Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

The beauty of Jesus – Part One

Jesus and his disciples had been in Jerusalem and were returning to Galilee. The road took them through Samaria and when they came near the town of Sychar Jesus sent the disciples into town to buy food. He stayed by Jacob’s well, because he had an appointment there. The woman who was coming to the well didn’t know she had a divine appointment, but Jesus did.

Jews considered Samaritans to be an unclean people and believed they would defile themselves if they touched anything that had been touched by a Samaritan. When the Samaritan woman came to the well, she recognized Jesus as being a Jew and expected he would ignore her.

Jesus asked her for a drink. That was unheard of, for a Jew to speak to a Samaritan woman, let alone ask for a drink from something she had touched. Jesus spoke to her of living water and revealed to her that he knew she had been married and divorced five times.

The Samaritans held strictly to the Mosaic law, as did the Jews. There is no provision in that law for a woman to divorce her husband, but a man could divorce his wife for any frivolous reason. Perhaps he didn’t like the shape of her nose, perhaps she had burned his toast once too often (or whatever the equivalent might have been in that day). This woman had been married and dumped by five men. Jesus mentioned another man, to whom she was not married. Perhaps she was betrothed but not yet married, or perhaps some kindly man had offered her a place to stay with no intention to take her as his wife.

Then the woman challenged him on the differences in the beliefs of the Jews and the Samaritans. Jesus refused to be drawn in, simply saying that Jerusalem and Mount Gérizim didn’t matter any more, but it was time for true believers to worship God in spirit and in truth.

The woman then said that she knew that all things would be made clear when Messiah came. Jesus told her “I am the Messiah,” something that he had never previously said to anyone. The woman believed him and ran to tell the people of her town.

The disciples returned with food and pressed Jesus to eat. He was not ready yet to eat but spoke to them of the harvest, telling them to lift up their eyes and see the fields that were ripe for the harvest. What did they see when they looked up? A stream of the despised Samaritans coming out of the town to the well to meet the Messiah.

Sore shoulder

I got a flu shot Monday afternoon, in my left shoulder. By evening any movement of my right shoulder was very painful and I got very little sleep. Who knew a flu shot could do that?

If a man can smile when things go wrong,
He’s thought of something he can blame it on.

In reality, to blame arthritis in the right shoulder on vaccination in the left shoulder makes no sense. There is no cause and effect, just coincidence. Kind of like the anti-vaxxers who blame autism and a whole bunch of other things on vaccination, even though scientific research has never found a connection.

I’ve been troubled with arthritis in that shoulder for years. Most of the time it’s pretty minor, but I must have done something Monday to aggravate it. I’ve been using Voltaren, last night I slept on the recliner and tonight I have almost full movement without pain.

The mask

I am very susceptible to respiratory allergies. For that reason I wear a dust mask the first time I mow the lawn in spring. The mower stirs up the dried leaves, dust and mould that have accumulated in the lawn and I know I will have trouble breathing for a few days afterwards if I don’t wear a mask.

This year, half way through summer it turned hot and dry and the grass stopped growing. I mowed the grass one last time in fall to trim it evenly and mulch the tree leaves that had fallen. I wore a mask again for that. My eyes were itchy for a few days after, but I could breathe freely.

Then I thought of the COVID season we are in. If I have no problem wearing a mask to protect myself, why should I have a problem wearing a mask to protect others? If wearing a mask will help to break the chain of transmission of the virus, to people who I know and people I don’t know, then it makes sense to do it.

This is not a season for Christians to become more self-centred, rather we should be even more concerned with the well being of others than we are at other times.

Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19, 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8.)

