Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Not too young to learn

Do you think your little child is too young to be taught important lessons? She is learning all the time, even when she doesn’t appear to be paying attention. Consider this item that appeared in the newspaper 25 years ago when we were living in Montreal.

A diabetic mother was worried what would happen if she fell into a diabetic coma while her husband was at work. She tried to teach her three year old daughter how to call 911 for help. She explained and demonstrated several times, but the little girl didn’t appear to comprehend and the mother decided she was just too young.

One day it happened. The mother lost consciousness. The little girl tried to awaken her, then went to the phone, picked up the receiver and pushed the buttons 9-1-1. When someone answered she said “Bobo maman, bobo maman” (Mommy owie, Mommy owie). Then she set the receiver down, unlocked the front door and stood by the window to wait for help to arrive.

First came a police car, then a fire engine and then an ambulance. All with personnel trained to help in such emergencies. One of them called the father, but by the time he arrived home his wife was awake and recovered. Thanks to a little girl who really was listening.

Day one of my eightieth year

Image by M W from Pixabay 

Another birthday, this one is number 79. That many candles on a birthday cake would set off the smoke alarm; perhaps I should feel more alarmed than I do.

In my younger days I couldn’t comprehend the world being able to withstand the impact when all those 9’s in 1999 would rotate to become 2000. It seems I wasn’t alone in having irrational fears about that date, but it is 21 years behind us now. So many years are behind me now that I begin to wonder how many remain in front of me.

I had my annual physical checkup yesterday and the doctor found my heart and lungs were sound. I complained of sciatica in one hip and he thought it was probably arthritis. After checking out the range of pain free movement in my legs he dismissed that idea. So I am hale and hearty, with twinges of discomfort here and there to tell me that my body remembers all those years that are behind me.

As I grow older it becomes clear that I need to choose to become the kind of old guy who is interested in the people and goings on around me. There are enough complainers already, saying how the world isn’t what it used to be, mainly because no one cares about them anymore. Some old people are story tellers, they are more interesting, but eventually you have heard all the stories and they’re not learning new ones.

Story telling isn’t a bad thing. Every person has a story that is interesting and instructive to others, but some folks get into a rut of telling and retelling just a small part of their story. It believe it would be a good school project for upper grade children to interview the elderly, try to draw out their stories and write them down.

The really delightful older people are those who want to hear your story, and those who ask you what you want to hear about the things they have done and seen in life. It seems to me that people like that usually don’t develop dementia so soon as others. There are many causes of dementia, but medical experts tell us the brain is a plastic organ, able to develop new paths of memory in people with an active curiosity.

I consider myself to have an active mind. At times my curiosity leads me to information that causes me to change my mind about something. That is a healthy exercise for the mind. Another helpful exercise would be to become more of an active listener to other people. Not an aggressive listener, but less of a passive observer. Just as I have to choose to get physical exercise because my work no longer involves much physical activity, so I must choose to do things that exercise my mind, to keep it fit and healthy.

You don’t know what you don’t know

There’s a deep meaning in that short statement, but if you’ve never heard it before it probably sounds like childish babbling. Let me unpack it for you. What this statement tells me is that if I don’t know something, I don’t even know that there is a gap in my knowledge.

Like the time when I was learning French grammar and we got to the subjunctive mood. It made no sense to me, there is nothing like it in English but it seemed terribly important in French. My head hurt for weeks as I struggled to grasp the significance of this foreign way of speech. One day the fog and the cobwebs disappeared from my brain, at least from one little corner of my brain, and I understood the subjunctive mood.

And I realized that it was not foreign to English. I’d been hearing it, reading it, using it most of my life since I learned to speak, without knowing it. Every tine I said “Have a good day,” or “If I were in your shoes,” I was using the subjunctive. The Bible is stuffed with examples, from the third verse of the Bible when God said “Let there be light,” to the Lord’s prayer, which begins with “hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” It is a means of expressing a wish. Back in Genesis, whenever God expressed a wish it instantly became reality.

There is a difference in the way dogs and cats communicate. When a dog wags his tail, he’s saying “Let’s be friends.” When a cat’s tail makes similar motions, she is getting ready to pounce on something. Therein lies the potential of a lifelong crisis of communication.

Even a simple word like college can be the source of miscommunication. When people in the US speak of a college education, they mean what we in Canada call a university education. In Canada a college provides post-secondary vocational or general education that does not lead to a degree. And in France, where the word originated, college is middle school, coming between elementary school and the lycée, or high school.

In our own country we assume that everyone else has the same set of references for understanding words, gestures and actions that we do. When people of a different background react to our words or actions in unexpected ways, we tend to think they are a bit daft. They probably think the same of us.

