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Daily devotional

April 1 – Introduction to the month of April

Our calendars tell us that Easter is this month. There is much debate on the accuracy of the date and if Christians should participate in Lent and how to celebrate Easter, but we should never take lightly nor forget what occurred and what it means that Jesus let Himself be betrayed, arrested, placed on trial and crucified. And then we need to think about what it means that Jesus rose from the grave and ascended to heaven. The identity of the Christian is found in the death and resurrection of Christ.

This month we will spend time looking at and learning from the events leading up to the death of Christ and then we will look at how the ministry of Christ is carried out after His resurrection. We will pay close attention to Peter, who is famous for denying Christ and then later leading the church. As we look at Peter, the point is not to learn from and be like Peter, but to see ourselves in Peter as an example of one who is nothing without the Lord, but who in the Lord is able to live a life to the glory of God and service of His kingdom.

I pray that this month you grow in your awareness of your sin and weakness and as you do so, grow in your amazement at the great love of God shown to us in Jesus Christ. As you grow in your grasp of who Christ is and are filled with Christ, I pray that your life will show a more humble faith and more eagerness to live a life to the glory of God.

A national holiday

“Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.” – Luke 22:1-2

Scripture reading: Luke 22:1-6

On April 1st, many families like to play jokes on each other. One April fools morning I hid all of our bowls and then asked the kids to set the table. They were baffled to discover the bowls were nowhere to be found. We might laugh at a joke about breakfast, but one thing that no Israelite would find funny would be a joke about the Passover feast. This was their national holiday and it celebrated the victory and identity God gave them when they were rescued from Egypt so many years ago. In the days of Jesus, the Israelites were once again under foreign oppression. The glory and the freedom of the former kingdom had long since faded. They only held onto hope.

But this Passover would be different. On this night, Jesus is the Passover Lamb Who will soon be slain to deliver His people from bondage, to free them from their sin and from the oppression of Satan. At Passover, the Jews celebrated the angel of death passing over them because the blood of the lamb was on their doorposts. They were celebrating salvation. But now Jesus will show them how He has come that whoever believes in Him may have life and salvation. This is still a matter of life and death - not something to joke about, but instead, something we need to ponder and learn about. See what Jesus would do and endure in order to be our Passover Lamb.

Suggestions for prayer

We are so easily distracted. Pray that God will help you to ponder what Christ has done. Ask God to help you grasp the love of Christ in coming to set His people free.

Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children.

News

Saturday Selections - March 21, 2020

How is the moon's design evidence for creation? (6 minutes) The unique characteristics of our moon – its size and distance from us relative to the sun's size and distance, the plane of its orbit, the ratio of its mass compared to the Earth, and more – make it a perfect aid to study our sun's corona and to stabilize our planet's rotation. RC Sproul's Ligonier Ministries makes all their teaching series free The best response to coronavirus fear? Learn more about our good, trustworthy, sovereign God. So as their response to the coronavirus crisis, RC Sproul's Ligonier Ministries is making their entire library of hundreds of teaching series free to stream online. C.S. Lewis on Modesty Lewis chips in on the Christian modesty discussion/debate. There's more to be said, but this is a helpful contribution. Eviction rights: "My building, my choice"? In this spoof of the abortion rights argument, reporters ask a political candidate about the "My Building, My Choice!” campaign that has the US government proposing rules to make it easier for landlords to evict tenants. How far is too far? When Christian young people are dating, "The question, 'How far is too far?' is often asked with the wrong motive. The real question usually being asked is, 'How much can I get away with?' Purity doesn’t ask that; purity asks, “How can I honor God in this relationship?” Many a reader won't agree with one of the suggestions in this article: no kissing before marriage. But whatever you think of that particular outworking, there are biblical principles here well worth discussing. 15 Reformed theologians on anxiety and fear The folks at the Westminster Bookstore have done something special, collecting key chapters from 15 Christian authors addressing the topic of anxiety and fear and then distributing those chapters for free (at the link above). These chapters include, in order: EDWARD WELCH - A small book for the anxious heart (4 daily readings) PAUL TAUTGES - Anxiety - Knowing God's Peace (4 readings) SARA WALLACE - Created to Care: God's Truth for Anxious Moms (Chap 8) MARK VROEGOP – Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy (Intro/Chap 1) JOHN CALVIN - Everyday prayer (Ps 130, 143) DAVID POWLISON - God's Grace in your Suffering (Intro) DALE RALPH DAVIS - In the Presence of my Enemies (Ps 29 - Chap 6) DAVID GIBSON: Living Life Backwards (Chap 1) JOHN MURRAY - O Death, Where is Thy Sting (Chap 13) PURITANS - Piercing prayers ALISTAIR BEGG - Pray Big (Chap 2) CHARLES SPURGEON - The Promises of God (5 daily readings) PAUL DAVID TRIPP - Suffering (Chapter 11) IAIN M. DUGUID - The Whole Armor of God (Chap 1) GROVES + SMITH - Untangling Emotions (Chap 13) TIMOTHY KELLER - Walking with God through Pain and Suffering (Intro) Crisis, Christ, confidence and the coronavirus (27 minutes) Two professors from the Westminister Theological Seminary, a doctor, and Martin Luther, weigh in on how God would want us to respond to the coronavirus crisis.

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

By what standard? God's World...God's rules

Documentary 2019 / 110 minutes RATING: 8/10 The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, and has a generally Calvinist leaning though that not always so. Four decades ago, it was a question as to whether the denomination might slide into liberalism, denying the truthfulness of the Bible, and following a path many other large denominations had traveled before it, or whether the SBC would turn back. In a pivotal 1979 annual meeting where God corrected their course. But now the home of Albert Mohler and also Beth Moore, has been wrestling with the issues of complementarianism, social justice, sexual abuse, and also something called “Critical Race Theory.” This two-hour documentary certainly isn’t for everyone, but it is eye-opening in showing how troubling worldviews can sneak into the Church via the best of intentions. One example: we are all agreed that sexual abuse is sinful and that we should act to prevent it. But in the SBC some have linked complementarianism with sexual abuse – one pastor said that preventing women from preaching denigrates them and teaches men that women can be abused. There we can see how, under the guise of doing something good – preventing sexual abuse – a biblical truth is attacked. You can watch a 14-minute preview below, or watch the whole film for free at Founders.org/cinedoc.

Adult biographies, Book Reviews, Children’s non-fiction, Remembrance Day, Teen fiction

5 books to help us never forget

Next week will mark Remembrance Day, and to help us remember these men and women – many in uniform, and also many who were not – here are 5 books about their courage and conviction. There is something here for every age. By reading these – especially together with our children, or maybe in a book club with friends – we can be inspired and prepared. These stories remind us of why some wars need to be fought, and through these stories we can better appreciate those who fought for us so long ago. They provide us examples worth imitating for the battles, big and small, physical, and in our cases more often spiritual, that still need to be fought today. The reviews that follow have been arranged by the age of the intended audience - youngest to oldest - though all of these would be enjoyed by adults too. The Poppy Lady by Barbara Elizabeth Walsh 40 pages / 2012 How did poppies become the symbol for Remembrance Day? This beautifully illustrated (I love the water colors in this book - it's a treat just to look at it!) and well-researched children’s picture book tells the story of Moina Michael, who was 45 when World War I broke out. She was a teacher at the University of Georgia’s Normal School and realized that every home in America would be affected. “Her girls” would see fathers, brothers and sweethearts sent to the war front. As the war progressed, she did what she could to help. Her motto from a young age was “Whatsoever your hands find to do, do it with all your might." When she read John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields” she knew what she had to do for all her beloved soldiers. She went on a search for poppies and found one large red poppy and 24 small ones in a department store. She put the large one in a vase in the YMCA canteen and gave 23 away. From that small, significant gesture, the Poppies have become a symbol of remembrance and bring much needed funds to help the veterans. The book has an epilogue that is helpful for teachers or parents who wants to tell children more about the history of the poppy. This book would be an asset to any elementary school library.  – reviewed by Joanna Vanderpol Innocent Heroes: Stories of animals in the First World War by Sigmund Brouwer 186 pages / 2017 Animals had a bigger role in WWI than most of us realize. Author Sigmund Brouwer has taken heroic stories of these animals and, in the interests of making a continuous, compelling storyline, fictionalized the details, placing all the animals in just one Canadian platoon, the Storming Normans. While each chapter is built around the story of a particular creature –a cat, a bird, two dogs, a horse, a mule, and a lion – the book's main characters are three fictional Canadian infantry soldiers. In the trio of Jake, Charlie, and Thomas, the author gives us soldiers who couldn't have more different backgrounds, with Jake a farm boy, Charlie the city-dwelling millionaire, and Thomas a Cree Indian. With this “odd couple” friendship Brouwer injects his story with humor even in the midst of the horrors of war. It also allows him the opportunity to educate readers as to how Natives were treated on the front lines and back home in Canada during this period. My highest praise for a book is that it is so good I have to read it to my family – we’re loving it! Brouwer has weaved these animal stories together into a compelling book that tackles some tough topics at an age-appropriate level for pre-teens and teens. – reviewed by Jon Dykstra War in the Wasteland by Douglas Bond 273 pages / 2016 "Second Lieutenant C.S. Lewis in the trenches of WWI" – if that doesn't grab you, I don’t know what will. War in the Wasteland is a novel about teenage Lewis's time on the front lines of the First World War. At this point in his life, at just 19, Lewis is an atheist, and his hellish surroundings seem to confirm for him that there is no God. Now when men are hunkered down in their trenches waiting through another enemy artillery barrage, there is good reason, and plenty of time, to talk about life's most important matters. Bond gives Lewis a fellow junior officer – Second Lieutenant Johnson – who won't let Lewis's atheistic thinking go unchallenged. Their back and forth sparring is brilliant; Bond has pulled the points and counterpoints right out of Mere Christianity and other books Lewis wrote when he became the world’s best-known Christian apologist. Bond has crafted something remarkable here, capturing in grim detail what it must have been like to live, eat, and sleep barely more than a stone’s throw from enemy troops hidden away in their own trenches. I think older teens and adults who have an interest in history, World War I, apologetics, or C.S. Lewis are sure to enjoy War in the Wasteland. – reviewed by Jon Dykstra Prison Letters by Corrie Ten Boom 90 pages / 1975 This is a collection of the correspondence between Corrie Ten Boom and her family while she and her sister Betsie were being held in prison by the Nazis during World War II. If you haven’t already her remarkable wartime biography The Hiding Place, then you must read that first. It recounts how her family hid Jews, not because they were brave or courageous, but simply because they were obedient to what they knew God was calling them to do. We see how God sustained them. It is a book of doubts being answered, and God being found sufficient even in the most trying of circumstances. If you loved The Hiding Place (and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t) then this collection of letters will act as a moving appendix to that remarkable book. It is the same story, but told a very different way, one letter at a time. However, because no correspondence was allowed in the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, where Corrie and Betsie were sent last, the book ends abruptly. So, this will be a wonderful supplement to The Hiding Place, but it is not one to read simply on its own. – reviewed by Jon Dykstra On to Victory: The Canadian Liberation of the Netherlands, March 23 - May 5, 1945 by Mark Zuehlke 2010 / 552 pages This book is a detailed account of the Canadian Army’s advance into the Netherlands and northwestern Germany during the last phase of World War Two. It is written in a popular (rather than academic) style and frequently relies upon first-hand reports provided by the soldiers themselves for a vivid narrative of combat and other experiences of frontline troops. For this part of the war, the Canadians were superior to the Germans in almost every way, but the terrain heavily favored the German defenders. The ground was frequently too soft for military vehicles so they were confined to roads, making them easy targets. As well, there were a large number of rivers and canals that had to be crossed to reach objectives. The Germans would blow up bridges as they retreated, and time after time the Canadians would have to cross by boat in the face of enemy fire. One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the frequent accounts of heroic actions by individual Canadian soldiers. When the chips were down and the situation looked grim, some responded with acts of bravery that could be straight out of a Hollywood-style movie. For example, when Major Harry Hamley found his unit pinned down and threatened by a German attack he grabbed a large machine gun.

Charging into the face of enemy fire, Hamley burned through a magazine as he ran, shooting eight Germans dead, wounding several others, and scattering the rest.

There were many such real-life heroes. We learn here that the Canadians were not reluctant combatants. When Dutch authorities requested that Canadian forces undertake a particularly dangerous mission, the Canadian commander consulted his troops about their willingness to attempt it: “There wasn’t the slightest hesitation or any objection raised, they were prepared to lay it on the line for the Dutch people.” Author Mark Zuehlke goes into much detail about individual army units and their experiences as they move from one objective to another, fighting much of the time. Many of the events described occur simultaneously in different parts of the Netherlands and northwestern Germany. At times it can be difficult to keep track of how each event relates to the others. This is not the fault of the book so much as a reflection of the large battlefront continually in action. Thankfully, there is a series of maps at the front of the book, making it possible for the reader to keep track of events as the Canadian Army advances over a broad geographical front taking in numerous cities, towns and villages. There are also two sections with photographs. In short, this book lucidly describes a period of history that will make any true-blooded Canadian feel proud, and anyone of Dutch roots so very grateful. – reviewed by Michael Wagner

AA
In a Nutshell
Tagged: baptism, Commandments, featured, Tidbits

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.


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