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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....

In a Nutshell

Tidbits- May 2020

Graphic Pictures... The image is outrageous, but the act itself's okay? That picture's met with fury... But, the killing is okay? Imagine our sheer terror, when assailed with gun or knife But, since no laws are broken, you can take a pre-born's life? And therein lies the horror! Does the truth of this appall? You're incensed at that picture, but at murder? Not at all? You think you're acting civilized and raise the 'hue and cry' Yet, you'll not lift a finger while one-hundred-thousand die? Yes, this figure is repeated in our country year by year, Should reflecting on God's wrath, not invade our hearts with fear? Let us, call-out to our authorities and hold them to account! May Truth yet change the hearts of men, as these small corpses mount. And that's the greater tragedy, when folks like you resolve, This holocaust's not happening, plus, it's not mine to solve Yet, all must face His judgment in the fullness of our days And pay a price much heavier if we don't mend our ways. Proverbs 24:11,12, Deuteronomy 30:19b Aart Blokhuis Nov. 22/19 The quotable G.K. Chesterton At 6’4” and 286 pounds, Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) had the body of a defensive lineman. But more notable was his massive mind – Chesterton was never short of wisdom and wit. What follows are four of his quippiest quotes. To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it. Impartiality is a pompous name for indifference, which is an elegant name for ignorance. Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable. The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. What did the Sadducees believe? Pop quiz: what did the Sadducees believe? Don’t know? You’re not alone – 9 out of 10 North American kidney bean farmers can’t recall any of the key beliefs of this ancient Jewish sect. And when a control group of lawnmower repairmen was told that the Sadducees denied the existence of angels and the eternal soul and even life after death, these mechanics couldn’t recall any of those facts just minutes later. So what can we do to retain this information? Can anything be done? Yes, help can be found! Pastor William Pols, of the Orthodox Reformed Church of Edmonton, offered a stunningly simple solution for this vexing problem – a memorable definition of the sect’s beliefs: “Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection, so they were sad, you see.” Once heard, can that ever be forgotten? What lurks on library shelves? It might not surprise you to know that in the teen section of your local library there lurks all sorts of books you don’t want your kids reading – sexually-charged anime books, books promoting homosexuality, and books with horrendous titles like: Sex: an uncensored introduction What if I’m an atheist? Zombies vs. unicorns 100% Official Justin Bieber. What may surprise you is what can be found amongst the picture books in the children’s section. My Princess Boy is about a cross-dressing four-year-old boy who likes to wear a pink dress to school. This made its way into our house because, at first glance, its pink cover looks like just another girl book. We don’t censor what our children grab too rigorously while we’re still in the library, in part because they are grabbing them by the dozens, and we can always nix them later on (our daughters know that mom or dad may deem a book they picked out “too silly to read”). But after our oldest daughter had already poured over the pictures of this one, mom thought it would be best to read it together. She used the opportunity to teach how God made boys and girls different from each other. “Should a boy dress like a girl?” That was an easy question to answer. As was the follow up: “Should we laugh at a boy who is acting strange?” No, they know better than that. So a very perverse book was put to instructive use because my wife was there, doing the reading. I already knew there was some odd stuff in the kids’ section – books about bratty children, and “Captain Underpants,” and other rude, peculiar material – but I didn’t realize that anything so starkly anti-Christian was lurking there amongst the picture books. My oldest will be able to read on her own in a few months and it was an eye-opener to realize that even in our conservative, church-going, small town, the public library is not to be trusted. We need to be aware of what our children are reading. “You should have seen the one…” A man gazed incredulously at a huge mounted fish. Finally, he said: “The man who caught that fish is a liar!” SOURCE: The Bedside Book of Laughter, with jokes selected from Reader’s Digest A president's prayer Ronald Reagan hated flying with such a passion that for decades he would traverse the country only by train, even traveling all the way from California to Washington D.C. by rail. But, eventually, the demands of his public office forced him to regularly use planes. Even then he was only able to deal with his fear by praying every time the plane took off and every time it landed. His daughter Patti asked him about these prayers: “Do you pray that the plane won’t crash,” I asked him assuming that would be a logical thing for which to pray. “No,” he answered, “I pray that whatever God’s will is, I’ll be able to accept it with grace, and faith in His wisdom. We’re always in God’s hands. Sometimes it’s hard to accept that, so I pray that He’ll help me just to trust His will.”… What my father had communicated to me, through his words, and between them, was that he believed God was in charge of his fate and the fate of everyone on the plane. He had told me once before that when we die is God’s business. So it wasn’t his place to second-guess God, or try to sell him a particular agenda by praying, “Please don’t let the plane crash.” And I thought of this, too: If I were falling through the sky, falling toward my death, would I want my last moments to be spent screaming at God for not obeying my wishes, or would I want to exit this earth in a moment of silent communion, a prayer for grace and acceptance? Of course, it isn’t wrong to ask God to keep our plane safe, or, if it were falling, to ask Him to bring it back under control. But what Reagan understood is that God is in control and we can trust Him. SOURCE: Paul Kengor’s God and Ronald Reagan A little respect… Twenty years ago talk show host Charles J. Sykes penned a memorable newspaper column on “Some rules kids won’t learn in school.” Number seven is as good today as it was then: Before you were born your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning up your room and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. And by the way, before you save the rain forest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your bedroom. SOURCE Sykes’ column appeared in the San Diego Union Tribune on Sept. 19, 1996 My brothers would have laughed I grew up in a house full of boys, and while I feel very blessed with my house full of girls I am, every now and again, struck by how very outnumbered I am. For example, at breakfast I noticed we had genuine maple syrup on our table so I took it as an opportunity to teach my kids how it was made. "It's basically tree blood," I told them. No one thought that was cool. Sigh…....

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - April 2020

Are we only after better-behaved pagans? Christians have made a habit of advocating for Christians positions without advocating for them as Christian positions. So we raise practical objections and stand against trangenderism because it just isn’t safe allowing men into women’s washrooms. We oppose euthanasia by arguing it’ll put pressure on the aged who don’t want to be a burden to their families. We fight promiscuity because it leads to STDs. And we argue against abortion by highlighting how it might be linked to an increase in breast cancer. It’s true that were the world to live by God’s standards for only entirely secular reasons, their lives would likely be more enjoyable. But, as C.S. Lewis noted in Mere Christianity, that might also be accomplished if they followed any of the great teachers. “It is quite true that if we took Christ’s advice we should soon be living in a happier world. You need not even go as far as Christ. If we did all that Plato or Aristotle or Confucius told us, we should get on a great deal better than we do. And so what? We never have followed the advice of the great teachers. Why are we likely to begin now? Why are we more likely to follow Christ than any of the others? Because He is the best moral teacher? But that makes it even less likely that we shall follow Him. If we cannot take the elementary lessons, is it likely we are going to take the most advanced one? If Christianity only means one more bit of good advice, then Christianity is of no importance. There has been no lack of good advice for the last four thousand years. A bit more makes no difference.“ If we’re only presenting “good advice” the world is as likely to reject it as any other advice. So what if promiscuity brings with it an increased chance of STDs, or abortion might result in breast cancer? We don’t know if we even have a tomorrow. So as Paul put in 1 Cor. 15:29-32, if there is no God – if we live only for today – then “let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” So often we are looking for the savvy argument, the magic bullet that will sway even the unbeliever to side with us. But the truth is, we need to look for the God-glorifying argument. That is why we were put on this earth: not to convince pagans to be better behaved, but to glorify God. And we might just find that God has so arranged things that the God-glorifying truth is often also the savvy compelling one. Chesterton on war G.K. Chesterton was 40 when “the Great War” began, and he died three years after Hitler’s rise to power. So even though he didn’t see WWII, this journalist and Christian apologist lived through the lead up to both World Wars, and understandably has some pronounced views on the subject of war. “War is not the ‘best way of settling differences;’ it is the only way of preventing their being settled for you.” “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” “The only defensible war is a war of defense.” What kind of impact will you have? In the US, federal elections happen every two years, and in Canada too, whether it is federal, provincial or municipal, there always seems to be an election just around the corner. A lot of elections going on means there are a lot of opportunities for Christians to speak God’s truth in this sphere and have an impact. How can we have an impact? Occasional Reformed Perspective contributor Tim Bloedow thinks one of the best ways would be by imitating Dr. Glenn Martin. This professor was convinced that every serious Christian should try to influence the vote of at least 100 people. He himself wasn’t satisfied unless he attempted to influence at least 1,000 and the way he went about it was by writing these 1,000 people to tell them how they should vote, and why. So, with the ever-present next election just around the corner, what are some ways you can present a Christian witness in the political sphere? 4 for video gamers to consider Phillip Telfer has been speaking about media and teens for a couple decades now, and in his latest booklet he offers a number of “considerations” for video gamers, and their parents, to, well, consider. Four of them are: TIME-STEWARDSHIP: Video games can be a huge time sink. Yet time is one of God’s gifts, one of the talents, we are supposed to invest wisely so video gamers should make a deliberate decision about how much time they are going to spend – going to invest – and then stick to it. ADDICTIVE: Video games can be habit-forming and addictive. In moderation some games might be just fine, but we need to understand that these games’ programmers aren’t trying to promote moderation. So, recognizing this, what can we do to prevent or counter video games’ addictive nature? ESCAPISM: Video games foster escapism. It is easier to play video games with people half a world away than to deal with our own family, or to go out and make friends. FALSE ACCOMPLISHMENT: Video games often give a false sense of accomplishment. The stereotype of a gamer is the 30-something-year-old living in their mom’s basement. But it doesn’t need to go to that extreme to be undermining real-world ambitions. Telfer’s 29-page booklet, 7 Considerations in the age of video games, can be downloaded for free here. Why are great quotes great? What makes a quote memorable? One key is a clever turn of a phrase, as in Yogi Berra’s “It ain’t over till it’s over” or Alexander Pope’s “to err is human; to forgive, divine.” But the very best quotes have another essential ingredient: wisdom. And it’s no coincidence, then, that the best quotes have parallels in Scripture, or echo biblical principles. “The cure for crime is not the electric chair but the high chair.” – J. Edgar Hoover “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Prov. 22:6 The FBI Director makes the same point as King Solomon: parents, for good or for ill, set their children out on a course that, in general, they will follow for the rest of their lives. “With great power comes great responsibility.” – Spiderman’s Uncle Ben “To whomever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom much was entrusted, of him more will be asked.” – Luke 12:48 Uncle Ben’s statement might be the most famous in superhero movie history, and the reason it rings true is because it echoes what Christ says in Luke 12:48, and a point He makes in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi “Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.” – Matt. 7:12 We all know how others should behave, and, in fact, prefer to preach rather than practice. But as Jordan Peterson put it last year: "If you can't even clean up your own room, who… are you to give advice to the world?" In Mathew 7 Christ confronts this hypocritical tendency a few different ways, urging us to think first of the beam in our own eye, rather than the mote in our neighbor’s (Matt. 7:3-5), and then calling on us to do to others as we would want done to us. We are responsible first and foremost for our own behavior. Some good news on the homefront In his short review of Glenn Stanton’s The Myth of the Dying Church, Marvin Olasky shares some big news. While we regularly hear about declining church attendance across the US (and the rest of the Western world), Stanton pointed to polling that shows there’s a decided upside too. From 2007-2014 there has been an increase in the percentage of Americans who: “say their faith is ‘very important to them’” “identify as Christian and say they pray daily, beyond a church service” “say they read the Bible at least once a week” “say they attend a small group for prayer, Bible study, or other religious education” In addition, over this same period, there has been an increase among regular church attendees, of those “who say they speak about their faith with others.” The Devil wants us to despair and forget that Christ has already won. Let’s not blind ourselves to the work God is doing even here in the supposedly “post-Christian” West. Gotta serve somebody “So many political and theological liberals need a cause to substitute for their moral obtuseness on such issues as abortion and homosexual behavior. They’ve found it in the worship of animals and plants. “ – Cal Thomas...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – March 2020

