WORLD’s Top 25 articles for 2018 – WORLD

As we near the end of the year of our Lord 2018, it is good to reflect on all that has transpired according to the sovereign plan and providence of our almighty God in this year. That, after all, is what we believe all the events of history are – the unfolding of our God’s perfect plan through His mighty providential hand. And, we also add this, that all these events of history – of 2018 too – are for the salvation of Christ’s church and the good of His redeemed and renewed people.

Many news sources produce year-end summaries of the year’s major stories, which are useful in helping us to reflect on the more significant events of the year. World Magazine (a Christian news source) has also produced its summary of the major stories it reported online throughout 2018. It included this list of 25 items today as part of its “Saturday Series” (which often feature books, writing, reading), and I thought it worth your while to point you to it here.

What follows here is the little blurb that introduced the list; after that I post here the last five news items (which were published at the “top” of the list on their website).

In 2018, WORLD’s online readers were drawn to major cover stories and timely features from the magazine, daily news reports from The Sift, and insightful Saturday Series essays. But issues related to marriage, family, and sexuality were often foremost in the minds of our readers this past year, as the website’s weekly Relations roundup makes multiple appearances in our countdown of the 25 articles that grabbed your attention the most.

25. A long way from home

Before getting lost in a cave, Adul Sam-on found direction for his future at a Thai church and school

by Angela Lu Fulton
July 13 | WORLD Magazine | Features

24. Moody Bible Institute leaders resign amid turmoil

Moody Bible Institute announced Wednesday the resignation of President J. Paul Nyquist and Chief Operating Officer Steve Mogck amid ongoing turmoil following staffing cuts

by Leigh Jones
Jan. 11 | WORLD Digital | The Sift

23. Willow Creek elders respond to new Hybels accusations

The elders of Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago said in a letter Saturday they could have done a better job holding former Senior Pastor Bill Hybels accountable for inappropriate behavior toward women

by Lynde Langdon
April 23 | WORLD Digital | The Sift

22. Facing cultural storms

Six trends that are rapidly reshaping the lives of American Christians

by John S. Dickerson
Nov. 24 | WORLD Digital | Saturday Series

21. Turkey seeks life sentence for U.S. pastor

Turkish prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for a U.S. pastor accused of participating in the 2016 coup that attempted to oust Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

by Leigh Jones
March 13 | WORLD Digital | The Sift

Find the other 20 top stories at the link below.

Source: WORLD’s Top 25 articles for 2018 – Media – WORLD

Adoption Isn’t Charity—It’s War – R. Moore

A little while ago while sorting through today’s emails, I learned it is National Adoption Day. It was Crossway publishers who pointed me to that fact, in an email highlighting some new articles published on it’s website.

Perhaps, like me (ordinarily), you might be tempted to pass over a highlighted article on adoption, and just delete the email and move on to the next. But if you have an adopted child in your immediate family (as we do), you stop and pay attention. Because you realize how significant one adoption is. And how special one adopted grandson is.

The same is true if there is an adoption in your broader family (as there is in ours and will be soon again), in your church family (as there is in ours at Faith PRC), and among your friends (as we too have). And when you hear the testimony of an adopted son about his Christian father and the influence he had on this son throughout his life (as we heard from a dear cousin last night at a very special family reunion), then you realize the power and blessedness of earthly adoption by Christian couples and families.

A gift from God our Father to His children. A means of grace. Yes, in the life of one lost soul. Multiplied thousands of times, one soul at a time, from all over the world, including nearby neighborhoods. Taken in by love, surrounded by love, raised in love, and pointed to true love. God’s, in Jesus. So that that adopted child comes to know and embrace and confess that divine love. And rejoices (glories!) in what God has done. For him! For her! And believing parents and siblings cry with joy, and treasure God’s work.

And then you better understand the picture of a higher, greater, deeper reality – what the Sovereign of salvation has done for you (for me!), another lost orphan in this cruel world of sin and darkness. You see, you and I were abandoned by the Prince of this world (a pretentious but pernicious father!) who promised us everything but left us nothing – destitute, deserted – in reality, dead.