Subversion of the desires

Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay 

It is pretty obvious that the debasement of the human mind caused by a constant flow of fraudulent advertising is no trivial thing. There is more than one way to conquer a country.
-Raymond Chandler

Our quirksome language

The English suffix -some is not the same as the adjective some, which means an unspecified quantity. The suffix -some means causing, or characterized by. Quirksome is not in any of my dictionaries, but here are some words that are:

awesome
burdensome
cuddlesome
fearsome
gladsome
irksome
loathsome
meddlesome
quarrelsome
tiresome
toilsome
troublesome
wearisome
worrisome

And here are a few more that need some explaining:

fulsome – can have a positive or a negative connotation. Fulsome praise may mean abundant praise or it may mean overdone praise.
gruesome – in the Scots tongue, grue means to shudder.
handsome – the original meaning was “easily handled”. Over time it has morphed into meaning good-looking, attractive, or generous (as in a handsome financial gift or settlement).
noisome – As a child I couldn’t understand how a pestilence could be noisy. In time I accepted that noisome meant something else. Finally I checked the dictionary and found that the prefix noi- came from annoying. Thus a noisome pestilence is a disease epidemic that produces the annoying stench of sickness and death.

I’m sure you philologists (word-lovers) out there can add to my list.

Principalities and Powers

Immediately after Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, he disappeared into the wilderness and fasted for forty days. Then Satan came to him and offered to let Jesus rule all the kingdoms of the world if he would acknowledge Satan as supreme. “Just bow down and worship me and you can govern the world as you wish. But in the end the people are still mine.” That would have avoided the necessity of the cross. Some Christians refuse to believe that the kingdoms of the world were Satan’s to offer. But how else would the offer have been a temptation?

Jesus did not come to the world to serve as a viceroy in Satan’s kingdom. He came to overthrow Satan’s kingdom, set people free from bondage to Satan and establish his own kingdom.

In the most stunning reversal of fortune in history, at the moment when Jesus hug dying on the cross and Satan thought he had eliminated Jesus as a threat, Jesus called out to his Father, saying “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Forgiveness! Satan could not have seen that coming. The word is not in his vocabulary, the concept of forgiveness is foreign to him. In that moment Satan was defeated and a new kingdom established.

Nothing has changed for most people in the world. Satan is still the prince of this world, he still rules the kingdoms of this world through unseen principalities and powers. He is doing his utmost to conceal from mankind the fact that a rival kingdom is occupying part of his territory.

Yet everything has changed. Satan is doomed and he knows it. Jesus is offering hope to people who have no hope in the kingdom of Satan. The whole game of Satan now is to take as many people as possible with him to hell. He is out for revenge.

The kingdom of Jesus is a spiritual kingdom; it does not occupy a defined territory on this earth. Any person, anywhere on earth, who willingly submits to the reign of Jesus and is born again, is set free from the rule of Satan and becomes a citizen of Jesus’ kingdom. No earthly nation qualifies as a Christian nation, though it is one of Satan’s snares to think so.

We cannot defeat Satan by political means, or by any other human means. When we involve ourselves in any way with such movements, we are attempting to defeat Satan by using his own tools. That always results in defeat. Even if only our feelings are stirred, we risk making ourselves unfit for working for Jesus.

The tools that are effective against Satan are:

Trust. When we submit to the rule of Jesus we become meek and humble. We have nothing to prove, but trust that victory and vengeance belong to him alone. Satan’s goal is to divide people until each person stands alone and trusts no one else.

Love. Jesus teaches us to love our enemies and enables us to do it, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Yes, the people around us do and say things that are sometimes hurtful Love them anyway. Jesus does.

Forgiveness. It is a given that we are going to get hurt. Satan would like to stir our feelings towards anger, revenge, or at least to demand an apology. If we give in to those feelings, he has won. If we can forgive from our heart, Jesus wins.

Thankfulness. Let’s freely speak of all the good that Jesus has done for us. Being meek and humble should not close our lips, except to any boasting of how good we are..

Prayer. We need to speak often with God, our heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus. That is how we get the strength to do the things listed already. Prayer is also the most powerful thing we can do to positively affect the evils we see around us, in individuals, families, governments.

Book review – Without Proof by Janet Sketchley

Without Proof by Janet Sketchley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book pushed all the right buttons to get me reading: cosy mystery; Christian; Canadian. Once I started, the suspense and deft pacing kept me going.

Amy Silver and her fiancé were in a plane crash that left him dead and her with a painful hip that is a constant reminder of what happened.

