’s bill to permanently halt the federal government’s effort to expand euthanasia to the mentally ill. “It is deeply concerning that this government appears to be moving from a culture of life to a culture of death," he said to reporters on Parliament Hill. When euthanasia and assisted suicide were legalized by Parliament in 2016, they were limited to those whose suffering was intolerable, with an incurable illness, and where natural death was foreseeable. It didn’t take long and the safeguards were broadened or ignored. Most recently, that included government legislation that would allow euthanasia for those whose sole reason was mental illness. As Reformed Perspective reported in our last issue, in response to strong concerns, the federal government paused this plan for one year, but only to give time for medical professionals to get ready. Canada keeps sliding down that slope Fast introduced Bill C-314, the Mental Health Protection Act, to put the brakes on the expansion of euthanasia. “As many of us had predicted when assisted death was legalized in 2016, we now find ourselves on a steep slippery slope that jeopardizes the lives of society’s most vulnerable” Fast shared in an article that was published by the National Post. “As citizens who believe the government is there to protect and nurture life, we must ask: Who’s next? The poor and homeless who are already approaching our food banks to ask for MAID?” The MP is concerned that Parliament has not properly studied what could result from its reckless course. “The expert panel struck by the government to review expansion of MAID was not permitted to study the underlying merits of extending assisted death to the mentally ill. The panel even failed to deliver on its mandate to propose additional MAID safeguards. In fact, two of the panel members quit, noting that the outcome of the deliberations appeared to have been pre-determined.” Although opposition MPs often have to stand alone when introducing private member’s legislation, especially on contentious social issues, this time was different. The Conservative Party of Canada’s leader Pierre Poilievre stood next to Fast for his announcement and spoke up in his support. "Our job is to turn their hurt back into hope. To treat mental illness problems rather than ending people's lives" the CBC reported. He also committed that a government led by him would repeal euthanasia and assisted suicide for the mentally ill. Important, whether or not it passes A private member’s bill rarely becomes law, and it is highly unlikely that the Liberal government would about-face and support Fast’s bill. Yet, as we have seen from those who overturned Canada’s laws on life, family, and marriage in recent decades, efforts like this are critical for changing a trajectory long term. It shifts the Overton Window, moving an idea along a spectrum of acceptability from radical to sensible and then to policy. In the case of Bill C-314, Ed Fast’s bill gave an opportunity for his leader and his party to put a stake in the ground, promising to take action if they are given the opportunity to govern. When an MP chooses to introduce a bill on a contentious social issue, they are also setting themselves up for a backlash of opposition, both from activists on the other side of the issue as well as from their own colleagues and supporters. Many within the Conservative Party balk when MPs provide any leadership on social issues, as they see this as something that will only take away their support and make it even more difficult to ever form government. Those who courageously speak up are often marginalized and rarely promoted to take on bigger roles in the party or in Parliament. ARPA Canada, which has been meeting with government officials about this issue for years, and helping the Christian community speak up for life, rejoiced when C-314 was introduced. “For many years it has felt like we’ve been on a runaway train when it comes to legalized euthanasia. This bill signals that there is a willingness to stop this runaway train in its tracks!” Mike Schouten, ARPA’s interim Executive Director, shared in a note to supporters. “ARPA Canada praises God for this development. We serve a sovereign God with whom nothing happens by chance (Prov. 19:21) and who directs the hearts of our leaders like streams of water (Prov. 21:1). We truly believe God is hearing and positively answering the prayers of His people on behalf of the country in which we live.”...