It’s so easy to get things wrong While doing evangelism, Christian apologist Ray Comfort will often ask his conversational partner a series of quick trick questions. The goal is to provoke a little humility by highlighting how easy it is to get things wrong. So take this quiz (or better, yet, give it to a friend...who can take a joke) and then look at the bottom of this page to see how well you really did. How many of the unclean animal did Moses take onto the Ark? What is the name of that raised print that deaf people use? Spell the word shop. What do you do when you come to a green light? It's noon. You look at the clock, and the big hand is on the three, and the little hand is on the five. What time is it? You are the driver of a train. There are 30 people on board. At the first stop, 10 people get off the train. At the next stop, 5 people get on the train. Here is the question: What is the name of the driver of the train? Spell the word silk. What do cows drink? And here’s one Comfort doesn’t use, but should: What mouse walks on two legs?   I don’t know. Mickey Mouse! What dog walks on two legs?   Goofy? Right! And what duck walks on two legs?   Donald Duck! All ducks walk on two legs! Troublemaking Bruce Jenner, who now goes by the name of Caitlyn, was an Olympic decathlete in the 1970s, and his personal best in the 400-meter is still better than any woman has ever run. If feelings can determine a person’s gender, then why doesn’t Caitlyn own the women’s 400-meter world record? Lies and statistics, and spanking... Every now and again the mainstream media will splash news of the very latest spanking study, which will report that spanking is "linked to aggression, antisocial behavior, mental health problems, cognitive difficulties, low self-esteem, and a host of other negative outcomes." That study will then be used as evidence that spanking needs to be banned. But if we look beyond the headline we'll find that whatever the latest study might be, it makes two fundamental errors. First, it will label as "spanking" anything physical that a parent did as a punishment for their child. That a child who is regularly beaten by his drunken father will have problems at school, is presented as evidence that a child who sometimes gets three smacks to his behind will also have trouble at school. Second, despite knowing that correlation does not imply causation, the press will report as if this is the exception to the rule, instead of looking for any sort of possible alternate explanation for the findings. What might an alternative explanation be? If I were a betting man I would put all my fortune down on this: were we to do a study of children who crayola the hallway wall, and then go outside to make mud pies so they can feed them to their napping, open-mouthed big sister, we would find that they are more likely than their peers to get spanked. In other words, it might well be that spankings don't lead to these "negative outcomes" but rather that a child's disposition to negative outcomes requires a parent to spank them more often. As any parent with two or more children can tell you, one of their kids will require more discipline than the others. And it isn't the especially good one. Get ready to be reviled "Pastors need to teach their people about how to handle with grace being looked down on more then ever before. I heard of John Stott reflecting that as a young man at Cambridge when people said ‘O he's a Christian,’ what they meant was that he was a goody-two-shoes. But now to be called a Christian means that you are viewed as a morally-deficient person, because you have not swallowed the gay agenda.” – Dr. John E Benton, Evangelicals Now, July 2012, on how the world will change as gay marriage becomes the norm. More troublemaking Our culture is insane, as is on clear display with what they think about sexual education. To put that insanity on better display here’s an idea from frequent RP contributor Rob Slane that lays out a couple of pointed questions a brave troublemaking Christian could ask university professors or sex-ed teachers. "I imagine a teenager in a sex education lesson asking the following question: 'Miss. Assuming I take precautions, would it would be safer for me to have 3 partners or 300?' No brainer of course, and even the most progressive of teachers would have to admit that 3 is 'safer' than 300. Simple mathematical probabilities this one: the lower the number, the 'safer the sex.' "In which case a really mischievous teenager – a true rebel you might say – might ask the following question: 'Miss, is it safer to only have 1 partner for life, or multiple? And if it’s 1 – which it is – and if this is a safe-sex lesson – which it is – why do you not advocate it?'” Faint heart never won fair lady “Many a man has known a great woman, yet did not win her because, out of fear, he failed to pursue her.  Every man understands this, both the brave man who has risked it all (and won or lost) and the timid man who did not dare.  The battle to take the great action required at these ‘make it or break it’ moments is won or lost privately, deep in the heart.” – Patrick F. Fagan Answers for "It’s so easy to get things wrong" Moses didn't take any animals on the ark; Noah did. Deaf people don't need special raised print; Braille is for the blind. You certainly don't stop. We told you, it's noon. Remember, you are the driver of the train. While calves might drink milk, cows drink water. ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - February 2020

Lightbulb moment I was in my 4th-year neurophysiology course, learning about the brain, when the professor used a curious word: "think." As in, this is how science "thinks" things might work in our brain. What struck me was how tentative the professor had just become, and I wasn't the only student surprised to hear this modest word. A classmate popped up his hand and asked something to the effect of, "What do you mean 'think'? Don't we know how the brain works?" This got a definitive response from the prof. No, he explained, we don't have a clue how the brain works: all our theories are just guesses and don't begin to account for how much information is stored in our brains and how we access it. We even know our theories must be wrong – because they don't offer a sufficient explanation – but until something better is found, this is the best we have. His admission was quite the eye-opener for the class, who, to this point, had assumed we were learning something far more substantial than theories that were known to be deficient. The fact is, the human brain is a wonder, and even the smartest brains among us don't have a clue as to what is all going on. And to propose it was random chance that brought such a wonder into being, well, that just shows some folks aren't using the wonder they've been given. TV Trivia Fred Rogers, of the children’s show Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, was a seminary classmate of R.C. Sproul. Reformed humor What do Martin Luther and birds have in common? A diet of worms! Arguing for infant baptism In Jay Adams' book Greg Dawson and the Psychology Class, the author poses an intriguing argument for infant baptism. One of the characters in the book, Brian, is trying to convince his girlfriend that infant baptism is biblical, and shares with her this scenario: "It's the day before Pentecost. Andrew, a pious Jewish father, has just had his child circumcised. He is happy because he now knows that little Simeon is a part of the covenant community – the visible church. The next day, he hears Peter preach and believes the Gospel. Now, according to Baptist thought, his child is no longer in the visible church. In for one day and out the next." While there is no explicit example of a child being baptized in the New Testament (nor is there any example of children being excluded or forbidden from being baptized) there seems a clear parallel to circumcision, made even more clear by this scenario. Words are not optional "Preach the Gospel. If necessary rebuke anyone who says 'If necessary, use words.'" - RC Sproul Jr. When he’s good he’s very good! Tim Keller gets stuff wrong (he’s a theistic evolutionist) but when he also gets stuff right, he’s gets them really right, like this, from his November 7, 2014 Facebook status update: "When I am loving to my wife when I don't feel loving to my wife I am more loving to my wife than when I am loving to my wife when I feel loving to my wife." Actress understands the holiness of God's name Actress Melissa Joan Hart hasn't always had everything figured out, but she has gotten one thing right: she refuses to take God’s name in vain, no matter what the script might require. Hart gained fame in the 1990s playing a good witch, then starred in a horror film, and posed in lingerie for a men’s magazine, but these days pops up on social media for her work with World Vision. While promoting her film God’s Not Dead 2, she told TheBlaze.com’s Billy Hallowell: You will not see me in a TV show ever saying, “Oh my God,” because I don’t take that word lightly...And that’s a very small example of how I’ve been able to influence my work a little bit. For me, it’s a big step today, because it’s written in every single script. ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - January 2020

Why fossil fuels are a blessing According to Kathleen Hartnett White, in her study Fossil Fuels: The Moral Case “man-made emissions of carbon dioxide have risen three-fold since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.” But if some think that a decided downside, let’s not lose sight of the way we’ve been blessed by God’s provision of fossil fuels. As White explains: "When innovative minds developed a steam engine which could convert the stored heat energy in coal into mechanical energy, the economic limits under which all human societies had formerly existed were blown apart. A life of back-breaking drudgery was no longer the inescapable condition of the overwhelming majority of mankind. "Life expectancy had changed little throughout all human history until the Industrial Revolution; it thereafter tripled. Income per capita has since increased 11-fold…. Fossil-fuel powered mechanization revolutionized economic productivity, increased incomes, population, and life expectancy across all classes." Parental code: upping our game As is true for many readers of this magazine, my parents spoke Dutch whenever they wanted to talk about things they didn’t want us kids to understand. That always got us listening all the more intently, and over the years we did learn a “klien beetje” of Dutch, but never enough to figure out exactly what they were saying. But now, with kids of our own, and no second-language skills to turn to, I’m trying to figure out how I can talk to my wife without our kids clueing in. For the last four or five years, ever since our oldest learned to talk, we made use of our ability to spell. But now she’s off to kindergarten and has managed to break that code. So we’ve turned to shorthand spelling – instead of spelling out the whole word, we’ll just spell out the first few letters. So if I want to suggest a trip to the library, I’ll ask my wife what she thinks “about going to the L-I-B.” As “lib” doesn’t sound all that much like “library” it kept our speller off the scent for a while. But after repeated usage she broke that code too, and now when I ask my wife if we should have “I-C-E for dessert” our oldest is already salivating. Clearly, we had to up our game. Now instead of using actual letters, I’m using sound-alikes, in shorthand. So the last time I suggested heading to the library I asked my wife whether we should head to the “E-L-L-E, E-Y-E,  B-E-E.” That should serve us for at least the next little bit. After that? How about sound-alikes, in shorthand, backwards! Or we could just go to the other room. Alzheimer's and the hope of a Reformed  faith Some years ago the then editor of Christianity Today, David Neff, while reviewing a book on Alzheimer’s, pointed out how little hope some theology offers the family and friends of Alzheimer’s patients. He didn’t use the word Arminian, but the description he gave of this troubling theology fit: it “requires Christians to act for their salvation/liberation.” The problem with a theology that asks us to hold on to Christ is that it, “is no comfort to those whose dementia leaves them without the capacity to act.” After his father-in-law was stricken, Neff took comfort in a more Reformed understanding that instead emphasized, “that it is God who acts on our own behalf.” “Do we have to go to Church today?” In the September 2015 issue of New Horizons. Pastor Shane Lems shared how as a young lad he would complain to his parents, “Do we have to go to church today?” He didn’t understand the dangers of neglecting the church service – he wanted to stay home with his Lego. But, as he says, while “it’s one thing for a child to reason this way, it’s a very different thing for an adult to do it.” And he goes on to list some of the dangers to skipping church. It is against God’s will It hinders Christian fellowship It diminishes God’s praise It confuses/sets a bad example for other Christians It invites Satan’s temptations It is harmful to the Christian’s faith Lems included 5 more and noted that while his list was a negative one, it could also be reframed in the positive. For example, we could also not that going to church is God’s will, and doing so “strengthens your fellowship with the saints.” There are certainly dangers to neglecting church, but clear benefits to going. It's inescapable: Husbands are leaders “The Bible says the “husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church” (Eph. 5:23). Paul most emphatically does not say that husbands ought to be heads of their wives. He says they are…. Because the husband is the head of the wife he finds himself in a position of inescapable leadership. He cannot successfully refuse to lead. If he attempts to abdicate in some way, he may, through his rebellion, lead poorly. But no matter what he does, or where he goes, he does so as the head of his wife.” – Douglas Wilson in Reforming Marriage Count your blessings If the doom and gloom that fills our newspapers and social media feeds has you despairing, it's time to start counting the many, many blessings God showers on us. Here's a half dozen to get things started: It used to be expensive to phone long distance. Now we can Skype grandma for free. Most of us have a computer more powerful than anything NASA used to run the Apollo missions...and it's small enough to fit in a pocket. Life expectancy has jumped ten years since 1950. Everyone used to smoke, even if they never touched a cigarette - the haze was everywhere! Now we don't...mostly. The percentage of people in the world who are living in extreme poverty has been halved since 1990. Students in school today have no idea what a nuclear missile attack drill entails. A reading tips for dads Whenever I begin an Amelia Bedelia book I can hear a growing chorus screaming, "Noooooo! Don't say her name agaaaaaaaaain!" Those are my brain cells...dying. Still, my kids like these books and men are called to lead sacrificially, so I've had to figure out a work around. At first I had my daughters interject with Bedelia's name each time it appeared ...which meant they were reading half the book! But now I've come up with an even better solution that allows me to go entirely Bedelia-free: when her name comes up, I just swap in "Jane Smith." Aaaaah, sweet relief! Give it a try dads; your brain cells will thank you!...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - December 2019

Darwin’s theory and Kipling’s Just So Stories Brett Miller is a cartoonist for the website Creation-Evolution Headlines (CrEv.info). While his other cartooning efforts are great, this one below, titled “Leap of Faith,” (which he’s graciously shared with us) is my favorite. He’s packed so much in here, with the rainbow made up of key explanations that evolution is missing, and directly underneath all the “weasel words” that evolutionary accounts so often employ. And then, further down, a reference to how evolutionary accounts resemble a particular type of fiction: Just-So Stories. In 1902 Rudyard Kipling published his book Just So Stories with short chapters on topics like: how the elephant got its trunk, how the leopard got its spots, how the camel got its hump, and how this animal and that got their peculiar features. While evolutionists wouldn’t appreciate the comparison, often times their evolutionary explanations bear more than a passing resemblance to Just So Stories. Kipling tells us that the elephant got its long trunk because a crocodile stretched it. Evolutionists tell us that giraffes got their long neck because long necks help them reach high enough to get the leaves on the highest branches. Is one idea more scientific than the other? Were either observed or can either be proven by repeatable experimentation? No, no, and no. Both make for interesting stories…and that’s all they are. So keep Miller’s comic in mind the next time you hear a report about some new evolutionary discovery, and ask whether evidence is being offered, or simply a clever story. Factoids about your favorite Christmas songs Did you know… The text (though not the tune) of O Come, O Come Emmanuel has roots that could go as far back as the 6thcentury Isaac Watts based Joy to the World on the second half of Psalm 98, 96:11-12 and Genesis 3:17–18. Jingle Bells was not originally intended as a Christmas song, but was probably written for Thanksgiving celebrations. In 1700 While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks by Night became one of the very first hymns authorized to be sung by the Anglican Church (before 1700 only Psalms could be sung). Oh Canada! How do you get a mob of Canadians to disperse? You say, “Please disperse.” What do Canadians students get on their tests? Straight eh's. How do you get a Canadian to apologize? Step on his foot. Red and yellow, black and white… Creationist Ken Ham has a solution to the problem of racism. All we have to do is make 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.”’” SOURCE: "Genesis: The Key to Reclaiming the Culture" DVD For sale, cheap: New Kids on the Block collection In a speech some years ago in British Columbia, Pastor Douglas Wilson laid out a way of evaluating music. He compared different types of music to different types of plates. Some music, he said, is like your grandmother’s fine china: it takes some effort to use, but it will last for generations. This is classical music like Bach or Beethoven. Other music is more like CorningWare – it isn’t quite as refined but might be more popular and it can be passed on from one generation to the next. Wilson thought this was like folk music. Finally, one type of music is more like paper plates. It is designed to be used and thrown away. We consume it, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to use, and we don’t hand it on. Into this category Wilson slotted pop music. So one of the easiest questions to ask when evaluating music is whether you’d pass it on to your kids. And if, in five or ten years, you’ll be embarrassed to own up to owning it, why are you listening to it now? The wit and wisdom of Winston Churchill Churchill had a way with words, inspiring his island nation in their darkest hours with just the right turn of a phrase. His most famous speech was given on June 4, 1940, after the British had been forced to flee the mainland. This was a massive defeat, but an even bigger miracle. More than 300,000 Allied troops were able to evade what seemed certain capture when, with the help of hundreds of private watercraft owned and operated by British citizens, they were able to retreat across the Channel to England. It was then that Churchill rallied his nation promising that should the Nazis come: “…we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” And that’s far from the only memorable sound-bite the man uttered. Here’s ten of his very best quotes: A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on. Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject. If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law. A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. Some regard private enterprise as if it were a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look upon it as a cow that they can milk. Only a handful see it for what it really is - the strong horse that pulls the whole cart. The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is. Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me. A trick question When did Moses enter the Promised Land? Ah, you say, but that trick question isn’t all that tricky: everyone knows Moses never entered the Promised Land. God told him to speak to the rock at Meribah (Numbers 20) and water would come out, but instead Moses struck the rock twice, and for this disobedience God told Moses he would not lead Israel across the Jordan. He showed Moses the Promised Land from high atop Mount Nebo (Deut. 34:4-5) and then Moses died, never stepping a foot in it. But while it is true Moses died before entering, it turns out he probably did still visit the Promised Land. In Matthew 17 we read that Peter, James, and John went up with Jesus to the top of a high mountain where Jesus was then transfigured, “his face shone like the sun,” and his garments became “as white as light.” And then two people appeared next to Jesus and began talking with him: Elijah and Moses! So how’s that for a fun trick answer? But as trick questions go, the answer to this one isn’t as clear as we might like, because it’s not certain that this mountain (which isn’t named in the Scriptures) was actually in the Promised Land. Two hypothesized locations (and there are others) are Mount Tabor, which is within the boundaries, and Mount Hermon, which is not. So, maybe the better trick question is, when might Moses have entered the Promised Land?...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - November 2019