Most likely the real problem is that we don’t know that we don’t know. If we can open our minds to that thought, we can receive new information to stretch our minds and make us better able to understand other people.

Witnesses of the Light

As the apostle John begins telling the gospel story, he identifies Jesus as the Light of the World. Then he says “There was a man named John,” referring to another John, John the Baptist, and says of him, “He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.”

Two thousand years later the world still needs someone to bear witness of that Light. That would be you and me, all who live by faith in Jesus Christ. Are we finding it difficult to do that? Or do we think people don’t want to hear? Perhaps we have become too much at ease in the world as it is, forgetting that it is a wilderness of woe. A good starting point is to realize that most people around us are not happy with the way life is going for them. They think there must be a better way, they try to find it, but they don’t really know what it is they are looking for.

We cannot force people to see the light. Force is characteristic of the realm of darkness and we cannot use the means of the enemy of the light to bring people to the light. The first step, then, in being witnesses of the Light, is to be sure that we ourselves are wholly living in that Light.

I am not that Light. I can, and should, speak the truth boldly. But I must remember that it is the Holy Spirit that leads people into all truth, not me.

I should contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints; that is I must be steadfast in maintaining its truth, despite opposition. Yet I must not be quarrelsome, for I am not the one who delivered that truth to mankind.

I must demonstrate the reality of the faith by loving everyone as God does; even those who are opposed. I don’t know what is in people’s hearts. God knows; He will judge; I don’t need to.

Truth, or a convincing approximation of the truth, can satisfy the mind for a time, but it leaves the heart longing for something more. True faith that works by love will satisfy both heart and mind and draw people to seek fellowship with others whose hearts and lives demonstrate the work of the Holy Spirit.

Deathbed repentance

Many a person spends his life being right. He is frustrated that other people just can’t admit that he is right. Contacts with friends and family grow cool and infrequent. Despite his care to protect himself from dishonest business people, he has often gotten the short end of a deal. He is not happy, but he has never been the one who was in the wrong.

Often such a person, towards the end of his life, feels a great loneliness; not even God sympathizes with him. Sometimes that causes his to open his eyes and see that things have not been as he thought. Proving that he is right doesn’t matter any more. His problems were mostly all his own doing. What he needs is peace and fellowship with God and with his family and friends.

This is called repentance and when one repents without condition, God forgives. And when God forgives, people do too. Relationships are healed; peace and joy that were maybe a dim memory now warm his heart and guide his life.

Such a thing is wonderful to see. But it doesn’t happen to everyone, neither do we have to live in misery for years before it happens. We can make the choice much sooner, preferably in our youth, to abandon our pride and selfish desire to be right.

I believe that was what Leenaert Bouwens meant when someone came to him to request baptism and he replied “Go home and die first. I never baptize living people.”

Leenaert Bouwens was a sixteenth century Anabaptist preacher who baptized 10,000 people during the years of his ministry. He knew that we cannot be a Christian until our pride and self-righteousness die and are thrown on the bonfire of repentance.

The sad state of education in Canada in 1953

The bored “graduates” of elementary and high schools often are ignorant of things that they might be expected to know, and they do not care to learn. They lack an object in life, they are unaware of the joy of achievement. They cannot read, write or think. They can often type, but too often they cannot construct a grammatical sentence. They can emit platitudes, but they can neither explain nor defend them. They are as incapable of logic as they are ignorant of its name. Yet they are not stupid, or ill-intentioned or incurably indifferent to what they have never learned to call their duty. They are only ignorant, lazy and unaware of the exciting demands of a society from which they have been carefully isolated.

From So little for the Mind, by Hilda Neatby, copyright 1953 by Clarke, Irwin, Toronto.

Hilda Neatby was educated at the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Minnesota and the University of Paris. She taught at the University of Saskatchewan and was head of the History department from 1958 to 1969.

What’s wrong with the world?

The spirit of the world tells us: “You’re OK. You’re doing the best you can under the circumstances. Your problems are caused by the people around you, your family, your co-workers, your teachers, the government. You need to do what is right for you and try to get those others to change.”

There in a nutshell is the source of most of the world’s problems. The spirit of the world, really a host of demonic spirits, pretends to comfort us by telling us to blame others for our problems. That leads to mistrust, conflict, hatred and makes the problems insoluble. Every supposed solution just creates new conflict, new trouble. Every revolutionary, when he overthrows the oppressor, becomes the new oppressor.

How can one escape from this hopeless cycle? The answer is in the Bible. That’s not a popular book anymore, especially since many people who call themselves Bible-believing Christians are actually thinking and acting according to the spirit of the world. But the Bible has a radical solution, one that actually works. It does not tell us to go out and fight against all that is wrong in the world around us, but to fight against what is wrong within us.

