Antiquarian Anabaptist

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Apocalyptic Forecasts

There is no such thing as normal weather. At least not in my part of the world. Perhaps this is what lures so many enterprising types into the weather forecasting field. We now have Environment Canada, The Weather Network, Weather Underground and Accu-Weather to name just a few. Most of them are fairly accurate at telling you what’s going to happen in the next few hours.

This summer we have been getting severe weather watches, alerts and warnings just about every day. There is a possibility of heavy rain, strong winds, severe thunderstorms, hail, funnel clouds, tornadoes and anything else that could possibly happen. Most of it doesn’t happen.

Of course we have had rain, wind, thunderstorms, pea sized hail that fell for a minute or two and didn’t really damage anything. Funnel clouds have been seen here and there, one actually touched down about 70 km south-east of us, ran along the ground for a few minutes and damaged a couple of storage sheds. Not much action for all the apocalyptic-sounding warnings we’ve had.

Years ago, most Protestants were of the Post Millennial persuasion: the world would get better and better until the millennium came and then Christ would return. In the first half of the 19th century, when hopes for the arrival of the millennium through natural progress began to dim, a new idea sprang forth: Christ would return before the millennium and establish it by divine force. There were many varieties of this thinking: John Nelson Darby’s dispensational pre-millennialism, Ellen G White’s Seventh Day Adventism, Charles Taze Russell’s Jehovah’s Witnesses, and yet more. None of them will admit it, but they were all lit by sparks from the same fire.

All teachers of this type of persuasion are specialists in apocalyptic forecasts about the impending doom of this world. Lewis Sperry Chafer, the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, wrote a book 75 years ago in which he named Benito Mussolini as the Antichrist. Shorty before that time, a well-known American preacher dropped in on a Baptist church in France one Sunday. He recounted to the pastor of this church his visit with Il Duce a few days earlier, in which he had showed Mussolini all the prophecies in the Bible that applied to him. The pastor of that French Baptist church, Robert DuBarry, was appalled, thinking that Mussolini did not need that kind of encouragement.

When I was a boy, my father listened to Canada’s  National Back to the Bible Broadcast every Sunday morning, in which Ernest C Manning would expound on Bible passages referring to Communist Russia and speak of the coming Battle of Armageddon.

Like the weather forecasts, the forecasts of Armageddon change with every shift in the wind patterns. Solomon had sound advice for us in these times: “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.” (Ecclesiastes 11:4).

Temperamental devices

My internet has been down. My wife’s computer is connected to the same service, through the same modem and router and has had no problem. The cable connecting my computer to the internet had several splices and bare spots on the wire, evidently that must be the problem.I bought a new cable yesterday, hooked it up – still no signal.

The internet connection troubleshooter on my computer told me that an ethernet cable was disconnected. I’d just been through all that, so decided the problem must be an internal disconnection. This morning I pulled off all the wires and took my computer for a ride in the car to our nearest town with a computer shop. They plugged it in and it worked ! !? Evidently the car ride fixed it. The young man at the computer shop charged me for 15 minutes labour.

The next time this happens, I’ll just tell my computer “I’m going to take you for a ride.” Hopefully that will do the trick. If it doesn’t, I’ll try the little device the computer repair man sold me. It has one end that plugs into a USB port and the  internet cable plugs into the other end. This gives another pathway for the internet signal.

No doubt our grandfathers have all told us about their first  car that wouldn’t start until they gave it a good whack at a certain spot on the left front fender. Cars nowadays are much easier to start. A good thing too, a whack like that would make a permanent impression on their fenders.

I have had my share of temperamental automobiles. There was the venerable Olds which regularly coughed and sputtered to a stop because the timing had gone out of whack. I took to carrying a wrench so I could get out and turn the distributor housing until it would run smoothly. There was the 1972 Toyota Corolla that had the coil sitting low down a few inches from the road. Every time there was water on the road the connection got wet and the car stalled. (It never rains in Japan?) I carried a cloth to wipe off the moisture from the wire connection that fit into the top of the coil. Then there was the Dodge with a capacitor mounted behind and above the motor that was prone to failure. I always carried a spare so that I wouldn’t be stranded somewhere miles from home or a repair shop.

Unfortunately, we people can be temperamental at times, too. I’m sure many a person has at times wished to give me a good whack to see if that would solve my problem. I’m thankful that they have refrained and tried gentler ways. I would like to think that, unlike many cars that I have owned, I have become less temperamental with age.