On breaking your TV habit Want to cut down on your TV watching but find it a battle? Gary North has an idea he put in place more than 40 years ago: “Put a price on your time.” He suggests putting a piggy bank next to your couch and whenever you watch a show you have to put in $1 for a half-hour show, and $2 for an hour show. If someone else is already watching something (and has already paid the price) you can join in for free (TV watching together is a step up from watching by yourself). Then at year’s end you count up all the money and send a check for that amount to your favorite charity. “In short, put a price on your time. Pay the price. Economics teaches: ‘When the price rises, less is demanded.’ You will cut your TV habit by 50%. If not, make it $3.” SOURCE: Gary North’s Tip of the Week, January 3, 2015 Luther and Aristotle on the need for balance and moderation I’ve read that in Martin Luther’s first year at Wittenberg he had to regularly lecture on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. And while Luther didn’t seem a fan of the Greek philosopher, one of Luther’s more famous quotes is an echo of sorts to a passage in Ethics. Martin Luther once said: “Human nature is like a drunk peasant. Lift him into the saddle on one side, over he topples on the other side.” Long before, Aristotle spoke of the need for balance, and that there are two equal and opposite ways of getting things wrong: “….the man who flies from and fears everything and does not stand his ground against anything becomes a coward, and the man who fears nothing at all but goes to meet every danger becomes rash; and similarly the man who indulges in every pleasure and abstains from none becomes self- indulgent, while the man who shuns every pleasure, as boors do, becomes in a way insensible; temperance and courage, then, are destroyed by excess and defect, and preserved by the mean.” Of course, that a Greek philosopher said something doesn’t mean it is biblical. So is the need for balance a biblical idea? It can indeed be, and alcohol is an example. On the one hand God forbids drunkenness, but on the other, doesn’t require us to completely abstain – instead He calls for moderation. Another example might be sexuality and dress. On the one hand, we are called to modesty so lascivious or scandalous dress is forbidden, but we don’t all have to go around wearing burkas. There is a balance point between perverse and prudish. The key then is to act as God commands us, and not simply react against one way the Devil is trying to lure us. Reagan on Big Government “Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.” – Ronald Reagan as quoted in The Reagan Wit by Bill Adler Doubters should question their doubts too “Some believers spend too much time doubting their faith, and not enough time doubting their doubts. Yes, there are some reasonable questions that thoughtful people have always raised about the Christian faith. But there are also some very good questions that faithful people should raise about their spiritual doubts: Have I studied what God has to say on this question, or have I been listening mainly to his detractors? Am I well aware of how this doubt has been addressed in the history of Christian theology, or has my thinking been relatively superficial? Have I been compromising with sin in ways that make it harder for me to hear God’s voice and diminish my desire for the purity of his truth? Is this a doubt that I have offered sincerely to God in prayer, or am I waiting to see if God measures up to my standards before I ask for his help?” - Phil Ryken, in Loving Jesus More  Udderly marvelous Back in 2013 Vince Rozmiarek got put in charge of his small town’s community center message board, and soon after starting posting puns to the big 6” by 4” outdoor sign. Now the two puns he posts each week are seen by the many driving by, and by the 84,000 folks who have signed up for the Indian Hills Community Sign Facebook page. While his puns tackle all sorts of topics, he can’t “steer” clear of farm jokes. Cows have hooves because they lactose. If a cow doesn’t produce mill is it a milk dud or an udder failure? Ban pre-shredded cheese. Make America grate again. Cheerful cowboys make jolly ranchers Amish banks have cash cows The pregnant cow soon became decalfinated Award-winning cow. Outstanding in field. I called my horse mayo, and sometimes mayo neighs. Man assaults his neighbor with milk and cheese. How dairy?!? If pigs could fly, imagine how good their wings would taste. Only God’s Word makes sense of it all "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 Is Theology Poetry...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - October 2019

Doing homework on Sunday? “When I was in college and seminary, I made what was a bold decision at the time and committed, along with a friend, that we would not do homework on Sundays. No reading assignments. No papers.  No studying for tests. It meant rethinking my Saturdays, which meant being more thoughtful about my Friday evenings. I couldn't sleep till noon on Saturday, watch football, hang out with my friends all day, and go out to a social event at night and then play catch-up on Sunday. I had to make pretty drastic changes. “But I never regretted the commitment. Setting aside Sunday was a habit that served me well throughout all my studies. Sunday became my favorite day of the week. I was freed up to go to church more than once. I could go on a long walk or read a book or take a nap. The day became an island of get-to in an ocean of have-to. “How many of us think, ‘You know what?  Life is a little underwhelming.  I'm not very busy.  I wish the days could be more crowded.  I wish life could be more hectic.’ Very few people think that way. So don't you want a day where you can say no to many of the oughts in your head? Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a day of freedom, one day in seven where the other six days have no claim on you?” – Kevin DeYoung, in The 10 Commandments (h/t to Dr. Wes Bredenhof) Gotta serve somebody “So many political and theological liberals need a cause to substitute for their moral obtuseness on such issues as abortion and homosexual behavior. They’ve found it in the worship of animals and plants. “ - Cal Thomas A better sort of straw I've been pricing things out, and as near as I can figure: Plastic straws cost 4-5 cents each but they are becoming harder to find, and if you use one people think you are Hitler. Paper straws cost something similar or even cheaper...but they are paper straws. Enough said. Bamboo straws are 10-15 cents each and they still aren't as good as plastic. Meanwhile, you can buy a pack of Twizzlers for 2.99 at Wal-Mart with 60 pieces in it, which works out to 5 cents each. Nip off the top and bottom and you have not only a straw that works way better than paper, and is cheaper than bamboo, but it's even better than plastic in that you can eat it afterward. And it keeps getting better: turns out Twizzlers are even a "low fat" straw. More consistent inconsistency “Gender is constructed, but an individual who desires gender re-assignment surgery is to be unarguably considered a man trapped in a woman's body (or vice versa). The fact that both of these cannot logically be true, simultaneously, is just ignored.” – Jordan Peterson Atheism doesn't have answers On his website ProofThatGodExists.org, apologist Sye Ten Bruggencate has a collection of more than 50 of his favorite quotes. If you like these four, be sure to check out his website for more. “The atheist can’t find God for the same reason that a thief can’t find a policeman.” – Author Unknown “The theory that thought is merely a movement in the brain is, in my opinion, nonsense; for if so, that theory itself would be merely a movement, an event among atoms, which may have speed and direction but of which it would be meaningless to use the words ‘true’ or ‘false’.” – C.S. Lewis “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 “If there is no God, then all that exists is time and chance acting on matter. If this is true then the difference between your thoughts and mine correspond to the difference between shaking up a bottle of Mountain Dew and a bottle of Dr. Pepper. You simply fizz atheistically and I fizz theistically. This means that you do not hold to atheism because it is true, but rather because of a series of chemical reactions…. If there is no God, then all abstractions are chemical epiphenomena, like swamp gas over fetid water. This means that we have no reason for assigning truth and falsity to the chemical fizz we call reasoning or right and wrong to the irrational reaction we call morality. If no God, mankind is a set of bi-pedal carbon units of mostly water. And nothing else.” – Douglas Wilson ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits – July 2019

Doubt your doubts… “We don’t just need answers for people’s difficult questions. We need questions for people’s easy answers.” – Andrew Wilson (as seen at Challies.com) Long term planning Reader’s Digest has a number of columns in which readers can send in their true, humorous stories. This one came from an obstetrician: “I sometimes see unusual tattoos when working in labor and delivery. One patient had some type of fish tattoo on her abdomen. ‘That sure is a pretty whale,’ I commented. “With a smile, she replied, ‘It used to be a dolphin.’” SOURCE: Laughter the best medicine II Robert Conquest’s Second Law of Politics It’s not clear whether Robert Conquest (1917-2015) ever stated the “Three Laws of Politics” commonly attributed to him. But whether he did or didn’t, someone should have because there’s insight here worth sharing, particularly in his second law: 2. Any organization not explicitly conservative will, sooner or later, become liberal. That’s quite the claim, but history bears it out. How many of our universities were founded by godly men, but how welcome are Christians on these campuses today? Hospitals begun by churches now kill their patients upon request. Amnesty International went from being an advocate for political prisoners to advocating for legalized abortion. Closer to home, Reformed denominations that stopped teaching their confessions have started ignoring and opposing them. But why do things flow in just the one direction? Why don’t we ever see an abortion-loving, man-hating feminist organization drift from their founders’ feelings and decide that, hey, unborn babies and men aren’t so bad after all? Why couldn’t they take a conservative or even Christian turn? It doesn’t ever happen like that, but why doesn’t it? It comes down to this: getting things wrong is always easier than getting them right. There’s no end of ways to raise our children wrong, or do our taxes wrong, or assemble IKEA furniture wrong, but there’s only one Truth, and only a narrow path to it. This has implications. Unless we are actively heading in the right direction, we are heading in the wrong direction. That’s true in politics, certainly, but it’s just as true when we are charting the direction for other organizations in our circles. Business leaders, school board, pastors and church consistories can’t let themselves drift. We mustn’t be quiet about what we know and believe. If we don’t actively hang on to God’s Truth, both energetically and loudly, then drift is inevitable. Or, as Jesus described in the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders (Matt. 7:24-27) if we don’t build on a solid foundation, we will be swept away. That sounds scary and it would be if we had to chart the right course on our own. But God has given us His Word. Now all we need is the courage to follow Him both loudly and proudly…and we can ask Him for that. Consistently inconsistent “Gender is a social construct but I am woman hear me roar but anyone can be a woman but not uterus no opinion but transwomen are women but I demand women’s rights but men are women but men are scum but drag queens are beautiful but appropriation is evil.” - Matt Walsh in a May 14 tweet 4 things you didn’t know about the Bible? How big is the Bible? At almost one million words, it is as long as 10 typical thrillers, or 15 mystery novels. The word Bible comes biblia, which is Greek for “books.” Biblia, in turn, was probably derived from the name of the Lebanese port of Byblos, where the Greeks got their paper supply The 1229 Synod of Toulouse forbade anyone but priests from having the Scriptures. The Bible didn’t come with the chapter and verse divisions we have today. Stephen Langton (c.1150-1228) is credited with dividing the Bible into the chapters our Bibles have now. Jewish Rabbi Isaac Nathan ben Kalonymus might have been the one who came up with Old Testament versification, back in 1440, while a French printer (Robert Estienne (1503-1559) is credited with creating the verse divisions we use for the New Testament. SOURCE: Jerry MacGregor and Marie Prys’ 1001 Surprising things you should know about the Bible. A political upgrade? “Could one start a Stagnation Party—which at General Elections would boast that during its term of office no event of the least importance had taken place?” – C.S. Lewis writing to his brother in 1940  And now you know the rest of the story… In their heyday, the 1980s big hair band Van Halen made the news for a diva-esque demand they had in their contract. Each venue was to provide them with a bowl of M&Ms with all the brown ones taken out. Critics saw this as a ridiculous extravagant request that showed just how kookie Van Halen had become. But some years later lead singer David Lee Roth explained that the “no brown M&Ms” rule wasn’t silly at all – it was a test. At the time the band traveled with a huge set, packed away in a whole fleet of semi-trailers, that had to be constructed at every venue. And it had to be done just right or there could be major safety concerns. Every venue received a thick instruction book to follow but because it was so big Van Halen was worried that the construction crews might not look at it all that carefully. That’s why the band “hid” their M&M demand somewhere in the middle. That way when the band arrived at a new venue one of the first things they would do is check the backstage area for a bowl of M&Ms. If it was there, and there were no brown ones, then they could be confident that this venue’s staff had read through the instruction book carefully. If there were no M&Ms, or the bowl still had brown ones, then they had heads-up that this venue might be taking shortcuts, and they would have good reason to double-check everything. This story shows (and what Proverbs 18:17 teaches) is that we really can’t have a good understanding of something if we just hear from the one side. It was only when we heard from David Lee Roth that further details came out. That’s particularly important to keep in my mind in our increasingly quick-to-judge era....