Book Reviews, Graphic novels


It's Maggie's 10th birthday and she's finally going to get the puppy she's always wanted! Of course, she's ready the moment she's dressed to head out to the animal shelter, but it takes a bit of prodding to get mom and dad out the door. Mom is pregnant and has to get her exercises in, and both her parents are more than a little distracted prepping for the baby's arrival. Maggie wants a puppy in part because she figures her parents are going to be focused on the baby and not her. Her younger twin brothers have each other, and Maggie figures if she has a puppy then she'll have her own best friend and someone who'll always pay attention to her. Those are big expectations for a little pup! The first plot twist is that, after finding just the puppy she wants, Maggie discovers she's allergic. And not just to this pup but everything with fur or feathers! Maggie is devastated. And feeling extra lonely. But she isn't defeated. Not all pets have fur and feathers, so Maggie makes a list and starts investigating options like turtles, hedgehogs, lizards, and even a tarantula. None of them are a good fit. Just when Maggie is feeling her lowest, a new girl and her dad move in right next door. Claire is just a grade older than Maggie and looking for a best friend – it's a wonderful match! Second plot twist: Claire gets a dog not realizing that means Maggie can't come to her house anymore. It's quite the rollercoaster ride for Maggie, with another big up and down to follow soon after, but thankfully it does end on a high happy note. Cautions There are a few cautions, mostly minor, with maybe the most notable simply that at one point Maggie sneaks a mouse and cage into her room without her parents knowing. Going behind your parents' backs isn't behavior we wanted modelled for our kids, but I'll add that Maggie gets her comeuppance. She thinks she knows better than her parents about what's good for her, but as the itching gets worse and worse, she discovers her parents really do know best. Language concerns amount to five instances of "OMIGOSH." Other considerations: the mom does yoga, but that pops up once, for a of couple pages, and then is over – the spiritual element isn't really hit on – and it's mentioned that the next-door neighbor's parents are divorced, but we're never told why. Another caution concerns the impact Maggie's disappointment might have on sympathetic young pet lovers. I'm sure this will get some sensitive souls crying on Maggie's behalf. Conclusion There are a number of pluses for this book, including the general education it offers on allergies. Maggie meets a boy at school who has his own food allergies, and we follow along as she gets her desensitization shots. As more and more kids these days seem to be getting various allergies, this is a book to show them that they are not alone in their struggles. And it can also clue classmates in on how hard those struggles might be. The reason I might buy this for my own kids (even though it is available at the library) is because a lot of kids' fiction today is about angst – about how no one else in the world understands them. That's something to watch out for because it reinforces an idea that's common enough, but isolating. What kid is going to turn to their mom or dad if they think their parents just don't get it? What I really liked about Allergic is that the parents, even when they are distracted and busy, aren't just written off as irrelevant. Maggie thinks no one is paying attention to her and that she's all on her own, but she learns that she's actually got it wrong. I'd say that's the moral to this story, but I'll also add that this point might evade many a young reader. But this is such an engaging story that I think you can count on your kids eventually getting it, because they're going to read this one again and again....

Book Reviews, Teen fiction

The Always War

by Margaret Peterson Haddix 2011 / 197 pages When my 13-year-old got a gift certificate to the local bookstore, it was an excuse for the two of us to spend some serious time perusing the shelves. But after an hour we’d discovered there wasn’t much there for her that she hadn’t already read. The teen books were either silly stories about teen crushes, or weird stuff about witches, demons, and vampires. We finally settled on something with a cover that looked almost liked some 1950s nostalgia, only to later discover one of the key characters had two dads. Another trip to the same story ended up with a decent book, but on the final page the author noted he uses “they/them” pronouns. Third try was the charm... sort of. We found something by a preteen author I'd heard was quite popular, and whose books I'd seen in our Christian school library. But while the book we settled on – Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Found (2008, 314 pages) – wasn't bad, I appreciated it more for being harmless than stupendous. It’s a time travel adventure/mystery, with a bunch of adopted children trying to figure out where they came from. There’s the typical cautions – kids acting behind their parents’ backs, along with a couple passing mentions of evolution – but none of the newer cautions needed. Peterson isn’t advocating for amputative surgeries on youth or adults (as the fellow with the “they/them” pronouns implicitly is, by pretending that gender is changeable), or for alternative lifestyles. The biggest caution I’d have concerns the fact that this is just the first of Peterson’s eight-book The Missing series, and at roughly 300 pages each, even if they all turn out to be mostly harmless, that’s a lot of cotton candy for any kid to be ingesting. I’ll also add a concern about whether this would be good or bad for adoptive kids to read, as the topic of adoption, and kids searching for who they are, is a big part of the story. Finally, as just a general caution on the author, I do know another book  (Double Identity) by this author that features a female pastor as a major character. So it was more like one thumb up for this one. But while I'm not going to be continuing with that series, it was still good enough for me to check out more Haddix material. And now I've found one I think worth recommending. The Always War is a mystery of sorts, set in a world like our own, yet one that has been in a constant war for the last 75 years. We come along for the ride with Tessa, a girl who still reads old stories, even though no one else does anymore. She's at a celebration for a young war hero, a pilot named Gideon, that doesn't go as expected – instead of accepting his award for bravery, Gideon runs off. Why would a hero run away from his adoring and appreciative fellow citizens? Well, as Tessa slow begins to discover, Gideon doesn't think he's a hero, because he did his arial combat, not from the sky, but from behind a computer – he was flying a drone. And he has discovered that instead of hitting a legitimate military target, he seems to have hit a civilian marketplace. Distraught, Gideon is determined to fly down to the marketplace to offer his repentance, for whatever that's worth. And Tessa comes along for the ride. But he has to go behind the military's back, work with black market privateers, and sneak past his own border guards. Then, when they arrive, nothing is as he expected. There are no angry grieving crowds to meet him. In fact there's nothing at all! So what's going on? What's actually real? I don't want to give too much more away but will just add I found it an intriguing story. The mystery lasts most of the book, which means that this requires a reader with some patience. As for concerns, God is not a part of this world, and seeing as one of the themes of this story is about discerning reality from what authorities tell us is real, that the characters simply rely on their own wherewithal makes a bit too much of Man. But that's the biggest problem. I think kids aged 12 an up might find this of interest, but, again, only if they appreciate figuring out a mystery bit by bit - they will need to have some patience....