As it she needed reminders from her hip; the emotional wounds are far more painful and slow in healing. She has quit her bank job to live in the Nova Scotia home of her fiancé’s best friend and his aunt. She finds the work in Michael’s art studio a peaceful respite from the past (she looks after the business side). Michael’s aunt is warm and understanding, someone she can talk to when life is more than she can handle alone.

Then a reporter hints that the plane crash may not have been an accident. Mysterious, sometimes threatening, phone calls and messages come on her phone. Her father, whom she has never met, and thought she never wanted to meet, now wants to meet her. She believes that God wants nothing to do with her. She is falling in love with Michael, but feels he is pushing her away. Can life get any more complicated?

It does, and the ending is hair-raising. Of course, everything comes out right, but in ways that I didn’t see coming.

This book has it all, mystery, romance, a spiritual message woven in that is authentic without being preachy, all in a contemporary Canadian setting.

Available in e-pub or kindle format, from Kobo, Amazon and other e-book retailers.

The Worst Ever!

Wise words from my wife.

Christine's Collection

For Goodness Sake, Read History (Part 2)

A few days ago I received an interesting phone call from some lady wanting to share a few Bible verses with me. She started out by quoting Jeremiah 29:11-12, then began talking about having peace during these troubled times. Especially with this pandemic – the worst that’s ever been!

Reader of history that I am, I reminded her of the Black Death. In the 1300’s the Bubonic Plague was brought back to Italy by sailors returning from the orient; it subsequently swept through Europe in several waves and wiped out about a third of the population of the western world. A person could argue that Covid-19 could have been as bad; however, we’ve taken extreme precautions and also have access to an infinitely better health care system.

Plus, our lot is easier because we have less corruption. I read once that in some…

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But they are different from us

When I was a boy I read historical novels by Canadian and English writers. The hero was always English, honest, brave, generous and kind. Other people were shifty-eyed, dishonest, traitorous scoundrels. As I was an English Canadian, I accepted this as self-evident truth.

Later I learned to read French and found historical novels in that language were exactly like the English novels – except the kind, generous, honest and brave hero was French and the dishonourable scoundrels were English. I have learned that there is at least as much, if not more, evidence to support this latter point of view as for the first. We absorb the attitudes of the time and place we live in, and it is good to examine the attitudes we take for granted.  

Plantation owners in the southern states needed workers skilled in growing cotton, or rice in coastal areas. They found the people they needed in Africa and brought them over as slaves.

Plantation owners were Christians; to own another human being didn’t seem right. But they already had beliefs about class distinctions and it was just a short step for apologists to explain that below the lowest classes of humanity there were these animals that looked almost human, but had no soul.

Even though the Africans had skills in the cultivation of cotton and rice that their white owners lacked, the owners seized on the idea that the Africans were domestic livestock and treated them accordingly. Still, they did their best to ensure that slaves would never see poor white people or free black people. The tragic effects of these false ideas linger on in the lives of both white and black people.

Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory taught that there are different races of humanity and the white race is more highly evolved than the others. He taught that the white race was destined to supplant all the other (inferior) races. Modern science agrees with the Bible that there is only one human race, yet ideas of white superiority still linger.

The people of the area that is now Rwanda and Burundi are Bantu who all speak the same language. The Tutsi were the governing aristocracy, the common people were Hutu. There was intermarriage and social mobility between the two groups. When Europeans, first Germans then Belgians, became colonial masters of this region, they saw the Tutsi as more European in appearance, therefore superior, and governed the colonies through them.

The Tutsi found this agreeable, the Hutu not so much. The upshot was a Hutu uprising in Burundi in 1972 which ended in the killing of 80,000 to 200,000 Hutu by the Tutsi army. Then came the Rwanda genocide of 1994 where the Hutu set about to eliminate the Tutsi from their country, killing 800,000 to 1,000,000. 

Both countries have made strides towards reconciliation. From the first, the distinction between the Tutsi and Hutu existed only in people’s minds, not in physical, linguistic or religious difference.