The Spirit of Truth tells us: “Are you having trouble? Go look in the mirror, there you will see the source of all your troubles. I can’t help you change the things others do, but if you ask me I can change you.”

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:12 ).“Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” (John 14:17 ).“When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13 ).“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32 ).

How does admitting that I am the problem set me free? Let me count the ways:

  1. God has forgiven me for all my past sins.
  2. I find that God does not demand flawless performance, all He asks is that I follow where He leads, one step at a time.
  3. I can stop batting my head against the wall, trying to change the world.
  4. I can appreciate the good that other people do without feeling like a hypocrite.
  5. When I cease to be the source of friction in my dealings with other people I find that they are far nicer people than I had ever imagined.

Why reverends should refrain from making public policy pronouncements

Image by torstensimon from Pixabay

The Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, in a recent speech to the British parliament, was highly critical of Canada for over-ordering Covid-19 vaccines. He said that we have five times what we need in the pipeline.

The view from this end of the pipeline is quite different. The pipeline ran dry the week before last and the proportion of people vaccinated so far is much less than many other countries. The vaccines are supposed to start trickling out of the pipeline again next week, but there are great uncertainties about how long it will take to receive enough for all of our population.

The Canadian government has no plan to vaccinate us all five or ten times, nor to stockpile more than we need so other countries cannot get what they need. They are just trying to get enough, from whatever source they can. They have ordered from a number of different companies. Many of those vaccines are not even approved as yet.

I don’t want to seem disrespectful of the Most Reverend Mr. Welby, but I wish he would have shown a little more respect for the facts.

Planet Earth: Future Haze

I think my wife has a kindly way of cutting through the swirling fog of prophetic teachings.

Christine's Collection

As I sat down to write more about the subject of pre-millennialism, I asked my husband how he remembers this and that. So he’s handed me several books on the subject of prophecy. About a weeks’ worth of reading. 🙂 Prophecy is so complex and so much could be written, but I’d really like to keep this simple for those of you who are interested in reading it.
Let’s start in the dim distant past….

The Dormant Pre-millennial Doctrine Starts to Grow

According to Dave MacPherson in his book, The Incredible Cover-Up – © 1975 by Logos International – there was some pre-millennial thinking in the US colonies before 1830. It did rise somewhat during the mid-1800s with currents blowing in from a mini charismatic revival in Scotland and England, together with J N Darby’s teachings. It really began to take hold during the Civil War and by the 1870s…

View original post 1,832 more words

The writing comes first

Self-publishing platforms and print on demand services have made it possible for every one of us to write and publish a book. easily and inexpensively. There are more books being published today than ever before; most of them sell about 100 copies. Those of us who aspire to do better than that are told that we have to put as much effort into marketing our book as we did in writing it. We need to make ourselves visible on all the social media platforms, use every marketing tool to get our books noticed.

Maybe that’s true. But Rejean Ducharme did none of that and his books flew off the shelves all over the French-speaking world. He never made public appearances, never gave interviews, only two photographs exist of him, from his younger years. He lived as an ordinary guy in Montreal, his friends and family respected his wishes and never talked about him to the media. When he was awarded literary prizes, his wife was the one who attended the events on his behalf. When publishers in Quebec rejected his manuscripts, he sent the manuscripts for three novels to Gallimard in Paris. They bought all three, published the first one in 1966 and published all his novels from that time on.

I confess that I have not read any of his books. Evidently he had fun with words, but that in itself would not sell a lot of books. The real key to his success, from all that I read about his books, is that his characters mirrored the aspirations, disappointments and experiences that make up the daily lives of the readers.

All the stories have already been written. We cannot come up with a unique plot that has not already been used by writers like Dickens, Dostoevsky and Dumas. What we have to do is write those stories in a way that lets the reader see something that they have never seen in quite that way before. The characters must not be wooden props to illustrate our narrative. The characters are the story, the reader must be able to experience their hopes, joys, sorrows, frustrations, defeats and victories.

Writing a believable story is not an abstract, theoretical exercise. Writers have described their work as bleeding onto the paper, or undressing in public. If we can delve into our experiences, the painful ones, the ones we never wanted anyone to know about, and weave them into our story, readers will find their own deep feelings compel them to continue reading. If our goal in writing is to help others, we cannot draw a privacy curtain around the things we are ashamed of in our own past. Whether we are writing memoir or fiction, the writing must flow from the heart to touch the reader’s heart.

Perhaps we do live in an era that requires writers to put more effort into marketing. But no amount of marketing is going to sell a dead horse; first we must ensure that the horse is alive.

%d bloggers like this: