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In a Nutshell

Tidbits - April 2022

Treasure your parents, pastors, and good teachers “You don’t live long enough to learn from experience.” – Jewish proverb “We frequently know more, not because we have moved ahead by our own natural ability, but because we are supported by the mental strength of others, and possess riches that we have inherited from our forefathers. Bernard of Chartres used to compare us to puny dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature.” – John of Salisbury Against a mob mentality In a recent conversation on the Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson podcast, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel might this interesting observation on a crowd’s wisdom: THIEL: I think the Judeo-Christian is always extremely skeptical. For a biblical scholar I would ask the question, is there a single incidence in which the unanimity of the crowd is right? I think it’s always wrong. Joseph is right, his brothers are wrong. The Tower of Babel – everybody, the global crowd is completely wrong. Christ is abandoned… ROBINSON: Pilate begs the crowd for Christ to be freed… THIEL: The crowd always gets it wrong. So somehow reason tells to believe in the wisdom of the crowds, Revelation tells us to be skeptical. Thiel argues there is good reason to question the prevailing narrative. But can we think of a time in the Bible when the crowd was right? The only example that comes to my mind is that many shouted “Hosanna” for Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem in Mark 11... though it was only a short time later that the crowd was shouting for Jesus’ death. So, the case for skepticism remains, but it’s worth noting that the crowd isn’t so reliably wrong that we can just automatically go with the opposite of what they're shouting. It’s also worth noting that God does speak to the wisdom of consulting others (Prov. 11:14, 12:15, 15:22, etc.). But with what we know about Man’s rebellious heart, we shouldn’t expect wisdom from the mob. The Church and the coming Metaverse... Many of us worship in churches with limited technology: Bibles in the pews, rather than the text projected overhead, and not a fog machine to be seen. But even our churches haven’t escaped the impact of technology. as Ian Harber and Patrick Miller explain in a recent article: “Henry Ford didn’t set out to create megachurches. But before the advent of the personal vehicle, most Christians seeking a church faced a simple denominational decision: do you attend the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, or Catholic church around the corner? With a vehicle, Christians could suddenly attend whichever church had the best children’s ministry programming, youth activities, and rock ’n’ roll Sunday morning worship – as long as it was within 10 to 30 minutes of driving. We became consumers because we could be consumers.” They were urging the Church to get ready for the Metaverse – the online world that Facebook is trying to create – but also noted we have some time, as it is probably years away from really coming together. But, like the car, the Internet, and the smartphone before it, this new tech will probably present us with both new opportunities, and new temptations to deal with. English oddities In her book Highly Irregular, Arika Okrent shares a 140-year-old poem that deserves to be remembered today. I saw a version of it titled somewhere as: “I wrote it in my jolonel”: “There was a brave soldier, a Colonel, Who swore in a way most infolonel; But he never once thought As a Christian man ought He imperiled his own life etolonel.” SOURCE: Arika Okrent’s Highly Irregular: Why Tough, Through, and Dough Don’t Rhyme and other oddities of the English Language (H/T Douglas Wilson)  First-date questions In Dating with Discernment, author Sam Andreades has an appendix full of 40 “first date questions.” He offers them as a way to calm the nerves, if you can’t think of something to talk about, so many of them are lighthearted: What animals would you like to be? SciFi or RomCom? Deep down, do you think Pluto should be recognized as a planet? But he includes others that could be categorized as “time savers.” There are issues that divide us, and if your date thinks one way, and you know it has to be the other, you might be able to save you both a lot of time by finding that out quickly. That doesn’t mean the question can’t still be fun. It just means it isn’t just fun. So here are a few of his more pointed queries: Tell me about your family? Are you close with them? What is the most wonderful feeling in the world for you? What is the biggest need you see in the Church? What was a time when you couldn’t stop laughing? Can Christians believe in aliens? When is Jesus coming back? What was the subject of your last prayer? What do you think God has been trying to teach you recently? Are you learning it? Women in combat “Here’s the problem: in opening combat roles to women, we send out messages to both sexes that are either untrue, offensive or both. We are telling women that they are functionally equal to men, which everyone knows is false. And we’re telling men that the social goal of gender neutrality is more important than their own security, which is offensive and demoralizing.” - Barbara Kay Cheesy Jokes Edam is the only type of cheese that is made backward Never believe what your cheese is saying when it’s too gouda to be true! What did the photographer tell the Monterey Jack? “Say ‘People’!” What did the Mozzarella say when someone threw tomato sauce at him? “You wanna pizza me?” Train up your kids in the Internet usage they should follow “You need to put off foolishness and embrace responsibility. Today we are handing our children power tools and then acting shocked when they cut off their hands. This is absurd, and we should expect that our children will make serious mistakes if we do not guide them. So parent, you don’t need only to educate yourself, but also your children. You need to have a plan for introducing new technologies to your children and for monitoring them as they use them. This is your responsibility – the responsibility of having a plan.” – Tim Challies, “Parenting well in a digital world” Forgiving vs. excusing “I find that when I think I am asking God to forgive me I am often in reality…asking Him not to forgive me but to excuse me. But there is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing. Forgiveness says 'Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology. I will never hold it against you and everything between us two will be exactly as it was before.' But excusing says 'I see that you couldn't help it or didn't mean it; you weren't really to blame.' If one was not really to blame then there is nothing to forgive. In that sense, forgiveness and excusing are almost opposites....When it comes to a question of our forgiving other people, it is partly the same and partly different. It is the same because, here also, forgiving does not mean excusing. Many people seem to think it does. They think that if you ask them to forgive someone who has cheated or bullied them you are trying to make out that there was really no cheating or no bullying. But if that were so, there would be nothing to forgive. They keep on replying, “But I tell you the man broke a most solemn promise.” Exactly: that is precisely what you have to forgive. (This doesn’t mean that you must necessarily believe his next promise. It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart – every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out.) The difference between this situation and the one in which you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough.” – C.S. Lewis  The Weight of Glory 10 tips to make your life (or the world!) better On Jan. 1, 2000, and then again on the first day of 2022, the British paper The Guardian, published an article with 100 tips on “improving your life” or “making the world a better place.” Out of those 200 offerings, here's a Top 10: On the fence about a purchase? Wait 72 hours before you buy it. Keep a book in your bag to avoid the temptation to doomscroll. Nap. Keep your keys in the same place. Be polite to rude strangers – it’s oddly thrilling. Don’t be weird about how to stack the dishwasher. If you buy something from a charity shop, consider paying double. Stop yourself saying “I.” Volunteer at your church or Christian school Paint the outside of your house for the pleasure of those walking past (not just the inside for you). ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – March 2022

Junior knows best? In a recent review, Roman Catholic film critic Steven D. Greydanus argues that we’re seeing an expansion of the old doofus/domineering dad cliché to now include moms too. Pixar’s new Turning Red is the latest example of an increasing shift to overbearing maternal figures, from young Mirabel’s and Miguel’s domineering abuelas in Encanto and Coco to middle-aged Joe Gardner’s loving but controlling mom in Soul. Antecedents for this trend of mothers as functional antagonists include Merida’s demanding mother Queen Elinor in Brave and Tangled’s actually villainous Mother Gothel…. In Turning Red, Meilin “Mei Mei” Lee, a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian girl living in Toronto in 2002, comes from a long line of tightly controlled and controlling maternal figures, including her tiger mom Ming and her grandmother as well as a half dozen aunts. When both parents are portrayed as problems to overcome rather than guides to turn to, this leads to what Greydanus calls the “Junior knows best” trope: the kid himself is the smartest person in the room. Don’t confuse this with the dead or otherwise absent parents trend that’s also common on the screen and in many a kid’s book – that exists only because if parents aren’t absent, they’d deal with the danger themselves, and the children wouldn’t even have an adventure. There’s a difference between a kid relying on his own smarts because missing parents leave him with no other option, and a child relying on himself because his parents are idiots. If you spot a “Junior knows best” moment, why not hit the pause button and discuss it with your children? You can ask them to look up Proverbs 1:8 – “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” – and flip to Isaiah 3 too, which in verse 4 talks of God cursing Jerusalem and Judah by placing children in leadership positions. Spell out for them the difference between what this film is preaching and what God says.  The call to pro-life witness Deut. 21:1-9 has interesting implications for us today. Here God gives instructions for what to do when a murder victim is found in a field, and no one knows who did it. Then the elders of the nearest town are supposed to come, sacrifice a heifer, and declare they had nothing to do with it. With this sacrifice and public declaration, they then would have “purged from yourselves the guilt of shedding innocent blood…” What relevance might that have for Christians today? Confronted as we are, with 200+ legally sanctioned murders per day in Canada, could we understand the principle behind this text as being an encouragement – a call even – for us to publicly dissociate ourselves from our nation’s abortion guilt? Were we to publicly declare that we have no part in these unborn children’s deaths, we would uphold the wickedness of this crime, and ensure that it is not normalized or ignored as inconsequential. How can we make such a public pro-life witness? In addition to public protests – flag displays like ARPA Canada has done, or March for Life events – we can also buy or make pro-life t-shirts, using slogans like: Fetus is not a species…” – Albany Rose Every unwanted child a dead child. Doesn’t sound so nice anymore, does it? Former fetus If you don’t believe in miracles, perhaps you’ve forgotten you are one. My size does not affect my worth Abortion is the death penalty for someone else’s actions I will shut up about abortion when it has been abolished I have my own DNA – I’m a person Speak for the weak If abortion isn’t wrong, then nothing is wrong Did you get all your deductions? In a 2012 article, Christian economist Gary North wrote about just how complicated the US tax was already then 4 times the length of all Shakespeare’s works combined, and US taxpayers were spending 7.6 billion hours complying with federal tax requirements (that doesn’t even include the hours needed to fulfill state requirements). And even the experts couldn’t agree on how to understanded it: “Our tax system has become so complicated that it is almost impossible to file your taxes correctly.  For example, back in 1998 Money Magazine had 46 different tax professionals complete a tax return for a hypothetical household.  All 46 of them came up with a different result…. In 2009, PC World had five of the most popular tax preparation software websites prepare a tax return for a hypothetical household.  All five of them came up with a different result.” As of 2016, Canada’s tax code has only just over a million words, which, at a quarter of the US length, might seem downright simplistic. But, the country’s auditor general found that it was too complicated for even the Canada Revenue Agency, which was giving the wrong answer to queries from the public 30 percent of the time. Only Earth has rainbows Life on Earth requires a lot of “fine tuning,” with our planet just the right distance from the Sun to allow freezing and melting, and the planetary axis tilted just so for seasons, a moon for tides to circulate and cleanse shores and oceans, an atmosphere to distribute heat (otherwise the sun-side would cook as the night-side froze), and a magnetic field that contributes to our protection from harmful solar radiation. That all these needs were met (and many more) is all a big coninkydink for evolutionists – we just lucked out and got exactly what we needed. But we didn’t need rainbows. And yet, as Guillermo Gonzalez recently noted, we’re on the only planet in the Solar System to get them. What’s needed for a rainbow is: “suspended water droplets in the atmosphere and the direct sunlight that results from the sun being between the horizon and 42 degrees altitude. This typically occurs just after a thunderstorm has passed and small droplets are still in the atmosphere, and the sky is clearing in front of the sun. Seems like a simple setup. This must be a common phenomenon in the cosmos, right?” But it isn’t so simple. Our moon doesn’t have the atmosphere. Mars doesn’t have the moisture. Venus has too thick an atmosphere and as we head further out, the other planets don’t have liquid water. So the only planet to have rainbows is the only one with people on it to see them. To evolutionists that’s just one more coinkydink. To God’s people, just another example of His love and care. (For another fun "coininkydink" check out this article on how we're the only planet with a moon just the right size to allow us to study the sun). Puntastic The editing tool Grammarly regularly passes on puns and other wordplay jokes. Here’s a few of their best, with few thrown in from the Indian Hills Community Sign too: It’s hard to explain puns to kleptomaniacs, because they always take things literally I was walking past a farm, and a sign read: “Duck, eggs!” I thought, “That’s an unnecessary comma.” Then it hit me. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana. A word in this sentence is misspelled. I have an irrational fear of overly intricate clusters of commercial buildings. It’s a complex complex complex. Irony is the opposite of wrinkly Puns about communism aren’t funny unless everyone gets them. To be frank I’d have to change my name. What do you give a man who has everything? Antibiotics! It’s only rock and roll “It's so funny being a Christian musician. It always scares me when people think so highly of Christian music, Contemporary Christian music especially. Because I kinda go, I know a lot of us, and we don't know jack about anything. Not that I don't want you to buy our records and come to our concerts. I sure do. But you should come for entertainment. If you really want spiritual nourishment, you should go to church...you should read the Scriptures.” - Rich Mullins , July 19, 1997 Sass, or not sass? by Sharon L. Bratcher How do you talk to your children? Do you always speak to these little Image-bearers as you, yourself would like to be spoken to? Recently an acquaintance told me about how he often tells his 5-year-old, "Hurry up, we have to go, I can't wait all day." Then, the other day as his wife was changing their 3-year-old, the child said, "I can't wait all day." We both laughed, and the dad said something about his child's “sass.” But was it really sass? I don’t think it was. The child had learned from his father what to say when he is impatient and wants to move along to another activity. Was it sass when the dad said it to his 5-year-old? If not, then it wasn't sass when his child copied him. How could a little child even know it wasn't something that ought to be said? If we don't want them saying certain words or phrases anymore, then we must stop doing it ourselves. As in this case, it really wasn’t accomplishing the dad’s desired goal anyway! It’s too easy to rationalize showing disrespect to our own children. We might assume that they won’t even catch it, but eventually they will. And then we’ll hear them sounding just like us. Stress reliever Before I overhype this tip, I’ll note that while it does seem to work for everyone, that isn’t to say it does a lot for everyone. Still, a little relief is better than none, right? This is from Andrew Huberman, billed as a “Stanford Neuroscientist” during an appearance on the Kevin Rose podcast. “This is the fastest way that I’m aware of that’s anchored in real known biology to calm oneself down and the cool thing is it works the first time, and it works every time, and it takes about a second…. It’s an inhale through the nose, and then it’s another inhale at the top, and then a long exhale. That’s the fastest way to slower your heart and calm down.” Just a breath in, and before you exhale, another breath in – a “double inhale” – then a slow exhale. I’ve tried it, and found it helpful, and instantly, though, of course, only partially. Still, a nice tool to have in the toolbox when the going gets tough. A better way of getting rich “Prior to capitalism, the way people amassed great wealth was by looting, plundering and enslaving their fellow man. Capitalism made it possible to become wealthy by serving your fellow man.” – Walter E. Williams (1936-2020)...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – January 2022