A Christian’s greatest enemy is inside of him

The apostle Paul knew it: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.”

John Newton knew it: “In defiance of my best judgment and best wishes, I find something within me which cherishes and cleaves to those evils, from which I ought to start and flee, as I should if I found a toad or a serpent was put in my food or on my bed.”

A Christian today may constantly fret over the evils in the world around him, all the while doing his best to ignore that there is something inside of him, part of his very being, that is in alliance with the external powers of evil. We may try to flee from the external evils, but wherever we flee to, the internal evil is still with us.

It is altogether vain to seek within ourselves the strength to overcome this evil. That strength cannot be found within, we must look beyond ourselves to find that power.

Paul knew where to find it: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” and ” But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”

So did John Newton: “But though my disease is grievous, it is not desperate; I have a gracious and infallible Physician. I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.”

Really Simple Theology

Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure,
having this seal,
The Lord knoweth them that are his.
And,
Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

Here in 2 Timothy 2:19 the Apostle Paul gives the ground rules for discerning whether or not I am a Christian.

The first rule is that salvation is not a one-sided transaction – it is not enough to say that I know God and that from now on I will be a Chriustian. The real question is “Does God know me?” Jesus warned that at the judgment there will be many who claim that they know Him and did many wonderful things in service to Him, yet He will reply “I never knew you.”

God calls, I respond, and if God sees that I have responded with all my heart, no reservations, he adopts me as His child. We will know when this happens. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). “And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us” (1 John 3:24).

The second rule is that I cannot go on living as I did before. “And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezekiel 36:27). “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him” (1 John 2:9-10) .

Theology can quickly become very complex, and sometimes it is merely an intellectual exercise that offers no real help in showing us how to truly live as a Christian. But if I have the Holy Spirit within me and love my neighnour as myself, I will not want to steal, lie, cheat or hurt anyone. Why make it more complicated than that?

Happy Canada Day!

Today, July canadian-flag-1174657_12801, 2016, is the 149th anniversary of Confederation, the union of Ontario, Québec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island to form the nation of Canada. It soon expanded to the west – Manitoba was added in 1870, British Columbia in 1871, Alberta and Saskatchewan in 1905. In 1949 Newfoundland became the 10th province. There are also three territories – Yukon, Northwest Territory and Nunavut.

Iconic Symbols of Canada

hudsons-bay-folded

tim-hortons-takeout-cup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hudson’s Bay Company is Canada’s oldest business, founded as a fur trading company in 1670. Nowadays, it is Canada’s largest department store chain. The Hudson Bay point blanket, pictured above left, is an all wool blanket that has been manufactured in England for the company almost from the beginning and is an icon both of the company and of Canada.

Tim Horton’s is not nearly as old, only dating to 1964, but it is far and away the favourite coffee shop and fast food eatery of Canadians. There is a Tim Horton’s restaurant for every 10, 000 Canadians, they have over 20% of the fast food market and 75% of restaurant baked goods sales and coffee sales. Most of us frequently hold in our hands a cup like the one pictured above to drink a Tim Horton’s “Always Fresh” coffee.

How to tell if someone is Canadian

  • Ask her what comes after kindergarten. If she says Grade One, she is Canadian, if she says First Grade, she is American.
  • Ask her what is the last letter of the alphabet. A Canadian will say zed, an American zee.
  • Ask her what to call a multi level parking facility. A Canadian will call it a parkade. I’m not sure if Americans have a specific word for it.

The sound of not so distant thunder

We are into the gloriously long days of a Saskatchewan summer, where the sun rises before 5:00 a.m. and doesn’t set until 9:30 p.m. Since we live on the flat, open prairie we have an extra three quarters of an hour of full daylight before sunrise and the same after sunset, giving us 18 hours of daylight. All living things thrive in a Saskatchewan summer – providing we get enough rain.

There has been sufficient rainfall this year, but not an abundance. It was time that a good shower would be refreshing, and the forecast has been promising rain for today. Earlier in the week there was mention of 30 – 45 mm. As the week went on that number diminished to 10 – 15. That would still have kept everything growthie and green, but we would have been hoping there would soon be another shower.

