Letters 2

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Baptized in a Violent World

A Christian response to violence should involve not just undiscerning peace and mercy, but should include justice and anger as well (“Being Baptized in a Violent World,” October 2007).

After all, God's attributes include mercy and peace, but also justice and righteous anger. Jesus drove the moneychangers from the temple with a whip. Abraham rescued Lot with 318 trained men by attacking Lot's captor, and was then blessed by Melchizidek because of it. Nehemiah, angry at the desecration of the temple and failure of men to lead, beat the offenders and pulled out their hair. Hebrews 11, in its list of the faithful, includes those who toppled the walls of Jericho, who "conquered kingdoms, administered justice . . . and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies."

Obviously the context of those verses is important, but violence cannot be categorically declared "the work of Satan" on the basis of biblical texts, as Rev. Kromminga does.

Kromminga's suggestion that we should grow up and leave "childish" violence behind is correct. We should be peacemakers. But sometimes making peace involves visiting justice on those who truly do sow hatred and violence.

—Jason AddinkGilbert, Ariz.

Rev. Kromminga cites an example of the destructive spiral of violence in the story of Cain. If there is one thing that story proves it’s that it’s not the weapon that kills, but rather the sinful human heart. Cain did not have access to firearms, but he still managed to kill his brother. I do not believe that if all the children in the world stopped playing with toy guns that violence would drop. Think of all the people who died on 9-11. There was not a single gun used. Did you stop using box cutters or flying on airplanes? After all, they were used as a means of violence to kill people.

This summer I had the opportunity to visit a former concentration camp in Austria. There my husband and I watched a movie in which some survivors spoke of their experiences. The happiest day of their lives was when they saw American soldiers, dressed in camouflage and carrying guns, walk into the camp.

So do I renounce Satan and all his works? You better believe I do! But I also realize that often peace is the result of military strength. It’s my prayer that our denominational publication will take the time to study both sides of issues and not reach simplistic solutions.

—Joni HallMinnetonka, Minn.

Senior Youth Pastors?

Thank you for examining the qualifications expected for a youth pastor (“Wanted: Youth Pastor, a.k.a. Superman or Wonder Woman,” October 2007). It’s interesting that this role is always seen as a junior, secondary, or associate position within the church, under the guidance and supervision of the "lead" or "senior" pastor.

Are there any churches out there with the visionary approach of having the lead pastor focus on youth and hiring a "junior" pastor to deal with us older folks? That kind of church would continue to thrive and not need to close its doors in a few decades.

—Ben VanderlugtLondon, Ontario

Avoiding the Debt Trap

Thanks for the informative article on "Avoiding the Debt Trap," (October 2007). A couple of comments though.

First, when I speak to "my" financial advisor at the bank about net worth, she always includes the full market value of my Reg. Retirement  Savings Plan even though something like 45 percent immediately becomes  payable to the Canadian government as taxes when I decide to cash it in. To me that means the RRSP contributes a lot less to my "net worth," and similarly, it likely means that many more than 6.5 percent of Canadian families have a negative net worth.

Second, the professors advise starting to save for retirement as early as age 15. That's a good idea, but in Canada, unless a teenager is earning more than $30,000, it’s highly likely that the RRSP route is not the best. The tax benefit on the RRSP contribution is roughly 24 percent or less, while the tax rate at the time of withdrawal will likely be well over 40 percent. This is especially the case for those who get their college education and reap the expected financial rewards of a good corporate pension.

Thanks again for the informative article and the wise advice.

—Mel MelissenChilliwack, British Columbia

CRC Ministry Report

We would like to thank The Banner for the annual ministry report (October 2007). It was filled with excellent descriptions and presentations of the work each of the ministries of the Christian Reformed Church, clearly presented in an efficient manner. However, what we missed was a word of direct thanks to the members of the CRC who have so joyously given so that the work of the Lord may be pursued in many different ways.

—Ardell and Henry Persenaire Hogeterp

Unwelcome Plug

I was disappointed, if not offended, to see included in the "Tuned In" section of the October Banner a plug for the book Become a Better You, written by Joel Osteen, the self help guru and senior pastor of a megachurch in Houston who proclaims a “health and wealth” or “prosperity” gospel.

  Osteen's teaching gives no warning of the gravity of humankind's total depravity, sin and condemnation, or the good news of the pardon and salvation God has provided through Christ's saving work alone. Rather, his widely popular message appears to be that God loves you, and if you do your best God will make your life successful. And that's a different gospel.

—Joe A. SergeOshawa, Ontario

Normally I am very appreciative of the material you cover in "Tuned In." Thank you for it. It’s one way in which you encourage the broader church to be aware of God's work in the areas of literature, movies, music, and technology—a worthy practice in light of the fact that as Reformed Christians we are trying to recognize Christ's claims in all areas of life.

However, I would assume that the material you want to cover in that section would be worthy or beneficial of our time. In that light I must ask the question, “Why, oh why are you trumpeting Joel Osteen's Become a Better You? This book does not fit into a Reformed or Christian sphere at all. Although Osteen appears to be faithful, his theology results in some terribly misguided Christians.

—Rev. Darren RoordaKitchener, Ontario

Thanks, Eppinga!

I have been reading The Banner for decades and profiting thereby in many ways. I have especially enjoyed Rev. Jacob D. Eppinga’s column, “Cabbages and Kings.”

