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Current Issue, Magazine

Jan/Feb 2020 issue

WHAT’S INSIDE: The great moon hoax of 1935 / "Seven Wondrous Words" book excerpt / Why we should be life-long learners / Complementarianism is not misogynistic / This isn't your parents' Katy Keene...or Archie Andrews / "The Gospel comes with a house key" review / The case for biblically-responsible investing / Canada has no "right to abortion" / When the Word of God is not preached / Christian fantasy fiction for teens and adults / What you should know to survive and thrive in your secular science class / Four films to see for free online / I started my business for the wrong reasons / and much more...

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Internet

Charles Spurgeon with some advice for the Internet age

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) died a century before Mankind mastered the ability to pass along unverified news stories and unfounded rumors at the speed of light. But while the medium is new, the sin of gossip isn’t, and Spurgeon’s warning remains as relevant as ever.

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What a pity that there’s no tax on words: what an income the government would get from it. And if lies paid double, we could pay off the National Debt! But, alas, talking pays no tax. Silence is golden Now if men only said what was true, what a peaceable world it would be. But we pass on hearsay. And hearsay is half lies – consider how a tale never loses in the retelling of it. As a snowball grows by rolling, so does the story. So those who talk much, lie much. While silence rarely causes mischief; too much talking can be a plague to the parish. Since silence is wisdom, it’s clear, then, that wise men and wise women are scarce. As they say, still waters are the deepest, but the shallowest brooks babble the most. An open mouth shows an empty head. It’s like a treasure chest – if it had gold or silver in it, it wouldn’t always be standing wide open. Talking comes naturally for us, but it takes a good deal of training to learn to be quiet; yet regard for truth should put a bit into every honest man's mouth and a bridle on every good woman's tongue. Be free of slander If we must talk, at least let us be free from slander. Spreading slander may be fun for some, but it is death to those they abuse. We can commit murder with the tongue as well as with the hand. The worst evil you can do a man is to injure his character. As the Quaker said to his dog, "I'll not beat thee, nor abuse thee, but I'll give thee an ill name." The world, for the most part, believes that where there is smoke there is fire, and what everybody says must be true. Let us be careful, then, that we do not hurt our neighbor in so tender a spot as to besmirch his character, for it is hard to get dirt off, once it is thrown. When a man finds himself put in people's bad books, he might never be able to get out of them. So, again, if we want to be sure not to speak wrongly, it might be just as well to speak as little as possible; for if all men's sins were divided into two bundles, half of them would be sins of the tongue. "And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body" (James 3:2). The solution So, gossips, give up the shameful trade of tale-spreading; don't be the devil's bellows, giving more air to the fire of strife. If you are going to talk, at least season your tongues with the salt of grace – praise God more, and blame neighbors less. Any goose can cackle, any fly can find a sore place, and any empty barrel can make a big noise. But the flies will not go down your throat if you keep your mouth shut, and no evil talk will come out either. So think much, but speak little; be quick at work and slow at talk; and, above all, ask the great Lord to set a watch over your lips.

This is an abridged, modernized, version of Chapter 6, "On Gossips" from Charles Spurgeon’s “The Ploughman Talks.”

Christian education - Sports, Gender roles

Daughters in sports

Women and men are different, so they should play differently

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I promised in a previous column that I would address the touchy subject of daughters playing in sports, and so I guess I can't get out of it now. It is all fine and good for sons to be subjected to the discipline and competition of sports, but what about our daughters? Is it healthy for them to be competing? Here is my decided take on it: it all depends. We are not raising our daughters to be "fighters" the same way we are with our sons. At the same time, self-discipline and godly determination are great qualities for women to have. Daughters can learn a lot from sports. They can benefit from learning to push themselves, to work hard, and to be part of a team. Besides, physical activity has benefits for everyone. Women can enjoy the thrill of the race or the game like anyone else. Still, we have to look at sports for our daughters a little differently than we do for our sons. Women shouldn't be men, and vice versa The goal we have in mind in raising sons is to inculcate masculinity. And we want our daughters to embrace a godly femininity, not a worldly feminism. So when parents consider sports for their daughters, they ought to be thinking about whether her participation will help develop or hinder her. Some sports are so completely masculine that young women shouldn't even think about participating. These certainly include football, boxing, baseball, and hockey. And it is just plain pitiful to see a woman force herself onto a male team just to cause a stink and force the boys to play with her. This is just a sad attempt for attention. Once when my son played football for a government high school (while he attended a local Christian school), the other team had a girl suited up and standing on the sidelines. My husband told my son, "If she gets out on the field, don't go near her, and don't tackle her. Just stand out of her way." Tackling is no way to treat a lady, even if she is refusing to act like one. But the next important thing to consider is what kind of program is available. For example, volleyball can be a great sport for girls. But if the program is bent on treating the girls like they are boys, and they are encouraging the girls to act like boys, then I wouldn’t want my daughters participating. But if the coaches are teaching girls to play well and to play like ladies, it can be a great experience. The same is true of basketball, softball, soccer, or track. If the girls are trying to act tough and masculine, it is deadly. But if they are enjoying the game and learning to work as a team, this can be working with the grain, teaching them to be feminine and beautiful as they handle the ball or hit it over the net. When our daughter played basketball for her Christian school, the team all wore blue ribbons in their hair as a feminine statement that they were not trying to act or look or play like boys. And they were good. They didn’t trash talk or play dirty. They were taught to play like Christian women. Positive character traits So if the sport itself is not masculine in nature, and if the program is deliberately striving to promote feminine virtue, then it can be a great blessing to young girls. But there are still pitfalls. Boys need to get hit and learn to take it, but girls need security and love. When insecure girls play sports, they are more susceptible to the temptations to try to become masculine. They may be looking for attention and affirmation from the sport when they really need it from their dads and their moms. They may “feel” unfeminine, so they gravitate to sports where they don’t have to be feminine. This means that wise parents will closely monitor their daughters while they participate in sports. And if they begin to show signs of becoming “macho” or unfeminine, they should consider pulling them out. I have seen the discipline of sports teach girls to be better stewards of their time, thus causing their studies to improve. Some exposure to sports can give our daughters confidence and make them “well-rounded” in their education. My daughter especially recommends volleyball for Christian girls because it is a team sport that can include lots of people, of all ages, and is a great activity for church picnics. And team sports are revealing when it comes to testing a daughter’s character. She has to think fast, look out for others, follow directions, and develop skill. This is all good, and none of this is contrary to a biblical femininity. Uniforms Of course I have to say something about uniforms and modesty. Christians ought to insist on dressing modestly. That means we shouldn’t be wearing tank tops with huge armholes and sports bras underneath. Neither should they be wearing what are called butt-huggers. It doesn’t matter if the other team is wearing skimpy outfits. Christians ought to refuse to participate in a sport where they will have to compromise in this area. A girls’ team can be dressed appropriately and modestly, even if it is no longer “cool” to do so. And this doesn’t mean wearing knee-length culottes,  (or any length culottes for that matter). Volleyball and track teams are now wearing virtual swimsuits as uniforms, and it just isn’t necessary. You can’t tell me that they really can play better or run faster in less clothing. It’s about making the slower women’s sports more interesting to watch. Male volleyball players don’t seem too hampered by actual shorts. Sports are not evil in themselves. But bad coaches can make for a miserable experience. If your daughter is in a sport, know the coaches, be at the games, and know how your daughter is doing. She certainly shouldn’t be forced into playing a sport if she isn’t inclined to do so. But if she wants to play, parents ought not hinder her for the wrong reasons. Questions for discussion Are there sports women shouldn’t play that men can play? Do you agree with the author's list of football, boxing, baseball, and hockey? Why or why not? What is the difference between "godly femininity" and "worldly feminism"? The author gives several examples of how women can be feminine in sports. What do you think of these examples? Can you think of other ways girls can be feminine while playing sports? What is the author’s main point? Do you agree? God has given men and women different roles, but are the genders' different roles something that has implications for the sports field? Do any of our Christian school sport programs encourage girls to act masculine? If so, how so, and what could be changed?

Reprinted with permission from Credenda/Agenda, Volume 16/1 published by Canon Press (www.canonpress.com).

Parenting

Just how bad is the teen anxiety epidemic?