Before the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, there was little friction between Jews and other German citizens. Hitler was an evangelist, inspiring German people to believe in a revival of their nobility. From 1933 to 1939 the Nazis flooded the country with propaganda about the danger the Jews were to the welfare of the nation. Research institutes published glossy books with pseudoscientific information about the degradation of the Jewish race. Popular movies, novels, comic books reinforced those stereotypes in the conscience of the German people.

Hitler said next to nothing about the Jews during those six years. Then in 1939 he spoke forcefully about the need to eliminate the Jewish danger. By then the propaganda had taken effect on the conscience of the German people. After the war many Germans, although they deplored Nazi atrocities, believed the Jews had brought them upon themselves by being so different from other Germans. The Nazi propaganda machine created that perceived difference.

The Roman Catholic Church dominated Quebec for generations, telling people it was their protection against the hordes of Anglos around them and if anyone left the mother church, they would also abandon the French language. That was a self-fulfilling prophecy; the church ran the schools, hospitals and pretty much everything else. If someone joined a different church, the priests would ensure they became pariahs to their catholic neighbours.

That era ended with the Quiet Revolution of 1960. Church attendance in Quebec is now the lowest of any province or state in North America. Yet a suspicion of other denominations remains.

We English Canadians have no such problem, do we? Or are we just ignorant of our own prejudices and their roots?

The Orange Order dominated politics in English Canada for generations; they believed that only WASP’s (White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestants) were worthy of being citizens. Other people were second-class citizens, and should have no influence on government, nor any consideration from government.

After the union of Upper and Lower Canada (Ontario and Quebec today) in 1841, Orangemen fomented a series of riots in Toronto to cement their influence. They were the inspiration behind the 1847 riot in Montreal that culminated in burning the parliament building.

When the prairies opened for settlement 100 years ago, Clifford Sifton, an Orangeman, was minister of immigration. He scoured Eastern Europe for settlers who would assimilate to the English language and submerge the French already settled in the west. Orangemen in government were behind the decision a few years later to close all non-English schools. French schools were the target, other schools were collateral damage.

I attended public schools at a time when the curriculum taught the Orange Order’s perception of Canadian reality. The influence of the Orange Order waned over the years and French schools were once more allowed to operate. But when a concept of the superiority of one group of people guides government policy for so many years, prejudice does not soon wither away. We are going to be suspicious of people whom we think different from us until we get to know them. We will have to step outside of our comfortable, familiar, bubble to do that, but we are apt to find that other people are pretty much like ourselves. Can we call ourselves Christians and still try to maintain ethnic and linguistic divisions?

The Mennonite service ethic

Protestant work ethic is a termed coined by German sociologist Max Weber in 1905 in his book Die Protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalismus (The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism).

The gist of Weber’s thinking is summarized thusly in Wikipedia: “Calvinist theologians taught that only those who were predestined to be saved would be saved. Since it was impossible to know who was predestined, the notion developed that it might be possible to discern that a person was elect (predestined) by observing their way of life. Hard work and frugality were thought to be two important consequences of being one of the elect. Protestants were thus attracted to these qualities and supposed to strive for reaching them.”

Mennonites have never taught a work ethic, or that there is any redemptive value in work for work’s sake. Nor do we find any basis in Holy Scripture for such an idea. We beliee that God grants salvation only by grace, upon repentance from dead works. The evidence of salvation is not in self-serving work, but in love, joy, peace, patience, temperance and the other aspects of the fruit of the Spirit.

What Mennonites do teach, and always have, is a service ethic, based on the golden rule and loving our neighbour as ourselves. Of course this leads to work, but it is work that is done without feeling a need to prove anything. It is not self-centred, but other-oriented.

We are taught that this service ethic should permeate and motivate all of our relationships with others: in the home; the congregation; at work; in business; helping others in time of distress or disaster; in everything we do. We don’t always get it right, sometimes our feelings may prompt us to be impatient and demanding. The Bible teaches that at such times an apology is in order.

Other people also serve, and that is a wonderful thing. The more people who are willing to serve others, the better this world will be. We are not in competition with anyone, we are not looking for publicity or reward. The Mennonite service ethic prompts us to not think only of ourselves, but to be aware of the needs of others and do what is in our power to do to serve and make life a little easier for them.

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