But that Father on the heavenly throne looked on you and me with the eyes of love (because His heart was so full of it for you!), took us up His arms and placed us in His only-begotten, beloved Son, through Whom He bought us and took us home (O, what a family He has!). And then He took the Spirit of His Son and sent Him to change us from dead sinners into living children of the Father, from utterly destitute into the richest sons and daughters in the world, and in the world to come.

Deserted no more, we have fellowship with the Father, in the Son, through the Spirit, and belong to the biggest and best family in the world (the church of Jesus Christ)! It is the grandest adoption of all! If you doubt it, read Ephesians 1-3 again. And fall to the ground in praise of that glorious grace.

And then think about what that earthly picture can mean in a Christian family and church family. And ponder its implications for us.

Russell Moore has some things for us to think about in that Crossway article for National Adoption Day. Yes, he may write from a theological perspective different from our Reformed, covenantal perspective. But he writes as a Christian man and as a saved-by-grace sinner who knows what earthly adoption means because of his heavenly one. So, listen and learn from what he says. He don’t have to agree with everything. Just take the heart of it. Because that comes from the heart of our Father above.

Here is part of what Moore writes; find the rest at the link below.

The gospel of Jesus Christ means our families and churches ought to be at the forefront of the adoption of orphans close to home and around the world. As we become more attuned to the gospel, we’ll have more of a burden for orphans. As we become more adoption friendly, we’ll be better able to understand the gospel. We are being called to look forward to an adoptive missional church. I want to call us all to consider how encouraging adoption—whether we adopt or whether we help others adopt—can help us peer into the ancient mystery of our faith in Christ and can help us restore the fracturing unity and the atrophied mission of our congregations.

It is one thing when the culture doesn’t “get” adoption. What else could one expect when all of life is seen as the quest of “selfish genes” for survival? It is one thing when the culture doesn’t “get” adoption and so speaks of buying a cat as “adopting” a pet. But when those who follow Christ think the same way, we betray that we miss something crucial about our own salvation.

Adoption is not just about couples who want children—or who want more children. Adoption is about an entire culture within our churches, a culture that sees adoption as part of our Great Commission mandate and as a sign of the gospel itself.

Source: Adoption Isn’t Charity—It’s War | Crossway Articles

The Benefits of Reading “Promiscuously” – J. Milton & K. Prior

reading-well-priorIn making her case for ‘reading well” in her new book by that title (On Reading Well, which I just picked up at the local Barnes & Noble store), that is, for virtue, author Karen S. Prior begins by referencing her previous title Booked, in which she emphasizes the importance of reading “widely, voraciously, and indiscriminately.” In doing so, she points out the spiritual lessons she learned while reading widely, or as she calls it reading “promiscuously,” drawing from a famous book by John Milton (though perhaps not as well known as his Paradise Lost).

This is how she references Milton and his work Areopagitica:

Areopagitica makes a deeply theological argument, one that Christians today, particularly those nervously prone to a censoring spirit, would do well to consider. Grounded in Protestant doctrine (as well as the polarized political situation surrounding the English Civil War), Milton associates censorship with the Roman Catholic Church (the political as well as doctrinal enemy of the English Puritans) and finds in his Reformation heritage a deep interdependence of intellectual, religious, political, and personal liberty – all of which depend, he argues, on virtue. Because the world since the fall contains both good and evil, Milton says, virtue consists of choosing good over evil. Milton distinguishes between the innocent, who knows no evil, and the virtuous, who know what evil is and elect to do good. What better way to learn the difference between good and evil, Milton argues, than to gain knowledge of both through reading widely: ‘Since therefore the knowledge and survey of vice is in this world so necessary to the constituting of human virtue, and the scanning of error to the confirmation of truth, how can we more safely, and with less danger, scout into the regions of sin and falsity than by reading all manner of tractates and hearing all manner of reason? And this is the benefit which may be had of books promiscuously read.’