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - June 2019

As seen on a t-shirt We live in an emoticon, headline-reading, 280-character tweet, fly-by-level-of-engagement world. But short doesn’t always mean shallow, and to demonstrate here’s a collection of clever but concise slogans, as found on t-shirts. Short and sweet might be just what’s needed to get a long conversation started! Capitalism makes; Socialism takes Chapter and verse, please! Sure, you can trust the government. Just ask the Native Americans. Free Speech: more important than your feelings Former fetus The NSA: Listening to all your crazy conspiracy theories when nobody else will Preach the Gospel at all times. Always use words. You can love your country without having to love your government. Make Orwell fiction again. Life starts at conception, not perception   Two-sided danger When interacting with the world around it, a church can face two dangers that amount to being the flipsides of a coin. The first is the danger of being absorbed by the culture, or as author Alistair Begg puts it: “You have a lot of people to talk to, but nothing to say.” The second danger is being isolated from culture. Or as Begg puts it, “You have a lot to say, but no one to talk to.” Two dangers, and being safe from the one only makes you the more susceptible to the other. Which of the two do you think our churches are more susceptible to? THANK YOU, THANK YOU CAPITALISM! T. Norman Van Cott wants to know, "why is everyone saying "thank you'?" This economics professor noticed that when we buy something not only do we say thank-you, but the salesperson does too! Why do customers and salespeople both say "thank- you"? Why isn't one of them saying "You're welcome" instead? It's because in the free market people make voluntary exchanges. That means the reason they are going to make an exchange is because they believe they will benefit from it. For example, when a person buys an iPad for $800 they do so because they want the iPad more than $800. When they receive it, they are grateful for the exchange and thus say “thank you!” Meanwhile, the salesperson, and the company they represent, wants $800 more than the iPad so they are grateful for the exchange too. Both have reason to be grateful. So both say "Thank you!" The wonder of the free market is that it leaves both parties happier. A ONE-QUESTION TEST FOR POLITICAL CANDIDATES If you could ask your local political candidates just one question (and you can!) what should it be? How about this one: “What position do you hold that you would keep on holding even if you knew it was going to cost you an election?” Whatever their answer – even if they refuse to answer – it will give you the measure of the man. Its been said “politics is the art of compromise” but a politician who won’t stand firm on anything is the sort that will be tossed to and fro by everything. Vote for them and you aren’t electing a leader but simply a limp, languid sort who will bow to whatever side tops the polls. However, there are some politicians made of firmer stuff. Some are willing to lead – to risk it all – on issues that are near and dear to them! A couple years back now US presidential candidate, Marco Rubio, told voters: "I just believe deeply that all human life is worthy of protection of our laws....I would rather lose an election than be wrong on the issue of life." Here in Canada an example of this firmer sort is former prime minister Stephen Harper. In 2010 he said: "There are, after all, a lot more votes – a lot more – in being anti-Israeli than in taking a stand. But as long as I am prime minister, whether it is at the United Nations, the Francophonie or anywhere else, Canada will take that stand, whatever the cost." Rubio was willing to risk it all to speak up for his country’s smallest citizens. In Harper’s case he was willing to risk losing votes to defend the citizens of Israel (though not to defend Canadian unborn children). God says we can know true vs. false prophets by their fruit (Matt. 7:15-20). It's the same thing here – when it comes to politicians we can know them by their non-negotiables. LET THEM EAT CAKE...SOMETIMES "...the reasons certain professions have been singled out is because they are the glorifying professions – photographers florists, bakers. They are the professions that give approval, that render societal applause. This is why be happy to bake a cake for a homosexual’s birthday party, but not for a wedding." – Douglas Wilson This is sure to end badly “A 5th grader with an iPhone is like a 5th grader with the briefcase containing the nuclear codes. It's staggering people will pay for Christian school yet give their 5th grader an iPhone.” – Christian counselor Heath Lambert (as relayed by Tim Bloedow) The wit and wisdom of G.K. Chesterton A story is told of how The Times asked various famous people to submit essays as to “What’s wrong with the world?” Chesterton is said to have replied: “Dear sirs, I am. Sincerely yours, G.K. Chesterton.” It’s a great story, showing a man humbly aware of the evil that exists in his own heart. But as well-known as this story is, and as well as it fits the man it is attributed to, no original source for it can be found so there’s reason to doubt Chesterton actually said it. There’s no doubt, however, about whether he said the quips and quotes that follow. “Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice.” “Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere.” “The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right.” “The aim of good prose words is to mean what they say. The aim of good poetical words is to mean what they do not say.” “It is assumed that the sceptic has no bias; whereas he has a very obvious bias in favour of scepticism.” “The average businessman began to be agnostic, not so much because he did not know where he was, as because he wanted to forget. Many of the rich took to scepticism exactly as the poor took to drink; because it was a way out.” ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - May 2019

The world's love hurts In a presentation by Jonathon Van Maren on euthanasia and assisted suicide the pro-life apologist repeatedly cited Proverbs 12:10b "...the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel." He raised the verse as an explanation for what's happening in the euthanasia debate, where the Liberal government is pretending it is compassionate to help a desperate person kill himself. But this is also a good explanation of the abortion debate, where abortion doctors tell themselves they are helping women by killing their offspring. They do this in the name of love, but it is a love that isn't in accord with what God says is loving. It is tender cruelty. And what about our society's tender mercies to men who want to be women? God says He created male and female, and these fellows say, no it isn't so. Our society, in their tolerance and understanding, encourages these men to lop off bits that they will never get back. We'd call it mutilation if they did it to an arm or leg, but because this act is in direct defiance of what God says about gender - that He defines it, not us - the world celebrates these amputations. What tender cruelty indeed. A mother-in- joke Having been married twenty years a couple decided to celebrate by taking a little trip. While talking over their plans one evening the husband now and then glanced into the next room where a little old lady sat knitting. “The only thing,” he finally said in a hushed voice, “is that for once I’d like to be by ourselves. I’d like to take this trip without your mother.” “My mother!” exclaimed the wife, “I thought she was your mother!” Why are things so bad? Aleksander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) was a Russian historian, most famous for his three-volume The Gulag Archipelago, which recounted his own, and others, experience in the Soviet Union’s cruel forced labor prison camps. His lifetime spanned the complete history of the Soviet Union, so he was often asked to explain why it was that the USSR became the horror that it did. In his 1983 Templeton Address he credited it to one thing: More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened. Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years… I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened. What is more, the events of the Russian Revolution can only be understood now, at the end of the century, against the background of what has since occurred in the rest of the world. What emerges here is a process of universal significance. And if I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire twentieth century, here too, I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: Men have forgotten God.  The tolerance buzzsaw “The diversity crowd has two fundamental tenets. The first is that they have an absolute commitment to free speech. And the second is, ‘Shut up!’” - Douglas Wilson How idolatry sneaks up on us We aren’t in any danger of bowing to big stone statues, or wooden totems – that sort of obvious idolatry isn’t going to trip us up. But there is another sort that sometimes catches us unawares, which Luke Gilkerson describes in his new (and excellent) book Parenting the Internet Generation (which can be downloaded for free here): The things we turn into idols are often not, in themselves, bad things. Most of the time they are good things that have become ultimate things to us – anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. An idol is most often a good desire that has become a very bad master. Family is important, and friends too. A successful business can employ many, and allow you to donate generous sums to God’s work. A running or workout routine can help keep you healthy. Christian political activism can save unborn lives. These are good, wonderful, and important things, and that is precisely where the danger lies. Clear evils sometimes grab hold of us – many professing Christians are hooked on pornography – but then we at least understand (hopefully!) that a battle needs to be fought. However, when the idol is something good, then the devil can hit us with a more subtle attack. All he wants us to do is bump up a secondary priority one notch. Gender differences and Christian common sense Dr. Leonard Sax is a rude and daring man. He’s daring because he’s willing to highlight the differences between the genders. And rude because he not only points out areas where girls outpace boys but also highlights ways in which boys outperform girls. The author of Why Gender Matters explained in an interview with the National Post (Feb 24, 2005) that one of the most interesting differences that exist between boys and girls is how they deal with stress, and how they regard sex. For example, he notes that educational ads that stress the harm drugs do to brain cells will affect boys and girls very differently: Girls don’t want to ruin their brains. But risk-taking boys – who are exactly the boys who are most at risk for using drugs – will see an ad like that and think “Way cool! Drugs fry your brain! Where can I get some?” Girls and boys also have premarital sex for very different reasons: High self-esteem decreases the odds of a teenage girl having sex, but increases the odds of a teenage boy having sex. Participation in competitive sports such as soccer and basketball decreases the odds of a girl having sex, but increases the odds of a boy having sex. The Bible makes it clear that God gave men and women different roles, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to us that He made men and women quite different. As Sax has found out, boys and girls really are different. In the world that’s a controversial idea, but to us it should be just a matter of common sense - Christian common sense. ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - April 2019

Strong men can laugh “Moderate strength is shown in violence, supreme strength is shown in levity.” – G.K. Chesterton An iPhone Hack to Try “Two months ago, I pulled the trigger on a revolutionary move for me: I deleted the internet from my iPhone. I have access to all my essential apps, but I no longer have social media or access to any websites. I can do a quick Google search, but nothing more. I. Am. So. Glad I did. “It broke my addictive habit of staring off into iPhone-world, and I don't miss it a bit. I wish I did, actually: it would justify the *3 hours* of time (according to Screentime) I've saved every day NOT looking at my phone. “Here's how to do it: Under Settings > Screentime > Content & Privacy Restrictions > Content Restrictions > Web Content choose "Allowed Websites Only" and don't choose any except a few that you need access to (the only one I allowed was my bank account's website, connected to my banking app). “Do it. Try it for a week. Write me then.” – Nicholas McDonald, reprinted with permission from his email newsletter The Bard Owl (ScribblePreach.com). Two jests are better than one A horse walks into a bar and orders ten beers which he quickly downs. The bartender says, “Wow – don’t you think you’re drinking too much?” The horse ponders for a minute and then responds, “I don’t think I am.” And poof, he disappears. It’s at this point that the philosophy students reading this joke start to snicker, familiar as they are with Descartes’ postulate: “I think, therefore I am.” The rest of us might have wished for some mention of the postulate right at the start. But that would have been putting Descartes before the horse. SOURCE: A Joke making its way around the Internet On giving “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill Don’t do the “dismal science” dismally "It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a 'dismal science.' But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance." - Murray Rothbard (echoing the wisdom of Prov. 10:19) Curing the postmodern disease During the two years RC Sproul Jr. taught university freshman English it became clear that many of his students had succumbed to the sickness of postmodernism. But Sproul was ready with a cure for their disease. In a 2006 speech he recounted how he administered the cure to one student: “ student in the back blurted out, ‘There’s no such thing as objective truth.’ Just like that. “And I said to him ‘you get an F in this class for this semester’ and then I went back to the conversation we were having. And, of course, in the corner of my eye I could see his blood pressure rising, and his face getting redder and redder. And he’s holding his hand up. “‘Yes what is it?’ “What do you think he said? ‘That’s not fair!’ “I strung him along a little longer. I said, ‘I’m sorry. You must have misunderstood me. I’m not giving you the F because anybody stupid enough to say there’s no such thing as objective truth obviously deserves an F. That’s not my thinking at all! You misunderstood. No, I’m just giving you the F because I want to.’ And then I went back to the rest of the class. “He got madder. By now some of the students had figured it out. Some of them hadn’t, including that one. And he said, ‘I’ll tell the administration!’ “Finally I had pity on him and I said, ‘What are you going to tell them? Are you going to tell them I have failed to measure up to some external, objective, transcendent standard of what’s right and wrong? Because you told me there is no such thing!’ “‘Oh… okay. Well… I guess there is.’ “‘Welcome back to the human race,’ and then we went on with our business.” SOURCE: Speech entitled: “The Weapons of our Warfare: Beauty” If it can’t be bad, it can’t be good "Where people might say, 'well, that's a bad Hopper, or a bad El Greco,' I've never seen anyone say 'that's a bad Pollock.' Either they're all bad, or they're all good." - Robert Cenedella arguing that abstract paintings (such as the work of Jackson Pollock) with its uncertain standards, are not great art.                 Picture credit: neftali / Shutterstock.com...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - March 2019