On books “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” – Groucho Marx When we ask, “Why Lord?” Scottish preacher Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661) was well acquainted with suffering: he lost his wife to a lingering illness, and lost two children during the same period. He had to endure frequent sickness, and was persecuted because of his faithful preaching of the Word, eventually being sent into exile. Why did this steadfast servant have to endure so much hardship? Rutherford saw God’s plan in it all: “If God told me some time ago that He was about to make me as happy as I could be in this world, and then had told me that He should begin by crippling me in all my limbs, and removing me from all my usual sources of enjoyment, I should have thought it a very strange mode of accomplishing His purpose. And yet, how is His wisdom manifest even in this! For if you should see a man shut up in a darkened room, idolizing a set of lamps and rejoicing in their light, and you wished to make him truly happy, you would begin by blowing out all his lamps; and then throw open the shutters to let in the light of heaven.” When we are devastated by loss, will we respond as faithfully? Can we continue to praise God even when we are laid low? John Piper (1946- ) responded to Rutherford’s example by turning to the LORD and asking Him for help: “Oh how I pray that when God, in His mercy, begins to blow out my lamps, I will not curse the wind.” World’s toughest riddle Here's a riddle that 99 percent of adults won't be able to answer in 5 minutes, but most children can. Can you? I turn pink flamingos white and I will make you cry. I make elephants hum and girls comb their hair. I make celebrities look silly and normal people look like celebrities. I turn cookies brown and make your soft drinks bubble. If you squeeze me, I'll pop. If you look at me, you'll pop. Can you guess the riddle? Scroll to the bottom of the page for the answer the kids give. T-shirt truth I'm Canadian, but know enough about US politics to dismiss most anything a Democrat says – they are, after all, the party that brought in gay marriage, that supports partial-birth abortion, that supports “artistic” pornography, and that insists more government – and lots of it – is the answer to any problems the nation encounter. So when I saw a T-shirt that, in big bold letters on the front, blurted, “God is not a Republican...” it just seemed a silly Democrat jab. But there's something to this slogan. The Democrats may be the Devil's own party, but that they are so very bad doesn’t mean God is a Republican. It seems almost silly when we say it out loud, but Christians in the Republican Party do make the mistake of thinking God is on their side. However, as God makes clear in Joshua 5:13-14a, He’s not on anyone’s side: When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord…” God doesn’t pick sides; what’s important, instead, is that we pick His side! God is not a Republican, and American Christians should never make the mistake of blindly supporting a party that has not declared itself to be on His side. So that T-shirt spoke truth... and it turns out, the back side was even more profound. In even bigger block letters the reverse shouted, “…but He’s definitely not a Democrat!” 6 do's and don't for raising a reader In Gladys Hunt's Honey for a Child's Heart, she lists a half dozen ways to keep your offspring illiterate... Schedule your children for every activity you can think of so they won’t be bored. Never talk about ideas while eating meals. Keep your house neat – no books or literary magazines in sight. Never read stories out loud past age two. Keep the lights low – buy only 40-watt light bulbs. Absolutely no reading in bed! ...and another half dozen to get them reading. Restrict television watching drastically. Keep the computer usage under control. Don’t allow too many hours on pointless computer games or in chat rooms. Have books and other good reading materials within easy reach. Let your children see you reading. Talk about books together; play games together. Visit the library often, and listen to books-on-tape when traveling. Experience times 27 CBS’s The View is one of the last places you’d expect to see a common-sense defense of spanking. But some years back, when Rose Rocks, a mother of 10 and foster mother of 17 appeared on the morning show and started talking about her approach to discipline, no one was going to question her qualifications. In raising her 27 children she has made a restrained use of spanking because she found a momentary smack on the bum was far less painful, and left less scarring than yelling at children. Spanking and yelling are not the only two options for disciplining children, but if parents refuse to ever do the former they may find themselves doing a lot of the latter. Self-referent humor I was thinking about promising that you’ll enjoy the self-referent quips that follow but I never make predictions. Never have and never will. Some of the quotes that follow are anonymous; others are by people I don’t know. - It's like déjà vu all over again –Yogi Berra - Nostalgia isn't what it used to be. - Repeat after me. We are all individuals. - Graham Chapman - There are 10 types of people: those who understand binary and those who don't. - I've felt like a goat, ever since I was a kid - James Demastus - I want to join the Optimist's Club, but they probably won't accept me. - David Cervera - Aibohphobia: the fear of palindromes - The two rules for success are: 1. Never tell them everything you know. The insanity of assisted-suicide I was looking through my old files and came across this, a May 12, 2008 article in The Guardian that showed just how heartless assisted suicide is. It was about how documentary filmmaker Jon Ronson had originally set out to make a movie advocating for assisted suicide, but after following around “right-to-die” advocate George Exoo for several years, Ronson changed his mind.  The incident that had the biggest impact on Ronson happened when he got to meet Exoo’s new assistant who was being trained to take over Exoo’s role. “Susan lived alone, a middle-aged lady with a collection of plastic lizards. While we waited I asked her how they met. ‘I was bitten by a brown recluse spider in 1993,’ she replied. ‘It was so painful I wanted to die.’ She said she called the official right-to-die groups, ‘but they wouldn't help me.’ ‘Because you weren't terminally ill?’ ‘Yeah, they rejected me,’ she said. ‘But then somebody said, “You might want to call George.” Kind of like under the counter.’ Susan said she would have killed herself with Exoo's help – he was perfectly willing – but she couldn't find anyone to look after her pet snake. Eventually, they got talking. If she wasn't going to be his client, perhaps she should be his assistant.” Susan once wanted to die, but then found a reason – a very perverse reason – to go on. She wanted to commit an irrevocable act to end her own life, but then changed her mind. And yet she is now traveling the world helping people kill themselves. It’s ironic and it’s insane. May God open their eyes. Quote of the month “I dream of a better tomorrow, when chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned.” – Author unknown Kindergartener's answer to the world's toughest riddle The answer that children will give to the question "Can you answer this riddle?" is a very quick "no,” which is the only right answer for this otherwise unsolvable riddle. Meanwhile, adults will keep puzzling over it to the point that they don't give an answer in the allotted five minutes (adapted from a riddle making the Internet rounds)....

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – December 2021

Seasonal dad joke When a hotel sponsored a chess tournament they held it in their main lobby. That was a mistake, as it turned out the players did a lot of loud trash-talking, and no one really likes "chess nuts boasting in an open foyer." – adapted from a joke winding its way around the Internet I guess fossils do bleed There once was a man who was convinced he was dead. His doctor tried everything to convince him otherwise, but the man remained sure that he was dead. Then the doctor had an idea. He asked, "Do dead men bleed?" The man pondered the question for a few moments. "Well doctor, dead men haven't got any circulation so they could hardly bleed now, could they?" The doctor then pulled out a pin and pricked the man's finger. "You're bleeding - what do you have to say about that?" The astonished man looked down at his finger and exclaimed: "Well what do you know? I guess dead men do bleed!" It's an old joke, breathed new life when, in 1997, scientist Mary Schweitzer discovered what seemed to be red blood cells in inside a fossilized T. Rex leg bone that had been dated as 68 million years old. Creationists celebrated the find and evolutionary paleontologists tried to discredit it, both, for the same reason. The two sides agreed that 68 million year old dinosaur bones simply don't "bleed" – all such soft tissue would have been long ago degraded if the bones were really that old. Creationists knew this was evidence that dinosaurs roamed the Earth mere thousands of years ago, not millions, and that's why these red cells had survived. Evolutionists, trying to discredit the find, speculated that the cells were from a recent contamination of the fossil, that they were part of a biofilm that had grown on it recently. But further research by Schweitzer, published in 2012, has made it harder and harder to deny that traces of soft tissue can be found in dinosaur fossils. So are evolutionists ready to concede the fossils aren't as old as they claim? Not at all. Instead, Mary Schweitzer has many of her critics now saying, "Well what do you know? I guess 68 million-year-old dino bones do bleed!" The Apostle Paul on pretty Blogger Wil Ramsey on the shallowness of us menfolk: “Sometimes when people tell me how pretty their girlfriends are, I think I kinda know what Paul felt like when he was talking about tongues. I'm like, ‘Dude, not only is pretty the lowest of gifts a girl can have, and not only is she not as pretty as she is kind and compassionate and selfless and other things that are important, but my girlfriend is still better looking than yours.’” On using words “Telepathy in marriage doesn’t work any better than it does anywhere else” – Douglas Wilson in For a Glory and a Covering ...and that's theistic evolution Three geologists were standing at the foot of Mount Rushmore staring upwards. "The faces we see here of these four US Presidents certainly must be the work of a Master Sculptor!" said the first. To this, the second geologist sneered: "You call yourself a geologist? We investigate how natural causes form mountains and rocks – causes like volcanoes, plate movement, and erosion from water and wind. That's science. So let's get to work and figure out how these faces were formed through the forces of geophysics." The third geologist nodded in agreement. "Of course, you're right. That's the only way to do good science." Then he turned to the first geologist and added, "Clearly no Master Sculptor carved these faces, but I'm sure He enjoyed watching what the wind and water could do." –  adapted from a joke winding its way around the Internet. Dat is Dutch? A Canadian lass who married a Dutchman and is now living in the Netherlands has had some fun getting acquainted with Dutch culture. She is using her blog to both celebrate and mock "Stuff Dutch People Like." Of the 60+ items she lists some are predictable – bicycles, hagelslag, the color orange – but there was also a handful of items that don't seem particularly Dutch...except upon reflection. #4 Directness – Apparently in some cultures they don't like being told when they "couldn't be wronger." #10 Birthday congratulations –  Is it really only the Dutch who congratulate the birthday boy's brother, or the birthday girl's aunt? #18 Bringing your own cake – We're accused of being cheap, but no one else brings treats to work for their birthday. #24 Dairy + #41 Being tall – The Dutch are among the tallest people on earth, and among the most avid consumers of dairy. Coincidence? #25: Going camping – There's a reason everyone you know loves camping. #34: "Dat kan niet" – This is negative, opinionated and popular phrase is used to end discussions in the Netherlands. There is no equivalent phrase in North America, but the attitude behind it does seem familiar. #37: The Birthday Calendar – A handy little device that is unknown in other cultures, but now been co-opted by Facebook. Stranger danger “My family has an unwritten rule: if you wouldn’t spend time with someone in real life, then don’t let them into your living room via the television set either. It seems simple, but these days we’re not just letting these people into our living rooms, we’re letting them right into our kids’ bedrooms.” – Glenn Beck Good point G.K. Chesteton once wrote: “The word ‘good’ has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his mother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.” Pop is pretty important Randy Patten believes you can’t overstate the importance of the father’s role in raising good kids. At an Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) conference some years ago, the pastor illustrated this point by telling his audience about an initiative a greeting card company tried at a prison near their printing plant. They offered inmates a choice of cards to send to their mothers for Mother’s Day. The cards would be free and the greeting card company would even pay the postage. The response from the inmates was so enthusiastic the company representative had to go back to the plant to get more cards. This success prompted the company to make the same offer for Father’s Day. But this time they didn’t get even a single response – no one took them up on the offer. Almost to a man these inmates loved their mothers but none of them seemed to have any sort of positive relationship with their fathers....

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – November 2021

Chesterton on whether love is blind  The world tells us that we shouldn't try to change those we love, that if we really love them then we will be able to look past their faults. Love, we are told, is blind. G.K. Chesterton knew better. As he explained in Orthodoxy: "Love is not blind; that is the last thing it is. Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind." If we love only because we believe our spouse to be perfect, then what will happen when their faults are found out? That sort of "love" will fall to pieces. But if there is commitment – if the two are bound tightly as one – then there is no need for blindness. Then we can acknowledge our flaws, and as a couple work together to fight them. In love, we can help one another's sanctification. Bound is so much better than blind. "...if I can find the time" Harry Chapin was a one-hit-wonder with his 1974 top-of-the-charts single Cat's in the Cradle. That makes it an oldie, but one that continues to resonate with non-Christians; this song is a soundtrack staple for many recent sitcoms. This cautionary tale is also worth a listen for the many busy men in our churches. My child arrived just the other day He came to the world in the usual way But there were planes to catch and bills to pay He learned to walk while I was away And he was talkin' 'fore I knew it, and as he grew He'd say "I'm gonna be like you dad You know I'm gonna be like you"  My son turned ten just the other day He said, "Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let's play Can you teach me to throw", I said "Not today I got a lot to do," he said, "That's ok" And he walked away but his smile never dimmed And said, "I'm gonna be like him, yeah You know I'm gonna be like him" Well, he came home from college just the other day So much like a man I just had to say "Son, I'm proud of you, can you sit for a while?" He shook his head and said with a smile "What I'd really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys See you later, can I have them please?" I've long since retired, my son's moved away I called him up just the other day I said, "I'd like to see you if you don't mind" He said, "I'd love to, Dad, if I can find the time You see my new job's a hassle and kids have the flu But it's sure nice talking to you, Dad It's been sure nice talking to you"  And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me He'd grown up just like me My boy was just like me Weird fact of the month Identical twins have exactly the same DNA…but different fingerprints. Every year God reaches out Genesis 22 is a strange chapter – in it God seems to ask Abraham for a human sacrifice, Abraham’s son Isaac. But have you ever considered how much stranger this chapter would be to a Jew? On an edition of the old CNN talk show Larry King Live, Jewish Rabbi Harold Kushner was asked for his thoughts about this chapter and he couldn’t provide an explanation: “The story of Genesis chapter 22 about the command to sacrifice Isaac is one I have never really been happy with. I’m sorry that we read about it every year at the High Holidays because I can never make sense of it….no, I don’t know what to do about that story…” Fortunately, another guest on the show, Protestant pastor John MacArthur, was there to provide a proper explanation: “I think the reason that, if all you accept is the Old Testament, you have a problem with this story of Isaac is because the story of Isaac is a picture of God giving his son Jesus Christ as an offering for sin.” We Christians can understand this passage as a foreshadowing of what was to come, and can see how God offered up what Abraham was never required to – His Son. But to a Jew this passage is inexplicable, and yet every year on the High Holy Day of Rosh Hashonah Jews read this passage aloud and ponder it. Of all the passages they could read, the one they do read every year, year after year, again and again, is a passage that makes no sense outside of Christ. Our God is a loving God. Have to be crazy to hate kids Since 1965, the world’s fertility rate – the number of births per woman – has dropped from an average of 5, to just 2.4. The United States and Canada come in at just 1.7, and 1.5 respectively, which is below replacement level – anything below 2 will eventually lead to a declining population, as two parents having 1.5 children are half a child short from replacing themselves. Immigration to the West will keep us from a population drop in the short term, but so long as Canadians and Americans prioritize their careers, income, and independence over the having of children, a decline is inevitable. That is both a curse for our country and an opportunity for Christians. If we act contra mundum – against the world – and embrace children as the blessing they are, we could present quite the illuminating contrast. But that would necessitate a change in our own priorities. Sure, Reformed couples are having more children than their secular counterparts, but are there as many 12-passenger vans in the church parking as there used to be? “While pro-abortion liberals are pushing the abortion and contraception wagon, Christian conservatives with their large families could dominate the culture in a generation or two if they believe and act in terms of ‘In God We Trust.’” – Gary DeMar “Those who have no love for children are swine, stocks and logs unworthy of being called men and women; for they despise the blessing of God the Creator and Author of marriage” – Martin Luther “When we had two kids, people began to ask ‘Are you done now?’ When we had three, they began to say ‘You are done now. Right?’ When we had four, some folks began to be rude. ‘Don't you know what causes this?’ When we had five, we faced the most reproach from folks. They could not wrap their minds around how we could be responsible adults when we demonstrated such an obvious lack of self-control. When we had number six, people mostly shut their mouths. When we had number seven, it was more raised eyebrows, but still silence. When we had number eight, it has been open-mouthed astonishment, over and over. And many admiring and incredulous questions, the most common one being ‘What?!? I only have two kids, and they are driving me crazy!’ I have been told this so many times that I have come to the conclusion that having two kids is the hardest job in the world.” – Jamie Soles Quote of the month "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." – C.S. Lewis...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – October 2021

Evolving "facts" When a student visited his old university during a 20-year reunion he discovered that his old Evolutionary Science professor was still working there. He decided to track down the professor and found him in his old classroom grading exam papers. The former student was surprised to see that the questions on the test were the exact same ones he'd answered two decades before. So he asked his professor, "With the tests always the same year to year, aren't you worried that your new students will be able to cheat off tests from your previous classes?" The professor smiled as he answered: "The test questions might stay the same, but the answers are always changing." Wearing your convictions A friend used to visit with the “reproductive rights” group on campus every time they set up a display. He went there to talk to them, and I followed along to grab a copy of all of their pamphlets, which I’d later shred. I knew what I was doing was petty and pathetic, but it still struck me as more useful than what my friend was doing. What good would talking ever do with these people? Except… he reached one of them. It took repeat visits, and I don't know that he changed her mind. But what she said made it clear she did finally hear him: “You really think it’s a baby, don’t you? I always thought you guys just wanted to control women's bodies.” Many on the other side of the abortion debate don’t know anyone pro-life. Or if they do, they don’t know that they do, because the slaughter of the unborn isn't a topic most pro-lifers are eager to raise. But for the unborn’s sake, we must. For the sake of the unborn, we have to start putting our pro-life convictions out there – that our value comes not from our size, abilities, or age, but being made in the Image of God (Gen 1:27, Gen. 9:6) – so that anyone who is open to the truth will know who to talk to. And one way to brand yourself clearly and loudly is by wearing a pro-life shirt. There are lots to pick from online, but some options include: USA LiveAction.org Abort73.com ParacleteTees.com ProlifeShirts.com Canada MarchForLife.ca Sequel to The Screwtape Letters Over the years radio commentator and columnist Paul Harvey (1918-2009) shared a few different versions of a curious column that, like C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters before it, seemed to provide insight from the Enemy’s side. This excerpt is from a 1996 version of his “If I were the Devil” column: “…I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: ‘Do as you please.’ To the young, I would whisper that the Bible is a myth. I would convince the children that man created God instead of the other way around. I’d confide that what’s bad is good and what’s good is square. And the old, I would teach to pray after me, ‘Our Father, which are in Washington …’” The Christian rooster? You’ve seen them on barns, but did you know rooster weather vanes have a history on churches? The Farmers’ Alamanac says it started with a couple of popes. Gregory I (c 540-604) declared that the rooster – already an emblem for Peter who denied the Lord three times before the rooster crowed – should be the emblem for Christianity. Then, a few hundred years after, Nicholas I (c 800-867) was said to have ordered churches to display a rooster on their buildings. One problem with this account is that the rooster is said by some to be a specifically Protestant symbol. For example, in 2011 a reporter for the Star News asked the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, NC why they had a rooster topping their steeple. Dr. Ernest T. Thompson explained that in Europe roosters had been used to distinguish Protestant churches from Catholic ones, which were topped with crosses. “Our rooster reminds us then of our Protestant heritage. It points to the dawning of a new day, and to the joy of the resurrection. The rooster also points to Peter’s threefold denial of Christ ‘before the cock crows,’ and so is a reminder to us not to deny our Lord.” Here we have the rooster being associated with not just Peter, but the new day’s herald is also said to symbolize the new beginning that we have in Christ’s victory. So if you see a rooster on a church, that’s what it might represent. But if you really want to know, you best ask someone from that church. R.C. Sproul on why public schools have to go Why do we have our own costly Christian schools when a free education can be had at public schools? It’s because, as Dr. Sproul explains, of what the public system is teaching children about God. “There is no such thing as a neutral education. Every education, every curriculum, has a viewpoint. That viewpoint either considers God in it or does not. To teach children about life and the world in which they live without reference to God is to make a statement about God. It screams a statement. The message is either that there is no God or that God is irrelevant. Either way, the message is the same.” But if public schools are being used to teach that God is irrelevant – if they are doing the work of the Adversary – why aren't we trying to defund and dismantle them? Is it because we aren’t as concerned as we ought to be about other people’s kids? Or is it because we don't know what to offer as an alternative? Sure, we have our own Christian schools but what’s everyone else going to do? What if they can’t afford their own private schools? One short-term fix is homeschooling, an often inexpensive alternative readily available with loads of online help. Another fix is a voucher system where the government still hands out education dollars, but to parents instead of schools. Then parents can decide what schools they want to support. Of course, so long as the government is paying for things, they'll try to control it. That's why the ultimate goal has to be to get them out of education entirely and return responsibility to parents. That's no small task – it might take generations to take back a role the government had dominated for decades. Not a small task, but as R.C. Sproul makes clear, it is a necessary one. The Amish on smartphones and social media In a recent column, "What we can learn from the Amish," Jonathon Van Maren shares this anecdote: "...an Amish historian was once giving a lecture to a room full of academics on how the Amish live. To illustrate the Amish mindset, he asked his audience how many of them felt they watched too much TV and thought their lives would be better off without it. Nearly every hand in the room went up. Having admitted this, the historian went on, how many of you will go home and get rid of your TV? And every hand in the room went down. That, the historian explained, is where the Amish differ from the rest of society: they have decided to reject those things that will interrupt or inhibit the sort of lives they wish to live, while most of us remain voluntary slaves to things we know we would be better off without. Van Maren then applies that to our technological age, to smartphones and social media, and how often we will complain about them, but how few of us are willing to forsake them or even put any sort of limits on them. The challenge the Amish present us is to consider, "Does this help or hinder the sort of life I should live? And if it does not, why am I allowing it to influence and shape my life for the worse?" Evolution is a non-starter People can make more people. Dogs and cats can make more dogs and cats. The regularity of it might be why we're not struck by the sheer wonder of this self-replication. That we’re under awed is one reason too many are overly impressed with evolution, which makes the absurd claim that this self-replication arose on its own, with no intent or intelligence behind it. As an exasperated Granville Sewell notes, over at EvolutionNews.org: "...with all our advanced technology we are still not close to designing any type of self-replicating machine. That is still pure science fiction. So how could we imagine that such a machine could have arisen by pure chance?"...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – August 2021

Now, that’s a Nicaean pun! A self-described “heretic,” famous for formerly being the lead singer of a popular Christian band, got some attention this summer for this tweet: Jesus was Christ. Buddha was Christ. Muhammad was Christ. Christ is a word for the Universe seeing itself. You are Christ. We are the body of Christ. The best response in this case might seem to be no response at all, as this fellow already knows what the Bible actually says and doesn’t really need more publicity (which is why I’m not sharing his name). But for those getting confused by the singer, the best response might have been the clever rejoinder by Andrew Snyder: “If you can’t say something Nicaean, then don’t say it at all.” Can we have a witness? "It is not your primary calling to change your culture.... Instead, you must constantly remember that the Lord has called you to be his witness before the lost and condemned world in which you now live." – John MacArthur (from his daily devotional Moments of Truth, with empahisis added) Pluck out the internet? “Most of the publications I write for are online…. I would still get rid of the Internet tomorrow if I had the chance, just to get rid of porn because of how poisonous it is. People are saying ‘Well the Internet has brought so much good.’ I wouldn’t take the tradeoff. 53% of American divorces court cases cite pronography as one of the key reasons for that divorce. 80% of young people view porn by the time they are between the ages 9 and 11. It’s tearing at the social fabric of families, of couples, relationships, churches. None of that is worth are ability to get a hold of each other faster, and to email each other quicker and to sell junk online. …. None of it is worth the cost that we pay for having it turn into the largest distributor of sexual violence in human history.” – Jonathon Van Maren on the Real Talk podcast Why marriages last On the occasion of his 23rd anniversay, Greg Koukl asked his daughters why they thought he and his wife had stayed together this long. One daughter quickly answered, “because you looooooove each other.” Koukl’s response: “That’s not it.”  That, he noted, was the Hollywood answer, but as couples who have been married for any length of time know that there are times where you might not feel all that loving towards your spouse and yet God calls on you to still love your spouse. How is that possible if you’re just not feeling it? Part of it is that love isn’t simply a feeling, but also an action, and even when you don’t feel it, you can still act it. Koukl shared this story: “I heard a priest once, at a wedding, say something very profound on this line. He said:  ‘You have come together this day, for this wedding, to get married because you love one another. From this day forward, that order is reversed. That is, you love one another, because you are married. ‘“ Bring the condemnation with concern This is an abbreviated version of a joke recently passed along by Douglas Wilson. At the risk of ruining the joke, I’m going to frontload an application. The moral of this joke is something we need to have in our hearts when we talk to people caught up in sins that disgust us. Do they hear concern, or only condemnation? When a little Methodist chapel up in the boondocks lost their pastor of many years, the congregation wanted another of the same stock. Their old pastor was old school, from beginning to end. He was a fiery fundamentalist, and he believed the Bible, all of it, and the people loved him. So they wrote their bishop down in the city, and requested he send them a “hellfire and brimstone” preacher, and not one of those new-fangled kinds. This threw the bishop for a total loss, because he wasn’t sure he had one of those, but he made a few delicate inquiries. Much to his astonishment, he found one, and shipped him up there. And to his dismay, about three weeks later, they sent their new man packing. The following week, they sent the bishop another letter, asking for a “hellfire and brimstone” preacher. The bishop wasn’t sure he was going to be able to help them, but he made further inquiries, and found another one. He sent him up, but he only lasted two weeks. When the same scenario played out the third time, the bishop had almost given up hope. When he found a third preacher who seemed to fit that description, he commissioned him and sent him off, but without much hope. To his great surprise, this third man conducted a long and fruitful ministry at this little chapel, preaching hellfire and brimstone up there for two or three decades. This mystified the bishop, and he couldn’t make any sense. But one day he was at an ecclesiastical conference of some sort or other, and he spied an old-timer from that church who happened to be attending. His curiosity getting the better of him, he walked up to the old-timer and said, “Do you mind if I ask you a question?” The old-timer said sure, and the bishop said, “I sent you people three hellfire and brimstone preachers, and you rejected the first two out of hand, and kept the third one for years. Do you mind explaining that for me?” At this, the old-timer grinned, and said, “It is pretty simple, bishop. The third one sounded like he didn’t want us to go.” How to live in an atomic Covid age Corrie Ten Boom and C.S. Lewis died long ago, but have some thoughts to share on living in our current Covid age. The Lewis quote is from his essay, “On living in an atomic age” while the quote from Ten Boom isn’t properly sourced. It is widely dispersed online but as Abraham Lincoln once warned in another quote widely dispersed online: “Don’t believe everything your read on the Internet.” But whether it was Ten Boom or not, there’s wisdom to be had for today. “In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.” “In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty. This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.” – C. S. Lewis “Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” – Corrie Ten Boom What’s really in your job description? Christians, in an effort to impact their culture, will choose to mute their Christian witness. We enter the public square promoting God’s morality on abortion and sexuality, but without ever mentioning it to be such. When we do that we’ve misunderstood the purpose for which God created us. “…in your public involvement, don’t conceal the roots of your convictions about what is right and wrong. Don’t try to get a better hearing through downplaying your dependence on Christ and his Word and the gospel. “This is where many Christians, it seems to me, lose their saltiness and their light. Advocating for behaviors that are Christian is not the light of the world. Advocating for restraining behaviors is not the light of the world. There is nothing gospel in it. The light of the world is Christ and all that God is for us in him, all his gospel, and all his promises. If Christians become practical atheists in public, but simply advocate for behaviors that correspond to Christian ethics, they may see a little more political acceptance and affirmation in the short run, but they will lose the larger battle for the eternal good. “Do we really want to invest in a society whose outward behaviors are moral while everybody goes to hell?” – John Piper interviewed on DesiringGod.org April 26, 2016 on the question “Should Christians partner with non-Christians on social issues?”...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - July 2021

Is it in the Bible? Many common phrases either have their origins in the Bible, or are direct quotes from the Bible. But some phrases are only thought to come from the Bible. Out of the ten phrases below can you tell which are straight from the Bible, and which aren’t? Answers can be found at the bottom of this page. God works in mysterious ways Fly in the ointment The lamb will lie down with the lion How the mighty have fallen God helps those who help themselves Can a leopard change his spots? Pouring oil on troubled waters A house divided against itself cannot stand To the victor goes the spoils Pride goes before a fall Christians did better during the pandemic In a June 15 article in Scientific American, psychologist David H. Rosmarin outlined that in the midst of the loneliness caused by Covid lockdowns, there was a group whose mental health actually improved: In the past year, American mental health sank to the lowest point in history: Incidence of mental disorders increased by 50 percent, compared with before the pandemic, alcohol and other substance abuse surged, and young adults were more than twice as likely to seriously consider suicide than they were in 2018. Yet the only group to see improvements in mental health during the past year were those who attended religious services at least weekly (virtually or in-person): 46 percent report “excellent” mental health today versus 42 percent one year ago. As former congressional representative Patrick J. Kennedy and journalist Stephen Fried wrote in their book A Common Struggle, the two most underappreciated treatments for mental disorders are “love and faith.” The psychologist takes these findings in a secular direction, proposing that his collegues consider encouraging essentially a faux form of spirituality in patients, for their mental health’s sake. What he’s managed to miss, Christians can see clearly: that this demonstrates how our God knows us, and knows what we need. In giving us a day of rest where we can gather – even if only in a virtual sense – God, every week again, reminds us of Who remains in charge, and gives us the opportunity and encouragement of being a hand and foot to one another. There’s real comfort in knowing that God remains in control, and also in experiencing the fellowship of being with His people. On the need to read right Encouraging our children to read for reading’s sake is a popular notion, but akin to encouraging them to watch TV for TV watching’s sake. If there’s no quality to the content, then our goal shouldn’t just be to have them consume more of it. As Katherine Patterson put it, “It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading.” “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” - Ray Bradbury “The man who does not read good books is no better than the man who can’t.” - Mark Twain “I believe we should spend less time worrying about the quantity of books children read and more time introducing them to quality books that will turn them on to the joy of reading and turn them into lifelong readers.”–James Patterson “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” – attributed to Groucho Marx “Somebody who only reads newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else.” - Albert Einstein We read to know we are not alone.” – William Nicholson (putting the words into C.S. Lewis’ mouth, in his play Shadowlands) How your phone is hindering you When teacher Julie Holland Griggs’ class was studying Fahrenheit 451, she decided to run an experiment. She had her students: “…make a tally mark each time they got a notification on their phone. Grand total for today: 1,687 notifications. That’s 1,687 interruptions to learning caused by cell phones. One of the central ideas of 451 is that constant, mindless distractions prevent people from developing authentic relationships and suppress deep thought. Hmmm...” Griggs is a highschool teacher in Alabama, but when she posted about the experiment news of it spread to some pretty far corners of the world. A teacher in Iceland, Hrönn Árnadôttir tried it out on his 7th graders, and by day’s end his 20 students had received 1,963 notifications, or an average of 98 per student. Most of them were not personal messages – just notices from Snapchat, etc. – but the lure to check it remains nonetheless. Then, when it was lunch time, the students turned to chat with each other via their phones, rather than face to face. Going really old school in school Even as our schools are getting decked out in technology – with laptops and tablets replacing textbooks and binders – can a case be made for the efficacy of chalk and slate? As Carol Wilson has described it, the process of education is about: Inputs – the teacher presenting Understanding – the student taking in Demonstration – the student shows they understand Retention – the student uses the information in different ways, so as to remember it One reason big classes can be hard to manage is this third step, demonstration. Just consider that if a teacher was to call on students in oral discussions, if they had a class of 30, each student might only have to offer an answer every few days. If a student kept their head down, the interval might even be weeks. Then the teacher migth not know until quiz time, or when an assignment comes in, whether the class understood the day’s lesson. To remedy this – to allow for more instant feedback, from more – Carol Wilson suggests a return to the slate, relaying how a class might look with the tool in hand: Material to be taught has been presented, and the discussion is in progress. The teacher asks a question, and this time everyone writes an answer on his board. …the students turn their boards at the request of the teacher, and in a matter of seconds he knows who gets the point and who does not. Then the teacher very quickly makes an appropriate comment to each child, usually taking up his most pressing mistake, but not forgetting praise where due, either. Here, again and again, in a short time many crucial knowledge transactions take place. These boards are highly versatile for all kinds of classroom work: dictation of sentences, spelling lists, sentence diagraming, math problems, vocabulary sentences and tests, as well as all kinds of comprehension questioning and interpretation… Her suggestion was first made 42 years ago, in the October 1979 edition of the Biblical Educator, but even as we’d update her individual chalkboard to whiteboards instead, might the merits of this old-school approach remain? You might be a Dutch Calvinist if ... you can sing "Ere zij God" even though you can't speak Dutch you’re suspicious of the environmental movement but reuse plastic margarine containers your post-church Sunday lunch has cake as the entree and soup for dessert you can quote Lord’s Day 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism you've ever had an advocaat headache You consider hagelslag on bread a major food group You’ll sugar coat your food, but not your words you've got more lace on your windows than on your laundry line your closet is divided into Sunday clothes, and everything else Source: As adapted from items seen on the Internet Answers to "Is it in the Bible?" No – though the idea seems to be expressed in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. No – but while it isn't a direct quote it probably has its origins in Ecclesiastes 10:1, which reads: “Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench.” No – the closest the Bible comes to this phrase is in Isaiah 11:6 and 65:25, where a lamb and a wolf are paired together. Yes – David uses this phrase in 2 Sam. 1:19,25 as he laments the death of Jonathan. No – and in one important sense the Bible teaches the very opposite. Yes – in Jeremiah 13:23: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?” No - it is very old though, appearing in writings from the 1st century AD. Yes – Jesus uses this phrase as a defense against the accusation that he was casting out demons using the power of Satan. No – this was said by New York senator William L. Macy No – though it is an abridgment. The phrase comes from Prov. 16:18 where it says: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - June 2021

Proverbs for social media Solomon was born 3,000 years before tweets and status updates became a thing, yet his wisdom applies all the same. “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.” – Proverbs 10:19 "A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion." – Proverbs 18:2 “It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.” – Proverbs 20:3 “He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears.” – Proverbs 26:17 If animals are people, why not flowers too? People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) want us to stop using "anti-animal language" and they have some alternatives to propose. Instead of "bringing home the bacon" they want us to say "bringing home the bagels." And instead of "take the bull by the horns" they offer "take the flower by the thorns." What's funny about this – besides everything – is how easy it is to imagine this actually being taken seriously. Of course, such a change would be followed by – in ten, or maybe just five years' time – another group complaining about how PETA's substitutions are insensitive to the gluten-intolerant, and, even worse, to flowers.  On Friends, and our other TV viewing habits In his recent article, “The dark enduring legacy of Friends,” Jonathon Van Maren reflected on Christians' viewing habits. “...when religious people consumed the same entertainment as everybody else, it created a sort of moral schizophrenia—laughing along about everything from porn binges to promiscuity one day while attending church to hear a pastor explain how such things were so wicked God Himself had to be crucified to save people from these sins the next. Most mainstream TV shows offered people the opportunity to entertain themselves by laughing at sin, although few realized it or saw it that way.” Two on a woman’s calling “Sometimes marriage and motherhood are celebrated at the expense of all other things God calls women to do. Some say a woman’s highest calling is to be a wife and a mother. But a woman’s highest calling is really to follow Jesus. Some are called to do that as wives. Some are called to follow Him as a wife and mother, and some are called to follow Him as single people. The Bible gives us an elevated view of both modes. We Christians have tended to downplay or denigrate singleness in order to elevate marriage. But the negative contrast to marriage isn’t singleness. It’s having multiple partners in non-monogamous sexual relationships. An important piece of the puzzle, therefore, is actually those women who are called to follow Jesus as singles.” – Rebecca McLaughlin "One of the biggest lies that women believe is that working for an employer is liberating, while working for one’s own family is a burden." – Angela Mitchell @raisingapologists (Instagram) Evil in unvarnished english  "Abortion is the world's resounding answer to the question: 'If you had to murder in order to have an unfettered sex life, would you do it?'" - unknown The moment when the Holy Spirit opened a Roman Catholic priest’s eyes In a recent blog post, Dr. Wes Bredenhof told a story about Franco Maggiotto (1937-2006), “one of the most memorable men I’ve ever met.” At one point in his life, he’d been a Roman Catholic priest in Italy.  The papal hierarchy saw potential in Franco and he became involved with the Vatican.  One day, Father Franco was saying mass at a basilica.  In the process, he happened to read to the congregation from Hebrews 10:11-12: “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…” When Franco read this, the Holy Spirit suddenly opened his eyes to the reality of the gospel.  He told the congregation, “I’m fired!  You should go home now.  It’s all done.  I’m fired.  Jesus has done it all!” Two ways God has spoken to us outside the Bible “…God has spoken to us through the majesty and beauty of the world that He has made. But there is another way, still apart from the Bible, in which God has spoken to His creatures. He has not only in the wonders of the world outside of us but also through His voice within. He has planted His laws in our hearts. He speaks to all men through the voice of conscience. He speaks through the majestic words which all but the most degraded men utter, the words: "I ought." He speaks through the majesty of the moral law. A law implies a lawgiver. Conscience testifies of God.” – J Gresham Machen, Is the Bible Inspired? Some are shorter, older, smarter – in what way are we equal? No two of us are alike in any measurable way: neither by height, breadth, income, intellect, speed, or strength. So what’s all this about us being equal? Well, as John Stonestreet notes, there is only one basis for equality: that we are all made in the very Image of God (Gen. 9:6, etc.). “The image of God is essential to understanding the notions of human equality, human dignity, and human value. We all know that the Declaration of Independence says that ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ Yet, if you look around a room full of people, the most evident thing is not that we're equal. Instead, we're actually quite different. If there's anything about our humanity that grounds equality and dignity and value, it can't be any quality that we share on the outside, because there is no quality that we all share on the outside. Some of us are older. Some of us are taller. Some of us have higher IQ's. And so on. Even atheist thinkers have recognized that the only source in history that has grounded equality, dignity, and value and given us an understanding of a shared humanity is the image of God.”...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – May 2021

Walter Williams on his income inequality with Michael Jordan Does the tenth commandment still apply if our neighbor is Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, or Michael Jordan? Then why are concerns about income equality (rather than poverty) now treated as downright virtuous, and a matter of justice? In the quote below Walter Williams doesn’t argue coveting is still a sin, but he does make the case that concerns about income inequality are arrogant, belittling the freely-made decisions made by millions who happily gave money to Gates, Bezos, and Jordan for what they were offering in exchange. “Why is it that Michael Jordan earns $33 million a year and I don’t even earn one-half of one percent of that? …my problem is with my fellow man, who’d plunk down $200 to see Jordan play and wouldn’t pay a dollar to see me play.… The bottom line explanation of Michael Jordan’s income relative to mine lies in his capacity to please his fellow man. The person who takes exception to Jordan’s salary or sees him…as making ‘little contribution to society’ is really disagreeing with decisions made by millions upon millions of independent decision-makers who decided to fork over their money to see Jordan play.” Is it okay for me to do “x” on Sunday? “When Christians ask: ‘Is it ok for me do X on Sundays?’ the first response should normally not be ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but ‘Why would you be doing it?’ The most common answer to that question is probably ‘Because I don’t have time for it in the rest of the week.’ This highlights the importance of understanding the whole of the fourth commandment. The problem here is not how we spend Sunday; it is how we are using Monday to Saturday. We are living the week the wrong way around, as if there had been no resurrection! Use Sunday as a day of rest, worship, fellowship first and we will almost inevitably begin to discipline our use of time in the other six days of the week. Grasp this and the Sabbath principle becomes one of the simplest and most helpful of all God’s gifts. The burden-free day at the beginning of the week both regulates the days that follow and refreshes us for them. “(p.266) – Sinclair Ferguson, in Devoted to God (h/t to Wes Bredenhof) We have to keep telling our kids... The folks at MamaBearApologetics.com recently put their own spin on the popular “7 things every child needs to hear” meme that’s made it’s way around the Internet” I love you I’m proud of you I’m sorry I forgive you I’m listening Communism has failed everywhere it has been tried You’ve got what it takes Life crafted by chance? They can’t do it on purpose “Assemble the dream team you want and build a cell…. You assemble the teams of biologists, chemists, origin of life researchers, YouTubers, however many people you want on that team. And you give them all the RNA, DNA, and proteins that they want, the enzymes that they want, and you give them the lipids that they want, and say ‘Go ahead make a cell.’ Because somehow on an early Earth this happened under a rock in a little pool somewhere. Why can't you do it in your laboratory? They can't. ….But we're supposed to believe that somewhere in some hydrothermal vent or underpool all of this came together? Come on!” – Biologist James Tour, in his lecture "The Origin of Life has not been explained" Apply the Golden Rule to lockdowns? Back when shutting down the economy was still unprecedented, doing it was quite something. But now that we've lived through more than a year of such lockdowns, off and on, there's good reason to worry that this will no longer be viewed as "nuclear option" and that it will be invoked ever more readily. So how can we again make it a measure of last resort? The Golden Rule, (Luke 19:18) to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you," should serve as inspiration for legislation we can push for, that would only allow politicians to shut down the economy (or any portions thereof) for as long as they themselves are willing to go without a paycheck. On one-issue candidates “Never voting for a pro-abortion candidate makes you a one-issue voter, as never marrying a serial killer makes you a one-issue fiancé.” – John Piper We can’t count on any biblical literacy It used to be that even unbelievers knew a little bit about the Bible but that has changed! A friend, known in her workplace to be a Christian, had a co-worker ask her about a text her church had put up on their front lawn sign. The coworker just didn't get it: “I don’t mean to be rude or anything, but that message your church put up, well, it just kind of seems racist. Why did you guys post that?” What was the message? The church had posted Psalm 51:7b: “Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” The phrase, “whiter than snow” caught the co-worker’s attention. In a world where the phrase “it was a matter of black and white” is being banned from some government departments due to its perceived racial insensitivity, it's important to understand how even the Bible’s least offensive parts can be misconstrued and seen as offensive. My friend was able to clarify things with her coworker. But what about all those who read this and didn't have a friend to explain it? Is that a reason not to post such verses? Or is it a reason to go out into the community to be there for those who have questions and need answers?  Calvinism, Arminianism, and splitting the difference “Some try to split the difference between Arminianism and Calvinism. They say something like, 'I want to be 75% Calvinist and 25% Arminian. If they mean that literally, then they are 100% Arminian since giving any determinative place to human will is Arminian. Usually they mean that they want to stress the grace of God and human responsibility. If that is what they mean, then they can be 100% Calvinist for Calvinism does teach both that God's grace is entirely the cause of salvation and that man is responsible before God to hear and heed the call to repentance and faith.” – W. Robert Godfrey God’s sense of humor In Roland Bainton's The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century he shares the amusing story of how William Tyndale found someone to fund his translation work. A curious tale is related of how he contrived to turn the devices of his foes to advantage. The Archbishop of Canterbury was buying up his translations for burning and commissioned a certain Packington to scour the continent for more. The man went straight to Tyndale himself and informed him that he had discovered a merchant who would clean out his stock. "Who is this merchant?” said Tyndale. "The bishop of London,” said Packington. "Oh, that is because he will burn them,” said Tyndale. "Yea, marry,” quoth Packington. "I am the gladder,” said Tyndale, “for these two benefits will come of it: I shall get money from him for these books and bring myself out of debt, and the whole world shall cry out on the burning of God’s Word, and the overplus of the money shall make me more studious to correct the said New Testament, and so newly to imprint the same once again; and I trust the second will much better like you that ever did the first.” And the account concludes: “And so forward went the bargain: the bishop had the books, Packington had the thanks, and Tyndale had the money." (h/t to Joel McDurmon)...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – April 2021

Richer than you knew Today's complaints about "income inequality" mask the fact that, in the West, anyone who can afford a smartphone is richer than the richest oil baron or railroad tycoon of one hundred years ago. Just consider all the features our phones have on them that people of that time could never have dreamed of. We have in our back pocket: instant access to newspapers, stock reports, and a library larger than any building could hold all the music we own, and the ability to hear tons more our very own personal GPS - try explaining that one to a 1920s tycoon our own video recorder all of our photos carried along with us at all times our own TV, radio, camera, calculator, alarm clock, and calendar That doesn't even get into what all our apps can do. And just to underscore just how rich we are, let's mention a big one that, admittedly, isn't phone-related, but is appreciated by all: indoor plumbing – once a luxury item, now, thankfully standard issue! If some today want to focus on how much more Jeff Bezo, Bill Gates, or Elon Musk have compared to the rest of us, we should instead remember how richly God has blessed us! Is God a gentleman? – an Arminian standard If you’ve ever discussed God’s sovereignty and Man’s free will with an Arminian friend, you may have heard them say: “God is a gentleman, so He would never force Himself on us.” How should we answer this claim? First, it’s good to note that your friend may think this a positive portrayal of God – after all, when has being called a gentleman ever been an insult? But there is a problem: if the debate is framed this way, then the Calvinist understanding of God is truly horrific because if God were not to act the part of a gentleman, if He was to “force Himself on us,” then what is God being likened to? However, unintended, this treats the Calvinist position on God’s sovereignty as God the rapist. How, then, can we answer this charge? By going to Scripture. Do we find God as a gentleman there? No – He reveals Himself as a parent – God is our Father. As a parent myself, I know that sometimes my love is expressed by forcing my will on a child: they will go to bed, eat their vegetables, do their homework, and more, whether they want to or not. My dad tells a story about when he was a kid out biking in the Netherlands with his own father. They were on the top of a hill with a major road below and my dad pointed his bike down the hill and started pedaling when, suddenly, his chain fell off. On this kind of bike that was the only brake so now he was flying faster and faster towards a major highway with no way to stop – he was heading towards certain death. My grandfather yelled at him to tip his bike to wipe out because as much as that would hurt it was better than getting killed. But he was just a kid and not thinking logically, so he wouldn’t do it. My grandfather raced after him, caught up to him just in time, and then pitched both of their bikes over just short of the highway. It hurt a lot but saved his life. My grandfather forced his will on his child...because he loved him. God is not a gentleman; He is our Father and He will turn His children back towards Him.  Just checking… There’s a custom, still in use in many weddings, for the bride to come down the aisle with her face covered by a veil. The groom will then, right before the vows, lift the veil over her head. One interesting theory (impossible to prove) for the origins and timing of this veil flip is that it may be a response to Jacob’s marriage to Leah where the groom didn’t realize who he was marrying until it was too late (Gen. 29:22-25). Thus the veil flip – in the thousands of years since, no man has wanted to make that same mistake! Why didn’t Samson get sick? Most guys hold to the 5-second rule: should I drop food on the ground but pick it up before 5 seconds pass, it is safe to eat. The rule has some wrinkles: for something truly delicious there are provisions for an extension of even 3 or 4 seconds more. Some criticize this rule, pointing to studies that say bacteria can latch onto fallen food in an instant. But while such studies have done little to dissuade dads from brushing the grass off a fallen hotdog or hamburger patty,  we know there are limits. Even the manliest man isn’t going to pick something up off of the slaughterhouse floor. So what was Samson thinking when he ate honey out of a rotting lion carcass? This wasn’t after just 5 seconds either, so why didn’t he get sick? The answer lies in the amazing properties of honey. Pots of it have been found in Egyptian tombs, thousands of years old and still unspoiled. How many other foods can do that? What gives it not only this long life but the sort of anti-bacterial properties that allowed Samson to eat it out of a carcass? There are a few things, including a lack of water, and a degree of acidity (with a pH of 3 to 4.5), but the secret ingredient is…bee spit! Their stomach acid breaks down the nectar they ingest, creating a by-product of hydrogen peroxide. That isn’t something we’d normally want to ingest, but it is tiny and just enough to help prevent spoilage. It is also just enough to give honey medicinal properties that benefit us too, like being a low-cost, readily available treatment for burns – it reduces scarring and even offers some pain relief. While we prefer to get our honey from non-carcass sources, this is why Samson could chow down, and share it with his parents, without any digestive consequences. Because even honey is fearfully and wonderfully made! Ready for bigger things While Covid has closed schools, that hasn’t squelched some kids’ creativity. On January 25 @ChrisArnoldInc tweeted: “My wife is a teacher and apparently one kid has been changing his name to 'Reconnecting' during the Zoom lessons so that he doesn't get asked any questions. Been doing it for weeks. The lad doesn't need to worry about his education, he's already a bona fide genius.”  Good intentions don’t make the minimum wage good President Biden’s administration seems intent on more than doubling the US federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour. The intent of this minimum wage hike (and minimum wage laws generally) is to help the country’s poorest, by giving an instant boost to their income. But what the late Walter Williams (1936-2020) wanted to know was, what will happen to the worker who doesn’t already have the skills to produce at least $15 an hour worth of value to their employer? “A lot of people will say, ‘The minimum wage is an anti-poverty device.’ That is utter nonsense. For kids who grew up in broken homes, who’ve gone to rotten schools ... if they’re going to learn anything that will make them a more valuable worker in the future, they’re not going to learn it in their neighborhoods, they’re not going to learn it in their schools. So they have to learn it on the job. And what the minimum wage law does, it nixes that learning.” The wit and wisdom of C.H. Spurgeon “…idle men tempt the devil to tempt them.” “…they are always talking about their rights; I wish they would give an eye to their own wrongs…” “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.” “Is there nothing to sing about today? Then borrow a song from tomorrow; sing of what is yet to be. Is this world dreary? Then think of the next.” “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.” A Christian case for Free Speech The Christians case for freedom of speech is based on knowing: Truth is real Man is fallen That there is a Truth to be found gives Christians a reason to permit even very offensive speech, to allow truth and lies to battle it out under the bright lights. We wouldn’t want an atheist banned from questioning God’s existence because to do so is going to make it impossible for him to get answers. But Christian support for free speech is not absolute. We should censor some sorts of “speech” – pornography, slander, yelling “fire” in a crowded theater – because of the great harm these lies cause.  But the fallen nature of Man is why we would only restrain speech in the most extreme circumstances, as Douglas Wilson explains: “The foundational reason for insisting on free speech has to do with the Christian doctrine of the nature of man. Every restriction that is placed on men is a restriction that must be enforced by men. And the men who enforce are almost always a greater hazard to our liberties than the man in the street who wants to pop off about something. The men who enforce any restrictions on free speech have the same problem of sin that the general populace does, and in their case this sinfulness is combined with political power. This means that if you grant the authorities the power to punish the one who would yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater, which they need to have, they will be tempted to use that power to punish citizens who are critical of them…. I do not want to defend free speech because each of us is so wise that we all must be given our chance to contribute our wisdom. No. Rather, I maintain that we are a fallen race, and cannot be trusted to police certain things. To the extent that the authorities have any power to regulate speech, that power must be carefully balanced and held in check…” Tyranny of the busybody “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” – C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – March 2021

On mundane faithfulness… “Everybody wants to save the earth; nobody wants to help mum do the dishes." - P. J. O’Rourke  Francis Schaeffer on being a cobelligerent, not an ally Francis Schaeffer made an interesting distinction between allies and cobelligerents that any Christians involved in any sort of political movement needs to understand: "Christians must realize that there is a difference between being a cobelligerent and an ally. At times we will seem to be saying exactly the same thing as those without a Christian base are saying. If there is social injustice, say there is social injustice. If we need order, say we need order. In these cases, and at these specific points, we would be cobelligerents. But we must not align ourselves as though we are in any camp built on a non-Christian base. We are an ally of no such camp. The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is different – totally different; it rests on the absolutes given to us in Scripture. “My observation of many is this: suddenly they are confronted by some two camps and they are told, “Choose, choose, choose.” By God’s grace they must say, ‘I will not choose between these two. I stand alone with God, the God who has spoken in the Scripture, the God who is the infinite-personal God, and neither of your two sides is standing there. So if I seem to be saying the same thing at one point, understand that I am a cobelligerent at this particular place, but I am not an ally. “The danger is that the older will forget this distinction and become an ally of an establishment elite, and at the same time his son or daughter will forget this distinction and become an ally of some ‘leftish’ elite. We must say what the Bible says when it causes us to seem to be saying what others are saying, such as ‘Justice!’ or ‘Stop the meaningless bombings!’ But we must never forget that this is only a passing cobelligerency and not an alliance." – A Christian View of the Church Forgetting this distinction is where some Christians went off the rails with Donald Trump, excusing his evident sins (pride, arrogance, advocacy for homosexuality) because they thought he was our ally, and not just, at times, a cobelligerent. Canada’s Conservative Party under the pro-choice Erin O’Toole, presents another such dilemma/temptation: if we can use it – if we can treat it as a cobelligerent on some issues – wonderful, but Christians must not mistake it for an ally. “But the Bible promotes slavery!” C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity gave guidance on how we should approach people who ridicule the Bible by taking a small bit of it out of context. He was specifically addressing ridicule directed at the thought of people playing harps in heaven (Rev. 14:2) but his point can be applied broadly to any instances – tolerance, judging, slavery, homosexuality, gender roles, etc. – where people know only a scant verse or two, but feel knowledgeable enough to mock the Bible: “The answer to such people is that if they cannot understand books written for grown-ups, they should not talk about them.” Psalm One Hundred and Sixty-Six Anyone who knows anything about Corrie Ten Boom knows that this was a woman of great faith – she hid Jews in World War II because she trusted the Lord would take care of her, no matter what might happen. In her autobiography The Hiding Place she also shows herself to be a woman of great humor, recounting a version of this joke/riddle from those days. Do you know how Psalm One Hundred and Sixty-Six begins? But there is no Psalm One Hundred and Sixty-Six! It goes only to 150. Shall I recite it for you? Please do! “Shout for joy!” Ah, but that’s only the beginning of Psalm One Hundred! And Sixty-Six too! Inerrancy: a small huge difference In his book Everyone’s a Theologian, R.C. Sproul notes how two very different positions on inerrancy can seem quite similar at first glance. He writes: ...note the difference in the following two statements: The Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and practice. The Bible is infallible only when it speaks of faith and practice. The two statements sound similar, but they are radically different. In the first statement, the term only sets Scripture apart as the one infallible source with authoritative capacity. In other words, Scripture is the rule of our faith, which has to do with all that we believe, and it is the rule of our practice, which has to do with all that we do. These words change their orientation in the second statement. Here the word only restricts a portion of the Bible itself, saying that it is infallible only when it speaks of faith and practice. This is a view called “limited inerrancy,” and this way of viewing Scripture has become popular in our day. The terms faith and practice capture the whole of the Christian life, but in this second statement, “faith and practice” are reduced to a portion of the teaching of Scripture, leaving out what the Bible says about history, science, and cultural matters. In other words, the Bible is authoritative only when it speaks of religious faith; its teachings on anything else are considered fallible. Say it out loud An Albertan, a Quebecer, a Spaniard, and a German were all on a Zoom call with their boss, who asked, “Can everyone see me?” to which they responded “Yup,” “Oui,” “Si,” “Ja.” (h/t to Al Siebring) Lyric of the month: “Chasing after the wind” In the remarkable Christian film The Song (reviewed here,) singer Jed King learns life’s big lessons the hard way, much like King Solomon. He realizes, as Solomon teaches in the book of Ecclesiastes, that success apart from God is empty, a “Chasing after the wind.” Why have everything? You’re leaving here with nothing. Can't take anything, because you have to move on. You were the wise one, putting your disguise on. Lying to pretend, you're chasing after wind. Why should you be, if no one's there to see? All your deeds are like raindrops in the sea. What do we mean, if nothing has meaning, If in the end we’re chasing after wind? I have everything; that don't leave me anything. I have my plans crumbling in the sand. Now I understand, I was born a natural man, racing to the end, chasing after wind. Why should I be, if nothing has made me? All that I've done, will flame out with the sun. Why should I sing, if nothing has meaning? SOURCE: Written by Richard Ramsey and performed by Alan Powell Jesus never said homosexuality was sinful? In a guest appearance on the Piers Morgan Live talk show that used to run on CNN, the host asked Dr. Michael Brown about Jesus’ thoughts on homosexuality. PIERS MORGAN: Can you point to a single public utterance by Jesus Christ – the Christ in Christianity – about gay people or about a gay lifestyle? Can you name one single thing? MICHAEL BROWN I’ll name you three for you Piers. Number one, in Matthew 5 Jesus said he didn’t come to abolish the Torah but to fulfill. He takes the central morals of the Torah to a higher level. In Matthew 15 he says that all sexual acts committed outside of marriage defile a human being, and in Matthew 19 He says marriage as God intended is the union of one man and one woman for life. Look, Jesus did not address wife-beating or heroin-shooting, but we don’t use that argument of silence .... We should love our neighbor as ourself, but that doesn’t mean that we approve of everything of our neighbor....

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - February 2021

Sign seen on a… Whatever your business, there’s a pun for you. Here are some signs that probably never were but definitely should be… IRS building: “It’s better to give than deceive!” Lumberyard fence: “Come see. Come saw.” Locksmith shop: “Let me help you out…or in” Electric company van: “Power to the People!” Blood bank: “Don’t let us be caught with our pints down!” Home security store: “Been burglarized? Get alarmed!” High-rise condominium elevator wall: “Do under others as you would have them do under you.” SOURCE: Collected from Art. Moger’s The Complete Pun Book The leaders we should look for “We are perpetually being told that what is wanted is a strong man who will do things. What is really wanted is a strong man who will undo things; and that will be the real test of strength….We do not need to get good laws to restrain bad people. We need to get good people to restrain us from bad laws.” - G.K. Chesterton God comes to us “…if we are really to know anything about God it will probably be because God has chosen to tell it to us. Many persons seem to go on a very different assumption. They seem to think that if they are to know anything about God they must discover God for themselves. “That assumption seems to me to be extremely unlikely. Just supposing for the sake of the argument that there is a being of such a kind as that He may with any propriety be called 'God,' it does seem antecedently very improbable that weak and limited creatures of a day, such as we are, should discover Him by our own efforts without any will on His part to make Himself known to us. At least, I think we can say that a god who could be discovered in that way would hardly be worth discovering. A mere passive subject of human investigation is certainly not a living God who can satisfy the longing of our souls. “A divine being that could be discovered by my efforts, apart from His gracious will to reveal Himself to me and to others, would be either a mere name for a certain aspect of man's own nature, a God that we could find within us, or else at best a mere passive thing that would be subject to investigation like the substances that are analyzed in a laboratory. “I think we ought to stick to that principle rather firmly. I think we ought to be rather sure that we cannot know God unless God has been pleased to reveal Himself to us.” – J. Gresham Machen, Is the Bible Inspired?  A fearsome pun Three creatures – a hawk, lion, and skunk - were arguing about which was the most feared. The hawk insisted that his ability to swoop in suddenly, from above, had everyone scared of him. The lion said his loud roar and scary teeth were far more frightening. The skunk made the case that his spray could keep anything and everything at bay, so he must be the most feared. But as the three were arguing a grizzly bear showed up and, with just one bite, swallowed them, hawk, lion and stinker. SOURCE: Adapted from Art. Moger’s The Complete Pun Book  It won’t ever happen, but when it does… Back in 2013 commentator Rod Dreher coined the “law of merited impossibility” (LMI) to describe what was going to happen with gay “marriage.” He defined his law thusly: “It is best summed up by the phrase, ‘It’s a complete absurdity to believe that Christians will suffer a single thing from the expansion of gay rights, and boy, do they deserve what they’re going to get.’” So it is that the very same folk who asked then “How does letting gays marry hurt you?” now want to fine photographers, and bakers who don’t want to celebrate these “nuptials.” In our current context it's not hard to see the LMI's application to conversion therapy bans: it is impossible that Christians would ever be fined for speaking the gospel to homosexuals…but if they are, it’s because they have it coming! The transgender debate too: “Me being transgender has no impact on you, but if you won’t use my new pronouns you deserve to get fired.” Dreher’s LMI is a helpful warning. Those who reject God’s Word aren’t going to abide with Romans 12:18 either and live peaceably with others in as far as it is possible for them. They are after capitulation. So how exactly is that helpful to know? Well, if you’ve ever been tempted to compromise your Christian convictions for the sake of keeping the peace, keeping friends, or keeping your career, then it is a peculiar and emboldening blessing to know that such peace can’t be had. God is making it all the easier for us to take up the battle, by eliminating any options for retreat. Now that’s punny! Is a minister, busy rehearsing his sermon, practicing what he preaches? SOURCE: Art. Moger’s The Complete Pun Book Flies’ eyes Flies don’t have eyelids but they do still need something to help keep the dirt and water away from their peepers. So God has given some the equivalent of a Teflon non-stick coating for their eyeballs, to repel the water. This anti-adhesive coating has gotten scientists’ and engineers’ attention because, as Dr. Margaret Helder notes in the Winter 2020 Creation Science Dialogue, it is “highly versatile, stable and eco-friendly” which are improvements on the industrial coatings we currently have. Looking to nature for design inspiration is a field of study called biomimcry, and other examples include investigating how geckos defy gravity while climbing across ceilings, and, going years back, turning to birds to figure out how to fly. There’s another lesson to be learned here. When creatures exhibit design that is more fantastic than the best Man can produce, even using the smartest brains, biggest labs, and most powerful computers, is a clear indicator that an even greater Designer is at work here. The sin of omission If Margaret E. Sangster’s (1838-1912) poem is in need of an addendum it would be only this: when we repent Jesus can wash us clean of this sin too. It isn't the thing you do, dear, It's the thing you leave undone That gives you a bit of a heartache At setting of the sun. The tender work forgotten, The letter you did not write, The flowers you did not send, dear, Are your haunting ghosts at night. The stone you might have lifted Out of a brother's way; The bit of heartsome counsel You were hurried too much to say; The loving touch of the hand, dear, The gentle, winning tone Which you had no time nor thought for With troubles enough of your own. Those little acts of kindness So easily out of mind, Those chances to be angels Which we poor mortals find - They come in night and silence, Each sad, reproachful wraith, When hope is faint and flagging, And a chill has fallen on faith. For life is all too short, dear, And sorrow is all to great, To suffer our slow compassion That tarries until too late: And it isn't the thing you do, dear, It's the thing you leave undone Which gives you a bit of heartache At the setting of the sun.   Did you know? Did you know that the word “incorrectly” is spelled incorrectly in every single English dictionary?  And the word "wrong" is spelled wrong! Thankfully at least the word “correctly” is spelled correctly. “You are that man…” I once heard RC Sproul Jr. lay out a useful, but unusual tool to help a reader better understand the point of a Scripture passage. The key, as he explained it, was that when you’re reading the Bible and you come across someone doing something very stupid, you should not say “How could they be so dumb?!” Instead, you should ask, “How am I doing something stupid just like that?” Or, as the prophet Nathan put it to David in 2 Samuel 12, “You are that man!” No doctor in this house A young theologian named Fiddle Refused to accept his degree. He said, “It’s bad enough being Fiddle, Without being ‘Fiddle D.D.’” SOURCE: Art. Moger’s The Complete Pun Book...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - January 2021

Silent Cal speaks American president Calvin Coolidge was so close-lipped his nickname was “Silent Cal.” A popular joke told about him had an attractive young lady approach the president to explain that she had made a bet with her friend that she could get him to say more than two words. "You lose," the president replied. But while he didn’t say much, when he did speak up, it was worth hearing. Here are some of the best quotes from Silent Cal. "Don't expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong." "No man ever listened himself out of a job." "No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave." "Prosperity is only an instrument to be used, not a deity to be worshipped." "Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business." “I favor the policy of economy, not because I wish to save money, but because I wish to save people. The men and women of this country who toil are the ones who bear the cost of the Government. Every dollar that we carelessly waste means that their life will be so much the more meager. Every dollar that we prudently save means that their life will be so much the more abundant.” History majors can be wise before they're gray “History maketh a young man to be old, without either wrinkles or gray hairs; privileging him with the experience of age, without either the infirmities or inconveniences thereof.” – Thomas Fuller It is scientific to say the Sun goes around the Earth Some Bible critics say that Joshua 10:12-14 can be used to show that the Bible is not trustworthy when it comes to scientific matters. Here we read that at Joshua’s command the Sun stood still, and yet as we all know, it is the Earth that moves, not the Sun. So this passage gets it wrong, right? Not so fast! Even today, we talk about the Sun as if it moves – setting and rising – and no one complains that we’re unscientific when we do so, or doubts our ability to be clear about other matters. When a house builder says his latest building project will be done in six days, we won’t assume he actually meant six million years just because we also heard him talk about seeing the sun rise that morning. Days still mean days even when someone talks about the sun rising. But let’s pick nits for the moment and consider if there is any way at all we can find fault with Joshua’s statement. Sure, it makes sense in common terminology, but it still doesn’t make sense scientifically speaking, right? Not so fast! It turns out it is perfectly valid, scientifically speaking, to talk of the Sun being in motion around the Earth. Why? Because all motion is relative – i.e., it is measured compared to some other object. Most of the time, the other object we are comparing our motion to is not explicitly stated – when we go driving, running, or even biking, we measure our motion relative to the ground, but we never actually state that. So when we say a train is traveling 20 miles an hour east, it would be more scientifically precise to say it is traveling 20 miles/hr. east relative to the ground. But the ground isn’t the only frame of reference we use – we can choose to use another. If a fellow was on this train and walking 10 miles an hour towards the back (westward), we could say he was traveling 10 miles an hour eastward, relative to the ground, or we could say he was moving 10 miles an hour westward relative to the train. When it comes to our Solar System, we most commonly – because it has the strongest gravitational pull – speak of motion compared to, or relative to, the Sun. And relative to the Sun, it is the Earth that is doing all the moving. But we could choose a different frame of reference. Relative to the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, the Sun is moving too! From this vantage, the Earth isn't simply orbiting the Sun, but spiraling around it...and have you ever heard someone describe it like that? Now, if we chose the Earth as our frame of reference (a logical choice, since this is our vantage point) and described all motion relative to the Earth, then we could say, scientifically and accurately, that it is the Sun that goes around the Earth! And that’s the reference point that Joshua chose to use. So Joshua 10:12-14 can’t be used to undermine the clarity of the clear six-day creation account in Genesis 1 and 2. In fact, if you find someone trying to do just that, we should instead understand this attempt as undermining the critic’s credibility – they have no interest in being fair. The wit and wisdom of Winston Churchill “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” “Politics is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen.” “Everyone remembers the remark of the old man at the point of death: that his life had been full of troubles most of which had never happened.” Words that mean their opposite (or close to) Stylist to customer: I can clip your hair, certainly, but would you like me to clip it off or together? The sales manager was tired of his job and wanted to resign. But the money was too good, so instead, he decided to resign, this time with a four-year contract. Giving the very forgetful Fred oversight of the packing led to many oversights. The UN gave us sanction to impose sanctions on Iran. C.S. Lewis on humans' historic, hopeless quest for happiness apart from God “The moment you have a self at all, there is a possibility of putting yourself first – wanting to be the center – wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught the human race. Some people think the fall of man had something to do with sex, but that is a mistake... What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’ – could set up on their own as if they had created themselves – be their own masters – invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history – money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery – the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” – Mere Christianity...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – December 2020

A million monkeys “Someone once said that if you sat a million monkeys at a million typewriters for a million years, one of them would eventually type out all of Hamlet by chance. But when we find the text of Hamlet, we don’t wonder whether it came from chance and monkeys. Why then does the atheist use that incredibly improbable explanation for the universe? Clearly, because it is his only chance of remaining an atheist. At this point we need a psychological explanation of the atheist rather than a logical explanation of the universe.” – Peter Kreeft, in Fundamentals of the Faith: Essays in Christian Apologetics Kipling on Canada Rudyard Kipling was a world traveller, and, as his limerick below shows, must also have made it to Canada.  There once was a boy in Quebec Who was buried in snow to his neck. When asked, “Are you friz?: He replied, “Yes! I is But we don’t call this cold in Quebec.” Why I ain’t a grammar purist There is an apocryphal story about how, after submitting a draft of an important wartime speech to the Foreign Office, Winston Churchill was surprised to see upon its return there were no comments on its content. But where he had ended a sentence with a preposition a Foreign Office purist had transferred the preposition to its stiffly grammataical position. At this Churchill dashed off a note to the offending purist. “This is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.” SOURCE: The Reader’s Digest’s Bedside Book of Laughter Smart people can believe dumb things How come so many very smart people believe the world is millions of years old? It’s because smart people can still get caught up in a philosophy that blinds them to the truth. This has happened in the past as David Berlinski and Uncommon Knowledge host Peter Robinson highlight in this exchange: PETER ROBINSON: “So how is it that Darwin comes along and within what seems like twenty seven seconds he’s carried the field. That is to say, intellectually, in the academy, he’s just carried the field. By the turn of the twentieth century Darwin is the dominant way of looking at the development of species. How did that happen?” DAVID BERLINSKI: “How did it happen that Marxism swept its field, swept it so thoroughly and completely that a hundred million people had to die before someone realized? You know that’s not such a swell theory at all.” “Son, we need to talk” The November 2015 issue of Faith in Focus tackled the topic of maturity and men. While the whole issue was wonderful, Pastor Andrew de Vries’ article “Son, we need to talk” packed particular punch. He was addressing the many ways that boys can resist becoming men, one of which is to lose sight of any sort of play/work balance. Son, I’ve noticed that you tend to play a lot. I know you’ve got a job, and you’ve got your studies, but your “play dates” do seem to take up a lot of your schedule. Is it possible that your “playtime” is stunting your spiritual growth? The video games into the early hours of the morning, the DVD collection, the weekends away motorbiking or tramping, the fitness regime Monday through Saturday (and just a light workout on Sunday of course). Isn’t that an excessive play regime? Please don’t think I’m opposed to such activities. These are all legitimate pursuits to play at. I have no interest in binding your conscience with a list of what is good and what is bad, or rules about the appropriate amount of time that you should be spending on these pursuits. But you have to ask yourself the question, ‘are these things really helping to further your spiritual growth?’… Or have they become distractions which are keeping you in spiritual diapers when by now you should have been able to put childish ways behind you. Best mistake Our magazine’s wonderful proofreader marked it as a typo; some friends thought it might have been ego. While writing about a Pride parade in an issue some years back I defined transgenders as being made up of: "...men who want to be women, and women who want to be me." I did end up adding an “n” at the end, but, really, wouldn’t it have worked either way? Will our pets be on the New Earth? While some might questions whether pesky critters like mosquitos will be there, most Christians seem to believe we’ll find animals on the New Earth. After all, there were animals before the Fall, so why wouldn’t they be there when the world is perfect once more? But it is a matter of some debate as to whether animals there will be ressurected versions of the ones who died here – perhaps there will be cats, but might we find our very own Mr. Fluffy Wussles there? Douglas Wilson says yes, pointing to 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul speaks of the ressurection. In verses 35-44 the apostle talks of the dead rising and our flesh being like seeds sown, put in the ground to die, to then emerge with a body so much better than what we have now. But we aren’t the only ones to have “flesh/seed” – the birds, animals and fish seem to as well. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish (vs. 37-39). If our flesh is to be sown and then to “sprout” into new life again, it would seem that animal, bird and fish flesh is likewise seeds that will sprout, and thus some reason to think that our pets, Mr. Wussle included, might be seen again. Note also that while animals, birds, and fish are mentioned as seed/flesh to be resurrected, those pesky mosquitos are not!...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – November 2020

Famous phrases from the Bible The influence of God’s Word on our culture is such that even those who have never cracked open a Bible aren’t likely to name their kids Jezebel, Judas, or Cain. There are, however, some common phrases that even believers might not know have biblical origins. A drop in the bucket – Isaiah 40:15 says, “Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.” The writing is on the wall – In Daniel 5, King Belshazzar sees “the fingers of a human hand” appear and write a message on his wall which he then gets Daniel to interpret…and it isn’t good news for the king who is killed that very night. Rise and shine – This morning wake-up call, common to mothers the world over, may come from the call for God’s people to “Arise, shine” in Isaiah 60:1. Seeing eye to eye ­­– Isaiah 52:8, in some translations, about watchmen on the city walls being in agreement. Go the extra mile – Jesus urges us to this in Matthew 5:41 Reading between the lines – This doesn’t come from any specific chapter or verse, but from a translating practice done to some Latin Bibles, where another language would be written directly above the Latin text. Asked and answered It’s a question we’ve all heard: how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?  But does anyone know the answer? It turns out some researchers at Cornell University discovered that if you provide woodchucks with chunks of 2 by 4s, then they can chuck wood…even if they normally choose not to. "Chucking” of a sort does occur when they dig out their burrows, though this involves dirt, not wood. Naturalist Richard Thomas estimated that a woodchuck burrow is about 35 cubic meters. Making a bit of a leap of logic he then presumed, if they can throw that much dirt, then they should be able to throw just as much wood, right? And a pile of wood with that volume would weigh, around 700 pounds. So there you have it! SOURCE Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Plunges Into the Universe, pages 445-446 J.C. Ryle on backsliding “It is a miserable thing to be a backslider. Of all unhappy things that can befall a man, I suppose this is the worst. A stranded ship, a broken wing, a garden overrun with weeds, a harp without strings, a church in ruins - all these are sad sights; but a backslider is a sadder sight still. “That true grace shall never be extinguished, a true union with Christ never broken off, I feel no doubt. But I do believe that a man may fall away so far that he will lose sight of his own grace, and despair of his own salvation. And if this is not hell, it is certainly the next thing to it! A wounded conscience, a mind sick of itself, a memory full of self-reproach, and a heart pierced through with the Lord’s arrows, a spirit broken with a load of inward accusations, all this is a taste of hell. It is hell on earth. Truly that saying of the wise man is solemn and weighty: ‘The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways’ (Prov.14:14). “Now, what is the cause of most backsliding? I believe, as a general rule, one of the chief causes is the neglect of private prayer. Of course, the secret history of falls will not be known until the last day. I can only give my opinion as a minister of Christ and a student of the heart. That opinion is, I repeat distinctly, that backsliding generally first begins with the neglect of prayer. “Bibles read without prayer, sermons heard without prayer, marriages contracted without prayer, journeys undertaken without prayer, residences chosen without prayer, friendships formed without prayer, the daily act of prayer itself hurried over or gone through without heart, these are the kinds of downward steps whereby many a Christian descends to a condition of spiritual palsy, or reaches a point where God allows him to have a tremendous fall.” English is a weird language If you’ve ever wondered why English is thought to be one of the harder languages to learn, contronyms are a clue: these are words that mean their own opposite. These examples should have us commiserating with our immigrant parents or grandparents who had to somehow make sense of them all: Apology: repenting from an action or defending it Bolt: to keep from moving or to run away Clip: to attach something on or to cut it off Dust: to remove fine particulate matter or to add it. Fast: describing something stuck firmly or moving quickly Literally: factually or metaphorically Left: still here or already gone Resign: only a contronym in writing, where it means either to quit or to sign up again Transparent: being invisible or being obvious Weather: to be worn away by or to stand up to, the elements Advanced math "There are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematician that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one." – G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday Did they or didn't they? The best quotes aren't always by the people they are supposed to be by. Sometimes they are altered, improved, and essentially abbreviated versions of something they really did say. Other times, it might be something they said, but no one can find a source to prove it. Regardless some are really worth repeating. Here's a collection of great quotes credited to the person who is popularly, but probably incorrectly, credited with saying them. “Why do bad things happen to good people? That only happened once and He volunteered.” - RC Sproul "Love is a game two can play and both can win." - Eva Gabor “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the Word of God except precisely that little point which the world and the Devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefront besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.” - Martin Luther “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing – they believe in anything.” - G.K. Chesterton “You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.” - Winston Churchill “Telephone” with a twist In the game “telephone” one friend whispers a sentence to a friend, and the message gets passed along the line quietly one by one. By the time it gets to the end of the line the message, through repeated “mishears” has been altered, sometimes to an unrecognizable extent, and to the great amusement of all. In a version of the game called “Predicament and Remedies” the first person shares some kind of “predicament” and their neighbor passes along, not that predicament, but a one sentence, fairly detailed, remedy for it. The person who hears the remedy then has to pass along a one-sentence, detailed predicament that remedy might solve, and so on and so on. So, for example, if we start with “My scuba airhose is leaking” the next in line might whisper “Wrap duct tape around the hose” to which the next in line might say “my vacumn hose has a hole it it.” The trick here is to leave some room for ambiguity, but not too much. “Buy a new one” wouldn’t be a good fix for any remedy because it is too general and a match for too many things, but something like “learn how to read upside down” would be great fun. The more creative the predicament or rememdy, the funnier the result. ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - October 2020

Move just one stick to fix the equation I thought there were three right answers, but after posting a version of this to Facebook, friends helped uncover three more. So there are at least 6…but 3 of them include what could be consider “cheats” (that’s a hint). You can find the answers at the bottom of this post. Reformed one-liners worth unpacking On the “Reformed Pub” Facebook group, member Matthew Mannucci started a discussion about “famous one liners” from some more recent Reformed leaders and he started things off with the first one below. Most of the offerings were not self-explanatory so a brief bit of context is provided but if your curiosity is sparked, be sure to google them. While these gentleman all have their different strengths and weaknesses, the sermons and conversations that spawned these one-liners are gold. “What’s wrong with you people?” – R.C. Sproul, in response to the question "Since God is slow to anger and patient, then why when Man first sinned was his wrath and punishment so severe and long lasting?" “I don’t know why you’re clapping; I’m talking about you.” – Paul Washer to a youthful audience that doesn't understand he is admonishing them. Tim Challies gives his 10-minute take here. “Steal his wallet.” – R.C. Sproul on how to respond to someone who says there is no such thing as sin. “Jesus wants the rose!” – Matt Chandler on who could ever want a broken, almost pedal-free rose that a pastor was using to represent anyone who had been sexually impure. “It is better to lose your life than to waste it.” – John Piper C.S. Lewis on the problem with materialism “If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents – the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts – i.e. of materialism and astronomy – are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milkjug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.” - C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics Glorying in ignorance When Charles Spurgeon met a fellow proud to be an agnostic, the preacher used a quick bit of translation work to illustrate how strange it is to be prideful on this point. One walking with me observed, with some emphasis, "I do not believe as you do. I am an Agnostic." “Oh,” I said to him. "Yes. That is a Greek word, is it not? The Latin word, I think, is ignor'amus." He did not like it at all. Yet I only translated his language from Greek to Latin. These are queer waters to get into, when all your philosophy brings you is the confession that you know nothing, and…enables you to glory in your ignorance.”  – “The rowers have brought thee into great waters” preached Dec. 12, 1886 Stewardship at the gas pump For years now the site GasBuddy.com has been helping thrifty folks in Canada, the US, and Australia find the best local prices for filling up our vehicles. Clarity can come from closeness When faced with any big decision Christians will pray for clarity because it becomes so much easier to take even very difficult tasks when we know that, yes, this is something we really should be doing. But how does God provide that clarity? In a blog post on fostering children, Jason Johnson (JasonJohnsonBlog.com) shares how clarity can come by moving closer. “Sometimes our prayers for more ‘clarity’ are answered with a call for more proximity. From a distance we say, ‘God show me the way!’ and He responds with, ‘Just move closer and you’ll see.’ And a lot of your questions about fostering are only answered through this kind of proximity. The closer you get the more you see and the clearer things become. You begin to see things you can never unsee, hear things you can never unhear, know things you can never unknow and then suddenly, nothing can ever be the same again. You simply cannot pretend it doesn’t exist anymore. “ Science's "sliding scare of trust" “Science” is often brought into discussions to end them. Whether we’re talking about overpopulation, or global warming, or evolution, or now the efficacy of masks and lockdowns, science will be invoked to declare that this or that is so, and that only “deniers” would say otherwise. What this mike-drop trades on is the reputation science has garnered via some of its greatest hits: cars, smartphones, heat pumps, microwaves, flat screen TVs, laser-eye surgery, gluten-free pizza, and so much more. The great and glorious "science” has given us much, so who would be foolish enough to question it? But wait just one moment: there’s science and then there’s science. In the Creation/Evolution debate a useful distinction is made between operational science and historical science. Discovering a good gluten-free pizza is all about the former: endless experimentation, and then, when one proves successful, duplicating that same experiment time after time. That’s where the reliability comes in: it is based on repeated experimentation – repeated checks – that can verify whether something is right or not. In contrast historical science is about events that can’t be repeated, like the origins of the universe, or the Earth, or Man. So, this sort of science is very different...and doesn't deserve the same sort of respect. What Paul Price and Robert Carter call science's "sliding scale of trust" is also relevant in modeling big events going forward too. It’s one thing to say we’ve discovered a good gluten-free pizza dough (and really, have we even achieved that yet?) and quite another to say we understand what the weather will be like one hundred, or even ten year hence. To explain just how uncertain such conclusions really are, Price and Carter quote from Michael Crichton’s book Jurassic Park where a key character, mathematician and philosopher Ian Malcolm illustrate that uncertainty: “Chaos theory says two things. First, that complex systems like weather have an underlying order. Second, the reverse of that—that simple systems can produce complex behavior. For example, pool balls. You hit a pool ball, and it starts to carom off the sides of the table. In theory, that’s a fairly simple system, almost a Newtonian system. "Since you can know the force imparted to the ball, and the mass of the ball, and you can calculate the angles at which it will strike the walls, you can predict the future behavior of the ball. In theory, you could predict the behavior of the ball far into the future, as it keeps bouncing from side to side. You could predict where it will end up three hours from now, in theory… "But in fact … it turns out you can’t predict more than a few seconds into the future. Because almost immediately very small effects—imperfections in the surface of the ball, tiny indentations in the wood of the table—start to make a difference. And it doesn’t take long before they overpower your careful calculations. So it turns out that this simple system of a pool ball on a table has unpredictable behavior.” If we have to be humble about where the pool balls will land, then we should know that even more humility is in order when dealing with systems or situations that are far more complex. SOURCE: Paul Price and Robert Carter’s Creation.com article: “Historical Science, Chaos Theory, and the sliding scale of trust” posted Oct. 1, 2020 Sound to sooth the savage baby breast When a baby would wake in the middle of the night, and nothing seemed capable of soothing her, I had one go-to trick that could. I’d boot up my computer and head to SimplyNoise.com, a site that offered different sorts of soothing noises that, when paired with a soothing backrub from dad, would send the little one off to sleep. That site used to be free and while it is no longer, I ran across another that is: Noises.online offers the sounds of crackling fires, calm rainstorms, babbling conversation, straight white noise and many more that you can even combine with one another. If you have a kid just cracking their first tooth, I highly recommend it! Answers to "Move just one stick to fix the equation" The first three below are the "easy" ones, and the next three required some serious thinking outside the box. 0+4=4 8-4=4 5+4=9 5+4≠4 9-4≠4 9-Y≠4 H/T to Martha DeGelder...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - September 2020

When the pastor fell asleep Maybe you already knew that Charles Spurgeon was called the "Prince of Preachers," with more than 3,500 published sermons. But did you know he didn’t even stop when he slept?  Marshall Shelley shared the story of how, one Saturday night, Spurgeon began to talk in his sleep. “His wife, Susannah, heard the noise and awoke. She realized her husband was preaching, so she listened attentively and in the morning gave her husband a detailed summary. A few hours later, he preached that sermon to his congregation.” SOURCE: “From the editor: Sleepy Preacher” Relationships take time Jay Younts wants parents to understand that they won’t be the biggest influence on their children’s lives if they aren’t investing time. "If teenagers are listening to three hours of TV every day and averaging five minutes a day talking with their dads, who is winning the influence battle?" And as a Frank Viola points out, what’s true for parents and our children is also true for us and God. "In Willard Harley’s marvelous book on marital relationships – His Needs, Her Needs – Harley observes that in order for couples to stay emotionally connected, they need to spend 15 hours a week together. The point there is that for any relationship to flourish, there must be intentional time spent for communication and presence..... It’s no different with our relationship to Jesus. If we neglect Him, we’ll eventually shrivel up spiritually. Our lives will be overtaken by 'the cares of this life,' 'the lust/desire for other things,' and 'the deceitfulness of money' – all of which choke out God’s life (Mark 4:19)." The 7 deadly medical conditions In the August issue of Faith in Focus in his article "The sin of gluttony," Dr. Hans Snoek discusses how we've "medicalized" many a sin: “…the seven deadly sins were Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Wrath and Sloth. It is not for me to discuss the status of these sins as ‘deadly’ or otherwise but Scripture confirms that all of these characteristics of a human being are sinful….It is noteworthy that these seven sins have, in the 21st Century, become one virtue followed by six medical conditions! Pride is the 21st-century virtue, pride is being encouraged for all, raise your self-esteem is almost a mantra of the age.” Theistic evolution flips the script... “The Bible teaches that Adam produced death. The opposing view has to say that in some manner death produced Adam.” - Douglas Wilson Even the post-modernist knows there are absolutes Ravi Zacharias has a favorite story he tells about an encounter with a deconstructionist/postmodern building. As he describes it, “…inside you encounter stairways that go nowhere, pillars that hang from the ceiling without purpose, and angled surfaces configured to create a sense of vertigo.” What’s the point? Zacharias explained that when the artist was questioned the man answered: "If life itself is capricious, why should our buildings have any design and any meaning?” But as Zacharias went on to explain, this postmodern building, with its dead ends and useless pillars was still very well designed, because even as the designer pretended to flout all the rules of design, he had to acknowledge them and submit to them. “When the rationale was explained to me, I had just one question: Did he do the same with the foundation? “The laughter in response to my question unmasked the double standard espouse. And that is precisely the double standard of atheism! It is possible to dress up and romanticize our bizarre experiments in social restructuring while disavowing truth or absolutes. But one dares not play such deadly games with the foundations of good thinking.”  Evil isn’t just out there Right since Adam and Eve, mankind has been very good at the blame game – it's always someone else's fault, isn't it? But no, as the gents below highlight, the battle starts closer to home. “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human heart.” – Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago “Dear Sir: Regarding your article ‘What is Wrong with the World,’ I am. Yours truly.” – G.K. Chesterton Men ≠ women “A study in The Washington Post says that women have better verbal skills than men. I just want to say to the authors of that study: ‘Duh!’” – Conan O’Brien We honor God with obedience…not results Martin Luther is credited with saying, "If I knew that tomorrow was the end of the world, I would plant an apple tree today!" Whether the attribution is correct, it highlights that we don't know what tomorrow might bring, therefore it is the means and not the ends that are in our hands. It is only the means then, with which we can glorify God, and not uncertain results. Or as Mike Ratliff has put it: “…I had always assumed that when God gives us a message or lesson or sermon or counsel in which to write or teach or preach or give to those who need to hear it, He would also cause those hearing it to recognize it as the truth, believe it, and obey it. Reality hit hard. The principle I learned was that God is glorified when we obey Him whether the results of our obedience meet our expectations or not.”...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - August 2020

What would King Solomon do? A policeman arrested two men and confiscated a pair of loaded dice. In court, each man accused the other of owning the dice. “Constable,” said the magistrate, “did you take these dice without a warrant?” The policeman nodded sheepishly. “You had no right to,” said the magistrate. “Give them back immediately.” One culprit stuck out his hand to retrieve the dice. The magistrate promptly sentenced him to three months and freed the other. SOURCE: Based on a joke from "The Bedside Book of Laughter, with jokes selected from Reader’s Digest" Why parents have to be teachers Our grandparents never had to be taught that homosexuality was wrong, or that there are just two genders. Now those two points are cultural battlegrounds. But are we, as parents, actively engaged in this fight? Two telling quotes, below, illustrate why we need to teach our children what God has said on these subjects, and more, and not simply assume they understand. “One generation believes something. The next assumes it. And the third will forget and deny it.” – D.A. Carson “What one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace.” – commonly attributed to John Wesley Penguins are super cool! Did you know Emperor Penguins can hold their breath for as long as 18 minutes, and fast for up to 115 days waiting for their eggs to hatch? The devil in stocking feet A friend recently shared an expression his grandfather used to say: in a compromising Christian school “the devil walks around in stocking feet” while in the public school “he walks around in wooden shoes.” His point? The public school's dismissal of God is a heresy easy to spot, but a compromised Christian school might cover over their errors with out-of-context Bible verses, making them hard to discern. That had this gentleman more worried about children being sent to that sort of "Christian" school than to the obviously unchristian public school. Thankfully, many of us have option #3: an uncompromisingly Christian school. Pops top profs “One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters.” – George Herbert C.S. Lewis on being far too easily pleased “If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love. "You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. “The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and to nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. “If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and to earnestly hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I suggest that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – “The Weight of Glory” in the Weight of Glory An original sin Three-year-old Linda watched excitedly as her visiting aunt unpacked her suitcase. The little girl was waiting eagerly for the present she knew was coming. At long last two bouncy balls were produced, one green, the other yellow. “One is for you, and one for your brother Timmy,” her aunt explained. “Which would you like?” Quick as a wink Linda replied, “I want Timmy’s” SOURCE: Based on a joke from "The Bedside Book of Laughter, with jokes selected from Reader’s Digest"...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – July 2020

Translation that busts a gut “During my time of study in Amsterdam several decades ago, I personally experienced this challenge of translation. One day I walked downstairs and happened to meet the landlady. She looked at me quizzically, as if to ask what I was doing. “I’m taking a break from my studies,” I tried to say in Dutch. Unfortunately, “taking a break” does not translate well, so I changed the word for “break” to paus. And, apparently, I didn’t pronounce it well. What I actually said to my Dutch friend was, “The pope has a hernia.” A big fan of the pontiff, she was very concerned.” – R.C. Sproul (in What’s in the Bible) A Christian take on art and riots too… When it comes to all the various subjects taught in our Christian schools, there are a few where the question is more often asked, “How do Christians teach this subject any differently than non-Christians?” While Math might be at the top of that list, Art is another that might follow somewhere soon after. But as Rev. Carl Vermuelen noted in the June issue of Una Sancta, there is not only a distinctly Christian way to teach art, but a pressing need to do so. He points readers to Nancy Pearcey’s excellent book, Saving Leonardo, where the Pearcey describes how, as the West moved away from its Christian roots, its art changed too. Before, no matter how artists might have differed, all agreed that we had purpose and life had meaning, and that truth was discoverable. But, “By the time of the impressionists, people no longer hoped to achieve the expression of an ideal universal order … or universal knowledge.” She documents the development of these ideas through impressionism, Picasso’s cubism and geometric abstractionism, as well as through the pantheism of Van Gogh, and Kadinsky’s art infused with spiritualism. The ideas of these artists and others in their thought world developed further into secular materialism, as well as pantheism and postmodernism. The vicious attacks on Western civilization we see today are the direct result of these ideas. Many of the artists she discusses as she describes this revolutionary change in society (Mondriaan, Kandinsky, Monet, Van Gogh, Warhol, Picasso), are included in the list of recommended artists to be studied in the arts curriculum at our . That means the art teachers have a wonderful opportunity to show the children from the earliest grades the big narrative that has been shaping our society. What artists like Van Gogh, Picasso and the Fauvres thought and expressed in their art is what we are seeing in action on the streets today. This is what our children need to understand. Then we won’t want them to paint like Picasso, but we will want them to understand why Picasso painted like he did. In this way, we will help them make sense of the George Floyd riots, the burning police cars and the looting. A dad joke QUESTION: What two body parts are able to both run and smell? ANSWER: Your nose and your feet! Kevin DeYoung (and John Frame) on birth control… “You don’t have to be a fertility maximalist to recognize that children are always lauded as a blessing in the Bible. Maybe on another occasion, I’ll write about the triumph of birth control in the 20th century and how it happened with little theological reflection from the church, but for now let me at least nudge you in the direction of John Frame: ‘It seems to me that birth control is permissible in many situations, but it bears a high burden of proof. It can be a responsible choice, but is probably overused.’” SOURCE: It's Time for a New Culture War Strategy  Did he see the transgender debate coming? “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.” – G.K. Chesterton, in the Illustrated London News Mainstream and social media's flaws These three quotes are all from a time before the Internet but seem applicable to Twitter and Facebook too. “Everything you read in newspapers is absolutely true, except for that rare story of which you happen to have first-hand knowledge.” –  Edward Knoll, sharing what has been called “Knoll’s Law of Media Accuracy.” His point was that when we see a story we know about we’ll be able to spot the faults in the reporting. But when it a story is about an event we don’t know anything about, we’ll often forget the errors in the previous account, and take this one as if it is fully reliable. “If you don't read the newspaper, you are uninformed.  If you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.” – commonly attributed to Mark Twain, though he seemingly didn’t say it, which is a lesson in itself. "You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well.... you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know." – Michael Crichton on the "Gell-Mann Amnesia effect" as named after his friend Creating their own commandments It is no coincidence that a society that ignores all God’s commandments will create their own, easier to obey, moral code. They might take God’s name in vain, violate the Sabbath, covet their rich neighbor’s good, teach kids how to fornicate, and even proclaim the murder of the unborn a right, but because they use paper, rather than plastic, straws they can still feel righteous. As one quote, purportedly from a Winifred Egan, put it: “What an irony that a society confronted with plastic bags filled with the remains of aborted babies should be more concerned about the problem of recycling the plastic.”...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - June 2020

Is this love? How can a parent help put a daughter’s crushes in the right context? How can we help her view this boy with discerning eyes? Diane Stark shared her approach in the March 2015 issue of Thriving Family. First she pointed her daughter to 1 Corinthians 13:4-6: Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Then she asked her daughter to replace the word “love” in this passage with the boy’s name, to see if it fit. As in “Timmy is patient and kind; he does not envy or boast. Timmy is not arrogant or rude…” What her daughter found is that the boy she was interested in wasn’t all that loving to many of their classmates. Seen in this biblical light, this prince wasn’t quite so charming. Stark wasn’t done. Next she asked her daughter to insert her own name in this passage to see how well it fit. Though the Stark didn’t share her daughter’s self-evaluation it is safe to say this passage exposed her own room for improvement – this passage exposes us all, and shows us all our need to ask God to continue His transforming work on us, so we can become more and more like Him. Exegeting God’s other book “Imagine if we’d let atheists translate all our Bibles? Imagine if we did that, and so the Bible now says, ‘There is no God’ ‘Everything is chaotic and meaningless’ and ‘You are just a piece of shrapnel’ and yet we keep using them. And then we’re shocked that we lose people? …. we’ve let natural revelation be exegeted, extrapolated, and taught and all the ‘catechisms’ are made by people who hate it, and hate the One who made it. And they hate the people who love the One who made it.“ – N.D. Wilson, director of the Riot and the Dance, on why there is a pressing need for Christians making nature documentaries A Dutch joke inspired by my neighbor’s cat… LITTLE GIRL: “Look auntie, this is our new kitten Pepper!” AUNT: “So is your other kitten named Salt?” LITTLE GIRL: “No Auntie, that wouldn’t make sense, because Pepper is actually short for Peppermint.” AUNT: “So what is your other kitten’s name?” LITTLE GIRL: “Double Salt!” Sometimes I Wonder... Sometimes I wonder, My Lord, why Did you create us with our eye? Unlike the worm or mole made blind Who labour in earth's soil, yet find Their tasks both noble, right and true In ink-black solitude, praise You. Eyes prove the window of our soul But, do they help us see Truth's goal? Did, what Eve saw corrupt her heart? Can we keep wrong from right apart? Was Achan not by wealth impressed? Eyes, led him to sin, he confessed. And David? Whom the Lord loved so? That sordid tale! So we might know, Our eyes are to our soul, the key, What does that mean for you and me? Were it not better, we were maimed And blessed with blindness, than be shamed? Are we not given to despise? Job covenanted both his eyes Not, to be overcome with lust, But in these things in God to trust, For, does our God not see our ways? Lord, shield our eyes, yes, all our days. – Aart Blokhuis Feb. 29/20  Ravi Zacharias (1946-2020) The well-known apologist Ravi Zacharias passed away on May 19 of cancer at the age of 74. While his family was Anglican, he didn’t believe until, at age 17, an attempt at suicide landed him in a hospital and while there someone brought his mother a Bible and told her to read John 14 to him. Zacharias said God used verse 19 to turn him: “Because I live, you will also live.” Later, in his book Jesus among other Gods, he summed up that conversion experience this way: “I came to Him because I did not know which way to turn. I remained with Him because there is no other way I wish to turn. I came to Him longing for something I did not have. I remain with Him because I have something I will not trade. I came to Him as a stranger. I remain with Him in the most intimate of friendships. I came to Him unsure about the future. I remain with Him certain about my destiny.” Called to business Even in Reformed circles there can be the feeling that ministry is a calling and business is not. But can we glorify God in providing for our families, in creating jobs that allow others to do the same, and in supporting ministries that, without such support, simply couldn’t exist? Yes, ministers and missionaries are vital, but as the Rev. Dick Lucas noted, to reach the ends of the earth with God’s Word we also need those who make it possible for them to do their work: “You have to have a generation of people raised up to proclaim the Gospel but you also have to have a generation who are prepared to support the Gospel to a sacrificial extent.” Red and yellow, black and white… Creationist Ken Ham has a response to racism: he wants us to help people understand their true origins: “ says all people are descendants of one man and one woman, Adam and Eve. That means there’s only one race of people… I remember after talking on this once a man told me, ‘When I filled out my census form and it said, “What race are you?” I wrote down “Adam’s.”’” On public education “I think we ought to be plain about this – that unless we preserve the principles of liberty in this department there is no use in trying to preserve them anywhere else. If you give the bureaucrats the children, you might as well give them everything else as well.” – Presbyterian professor J. Gresham Machen, testifying before Congress in 1926, speaking against the formation of a federal Department of Education and the further involvement of the government in education....

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