Perhaps we struggle to understand Milton’s point here. Let me try to clarify it. I believe that, being the good Puritan that he was, Milton would never say, “In order to appreciate virtue you ought to go out and experience or enjoy vice (sin).” But he is saying here that there is a way to learn (and to choose) virtue, and that is by reading about evil. In that way of “the scanning of error” through the world’s books, you learn to see evil for what it is (“sin and falsity”), in order that you reject it and choose the virtuous (“truth”) instead.

Is that not one of the reasons why Christians ought to read widely? Milton makes a valid point, to my thinking, and Prior is right to direct us to it so we too may learn to read well and find “the good life through great books” (the sub-title of her new book).

We’ll return to more of Prior’s spiritual lessons on reading as I move through the book.

Evaluating the Christian’s Engagement with the World – James D. Hunter

Change-world-Hunter-2010In this essay, I consider the ways in which Christians in much of their diversity actually think about the creation mandate today, examining the implicit theory and explicit practices that operate within this complex and often conflicted religious and cultural movement. Let me emphasize that I am not just talking about Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, in spite of the fact that they have been the loudest, most energetic, and most demanding of all Christians in recent decades. This essay and the ones that follow are concerned with Christianity in its variety – at least much of it: conservatives as well as moderate and progressive, Protestant as well as Catholic. The subject of these essays is the social imaginary that serves as a backdrop for the ways in which the majority of those in America who call themselves Christian engage the world. I contend that the dominant ways of thinking about culture and cultural change are flawed, for they are based on both specious social science and problematic theology. In brief, the model on which various strategies are based not only does not work, but it cannot work. On the basis of this working theory, Christians cannot ‘change the world’ in a way that they, even in their diversity, desire. But that is just the beginning; the entry point for a longer reflection on the Christian faith and its engagement with the world.

Such is the way James Davison Hunter introduces his main subject and theme in his significant book To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (Oxford University Press, 2010), p.5. His opening chapter, the end of which is quoted above, is part of his first essay titled “Christianity and World-Changing.” A friend and educator put me on to this book (a copy of which we have in the PRC Seminary library), so I have begun to dig into it. It is not a light read, but that is good; I will enjoy the challenge. This is worthwhile “meat” to chew on.

After reviewing the contemporary models for “changing the world,” the author ends the second part of that first essay with these words:

At the end of the day, the message is clear: even if not in the lofty realms of political life that he [the British social reformer William Wilberforce] was called to, you too can be a Wilberforce. In your own sphere of influence, you too can be an Edwards, a Dwight, a Booth, a Lincoln, a Churchill, a Dorothy Day, a Martin Luther King, a Mandela, a Mother Teresa, a Vaclav Havel, a John Paul II, and so on. If you have the courage and hold to the right values and if you think Christianly with an adequate Christian worldview, you too can change the world [p.16-17].

But here’s the rub according to Hunter: “This account is almost wholly mistaken.”

How so is what we will examine with him in the months to come. Be prepared to put your “thinking caps” on! 🙂

Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound | Maryanne Wolf | The Guardian

Article summary: When the reading brain skims texts, we don’t have time to grasp complexity, to understand another’s feelings or to perceive beauty. We need a new literacy for the digital age writes Maryanne Wolf, author of Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World.

Yes, this is another article bemoaning the loss of reading skills in this digital age of ours. But it too is based on hard – dare we say cold – evidence from multiple scientific fields. And if we are not paying attention, the technology will consume us before we know it. Our digital technology is rapidly changing the way we not only read but also think – and as this article informs us, even feel. We are losing much, and we need to change the way we use our technology. As this author argues, we need a “new literacy” for our digital age.

Here are a few choice thoughts for all of us to chew on and digest, especially parents and educators. Read the full article at the link below.

….This is not a simple, binary issue of print vs digital reading and technological innovation. As MIT scholar Sherry Turkle has written, we do not err as a society when we innovate, but when we ignore what we disrupt or diminish while innovating. In this hinge moment between print and digital cultures, society needs to confront what is diminishing in the expert reading circuit, what our children and older students are not developing, and what we can do about it.

…Multiple studies show that digital screen use may be causing a variety of troubling downstream effects on reading comprehension in older high school and college students. In Stavanger, Norway, psychologist Anne Mangen and her colleagues studied how high school students comprehend the same material in different mediums. Mangen’s group asked subjects questions about a short story whose plot had universal student appeal…; half of the students read [the book] on a Kindle, the other half in paperback. Results indicated that students who read on print were superior in their comprehension to screen-reading peers, particularly in their ability to sequence detail and reconstruct the plot in chronological order.

…Ziming Liu from San Jose State University has conducted a series of studies which indicate that the “new norm” in reading is skimming, with word-spotting and browsing through the text. Many readers now use an F or Z pattern when reading in which they sample the first line and then word-spot through the rest of the text. When the reading brain skims like this, it reduces time allocated to deep reading processes. In other words, we don’t have time to grasp complexity, to understand another’s feelings, to perceive beauty, and to create thoughts of the reader’s own.

…We need to cultivate a new kind of brain: a “bi-literate” reading brain capable of the deepest forms of thought in either digital or traditional mediums. A great deal hangs on it: the ability of citizens in a vibrant democracy to try on other perspectives and discern truth; the capacity of our children and grandchildren to appreciate and create beauty; and the ability in ourselves to go beyond our present glut of information to reach the knowledge and wisdom necessary to sustain a good society.

Source: Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound | Maryanne Wolf | Opinion | The Guardian

Published in: on August 27, 2018 at 10:50 PM  Comments (2)  

Benzonia in 1916: “Requiem for the Homemade”

waiting-train-catton-1987For our Thursday history post today we return to Bruce Catton’s Waiting for the Morning Train (Wayne State University Press, 1987), the multifaceted story of his life growing up in northern Michigan, specifically, Benzonia and the Crystal Lake area.

Chapter 11 is our next chapter to reference, and in “Requiem for the Homemade” Catton indeed gives us a funeral message (dirge for the dead!) as he sadly reflects on the passing of one era in American history – the “homemade” life of its early settlers, of which his life in Benzonia and his education at its little Christian Academy were a small part and picture – and the entrance of a new era – the “industrial age” with its “applied technology,” ushered in by the lumber barons and WWI. Life was changing, and with keen perception Catton puts his finger on the change. Fundamentally, it was a spiritual one, as he notes in these paragraphs:

I had been growing up with the notion that life’s problems, although often difficult, were at bottom simple. To confront them took courage, ideals, high principles and unwavering faith. The heroes of the 1860s [he is referring to the Civil War men] had these qualities; the crisis of their day had been met and passed, and a permanent gain had been made – which proved that the world was becoming progressively better because the advance of man rested on a simple exercise of a few ancient virtues. This was one of life’s certainties, as revealed on a Michigan hilltop in the early years of this century. But if today’s crisis had to be met in an entirely different way than the earlier one, all certainty was gone.

And it seemed clear that it was being met differently.

War does one thing pitilessly: it holds up, before the eyes of the society that is waging it, the essential reality on which that society is based. It is a cruel mirror, apparently as distorted as the mirrors in an amusement park, actually (on the long cold glance) not distorted at all. And what it showed in 1916, for that and subsequent generations, was that the race had entrusted itself to a new belief. Its highest faith was now in the machine rather than in the spirit; in the mechanical devices man’s brain could invent rather than in the illimitable miracle that originally set that brain free to speculate, to plan, to dream and to hope. The only reality worth mentioning is the one that can be seen, touched, tinkered with, improved – or, at times, exploded. Get into the machine you have made and ride wherever it takes you. There is no other road to salvation; or to damnation either, if that makes any difference.

To which Catton adds these words about this “harsh gospel”:

So man can do anything if he tries hard enough, and to try hard enough is not simply to furrow the brow and flex the muscles but to make unlimited use of every resource at hand. Moderation becomes impossible,and if it were possible it would be regarded as sinful. The new theology had borrowed, without credit, one of the fundamental planks in the old religion: despite his disclaimers, man stands at the center of the universe. It was made for him to use, and the best and wisest men are those who use it most lavishly. They destroy pine forests, and dig copper from beneath the cold northern lakes, and run the open pits across the iron ranges, impoverishing themselves at the same time they are enriching themselves: creating wealth, in short, by the act of destroying it, which is one of the most baffling mysteries of the new gospel.

You don’t have to fully agree with Catton’s analysis to understand his main point. The old era had the religion of faith in God, embracing the supernatural and solid virtues, while the new era had the religion of faith in man, embracing what can be seen and pinning all its hopes on man’s abilities and technologies, while at the same time discarding the old virtues.

And we now know where this “new” religion has taken us. Indeed, we cnm well understand Catton’s “requiem for the homemade.” But, at the same time, we also know the true, abiding, trustworthy gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He and His saving work are the source of all our hope and confidence as we face the future. Not man, not ourselves, not our technology, but Jesus is our hope.

Ten Technological Traps – J. Engelsma (Grace Gems)

Today’s “Grace Gems” devotional was an edifying surprise! It features Rev. Josh Engelsma’s post on “Ten Technological Traps” as first published on the RFPA’s blog. Engelsma is the pastor of Doon PRC (Doon, IA).

As we end this work week and anticipate the Lord’s Day tomorrow, this article certainly gives us reason for self-examination and careful reflection on how we are using technology in our own lives.

I re-post it here as found on the Grace Gems site.

Ten Technological Traps

(Joshua Engelsma, 2017, used with permission)

We live in a time of great technological advancement. Companies are constantly churning out new products that are hailed as smarter, more advanced, and more innovative. And in many ways we have made ourselves dependent on technology with our smartphones, tablets, and computers, too name just a few.

There is nothing inherently sinful in these things. In fact, they can be powerful tools for good in the service of God and his church, and therefore we can use them with a good conscience before God. “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5).

That being said, we ought to recognize that there are many dangers that these wonders of the technological age present. These dangers ought to make us careful in our use of these good gifts.

What follows are a list of ten such dangers, “traps” of technology:

1) We can waste an unbelievable amount of time using technology. How many hours are wasted staring at the TV, pursuing pointless information on the internet, looking at pictures on Instagram, and posting on Facebook? Too many, making this one of the top traps of technology.

2) Technology makes it relatively easy to sin. This is not to say that the same sins weren’t found fifty years ago, for they certainly were. But with technology there are more opportunities to sin and sinful things are more readily accessible. As a wise saint said to me recently, “When I was younger, you had to work pretty hard to get in trouble and access sinful things. Now you can get it in a few seconds on your phone.”

3) We can very easily become discontent through our use of technology. One area of discontentment is with the technology itself. We are dissatisfied with the smartphone or computer that we have and are always looking for something newer, better, and faster. It becomes an idol in our life. Another area of discontentment is with the things that we view through technology. Seeing the glamorous life of this athlete/actress/friend, I become discontented with my seemingly boring life.

4) Technology is often the means by which we backbite and slander. One wrong move and soon the news spreads like wildfire across the gossip channels of text messaging and social media.

5) Through our use of technology we often give a poor witness to the world of our faith. We post pictures of some ungodly musician’s concert we attended. We “like” this popular drama on TV. We let everyone know how excited we are about the release of the latest Hollywood movie.

6) It is very easy through technology to fall into the trap of unreality. We see pictures of the expensive vacations and fun activities that others are doing, and think that their life must be perfect. Young people might give the impression that anyone who’s anything is hanging out on Friday night, so that the one left at home feels left out and friendless.

7) In the age of instant information, it seems as if younger generations are losing the ability to read, write, listen, and think critically and deeply.

8) Our use of technology can weaken our ability to converse and thus hurt our relationships to others. It seems pretty common to go into a restaurant and see a husband and wife sitting across from one another, both staring at their phones. It seems pretty common to try and have a conversation with a teenager while their face is buried in their phone.

9) There is the danger with technology of over-sharing information. I’m all for getting to know other people better and sharing their joys and sorrows. But I don’t need to know what you just ate for breakfast. I don’t need to know a disagreement that you had with your spouse. I don’t need to know that you’re angry at your coworkers. I don’t need to know (usually) that you’re having an all-around bad day.