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. How many types of people? While there are just two types of people in the world – those willing to ask for directions, and men – that has become a contentious point. But after doing some extensive research we’ve discovered that even as the binary nature of Mankind is being disputed in the broader culture, in the world of humor the consensus still leans heavily towards just two. There are 10 types of people in the world: those who get binary and those who don’t. There are 3 types of people in the world: those that can count and those that can’t. There are 2 types of people in the world: those who have the paper come up over the toilet roll, and monsters. There are 2 types of people in the world: those who think there are 2 types of people in the world, and those who don't. There are 2 types of people in the world: those who can extrapolate from incomplete data There are 2 types of people in the world: those who finish jokes... The quotable Churchill Britain’s bulldog was never short of witticisms worth pondering. “In politics when you are in doubt what to do, do nothing... when you are in doubt what to say, say what you really think.” “The inherent vice of Capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” “Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.” If you were to invent a god... There are many invented gods and the inventions are easy to spot. Like most fiction, they are based on what the authors already knew. Consider the Greek and Romans gods: petty, combative, lustful and jealous... just like us. These gods had very human foibles and follies, only magnified. But, as Charles Colson notes in his book God and Government the one true God is very different. "...for those who insist that God is created by man, perhaps the most telling argument is to consider the nature and character of the God revealed in the Bible. If we were making up our own god, would we create one with such absolute demands for justice, righteousness, service, and self-sacrifice as we find in the biblical texts? (As someone has said, Moses didn’t come down from the mountain with the Ten Suggestions!) "Would Israel’s powerful elite have concocted such declarations as, 'He defended the cause of the poor and needy...Is that not what it means to know me?' Would the pious New Testament religious establishment have created a God who condemned them for their own hypocrisy? Would even a zealous disciple have invented a Messiah who called His followers to sell all, give their possessions to the poor, and follow Him to their deaths? The skeptic who believes the Bible’s human authors manufactured their God out of psychological need has not read the Scriptures carefully." Teaching our kids media literacy “As your kids get a little older, if they want to spend time consuming media, get into the habit of rather than saying yes or no, instead say, 'Convince me.' Ask them to articulate why a specific TV show, movie, or game benefits their life in some way. This is not to be glib, but to really hear what they have to say. It forces them to not treat media time as a default mode, but to see it as a privilege that impacts their hearts and minds.” – Luke Gilkerson, in his free e-book Parenting the Internet Generation. (You do have to give your name and email address but it is highly recommended.) Geoffrey Chaucer on the pull of porn on your kids too Some parents make the mistake of thinking it is only bad kids – other people’s kids – who get sucked in by the lure of pornography. Well, Geoffrey Chaucer has a thought for you. Ful ofte tyme I rede that no man truste in his owene perfeccioun, but he be stronger than Sampson, and hoolier than David, and wiser than Salomon. If you didn’t quite catch that, here’s an updated version: I’ve read that no man should trust his own perfection unless he is stronger than Sampson, and holier than David, and wiser than Solomon. These here are the strongest, wisest, and most devoted, men in the Bible and they all succumbed to sexual sin. Do we really think our kids are so much better than them? Let’s not be that naïve (1 Cor. 10:12). While our children are not strong enough to stand up to temptation on their own, they can run to Jesus, relying on His strength and not their own. This means regularly talking to Him in prayer and hearing from Him by reading His Word. We also need to teach our children how to use God-given wisdom in fleeing digital sin by using accountability partners (Eccl 4:12), or by going to the seemingly extreme measures of “cutting off” (Matt. 5:29-30) certain apps, and eliminating or severely curtailing their smartphone or Internet access. But we can't go on doing nothing, and pretending our kids are, "stronger than Sampson...holier than David, and wiser than Solomon." ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - February 2019

Satire, impactful satire Turnabout is fair play Rebutting a secular argument can be as simple as applying its logic more broadly. Samuel Sey (@SlowToWrite), a Reformed black blogger, gave a pro-life example of this with his January 14 tweet: Her: "You're a man. You can't say abortion is wrong!" Me: "If a White cop wanted to shoot me in my face, would you defend me?" Her: "Yes, I would." Me: "But you're White. You can't say racism is wrong" Her: O_O Me: "My gender, your ethnicity, doesn't mean we can't speak up." Who do you want to know better? In a holiday ad (for Spanish speakers) the furniture giant IKEA gathered several families, seating each clan around a large table where a holiday feast was prepared with all the trimmings. Then a quiz started: if a person answered the question correctly they could stay and keep eating, but if they got something wrong they had to leave. Initially, everyone found the quiz easy, correctly answering questions like: What animal filters can you find on Instagram stories? Can you demonstrate the “swish swish” (or “floss”) dance? What is the latest Instagram feature? Can you finish a lyric from this current song? What does this text message abbreviation mean? How did this celebrity couple meet? But when the questions became more personal the answers stopped coming: How did your parents meet? What exactly is your dad’s job? What degrees does your grandma have? What’s your son’s favorite group? What’s your wife’s dream? What has your mother been studying recently? Some family members tried to guess the right answer, but one after another, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, grandparents too, had to get up and leave. Finally, there was one solitary figure remaining, a lonely grandpa. A teen daughter summed up the embarrassment everyone felt: “What I’ve discovered is that I don’t know as much about my family as I do about some celebrities.” There was a happy ending. Everyone was invited back to the table, but this time smartphones were placed in a box in the middle of the table and the lid was firmly affixed.  If only… “You’ve heard about the merger that’s coming next year between Facebook, YouTube and Twitter? It’s going to be called YouTwitFace.” - Dr. Joe Boot Don’t give your kids smartphones. Let them use yours. In a mid-December Facebook post on his page, Tedd Tripp shared a strategy for parents wondering how to guide their children in the area of smartphones. While Christmas has passed, his advice is just as valuable for the new year. This is what he wrote:  Don't give your kids a smartphone for Christmas! Do your kids need a phone? Are they ready for a smartphone? If so, I have a suggestion, don't give them a phone. Let them use yours. Here is the conversation you want to have, "I have a phone here, it is my phone, I bought it, it is on my plan and I would like to let you use my phone. Here are the conditions... "(whatever conditions you deem appropriate) "as long as you honor these conditions, you can use my phone. Oh. and since it is my phone, I have the passwords and I can look at my phone whenever I think it is appropriate. If you can accept these conditions, I would love to have you use my phone." Think about it. Once I say, "Here, I bought you a phone." Whose phone is it? So, don't give your kids a phone, let them use yours. Our children’s mentors “We cannot continue to send our children to Caesar for their education and be surprised when they come home as Romans.” – Dr. Voddie Baucham To disagree is not bullying…and everyone knows it “ argue that anything short of full acceptance is homophobic bullying. That means unless you affirm and approve of all LGBT+ lifestyles, you are a bigot, a phobe and, yes, a bully. “The Christian, by contrast, wants to say that it is possible to be anti-bullying of all forms without necessarily affirming everything about them….. “Of course, we all recognize that the Christian position is entirely legitimate. None of us have to affirm all the views and practices of Islam, for example – nor do we have to attend pro-Muslim marches – in order to be clear that we don’t think Muslims should be bullied. Most people would agree that it would be entirely wrong, not to say untrue, to call me an Islamophobe because I won’t affirm my belief in Allah as the one true God and Mohammad as a prophet….. But to insist I affirm it or else I am bullying them, everyone who isn’t a Muslim evidently agrees that is nonsense.” - Stephen Kneale Déjà vu all over again G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) lived 100 years ago but the quotes below seem to show that the time and culture he spoke to was not all that different from our own. “We are learning to do a great many clever things… The next great task will be to learn not to do them.” “Once abolish the God, and the government becomes the God.” “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” “The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice.” “These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own.” ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - January 2019

Why did the _____ cross the road? One of the wonderful things about children is that they are a new audience. Dads, they haven’t heard any of your material before – they don’t know why the chicken crossed the road! Another wonderful thing? They love to riff off of mom and dad, so if you get the jokes started, they may just take them places you’ve never been. Here’s a few selections from the Dykstra joke factory, starting with the classic that spawned all the rest. (What can you add?) Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side. Why did the cow cross the road? To get to the mooooooovie theater. Why did the horse cross the road? – To visit his neigh Why did the lamb cross the road even though his momma said not to? – Because he was being baaaaaaad Why didn’t the possum cross the road? – He tried but he died. Why did the child cross the road? – To get to the other Why did his momma cross the road? – To get to her child who cried. Why did the unborn baby cross the road? – She was along for the ride. Why did the donut cross the road? – I donut know Why did Benedict Arnold cross the road? – To switch to the other side. Chesterton on valuing tradition and all those who have gone before us “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around.” – Orthodoxy On the difference between Liberals and Conservatives “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives . The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.” – G. K. Chesterton When does a thief stop being a thief? It’s not when he stops stealing! “The old child’s joke, ‘When is a door not a door?’ Answer: ‘when it is ajar’ is not funny….No, not funny, but quite useful as a paradigm. Run it this way: When is a                  not a                   ? When it’s a                . Ah, now we have something. Just fill in the blanks. When is a liar not a liar? When is a thief not a thief? If your answers were “When he stops lying” and “When he stops stealing,” you’d be wrong. “The true answers are found in Ephesians 4. There you see that the liar is no longer a liar only when he becomes a truth teller. The thief is no longer a thief only when he works for a living and gives from his earnings to those who are truly in need. “You see, until he puts on the alternative lifestyle, he is a liar who doesn’t happen to be a lying at the moment. But put him under pressure and he will still lie. The thief is still a thief when he isn’t stealing — he’s just a thief between “jobs.” He will still steal when given the opportunity. This is why biblical counselors believe in the put off/put on dynamic of Ephesians 4, Colossians 3 and elsewhere.” - Jay Adams in a February 24, 2009 post (reprinted here with permission) Charles Spurgeon on discernment "Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right."  What is socialism? “Let’s first define the term socialism…. Socialism isn’t happy thoughts, nebulous fantasies, mere good intentions, or children sharing their Halloween candy with one another. In a modern political, economic, and social context, socialism isn’t voluntary like the Girl Scouts. Its central characteristic is the concentration of power to forcibly achieve one or more (or usually all) of these purposes: central planning of the economy, government ownership of property, and the redistribution of wealth. No amount of ‘we do it all for you’ or ‘it’s for your own good’ or ‘we’re helping people’ rhetoric can erase that. What makes socialism socialism is the fact that you can’t opt out, a point eloquently made here by David Boaz of the Cato Institute: ‘One difference between libertarianism and socialism is that a socialist society can’t tolerate groups of people practicing freedom, but a libertarian society can comfortably allow people to choose voluntary socialism. If a group of people – even a very large group – wanted to purchase land and own it in common, they would be free to do so. The libertarian legal order would require only that no one be coerced into joining or giving up his property.’ “Government, whether big or small, is the only entity in society that possesses a legal monopoly over the use of force. The more force it initiates against people, the more it subordinates the choices of the ruled to the whims of their rulers – that is, the more socialist it becomes. A reader may object to this description by insisting that to ‘socialize’ something is to simply ‘share’ it and ‘help people’ in the process, but that’s baby talk. It’s how you do it that defines the system. Do it through the use of force, and it’s socialism. Do it through persuasion, free will, and respect for property rights, and it’s something else entirely.” – Lawrence W. Reed, in Rendering to Caesar: Was Jesus a Socialist?...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - December 2018

Feminism’s two errors “ the heresy that women and men are not fundamentally different and that women ought to be as much like men as possible, especially as selfish and aggressive as possible. The two most ridiculous errors about men and women are unisexism and male chauvinism. The unisex feminist says that women and men are not different in value, therefore they are not different in nature. The male chauvinist says that men and women are different in nature, therefore they are different in value.” - Peter Kreeft, as interviewed by Marvin Olasky in “Dangerous Waves” Context is key There are many an inspirational bible text that turns out to mean quite something else when read in context. Two of the more famous are: 1) I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me Philippians 4:13 is used to inspire Christians to take on impossible tasks. In context we can see Paul is speaking not to all he can accomplish in Christ, but all he can He is speaking here of how in good times and bad (which includes beatings, shipwrecks, and prison) God has taught him to be content. It might be better understood as "I can endure all things in Christ who strengthens me." 2) “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 is used as a frequent college graduation verse or marriage verse to alert the graduate or couple as to the material good God has in mind for them in the near future. But the context of this verse is God telling Israel that it will take 70 years before He returns them from exile. A meme making its way around the Internet offers up the very best verse to illustrate the importance of context. Luke 4:7 reads: “There if you worship before me, it shall all be yours.” Seemingly just the thing for an inspirational bookmark or piece of wall art, it is, as the meme notes, “less inspirational if you know who said it.” Spurgeon on who’s leading whom by the nose “I believe that one reason why the Church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the Church.” - Charles Spurgeon Fake news won’t cover it, but God is pouring out his blessings The media makes its money telling us about all the horrible things going on in the world. But while examples of Man’s total depravity abound, we should not lose sight of how God’s restraining hand is at work, and his blessings abound. As Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan report in their chapter of FEE’s Essential Guide to Navigating the News what the public perceives, and what actually is, can be very different. For example, over half of Americans think gun violence is getting worse in their country. But Davies and Harrigan note: “According to the FBI, the rate of firearm deaths today is half — and the rate of non-fatal firearm crimes is one-quarter — of what they were just 20 years ago. Even with mass shootings, gun violence today is a shadow of what it was a generation ago.” And if you’re under the impression that violence is increasing around the globe, consider this: “During World War II, 300 out of every 100,000 people on Earth died annually in war. During the Korean War, the number dropped to 20. Today, it is 1.” The good news continues: “Humans are not only eradicating violence, they are also eradicating poverty. The number of people living in extreme poverty has dropped from 70 percent of all humans in 1900, to 55 percent in 1950, to 35 percent a generation ago, to less than 10 percent today.” Worldwide child labor rates have been halved since the 1950s, and education rates, longevity, and income, have all “risen almost 20 percent over the past generation” by United Nation measures. The world isn’t perfect – not by any means – but we shouldn’t let the media blind us to the blessings God continues to shower on this world. Don’t be change-resistant In 2008 Barack Obama promised “Hope and Change.” The slogan resonated – voters’ hope was that the change he brought would be an improvement. And while it was undeniable he brought change, in 2012 he got ten million fewer votes. This bloc of voters concluded change and improvement are hardly synonymous. When we look around us at an ever more liberal Western Church and increasingly pagan culture, we might be tempted to believe that change is synonymous with decline. But just as we shouldn’t support change for change’s sake, we mustn’t resist change for resistance’s sake. “We’ve never done it that way,” is a reason to proceed with caution, but it is not (as some treat it) a discussion ender. “Thus says the Lord” is a final word with no appeal (if indeed the Lord has said thus) but we must never give “That’s the way we’ve always done it” the same sacred status. Whole lot of change going on “We obviously live in a changing world. Consider a few of the following realities: the world’s largest taxi company, Uber, does not own one vehicle. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate. Alibaba, the world’s largest retailer, owns no product. Some fairly significant changes in the world order, the way we do business.” – Tim Van Soelen, “The Seven Last Words of a Dying Church ?” English is…interesting Words that should rhyme: cough and tough, boot and foot Words that shouldn’t rhyme: Pony and bologna; money and funny Words that don’t rhyme with anything at all: bulb, angel, silver, purple, husband, and woman ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - November 2018

Lame Dutch joke of the month A Canadian and a Dutchman were out riding horses. Canadian: “We’ve got quite the set of fine horses here. How do you say ‘horses’ in Dutch?” Dutch equestrian: “Paarden.” Canadian: “I’m sorry…WHAT I SAID WAS HOW DO YOU SAY ‘HORSES’ IN DUTCH?" Apologetic on homosexuality? “Imagine this. Imagine I'm standing up here to preach a message about adultery. And as I introduce my message on adultery I say, ‘I just want everyone to know I love adulterers. I have friends who are adulterers. And I think we need to be kind to adulterers. We need to embrace adulterers.’ "That would sound kind of odd, wouldn’t it? If I was talking about pedophilia, or if I was talking about drunkenness, it would sound odd. But folks, that's the way almost every sermon on homosexuality starts today. With a thousand excuses and explanations and apologies for what's about to come.” – Voddie Baucham There is a hell. Jesus says so. Some theologians, including big names like Rob Bell and John Stott, don’t believe in hell, or at least that it is eternal. Instead, Stott suggested that lost souls might be annihilated and cease to exist. However, as Thor Ramsey notes in his book The Most Encouraging Book on Hell Ever, this doctrine does serious damage to our understanding of God’s holiness and justice. And what then are we to make of what Jesus says in Matt. 26:24: “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born”? “Jesus is saying for Judas, non-existence – having never existed at all – would be better than something else….Jesus is clearly saying Judas is on his way to hell. But from the perspective of annihilationism the question becomes: Is non-existence better for someone than an eternity of non-existence? Huh? “If annihilationism is true, then what Jesus said here about Judas is pretty much nonsense….Jesus was basically just babbling. And he didn’t do that.” Hell does exist; Jesus says so. And the world needs to be told to turn from their sin and flee God’s coming wrath. One verse to rebut them all Christians know that while there are many groups battling it out for influence and position in our cultural wars, there are only two sides: God’s, and the other. And that dividing line is spelled out right in the very first verse of the Bible: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” As Henry Morris has noted, in his The Genesis Record this short verse presents a stark contrast to so many of the ideologies of the past and present. It rebuts atheism (God created), pantheism (because God is separate from His creation), polytheism (because one God created), materialism (because something before and beyond matter created matter), humanism (because God, not Man, is the measure of all things), and evolutionism (because God created). Dr. Joel McDurmon has noted that this verse also seems to (though less explicitly) rebut unitarianism too, which says God is one person, because, even as the verb created here is singular, the word for God here Elohim is in the plural, giving a hint as to God’s Triune nature. Direction matters “So if one man wants to drive to the East Coast in a Ford, he has more in common with a man who wants to do the same thing in a Chevy than he does with another man driving to the West Coast in a Ford. Couple this with the fact that it is possible to pass someone on the road who is going the opposite direction, and at the precise moment when you do that, you are in exactly the same spot. Further, somebody else who is going to the same place you are might be a hundred miles behind you” – Douglas Wilson in Empires of Dirt On the real reason for democracy "Thus the principle of democracy does not in itself testify that everyone is so competent that their opinion must be acted upon. The principle of democracy testifies that everyone is so subject to corruption that the reins of power must not be left for long in anyone's hands without check." – Harry Blamires...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - October 2018

How to be a revolutionary When a Christian conference is titled “How to enrage the culture” you might think it would be encouraging radical and revolutionary means. And you’d be right, when you consider that getting married, having kids, and raising them in the fear and love of the Lord are pretty radical and revolutionary ideas these days. How radical and revolutionary? Well, one of the conference speakers, Pastor Toby Sumpter, shared this illustrative anecdote: “A few years ago, I’d come home from work, and my wife was finishing making dinner in the kitchen, and I was reading. She gets a phone call….some kind of alumni survey, and at the end they’re doing the demographic stuff. And I hear her say: ‘Homemaker….homeMAKER…HOMEMAKER!!! I’m a wife and a mom – that’s what I do!’ She gets off the phone a couple of minutes later and she shares, ‘The girl I was talking to had never heard of a homemaker.’” Hitler had help We raise our children to be obedient and to respect those in authority. But have we also taught them that a time may well come (doesn't it seem inevitable?) that their country, their boss, their co-workers, union, friends and maybe even their parents, may ask of them something that the only proper response will be "No, I cannot do that, because that is contrary to what God has said"? In this book Hitler, God, and the Bible, author Ray Comfort explains that the only reason Hitler was able to kill as many as he did was because he had so many obedient followers. Almost every part of Germany's bureaucracy had a hand in the killing process. Churches and the Interior Ministry produced the necessary birth records identifying those who were Jewish. The Finance Ministry confiscated Jewish wealth and property. The Postal Service delivered the notices of deportation and denaturalization. The Transportation Department arranged for trains to transfer Jews to concentration camps. Even the private sector cooperated in the efforts. Businesses fired Jewish workers. Pharmaceutical firms tested drugs on camp prisoners. Companies bid for contracts to build the crematoria. Universities fired Jewish professors and expelled Jewish students. It seems that the whole country unified to make the procedure work like a well-oiled machine. One of the lessons we must pass on to our children – a lesson for all time – is that it is no excuse to say "I was just following orders" when you know those orders are evil. Why you should quit “Cigarettes are like squirrels. They are perfectly harmless until you put one in your mouth and light it on fire.” Source: a meme circulating the Internet 11 words that should exist Arghument – assertions back by vehemence, not evidence. Also, a debate between pirates Caffé’d - as in, “he was sufficiently caffe’d to finish off the paper.” Chick-fil-A’d – to be cut to pieces for all the right reasons Friendzy – involves inviting everyone ever encountered to be your Facebook friend Heil’d – Damned with faint praise by noting that he/she probably isn’t a Nazi Lastest – the latest and last draft Questian – someone in search of their next cause Trans-fluid – a vital engine lubricant, or someone who both does, and doesn’t, identify as gender fluid Complimentarianism – the view that husbands and wives need to say more nice things to each other Squarcle – a square circle. See “gay marriage” Oopsidentally – "accidentally" may already cover it, but isn't this way better? Losing Hell undermines the Gospel message “ bestselling Christian author says…the preaching or teaching of hell is ‘misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world so desperately needs to hear.’ “If his viewpoint is true – that ultimately everyone ends up in heaven – then preaching eternal punishment subverts nothing. If we all end up in heaven, why do we even need to find forgiveness here on earth? Even us monsters who believe in hell will end up in heaven. I find it interesting that many contemporary preachers want to save people from the idea of hell, rather than from hell itself.” – Thor Ramsey (in The most encouraging book on Hell ever) Teaching media literacy In his free e-book Parenting the Internet Generation, author Luke Gilkerson talks about the steps we can take to teach our children discernment when it comes to the various forms of media they watch and interact with. Gilkerson writes: Media literacy can be taught starting at any age, but starting around the age of 7, children start to become ripe for more critical analysis of the media they see. Prior to this, the focus should be primarily on selecting good media for your kids. After this, the focus should start to be more on discussing media with your kids. Media literacy is vital in our media-rich age for many reasons, but especially for parents who want to prepare kids well for our over-sexualized age. If our children aren’t used to thinking critically about any of the media they consume, then this will extend to sexually charged and objectifying media as well. When kids lack media literacy skills, it is like death by a thousand paper cuts. Will one uncritical, passive viewing of a video or movie with poor values ruin your child’s life? No, of course not. But if our children develop a habit of merely passive media consumption, if they aren’t trained to think about media messages, they will eventually soak up the values they consume. Download Parenting the Internet Generation here (you do have to give your name and email address) - it's highly recommended!...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - September 2018

What parent wouldn’t love this present? One of the biggest, most expensive presents we will ever give our children is Christian schooling. But do our children understand the real value of this gift they’ve been given? Some do. A friend, Sharon Bratcher, recently rediscovered this 30-year-old certificate that she and her sibling gave her parents way back when. Reading it, I couldn’t help getting a bit misty-eyed; this is a present every parent would treasure. It said: Whereas Marvin C. and Helen A. Osborne have unselfishly deprived themselves of some of the material goods and financial security which could have been theirs, in order to provide a high quality Christian education for each of their four children during the past 18 years, We do now, on the date of the final graduation ceremony, this 6th day of June in the year of our Lord 1985, join together to express to them our deepest love, and gratitude for the sacrifices which they have made and the love which they have expressed this way. Thank-you Dad and Mom. May God bless and reward you. Knock, knock A good one, from Andy Simmons in the Sept 2014 Reader's Digest: “Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?” “To.” “To who?” “No, to whom.” And speaking of grammar nazis.... Nazi: "Sir, we're mining too many useless pyrite nuggets." Hitler: "Then mine less of them." Grammar Nazi: "Mine FEWER!" Hitler: "Yes?" SOURCE: slightly modified from a joke making its way around the Internet Succinct, on spanking “The child is regarded, indeed is described in law, as ‘a dependent.’ Because children are deemed unable to realistically foresee the consequences of what they’re doing…they are denied the rights to such things as tobacco, drugs, sex, credit cards, automobiles and freedom from education. Therefore the child is seen to be dependent’ on its parents. Should the parents shirk this responsibility the law holds them culpable. But another ancient principle of justice applies here. Society must not confer a responsibility without conferring sufficient authority to carry it out. You cannot expect a man or woman to do something unless they have the power to do it. That’s why the Criminal Code recognizes this right of parents, teachers and legal guardians to physically discipline children.” – Ted Byfield, as quoted in Michael Wagner’s True Right: Genuine Conservative Leaders of Western Canada Lurking on the public library shelves When I noticed A Tale of Two Daddies among the books we’d picked up from the library, I was hoping my first grader hadn’t read it yet. No such luck. But she reassured me, “Don’t worry dad, it’s a good book – it’s about a girl with a daddy and a poppa.” “A poppa?” “Yup.” No harm done – our neighbor’s girls call their grandpa “poppa” and my little one, in her blessed naiveté thought this book was about a girl, her daddy, and her grandpa. But it was another reminder of what lurks on the library shelves, even in the picture book section. C.S. Lewis on democracy “I am a democrat because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that everyone deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true. And whenever their weakness is exposed, the people who prefer tyranny make capital out of the exposure… The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters.” Gossip vs. Flattery Blogger Annie Kate Aarnouste recently passed along the difference between gossip and flattery. The quote is from Disciplines of a Godly Woman. "Gossip is saying behind a person's back what you would never say to her face.  Flattery is saying to a person's face what you would never say behind her back."...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - August 2018

Help wanted: men “Imagine that in those ages past, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and their had said: ‘The world is out of order. But if we try to set it right we shall only make a great row and get ourselves into disgrace. Let us go to our chambers, put on our night-caps and sleep over the bad times and perhaps when we wake up things will have grown better.’ “Such conduct on their part would have us a heritage of error. Age after age would have gone down into the infernal deeps, and the infectious bogs of error would have swallowed all. These men loved the faith and the name of Jesus too well to see them trampled on. Note what we owe them and let us pay to our sons the debt we owe our fathers. It is today as it was in the Reformers’ days. Decision is needed. Here is the day for the man – where is the man for the day?” - Charles Spurgeon College more hazardous than joining the Normandy invasion? “We've seen a number of surveys that have demonstrated that of kids who are attending church regularly in their senior year in high school, by the time they finish their freshman year in college three out of four of them will have walked away from their faith and they're no longer involved as Christians….One of the statistics, a visual image that I think helps parents to think about it is, if you were to sign your children up to be in the boats on the Normandy Beach Invasion they would have a better chance of surviving that than surviving spiritually in colleges now. That experience is not something most parents are eager to sign their children up for, but we do it in a pretty unthinking way right now.” – Dr. Ben Merkle Chesterton on miracles In their book, How Should Christians Approach Origins?, professors John Byl and Tom Goss note that atheistic science is often based on assumptions, rather than evidence. For example, our physical laws are assumed to be “valid universally throughout time and space.” Yet, we can only observe a very small portion of the universe, so we are simply assuming everything acts the same everywhere else. And then, when someone comes across something extraordinary – something miraculous that seems to violate those laws – it will be rejected based on this assumption. And here Goss and Byl include a wonderful quote from G.K. Chesteron’s Orthodoxy. Somehow or other an extraordinary idea has arisen that the disbelievers in miracles consider them coldly and fairly, while believers in miracles accept them only in connection with some dogma. The fact is quite the other way. The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them. Be like the Reformers – like something good on Facebook! Over at the Sheologians Facebook page, a tip on how we can be like the Reformers. “The Reformation could not have happened without the creation of the printing press and the revolution of mass communication. Social media is our printing press. Like things. Share them. Be the Reformers…” Galileo: the Church’s real mistake “Keep in mind that the battle between Galileo and the church was not a battle between science and mindless fundamentalism. It was a battle between new science and old science, and the error of the church had been that of getting into bed with the best science of the day. And we all know, as Max Planck put it, science advances funeral by funeral.” – Douglas Wilson (in Writers to Read)  The wit and wisdom of George Hebert George Hebert was best known as a Christian poet, but he published a collection of proverbs he collected over his lifetime. Here are a half dozen of the best. The scalded dog fears cold water – experiences can teach the wrong lesson Who gives to all, denies all – saying yes to every person who ask for your time is sure to shortchanges everyone A dwarf on a giant’s shoulders see farther of the two – even those with amazing parents should aim to do better than them, since you get to build on their work. Were there no hearers there would be no backbiters – it takes two to gossip; don’t listen Good and quickly seldom meet – most often it is one or the other Better suffer ill than do ill – better to be bullied, than be a bully ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - July 2018

A most wonderful secret "What does it feel like?" I asked. "To have a whole new person growing inside you?" My mom sat down on the couch and leaned back and thought for a while. A pretty smile spread over her face. "That's a big question," she said slowly, "A big answer. But I'll try. It feels like...it feels like you have the most wonderful secret that makes everything...Oh I know! Remember what you said when you got your kitten? You said that afterward, it sounded like all the regular noise in the world had turned to music. Well, that's what it's like, Clementine. The wonderful secret of having a baby coming makes all the world's noise turn into music." "Did you feel that way when you were going to have me too?" I asked. "Oh honey," my mom said, putting her arm around me. "I still feel like that with you." – author Sara Pennypacker, in her Clementine and the Family Meeting Dealing with fake news Christianity Today’s Ed Stetzer has advice on what to do if we still can’t tell whether a story is fake or not. "…don't post it. If you have not, will not, or cannot confirm a story, do not share it. As Christians, we have a higher standard than even the journalist. We aren’t protecting the reputation of an organization or a website, we bear the name of our King. If our friends and families cannot trust us with this type of news, many will not listen when we seek to share the good news of the gospel." One flesh “The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.” – From Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Genesis 2 One of God's favorite verses in the Bible? We all have our own favorite verses in the Bible, many of them comforting passages. The world’s favorite verse is probably Matthew 7:1a “Do not judge.” The verse that is share with the world most often might be John 3:16, written up large on poster board and displayed at football and baseball stadiums around North America. But Baptist pastor Jeff Durbin suggests that one of God’s favorite bible verses strikes a very different tone. Psalm 110:1 is the Old Testament verse that is most cited in the New Testament, and it proclaims Jesus’ sovereignty: "The Lord says to my Lord: “'Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.'” The wit and wisdom of George Hebert George Hebert was best known as a Christian poet, but he published a collection of proverbs he collected over his lifetime. Here are a half dozen of the best: A fool may throw a stone into a well which a hundred wise men cannot pull out – being destructive is easy; being constructive takes real effort Comparisons are odious – they are the root of discontent and covetousness One hour’s sleep before midnight is worth three after – we all know it He that steals an egg will steal an ox – there aren’t degrees of trustworthiness Luke was a saint and a physician, yet is dead – the prosperity doctrine is bunk The fat man knoweth not what the lean thinketh – we shouldn’t assume that just because we were once hungry (or young, or poor, or single, or jobless, or etc.) that we still completely understand what it is like. How to be a revolutionary When a Christian conference is titled “How to enrage the culture” you might think it would be encouraging radical and revolutionary means. And you’d be right, when you consider that getting married, having kids, and raising them in the fear and love of the Lord are pretty radical and revolutionary ideas these days. How radical and revolutionary? Well, one of the conference speakers, Pastor Toby Sumpter, shared this illustrative anecdote: “A few years ago, I’d come home from work, and my wife was finishing making dinner in the kitchen, and I was reading. She gets a phone call….some kind of alumni survey, and at the end they’re doing the demographic stuff. And I hear her say: ‘Homemaker….homeMAKER…HOMEMAKER!!! I’m a wife and a mom – that’s what I do!’ She gets off the phone a couple of minutes later and she shares, ‘The girl I was talking to had never heard of a homemaker.’” It’s time for the men to act like men “Imagine that in those ages past, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and their had said: ‘The world is out of order. But if we try to set it right we shall only make a great row and get ourselves into disgrace. Let us go to our chambers, put on our night-caps and sleep over the bad times and perhaps when we wake up things will have grown better.’ “Such conduct on their part would have us a heritage of error. Age after age would have gone down into the infernal deeps, and the infectious bogs of error would have swallowed all. These men loved the faith and the name of Jesus too well to see them trampled on. Note what we owe them and let us pay to our sons the debt we owe our fathers. It is today as it was in the Reformers’ days. Decision is needed. Here is the day for the man – where is the man for the day?” - Charles Spurgeon...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - June 2018

FUTURECASTING Dr. Kathy Koch has a saying that reflects the biblical thought Paul express in 1 Cor.15:33. She notes, “Show me your friends, and I will show you your future.” ALL MARRIAGES ARE MISTAKES “Only a very wise man at the end of his life could make a sound judgment concerning whom, amongst the total chances, he ought most profitably to have married! Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might have found more suitable mates. But the 'real soul-mate' is the one you are actually married to.” – JRR Tolkien, The Letters of JRR Tolkien (H/T to Nicholas McDonald) WEST COAST WHINE Sue arrived in BC on a rainy day. When she woke up the next day, it was raining. It also rained the day after that, and the day after that. And the day after that. Going out to lunch, she saw a young boy jumping in the puddles, and out of despair she asked, "Hey kid! Does it ever stop raining around here?" The boy replied, "How should I know? I'm only 8." SOURCE: Modified from a joke floating around the Internet BEING BEREAN The folks at WrathAndGrace.com have come up with a T-shirt that’s a challenge to fellow Christians. We have lots of beliefs, we have lots of opinions, lots of positions, but have we searched the Scriptures to find out if they match up with what God says? WHY THE END DOESN'T JUSTIFY THE MEANS “What have you and I to do with maintaining our influence and position at the expense of truth? It is never right to do a little wrong to obtain the greatest possible good… Your duty is to do the right: consequences are with God.” – John MacArthur, as cited in Iain Murray’s John MacArthur SATIRE'S KING KNEW A GOOD JOKE WHEN HE MET ONE Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) showed generations how to do satire right and it seems his comic genius came from an ability to spot humor wherever it was to be found. A story is told of him trudging through a field, when he spotted a boy leaning lazily against a fence post. Swift asked the boy for direction to the nearby town to which the boy’s only reply was to shift his boot slightly, pointing the way with his toe. Swift laughed, and offered the boy a shilling if he could manage anything any lazier than what he had just done. The boy replied, “Put the shilling in my pocket.” SOURCE: Fintan O’Toole’s “The Genius of Creative Destruction” in the Dec. 19, 2013 edition of The New York Review ON PRAISING EFFORT, NOT TALENT Luke Gilkerson is best known for his expertise in helping parents protect their children from online dangers. But in his book Parenting the Internet Generation, he shows he’s got wisdom to share on all aspects of parenting. Resist the urge to praise your children in a way that labels them. Statements like “You’re so smart,” “You’re so kind,” “You’re my little Picasso” do our children very little good. Research shows when we praise children like this, labeling them as “smart” or “good,” this does not give them confidence. Instead they become highly sensitive to failure. Rather focus on praising the effort they put forth. If they show kindness to their sibling, tell them you’re glad they are working on paying attention to the needs of others. If they get an A on an exam, instead of telling they must be the smartest kid in class, ask them how they studied for the test and commend them for their work. Instead of giving our children an identity as “good” or “smart,” commend them for using their God-given talents and energy wisely. ABRAHAM LINCOLN ON TRANSGENDERISM? How's this for a great illustration for the transgender debate? Abraham Lincoln once told the story of a boy who was asked, how many legs would a calf have if we called its tail a leg. The boy replied, that it must be five. But he was corrected, because, after all, simply calling a tail a leg, doesn’t make it a leg. So it would seem that Lincoln understood that no matter what words we might use, words can't change the nature of a thing – a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet, and a man by any other name is still what he always was. But here's the problem – he told this story in the context of considering whether he could, simply by Executive Order, free the slaves in the South. It seems, people wanted him to, and his response was, in effect "Guys, Executive Orders don't have that power, and you can't just make them have that power by saying that they do." And then, shortly afterward, we all know what happened. He issued an Executive Order called the Emancipation Proclamation that freed the slaves. And it worked...eventually (first, they actually had to conquer the South). So this is one of those great illustrations that, on closer examination, serves to make almost the opposite point. It seems you can change the nature of some things just by saying so - if you just declare an Executive Order can free slaves (and enough people agree) then it can. So does that mean men can become women? Nope. It just shows that some things are changeable. Just as Lincoln's Proclamation did actually free the slaves just because he declared the Order to have that power, so too I can (sometimes) change a dour mood by declaring my happiness with as much gusto as I can muster. I've become happy just because I've said it is should be so. This clarifies one point in the gender debate – we were never trying to say that all things are fixed and unchangeable. We were only arguing that gender is not one of those changeable things. And roses too. Roses are still roses, and smell just as sweet, even if you call them limburger cheese. Of course, Lincoln's quip about the 5-legged calf does still highlight that some things are fixed. But there are no shortage of good illustrations for that point. So this one is best left tucked away in the history books.  ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - May 2018

“Pastor, I already know how to farm better than I do” In an April 16 post at nouthetic.org, Donn R. Arms recounts how, as a young pastor in a rural western town, he eagerly shared with one of the deacons about his plans to attend “the latest and greatest conferences on church growth.” The deacon gave a surprising response; he said: “Pastor, I already know how to farm better than I do.” As Arms notes: “It was, of course, his kind and gentle way of telling me we simply need to do the things we already knew to do rather than constantly seeking the next big thing to make our church grow.” In praise of peppermints “…William Dember, a professor of psychology at the University of Cincinnati, has conducted a study of the impact of the scent of peppermint on people required to do "sustained vigilance tasks." What did he find? That the mere smell of peppermint increased attentiveness and concentration by 15 percent! ….If the mere smell of peppermints can increase concentration, think what the smell and taste can do! It appears, then, that Reformed people have been entirely correct in maintaining the custom of eating peppermints at the beginning of the sermon.” – Bert Witvoet, as quoted in the July 10, 2017 Christian Courier The media…on the media “It’s a business. People are like, the media has an ethical pshsss… All the nice cutesy little ethics that used to get talked about in journalism school you’re just like, that’s adorable. That’s adorable. Yeah, this is a business.” – CNN Senior Producer John Bonifield, as caught on a video published June 27 by James O’Keefe’s undercover investigative unit, Project Veritas Write your eulogy “…it's time to write your eulogy -- your good (eu) word (logos). What would you like someone to be able to say honestly in seven minutes? ….There should be more to your life than your résumé. If there isn't, start working on improving your eulogy. Then work backward.” – Gary North in the March 18, 2017 edition of Dr. Gary North’s Weekly Tip Different sorts of smart Our children have their unique gifts, and if they are going to develop these gifts we need to help identify them. For some kids that’s easy: they are good at school, and so it is no problem to spot that they are “book smart.” But God blesses our children with a variety of talents, so there are other sorts of “smart.” As Dr. Kath Koch has put it, some kids are: Music smart – some kids have a song in their heart and head from day one. Body smart – good at sports, and maybe working with their hands too Nature smart – love and appreciate God’s great outdoors and everything in it People smart – they connect while with all sorts of people, and can empathize Self smart – they understand their own gifts, and can work on their own These are good categories to consider, but we could make up quite different ones if we wanted to. The point is that God has given our children different gifts and abilities, and instead of dwelling on what they might lack, we’ll do better to ask: “What sort of gifts has God given my child?” Failure to launch – one reason why “Summarizing relevant research in 2013, The Boston Globe reported a staggering statistic: Only a quarter of Americans 60 and older had discussed anything important with anyone under 36 in the previous six months! Exclude relatives and that figure dropped to a mortifying 6 percent. How alien this would have sounded to the Apostle Paul, who in Titus 2 urges older men and older women to teach the younger.” - John Stonestreet, in a May 16, 2017 Breakpoint.org commentary To arms! “Conversion is not putting a man in an armchair and taking him easily to heaven. It is the beginning of a mighty conflict, in which it costs much to win victory.” – J.C. Ryle in “What it costs to be a Christian” Atheism explains nothing “Atheism…is the ultimate non-explanation, ‘explaining’ by denying that explanations exist. ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ No reason. ‘What caused everything?’ Nothing. ‘What accounts for Morality?’ There is no Morality to account for. ‘Why is there Evil in the world?’ There is no real Evil in the world since there is no real Morality. ‘What is wrong with the world?’ Nothing. It just is. ‘How do we fix the world?’ We can’t fix what’s not broken.” - Greg Koukl, in Stand to Reason’s January 2, 2018 Solid Ground newsletter...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - April 2018