There were dark clouds rolling in this morning, with faint rumbles of distant thunder. At 9:00 the skies opened up and down came heavy rain, accompanied at first by pea-size hail. That first shower didn’t last long, but brought over 10 mm of rain. Some of my wife’s flowers look a little bedraggled from the hail, but no major damage was done and I expect they will look fine in a day or two.

The thunder and rain continued off and on for the remainder of the day. At one point, I was sitting here by the computer and I heard the snap of an electrical arc in the office, followed immediately by thunder outside. My wife was in the kitchen and heard the same sound in the living room, accompanied by a flash of light. Everything appears to be all right, but that is the closest we have been to a lightning strike for many years. We have had 23 mm so far and there may be a little yet to come.

Here on the flatlands we take the rain as it comes. God sends the rain on the just and the unjust. Sometimes we all have too much, sometimes not enough. People from elsewhere, and we have lived in many other places, may think this a harsh and barren land. Yet it is bursting with life, plant life, bird life, wildlife and human life.

On a different note, my wife and I began hearing the distant thunder of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia a few years ago. As time passed it became louder and louder. Chris began taking chemotherapy treatments a few months ago and two days ago the oncologist told us that she is now basically cancer free. The drugs have beaten the disease into remission.

Nevertheless, they want to continue the chemotherapy for three more rounds. The doctor explained it to us this way. If one in ten thousand of her white cells is a leukemia cell she will be well for a year or so. If they continue the treatments and knock that down to one cancer cell in a million she should have five or more years of good health.

Chris still has those remaining treatments to face, but she is feeling more energetic already and the threatening thunder of CLL has faded into the distance. You can read her side of the story here:  The ups and downs of life

Useful idiots

Russian Communism always had a throng of loyal and vocal supporters in the Western World. These were progressively minded people who endorsed the social experiment being carried out in Russia and who were blind to the brutality of the regime and the fact that conditions were not improving for the common man. They wanted so badly to believe that they were witnessing the dawn of a new age for mankind that they blithely explained away all news reports of what was actually going on.

Vladimir Lenin is said to have called them “useful idiots.” There is no documentary evidence that he actually used that term. Well, he wouldn’t have wanted those people to hear what he really thought of them, would he? There is no doubt that he found those supporters useful and kept them supplied with idealistic propaganda and financial support.

Looking at the present day propaganda wars, I am bemused by the seeming affinity between secular humanism and Islam. Could it be that each group regards the other as useful idiots?

Secular humanist governments welcome Muslim immigrants and use them as an excuse to suppress public manifestations of Judaism and Christianity. They claim that they have no anti-Jewish or anti-Christian agenda, but it just won’t do to offend Muslims by open manifestations of the Jewish or Christian faiths.

It’s highly unlikely that Muslims ever anticipated such co-operation on the part of the authorities, but they are taking advantage of it to promote their own faith and to invite people to convert to Islam.

The ultimate goals of each group are totally antithetical to each other, but for the moment they are feeding off each other to marginalize their common enemies: Christians and Jews. Which brings me to the main question: Why are these two groups so hostile to Judaism and Christianity? I believe there are two reasons.

First, while it is probably quite true that most people in both groups just want to go about their lives in peace, the leading elements in both groups cannot settle for anything less than unreserved endorsement of their principles by the general public. For the secular humanists these would be free access to abortion and euthanasia, endorsement of the LGBT lifestyle, and the belief that the state is primarily responsible for all children. For Muslims, it is unacceptable that any hint of satire or criticism should ever be voiced about Muhammad or the Qur’an, or that anyone should speak of God as having a Son.

Second, the Jewish and Christian concept of sin is anathema to both groups. While there is some difference between Jewish and Christian concepts of sin, both religions hold that sin is primarily and most importantly against God, and will be punished by God. For secular humanists and Islam alike, sin is primarily wrongs people do to other people. People will be judged by the balance of good and evil they have done in life. Both groups seem to have serious doubts whether people who do not endorse their beliefs are fit to inhabit this planet.

Now suppose that secular humanism and Islam were able to work together long enough to banish Christianity and Judaism from one country. Then the glaring differences between their beliefs would lead to total war between them. Anyone caret to predict who would win?

I’m starting to get all apocalyptic here. It’s highly unlikely we’ll ever get to that point. I’m just trying to point out what is happening in our world, and why it is happening Appeasement won’t work. May we beware of the temptation to buy peace through becoming useful idiots for either group.

The real answer is to unleash the power of the Christian faith. Jesus said “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” This is a power that transcends all political and military power. It is a power that works quietly and powerfully within the hearts of people to transform their lives. At this moment there are Muslims all over the world who are turning to faith in Jesus without the intermediary of organized missions.

Prejudice + Poverty ≠ Hopelessness

Some years ago I read an article in Ebony magazine written by a man who had grown up in one of the worst black tenement ghettos in Chicago.Drug dealing, crime and violence were the everyday reality and the police felt the area was too dangerous to send in individual officers to patrol.

Like almost all the other children in this ghetto, this man and his two siblings grew up in a single parent home without much money. Their mother wanted her children to escape the ghetto and the first step was not to give in to hopelessness. She introduced them to the library and to museums and did everything that she could think of that was educational and free. When they went to the store to buy something she let the children pay and then count the change to see that it was right.

All three of those children finished school, went on to university and established professional careers. And they moved their mother out of the ghetto.

The man who wrote the article was now a lawyer. He wrote about going back to visit his old neighbourhood and trying to look up the boys he had grown up with. Some were dead, others were in jail, all the rest had criminal records. None had escaped the hopelessness of the ghetto.

There are a multitude of government programs to help children escape the effects of prejudice and poverty. Billions of dollars are being spent. What are the results? A lot of well paid government jobs to administer the programs. Besides that – not much.

One mother with hope and determination made a difference. No government program can create a mother like that.

Miserable comforters are ye all

“I have been hurt more by Christians than by non-believers.”  This was said, not so much as a complaint but as a simple statement of fact, by a friend with whom my wife and I were visiting the other day.  This lady has many heartaches and struggles in her past and I don’t doubt her statement. But I began to ponder why such a thing should be.

This led me to the story of Job and the misfortunes that befell him. In one day he lost all his children and all his wealth. As if that wasn’t enough, he then lost his health. His three closest friends came to comfort him. Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar were God-fearing men and their hearts were moved with compassion for their friend. They wept and mourned with him for seven days and seven nights without opening their mouths.

The trouble came when they began to speak. They truly wanted to help their friend and the only cause they could think of for his misery was that he must be suffering punishment for some hidden sin. The more Job protested his innocence, the more they were sure they understood the problem. Finally Job said: “ I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all.”

I am a Christian, I care about my fellow believers and all the people around me. I want to “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” Yet when I try to put that into practice, all too often I have come across much like Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. I want to understand what has happened, offer some helpful suggestions, when it would be better to keep my mouth shut.

Job never accused his friends of sin for the way they spoke to him. One time he called them “miserable comforters,” another time he responded with this little zinger: “No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you.” But he never sinned in accusing them falsely.

At the end, God asked Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar to go to Job and ask him to pray for their forgiveness. I think the most significant part of the whole book is found in verse 10 of chapter 42: “And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.”

Isn’t forgiveness always the answer? Job was not restored until he could forgive his friends and pray for them, and we won’t be either. Our friends may do and say hurtful things. Forgive them. Or they may not know what to do or say and so avoid us for a time. Forgive them.

We will get hurt in this life. Well-meaning friends will say that we should just forgive and forget. That may come as a fresh wound, the forgetting part is not always easy, or even completely possible. Let’s forgive our well-meaning friends and do our best to put the original hurt behind us by applying the healing balm of forgiveness every time it gives us pain.

Big Mistake at McDo

This is a departure from the type of article that I normally post, but I was amused by this account of a crime gone wonderfully wrong.

shield-167584_640.jpg

French speaking people often refer to McDonalds as McDo.

Yesterday (Sunday) evening around 8:30 two young men entered a McDo in Besançon, France.  One was armed with a shotgun and fired a load of buckshot toward the ceiling while the other dashed behind the counter to grab the cash register, which would typically contain around 2,000 € at this time of day.

There were 15 staff in the restaurant and 30-40 customers. Among the customers were 11 plain clothes police officers meeting for lunch. The police officers did nothing to alarm the robbers while they were inside the restaurant, but as soon as they  were out the door the police were right behind them to make the arrest. The young man who was carrying the cash register stumbled and fell under the shock. The other tried to threaten the police officers with the shotgun and received a bullet wound in the abdomen in return. They were taken to hospital for treatment of minor injuries and will face charges of armed robbery and threatening police officers.

I suppose it seemed like a good idea while they were planning the robbery. What could possibly go wrong? It appears that Murphy’s Law applies in France, too.

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