My thanks to him for his enjoyable, helpful, insightful, and very edifying articles. He frequently combines humor with scriptural truth while tossing in a lot of interesting personal experiences. That’s a heady combination, and in my opinion, no one does it better.

It is no dauntless task to turn out the number of columns he has written over time. He’s the king of quantity as well as quality. So thanks ever so much, Rev. Eppinga, for your Christian ministry via both pulpit and pen. And thanks be to God for making you a blessing to me and to many.

—Al WellsEditor, National Periodical LibraryClearwater, Fla.

Knitting Lessons

Gwen Penning Genzink's article on knitting ("Lives Made by Hand," September 2007) resonated with me. While knitting, I have often been struck by the fact that if I follow instructions, the pattern comes forth—slowly but beautifully. If I get careless or too hurried and lose or add some stitches, a pattern still emerges, but it is no longer

beautiful—it has lost its intended design. How vital, then, if I want to live a life that looks beautiful to God and others, I must carefully follow the instructions in God's Word.

Further, when I have had to rip out what I have incorrectly knitted, it is comforting to know that not only have my mistakes completely disappeared, but that the same yarn I used before can be used again, this time to get it right. God is a God who gives me a second chance.

Lastly, I take comfort in knowing that the God who knit me together in my mother's womb (Psalm 139) is also in control of the skein of yarn that is my life—from its beginning to its end!

My appreciation to Gwen.

—Trudy Vander VeenDenver, Colo.

Becoming a Better Sinner

The article "Becoming a Better Sinner" by Rev. Ron Vanderwell caught my eye (September 2007). I found it an excellent summary of what we believe, an enjoyable read, and a great metaphor to explain a concept that I sometimes find myself forgetting. I thought it would be a good piece to use as a staff devotion at Houston Christian School in British Columbia. After I shared the article, staff members expressed opinions similar to mine—we really enjoyed it! We would like to thank Rev. Vanderwell and encourage the possibility of more contributions from him.

—Ed KronemeyerHouston, British Columbia   

Never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit! Christ has given us victory over sin, but we have to choose to take it. When we choose to walk in obedience to the Spirit, we set aside the things of this world, both in our hearts and in practice. Choosing to walk in the Spirit is a decision we all must make every day, but there is victory and power just as God’s Word promises.

—Trevor Crowe

From Cradle to Grave

In your editorial from "From Cradle to Grave" (September 2007), you mention that few of our elders are elderly. You then make an appeal to elderly members to stay home and consider serving on council.

I agree wholeheartedly with your appeal, but I wonder if that would be a complete answer to your question "What's up with that?" I have served many terms in council in our small church and have been involved with evangelism and so on. Yet in the past five years I have not been approached at all. This makes me think that perhaps the problem is not that older members are unwilling to serve but that younger members don't want them to serve.

I find this difficult but have decided that this is not going to turn me into a grumpy old man—I will serve wherever I can. I have discovered that there is not much difference between being a member and being a member of council in regards to the level of service you can give to the church. Maybe being an elder and deacon is a bit overrated? Are not these offices in the church to teach members to serve?

—Andy Verboom

Poverty and Justice

I was encouraged to see the September Banner article “Justice Seekers Gather in Washington, D.C.” The Christian Reformed Church has an impressive history of doing works of mercy, including those of the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee. This is consistent with the mandate of Micah 6:8 to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. . . .”

However, the justice aspects may be more difficult. That requires looking at cause and effect and often involves decisions and policies of government. We have been more reluctant to address those issues, which actually affect many more people and can create the conditions that we then respond to with works of mercy. Nelson Mandela expressed this when he said, “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity, it is an act of justice.”

Closely related is the article in the same Banner, “Keeping the Faith in the Holy Land,” where a visiting team saw firsthand the results of the Israeli occupation. That brought them in direct contact with immense injustices. I hope that now they will write clearly about what they witnessed and also discuss the causes.

—Jake TerpstraGrand Rapids, Mich.

The Church Has Left the Building

Reading The Banner can be uplifting. At other times it makes me wonder which direction we are going. The story “The Church Has Left the Building” (September 2007) sounds all pious and nice, but when it comes to building picnic tables on Sunday morning, we should ask ourselves, Where is the obedience to the commandment “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy”?

I think a lot of problems in our churches exist because we do not obey God’s laws anymore but find all kinds of reasons to make everything look good, whether we contribute it to the times we live in or other circumstances.

—Audrey NeerhofChatsworth, Ontario

Not Funny

While I usually enjoy the "Punch Lines" section of The Banner, the "joke" about the Mississippi State Trooper (September 2007) portrayed a cultural insensitivity that I would not expect to find in The Banner. The Christian Reformed Church has made inroads into the South over the past several years, but such insensitive and inaccurate (since I 40 doesn't even pass through Mississippi) jokes about Southern dialect and poor grammar simply reinforce untrue stereotypes about Southerners.

—Rev. Jerry Hoek,Faith CRCNashville, Tenn.

A Shared View

Thank you for a thoughtful and informative article by Rev. Joel Nederhood (“Our Dangerous Journey,” IMHO, September 2007). And thanks especially for printing the Web address of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (www.cbmw.org). I was so encouraged to find a sensible and biblical approach to what has become the emotional issue of women in office, and was encouraged to discover my own findings are shared by others.

—Marsha HendersonVictoria, British Columbia

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