Over the past year or so, I’ve noticed a significant increase in the number of people asking me for help with anxiety issues. While it seems to be affecting people of all ages, the most common problem is teens with anxiety, as the following stats underline: Anxiety is the most common mental-health disorder in the United States, affecting nearly one-third of both adolescents and adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Nearly a third of all adolescents ages 13 to 18 will experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetime, according to the National Institutes of Health, with the incidence among girls (38.0 percent) far outpacing that among boys (26.1 percent). More than 6 million American teens are grappling with an anxiety disorder of some kind. Anxiety is now the most common issue for which people of all ages seek counseling. Over the last decade, anxiety has overtaken depression as the most common reason college students seek counseling services. Since 1985, the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA has been asking incoming college freshmen if they “felt overwhelmed” by all they had to do. The first year, 18 percent replied yes. By 2000, that climbed to 28 percent. By 2016, to nearly 41 percent. The American College Health Association has been recording about a 10% annual increase in anxiety rates over a number of years. Recent studies have declared millennials, especially women, the most anxious generation in history. Among 10- to 24-year-old females, seven to 14 per cent will experience an anxiety condition in any given year. There’s been a doubling of hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers over the last 10 years, with the highest rates occurring soon after they return to school each fall. A 2015 report from the Child Mind Institute found that only about 20% of young people with a diagnosable anxiety disorder get treatment. Based on data collected from the National Survey of Children’s Health for ages 6 to 17, researchers found a 20 percent increase in diagnoses of anxiety between 2007 and 2012. One Christian counselor said, “When I first started counseling twenty-four years ago, probably one out of every twenty kids coming in were dealing with anxiety,” she says. “Now, out of my new appointments, I would say at least sixteen of every twenty families are here for that reason, if not more.” So just how bad is the teen anxiety epidemic? It’s really bad, isn’t it? I list these statistics, not to make everyone even more anxious, but to try to re-assure anxious teens and their parents that anxiety is a very normal abnormality. Due to the stigma that still surrounds anxiety and depression, especially in the church, many people suffer in silence and secrecy. They think, “I’m totally weird….There’s no one else like me.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The statistics say otherwise. We are surrounded by kids who are suffering like this but most are afraid to admit it, and so are many of their parents. The kids therefore often continue to suffer without help or support.  Many different causes So, if teen anxiety is so widespread, what’s causing it? On the basis of personal experience, counseling, and research, here are what I believe are the most common causes of teen anxiety. Unresolved guilt: Teen years are often sin-filled years, especially in the area of sex, both virtual and real-life. This causes fear of being found out, fear of God, fear of consequences, and fear of judgment. Unbelief: Related to the above, many kids are not saved, they have no peace with God, because they have never believed in Christ for salvation. But even teens who are believers suffer from anxiety through unbelief, just simply not believing God’s promises. Physical problem: Oftentimes it’s not a sin or faith issue but a biological issue, where the “fight-or-flight” mechanism is disordered, constantly or periodically flooding the body and brain with “anxious chemicals” such as adrenaline, cortisol, etc. This is far more common than most people think and I’ll have more to say about it in another post. Impossible expectations: Teens can impose on themselves perfectionistic targets in school, sport, work, and other areas of life, causing huge anxiety when they fail to live up to them. Although young, there’s often a sense that bad decisions already taken, or bad exam results, will ruin the rest of life, and that there’s no way back. Parental pressure: Parents sometimes add their own unrealistic expectations, often with a view to getting scholarships, or of maintaining their social standing with other parents. Related to this is the problem of over-protective parents. Many kids are so spoiled or protected by their parents that they are totally unprepared for what the world throws at them as soon as they venture outside of the cocoon. Over-busy parents: And the opposite of the above. Some kids just need quality and quantity time with Dad and Mom. Broken homes: One of the most under-reported causes of teen anxiety. Sleep deprivation: Teens need 8-9 hours of regular sleep to thrive, but many are getting less than six causing significant physical, emotional, and intellectual damage. Technology addiction: The teen brain is being fried by the constant sizzle of social media and gaming, giving the brain no opportunity for calm and repair. Social media: Regardless of the impact of how long and how often teens are on social media, there’s the constant performance anxiety that flows from seeing other teens “perfect” lives online. Physical immobility: Teen bodies were not made to sit down all day. Lack of exercise reduces healthy brain and body chemicals and increases damaging ones. Friends and enemies: There’s constant pressure to please and keep up with friends, and especially for girls, these relationships are often complex and fragile. Then add frequent bullying from enemies, sometimes in real life, but today more often online. Neglect of Sabbath: God made the Sabbath for our good, but very few teens take a day off a week from studies, work, sports, shopping, etc., and are suffering the consequences of going against our Maker’s instructions. Bad news: Our teens are exposed to a constant diet of negative news from the media, feeding anxiety and fear. Unhealthy diet: Sugar, carbs, soda, and caffeine drinks make up a large part of many teen diets, a lethal cocktail for mental health. Bad time management: Bad organization, wrong prioritizing, doing the wrong things at the wrong times, procrastinating, taking on too much, all combine to create a constant background hum of stress and tension. Money worries: Poor planning, indisciplined spending, taking on debt, impulsive shopping, all stretch the budget and the nerves. Practical godlessness: Without God as the foundation and framework of life, everything depends on us. Teens, yes even Christian teens, often go days and even weeks without praying and reading God’s Word. This results in a lack of a sense of God’s presence, plan, and power in their lives. Faulty thinking: Teens can fall into a range of faulty thinking. Trauma: Abuse, unexpected bereavement, exposure to violence, accidents, etc. can result in degrees of PTSD. Conclusion As you can see, parents, there are multiple cause of teen anxiety. I hope this list helps you to think and talk to your teens as you try to explore what factors may be contributing to your teen’s worries — it’s usually more than one. Unless we find out the causes, it’s unlikely we’ll discover any cures. I’ll pick out some of these in future posts for further explanation.

Dr. David Murray blogs at HeadHeartHand.org where this first appeared as a pair of posts. In the coming weeks he hopes to share more of his thoughts on the teen anxiety epidemic in the hopes of helping concerned parents understand what’s going in with their anxious kids, offering guidance on how they can help them, and giving practical and biblical advice on how they can contribute to their healing. And we hope to share his thoughts on our website too, and in upcoming issues of the print magazine.

AA
Economics - Home Finances
Tagged: charity, featured

The Lord loves a cheerful giver

Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. – 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

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The subject of “giving” is one that must be approached with a certain amount of caution, and respect.

Our giving is, in one sense, a private matter. Jesus spoke of “not doing your charitable deeds before men,” and “not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matt. 6:3). We should avoid seeking public accolades for our giving, and in that sense giving is a private matter between us and our Lord. For others, avoiding the topic of giving might simply be a way of hiding their greed and selfishness, and their lack of generosity.

In another sense, giving is very public matter. How so? Well, whether we are giving for the right reasons or wrong, or not giving at all, giving is always spiritual matter. In the 2 Corinthians 9 passage quoted above the Apostle Paul (speaking by the Spirit of Christ) makes it clear that this is a topic that is not “off limits” – it is once that Christians can and should discuss.

In this article, then, we want to reflect upon the command in verse 7 to be “cheerful givers.” We will look at what that means, what should motivate us, and some practical application.

What it means to be a “cheerful giver”

Interestingly, the Greek word translated cheerful is the same word from which we derive our English word, hilarious. When we think of hilarity we think of laughter, joy. The sense of Paul here, then, is that we are to give joyfully, with gladness, happily. Stinginess, covetousness, greed, selfishness are to be far away from us as God’s people.

This principle of cheerful giving is already set out in Deuteronomy 15:7-8 where Israel is told that if there was a poor man among them, they were not to “harden their hearts or shut their hand” from him. Instead they were to “open their hands wide to him and willingly lend to him sufficient for his need, whatever his needs” (NKJV). God’s people, then, are to be generous, gladly giving, blessing as we have been blessed, giving our first and best to God.

The opposite of this would be a giving solely because we have to; to merely keep the elders off our backs. Paul condemns (v.7) giving “reluctantly or under compulsion.” We are not to give out of grudging obligation. The sense of Paul here is that of giving because we have to but we don’t really want to. It betrays an attitude of “What I have is mine, and the more I give means less for me.” One scholar says that, “we give because it’s wrung from our hands.” It’s an uncaring attitude for others because we care more about ourselves.

Far from this kind of a sinful, despicable attitude is the Biblical attitude: giving cheerfully. It’s not to be merely a matter of obligation or legislation. We’re to give from a heart that is eager to serve the Lord; that sees how privileged we are to be used in God’s work of establishing His kingdom; that believes that our cheerful giving pleases the Lord.

What should motivate us to give cheerfully?

Here are four motivations for us to give with joy.

1. IT’S ALL HIS

Why should we be eager to give? Simply put, we should want to give because we understand that it is the Lord who gives first. All that we have belongs to Him! “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (Ps. 24:1). He says, “The cattle on a thousand hills is Mine” (Ps. 50:10).

2. IT’S OURS TO USE HERE

We are but stewards. God allows us to use His possessions while we are on earth. And one day we will leave all that we’ve pursued and accumulated in this life. And how we use our monetary blessings is quite often an indicator of our comprehension of these simple truths. And, sadly, the state of our hearts.

3. HE ASKS IT OF US

Also worthy of consideration is the command of God to “Bring an offering and come into His courts” (Psalm 96:8). That is, we’re to come before God (to Church in our context) with a gift in hand. Deuteronomy 16:16 says it even stronger: God’s people “shall not appear before Me empty-handed.”

And so, undoubtedly what we call “The Offering” is a very significant part of worship. Based on such verses we could go so far as to say that if we have not given to the offering we have not worshipped well. And if we are not contributing to “The Budget” there is a failure to recognize that every one of God’s children is involved in kingdom work.

4. CONSIDER WHAT HE HAS GIVEN US!

But of course the greatest motivation to us giving cheerfully is that the Lord Himself has given the best and greatest offering. He “gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). He “did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). Hebrews 9:28 speaks of Christ as being “offered once to bear the sins of many.”

We might say, then, that God our Father has set the greatest example of giving in all of history for us. He freely offered up His most treasured possession, the One whom was dearest to His heart: His own Son – the Spotless Lamb.

Some practical application

Practically speaking, cheerful giving it’s a matter of preparation. It ought not to be that we think of the offering only when it’s announced. A child of God ought not to be digging around in his/her wallet or purse seeing what they have handy or can spare. We ought to come prepared, and decided about what we are going to give to this cause.

In our congregation the deacons give us lists of the offering causes in the upcoming months. They include blurbs about the causes for that Sunday. And they remind us what the causes will be for next week. And so no one has any excuse to show up unprepared. These causes should have been discussed as a family, and prayed about beforehand around our tables.

In 2 Corinthians 9:3ff Paul reminds the Church in Corinth that he was planning to visit them to collect the generous gift that they had promised. But he had sent some brethren ahead to ensure that the gift was ready. There was always the chance that some would simply forget; some would put their money to other uses; maybe some were just procrastinators. And so they needed a little nudging – so they could begin to give, maybe a little at a time, but always moving toward their goal.

Maybe the brethren would remind the Christians of the principle taught by Paul in 1 Cor. 16:1-2:

Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.

He says to “lay something aside” on the first day of the week. Out of their earnings there was to be a portion that was given to the work of the Lord’s Church. Based on the principle taught here we could apply this to ourselves this way: each Sunday we are to ensure that we bring an offering to the Lord – an amount we have thought about, and prayed about, and given with thankfulness.

Worthy of our attention is what Paul says in v.2 of that passage: “let each of you lay something aside.” He’s addressing every member of the Church – young and old, rich and poor. It doesn’t matter that we belong to a large congregation; and that others do very well and can afford to carry the expenses of the Church. God says, “each of you.” No one is excused. No excuse is valid. Every member is to give.

Notice as well the words, “storing up as he may prosper.” Another way of saying that is, give according to how much God has blessed you. Some earn more than others. Some are only able to give a fraction of what others give. It doesn’t matter to God that we match the other people. What does matter is that we give cheerfully!

And the more we prosper the more we’re to give. It’s not just a matter of “giving 10 per cent.” Maybe we’re actually able to afford 20, or 25 per cent. In his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald S. Whitney speaks of a lady who realized that she could live on 10 per cent of her income. So she gave 90 per cent to the Church. Not everyone can do that. And the Bible is not saying you have to. But we are to give in proportion to what we earn. Again, from the heart.

Conclusion

If we struggle to give cheerfully, the question we might want to ask ourselves is this: do I trust God to provide for my needs? Listen again to 2 Cor. 9:6: “he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” And so let us not be afraid to give generously. If we give to God with a thankful and generous heart He will provide for us.

This is not to promote the “prosperity gospel.” We don’t give to God, as the heretics teach, so that He will in turn make us rich. We give because we trust that He has always, and will always, provide for us His children.

David wrote: “I have never seen the righteous forsaken, nor their children begging bread” (Ps. 37:25). Think of the widow that Jesus observed – who put all she had into the temple treasury. That’s trust. And if that is our attitude – generous, thankful, and cheerful giving we will be blessed – with a greater joy than we could ever have keeping it all to ourselves. We will be growing and rejoicing in the fact that we are storing up greater treasures – in heaven. Indeed, we will be learning the truth of what Jesus said: that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Rev. Mitch Ramkissoon is the pastor of Parkland United Reformed Church of Ponoka, AB, a congregation in the United Reformed Churches in North America. In 2016 Rev. Ramkissoon preached a three-sermon series on cheerful giving, which can be found here: Sermon 1, Sermon 2, & Sermon 3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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