10) One of the dangers of technology is that we are able to retreat into a world without any accountability. When we are at work, we have the accountability of employers and employees. When we are at home, we have the accountability of spouses, parents, children, siblings. When we are at school, we have the accountability of teachers and classmates. But with technology we can often enter a world with little or no accountability. We can say things that we wouldn’t ordinarily say. We can sneak off to our bedroom and watch all sorts of vile things. And if anyone looks over our shoulder or asks to see our device, we hide behind the vault-door of passwords.

The Deficits of the iPhone Generation | Public Discourse

Members of iGen suffer from serious intellectual and moral deficits: they are ill-informed, uninterested in pursuing relevant information, passionate without being active, afraid of debate with those who disagree, and uninterested in learning or exploration.

Such is the summary of this revealing book review posted yesterday on The Witherspoon Institute’s website. The author introduces us to the book he reviews in the opening paragraph:

“iGen” is both the title of Jean M. Twenge’s most recent book (subtitle: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy, and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood), and the name she has coined for the generation succeeding the Millennials. Twenge, who has been studying generational differences for a quarter century, includes within iGen those born between 1995 and 2012, plus or minus a bit. What ties this generation together? It is their hitherto unknown relationship to social media and its technological platform: they are “the first generation to enter adolescence with smartphones already in their hands.”

Today’s parents and educators must pay attention to what Twenge and other social and cultural critics are now saying about this “iGen.” It is troubling, showing again the harsh reality of what Marshall McLuhan said years ago (1964!) when he wrote, ‘The medium is the message.”

Here is just a small part of the troubling fruits of what smartphone technology has done to our generation:

Mental Health and Meaninglessness

First, as Twenge argues extensively, there is a mental-health deficit, one clearly correlated with screen time: “teens who spend more time on screens are more likely to be depressed, and those who spend more time on nonscreen activities are less likely to be depressed.” This, in turn, leads to a higher risk of suicide. One reason for the connection between smartphone/internet use and depression is the predominance of cyberbullying. Another is the negative impact that excessive smartphone use has on sleep. And surely yet another is the simple disconnectedness from real things and real people that is experienced by those whose primary forms of personal interaction are mediated by a screen.

Twenge’s advice in response to this is admirably direct: “Put down the phone.” This is exactly right. But this will never happen unless parents are smarter about when to introduce smartphones in their children’s lives. I was interested recently to hear of a “Wait Until 8th” movement, attempting to convince parents not to allow their children to use smartphones until at least eighth grade. That is a start, but what eighth-grader really needs constant access to the internet? “Nein until 9th” or “When? 10th” would be even better.

And this:

Second, there is a deficit of meaning. This deficit shows up in several places in Twenge’s book. The smartphone and its virtual spaces seem to be the primary place where teens spend time together. Their capacity for and interest in serious personal relationships with others is deeply impaired. Another example: Twenge devotes a chapter to the declining religious participation of iGen. According to Twenge, by 2016, “one out of three 18-24 year olds said they did not believe in God.” Twenge attributes this in part to “American culture’s increasing focus on individualism,” and this seems plausible.

Are we still living with the illusion that all our technology has no effect on us and our children? Think again. Better yet, read on at the link below and learn the dangerous effects of the tools of our age. And then commit to using today’s technology in moderation, without having it control you and your life. And, finally, return to the “quiet” life of reading and reflection. That is much better for the soul – and for the body.

Source: The Deficits of the iPhone Generation | Public Discourse

A Whole Issue on Bullying?! Yes, and Necessary – The March 2018 “Beacon Lights”

Anti-Bully BL-ad-2018

Soon the March 2018 issue of the Beacon Lights will be out (the Protestant Reformed youth magazine), and it is an entire issue devoted to the subject of bullying.

Yes, bullying, that subject which has received so much attention in the world about us and which is now also being confronted in the church of Christ and kingdom of God. Bullying, that hateful, shameful, powerful conduct that has such tragic consequences in the lives of children and young people – covenant, Christian children and young people too. Perhaps all the more so because it has been carried out by fellow professing covenant, Christian children and young people. Indeed, it is time for this conduct to be called out and confronted, confessed and killed – with the sword of the Spirit and the blood of Jesus.

Are we ready to face the sad sin of bullying?

In this special March issue you will read the subject introduced by managing editor Ryan Kregel. Part of what he has to say is this:

Today, the violence of bullying exists in homes and workplaces. Bullying happens in schools, public and Christian. Bullies come in all ages, male and female. Bullies use many means to accomplish their goal of dominating another person. Sometimes physical abuse is the method, whether a violent, even bloody assault at one time or the daily slapping, spitting, and tripping of the victim. Bullying is also manifest in words. Sometimes the victim endures a barrage of insults day after day. Other times the words are written in notes passed around the classroom, sent as text messages, scratched into the wall of the bathroom stall, or posted on social media. No matter their form, they are meant to hurt, cut down, and kill.

Maybe you have witnessed bullying at school or elsewhere. You probably noticed that the victim didn’t go on the defensive because most victims do not. So did you do anything about it? Did you make their unspoken voice heard? Did you defend the victim or did you join in? Keep in mind that helping a victim of bullying must go further than just “telling off” the bully. Helping ought to include befriending the victim. Through this action we show an awareness of how we ourselves have been befriended by God through Jesus Christ.

From the editor, Dewey Engelsma, you will read about “Murder on a School Bus” and “Delivering the Helpless” (more on these in another post). You will also find articles on “The Offense of Cyberbullying” and “A Letter of Comfort for the Bullied Young Person.”

Yes, the sin of bullying is exposed in this BL issue. It is a painful matter.  But the marvelous mercy of God is also laid bare. Mercy that leads to confession and prayer for help. Mercy that forgives and heals. Mercy that makes us merciful to confront the bully and to help the helpless. As Mr. Kregel adds at the end of his introduction,

Thanks be to God that there is comfort for the
victim of bullying. God promises to “give his angels
charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways” (Ps.
91:11). He also says of the one in need of help, “He
shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be
with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor
him” (v. 15).

BL-logoWatch for this issue, and when it comes read it carefully and prayerfully. If you are not yet a subscriber, visit the Beacon Light’s subscription page where you will find information on how to become one. Now would be a good time to join the ranks.

How shall we respond to the sins of our land? – Prof. B. Gritters

SB-Jan15-2018-coverWe live in very wicked lands. Of course, we must not partake of their evils or we will perish with them. But how do we respond to these evils? Are we aware of the danger of a self-righteous anger very similar to the one we criticize in others? How should I, as a Christian respond?

I will begin by expressing to God sorrow for the sins of the nation of which I am a part. …I am a citizen of this land and thus guilty of her sins by corporate responsibility. We start there, humbling ourselves before God and confessing our nation’s sins. If righteous Daniel in Babylonian captivity could confess as his own the sins of Israel, of which he had no active and conscious part (Dan.9 is one of the most moving confessions in all of Scripture), citizens of a country do well to confess their guilt for the country’s sins.

Then, we will ask what active part we have played in the sins of the nation. In what do we participate? In its sexual sin? On television, in video games, on the Internet, in books? In what way do we approve of or find pleasure in its violence? What part of the lie do we willingly partake in by judging rashly, or believing every word we hear in the politically conservative news? Does our use of social media always comport with the call to speak the truth in love?

And what of our own sinful nature? Full of corruption of every sort, with the potential of sin of every kind, burning with lusts no different than those of any unbeliever, we confess that we are evil, born in sin. We are, in our nature, so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of performing any good and inclined to all wickedness. We confess this with sincerity, and deepest humility and shame.

We see the flood ready to overwhelm us.

By faith, though, we do not despair. Certainly, we do not look with self-righteous pride at everyone else, but with shame at our own sins and sinfulness. And then we flee from this destructive flood to Jesus Christ and to His church, the ‘ark’ where is safety.

Quoted from the closing portion of the editorial of Prof. B. Gritters in the January 15, 2018 issue of the Standard Bearer. The title of this article is “What has happened to the United States?” Look for more on this in the issues to come (Feb.1 and Feb.15).