Book Reviews, Children’s fiction

The Boxcar Children: Great Adventure

1. Journey on a Runaway Train 2. The Clue in the Papyrus Scroll 3. The Detour of Elephants 4. The Shackelton Sabotage 5. The Khipu and the Final Key created by Gertrude Chandler Warner  2017 / 687 pages total The Aldens are four children, – Benny, Violet, Jessie, and Henry – aged 6 to 14, who, after being orphaned, ran away and found an abandoned railway boxcar in the woods which they turned into their new home. The very first book in the series, The Boxcar Children, published way back in 1924 is all about how their grandfather searches for them, and how they hide from him, thinking him to be a mean man since he'd never come to visit the family when their parents were still alive. But, as so often happens in children's stories, this bad guy turns out to be not so bad after all: Grandfather Alden is actually a wonderful man (and rich too) who loves them very much. Eventually, all the misunderstandings are cleared away and the children go to live with him in his big house. To top things off Grandfather Alden has their boxcar brought to his house's backyard, so they can use it as their clubhouse. That first Boxcar book spawned 200 more, with this Great Adventure series published almost 100 years after the original story. Great Adventure is really just one story, 687 pages long, that's been divided into five books (each 129-145 pages) for the sake of making it a lot less intimidating for the intended 8 to 10-year-old audience. The setting is modern day, and the mystery that starts it all takes the children around the world to retrieve lost treasures. It turns out there are two groups after the treasures: a good "Reddimus Society" that wants to restore the items to the museums where they belong, and a bad Argent group that just wants to keep the treasures for themselves. The children are allied with the Reddimus Society and use the group's plane to fly from one place to the next. But somehow the Argents always seem to know where the Aldens are heading. Could one of their pilots be a traitor? And if so, which one? Cautions The main caution is God's complete absence. This struck me as a lot like a typical Christian kids' fiction series in how safe it is: a loving grandfather, his sweet grandchildren, and all sorts of other very kind people contend with villains who are most often misunderstood rather than evil. And unlike pretty much all the children's fiction published after 2020, there's no one here sharing their pronouns or any of that sort of wackiness. Safe.  But that's not exactly a recommendation – to badly paraphrase Chesterton it's good for children to read about evil, not to learn about its existence which they already know, but for them to realize that evil can indeed be fought. At the same time, there is a time and place, so some nice safe books, in a moderate dosage, can be good too. It is that safety that makes these a favorite among Christian families (and even sold in some Christian bookstores). But it struck me that in the stories themselves, there's not a Christian to be found anywhere. Nor is there any hint of Christianity – Sunday is celebrated as a day off of school when they can work on their projects. When the kids get into trouble, God's absence becomes all the more noticeable since the kids never think to ask Him for help. So, even though the first story was written a century ago in what was still a largely Christian culture, this is an entirely secular series. One other caution has nothing to do with these 5 books. If your kids want to check out more Boxcar, there are a couple of hundred others. However, while the original 19 books written by Gertrude Chandler Warner all seem similarly "safe," the 150+ books written after her death aren't always so. There's still no one offering pronouns (so far) but in one, Native spirituality is given a soft endorsement, and it might have been that same book where Man was presented as more an enemy of Nature than as the caretaker that God has charged us with being. So parents shouldn't presume that the whole series is reliably safe. Conclusion This 5-book set is just a fun simple adventure that has enough suspense to keep its young target audience on edge. It's also a bit of an educational travelogue, with readers learning at least a bit about each country they visit, which includes: Egypt, England, Italy, India, China, Thailand, and even Antarctica. For kids just learning to read, they'll feel a sense of accomplishment in tackling all five, and if a little one finds working through it a bit tough, the audiobook version is quite well done. Overall this is an story that most boys and girls under-9 will really enjoy, whether it is being read to them, or they are tackling it themselves....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Economics

Economics in One Lesson

by Henry Hazlitt 1946 / 193 pages Universal basic income, a four-day work week, and government-funded daycare are just a few big-ticket proposals that are gaining momentum nationally, and even within our own church circles. All these proposals boil down to getting more while doing less. Promises have been made that middle and lower class families will not have to pay a cent more in taxes but the wealthy 1% will do all the heavy lifting.  In Economics in One Lesson, Henry Hazlitt argues that all these policies can’t deliver what they promise. He argues that many of these proposals only focus on a special interest group in the present and fail to consider how the proposal will affect the general populace both now and in the future.  For example, when a government announces a multitude of public “make-work” projects, at first glance these projects seem like a good idea, or at least seem like they couldn’t do any harm. The citizens get: An employment opportunity  Tangible infrastructure But Hazlitt warns that although these benefits look attractive, there are many indirect consequences that are not considered.  First, someone must pay for these employment opportunities. For every dollar spent on a public work project, a dollar will be taken away from a taxpaying citizen. Not only are the citizens as a whole worse off, there is now less money for them to create new jobs. Second, now that the infrastructure exists it is easy to assume that without that piece of infrastructure the country would be worse off – having a bridge would seem obviously better than not having a bridge. But in reality, one thing has been created instead of others. Instead of the government-built bridge there could’ve been citizen-built houses, or cars, or dresses and coats. All of these items are unrealized because the bridge is now standing. Although Hazlitt wrote this over 70 years ago, many of the issues he deals with are just as relevant as ever. We should be wary of governmental promises to ease our daily tasks. Our sinful nature yearns for an easy life; that is why these promises are so alluring to us. However, as Christians we are not called to an easy life. That does not mean that we should always seek out the hard way, but we shouldn’t become entangled in false promises of an easy way. To get Economics in One Lesson as a free pdf book, click here....

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

The Strongest Man in the World: Louis Cyr

by Nicolas Debon 2007 / 27 pages This is a fun bit of Canadian history: Louis Cyr was a Quebec circus performer who, in the late 1800s, was known as the strongest man in the world. Even today, with the benefit of our modern nutritional and strength training practices, some of his lifting records remain unbroken. This is why he is also known by many as the strongest man who ever lived, (but those folk are obviously forgetting about Samson). This is an artistic but accessible graphic novel treatment of his life. By that I mean it is beautiful – simple but impactful – and yet it is the sort of comic that all but the youngest children would love to read. The book begins in the year 1900, and the doctor has just told Cyr he must retire. Cyr is going to listen... after one last performance. And as he prepares for his grand finale, Cyr looks back on his life, telling his daughter how his career began, how he met and married her mother, and how he is able to walk away without regret. Despite being a showman who had to toot his own horn to bring in the crowds, Cyr seemed like a humble man, which is what made this appealing for me. Many a sports book celebrating the seemingly superhuman abilities of this or that athlete can be written in such a laudatory way it is hard to tell if the writer thinks they are talking about an extraordinary man, or a god. In The Strongest Man in the World it is always clear Cyr is a mere mortal, the book beginning and ending with him heading to retirement, and his strength starting to fail, as all mortal strength eventually will. If I had to come up with a caution it might be that Cyr was also an eating champion, bragging that he could out glutton anyone, which, of course, isn't something to brag about. But that'd be it. So this is an interesting bit of Canadiana that would be a particularly good read for any boy, ten and up, who needs help getting interested in history....


Google or God? Who are we turning to for guidance?

This article is being shared, with permission, from Clarion, "a biweekly magazine aimed at servicing families and congregations in the federation of Canadian Reformed Churches." You can find an archive of 50 years of past issues, as well as information on how to subscribe, by clicking here.  ***** Google it! How often don’t we use that phrase when discussing a matter? Within moments of saying it, someone will have done exactly that and tell you what they found. There is an amazing amount of information accessible at our fingertips, or, if desired, by means of voice activated searches. With our hand-held devices always connected to the Internet, it only takes moments to produce results. Truly, we depend on our devices. They are ready to serve us at our beck and call. At the same time, we also seem ready to serve them at their beck and call. Many react instantly when they hear their phone ring or ding to indicate an incoming call or message. The ubiquity of our devices and their dominance in our lives is evident even when you watch people in a restaurant. In many cases, rather than looking at and talking with their fellow diners, attention is on the phone. A father with children hitting the teenage years recently related how he now understood the concern of parents with teenagers about the obsession with and the attachment to their devices. He thought it was fitting to call this a pandemic, as people are always googling, always watching YouTube videos, always paying attention to everyone’s posting on social media and sharing links to videos and blogs.  Google wisdom While it is concerning that such an inordinate amount of time is spent on electronic devices, the specific concern I wish to address is the way so many turn to Google for direction and guidance on the issues of the day and the issues of life. As was mentioned, in many discussions someone will say, “Google it.” Usually, you don’t have to say it, for someone has already done it. From Facebook and other social media posts, it is obvious that some spend a great deal of time researching on the internet. Google is the lamp that lights up their path, and they readily share the latest wisdom and insight they have found on their favourite websites or blogs. Others are encouraged to follow the links to read what is found there, watch the latest video, or listen to the latest podcast. All this searching for answers with Google, however, seems to come at the expense of searching for answers with God. Not web but Word Of course, it is not possible to simply type in some words in some search engine and get an answer from God. There is, however, a way to get answers from God by searching his Word. In Psalm 119:9, it is said that a youth can keep his way pure by guarding it according to God’s Word. Later in that same Psalm, it is confessed that God’s word is a lamp for our feet (v. 105). God’s Word, after all, is the essential tool of the Holy Spirit to work and strengthen faith (cf. Romans 10:14–17; 1 Peter 1:23–25; see also LD 25:65, CD I 3; III/IV 6, 17; V 14). Paul writes to Timothy that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). This emphasis on the Word of God was necessary in Paul’s days. There may not have been social media to distract, confuse, and mislead people, but there were other “media” tugging on their hearts. In his first letter to Timothy, he instructed Timothy to warn people “ to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. . . . Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions” (1 Tim 3:4-7). Just after his words about Scripture being God-breathed in his second letter to Timothy, Paul mentions how there are many competing for the attention of God’s children, eager to scratch itching ears, to tell them what they want to hear (cf. 2 Tim 4:3-4). As God’s children, we should be searching the Scriptures to deal with the issues before us day by day, rather than sites on the web. We need to go to the Bible, not blogs. Search Scripture carefully Searching Scripture is not simply a matter of typing in some words in your Bible app, or, if you are old school, using a concordance. To be sure, you can find words fast enough, but words are used in different contexts. One needs to run a mental scan on what Scripture teaches, keeping in mind where information is found within the unfolding of the history of salvation. You may even have to go to a commentary which goes into considerable detail, or a book that elaborates on an issue at some length. Wikipedia can be great for an introduction to a topic, but it is not in-depth scholarship. Tweets may sound clever and profound, but they are not the fruit of in-depth reflection on an issue. A person who lives by tweets is in danger of looking like a bird brain when discussing a topic. Speaking of tweets, the Lord addressed that problem through the prophet Isaiah. During the reign of king Ahaz, when people were not listening to God’s Word but following false prophets and teachers who scratched their itching ears, Isaiah prophesied: “And when they say to you, ‘Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,’ should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the testimony!” (Isa 8:19–20.) To apply this to the topic at hand, there is so much nonsense on the web, so much chirping and muttering. We should go to the testimony of God instead. Searching the Word, turning to God, not Google, is also being true to our spiritual roots in the Reformation. One of the sola statements associated with the Reformation was sola Scriptura – only Scripture. God’s people are people of the Book. When we speak about an issue, we should be able to say, “This is what Scripture says,” and then refer to a relevant passage. If we feel the urge to speak out about a matter, our point should give evidence of having searched God’s Word rather than the Web.  Suggestions Earlier in this article, mention was made of the way one father referred to the obsession with electronic devices as a pandemic that had hit his family too. Even the slightest exposure to social media makes clear it is not just a problem for teenagers. These devices are a reality of life. The challenge is to let them be our servants rather than us being their slaves. How do we bring that about? I offer a few suggestions. It should be recognized how easily devices that can be helpful in running our lives begin to run our lives. Our goods become our gods and enslave us. In this case, it will be evident in how quickly we turn to our devices for answers. We can gauge their hold on our lives by asking ourselves how much time in the day is spent looking down at our devices. How quickly do we ask Google rather than God? Keep in mind that we are speaking here especially for guidance on the issues of the day and of life. Take the time to let one’s fingers run through the pages of Scripture rather than scrolling through web pages. Run to the Bible rather than blogs. Let thinking be governed by our confessions rather than subtly reinforced by computer algorithms that are designed to scratch itching ears. When there is some time to fill, rather than seek amusement by watching videos, scrolling randomly, or catching up on what’s posted on the various apps, open a Bible app and read Scripture. This suggestion may be radical, seeing we read Scripture at set times in our schedule. But God’s children are to be people of the Word. Consider going on a fast from your device in terms of seeking your guidance, responding only to actual calls or texts. This would automatically result in a fast on forwarding links to Google-sourced “wisdom.” Fill the available time by reflecting on what God’s Word says about the issues. Not Google but God Finally, seeing that this article may not reach the eyes of all who might really benefit from it, share this article, and let it be a conversation starter with your family and friends. Then challenge each other to work on ways that a servant in your life does not become your master. When it comes to guidance for our lives and the issues of the day, it should not be wisdom from the Web through Google, but wisdom from the Word of God. Rev. Eric Kampen is pastor for the Orangeville Canadian Reformed Church and is coeditor at Clarion magazine....

Book Reviews, Teen fiction

The Secret Code

by Coen Hartman 1980 / 195 pages Hank and Dick are two average teenagers who dive into the deep end of adventure and espionage. The boys’ adventure begins when they agree to help a produce grocer hold down his shop while he picks some forgotten asparagus from his warehouse. While managing the shop, a customer gives the boys an envelope with instructions to deliver it to the grocer when he returns. Due to the boys' forgetfulness and curiosity, the envelope is not delivered to the grocer until after they have copied the message it contained. This message, much to their delight, was a secret code! After some attempted decoding the boys are well on their way to one of the most thrilling and dangerous times of their young lives.  I had a great time reading this novel and would recommend it to any reader twelve and up. The pacing and suspense of the story made it very difficult for me to put the book down. I appreciated that this book is clearly written by a Christian author. Both boys recognize sin and grapple with their own guilt. Another very unique aspect of this novel is that the secret code is actually a numerical code that the reader can attempt to crack on their own before it is solved.  One caution: do not read the back-cover blurb! It does a great job summarizing the plot but gives away about half of the story. Canadians can find this at

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

The Political Consequences of Unbelief: a review of Groen van Prinsterer's "Unbelief and Revolution"

Unbelief and Revolution by Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer  translated by Harry Van Dyke 1847/2018 / 280 pages As explained in the Encyclopedia Britannica, “Revolution, in social and political science, a major, sudden, and hence typically violent alteration in government and in related associations and structures.” We use the term “revolution” for various political and social changes in history, the most recent being the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s. In Canada, and the West more generally, we’ve seen evidence of a social and cultural revolution as our society increasingly rejects the Christian values and principles on which our nation is founded. To respond appropriately to modern revolutions, we need to understand what forces are behind them. Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer addresses the idea of revolution in his book Unbelief and Revolution, which explains the thinking behind the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century. The French Revolution was a violent political and social revolution which resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. The events of the French Revolution may seem in the distant past, a one-time event, never to be repeated. Instead, “the central message of the book is that the French Revolution is not actually over but lives on in its ideas, and these ideas are dangerous for society.” These ideas were dangerous to van Prinsterer’s society in 19th century Netherlands and remain dangerous to 21st century Canadians. While certain components of Unbelief and Revolution are understandably contextual to van Prinsterer’s time, many of the ideas live on and provide a way for contemporary Christians to think about faith, freedom, and revolution. Three Problems  Unbelief The main idea of Unbelief and Revolution is that “the cause of the Revolution lies in unbelief.” This unbelief was evident theologically, as it sought to remove God’s Word as an authority and replace it with human reason. But it was also seen politically, as the French Revolution replaced the sovereignty of God with the sovereignty of man. The Revolution was an anti-Christian revolution; Instead of looking to the Bible for truth, men trusted in their own reason. With the removal of God came the removal of a foundation for morality. Lest we think this was just a one-time event, van Prinsterer seeks to demonstrate how these ideas became increasingly accepted throughout the course of the 18th century, culminating in the events of the French Revolution. The revolutionary ideas also lived on after the French Revolution. Decades after the French Revolution, he wrote, “For all its excellences, modern society, having fallen into bondage to the theory of unbelief, is increasingly being seduced into a systematic repudiation of the living God.” To van Prinsterer, it’s not just about the French Revolution. Rather, unbelief led to the French Revolution, and continued unbelief would lead to further atrocities as men continued to replace God with themselves. Liberty One of the main ideas behind this systematic unbelief was a false theory of liberty. It was believed that liberty could be achieved by giving power to citizens, who would then grant authority to whomever they chose. Instead of viewing the state as receiving its authority from a sovereign God, the state was viewed as a delegation which was given authority by the majority of citizens. Those who received authority from the people then had the power to protect and rescue the people from their political and social problems. However, when political authority is not viewed as coming from a sovereign God, it instead leads to tyranny. A government that sees its power as given by the people could result in one of two things: anarchy or tyranny. Either the rights of the citizens would be destroyed through tyranny, or the rights of the state would be destroyed through anarchy. The State In the French Revolution, the state indeed became absolute. Take for example the Reign of Terror in 1793 and 1794. The focus became the: “unconditional promotion of the common good or public safety … public safety – a fatal expression, which implies sacrificing morality to what they are agreed to call the interest of the state, that is to say, sacrificing morality to the passions of those who govern.” Everything became about the well-being of the state, and since the people had given authority to the state, everyone was expected to submit to the accepted majority opinion. And what was the majority opinion? Essentially, it was whatever the state determined it to be. That also meant exterminating any opposition and justifying anything that pursued the goal of the common good. In reaction to the Reign of Terror, people wanted an orderly society, so they simply gave up their liberty to maintain order. In one phase of the French Revolution, the people sought liberty without order, and in the next, they sought order without liberty. Although one of the principles of the Revolution was liberty, the result was the destruction of liberty. In the end, the French Revolution is but one example of what can happen when society rejects the authority of God and His Word. Contemporary Similarities Secularism But this isn’t simply a book about various interesting facts surrounding the French Revolution. Although it was written nearly 200 years ago, we can see the dangers of unbelief today as well. Modern-day Canada is a post-Christian and increasingly secular society. We too have largely removed God and His Word as a basis for morality and truth and have raised man to the place of God. Our laws are increasingly disconnected from objective truth and a moral foundation. We “want to retain the conclusions while abandoning the premises.” We want the good that our Christian foundation has given to society, while discarding the Christian foundation itself. This discarding of the Christian foundation might start in a way that seems harmless to much of society. It starts as an effort to be "neutral," to not enforce a particular morality or religion.  First, God is removed from lawmaking and governance. Next, any objective standard for the structure of the world and of government is discarded. At the same time, objective truth and ethical standards cease to apply. The result is that those in power can essentially choose what is right and wrong and apply it as they see fit. When we abandon the premises, the conclusions also fade away. Right and wrong become arbitrary. Liberty and Equality As in the time of the French Revolution, our society has a false idea of liberty and equality. While Christians might understand that the government receives its authority from God (Romans 13), we often talk in a way that indicates a belief that state authority comes from the people, through our democratic processes. We see a heightened emphasis on liberty, particularly sexual liberty to do as one pleases, as well as increased attention to social inequalities. And, in so many ways, our society relies on the government to protect that liberty and equality. Advocates of sexual liberty want the government to endorse their choices, and this is happening because we have removed any foundation for morality. In terms of equality, the government is seen as the saviour from racial or sexual discrimination, whether through laws or through the courts and human rights tribunals. As people suffer the consequences of their unbelief and their immoral actions, they call on the state to save them from their problems. The State and Neutrality When so many focus on the government as the source of their liberty, by permission of the people, the government also chooses what is acceptable and what is not. One area where we can see this clearly is in conversations about hate speech legislation. Ultimately, it will be the government deciding what is, and what is not, hate speech. Van Prinsterer writes about various freedoms that were developed in the century leading up to the Revolution. These included freedoms such as equality, liberty, property, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion. But each of these were also subject to limits. “That the rights are restricted does not offend me; this is inherent in every right,” writes van Prinsterer. “The cause of my complaint is that whereas rights used to be circumscribed and confirmed by the unchangeable laws and ordinances of God, they are now made to depend on the good pleasure of the State.” Our modern Canadian society emphasizes neutrality. The idea is that you cannot let your religion influence the law, because that would not maintain neutrality. Yet we cannot escape the fact that everyone is shaped by their beliefs, no matter what those may be. Unbelief in itself is a particular perspective of the world which shapes how people act. The idea of tolerance of differing ideas, or “just getting along” is challenged by the direct opposition of belief and unbelief. In our current context, revolutionary ideas of liberty and equality are increasingly common, and the majority has supposedly given the government power to determine what those look like regarding sexuality, speech, and human life and dignity. Three Key Takeaways The only solution is belief The problems of the French Revolution, and of the revolutionary ideas in general, happened because of unbelief. The solution to these problems, then, is belief; returning to the truth of God’s Word and His sovereignty. In contrast to the ideas of liberty in the Revolution, the Protestant Reformation properly understood liberty; “a liberty that is grounded in submission. Liberty is the consequence, the principle is submission.” We are able to submit to the truth of God’s Word and to legitimate authority, as well as maintain the freedom to fulfill our duties. Our liberties are based in God’s Word and His sovereignty. Additionally, since He has given authority to our government, that authority is limited by what He commands. As van Prinsterer writes: “then we see that apostasy from him who has said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life,’ was the cause of the whole Revolution. Then we see that the active confession of the only Saviour is the means of restoration and salvation.” Likewise, the solution to secularism today lies in a recognition of God’s sovereignty and in the infallibility of His Word. Ideas have consequences It is also important to remember that ideas have consequences. The people behind the events of the French Revolution, such as Robespierre during the Reign of Terror, truly believed in the ideas they were fighting for. They were convinced by ideas and philosophers that had come before them and carried out those ideas in practice. “Let us henceforward be mindful of the connection between thought and deed, and never again forget that theory leads to practice.” The same is true of believers who put their trust in Christ and rely on God’s Word as truth. When we understand the biblical perspective, this shows itself in how we act. We can take action As much as I find the French Revolution fascinating, it is discouraging to see the evil perpetrated, particularly along with van Prinsterer’s argument that this is a natural consequence of unbelief that lives on today. Van Prinsterer was concerned about the ideas of the Revolution, and that also led to a period of political action and political change. As he writes, “Even in unfavorable circumstances, however, one can witness to the truth; and this continuous witness itself is already a real application and a powerful practice.”We too can be anti-revolutionaries, in the sense that we oppose unbelief and proclaim the truth of God’s Word. “Let us be faithful, each in his station” (p. 246), and let us pray for revival in Canada so that faith will prevail over unbelief. “Let us always remember that the cry, ‘Help thou mine unbelief!’ is preceded by the shout of joy, ‘Lord, I believe!’.” And as we do so, let’s also remember the words of Christ telling us to “be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b). Daniel Zekveld is a policy analyst with ARPA Canada....

Drama, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

A Vow to Cherish

Drama / Christian 1999 / 84 minutes RATING: 8/10 John and Ellen Brighton are a 50-something couple living a blessed life. They have two children, one grown-up son, just heading to college, and a daughter finishing off high school. John runs a successful business, and Ellen is a much-loved elementary teacher. The only turmoil in their life comes from John's brother and business partner Phil, who has never settled down, and seemingly has a new live-in girlfriend every month. But then Ellen faints, and the diagnosis is Alzheimer’s, and their trouble-free life is falling apart. This is an explicitly Christian film, and a cut above most such movies. It was produced by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and they did it right, with talented actors, and solid cinematography. And the script here is realistic enough that I thought it might be a true story. Ellen has to struggle with confusion, and the anticipation of all she'll lose, but as dementia takes over, John faces a very different battle: the burden of so many responsibilities, increased in now caring for his wife, and doubled in that he no longer has her to help him with his family responsibilities. His business starts to suffer, and John needs someone he can talk to. He finds that in a woman he meets while he's out jogging, who is a willing ear... but not a great idea for a confidante for a married man. Cautions This interaction with another woman doesn't go far, but it does go on for a while. That, and the emotional ups and downs make this one too much for younger audiences. Because this was produced by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, there are a few whispers of Arminianism, but it's nothing substantial. Conclusion The film begins with a scene years earlier, when John and Ellen's grown son was just a boy, and his appendix had burst. John prays and believes his prayer is answered when the child recovers. But when his young wife is swiftly struck with Alzheimer’s and soon cannot even recognize him, does it mean that God is no longer listening to John’s prayers? And what exactly does it mean to vow to be with someone “until death do you part” in health, and in sickness? Those are questions to bring to God even now, in the good times. That's what makes this a film that every couple should watch together. You can watch it for free online, but you'll have to follow this link to see it on YouTube. I've included the trailer below, but at 3 minutes long, it really hits a lot of the key plot points, so you may not want to watch it. And for a wonderful true story about a husband and wife struggling with Alzheimer’s, you'll want to check out Robertson McQuilkin's biography: A Promise Kept: the Story of an Unforgettable Love. ...

1 2