“Wait…what?” As our family has been reading through the Bible, certain passages (starting right off with Genesis 4) make it necessary to at least touch on the “birds and the bees” with kids. But I wasn’t ready to hear my six-year-old say: "Dad how do you spell 'sex'?" "Wait...what!? What do you mean?" "Well, I've already got I and N and I need to know what comes next." "Oh, okay. It goes S - E - C - T - S." Gender confusion clarified "The two most ridiculous errors about men and women are unisexism and male chauvinism. The unisex feminist says that women and men are not different in value, therefore they are not different in nature. The male chauvinist says that men and women are different in nature, therefore they are different in value.” – Peter Kreeft  Big and burly, but… “If you, Professor Glover, were stranded at the midnight hour in a desolate Los Angeles street…and you saw 10 burly young men who just stepped out of a dwelling coming toward you, would it or would it not make a difference to you to know they were coming from a Bible study?” – Dennis Prager making it clear to atheistic philosopher Jonathan Glover that the Bible does indeed have a positive effect on society, as recounted by Ravi Zacharias in The Real Face of Atheism Are you influencing, or being influenced? “If the Church is not transforming the culture around her, then the culture around her is transforming the Church. There is no static equilibrium point.” - Douglas Wilson On the need to read what’s old “Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means that old books.” - C. S. Lewis Was Noah’s Ark a local flood? Some Christians – those trying to reconcile evolution with creation – will say that Noah’s Flood was just a local affair, maybe widespread, but certainly not something that covered the whole Earth. There are a few problems with that idea, but one that isn't often mentioned is God’s promise in Genesis 9, to “never again” send “a flood to destroy the earth.” The type of flood God is talking about here is the sort to “destroy all flesh.” That doesn’t sound local. But if it is merely local, then we have a different problem. Local floods have happened a plenty since this promise was made, so, if we interpret the Flood, to just be one a local flood, then when God promised not to send another, we have the problem that God doesn’t seem to be keeping His Word. And we know that can’t be. So here's the end of the matter: we can either go with the eyewitness testimony of the Bible and accept it all, or we ignore what the Bible says and adopt Man’s theories instead. But the one choice that just isn’t open to us is to reconcile the two to each other. Here's one example of how it just can’t be done. Don’t put God off, and don’t ever assume it is too late “The Bible, which ranges over a period of 4,000 years, records but one instance of a death-bed conversion – one that none may despair, and but one that none may presume.” – Rev. Thomas Guthrie (1803-1873), in Early Piety If you don’t know, you can’t kill In Michael Wagner’s new book True Right: Genuine Conservative Leaders of Western Canada, he details an encounter between pro-life journalist Ted Byfield and abortionist Henry Morgentaler, and the question that stumped Morgentaler. From early on Ted Byfield was a spokesman for the pro-life cause. He has been an outspoken defender of unborn children. In one instance he was asked by the CBC to be on a television program with the infamous abortionist Dr. Henry Morgentaler. In the course of this program Byfield presented Morgentaler with a particular hypothetical situation of the kind social studies teachers were being encouraged to present to their students: Several men are out in the woods hunting. Suddenly one of them sees something move in the bush. At last, he rejoices, a deer. Then a warning flashes through his mind. That might not be a deer. That might be one of the other hunters. Question for the class: Should the hunter fire at the thing if there’s a chance it’s another human being? The approved answer is no. After posing his question the television program was never run and he was never invited back. Morgentaler was a CBC hero and Byfield’s question exposed the wicked cause that he was promoting. The question may have been considered unfair. : The question may be hypothetical but it is certainly not unfair. The doctor, along with other liberals who defend this hideous practice, in effect argues as follows: We do not know at what point during pregnancy a fetus or an embryo becomes, in fact, a human being—whether at the instant of conception, or at the instant of birth, or at some intervening stage. Because of this uncertainty, abortion may be permitted at some elementary phase of growth. In other words, since we do not know whether the thing is human or it isn’t, then it is all right to kill it, the very reverse of the conclusion that sane people would reach in the case of the hunter. The moral principle must surely be: If you don’t know, you don’t kill it.  You can purchase True Right at Merchantship.generationalfamilies.net. Reagan’s high school principal was a good sort President Ronald Reagan once told a story about why he had such “a warm spot for principals.” "I was in the principal’s office once…and I wasn’t there just to pass the time of day. Well, at one point he said to me, 'You know, I don’t care what you think of me now, I’m only interested in what you think of me fifteen years from now.'"...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - March 2018

John Calvin on abortion “…the fetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being…and it is almost a monstrous crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light.” – John Calvin, Commentaries on the Harmony of the Law, Vol. 3 Standing still It’s only a short quote – from the Christian philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal – but something I plan to share with my kids: When everything is moving at once, nothing appears to be moving, as on board ship. When everyone is moving towards depravity, no one seems to be moving, but if someone stops, he shows up the others who are rushing on, by acting as a fixed point.” God can use individuals who will not be moved. Some are pastors like Luther, and Knox, others politicians like William Wilberforce, Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan and more recently Pierre Lemieux. He can use regular folk too, like Aaron and Melissa Klein (bakers who lost their business because they wouldn’t help celebrate a gay “marriage”). And He can use us to – by standing on His Word, and refusing to move, we can be a light in our home, in our community, and in our classroom. We can help others even just by standing still.  The wit and wisdom of George Hebert George Hebert was best known as a Christian poet, but he published a collection of proverbs he collected over his lifetime. Here are ten of the best: None is a fool always; everyone sometimes All truths are not to be told Better to speak truth rudely than to lie charmingly Be what thou wouldst seem to be. Many things are lost for want of asking. More have repented speech than silence Old wine and old friends are good provisions Who spits against heaven, it falls in his face. A gift much expected is paid, not given. An oath that is not to be made is not to be kept 1984 vs. Brave New World “What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions". In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.” – Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death Three little letters that would help so much "Look at the Black Lives Matter movement. I get the issue. The evidence is out there about the criminal justice system and African-American males. But the tone is totally wrong. I want these issues addressed, but I want them addressed in a way that finds solutions.... I’ve said to some who defend the slogan, 'Why not add three little letters: "black lives matter too?’” That way we’re not saying that all lives don’t matter, we’re just saying that black lives have been neglected. Yet when I suggest this, there’s a big backlash. That makes me think this is not about finding a solution that all can live with. It’s about imposing a solution..." – George Yancey The first Adam vs. the Last “The first Adam blamed his bride, while the Last Adam took the blame for His bride. The first Adam earned thorns. The Last Adam wore thorns. The first Adam gained a wife when God opened man’s side, but the Last Adam gained a wife when man opened God’s side. The first Adam brought a curse. The Last Adam became a curse. While the first Adam fell by listening when the Serpent said 'take and eat,' the Last Adam told His followers, 'take and eat, this is my body.'” – John Stonestreet, “Jesus, the Last Adam” Chris McKenna’s 7-day rule for any new app Chris McKenna is an Internet expert times two – he works for the Christian Internet filtering and monitoring service Covenant Eyes, and also for his own group, Protect Young Eyes, which, via information to parents, does what its name suggests. So when he has tech advice for parents, well, it’s worth hearing. Earlier this year news came out that several dozen apps on the Google Play store contained a hidden bit of coding, that would show the user pornographic ads. In response McKenna shared what he calls his “7-day rule”: kids don’t get to use an app until after their parents have tested it out for seven straight days. Seven days will allow parents to check out whether the type of ads displayed (many apps have ads) are acceptable, and whether they are acceptable not just on the first day, but on day seven as well. Seven days allows parents to test it out with their child in mind, asking themselves, “Is my son or daughter ready for everything that I just experienced?”  ...

In a Nutshell

Tidbits - February 2018

Never a better time… It’s so easy to get caught up in what’s going wrong with the world that we can lose sight of all the wonders God is working in the here and now. Pastor John MacArthur reflected on this, in his eulogy given at Sproul’s funeral on Dec 20, and noted how very blessed we are to live at a time such as this. “I think you have to understand this. This is the greatest time in this history of the church for the expansion of sound doctrine. You might say this is the greatest explosion of the Truth in history. And the truth, of course, is captured in the doctrines of grace, and Reformed theology. People look at the Church today and what’s going and very often they say to me: ‘This is a very sad time, there is so much bad preaching, so much unbiblical ecclesiology, there so much poor spiritual leadership, there is so much disinterest in the doctrine of sanctification. There’s no real sense of holiness and worship.’ You know all these things. At the same time there has never been a time in the history of the world where sound doctrine is so available in a split second anywhere on the planet.” Treat animals like people isn’t elevating animals “The fact is that people who think that animals should be treated with all the respect and tenderness due to human beings will end up treating human beings like animals.” – Michael Cook What is true freedom? In his new book True Right: Genuine Conservative Leaders of Western Canada, Michael Wagner explains the difference between what many today understand as freedom and what true freedom really entails. Link provides a brief description of how the meaning of the word “freedom” has changed since the 1960s. Freedom means doing what we want rather than doing what we should. He explains the older conservative view this way: A synonym for freedom is “self-government.” If we are self-governed, we can say we are free. It means that we have control over ourselves. And it also means that if we have lost control over ourselves, we have lost our freedom. We descend either to a state of slavery or to a state of anarchy; in our case, the latter. The idea of freedom as “self-government” is important for understanding the difference between classical and modern conceptions of freedom. Take, for example, the case of a man who is in a position to view pornography without anyone finding out. He is strongly tempted and is faced with the choice of giving in to the temptation, or turning away from it. In the modern view, true freedom means doing what he really desires, so he views the pornography. This is what he feels he wants, so he does it. He is “free” to fulfill his base desires. In the classical view, however, true freedom means he forces himself to turn away from the pornography and ignore it. How can this be called “freedom”? Because his mind overrules his passions so that he could do what is right. He is in control of himself rather than being controlled by biological urges. When a man gives in to his physical desires he is not free, he is controlled by his physical desires. Every animal gives in to its desires, so in following this path the man who views the pornography is actually a slave to his animal desires. He is controlled by his passions and therefore cannot be considered “free.” You can buy True Right by visiting Merchantship.generationalfamilies.net. Worried about your reputation? Don’t be “Brother, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him. For you are worse than he thinks you to be. If he charges you falsely on some point, yet be satisfied, for if he knew you better he might change the accusation, and you would be no gainer by the correction. If you have your moral portrait painted, and it is ugly, be satisfied; for it only needs a few blacker touches, and it would be still nearer the truth.” – Charles Spurgeon On euphemisms, and the power in our word choices Christians know words have power. It was through words that Creation came to be (Ps. 33:8-9) and we know that Jesus is, Himself, the Word become flesh (John 1:14). The Devil also knows words have power, which is why he spends so much time trying to twist their meaning. The nonsensical distinction between gender and biological sex is his work. So too is the push for gay “marriage.” This battle was never over legal status or else it would have been over with the securing of civil unions. No, the goal was to obscure the meaning of marriage so that the term could be used to grant an aura of legitimacy to sinful same-sex unions. Euphemisms obscure the truth in all sorts of ways. Consider how the debate might be shaped if, instead of talking about “physician-assisted dying,” we used the more accurate term “physician-assisted killing.” And consider, the point that IntellectualTakeout.org’s Jon Miltimore recently made about how we glamorize pornography in the terms we used to describe it. We speak of “porn stars” but in what sense are they stars? Wouldn’t “pornographic actress” be more to the point? And instead of “adult entertainment industry” how about the less alluring term: “pornographic movie business”? Christians then, should be careful in the word choices we make - we can't go along with attempts to use language to obscure the truth. That’s why Pastor Douglas Wilson consistently refers to gay “marriage” as gay mirage, and why I make use of quotations marks, which, as my children know, means “not really.” It is why, while we might call a boy named Sue “Sue,” we should not call him a "girl." Words matter, whether to obscure the truth, as in an Orwellian doublespeak, or as Christians must do, to clarify and reveal God’s truth. A reason not to gamble Fred Couples recounts when he first learned that there is no such thing as a sure bet. The lesson was learned when the late tennis player Bobby Riggs, challenged him to a golf money match. There was one condition though – Riggs wanted one “throw” per hole. Even with one throw it seemed highly unlikely Riggs could beat the professional golfer, so Couples took the bet. “On the first hole I hit my approach shot to 15 feet. Meanwhile it took Riggs four shots to reach the green,” said Couples. “But just as I got set to putt Riggs walked over, picked up my ball and threw it out-of-bounds.” Riggs started laughing and wouldn’t accept Couples money. “You’ve heard the lesson before, but here it is again,” Couples said, “If something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.” SOURCE: November 2000 Golf Digest On truth vs. love I've learned that truth without love is cruel; love without truth is cowardly. – Phil Callaway, author of To Be Perfectly Honest Can’t do better than the Bible… Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens discovered that the surest way to make it to the best sellers list is to write a book attacking the existence of God. But while these prominent atheists want to make doubters of us all, Philip Yancey has a ready answer. Yancey may be staunchly Arminian, but he’s struggled with doubt for years and has a couple of insights worth sharing. He offers doubting Christians this bit of advice: “Learn to question your doubts just as much as you question your faith.” After all, atheists and the doubts they raise and the arguments they make are nothing new. Yancey sees their disciples on every campus he visits, but they don’t bother him. “When I speak on college campuses I like to choose the most skeptical, the most rebellious people - the kids who are reading newspapers instead of listening – and speak to them. And I tell them this, ‘I challenge you to find a single argument against God from the great atheists – David Hume, Bertrand Russell, Voltaire, people like that – that is not already included in the Bible!…I can find every argument – in the book of Job for example – that these great philosophers have used against God.” SOURCE: When God is hiding: A candid conversation with best-selling author Philip Yancey    ...